Posted by: innerpilgrimage | May 3, 2011

A Few Lessons I Want to Put into Practice

      Well, I’ve gotten a lot of reading in, books clamoring to give me their hidden messages within on how to live an inspired life.

      I’ve gained some good lessons, of which I want to record here. I hope that, in practice, I can either find the trailhead to my purpose or realize that I am already on my purpose–even if it does not have a dream or name attached to it.
Lesson One: Heart words belong to the heart, the spiritual experience. Head words belong to the sensory world.
      To Practice: Replace words which have deeply spiritual meaning to me with sensory counterparts to avoid confusion in communication.
      I’ve already worked on this, creating a lexicon of words which are deeply misunderstood between people communicating. When I create this list, I keep in mind that clarity is key. Asking myself if a word reflects a spiritual experience or a sensory experience is important. Like the Dark Night (Songs of the Soul) poem by St. John of the Cross, when we seek a life of meaning, we journey on a path of sense and soul. To honor each, I can give each its own words.
      Since the world of sense is the one I communicate through speech and writing, sense words are appropriate to use. Since the world of spirit is the one I express through action and within silence, spiritual words will develop in the silence of truth . . . rarely if ever to be written or spoken. I’ve learned recently that talking about the spiritual is like trying to explain a watermelon to a person who’s never seen, touched, or tasted one. They may have tasted fruit, and possibly even melon. But my spiritual experience is as individual as anyone else’s. To honor that, I can choose not to confuse our conversations by bringing up words which have deeply individual meanings. It will be a process to unlearn this, but with a clear division of communicated words and intuitive action? It will only take time and patience to move words around to where they belong in my life.
      Though I have named a few already in my last post, I want to go back over the primary ones. Perceive instead of believe is a primary one, for a person who does not consider what I have intuited comes from my heart instead of my head because of their own set of beliefs may choose to discount my deeply-held spiritual convictions. Belief is going into the silent space, because it creates much misunderstanding. In my written journals for myself, however, I expect I will use it, since my pen-and-paper journals really are for me alone. Opinion will be used instead of truth. People may be telling me what they think (and possibly even believe in their spirits) to be accurate, but that is based on personal observations on their own spiritual and sensory paths. While the term opinion may offend some, it’s what I am using. We all are connected, yes, but the individualistic nature of the ego–the desire to be unique and separate and special–muddles that meaning. I also am tossing out need, simply because I believe in the power of choice. I need nothing (part of the process of detachment); I choose survival. The word “need” will enter the silence, for I think the only real need I have is to align with the part of me that isn’t made up of mind or body.
Lesson Two: Simplify concepts that just get bogged down by too many steps.
      Practice: Learn what I can and internalize a two-to-three step process which makes sense to me.

      I’ve done some work on this. The stages of grief, the stages of accepting abandonment (another form of grief), and the process of learning all follow one united three-step process for me: Embrace, Examine, Enlighten. And even Enlighten really isn’t quite necessary, since it’s part of the natural process of embracing and examining. A new strong opinion or a new belief (personal spiritual truth which comes from insight and inspiration within me) will develop. Some will change (the sensory, or thought-based concepts) and some will be the foundation of something greater (the spiritual, or intuition-based concepts).
      To embrace something means I go ahead and let my ego-based addict mind get into it and reveal the resentments, the frustrations, the anger, and the disappointment. The blame, the guilt, the shame all get their chances. Then, I start the process of letting go.
      I answer three questions: What was my part in it–then and now?, What have I learned from it? and What can I do about it?. I don’t even need to choose the alternative, just be open to choosing it. Generally, since I am looking for a better alternative to misery? If I can choose to leave it behind and accept peace, I will.
Lesson Three: Be willing to ask myself the tough questions.
      Practice: When faced with a challenge or obstacle, I have the resource of stepping out of the situation by asking simple questions that may shake me out of my “trapped” feelings.

      “Is this love or fear?” Questioning my motivations for acting allows me to change my actions even as they’re being manifested. An apology made sincerely is, to me, a loving act. So, if I can get out of my head long enough to shock me into self-awareness (awareness of my spiritual self, not my body’s danger signals or brain’s opinions), I can act toward a peaceful solution.
      “Is this REALLY a need?” I can ask this of any person, place, or situation. This question is a great one, because the spiritual answer is always, “No . . . it’s a choice.”
      “Is this an assumption or an expectation?” This immediately hits the awareness that I’m considering any disappointment I experience as a sense-based situation. Since sense-based situations aren’t spiritual ones? I can choose to break it down and learn from it . . . giving myself more choices as I refine how events and feelings are interpreted as suffering.
     Lesson Four: If I’m not in today, I’m not able to access my intuition or inspiration. To live a spiritual life, I have to be in the present.
      Practice: When not faced with obstacles, take the time to practice being in the moment and looking for peace. Keep them as simple as possible; rules put obstacles between me and the truth!

      Sometimes it’s as simple as taking a deep breath and exhaling slowly. Things I’ve learned over the years help me today. Four-Square Breathing, for example, is a wonderful way of getting aware of breathing, which always seems to get me back in the moment. It relaxes both mind and body and puts me directly into right now, simply by focusing on breathing. Four-Square Breathing is very simple: Inhale while counting 1-2-3-4 in my head. Hold my breath, counting 1-2-3-4. Exhale, counting 1-2-3-4. Hold my breath again, counting 1-2-3-4. Repeat from the inhale. It doesn’t make things go away entirely, but it does help to get me in the moment long enough to ask for help from my Higher Power.
      Little messages to myself, simple two-to-four word phrases, help. I currently use “Progress, not perfection,” to remind myself that my goal in body and mind is to learn. I’m not striving for perfection because it does not exist in the sensory world. Everything is created, growing, maturing, dying, and renewing in a grand cycle–to learn is to grow. It allows me to accept who I am as me today.
      New phrases include: “Choose joy,” “Don’t wait, and “Practice optimism.” Choose joy means that I have a choice to be in conflict and suffer or be out of it and not suffer. If I am willing to recognize that suffering is just unmet demands and rules I build out of expectations and the unmet comparisons I build out of assumptions? I can realize that it’s just thoughts. And, as Louise Hay said, “It’s only a thought, and a thought can be changed.” Therefore, if I can forgive and remember, then I can release the resentment and learn from the events and feelings that resulted from my perception that my core desires or wants were not met. And in that realization that I only think I need those things, I can choose joy in what is being met today instead of despair over what I perceived was unmet yesterday or might be unmet tomorrow.
      “Don’t wait” is about celebrating today–and every day–as a special occasion. Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed. Yesterday is an illusion, events which have passed which are filtered through my illusory thoughts and which receive illusory meaning through my feelings.
      “Practice optimism” is about changing a negative attitude into a positive one. I can find a seed of good in anything bad. Like Thich Nhat Hanh says in an essay about how to handle suffering: “It is like an organic gardener. If she knows how to handle the garbage, she will get a lot of compost for the growth of her vegetables and her flowers. It is with the compost of the suffering that we can nourish the flower of understanding, of peace, of love. That is why we have to learn how to manage our suffering, how to cherish our suffering, how to transform our suffering.” Gratitude can grow in the darkest situations, and I can cultivate optimism from what others might consider is waste.
      “Love my mistakes/failures.” This took a long time to figure out, since I couldn’t release the guilt and shame of not being perfect, of choosing to take risks and failing because I put no passion into them, of making a choice that caused harm instead of created healing. Kicking myself is so easy; it’s absolutely effortless because I already have those rules established firmly in my head as my strong opinions. Like the above quote says, I have learned to be grateful for suffering. The darker the night, the more appreciative I am of the dawn which follows it. Likewise, the darker my shadow, the brighter the associated light. I learn how I don’t want to live out of these times of suffering. By taking those moments of suffering and learning from them, I am choosing to make a mistake or failure a learning opportunity or a successful lesson. In a world of no failures and no mistakes, I can find joy in appreciating the “seemingly bad.”
Lesson Five: Embrace play.
      Practice: Make recovery a game by making it fun. If I make it fun, I can find both joy and in-the-moment presence when I do it.

      One of the things I remember as a kid was being completely present when I played. Even when I was using my imagination, I was present. I often was socializing when I was doing it, working together with another person cooperatively. I collected odd things, built cities out of wooden blocks and dot-topped blocks, and changed the rules of board games. Unstructured play grabs the spirit of joy and imagination, of living outside the rules. Laughter and joy, energizing power and optimism were part of it. Gratitude to have a friend with me, and even gratitude to get away from the harsher events and feelings of my life were part of my play. I was rarely worried about what people thought of me when I played; I just did my thing and had “fun”.
      So, how do I turn a spiritual journey into play? Just do it!
      I have a list of games I plan on compiling into a book. However, one that sticks out really delighted me, and I want to put it down here:
Inspiration Treasure Hunt
      In the morning, think of some quality I want to cultivate or something I want answered or some problem I want solved in my life. Ask to find inspirational quotes throughout the day which relate to it, clues to the solution. Then go out into the world, being aware in the moment for these clues.
      People seem to love inspirational quotes. They’re just about everywhere–in the workplace, on plaques and tchatchkis and jewelry in stores.
      This involves being guided by gut feelings about where to be to find them. For me, it’s the warm heart feelings, though it used to actually literally be a gut pull to be somewhere. Be consciously open to finding these things, and make sure to take a pen or pencil and some paper! (Recently, I had no paper, so I wrote what I found on my hand–and got to wash blue ink off my hands for about ten minutes that night. It is a kid-thing to do, to use one’s hand as a writing pad, so it’s not a problem. I also use the backs of receipts sometimes, too.)
      I don’t worry about buying these things–I don’t need more things to drag around behind me in moving boxes. I just collect the words on them. If it’s really hard, I go to the Surname & Surname megabookstore and look through the gifts section. There are inspirational quotes on cards and journals and even mugs and magnets! The point is to just collect the words. They don’t even have to be famous quotes from famous people–just ones that touch the soul and startle or bring that feeling of intense awareness or connection to the words. Even if they don’t have meaning yet, it doesn’t matter. As long as there’s an emotional reaction of awe or joy or connection to the statement? It’s a keeper.
      At the end of the day, put them together. Write them in a journal or on a poster or whatever inspiration guides me to do joyfully. The point is to not put rules on it, not do it as an adult. A treasure hunt is a kid’s game, right? So be a kid about it and just let inspiration do its thing! If I am inspired to, I can even write the request for a solution or for guidance at the top or the middle or in rainbow letters. Then, with my clues, I see how those quotes combine, listening to my heart for meaning.
      I personally love to write. I think it’s part of my purpose, because people can’t stop me from writing. I love writing because it allows me to release my thoughts into another storage medium besides my brain. I can go back to it whenever I need (I do that a lot for quotes in this journal–I read and have my pen-and-paper journal open at all times to write down phrases and quotes in books which inspire me and the personal understandings I glean from it all).
      The point is to deliberate on these clues. The location and nature of the treasure is hidden in the clues. And when I connect them all, I get an understanding I didn’t know before. I know I am looking for a treasure chest (for example, my purpose) and these inspirational (in + spirit, remember?) quotes allow me to use insight (in + sight, looking within . . . which is where the treasure chest always rests!) to find what I’m looking for. Using the clues, I go right where that treasure chest is (within me) and open it up. And then I get to see what’s there in the box.
      If I can’t get there through the clues I’ve been given today? Well, I just keep those messages and go out and collect more when a new today begins. Just like any good treasure hunt, some are really easy and some are more complicated and take a lot more time. I’ve been on treasure hunts which lasted nearly a whole birthday party and some which lasted less than fifteen minutes. Depending on how many thought obstacles I’ve put up, this can take hours, days, weeks, or years. But it will happen as perceptions change and clarify so I can see better. And sometimes I have the answer on the first day, but I can’t see it because I’m not able to see within properly. Hazards of being a whole person–I have ego and I have spirit and they make up my whole self. The light in me (my character assets) have darkness (character defects), and I am learning to choose instead of simply get tossed around depending on my reaction to an event–the feelings and thoughts within my control that are the fallout of something going right or wrong outside of my control.
      Another thing I do is a near-daily tarot reading I call, “Point of Meditation”. I do this in the morning. I use an online tarot reader and a particular tarot definition website that gives great and hopeful insight. A good site for tarot definitions will be easy to spot . . . look for the nine of swords. If it mentions the untimely demise of a loved one? Move on. If it deals with spiritual learning issues, that’s the place to be (meditation is listening to my Higher Power . . . it’s part of the spiritual, and to honor the spiritual, I seek a spiritual message).
      Bibliomancy or stichomancy (looking in religious texts or general books) work, too. Heck, I bet grabbing a dictionary, flipping to a page with one’s eyes closed, popping a finger down on a page, then looking at the word on the page may do wonders to guide a person throughout the day by being conscious of that word all day . . . and grow one’s vocabulary at the same time!
      Well, I have life to get back to, the practice of living a non-solitary existence. Yes, sometimes I think it would be easier to find an ashram or some other holy place and sit in silence. I think of all the years I had solitude and hated it–because I was seeking all my answers in other people. Now I long for solitude and can’t seem to find it very often. Definitely a lesson in there, I think, one which is gelling even by being given the awareness of it.
      However, when I do get solitude? It is precious to me and I am grateful for it. In fact, it’s even helping me get over my irrational fear of the dark, because nighttime tends to be the best time for me to focus without distraction.
      My name is Jess, and I am a food and a love and approval addict–a hoarder and a martyr (compulsive binger and anorexic). I feel like my purpose is so close, on the other side of a curtain. That I am walking toward it even now, and that’s a pretty cool feeling that brings me gratitude. I used to lament having to say, “I don’t know”. Now I enjoy saying, “I don’t know yet, but I will.”
      And I know that’s not just an opinion from my head but an actual truth from my heart.


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