Examining your “if onlys” through the lens of “Loving What Is”

 

joan pancoeI read a brilliant post by astrologist and modern mystic Joan Pancoe last week that I thought was so insightful and helpful.  Joan’s bio on her website describes her as ” a gifted trance channel, karmic astrologer and spiritual teacher in private practice in New York City since 1976″. I wanted to share her message with you. Here is her original post: http://joanpancoe.com/newsletter.php?id=8 . I am providing my perspectives on this approach below, but highly recommend reading Joan’s post (and signing up for her newsletters).

What are our “if onlys”.  These are the things we strive for in our life, that we delude ourselves into believing will provide a permanent happy and fulfilled state. Examples of “if onlys” include:

  • Physical body: I lost 10 lbs., I didn’t have this disease or condition, I looked like my younger self, I didn’t have this feature, etc.
  • Emotional body: I wasn’t so … (fill in any thought that is related to low self-esteem and worth), depressed, sad, stuck, etc.
  • Outside world: Got a new job or advanced in my current one, got a degree, got a house, got a new car, got a bigger house, got a partner/spouse, had a child, had more children, had grandchildren, had more money, etc.

We believe that when we obtain one of these “if only” goals that we will find this sense of wholeness, acceptance, and being sated.  Obtaining the goal will change who we are. We may also believe once we obtain this goal, that the world will also reflect back to us now we are whole, accepted, acknowledged and loved.  We believe this even though past experience shows us when we obtain a goal, the happiness is temporary. Eventually, maybe in a few hours, weeks, or years, we will find a seed of dissatisfaction that grows and create a new “if only”. In an egoic sense, this keeps us focused on this elusive future, rather than being based on the present and seeing all the good in our life, exactly as it is in the present moment.  This is not to say there won’t be challenges in your life that can be extremely challenging to deal with in the present but there will always be some good in our life mixed in with the challenges, that may translate to blessings or transformations in the future.

Exercise # 1: Make a list of your “if onlys”

Now, if we examine these “if onlys” through the lens of Byron Katie’s “Loving What Is’ approach, we can start to awaken, snap out of this pattern of having our state of wholeness and happiness dependent on a future perfect state of being or goal being accomplished, and wake up to what is here in the present.  We assume the goals/people/situations/events we are pursuing will bring us happiness. Going through Byron Katie’s four key questions allow us to see that may not be the case and puts more focus on what we have in the present (and can we make our peace with that and find joy in the here and now).  The key message to get with this exercise is that our thoughts of lack and not being or having enough in the present create suffering and if we can reorient ourselves as we think about ourselves in the present, we may find ourselves overflowing with abundance and love, and have all we need.

Exercise # 2: Plug in each of your “if only” beliefs into the four questions and see what answers you get.  It’s helpful if you can make your mind like a blank slate before you ask the question and let go of your stories. Be like a curious child looking at this question for the first time.

byron katieHere is a guide to Byron Katie’s four questions (from her website: http://thework.com/instruction-the-work-byron-katie/ ).  She also has worksheets you can download, so you can print off one for each “if only”.  You can also explore her book “Loving What Is” to understand how the  questions work and are applied.  She has videos as well on YouTube where she uses these questions on workshop attendees.  The real-world examples from people attending her workshops discussed in her book or shown on her videos really help you better understand the four questions below.

The Four Questions:

Q1. Is it true?

The answer to the first two questions is just one syllable: either yes or no. Be still and find your honest yes or no as it arises to meet the question. If your answer shows up as a yes, move to question 2. If it’s no, then experience that no for a moment and then move to question 3.

Q2. Can you absolutely know that it’s true?

If your answer to question 1 is yes, ask yourself: “Can I absolutely know that it’s true?” Take this opportunity to look again. Shine the flashlight on that moment in time again, and see what reveals itself to you.
Q3. How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?

Close your eyes and witness the feelings, body sensations, and behaviors that arise when you believe that thought. Notice and report the answers to any of the following:

What images do you see, past or future, and what emotions or physical sensations arise as you witness those images?
How did you treat the other person?
How did you treat yourself?
Do any obsessions or addictions begin to appear when you believe that thought?

Q4. Who would you be without that thought?

Closing your eyes, return to the situation. Take a moment to reflect, observe, and experience the situation again, this time without the thought. Who or what you would be without the thought? How would you see or feel about the other person? Drop all of your judgments. Notice what is revealed.

The key idea to get from this examination of our “if onlys”, is that we can turn these if-only thoughts around we can let go of this suffering and live in the present in a more joy and gratitude-filled state.  This doesn’t mean we don’t set goals and strive for things in our life, or we disown success; it means we don’t pin our identity and happiness to those things, so if people, material items, or roles/jobs leave our lives, we don’t find ourselves being empty again.

Give this exercise a try without attachment and see what you find out about yourself.  You may find yourself feeling liberated when you didn’t even realize you had these energy cords tied to your future.

Putting an End to Perfectionism

Image from http://seekingmeme.wordpress.com
Image from http://seekingmeme.wordpress.com

Perfectionists have been described as those that ” strain compulsively and unceasingly toward unobtainable goals, and measure their self-worth by productivity and accomplishment.  Pressuring oneself to achieve unrealistic goals inevitably sets the person up for disappointment. Perfectionists tend to be harsh critics of themselves when they fail to meet their standards.” If you talk to a perfectionist, they will describe it as a positive personality feature or trait. For a job interview, people are often coached to use perfectionism if they are asked to name one of their negative qualities or flaws, because it is thought to indicate a harder-than-average worker with great attention to detail and ambition.

perfection quote 2
Image from http://thehappinesstree.wordpress.com/category/overcoming-perfectionism/

In my practice, I’ve seen quite a few perfectionists who talk about how stressed they are because they are striving for these unrealistic standards in their life. They are  not really seeing they are setting these standards themselves and are effectively torturing themselves. One client talked about how stressed she was because she was taking a continuing education course and spending hours and hours in their evenings to make sure she got an A+, and then went on to describe similar stories or sources of stress in her life – all linked to perfectionism. I believe perfectionism is a form of self-bullying – of saying I am not worthy, I am not lovable unless I am perfect or do this task perfectly, I always have to strive to be enough, basically who I am is not enough.  It is a behavior that is simply not loving or compassionate to ourselves or to those close to us. It’s geared on impressing someone be it a boss, a partner, a child, other parents, a group with our perfection to make ourselves feel better about who we are, perhaps to feel superior to others, but ultimately telling ourselves if I don’t make this effort or succeed I won’t be good enough.

I know perfectionism well as a I used to be a perfectionist.  I have read that perfectionism stems from being punished for your mistakes as a child instead of feeling accepted;  it’s also linked to needing praise or acknowledgement to build a false sense of self-esteem. You can see how the combination of the two would put you on a search for praise to build self-love with difficulty dealing with failure or criticism.  Growing up I learned that when I did things people wanted me to do or did well in school I was praised or “good” but when I didn’t I wasn’t behaving acceptably and was “bad”; I was not loved unconditionally – as most of us experienced.  This led me to be a big people pleaser in my life and do things that would earn me praise – I needed others to tell me I was good, special, smart, worthy…  wanting to get praise and attention from others, to feel special, trying to feed my need to feel that I was worthy, good enough, excelling at what I was doing or who I was.  A core component of that was believing I had to do something to earn that, to go beyond my best, to sacrifice – that who I was or what I did was not enough.   When I started to heal and learn to love myself and realize that our sense of self  should come from inside not outside, my perfectionist standards fell away. I choose being kind, loving and compassionate with myself instead. I now know we should never attach higher importance or internalize what other people think or perceive about ourselves or use that to guide our decisions in life – that’s a recipe for unhappiness.  What others think really doesn’t matter at the end of the day. It’s what we think about ourselves that’s important, and being kind, loving, and compassionate to ourselves. Self love means that we do our best and be kind to ourselves when there are those times when we don’t feel we have the energy or time to.  Self-love means we learn from our mistakes but don’t internalize them and feel bad about ourselves because of a mistake or failure. We are grateful for the learning experience and for what we experience on our journey. Self-love means that we embrace our imperfections as what makes us unique and special .

perfectionism quote edit
Quote adapted from feministhealthuk.wordpress.com

As this quote illustrates an emotion that drives perfectionists is fear. Fear that if we’re not perfect we won’t be loved, worthy, we’ll be a failure, or we’ll lose our jobs. We create all kinds of unrealistic and false motivators to drive our perfectionism. So you can counter that fear with self-love and realism. When you notice your inner perfectionist activated try to observe yourself and ask some questions to inject self-love and realism into the situation.  You can use the above statements and question if they’re true. You can ask what would happen if I didn’t (fill in the blank with whatever you’d usually be compelled to do in order to try to obtain perfection in what you’re doing).  Would anyone but you even care or notice?

It’s also important to take some time to honestly look at your life and see the costs of that drive for perfectionism.  How happy is that perfectionist drive making you? What about your loved ones? When you’re a perfectionist you often extend that tendency to those in your life because they’re a reflection of you too. Do you drive your partner, kids, coworkers crazy with your criticism and expectations? Are you unavailable because you’re always putting work first and trying to be the perfect employee? Do you criticize your performance after you complete something focusing on what wasn’t right or criticism you received instead of feeling good about the things you did well? Are you in debt because you are always trying to beat the Joneses with the perfect clothes, perfect home, perfect car?  Are you always late because you spend an hour on your hair and make-up? Do you look in the mirror and criticize your appearance instead of seeing your beauty?  What is perfectionism doing for the balance in your life? Is your health suffering due to stress and working long hours and trying to please everyone? Have you damaged relationships and hurt other’s self-esteem with your drive for perfectionism? What is the cost of perfectionism in your life?

perfection cycle

This diagram provides a great summary of the cycle of perfection  in science, a field I used to work in that attracts perfectionists, but really this applies to perfection overall. The perfectionist develops unrealistic expectations. If things don’t go well (they’re get the message they’re not perfect), they blame themselves creating more low self-esteem. Then they procrastinate, are defensive and have low confidence and my have reduced productivity. If things go well, the perfectionist gets positive feedback, and continues the game of filling their self-worth from the outside.

So once you’re aware of the costs of perfectionism, how do you relax your perfectionism? Well your life is going to improve without question if you start to focus on accepting and loving yourself for who you are and not seeking things from the outside to fill you (see other posts I’ve written on this topic such as  https://justbreathereiki.com/2013/09/10/learning-to-love-yourself-its-an-inside-job/ and https://justbreathereiki.com/2012/11/28/finding-happiness-and-love-inside-you-instead-of-yearning-for-the-outside-world-to-be-perfect/).  To directly work on perfectionism itself, you will find it is easiest to start letting go little by little of your expectations and standards and see what happens. Doing this will allow you to reduce your stress a little (and it will only be a small amount to start because you will be scared of not being perfect) and bring you a little ease, allow you to breathe and let go a little, feel a little glimmer of happiness. As you continue letting go of perfectionism, testing the waters and seeing what happens when you don’t do the perfect job, but just doing your best, following realistic standards instead of the harsh ones you imposed on yourself, you start to see that it’s okay. That your performance doesn’t have to be perfect. That people don’t notice a difference on what you’ve let go of in terms of your standards but that they notice you are happier, less stressed and more easy-going.

Here are some suggestions for different areas you may find perfectionism activated for. If you’re a perfectionist with your appearance, go out without make-up, unwashed hair and schlep around a bit. Does the world really encounter you that differently, do they give you shocked sighs, do they not make eye contact – of course not – they just see you a person.  Don’t feel that your diet or exercise has to be perfect all the time; let yourself enjoy some pleasurable food or relaxation regularly. You may notice as you start to let go of perfectionism about appearance and start to love and accept yourself that your judgements about others starts to become more compassionate and kind. Let you family and partner be who they are without giving them criticism or guiding who you think they should be or look like.Be happy with what you have materially and start to detach your ego with associating your self-worth with your material possessions. Look at those who have less. Are they really less happy than you? Look at those who have very little and could benefit from your generosity and share some kindness with them – not out of pity but true compassion and connection.

Image from http://thissparklylife.wordpress.com/2012/03/
Image from http://thissparklylife.wordpress.com/2012/03/

If you’re a perfectionist at work, look at your workplace and really see what is expected of the staff around you. Is everyone putting in the hours you are? Is everyone as stressed as you? Figure out what your boss really expects and deliver that. Start seeing what it’s like when you cut out the extra two hours of edits on your reports catching little typos and errors or changing wording around obsessively. If your boss is a perfectionist, it might not be the healthiest workplace dynamic or great for your career. Try to see if there’s someone else you can work under or maybe look for a workplace that has a different dynamic that drives their employees. Become more comfortable with delegating and positively praise staff that do work for you instead of focusing on how their work is imperfect and how you could have done a better job. Give constructive criticism but have praise be the focus.

If you’re a perfectionist when it comes to a hobby or activity start to notice what happens when you just let go a little. Do you notice you’re having more fun? Does your perfectionism suck some of the joy out of your activities? Can you see what you’re doing as a source of enjoyment instead of competition or performance? So if you train for a marathon and your time was not as good as your peers you trained with or you didn’t achieve your goal would you look for what went wrong and internalize that experience as a failing of some kind or would you feel good about your accomplishment, improvements to your health, and fun you had training. Start to shift your perspective to a more compassionate, self-loving perspective.

love yourself signSee yourself as perfect just as you are. See that the flaws and imperfections people have are what makes them interesting and memorable. Find the authentic you without all these perfectionist trappings. Start to fill the time you spent getting ready in the mirror, shopping for the latest and greatest indicator of status, redoing your graphs for the meeting, judging and criticizing yourself or others, and fill your life with activities, people, things that actually bring you happiness and self-fulfillment. Embrace your imperfection as absolute perfection – you are absolutely perfect just as you are – just by breathing and being.

Letting Go of Worry

Image from http://opinion-forum.com
Image from http://opinion-forum.com

I have had seen so many clients this month that have been so overwhelmed with worry (and stress manifesting from that worry) that I felt it was a much-needed topic to talk about this month.  I will share some thoughts to help change your perspective on worry and also offer some practices you can try to let go of the habit of worrying.

First a confession. I used to be a consummate worrier. I’d fret about things in my mind constantly. What happened during the day, what was coming around the corner, and the “job” I was doing on all aspects of my life.  When I was done worrying about myself, then I worried about/for everyone else in my life. As someone who has gone from being a worrier to more of a “going with the flow” person, I can tell you that the effort is well worth it. I can remember when I really couldn’t understand what “go with the flow” meant, because I was such a control freak, but as you let go of controlling your life and world it will become more natural. Your life becomes more joyous, freer, exciting and alive when you let go of worry. You can see what you can influence in your life and what you have no control of, and let go of the things you don’t have control of and have faith.  You see no matter what your past, that your life can be different in the future, but more importantly also in the present moment.

Generally, most people believe worry and stress are a result of the world around us, spinning chaotically; in reality, worry and stress are a construct in our mind created by us for us.   The beauty in that is because it’s something we’ve created in our mind, it’s something we have the power to transform and let go of ourselves.

What is Your Worry Story?

Most people tend to worry about things in the present and future. The worry may or may not be about something that is actually present or manifested in the present-day.  Firstly, I think it’s important to recognize that worrying is a habit.  I came from a household of worriers so this was a habit I was taught as a child. Almost that worrying about someone is a way you show you love them. Worrying is a mental pattern we replay in our mind. The subject of the worry may change but the pattern is the same. We manipulate the subject of our worries in our mind. We create stories of what may happen with this subject of our worry in the future. Elaborate stories. We start with a story, we go back to it, add to it, make it worse, relive it over and over again in our day.  Never recognizing it’s a story, it’s a movie we are playing over and over again in our mind, that it doesn’t exist and that it’s creating stress for us, in our mind, body and spirit, and is making us feel powerless.  If we can take a few steps back and observe that we are creating and playing this movie, if we can be in the audience, watching ourselves and seeing this pattern, we can start to separate from our worry, our story, and start to see this is a construct of our mind…and with that start to let go of it.

Image from http://dailyoftheday.com
Image from http://dailyoftheday.com

Think of yourself when you go to a movie in the theatre. You get absorbed and immersed in the experience of what you’re watching – the sights, the sounds, the characters, and the story. It completely occupies your mind when you’re watching the movie.  Then the movie ends and you come back to yourself and walk away to your life. When we play these future scenarios filled with worry over and over again, we get immersed in the feelings those scenarios  create and get filled with stress.  If you can start to see your worries as a movie or story you’ve created, you can see that is a false reality you’ve created and start to let go of and walk away from these worries and this habit.

Secondly, and most of us recognize this, worrying doesn’t accomplish anything for us. It doesn’t create anything constructive. It just manifests stress in our body, mind and spirit and wears us down. It leaves us in a state of mind where we are waiting for the bad things we imagine in our minds to happen.  It also gravitates us towards the negative, so when we’re watching the news, or other media form we hear the stories that mesh with our worry scenarios. We think wow if that bad thing could happen to that person, it could happen to me too.  We attract fellow worriers into our life, where we go for coffee and end up in group worry sessions.  The felllow worriers confirm our worries are possible and even give us new scenarios to add in.  We leave those sessions feeling drained and even more stressed. It brings negative elements into our life.

How to Break the Worrying Habit

Now your next question may be okay I see the habit but how do I break it? With breaking any habit, the first important step is to observe and see the pattern. Once you bring that awareness to your habit, you can start to see it when you repeat it over and over again. “There I go again”.  Then, when you observe yourself enacting your habit of worry, you can start to replace that stressful habit with something that calms you.  For example, you can see the worry, stop it, then practice some meditative breathing – taking a deep breath through your nose, down to your belly, holding it for a couple of seconds, and then breathing out. You can repeat some positive affirmations to calm and reassure yourself telling yourself  in the present “I am safe, I am okay, I am healing, I am calm, I am loved” (pick whatever works for you).  You can picture whatever you are worrying about and let it go into the air like a balloon or throw it in the garbage like some refuse you don’t want to carry around anymore.  If it’s a physical issue that causes worry, you can visualize sending a soft healing pink light to that area of your body with your in-breath and breathing out grey coloured smoke, representing your worry about your health, with your out breath. With health problems, you may also find it helpful to regardless of what diagnoses you may have received, to visualize your body renewing, as all cells and parts of our body do, and coming back in a healthy state; reminding yourself that all diagnoses have uncertainty and limitations associated with them and that your body has natural healing abilities. You use these techniques to calm and clear your mind. For more ideas on ways to calm yourself, see my blog on finding peace and serenity in your life https://justbreathereiki.com/2012/07/23/finding-peace-and-serenity-in-your-life/ . By replacing your stress-inducing worry habit with something that calms you, you start to teach yourself that you can move from that stressed place to a calm place in an instant. This teaches you that state of mind is easily transformed and unnecessary. You will naturally be attracted to this calmer state of mind and start to incorporate practices, like those detailed in my blog noted above, to help calm yourself. You will become a lighter, calmer, less-stressed and more in the moment person.

Image from http://www.thrive80.com
Image from http://www.thrive80.com

Many worriers tend to be control freaks.  We think if we worry enough about something there might be some way for us to figure out how to control it. That maybe through these stories or scenarios we create we may find a solution.  We tend to forget we are not in control of the world. We may either try to control the world or think we should be able to but we can’t. Know the one thing you have control over is you and your thoughts and perspective.  So let go of the thought that if you worry enough about something you might be able to control what happens.  Trust that whatever happens is for the best and whatever is around the corner will be wonderful.  Start to let go of the wheel and trust that your life is divinely guided. Shift your focus from the things you worry about to the things you can be grateful about and to being loving and compassionate, with yourself and others.  When we focus on worry and other negative things or scenarios we can attract that energy into our future. So shift your focus on something positive. When you are thinking of the future, think of positive things or that you can’t even imagine the amazing possibilities out there and leave your future as a blank slate of wonderful.

On that note if you tend to focus your worry on the future, you need to see that it’s your ego that likes to keep you out of the present moment. You can stop your habit of future forecasting of this is going to happen, then this terrible thing will happen by thinking of a more positive future.  The uncontrollable snowball of the horrible things around the corner becomes a pleasant meandering boat ride into the future where you are a passenger.  What if you let go of the future forecasting and instead imagine there may be some exciting and wonderful things waiting for you around the corner. That life around the corner might be amazing and realizing that your life in the present might be amazing but you’re so lost in the future that you wouldn’t even realize it.  Replace the habit of imagining stressful happenings in the future with imagining lovely things, even lovelier than you can imagine.

Worry truly is a ride we take ourselves on.  We can get off that ride at any moment and bring ourselves into the present moment into a state of calm and trust. Breaking the worry habit is something you have to try out and experience first hand to “get it”. That this worry is just a passing state of mind that I can eliminate and let go of in an instant. It doesn’t mean we don’t ever worry about anything ever again, but it means that we don’t become engrossed in worries. We become aware of this habit and when it starts to arise again, we nip it in the bud, so it doesn’t overwhelm and overtake our sense of well-being. Give it a try to become a calmer and happier being.

Connecting with Gratitude

gratitude-rainbowspiral1
Image from the upsidedownworld.com

Connecting with gratitude will add magic to your life.  The way you see the world will change.  It’s not about wearing rose-coloured glasses and seeing the world in an idealistic way. It’s about realizing you choose how you interact with and perceive your world.  When you start to see the world through eyes of gratitude, you realize how kind people are to each other (especially when it’s complete strangers), how much beauty is around you, how sweet the little things in life are. You see the things you missed when you were in a rush, in a place of anger, when you were annoyed at the person who cut you off in traffic, when life gets you caught up in your ego and chaos.   You also start to notice you give a little more to others…you are kinder in your opinions, less reactive, more patient/generous with your time, and more easily let go of holding grudges with others.  You connect with the living world around you because you take a minute to notice it, appreciate it and don’t take it for granted…the smell of cut grass, the warmth of the sun, the bird chirping outside.  You start to see things with a child-like newness, engaging your senses more fully as you experience life. You start to shift your focus to noticing things to be grateful for, which allows you to come from a place of abundance and positive thought, instead of a place of scarcity and negativity.

grat journal
A journal for this exact purpose (Image from http://www.soulsalon.wordpress.com)

So how do we do this? Connect with gratitude.  A good way to start…as recommended time and again by Oprah Winfrey is laying in bed, about to fall asleep, reviewing your day and recognizing 10 things to be grateful for.  Oprah recommends keeping a gratitude journal and recording all the things you’re grateful for. A journal can be helpful if you get in a negative frame of mind… you can remind yourself of all the little things you were grateful for before.  If you are going to get a journal, get something or make something you find beautiful or appealing, something sacred to write in.  You may find it hard at first thought. ..hmm… 10 things to be grateful for. Then once you get started you realize all the things that were lovely, to be grateful for in your day.

IMG_20130512_161846
A peony in full bloom at Park and Tilford Gardens

It’s important you really connect with the feeling of gratitude when you do this exercise…to not make a “fake” list of things you think you should be grateful for. My wife, my home, my job.  Add detail and emotion. Make it real. Sources for inspiration can be physical comforts (your soft, warm comfortable bed, a hot shower), tastes (fresh strawberries, home-cooked meal), sounds (heard your favorite song playing, wind in the trees during your walk, your child’s voice),  smells (smell of your body lotion, cup of tea, humic smell of after rainfall), interactions or special moments in your day (with people, friends, family, a stranger, a pet, nature), opportunities you took to share, love, or be there for someone, and/or just breathing and being alive.

If you find yourself finding it hard to be genuinely grateful in this exercise it is a sign that you need to open your heart

Image from www.phoodjournal.wordpress.com
Thomas Haas..food art (Image from http://www.phoodjournal.wordpress.com)

more to receiving the wonderful things around you, to seeing the wonderful things around you, and getting in touch with yourself.  Just try sticking to it, even if your list includes less than 10 things. Start to add things to your day that you can be grateful for. Maybe it’s taking time out to take a short walk on a sunny day even though you’re busy. Making a special trip to visit a special coffee/pastry shop (like Thomas Haas instead of your neighbourhood haunt). Just appreciating the strangers who treat us so well or help us through the day.  Again..once you start to shift your focus to gratitude, the world becomes a more welcoming and loving place.

You can also start to share your gratitude with the world. Little acts of kindness or generosity or literally saying thank you. You can say a very genuine thank you to the bus driver who gives you a ride to work everyday, or the barista who makes your drink, something you appreciate about how they do their job, that makes them special. You can pick up garbage you see littering a park, that someone else dropped because they didn’t appreciate the nature around them. Not in a I”m better than this person who dropped this garbage, ego-driven way, but in a hey mother nature thanks for this beauty.  You can be patient and let someone go in line ahead of you, share a kind word or compliment with a stranger.  You can also share this practice with your partner, children, friends, and family. My husband and I have created a gratitude list on Thanksgiving to see if we could fill in a list 100 things to be grateful for and easily did. It’s a lovely practice to pass on (as a thing to try).

Try it for a month and see how it changes you, your feelings, and how you perceive the world around you. Have fun with it!

Living in The Present

Living in the present is a powerful and joyful way to live your life.  When we move away from living in the present moment and focus on how we wish past events could have turned out or simply relive them, or worry or fantasize about the future, we get lost in our thoughts and mind.  Living in the present moment allows you to experience life as it happens, let go of worrying about the future, and start to let go of old patterns or responses that are rooted in the past. When you first start to observe your thoughts and notice how much time you spend thinking about the past or future it can be shocking.  You’ll wonder why I am back to this same moment in time again.  When you’re focused on the present moment you start to notice the people and your surroundings with a new alertness and joy and deal with issues or problems that arise in an empowered and effective way.

Eckhart Tolle with Oprah Winfrey on set of the New Earth web series.

I first learned about this practice from Eckhart Tolle, author of books including The Power of Now and The New Earth.  He is a wonderful teacher and really shows you how simple life can be if you live in the present and let go of your ego (a topic for another post). I found the New Earth web series he did with Oprah really enlightening and transforming. I actually found the web series alot more easy to relate to than the New Earth book.  In the 10-episode web series, Oprah and Eckhart discuss the book chapter by chapter (each episode focusing on one chapter is over an hour long).  They also answer questions from readers from all walks of life on how to implement ideas presented in the book.  If you are tired of living in the past, worrying about the future, feeling in conflict, feeling inferior/superior, and being lost in your thoughts/mind, I highly recommend doing a ego/living in the present “boot-camp”; watch one of the episodes daily or every couple of days until you complete the series. In a short amount of time you’ll be in a different frame of mind.  As Eckhart says on the first episode (and in his book), if  this information resonates or makes sense to you carry on..if it doesn’t you aren’t ready for this information yet.   The link for episode#1 is:

http://www.oprah.com/oprahsbookclub/Chapter-1-Oprah-and-Eckhart-Tolles-A-New-Earth-Webcast-Video

Give the first episode a try.

Remember too that living in the present is a practice and a process.  You’ll start out just noticing your thoughts and then begin shifting from past/future thinking to living in the present. It takes some time so be patient and kind with yourself. To start out I recommend noticing your thoughts when you’re doing something on autopilot, like showering, and seeing if you can stay focused on what you’re doing and experiencing in the present (smell of your shampoo, sensation of hot water) and stop those thoughts about what you have to do next or something that happened the day before. Just being aware of your mind patterns is a huge huge step and accomplishment.

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