The End of the Line- Stop seeking. Be.

Written by Kate • November 5, 2017 •
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End of the Line

Be Here. Now.

The End of the Line

There comes a point in each of our spiritual journeys that we know it’s time to stop seeking validation, knowledge, or input from any more external sources. No matter how enlightened the guru, skilled the expert, or inspiring the author, there comes a time when it’s time to just do the work.

The Work. Be Here.

Sit in stillness.

Listen to the silence.

Notice your thoughts and feelings rise up and float away.

No more seeking or fixing or trying.

Be here now.

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What Are Your Beliefs? How to Uncover the Unconscious Beliefs Running Your Brain

Written by Kate • November 3, 2017 •
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Break Free

Break Free From Unconscious Beliefs

What’s Running Your Brain?

There are lots of unhelpful unconscious thought patterns running your brain. Because they’re unconscious, meaning they are so ingrained in your neural pathways that once triggered, the thought patterns are nearly instantaneous and therefore essentially unknown to your conscious mind. I say “essentially unknown” because, in fact, it’s your brain and while you may not always be conscious of the thought pattern, with attention and stillness, you can be aware of the thoughts  and beliefs that arise, even in triggering situations, even if there isn’t anything you can do in that moment to counter the ingrained thought and resultant behavior pattern. While many of your thought patterns may be beneficial to you, some may be working against what it is you want from life.

What Do You Believe?

For example, as a child -and without blaming my parents for living their life based on their own thought patterns and beliefs, I learned that when you’ve had a really bad day, you have a stiff drink to help you calm down and manage your emotions. When you’ve been in a car accident, you have a stiff drink to help you calm down and manage your emotions. When you have a party or go out to eat, you have a drink to have fun. Party=drinking. Going out to eat=have a drink or two. One day in my early 20s, on a day with a few emotional upheavals, I started thinking about having a drink. I didn’t have any of my normal hooch in the house so I cast about for something else to drink. And I wondered why I needed a drink so much on this particular day. I then realized that with the ebbing of my emotional upheaval, in its wake I was left with a wrung-out feeling. And that wrung-out feeling meant, in a my habitual way of thinking, I needed a drink to fully calm down from the lows of my day. But really, did I need the drink? How about if I just felt my feelings instead? It was a novel concept: just deal with my bad day without the stiff drink that I was conditioned to think was normal (and necessary).

Later in life, I also learned, once I moved in my with partner 13 years ago, that despite being a feminist down to the bone, I believed that men take out the trash. That first month, the trash can got more and more full and I started wondering when the heck he was going to take out the trash. Finally, I just asked him when he was going to take it out. He looked at it me in wonder, asking me why I thought he would take it out? And I realized only then that I had an unconscious belief pattern that was running my brain without me being fully conscious of it. So I took out the trash and I take out the trash to this day, when it needs it and I’m the one who notices first.

I could go on and on about the beliefs I’ve uncovered with attention and inquiry. Over the years, I’ve become aware of many unconscious thought patterns and had glimpses of many more. I know I have or have had unconscious thought patterns and beliefs about money, how much money I should have, eating, travel, sex, relationships, healthy boundaries, spirituality, compassion, the Divine, and on and on and on ad infinitum.

Thought Patterns versus Beliefs

I use thought patterns and beliefs interchangeably here. There are more learned people than I who know about which is first, the thought pattern or the belief. I look at it as the chicken or the egg. Which came first is likely the thought pattern. And with repetition comes the belief. In regards to my belief about having a stiff drink, I remember my Mom came home one day when I was 9 years old or so. She was shaking and clearly distraught from a car accident she’d just been involved in. Dad immediately when to the liquor cabinet and got her drink, something like rum and coke or vodka and a mix. And she drank it and was much calmer for it. So I thought, “oh, that’s what you do to calm down. You have a drink.” First it was an external thought pattern that I held from seeing it repeated several times throughout my childhood and then an unconscious personal belief, as I began acting on that belief in my own early adulthood.

How To Undo Thought Patterns and Beliefs

There are many ways to uncover your thought patterns and beliefs. I think one of the easiest ways is to begin to be curious about what beliefs are running your brain. Always begin this type of inquiry with compassion. Don’t use this knowledge to beat yourself up for following your conditioned mind from belief to action. Just allow the knowledge to rise to your consciousness with curiosity about who you are and what’s going on in your brain.

These days, for me, because I meditate daily and have for several years. I know from these sessions how my thoughts come unbidden across my mind and how easy I can attach to and follow them. So it’s been easier for me to feel when a thought has hooked me and I am able to feel the unconscious thought pattern trigger me into a reaction. However, until I’m aware of the thought pattern, there’s nothing to be done to stop the triggered response.

The way I first began this inquiry into my unconscious beliefs was to ask the Divine to allow my to see my blind spots. I know I had them and in relationship with my partner and with my extended family, I could see and feel myself being triggered without being able to stop my conditioned response. So I just asked for these beliefs to be shown to me.

Because I want to be aware of my beliefs, I am increasingly aware of them. It’s just how it works.  When the thought pattern is not that important or so clearly irrational, it’s easier to substitute new thought patterns in its place. No, it’s not exclusively men’s job to take out the trash. Boom. Belief updated. Yes, I can have a bad day without having a stiff drink. (I have to say with that one, the pull remain strong and I remain confronted with the thought to have a drink after a bad day, so I know there are more unexamined thoughts beneath this behavior pattern plus years of habit!).

Some ways to become aware of your unconscious thought patterns and beliefs:

  1. Ask to become aware of them
  2. Seek out professional help with a therapist to uncover some of the bigger ones operating in your life
  3. Write your way to knowledge.
    1. Take a fresh sheet of paper. At the top of the paper, write “Here’s what I really believe about (subject)”.  (Money, Relationship, Food, Pleasure, You Name It)
    2. Begin to write in a stream of consciousness way without stopping or censoring yourself. State “I really believe that (subject) is … For example, I really believe money is hard to get, evil, corrupting, means selling your soul, etc. Or I really believe that relationship with someone else means the loss of myself, being chained to another person’s whims, etc.
    3. Keep going and write down at least 10 beliefs but try for more.
    4. Now that you’re aware of a negative belief that you’d like to change, try to tease out the thought patterns or belief under that belief. So if money is hard to get, what is the belief or thought pattern that supports that belief? Keep writing.
    5. Try on better feeling thought patterns and use a consciously created thought pattern as a response whenever the old belief arises, now that you can feel and/or know what the  conditioned, negative thought pattern is. For example, if you’ve believed that money is hard to get, what happens if you start thinking that money is easy to get, how does that feel? Can you believe that instead?
  4. With caution and care, ask a trusted and loving family member or friend what is one blind spot you have. Obviously, do this one with someone in your life who will tell you the truth about yourself in a way that isn’t finally the opportunity they’ve been waiting for to criticize you or go running with it as way to list your every perceived flaw. This is simply one thing in your life that they notice which it seems you’re not aware of.

Some Caveats

Some conditioned thought patterns are so deep and ingrained and arise so fast that they don’t cross your frontal cortex and you don’t have the opportunity to initially respond in a new and more thoughtful way. Be kind and compassionate to yourself in these circumstances (in every circumstance, ideally). Something profound in you is being triggered so don’t be dismayed if you can’t help yourself. (With the obvious exception if you’re engaging in harmful or self-harmful behavior. With these, you should get help immediately through professional help and remove yourself from the situation wherever possible).

If you can, just stop the triggered response. When you feel attacked and you’re in the middle of yelling back a response, just close your mouth and stop, even mid-sentence. Try to understand what thoughts arose in the situation and try to become aware of them. When you open your banking app, seeing your balance and feeling a wave of fear about to engulf you as you worry about all that needs to get paid, stand up and take a breath. Take a short walk and watch the thoughts that arise about fear, money, lack.

By engaging in new patterns as soon as you’re aware that you’ve been triggered,  you can start to unwind your conditioned response little by little even as the initial response is so fast and habitual that you can’t yet control it. And begin to start a new thought pattern that are helpful to you.

Willpower Doesn’t Help

An additional caveat- Don’t try to use willpower to change your response to unconscious thought or beliefs. It’s a losing proposition. You only have so much willpower and one day, you’ll be tired, hungry, or angry enough that your willpower will fail you and you’ll respond to the trigger in your conditioned behavior pattern based on your true/old beliefs.  Willpower is not a long term, permanent answer to negative thought patterns and beliefs.

Change Your Thinking, Change Your Life

By understanding what thoughts and beliefs are running your brain, you can replace them with more helpful and empowering thoughts.  Staying present with your thought despite a rising tide of conditioned responses will help you to understand and change your thinking- changing your life

More Resources

Steve Pavlina‘s blog is always a great source about conscious awareness and behavior change.

Martha Beck is always a great source. Period.

The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal Ph.D. This is a great book that goes over how effective, and limited, willpower really is. It also shows how industry and corporations are highjacking your instincts and what you can do to become aware and counter these tactics. It also helps you become of aware of your habitual actions.

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. This is another book that describes the power and the limits of willpower and our conditioned thinking.

The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom by Jonathan Haidt. This book was formative in my understanding about biology and thought patterns.  His most compelling concept is one where the author, a psychologist, notes the mind is like an elephant of conditioned desires and impulses. On top of the elephant is conscious intention as an ineffectual rider. So using your willpower as a jockey riding an elephant of desires and conditioned thinking, you can see how ineffective willpower is. Instead, delving into your beliefs is one of the most effective ways to change your behavior patterns.

Byron Katie is amazing for using inquiry to question our thoughts. She has a lot of free resources. If you’re looking to understand your triggers and blind spots (after you’re out of the profound trauma of fresh tragedy), I think her tools are amazing.

How about you? What has helped you uncover and change your conditioned response?

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The Brilliance Of Adyashanti

Written by Kate • October 27, 2017 •
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Adyashanti

Many of you may know Adyashanti and I’ve periodically read his work/listened to his audiobooks. I’m currently reading his book, The Way of Liberation: A Practical Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment. It was written in 2012 and I think it’s even more compelling and apt in today’s world.

As Adyashanti has said, (I’m paraphrasing) if you earnestly begin to chase God, God will begin to chase you. I am most certainly chasing the Divine, asking for the Grace of Enlightenment. It is becoming my singular intention in this life and a burning flame inside.

Below is an extended passage that caused a frisson of recognition in my heart. It utterly speaks to me and helps me make sense of the senseless. I hope you take comfort in it too.

The Question of Being

To remain unconscious of being is to be trapped within an eg0-driven wasteland of conflict, strife, and fear that only seems customary because we have been brainwashed into a state of suspended disbelieve where a shocking amount of hate, dishonesty, ignorance, and greed are viewed as normal and sane. But they are not sane, not even close to being sane In fact, nothing could be less sane and unreal than what we human beings call reality.

By clinging to what we know and believe, we are held captive by the movement of our conditioned thinking and imagination, all  the while believing that we are perfectly rational and sane.

Deep down we all suspect that something is very wrong with the way we perceive life but we try very , vary  hard not to notice it. And the way we remain blind to our frightful condition is through an obsessive and pathological denial of being– as if some dread fate would overcome us if we were to face the pure light of Truth and lay bare our fearful cling to illusion.

..a Truth that beings to disclose itself in those quiet moments when the ordinary routine of life suddenly becomes transparent to the sublime sense of meaning and significance unknown in common hours.

The question of being is everything. Nothing could be more important or consequential- nothing where the stakes run so high. To remain unconscious of being is to remain asleep to our reality and therefore asleep to Reality at large. The choice is simple: awaken to being or sleep an endless sleep.

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Be The Change You Want In the World- Compassion

Written by Kate • October 26, 2017 •
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Inner Child- Girl on swing at sunset

Enjoying Being A Child

I’ve long wanted to be more compassionate with others and while I can be quite judgy and critical, I usually feel more compassion for others than I often feel for myself. I have been so hypercritical of myself for so long that I wasn’t sure I could change such ingrained behavior patterns. I’m reminded of this at every yoga class, during the finishing minutes of every class, my teachers would speak of first having compassion for ourselves and then for others in discussing “right” feelings.

I rarely could find compassion for myself. If I did my best and I still guessed wrong, I spent far too long castigating myself about how I should know better. If I seemingly caused conflict, I went over and over how I could have phrased things better so as to engender understanding and acceptance on the other party’s side. Up and down. Right and left. If there was anything other than the smoothest of sailings in my life at any level, I went over how I could have done better, been better, spoken more clearly, been less angry, more angry, etc.  On and on- always expecting better of myself.

The Inner Child

And then I learned about the concept of the inner child. I’d long heard of inner child work but never understood how it applied to me. In listening to Tosha Silver, she’s mentioned the inner child and has given me some great insights on how to be loving and kind to my inner child.  Over the months that I’ve been working on this, I see the value and need for inner child work.

The way I see the inner child(ren) is that inside you there is a spin off version of you from your childhood from when you were deeply wounded by life, by your parents, or some situation. At some point of time, you abandoned yourself in order to emotionally or physically survive a situation. In other words, to survive, you abandoned yourself and now there is an internal version of you that continues to speak to you, mostly from an unconscious level, from the original wounding.  And you can have more than one.

Like most everyone, we have situations that trigger us. These situations trigger us and in those initial moments after being triggered, if you learn to listen to your thoughts, you can likely hear the same recording from your inner child bringing up the wounding and trying to apply it this new situation. But often, the triggered reaction is so habitual that it’s now at the unconscious level and you’re likely  no longer aware that the same thought pattern is rising up again and again from a childhood wounding.

Understanding the Inner Child

Once I became aware of my inner child, I’ve been able to hear her so much more clearly and been able to work with her. For a long time, I thought my core fear was not being good enough. But I’ve realized that the reason I fear not being good enough is that I fear I will be abandoned if I’m not. My past makes so much more sense for me, now that I understand my true core fear and past situations when I’ve been triggered and overreacted. Sometimes my reaction to a situation baffled me by its intensity.

As an example, one that is both trivial and perhaps understandable to everyone: Recently, I had some houseguests and I served a meal. After the meal, I asked what they thought of it and they were lovingly honest. They said, “it wasn’t my favorite”. The next day, as I mused on the meal and my guests’ reaction, I started to get angrier and angrier at the thought that they didn’t like the meal I served. After several hours of periodically thinking about the meal, I was pretty upset at a deep level.  Now the conscious me was quite aware that my reaction was over the top and not rational or appropriate to the situation. But that’s how I felt. Now that I am aware of my inner child (and my core fear), I went inside to find out what was going on to provoke such a response.

And I came out again with my fear of abandonment. How did I jump from someone not loving a meal I prepared to fearing being abandoned? My inner child went from had the following sequence of thoughts and reactions:

  1. My guests didn’t like the meal
  2. I’m not as good a host as I thought because I should have known they wouldn’t like the meal
  3. They didn’t like the meal so I’m not good enough
  4. If my guest didn’t like the meal, they’ll never come back
  5. I’ll be abandoned

Again, it’s a silly situation but I truly got bent out of shape over my guests’ reaction. Because my core fear of being abandoned we triggered by this situation, I got very angry over it.

How To Be Compassionate With Yourself (And Your Inner Child)

I no longer care to spend much time understanding how I got here. The truth of this situation is that my inner child is deeply worried about being abandoned, as any child would be. With this perspective, I go inside and speak with my inner child. I comfort her and hold her and acknowledge her fears. As the adult here, I let her know that it’s ok and even if we were to be abandoned, I can take care of us. I no longer dismiss her feelings out, ignore her, or tell her she’s silly for feeling any particular way. I accept what is, act lovingly to my inner child, and heal a little bit more of the original wounding.

Through honest inquiry, even as I saw how strangely overblown my reaction was, I was able to find deep compassion for my inner child who feels she has to be perfect or she’ll be abandoned.

Being The Change

As I started to be more compassionate with the myself, through my inner child work, I am able to be more compassionate with the world. By allowing myself, at a conscious level, to be less than perfect, I have more compassion for others as we muddle through life.

More Resources

Tosha Silver  Tosha’s amazing at surrendering to the Divine and she has a lot of experience with the inner child.

Matt Licata    Matt’s blog, as a psychotherapist, is so lyrical and so healing. I highly recommend his work in general.

Thich Nhat Hanh   The renowned Buddhist monk has a book on healing the inner child through reconciliation. This is an excerpt from the book.

 

How about you? I’d love to hear about your experiences with your inner child (and how it’s changed you!).

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How To Trust Your Own Inner Voice- Emotional GPS Using Your Body

Written by Kate • October 24, 2017 •
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Trust Your Body

Use Your Emotional GPS

You no longer know what you’re feeling at a conscious level. You keep choosing activities or situations for your life but once you’re in the midst of it, you realize you’re not happy and that you’ve made the “wrong” choice (again!).  As Martha Beck writes so eloquently in many of her books and in her blog, we have allowed the social self to rise to ascendancy without connecting to the essential self, our true self. When that happens, we can become disconnected to what we like, love, or hate. At its essence, it’s like the volume is turned down on what we really want, so we can’t hear what’s really going on within our own hearts.

This blog is meant to serve as a quick and easy guide about how to start peel back the social self so that you can start to hear the essential self, the real you under all the layers of social acceptability and conditioning you’ve acquired through the years.

Using Your Body as a Guide- Use Your Own Internal/Emotional GPS

The amazing thing is that even though you may be nearly totally divorced from your true, essential self at the conscious level, your body has been sending you signals and messages all the time. You’ve just been too distracted or untrusting or numb to tune in. But by using your own body’s signals, you have an exquisitely attuned GPS system that is ready to guide you through life. You just need to become aware at a conscious level about the signals your body is sending you.

Here’s how:

Get Quiet

The first thing you must do is start to actually listen in to the quiet whispering of your essential self. The real you, underneath it all, is still communicating with you. But the essential self’s quiet voice may very well be drowned out by the busyness of your life, by the distractions, by the commitments you’re keeping, the food or booze or TV you’re using to distract yourself.

Instead of watching more TV/Netflix/Amazon Prime or getting a snack after the kids have gone to bed,  just sit down and rest in silence. Do it for 5 minutes at first and then keep stretching it a few minutes every day until you can sit and pause in silence for at least 20 minutes at a time.

At first the silence may feel weird and it may even be deafening, but stay with it. This may take a few days or even weeks as you slowly wean yourself off the distractions.

Listen In 

After a few days of silence and stillness, you may find that your essential self is screaming at you with all the information you’ve been avoiding with your distractions and busyness. If so, just listen in without acting on any of it for a while. Just listen and get used to hearing what you’ve been avoiding for so long.

Act with Discernment- Take Baby Steps

Because it’s been so long since you’ve acted on your true self’s guidance, you may need a little help with remembering what’s true for you versus what you’ve conditioned yourself to accept.  So think of something trivial in your life and start to use make small choices based on your gut.

For example, you have two blouses in your closet. One’s blue and the other is red. Imagine them both in your mind’s eye. Hold up the blue blouse in your mind’s eye (or in actually in your hand if you’re having a hard time imagining it). What are you feeling when you consider the blue blouse?

Your body will give you a thumbs up or down somewhere. For me, it’s the pit of my stomach. I feel either expansive ease or a contraction, a tightening. The expansive ease is a yes and the contraction is a no, for me.

Next hold up the red blouse. What feelings or sensations arise in your body? Do you prefer the blue or red blouse? Whatever comes up, don’t push it away. Just feel the yes and the no. Keep at it with a few additional items in your closet.

By the way, it’s important to start this type of exercise with something that isn’t triggering for you because you may have too much tied up in getting it “right” of the choices are too important in the moment. So perhaps you don’t want to use food or other triggering situations at first.

Then move on to other things in your life. Pick two potential movies to watch. Or two new plants you’re considering planting in the front yard. or two different routes to your new weekend activity. Just silently consider each one and feel what your body is telling you.

Be Compassionate and Trust Your Body

You may try to judge yourself for having gotten so far off center. Try not to do that. Instead, be grateful that you’re here now, ready to listen to your body and what it has to say.

Act On The Guidance Your Body is Giving You. Trust Yourself

After several rounds of considering two options in situations (that aren’t’ triggering), you likely have a sense of what the yes and the no feel like in your body. When you do, start acting on it. Only go with your yes options. Put down the shirt that gives you the no. Follow the yes. Don’t choose the no.

As you start to listen in and trust your body, the signals will be stronger and you’ll be able to hear what your body is telling you faster and with greater ease. With repetition, you’re strengthening a new behavior pattern which will make choosing what makes your essential self happy easier and more automatic.

Remember be compassionate and trust your body. In a relatively short amount of time, you’ll feel happier and lighter and your outer life will start to resemble what your inner landscape looks like.

 

What does your inner guidance feel like? Where do you feel it? I’d love to know. Feel free to leave me a comment about you think!

 

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