Have you ever tried to get centered? Maybe it was through prayer, meditation or yoga. Or maybe you were on a run. Or sitting in a coffee shop and you wanted to quiet things within so that you could align with your true desires or with your God. But you just couldn’t get rid of ‘that’ voice in your head that continues to criticize everything and anything. That’s the critical voice. It’s the voice within ourselves that tells us that we’re not good enough. It tells us that
“What did he mean when he said ‘you look tired’? Maybe I am tired. Maybe he just meant that I’m ugly but was afraid to say that. I don’t think I’m that ugly. Maybe I should think I’m ugly. I’m better looking than he is, so why would he say that? Stop thinking this way. It will only make me feel bad. I always go there, to the negative right away. Why do I always do that? Maybe I just need to sleep more. I’ve always known that I need to sleep more. I should have made it a higher priority before now. Why don’t I go ahead and take a nap right now? I’m too busy to take a nap right now. I don’t even have time to be thinking about all of this stuff anyway.” How often have you had a conversation like this? The voice within your mind is always there isn’t it? Always having a conversation and always trying to make sense of the world around us and filter things in a way that makes us a bit more comfortable with reality.
And that voice is always speaking. It even changes sides of an argument within a few minutes. It won’t shut up. The voice just drones on and on and on. You don’t think so? Then try this exercise. Sit for 3 minutes and try to think of nothing. Within moments the voice will show up. “Why are you doing this? Why are you even reading this stuff? This is a waste of time.” Or… “This is good. This is exactly what you needed. You needed to clear your thoughts for a few moments.”
So tell me this. Which of these voices are you? Are you the voice that thinks this is a silly exercise? Or are you the voice that thinks this is just what you needed?
The answer is that you are neither. You are not the voice in your mind. You are the one who observes the voice. You are the one who, if you allow yourself, sits back and relaxes and just listens to what the voice has to say without attaching yourself emotionally to it. Michael Singer puts it this way, “Suppose you were looking at three objects – a flowerpot, a photograph, and a book – and were then asked, ‘Which of these objects is you?’ You’d say, ‘None of them! I’m the one who’s looking at what you’re putting in front of me. It doesn’t matter what you put in front of me, it’s always going to be me looking at it.’ You see, it’s an act of a subject perceiving various objects. This is also true of hearing the voice inside. It doesn’t make any difference what it’s saying, you are the one who is aware of it.”
This is essential to growth, to realize that you are not the voice of the mind, you are the one who observes and hears that voice. If you don’t understand this, you will find yourself in endless conversations in your mind with people who have upset you, over and over again. Anytime you hear that voice and it makes you feel uncomfortable, you won’t be able to rest until you spend your energy analyzing, over analyzing, and dove-tailing the conversation in your head until you’re too exhausted to go on. But it won’t end the voice. The voice always has something to say because the voice’s job is to try to make you somehow more comfortable with the world outside of you.
So what can you do? Try this. Next time something happens in your life that you didn’t expect or didn’t want and the voice begins to try to make sense of it all and begins talking incessantly, instead of engaging in the conversation in your mind, sit back and listen. That’s it. Don’t become attached emotionally to anything the voice is saying. What you will find is that eventually the voice will fade away, just by observing it. Because in observing it, you will realize that you are not the voice, you are the one listening. And the truth is, when the voice can no longer work to make you more comfortable, it will cease to speak… for the time being. At that point, you will not have spent your energy being caught in a conversation in your mind. Instead you can begin asking uninterrupted questions. “What is it that just happened (whatever caused the initial conversation to start) and why does it truly disturb me? What is it that I’m really bothered by? Is the true problem that this person is asking a favor of me? Or is it that I often don’t think I have what it takes to really help people.”
Once the voice subsides, you have the freedom to ask questions that will help you get to what is truly bothering you. And once you know what is at the heart of the matter, you can deal with it appropriately. Also, you will find that if you practice this, over time, you will become much more aware of who you are and what you truly want in life. Give it a shot? What do you have to lose other than the constant chatter of the voice in your mind?
“Insanity is often the logic of an accurate mind overtasked.” ― Oliver W. Holmes, Sr.
“The voice in her head told her not to trust him. But then, the voice in her head didn't trust anyone.” ― C.J. Daugherty
“We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature - trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence... We need silence to be able to touch souls.” ― Mother Teresa
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Yes, I do believe that one of the single most effective and powerful things we can do to participate in the Divine’s transformation of our own lives is to learn to love ourselves more. Time and time again, as I work with people, when we get to the core of the problem, be it limiting belief, addiction, etc., it is a lack of self-love. The thing that’s behind the thing that’s behind the thing is that they have placed a very low value on their life and don’t believe they deserve to be happy. It is the most messed up thing of all and most people are barely aware of it. I genuinely think people want to be happy. Yet deep down in places they haven’t explored often, they don’t believe they deserve to be happy or are worth it. It’s the most devious trick in humanity. Somewhere in our life we were told that we aren’t worth it. We either were treated that way by those who were supposed to love and protect us when we were young and vulnerable, or because of decisions we made in the past, mistakes, we buy into the lie that we don’t have value and we aren’t worth being loved. And yet we can spend our whole lives trying to prove that we are worth being loved and go to incredible lengths to try to show everyone that we are of value.
But you don’t have to prove anything. Let me say it again. You have nothing to prove. The fact that God created you is enough. That oxygen flows in and out of your lungs, bringing life to your blood cells, is enough. What if instead of constantly trying to prove ourselves to ourselves and everyone around us, we just acknowledged that because we are alive and loved by the Divine, that we are enough.
Tomorrow is the one day self-love challenge. Now if you just read that sentence and rolled your eyes a little, I understand. I used to respond in the same manner. And then I realized that being a control freak and a perfectionist, and being harder on myself than anyone else hadn’t really gotten me the things in life I want… peace, happiness, self-control, etc. Has the way you’ve been living your life taken you to the heights of your dreams? So why not take one day and commit to loving yourself? Why not take one day to be completely and utterly gracious with yourself? Why not take one day and instead of criticizing yourself for making a mistake, simply affirm that you love yourself anyways, just the way you are? Here are a few places to start...
1. Make the commitment to love yourself for 1 day: Make the commitment and choose love for yourself. Do it now. If love is the greatest gift we have to give, what could be possibly wrong with loving yourself for one day in all your thoughts and actions? Go ahead and literally write it out right now or type it in an email to yourself or send it as a text to yourself. "Tomorrow I will commit my entire day to practicing self love."
2. Affirm yourself verbally throughout the day: Think of the most loving thing you could say to yourself, and repeat regularly throughout the day. Get up and repeat it OUT LOUD to yourself first thing. Write it on a post it note and stick it on your bathroom mirror before you go to bed tonight. If you are having trouble coming up with something loving to say to yourself, try starting here.
3. Forgive yourself immediately after any intentional or unintentional mistake: So you just screwed up and maybe no one else knows it, but you do. Immediately forgive yourself. If it helps, you can allow yourself to feel your remorse and then say... "I totally and completely forgive myself for ____________________ and I release myself of all my anger and all my disappointment." Try it. Forgiveness is incredibly powerful and it is the one of the most freeing things to experience. In fact, maybe you want to start your day by forgiving yourself for everything you've done that you have yet to forgive yourself for.
4. Give yourself a gift: Choose one thing to do for yourself that you know brings you life and you know cares for your soul and heart. Maybe you love going for a run but haven't had time lately. Maybe there is a good book you just haven't allowed yourself to read lately because you haven't had time. Read it. Maybe there is a friend that always brings you life that you haven't spent time with or talk to lately. Ask them to hang out or simply call them and just talk.
Taking the one day self-love challenge is a gift that you can give to yourself with no strings attached. It's only one day. How bad could it possibly be? A better question and motivation is, how incredible might it be? What if you discover some things about yourself? Wouldn't it be worth it?
If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to email me via the website and I will be glad to get back to you before you wake up tomorrow. What do you say? ARE YOU WORTH IT?
“The most terrifying thing is to accept oneself completely.” - C.G. Jung
"Loving yourself…does not mean being self-absorbed or narcissistic, or disregarding others. Rather it means welcoming yourself as the most honored guest in your own heart, a guest worthy of respect, a lovable companion. "- Margo Anand
"Well-ordered self-love is right and natural." - Thomas Aquinas
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Lately I’ve been going through some major life changes. Some have been welcomed, and others, not so much. Either way, the daily routine of my life has been altered and it has affected my time spent in spiritual practices. I live by my spiritual practices. They are my life line so to speak with the Divine. It’s what centers me. But lately I’ve found myself thrown from my routine. Are there ever times when you feel a little off? Like something isn’t quite right? Sometimes it feels like everything you do is a left a little empty. At other times it feels as if you’re a little out of alignment and everything isn’t quite running the way it was meant to.
This happens to all of us from time to time. A multitude of things can happen to throw us off our game or derail us a bit. It’s not the end of the world by any means. All we really need to do is be present with our situation. Be mindful of the ‘what’ and the ‘why’. And do whatever it takes to get re-centered and realigned.
However, what happens more often than not is instead of realigning, we react. Instead of being present, mindful and connecting with the source, we react by turning to that thing that temporarily takes away the pain, or more likely, distracts us from the problem/feelings. So we falsely validate ourselves with food, coffee, pills, booze, pornography, relationships, sleep, books, videos, video games, gambling, ________________. I don’t think there is a distraction out there that I haven’t tried at one point or another in my life.
This can be a seemingly insignificant ritual or it can be extreme. Anything from facebook to crack. It’s all a false validation and distraction. But no person is going to make you feel fulfilled. That comes from actually living a fulfilled life. No amount of sex is going to make you feel worthy. No amount of time spent online will fill the actual void that you feel. No amount of searching online will lead you to a solution for the ache you feel inside. No amount of alcohol will align your heart and conscious with your purpose and passions. No level of any video game will center you with the Source.
This is why we have spiritual practices like meditation, prayer, solitude, yoga, fasting, journaling, going on a retreat, chanting, sacred reading, etc. They help us to be present. They help us to be mindful. They slowly pull us back to center by connecting us with The Source. There are all kinds of arguments to be made the spiritual practices. I won’t be making them here. But I will say that they aren’t the end, but a means to an end. Doorways to The Divine if you will.
So the next time things seem a little ‘off’. Instead of reacting, realign. Simply be aware that things are off kilter, avoid the reaction to ease the uncomfortable feeling of being ‘off’, and invest some time into spiritual practices.
One of the most frustrating things that happens in a person’s spiritual journey, is the way well intentioned disciplines become stale and empty. Spiritual practices are important and the discipline it takes to spend time daily in prayer, meditation, contemplative practices, kundalini, etc. help to provide a path to connect with the sacred and help us find our rhythm. There is a pattern in my life that seems to emerge. After a time of great insight, depth, and even elation after having started these spiritual practices on a regular basis, there inevitably comes a ‘dry spell’. It’s like a plateau of sorts. It isn’t that the spiritual practices are no longer helpful or beneficial. It’s just with any sort of discipline, there are exciting times with profound insight and then there are the necessary times that while they seem dry and rote, are actually still just as beneficial.
The problem here is that we are emotional beings. If you are saying to yourself, “I’m not that emotional”, you’re fooling yourself. We are all moved when we are touched on a heart level. So as emotional beings, when we feel our spiritual practices are growing stale, we want to do something to bring the life back. Unfortunately, the answer to this dilemma given by spiritual mentors, guides, and pastors is often… “spend more time in _________________”. Fill in the blank. More time in prayer. More time in solitude. More time in yoga. More time in whatever it is you rely on for a spiritual practice. Unfortunately this advice can actually cripple our spiritual progress. We are told to do the very thing that is feeling ‘lifeless’ to us. So we push on, spending more time than may actually be beneficial to us in a spiritual practice that feels lifeless. Then we quickly grow to despise the very practice that we first adopted in an effort to grow our hearts. Eventually we abandon the spiritual practice all together and declare them useless, lifeless, and a waste of time. Or we determine that we’ve ‘outgrown’ that particular practice, all the while we know that’s not really the case.
During one of these dry spells in my own life, I connected with a distant mentor. In casual conversation this person asked me a simple question. “Brad, what is it that makes you feel the most alive when you do it?” I had to stop and think. I had to sit with that question for quite some time. But then I knew. Riding horses. Something I had done since I was a child, but hadn’t made happen in a long time. I made a call to a friend, set up a few rides, and I just let go and enjoyed everyone of the rides. I can’t tell you how connected I feel to the Divine when I’m riding a strong horse in the early morning while the dew is still on the ground. Nothing else matters and I feel as tied to the Divine as ever. I feel connected to my highest self and it isn’t work or effort. It just happens.
So here’s my advice to you. Do those things that make you come alive. Do those things that make you feel closest to The Source. What is it that when you do it you feel the presence of the Divine in your life? Maybe it’s hiking. Maybe it’s camping. Or reading a book. Or watching a movie. Or painting. Or running. Or flying. Or competing in a sport. Or playing an instrument. What is it that when you do it, you feel connected to yourself, the Divine, and all of creation?
Whatever it is that you need to do, don’t put it off. Tap into it today. Pursue those things that make you feel alive. Pursue those things that seem to make time fly as you participate in them. Pursue those things that shake the rust and dust from your heart because of the thrill and peace that comes with doing them. All the while, not giving up your spiritual practice. Then you will see for yourself how you are transformed during these ‘dry’ times.
So what makes you come alive? What is it that when you do it, you absolutely feel connected to something larger than yourself? Now either drop what you’re doing right now and pursue it, or schedule it into your next 2 days immediately.