How to Develop Awareness

Birth of Awareness

I tap into my ability to persevere, to walk through the gates of my despair to reach my passions and desires… the things about myself and the world around me in which I delight, to which I connect.

I allow myself my grief and sorrow, my sadness and anger. Then I turn my attention to the lushness I see beyond the opening…

I decide to walk through the gate.

What is meant by awareness? In this case, it is first and foremost the awakening to one’s feelings and emotions – recognizing them, acknowledging them, experiencing them, and then moving on to all that surrounds us.  It is a process that occurs over time, and it can be painful as one deeply feels one’s feelings.

After this, awakening refers to becoming acutely aware of one’s surroundings – the dew on the grass, the luscious smell of a rose, the beauty of a redwood tree, reaching majestically to the sky.  And it is not just nature where awakening is found. It also occurs by observing the design of a building, the beautiful lines of an old automobile, the gentle light thrown by a lantern or candle. It encompasses everything around us.

In the final stages of awareness, one looks at others with the eyes of the heart. From this attitude springs the ability to be compassionate and kind to others, tolerant and respectful – all in a very authentic way.  Awareness of another’s humanness can lead to better understanding and acceptance of that person.

Once these things develop – when one become acutely aware of others – and all of these things develop, one begins to see one’s self with kindness, compassion, tolerance and respect.  That’s right – we are brought back to the beginning of the cycle, and the process repeats itself, endlessly, if we allow it.

It is helpful to slow down, to just stop and do a sweeping assessment of all that surrounds us, considering what we see with love in our heart. And this is how awareness is born – by repeating this cycle over and over and over again.

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How to Surrender, to Let Go

Surrender of Pretense

“It is time to let others see the pitted and rusted metal that is me. It is time to let myself come out from behind my gates.”

This is the topic in the book which follows despair. Just a recap… we are blogging through the book, one topic at a time, as they appear in the book. The order of the topics reflects my own journey of healing, as I experienced these emotions or beliefs in this order.

Todays topic, surrender, or letting go, is a pivotal point at which things can begin to turn around. It is the point at which we open ourselves to the Universe, open ourselves to receive from the Universe. For some, it may feel like giving up in despair. This does not have to be the case, however.

How does one give up, without it feeling like despair and failure? It is helpful to adopt the attitude that the only thing we have control over is ourselves. Once we believe this, we can understand that all our fretting and worrying about the results of our actions are out of our hands, out of our control.

We can begin to see that our worrying or chasing the results we want are wasted energy, which could be better spent taking action. What does that mean? It means assessing every situation, looking at our part in the affair, determining if there is anything we can do, and then doing it – taking action.

Then, we let go of the results; we leave it up to the Universe. We turn our attention to the next thing in front of us to do. and we do it. Every time our thoughts return to that outcome for which we wait, we need to remind ourselves that we have turned that issue over, that we are allowing the Universe to bring us what we need, which may not be what we want. We have to be prepared for that.

Letting go, surrendering, becomes easier with time and practice. A benefit of turning things over is that we develop patience. Another is that we are not obsessing over the results for which we are looking.

This practice is extremely useful for those trying to keep sober, as well as for anyone who has trouble with trying to manage and control everything, trying to force things to happen.  The practice of surrender leads to peace.

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What To Do In The Face of Despair

Face of Despair

Can anyone hear my wail? Can I hear myself?

The utter hopelessness about everything in one’s life. To be without hope that an expected result will occur. Not even seeing a glimmer… To be despondent. It is an awful feeling, that of despair, one which blocks the sunlight of Spirit.

How does one get there to begin with? Perhaps, there are underlying feelings of worthlessness, shame. One cannot see any point in living; death seems preferable to continuing. That’s the type of despair I’m talking about.

What do you do in the face of despair? How can you deal with it? Recognizing it is the first step. Then, as difficult as it is, allow yourself to feel that emotion, to be with it. Drinking over it numbs the pain and delays the inevitable – that of looking at what is behind it. Is it a low self-worth? Have you been shamed in your life and, thus, feel lots of shame?

Counseling to assist with feelings of despair can be very useful, if one has a counselor familiar with these emotions and how to deal with them. Talking to a trusted friend, relative, or clergyman could be quite beneficial, as long as they are not the type to give advice and try to “fix” you. A person in despair doesn’t need fixing. They need a way to heal from the issues that brought up the despair in the first place. That is why trying to identify what has led to the despair is important.

Perhaps there is underlying depression or other brain chemistry issues that need to be treated medically, with medication. Again, a reputable and savvy therapist can refer to a physician for evaluation.

Many times, one deals with these feelings by drinking, numbing them. This only delays inner work that must be done. In sobriety, one will find the courage to look at these feelings. Shopping and over-eating are also distractions and an avoidance of looking at the despair, and although a welcomed relief, these are simply other avoidance tactics. Distract yourself and then come back to look at the feeling.

If one does a self-inventory or appraisal, one may discover what is beneath the despair. Looking inside for the clues can be very fruitful. Once underlying issues are identified, one can turn to Spirit and ask for help with these beliefs about one’s self, one’s conditions, and/or talk to a therapist, trusted friend or clergyman.

Finding one thing in your life for which you can be grateful is another step you can take. This is extremely difficult, but when done, allows you to focus on something positive. Then, it becomes easier to find others things for which to be grateful. This attitude helps dispel the despair.

But the key lies in willingness to look at the feeling and the feelings and beliefs behind the despair.  To honestly look at oneself and be with what one finds… that is the beginning of what to do in the face of despair.

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Ways to Deal With Sorrow and Grief

Agony of Sorrow

I am consumed by the searing flame of my grief, my sorrow. It is too painful to contemplate. I cannot allow myself to feel.

Have you ever experienced sorrow so immense, it feels like you’re burning up inside? It starts as an aching that progresses so quickly to create a huge hole in your heart, your soul. And it’s a pain so intense, you can’t even look at it. To do so leaves you breathless.

Distraction of any sort does not even bring relief, but we engage anyway. Shopping, eating, drinking, gambling… Where does it lead? Often to destruction of self and others. Avoidance delays the beginning of the healing process, and yet it is often the only response able before one can confront the sorrow.

Recognizing and dealing with the distraction in which we are engaging, especially with drinking by getting sober, can assist in one’s ability to begin facing the pain, grief, and sorrow.

Sorrow is an intense anguish, often in response to loss or disappointment. It is closely related to grieving. If we choose to look at that sorrow, we can recognize the grieving process and allow it to occur. This begins the process of dispelling sorrow.

Often, talking to others about our sorrow is helpful, and allows the cleansing and grieving process to begin. Eventually, we are able to come back to center and to regain peace-of-mind.

In response to understanding more about the need for assistance to work through sorrow, support bereavement groups are forming, in addition to those offered by a local Hospice organization. Support allows us to realize we are not alone. It gives us courage to face the pain, knowing that by sharing, it will help with that searing feeling, allowing us to regain our equilibrium.

Hello, and welcome to my blog. As a newcomer or even someone returning, I want to clarify what I am doing on the blog. I am talking about each topic of my book, as it appears.  Together, the topics portray my healing journey, from great fear and worthlessness, to joy and peace. Thank you for joining the journey. We are currently at the beginning of the book, talking about difficult emotions.

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Understanding Fear

Webs of Fear

“I have spent a lifetime spinning webs of terror and shame between the spires that stand as sentinels to my heart.”

Fear. That emotion, that sense which warns us of danger, keeps us alert and in a fight or flight mode, when necessary. But fear can also be detrimental, can hold us back when moving ahead is in our best interest. In these situations, courage can be difficult to call forth, but it can be summoned to walk past the fear one is experiencing.

Fear can be paralyzing, keeping us from moving forward, from reaching our dreams, or even taking the first steps to reach our dream. Fear appears as concern that we will not be liked, that we are not good enough, that what we are doing is wrong. These fears often stem from low feeling of self-worth and feelings of being “less than.” As we strengthen our feelings of esteem and worthiness, these fears lessen.

False Evidence Appearing Real. Often, it is the anticipation of an upcoming event which takes us to fear. We imagine every negative thing that could occur, until soon, we have taken ourselves to great fear, sometimes to feelings of of impending doom. In these situations, we would do well to stop ourselves from imagining how an event will turn out and instead, open ourselves to the possibilities that can occur. This requires an attitude of openness, of willingness to see things in a new light, without anticipation. It requires that one be open to any outcome.  One would do well to look within, rather than without, at that up-coming event, to locate any sources of unrest, of fear.

Understanding fear when it arises is useful, so one can choose how to handle it… Is it false evidence appearing real, or a truly dangerous situation? If we identify it is related to a low self-esteem, we can work on our beliefs and feelings about ourselves. If it arises out of the desire to follow a dream, one can summon courage and take the action anyway. Once we do this a few times, fear begins to recede. It becomes easier to call upon courage and to walk through the fear that arises.

To all of you new to my blog, allow me to acquaint you. We are blogging through my book, Opening the Gates of the Heart: A Journey of Healing, topic by topic as they appear in the book. We are starting over today; we are at the beginning of the book. Join me as we travel the path from fear to hope to peace.  Is that what you look for in your life? Peace?

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Tips For Finding Peace

Promise of Peace

When I practice the principles of love for myself and others,

the gates of my heart melt into the glow of dusk, and peace rises to greet me.

It seems I have inner peace when I practice the principles of living, when I practice loving others and myself. It manifests itself as calmness, quietness in that moment. It is composed of one instant of peace following another, until a block of time has passed and I have maintained that peace.

Letting go of the way I want things to go, surrendering, adds tremendously to the ushering in of peace. It’s not something that I say consciously, “I want to be peaceful.” Rather, it seems to be a by-product of other attitudes and behaviors.

For example, practicing gratitude also leads me to peace by letting me feel that all is well; practicing compassion softens my heart to myself and others, and brings me peace.

I looked for this type of peace all my life, but I was looking for it in others, in a bottle, in all that was around me. It wasn’t until I quit drinking and got sober, that I began to learn that happiness and peace come from within me. This took a long time of soul-searching and self-appraisal before I reached a point of acceptance about who I am.

When I reached this point of self-acceptance, life seemed to change from that point forward. It was then that I began to experience periods of peace within. I think the fact that I learned to take responsibility for all my actions, behaviors, and feelings led to the development of peace. Suddenly, there was no one else to blame for the situations in my life. That was very freeing and evoked a peaceful feeling because there was no more drama in my life, or at least, very little.

As I said, I have searched for this in many places and in many ways. But when I let go, practice kindness, compassion, tolerance, and love for myself and others, and take responsibility for myself, peace rises to greet me.

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Living With Serenity

Balance of Serenity

I am serene, carried by the winds to places where I am held in balance with great beauty and strength.

Serenity. That feeling of calmness, even amid storms. It is a prevailing attitude, one which overshadows and, thus, contributes to all other attitudes that follow. For me, it comes when I am in alignment with the powers of the Universe, that which is greater than myself. It is a realization that all is well, that I am being provided and cared for.

I got to serenity through the experiences and changes I’ve discussed in this blog. You have traveled through the book with me and read of the trials and tribulations associated with getting to this point.

Perhaps you related as we moved from worthlessness, sorrow, and despair, through awareness to self-appraisal. Past forgiveness and on to principles such as compassion, tolerance, and gratitude until we have reached a point of joy and serenity. What a journey it has been.

As we finish the book, it is time to start over and I am putting out a “request for proposals.” When I go through the book again, is there any specific tack you would like me to take? My thought was to share about each topic in a general way, not relating to my own experiences. I welcome your thoughts. Please share them.

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Living With Joy in Your Life

Burst of Joy

“I pick up the thread, however fragile, of finding inner peace. As I do this, it leads to furthering my self-knowledge, my journey to peace of mind and freedom of heart.

I never thought this could happen. My heart bursts with joy!”

A burst of joy. That is how joy comes upon me… suddenly, without warning. I experience it when I see an older couple holding hands, or watching an elder and a young person learning from each other. Joy hits me in public, as I watch a parent bestow patient and kind discipline on a child. It finds me when someone tells me of an accomplishment for which they have strived. Rainbows and nature bring me joy, that deep feeling of great pleasure. It is the simple things that bring me joy.

This is all relatively new for me and started occurring after a few years of sobriety. I lived most of my life not experiencing joy. I was too wounded, too busy looking for things about which to be critical and judgmental. Too busy pitying myself.

I didn’t realize I was making a choice to see things critically or negatively instead of positively, but I did. I chose to look at the negative. Now, I look for the positive that an event holds. There most always is a positive somewhere and that is what I seek. Often, finding the positive can lead me to joy.

This doesn’t mean I ignore the negative; I don’t. I look that squarely in the face, conduct a self-appraisal to see how I am contributing to a situation, and adjust my behavior or thoughts according to what I find. I ask for help from those around me, as well as from a power greater than myself. I take action as needed, even if that is merely a conscious change of attitude. Using this method, I have been able to move past my fear, past feelings of worthlessness and sorrow, past despair.

I have been graced with the gift to see the pleasure, the joy, in many situations, using the method I have described.  It works for me.  How do you find joy? What brings you joy?

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Are Your Dreams Coming True?

Fulfillment of Dreams

“I am waking up from a lifetime of sleeping and am just beginning to learn to play, to fill my sails and dance across the shimmering waters. I am fulfilling dreams I have held in my heart forever that I did not know and, so, could not follow.”

I have learned that if I hold my dreams in my heart, and practice my passions, one day my dreams just seem to materialize, out of nowhere. That is the case with becoming a photographer. I wanted to be one in the late 70’s and took action at that time. I was trying to relinquish my nursing career and replace it with a career in photography.  But nothing panned out…

Nonetheless, I engaged in my passion all those years and one day in 2006, the opportunity presented itself to be a photographer. I was amazed the opportunity showed up after all of that time. I quietly and with excitement stepped into that role.

I have dreams about my book, the way in which I would like it to be received by the world. I continue to keep that dream in my heart alive and who knows? Perhaps it will materialize. We never know what might happen. I have learned that in sobriety. It takes faith and trust that my heart’s desires will be met in some manner.

I think it gets down to, what is in my best interest and in my highest good? That seems to be what eventually comes about for me. It seems that is what I am brought by the powers of the Universe.

So, I live life, patiently continuing with my efforts, accepting where things are along the journey, taking action to move forward. And I wonder if someday, I will see a dream fulfilled. Then, I focus my attention on what is right in front of me to do, and I move forward, moment by moment, day by day.

May you keep your dreams alive in your heart and may they be fulfilled one day.

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What Choices Do You Make in Your Life?

Celebration of Choices

“I see a little man with his top hat, arm raised above his shoulder in salute. He celebrates his recent discovery… he has choices in his life. It is freeing to learn one can choose at any point. Ah, cause for celebration!”

The fact that we have a choice about everything we do is a thought process that I could not get my head around for many years into sobriety. As I healed, old “stuff” came up and I was reacting to it. I couldn’t control those reactions, and in that sense, felt I had no choice.

I did not realize that the choice I could make was in my attitude. Still, I was not able to make that choice until I had done some serious healing. That took a few years.

One day, I realized I had a choice over how I responded to thoughts and experiences. I had a choice over how I saw things. I could choose to look at challenges, both current and past, as learning experiences, intended for my growth as a spiritual being. That was an “ah, ha!” moment. I saw in an instant what people meant when they said we always have a choice.

From that point forward, I have chosen to look at experiences as nothing more than a chance to learn and grow. It has made a world of difference in my ability to act, rather than react to any given challenge. It has also led to a more positive attitude generally, and feelings of joy and inner peace specifically.

Not only, I learned, did I have a choice over my attitude. I had a choice over staying in situations that were detrimental to my spirit. I had to ask myself what I was gaining by staying, or keeping a negative attitude. I often didn’t like what I saw and it was frequently tied to fear and my low self esteem, sense of self worth. As my feelings of esteem and worth rose, the fear decreased and I became able to act in my best interest, even if it meant leaving my current situation that had its comfort in familiarity.

It comes down to an issue of considering the consequences of any choice. Am I willing to accept the  consequences of a decision? Can I make a decision based on what is best for my highest good, for my soul, independent of guilt? Even there, I have a choice. If I choose, for example, to stay in a relationship because it would hurt the other to leave, I must be willing to accept bouts of emotion that likely might occur when my soul cannot sing, when my soul’s purpose is squashed.

May you see choices in your life and may you reap the benefit of joy and peace from their consequences.

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