Monthly Archives: December 2013

Week 3: Seeing with new eyes

I wonder if the swan has always recognized itself as one...

I wonder if the swan has always recognized itself as one…

 

Ahhh, intention, you are a crafty fellow. You knew that I’d be challenged starting this trek around the holidays, and I suppose you are chuckling as you observe me now.

No, friends, I have not given up – not by a long shot, nor will I. What did happen was a week that became unexpectedly spent away from home and in what I like to consider my “retreat” – the apartment of one of my closest friends in Manhattan.  The distractions were many and I confess that I spent more time sampling tasty holiday treats than I did actively sitting in Intention. But as I now read over the suggestions from last week’s chapter on its Seven Faces (creativity, kindness, love, beauty, expansion, unlimited abundance, and receptivity), I believe that however meandering my steps may sometimes be, the ideas and lessons are seeping in nonetheless.

I actually titled this post after completing it, and am adding this paragraph in to boot. Through I knew that this experience would provide new insights, I’m struck by how much that simple phrase, ”Seeing with new eyes”, resonates. At the very heart of nearly everything I’ve done in life have been seeds that were sown years and years before I even contemplated that they might grow into something completely different that what I needed them to be. With a restored ability to see beyond those old shoots, it’s no surprise that my garden needs to be replanted and nurtured anew.

To this past week’s lessons:

The first suggestion was to visualize the power of intention. Still so difficult—my mind jumps and turns at the mere idea of focusing (my next goal may well be to learn and practice meditation, as I think it would do me wonders). Despite that, I have begun to be more aware of my feelings and thought patterns. I recognize when old fears and attitudes threaten to block out new ones, and I am a bit better at gently moving them out of the way.

Next I was asked to be reflective, and resist the judging that so often accompanies daily life. I’ve actually seen some growth here. My normal response to so much over the course of my life has been “what does this say about me?” or “how can I deal with this (event, person, consequence)?”. Maybe it’s just age, but I find myself more accepting, even appreciative, of people and actions that would have driven a younger version of me insane. This is NOT to say that I don’t still get irked by what I consider idiocy or foolishness. I have yet to achieve the Wayne Dyer level of acceptance and gratitude for people and things that seem to embody the antithesis of what I value. No, I’ve definitely done some talking back to the TV and kvetching about the various “Dynasties” of the world—the difference seems to be in how quickly I can turn back to the more reflective state.

“Expect beauty” and “Meditate on appreciation”, Wayne advised next. I actually do the latter quite a bit. For every day of struggle, something or someone reminds me that I am quite lucky. I have an amazing group of friends, a supportive family, and the love and encouragement of some very special individuals. Some days are still a little harder than others. News this past week of another school shooting and a beautiful young woman gone, or a carjacking that left a young man dead and a young woman widowed—these events continue to stun and scare me.  My mind can’t reconcile them with the messages of love and peace I’m supposed to be learning, and I go through those moments where finding beauty seems impossible. I watch and listen and wonder about the usefulness of prayers, or the belief that there is a benevolent spirit keeping watch.

Ironically, or maybe not, the final thought for this week is to banish doubt. I am taking this on a personal level and acknowledging that without a sense of belief and certainty in my own ability to do so, creating this new life will be impossible. Wayne seemed to sense the disparity, for at the very end of the chapter he advised, “”You may choose to doubt what others say to you or what you experience with your senses, but… don’t doubt your creation from a field of energy that’s always available to you.” Once again, I’m gonna have to trust that the man knows of what he speaks.

The next chapter is titled, “Connecting to Intention” and starts with a quote by Thomas Troward that I like a lot:

“The law of floatation was not discovered by contemplating the sinking of things, but by contemplating the floating of things which floated naturally, and then intelligently asking why they did so.

It appears to be a somewhat practical chapter, perhaps suited to my left-brained way of thinking. Wayne talks about will and imagination and provides ways to apply the seven faces and make them part of one’s life. He mentions Japa meditation—I may have to get out my other book after all and get that ball rolling as part of this grand experiment. There are also stories in this chapter of people living in Intention, the kind that usually make me tear up and scold myself for my cynicism.

I do see that the last suggestion talks about God’s abundance. Here we go again. Keep moving forward, Paula, don’t get caught up. Stay on point, recognize that “God” can be used as a symbol for Nature, for the goodness in the universe that you DO believe in. There will be time and space to study the many ideas and beliefs of the world. This path to Intention is not a religious one, nor must you subscribe to any one system to walk it. Trust in yourself.

“Okay, Self,” I hear myself say out loud (a perk of living alone) – “I’ll do that.”

The trolley image continues to be front and center in my mind, and I’ve found that the image is powerful for me. I am trying to visualize this vehicle that is at once me, but at the same time more than me, so that the energy needed to move forward comes from both of us.

I can get on board for that.

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The Right Path?

 

 

Benefits-from-Hiking-in-the-MountainsWeek 2

 

It’s always so much easier planning the trek towards change than actually walking  it. Real life likes to butt its head into my attempts at growth and suddenly it’s the end of the week, and the universe hasn’t yet shifted. Despite my practical nature, I must admit that when I began this journey, I hoped that somehow Wayne Dyer’s spirit would recognize it and whisk me along the path.

Alas, that is not to be. I am stuck with me and my habits until I adjust them. I’m grateful, at least, that this first week’s “suggestions” were more about thoughts than actions. I did indeed copy the Hasidic prayer, through I am still not attached to it. It’s pretty and all, but I’m not sure it suits me; and then I panic; will this work without it? Can I use something else? Shouldn’t this book have an 800 number that I can call with this kind of question? What if I’m doomed because I can’t even connect with the first instruction??

Aside from the prayer, I have actually started to take this Intention thing seriously—more than once I’ve caught myself veering back into old thought patterns (“this will never work, I shouldn’t have even tried, I’m out of my league”) and reminded myself that I can resist the anxiety that so often threatens to derail me. But as I knew it would be, visualizing that what I desire is already here is not an easy thing. Left-brained Paula is only too happy to question it, and she can be an exhausting debate partner. She whispers about d how I’ve tried this before and it didn’t happen, and that sure, it’s nice to dream but come on….

I am, by nature, a reactor. The idea of making proactive choices is downright foreign. For my entire life, I’ve sort of just flown from one experience to the next, based on convenience or the most immediate needs. I look for the closest safe spot to land and stay there until something makes me move. And then I fly on until I’m out of gas, or ideas. I’m in awe of people who truly live with Intention, who are holding the reins of life and steering it. As it’s Christmas time, I’m actually envisioning Santa in his sleigh, itinerary in hand and ready to fulfill his yearly goal. If I was Santa, I’d be contemplating every weather report and stressing about lists and the health of the reindeer.

It’s a long haul, I tell myself. If nothing else, I will keep my promise to continue. I’ve now read into Chapter Two, which describes the “Seven Faces of Intention” – briefly they are creativity, kindness, love, beauty, expansion, unlimited abundance, and receptivity. I feel my defenses rise up. Everything Wayne puts out seems to require belief in huge things not seeable or provable, and the agnostic in me is threatening to rebel.  For every example he gives of Intention in action, I can find at least three that would seem to disprove any such thing exists. What exactly is at work here? If everything is possible, why is there such misery, poverty, and cruelty in the world?

Before I lose anyone, all is not lost. I haven’t forgotten my one big success this week— the trolley strap. If you’ll recall, Wayne uses it as a symbol to remind us that we can reach up and allow ourselves to be carried by intention. I was actually in a subway and thought about it when grabbing hold of the bar. I’m still working on trusting the process, but I am a tiny bit closer.

If I can just make myself keep walking…


Week 1: Grabbing hold

prospecting

Nothing like starting off an adventure with an apology… well, not an apology exactly, but an explanation. You see, I was so excited to write the first post of this that I got a piece of information incorrect. The only reason I bring it up is because it’s kind of key to this whole process.

I got the name of the book wrong.

Anyone who knows me is chuckling now, because this is SO Paula. I’m the girl who always forgot her lunch at home, the grownup who can never remember where her keys are or what time she’s supposed to be at the dentist. I’ve done my best over the years to turn my absentmindedness into a charming quirk, and I’m hopeful it will be taken as such now. The book I am actually reading is still a Wayne Dyer one. But it’s not Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life. It’s actually The Power of Intention. A bit of irony there, perhaps, since my first intention didn’t quite make it to the page. But I am confident that I can soldier on.

To the book—I chose it because one of my biggest goals in what I expect to be the first step in a long journey is to get in touch with the energy that helps transform dreams into being. To go from wishing things would happen to living in a way that calls them forth.  I enjoy Wayne Dyer for several reasons—first, he has a kind face. Shallow perhaps, but as someone who balks at hard work, kindness goes a long way. Also, he is spiritual, but generally not overtly religious. He does talk about God (more on that another time) but mostly he refers to Spirit and the idea that there is something beyond our physical world that can support us. Things are discussed in the context of a Source that is all around, and within us. He may indeed mean the God I learned about in Sunday school, but for me, I think of it more as the energy he says it is, without the religious context. Wayne also seems to be happy, which seems a good thing to have in a “mentor,” even if they don’t know you exist. He had a challenging early life and I’m sure he is not perfect, but he seems content and wise, in a grandfatherly way that I really like. He encourages without lecturing, if you know what I mean.

So, to the first chapter of The Power of Intention, titled “Viewing Intention from a New Perspective.” Wayne talks about his old idea of Intention as a gripping resolve to meet a challenge or reach a goal. You’re gonna make it happen, no matter what. I picture a very A-type personality with a killer determination that I’ve never had. Luckily for me, he goes on to say that he has changed his perspective over the years, and he now sees intention as a force that exists everywhere in the universe. Everywhere. I like the sound of that—no long treks to “find” this thing (though I’d like to make some kind of trek some day) required.

We move into a discussion of Ego, and the assertion that it separates us from intention, as it leads us to define ourselves by exterior things (our possessions, or achievements, our reputations). I can’t help but think about how invested I’ve been over the course of my life in how I looked, what car I drove, or what I had managed to amass. How often have I judged others (and myself) on these or a myriad of other markers? How much have I missed out on by steering my focus towards ego-driven goals?

Now before anyone goes worrying, I am not going to haul my belongings to Goodwill and go live off the land – though the idea of a Waldenesque cabin in the woods sounds quite heavenly. I’m not convinced that my cooking or carpentry skills are strong enough, and I would definitely need indoor plumbing. And my laptop. But as I sit in my apartment looking around, the amount of extra stuff is quite significant. Surely there’s room to trim some fat – I may have to blog a de-cluttering book next.

But I digress – and do it often, I’m afraid. Back to Wayne…

He next presents an image that seems tailor-made for me. It’s a trolley strap that one grabs onto—the trolley here is Intention and by taking hold, we disengage with ego and allow ourselves to be carried forward. This is starting to sound simple. I can hold on, in fact, I need to hold on in most instances, or I’m liable to fall flat on my ass. I don’t think that he means holding on out of fear, but I can visualize a more productive way of doing it, so that I can begin to go with the flow.

We move from the trolley into a discussion of the four stages of Intention: Discipline (“Oh dear”, I say aloud), Wisdom (hoping this comes naturally), Love (sounds a little easier), and Surrender (I love giving up! Okay, I know that’s not what he means, it’s about moving from constantly trying to DO things to allowing yourself to be moved by intention).

He goes on to talk about free will.  This intention thing, it’s not a demand. Though there is no place that it isn’t, there’s no requirement for us to connect to it. I picture it like being in a room with a hundred outlets – the energy we need is available, but we can choose to never plug in. When I think of the differences between we humans any other species, this is what strikes me most – that we have been given far more choices in this world. No matter the situation, we have free will to respond in a hundred ways. And so I can choose to connect to this trolley strap, to go on the ride, or I can choose to sit and watch trolleys go by, wondering where they might have taken me.

Having done this kind of reading before, I recognize the common theme that Wayne describes, the idea that everything we need is right here—that we must act as if we have already received what it is we think we don’t have. Depending on the day, I generally believe this.  And I have certainly seen the principle manifested in people whom I admire. They are the peaceful ones, who seem to have few requirements for happiness and who are almost always smiling. The ones who make me think, “I want some of what they’re smoking.”

Each chapter of The Power of Intention ends with Suggestions—even the homework is framed so nicely—for implementing ideas. This first week is mostly about thoughts. I am to remember the trolley car when I am out of sorts, and visualize myself holding on (note to self—don’t randomly reach out in public for an invisible strap). To repeat the word intention when I am anxious or feel separated from my focus. To remind myself that I have a life mission, and a partner in the universe for making it happen.  To act as if what I desire is already here, treat myself as if I already am what I’d like to become. The last thing he gives is a Hasidic saying to be carried with me. My religion antennas go up, but I’ve decided to work with Wayne, and trust him. And so I shall now copy:

When you walk across the fields with your mind pure and holy, then from all the stones, and all growing things, and all animals, the sparks of their soul come out and cling to you, and then they are purified and become a holy fire in you.

 I can get onboard with this as a metaphor for taking in the energy of my surroundings. I could do without the pure and holy references, but it’s not my saying. I’ve committed to listening and to doing, and so I shall. I’ve been around long enough that you don’t have to understand or agree with everything for it to work. And so I put on my trust cap and begin.

With intention.


Jumping In

Jumping In

 Image

It’s been a rough year. From losing the dog in my life (I love you, Grace) in May, two days after her 16th birthday, to a summer filled with sad anniversaries and scary milestones, I’ve felt at times as through the universe was actively rooting against my happiness. Every time I turned around, there seemed to be a reminder of loss, of how I had failed to meet even the smallest expectations I had for my life. When was it going to change? What was it going to take for things to get better? I woke up each day in a battle with reality, and by each evening, felt as through I’d gotten my ass kicked.

 

Come fall, after the worst of the heat and hopelessness, I decided that I either had to completely give in to the negativity or fight it once more. As I often do when I’m not sure of the next step, I turned to a group of old friends. A few have been in my life for a long time, while others are new. I met some of them through random encounters; then there are those who I targeted and sought out for their unique wisdom. They have names like Wayne, Anthony, Napoleon, and Julia—my gurus, as I fondly refer to them. Over the course of our relationships, I have looked to them when times were tough, or when I knew that some kind of shakeup was needed to kick-start my life again.

 

If you aren’t a self-help aficionado, you may not recognize my friends. For while I wish I could say I actually know them, the truth is, I only know what I have read in their books. Books with inspiring titles like Unlimited Power, The Master Key to Riches, and Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life.  For many, many years, they have been giving advice, examples, and encouragement for those of us who sometimes need a bit of direction.

 

Here’s the thing. I’ve let these folks down, many, many times, whether by stopping halfway through their guidance or by making half-hearted efforts that I knew wasn’t enough. After each attempt, I would place them on the shelf and tell myself that it just wasn’t the right time. I’d come back when I was ready, when I had the strength to follow through. Inside, I wondered if I just didn’t have what it takes.

 

Like all writers, I’m on the constant lookout for stories to tell. Though I can come up with ideas, the thought of turning them into something real usually stops me in my tracks. How do I start? What happens next? Who will want to read this? The questions attack hard and fast, and generally knock me over before I can form a reply.

 

This time around, a wise friend (the real kind) had a suggestion. There were all these examples of people who took a goal and turned it into a documented quest. Like the home chef who cooked every recipe in Julia Child’s, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” Why not, she suggested, take on my gurus’ challenges to live my best life, master my fears, and become rich in every sense of the word, and share my experiences with the world (or at least the audience I could manage to muster up)? At worst, it would get me writing regularly; at best, it could be the firm-footed start of a journey that I’ve been trying to take for 20 years.

 

This is where you find me: at the start of the long and winding road, the road less traveled, and all of those other magical paths I’ve heard about. I’m terrified to be making it public, even if only a few people ever actually read about it. But it’s time to restart the old engine and get out of the block. I picture myself on the edge of the sea—I wish I was the type to dive off a cliff and start swimming, but I’m really more the “hold your nose and jump in” type. Either way, I’m getting into the water, more than just up to my knees.

 

Since he fills me with the least angst, and seems most like the grandpa I wish I had, I’m beginning with Wayne Dyer’s Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life. Wayne has a quiet, yet insistent voice that provides both safety and the gentle, but firm, push I need. My plan is to work through a chapter each week, with purpose and energy. I will do the assignments—I will accept his challenges. And I will record my thoughts and reactions as if I were both lab rat and scientist.

 

Let the adventure begin…


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