Making Sense

Quote taken from a recent show promo exploring unusual happenings around us:  “Not everything in life makes sense,” she said to him, wiping tears from his cheeks. “Sometimes, LIFE just IS.”   

I’m sure that we’ve all had some strange or unusual experience that made us question whether or not it had actually occurred, or whether we simply thought that it did. And I certainly can’t speak for others in this regard, but I’ve personally had numerous opportunities over the course of my life to question the validity of ‘the reality’ that I was experiencing at the time.

You don’t have to take hallucinogens to see some strange stuff around you once in awhile.  Maybe you catch something slipping past in your peripheral vision, and you turn around quickly to determine if you had just imagined seeing it or if something/someone was actually there.

Since the point of this blog is to support you in finding your own truth, I’m going to say that each of us has our own version of REALITY that we perceive with our many senses and replay in endless loops between our ears while trying to decipher meaning from all that we experience.  

Sometimes that REALITY is similar in appearance and content to the REALITY of other people, and other times, it is quite different.

Sometimes we can make a type of sense out of what we are experiencing, and other times, there is NO sense to be made of it because it doesn’t exist under the rules of the ‘MUST MAKE SENSE’ judiciary.  Sometimes it doesn’t even exist under the laws of known physics. 

“Sometimes, LIFE just IS.”

So how can you possibly MAKE SENSE of the strangeness around you when it refuses to follow the rules and laws?

That realization of: “Not everything in life makes sense,” can be a hard one to accept, because we want to believe that LIFE is understandable and stable, and that if we play by all the rules of LIFE we will succeed at our endeavors and be happy and prosperous in our lives.

BUT,…while we might be so dutifully playing by all the rules that we’ve been taught, LIFE itself isn’t required to follow them.  

LIFE just is.

I met a friend, a practicing psychologist actually, who went through the Shamanic group (14 of us) experience with me, and we would often talk about how malleable REALITY actually was, depending on your focus—depending on where it was that you placed your attention at the moment.

It didn’t have to be a question of personal BELIEF—nor of any desired outcome; you simply had to be aware of how you perceived the world around you when you let your preconceptions of it slip aside.

It appeared to us that the world was far more ‘unlimited’ than we had once thought it to be.

The most difficult aspect of this realization was that this new knowledge of the ‘unlimited’ nature of the world could become quite psychologically destabilizing when your foundational understanding on the ‘nature of REALITY’, suddenly crumbled to the ground. 

It was helpful at the time to all of us in those shamanic classes that we had experienced what we did as a group so that we could talk with each other about our personal experiences, and then compare notes—similarities, differences, etc. It was like having individual scouts exploring a new territory and then gathering back together to map the uncharted sections by each person’s account of it. No two territory accounts were ever exactly the same, but most were similar.

All of us perceive and interpret in our own ways what we are individually inputting through our senses. Even when we are in unknown territory, we ALL are automatically trying to make some type of sense out of what we are experiencing. That’s part of how we are wired to interact with this LIFE experience—to  make quick sense of any situations that we may face and to learn from those interactions, because that is how we survive to live another day.

At least during the shamanic group experience of LIFE’s strangeness, we weren’t left alone to make some type of sense over what we had personally perceived.  When the ‘unbelievable’ is shared, it doesn’t seem so psychologically threatening because then you’re just building a new foundation of mutual understanding that allows for your interpretive input into it.

While each human brain may be an organic mass of electrically firing nerve synapses and purpose-specific, high-functioning, data-processing, interrelated tissues, what we call ‘the MIND’ is connected into the greater collective consciousness for this dimension of reality and beyond. 

We may perceive the world around us using our body’s limited five-sense perception equipment that filters through our brain’s processing center, but our unspecified ‘sixth-sense’ is what connects us to the greater MIND at large, and shows us at times how truly unlimited those existing possibilities can be.  

I hope that someday in the near future we ALL can recalibrate our conceptual understanding of known REALITY, because until we do, it will be hard to make sense of (and to accept) what it may actually be, because right now, LIFE just IS.

Being Kind

There is a lot going on right now—in the nation, in the world, in the cosmos, and especially within us.  Whether you attribute it all to Mercury in Retro or the end of the astrological year, or any other external force, or even to the world-wide fears/anger over a world seemingly out of control, as an energy worker myself I know that we are always swimming in oceans of energy from various sources, both known and unknown.

We are constantly affected by not just the words or actions of others—we are also affected by the energies that they emit.

We generate energy ourselves, and the frequency of the energy that radiates from us can affect those around us as well. So when we are having a tough time emotionally, it can often be felt by others who are close to us both physically and energetically.  They don’t have to see the look on your face to know that something is wrong with you—they can FEEL it, even from a distance.

A couple nights ago I felt a sudden wave of severe sadness—deep, deep heart-wrenching sadness—that brought painful memories to my mind and tears to my eyes.  I immediately thought “What brought that on? What triggered that particular memory and the energetic ‘sadness’ packet that accompanies it?”

It literally felt like I was immediately submerged in an overwhelming sadness that was engulfing me, and that if I didn’t pull out of it soon, I might not resurface intact. So I acknowledged the depth of what I was feeling, then released the memories and energy connected to them by physically blowing them out with forceful exhalations (It’s an energy-release technique that is very effective for shifting powerful emotions.), and eventually my mood stabilized back to where I had been prior, but it still left me trying to make sense out what I had so suddenly experienced.

The next day on Facebook I saw where one of my REIKI students had posted a simple call for help online with the lone statement of “I don’t want to do this anymore.”  Fortunately she had numerous other friends who jumped in and offered support and to call and talk, etc., and then she had later replied back that she was okay and had just needed to vent that degree of sadness (possibly over her mother’s death last year) to others who might care about her. She had needed a few kind words and some visible signs of caring from her friends. And thankfully she was capable of asking for it.

Also that same day on Facebook, another friend posted the graphic above saying “Today you could be standing next to someone who is trying their best not to fall apart…So whatever you do today do it with kindness in your heart.”

And I knew then that what I had felt myself was more a part of the collective grief and sadness energies than my own, but also that my REIKI student and myself were energetically bonded through our own attunement frequencies, so not only was I likely feeling her vulnerability pulling my frequency lower, but my ability to reverse my frequency direction and quickly pull myself out of the overwhelming funk, may have helped her to stabilize as well.

I mention this here because there are times when we feel like we are truly alone in our grief or our difficulties, and I want to assure anyone reading this that you are NEVER alone in this life experience, because we’re all going through it with you at the same time in our own ways.

We are constantly affected by and affecting others in everything that we do.  This is the importance of making conscious efforts to keep your focus on positive outcomes, but to also deal with the less-positive realities that you may face in the best possible manner for you, so you don’t stew in those lower frequencies for very long.  Don’t ignore the problems or the sad emotions—don’t pretend they aren’t happening—DO SOMETHING to change the situation itself to a more positive outcome.

And when you need a little extra support or encouragement, you only have to bring it to the attention of folks who do care about you, or to those who can offer professional advice.

We are all in this life together. And being kind to one another is not a lot to ask from others, but it is more than deeply appreciated when you actually need it yourself.  

Choosing Our Life Focus

You may find that over the course of your life-span there are times when you simply change directions for whatever reason, and when that happens, your focus in life also changes.

Perhaps a person or a place or a job or a goal or a personal effort of some sort that had been your main focus for a part of your life suddenly isn’t, so for some reason—even if through no fault of your own—where you had once put all of your energies and attention, no longer requires you to do so.  And that attention shift may leave you stewing on what or where to refocus your energies so that you don’t feel like you are left hanging out in mid-air with no purpose for rising in the morning.  

Let’s say that the object (person, job, place, situation, friends, etc.) of your previous focus may have changed in some way, or maybe you changed in how you once considered it or them. 

Or perhaps the world tilted 90 degrees to the right and you got tired of leaning so hard in the opposite direction that you nearly twisted yourself into knots just trying to maintain your balance, which forced you to refocus your efforts in a different manner entirely. It required you to shift your perspective of the overall situation to a broader overview that eliminated focusing so strongly on specific annoying details.

If you can easily relate to what I’m describing, you are not alone in feeling this—this shift in life focus happens to all of us at some point in our lives.  And for whatever reason that the sudden change has occurred in our life, it forces us to refocus our intentions and our efforts in some manner.  

Sometimes the refocus is more automatic for us—based more so on our immediate needs to improve or maintain our lifestyle. I would call that a situational refocus where the necessary situation that we now face dictates our new-direction.

But sometimes the refocus is deliberate and is accompanied by an inner attitude shift where it becomes more of a conscious personal choice in where we now place our time and our efforts.  I would call that refocus intentional.  That refocus is based on our defined intentions for pursuing a specific outcome—which means that our main efforts toward achieving that desired outcome become our life’s objective; and likewise, achieving that new objective becomes our new focus.

Since this is a complicated concept, here are a couple ‘automatic refocus’ examples: There’s nothing like a new job to sharpen your wits and put you on your best behaviors.  New job means new work associates and new bosses, not to mention tighter requirements for demonstrating your work ethic, adjusting your personal attire, and being more congenial in the workgroup at large.  You’ve got to be a team-player now, if you already weren’t prior. Your new focus is on making a good and lasting impression on the new management so that you can keep this new job that pays the bills.

How about a new love interest?  Maybe you are thinking something along this scenario while coaching yourself on how to keep from blowing it: ‘Better polish up those personal manners to shine like the sun.  And whatever you do on this first date, don’t act like you do when you’re sitting alone at home on the couch, watching all that blood and gore on the tube while shoving salty things into your mouth and spilling half of it on the floor. No. Better not be yourself, in all your natural majesty as master of your domain, when trying to impress a new squeeze.’ 

In essence, the potential impact of that NEW person entering your life will quickly refocus you to ACT in different ways or even to BECOME someone who might seem more desirable to others. That refocus may not be exactly who you really are if left to your own devices, but you are at least aware that it helps you to be considered more favorably by the other person—which means to be considered more as ‘companion-material’ to others, rather than allowing them to witness your usual more repulsive ‘couch-sloth’ behaviors.

Those personal changes that you willingly adopted, no matter the results that may be achieved from them in the future, shifted your life focus from stale sameness to the greater excitement of possible new experiences ahead.  And that focus shift away from your previous life stagnancy may have actually helped you to feel more alive—to feel more purposeful than you had previously felt if left to your own habitual monotony.

These prior focus-shift examples are natural ones that we seem to slip into without deliberation, primarily because they are so ‘basic-needs’ driven.  We need a job to eat and have a home/couch to trash with salty snacks; and we need someone that we care about to share our lives and who can, in turn, help us to feel more loved and appreciated. (And occasionally tell us to get off the couch and do something more productive.)

But there are also focus choices that go beyond our basic-survival needs list, like how we choose our daily attitude—how we choose to wake each morning and view the world around us with awe or with dread; or how we focus our efforts on possibly helping others in some way, rather than trying to scam them.

Maybe we might try focusing our extra time on how to better the living conditions of those who are NOT us, or do we instead simply choose to focus on ourselves, sometimes at the expense of others.

These are more intentional focuses. And when you execute an intentional refocus, you create a set of expectations for yourself and for the intended results of your actions.

An intentional refocus can be a BIG life change because it may not be something that you HAVE to do to survive, but it may be something that requires deeper commitment from you in some way—a time commitment—and energy-expenditure commitment—a major shift in attitude—a devotion of sorts—a serious decision to take your life in one particular direction solely because you feel the inner need to do so.

An intentional refocus is something we CHOOSE for ourselves. It’s not something that was chosen for us or that we had no say in. It is instead a driving force to create greater meaning both in and from our lives.

And when it comes down to the most basic considerations, LIFE will always present us with many opportunities to explore all the many choices that each day provides, but it’s up to us to determine where we place our focus for each day—what are our values, our principles, our personal goals—what do we determine matters the most to not only our existence, but to the existence of others as well?

How we consciously CHOOSE OUR LIFE FOCUS determines how we actually live our lives. 

In our daily reality, our FOCUS is where we put our life-force energies—the energies of creation and manifestation.

First determining our focus intention and then executing it, is how we decide to use those creative energies—because that’s how we manifest our lifeour intentional focus is what our life becomes—and choosing our focus wisely helps us to not only live our lives in the desired manner, it is also makes us more likely to BECOME who it is that we truly wish to BE.

On Taking Ownership

Here is my recognition of those lingering ‘between-the-ears’ reverberations from when I’ve truly annoyed myself over something that I was thinking at the time or worse, over an unpleasant ‘something’ that I actually did: ‘Gosh, can I blame all my short-comings on someone other than me, because then I wouldn’t have to feel so guilty and inadequate for having them ?’

A brief attempt at taking ownership of said repulsive thought or action: ‘Unfortunately those lesser personal attributes and annoying peculiarities in my personality are truly mine and I am taking ownership of them in their entirety. Well, sort of, I guess.  Maybe I don’t want to take ownership of ALL of them. Maybe they’re not ALL my fault.’

Second attempt at taking ownership: ‘I still may not like what I do when those lesser traits surface from their hidden depths—like my impatience or my occasional temper loss—but I can acknowledge them as something that I simply have to accept about myself and live with—at least until those lesser personality aspects miraculously lift away from my luminous spirit once I’m an “enlightened being.”  HA!‘  

Thankfully I can still laugh at myself for the actual thoughts that do pass through my mind. I don’t necessarily LIKE them when they veer from my intended life direction but I can’t deny thinking them, because self-honesty is key to truly understanding and accepting ourselves just as we are—even in our most unpleasant imperfections.

And maybe we are all similar in that ‘inner dissatisfaction with who and what we appear to be.’  Maybe THAT is an aspect of our basic humanity—the constant striving for something better than our current condition, combined with the occasional failure to align with our best intentions.  Maybe that is what keeps it so REAL for us; rather than our slipping into a mental fantasy created to support ourselves during difficult situations or periods in our life.

Hey I’ve been there—I’ve done that.  When you are going through a really bad time, the fantasy-life world you create works for a while—at least until it doesn’t. Then the only thing that WILL work for you is to make an actual LIFE CHANGE.  And no matter how necessary it might be to make that crucial change, it is still very hard to do.

In truth none of us are as perfect as we often wish that we were. We aren’t as smart, or as good-looking, or as clever, or as witty, or as rich, or as compassionate, or as understanding, OR we simply aren’t where we thought that we would be by now at this point in our lives.

Instead we are simply right here—right now—just being us; and that US always seems to have a much longer way to go to prove to the world that we deserve its unconditional love, along with all those other good things that may possibly come our way.  

We know that we deserve to be treated with respect and appreciation—we know this—it’s a rational consideration for living in a civilized societyBut that ‘actual sense of being respected and appreciated by others’ may not be what we are feeling at the time.  And as we are all too painfully aware, FEELINGS can often overpower RATIONAL THOUGHTS.

Here are a few more mental reverberations from my original self-assessment above (except for some obviously self-justifying reason, I pluralized it): ‘We know that we deserve good things happening for us because we are good beings at heart—we are good people who care about others.  Well, maybe we don’t care as much about others as we may care about ourselves, but still…., that doesn’t make us BAD people does it? Isn’t a little self-focus necessary sometimes?’

Ah yes. A little truth quickly followed by an attempt to reduce the self-blame.  That sounds about right. That’s how MY mind works.  There’s NO wounded EGO in my wheelhouse.  But hey, that is ME—that’s WHO I am.

Taking ownership of our lesser aspects without trying so hard to separate the entirety of our being into GOOD and BAD actors battling for control over our daily lives, is NOT easily done.  We may aspire to higher ideals—we may work towards providing more compassionate responses to the discomforts and cruelties that we often see around us, but sometimes we are simply who we are in our own little worlds—just trying to keep our own heads above the water and trying so hard to make some kind of sense out of so much senselessness wherever we look.  

We are right here—right now—just doing the best that we can in our own ways. It may not be a perfect effort in that respect, but we ARE making AN EFFORT to do better in and for this world.

So please lighten up on yourselves.  None of us may be exactly where we wish that we were at this stage of our human-consciousness evolution, but we are at least aware of our potentials for improvement, even as we try to accept our present ‘glaring’ imperfections with more grace, humor, and self-forgiveness. 

What’s Your Label?

During my own quest for self-awareness, I’ve often wondered how I would categorize myself were I into doing so, which I’m definitely not since I don’t believe in labeling people.

But still, in the back of my mind is that tickling question that asks ‘But what if I were into labels, how would I categorize myself and my views?’

Am I a realist, a pragmatist, an optimist; or how about the less admirable and acceptable labels like, am I a wacko, a crank, a nut-job?  (Maybe it depends on what I’m writing at the time and who might be reading it.)

In truth, does it matter how I or others might label me while trying to fit me into some standard classification system that feels more comfortable to them? It certainly doesn’t matter to me, but maybe it does to them who are feeling the need to do so just to get a better handle on my actual views.  

I understand that to some folks assigning a descriptive ‘label’ to someone might make that other person’s views either more palatable to the assigner or totally unacceptable to them.  But more specifically, is there any value in labeling myself in such a manner to be able to describe my views to others so they can hopefully recognize and approve of the more familiar aspects of my personal perspective?  

Seriously?  Is this a trick question? 

Yes, I’ve used myself as example here to help you see that not only do we tend to ‘categorize’ others in certain ways, we also tend to categorize ourselves—think of ourselves in certain ways—and when we reduce the sum of our experiences and our evolving beliefs about LIFE in that manner, we are limiting our potential for our future expansion of consciousness.

I doubt that any of us are the same people we were thirty years ago, or even twenty years ago, …or maybe even last week.  We change. We personally experience the various aspects of this crazy life and it AFFECTS us—it twists us—it bends us at times under the weight of its horrid, cruel realities. 

And if we don’t break under the pressure of LIFE’s frequent brutality, we EVOLVE in our understanding of the world itself, just as we EVOLVE in our understanding of ourselves in the process.  Pretty hard to label someone that fluid who constantly changes states of being as necessary to the moment that it occurs.  

I think the best label I’ve seen for that constantly evolving person would be to call him or her ‘dynamic’—in constant flow.  So if you want to describe yourself as “DYNAMIC”, I’m okay with that descriptor, but beyond that, I hope you wouldn’t pin yourself down to anyone else’s attempts to classify the amazing, shape-shifting BEING known as YOU, because it couldn’t begin to do you justice. 

Making Assumptions

Such a tough thing to do: To restrain from making assumptions—passing unsubstantiated judgments on people, places, things, situations, etc., when we have no actual data to support those beliefs.

Maybe you are better at it than I am, but I have a hard time not “assuming” the outcome of a pending dispute or the likelihood of a person’s future behavior based on their already established history in similar situations.

But when we ‘think we know’ what someone is like or what someone will do, we are making quite a prognostic leap; and sometimes those assumptions have less to do with the person/object/situation under consideration, and more to do with what’s going on within us when we’re making them.

To increase your self-awareness, when you are looking hard at your own information-processing abilities—like how you tend to compartmentalize or assign values to the doings of your life—or how you tend to view others in your immediate surroundings as beneficial or non-beneficial to you—or how you tend to interpret the unexpected events that happen in your life as advantageous or detrimental to you—or even how you perceive the world around you reacting to your efforts in those regards as either with you or against you—you know, when you finally get to the point where you are truly self-assessing WHY you do WHAT you do, then you start to question all the components of your decision-making process and you take more time to determine what inner motives might be the driving factors in your making them.  

That is not to say that you are condemning yourself for how you made those decisions—not at all.  It’s simply saying that you are really trying to better understand WHY you’re making them in the manner that you are, especially when they are very similar to decisions you’ve previously made.

This is how you learn about your ‘inner workings’—your worldly beliefs, your value systems, your personal ethics—because this is all about better understanding how you make sense of your world and how you see yourself functioning within it, which are often based on assumptions that you intentionally or unintentionally make daily.  

Some examples: Does someone you’ve just met ‘remind’ you of someone in your past who affected you in a certain way? Can you really view this new person without doing mental comparisons in looks, manners, style, actions, etc., to the previous person? 

Can you attend an event that has the same atmospheric vibe as a previous highly-affecting event in your life and not get that sense of déjà vu because of it? What is similar? What is different? WHY?

While our personal history often informs us of patterns and similarities that have occurred during our lives, sometimes that same history tries to define how we view our present or it may taint our perception of the possible future.  It may limit us or restrict us in some way, simply because we assume certain things based on past familiarities.

We assume certain things about our lives. We assume the earth will keep on spinning and the sun will keep on appearing first in the east.

We assume that when we go to bed at night, we will wake in the morning.

We assume our autonomic nervous system will keep our heart pumping, our lungs breathing, and our digestion system flowing so we can go about our daily duties in the best way that we can.

We assume that no matter how difficult the previous day had been that this new day ahead has the possibility of being better in some way.

We often assume that the people appearing in our lives are either good- or bad-natured, and we adjust our dealings with them accordingly. But what if that assumption was wrong? How would we treat them if we considered ALL people as good-natured?

I’m just saying that once you start your own internal investigations, you may come to some realizations that what you perceive about the world around you may have a lot more to do with what is going on inside you than you had originally assumed.

So try to be a bit more aware of how you make certain assumptions about people, places, or situations before giving them a chance to play out on their own.

You may not always be pleasantly surprised by their true natures, but then sometimes you just might.

Overcoming Dark Nights

It may well be that “During the darkest nights we see the greatest amount of stars,” but maybe you have to be watching for them to fully appreciate what you are viewing.

Seriously though, we are not strangers to night time, just as we are not strangers to adversity or difficult times in our lives; which leads me to another often used catch-all: “Tough times don’t last, tough people do.”

Now when YOU are having a really rough time of it, how does that make you feel when someone says something inane like that to you?  Was it helpful in shifting your perspective of the overall unpleasant situation or was it hurtful that your actual feelings could be taken with so little regard?

Maybe it depends on your personality—your inclination toward reacting one way or another when goaded or prodded or even ‘questioned’ about how you are handling your current life situation.

We all react a bit differently to the good intentions of others because we all are wired to handle unpleasant life situations in slightly different fashions. Some of us are pugnacious and obstinate, ready to do battle with any breeze that dares to ruff our hair, while others of us are more delicate and sensitive, and have a harder time mustering combative emotions to defend ourselves from any slight because those haven’t always been our best defensive postures in the past.  Nothing like a little real-world experiencing to teach us what has and hasn’t worked successfully for us.

As diverse human beings in the present world, we all are a myriad of possibilities to any situation that tests our mettle.  Is standing alone, but stiff and strong to face the oncoming battle the best option for us, or is watching the show from the sidelines while others battle it out for their personal survival, more our style?  Which is the smarter move? Is there a right or a wrong to either decision?

Which would you be?  Are you more likely the gladiator in the testing arena or the gallery spectator silently cheering for one side or the other?

And more to the point itself, how would YOU best survive the dark night ahead considering all your known survival options?

Since I’ve always been more gladiator-inclined than spectator (How dare that wind ruff my hair!), I naturally have my own opinions on the matter, but that doesn’t mean that my personal opinions are what is right for you, and thankfully I’ve finally got that consideration through my, at times, very hard head. 

Which means how do YOU determine what is YOUR best option when facing personal difficulty?

I will keep returning to increasing your self-awareness as your best solution to better understanding your past and current life difficulties, because if you fail to recognize your default behavior patterns in tough situations, then you will keep resorting to them whenever faced with mental, emotional, or physical challenges in your life.  And I guarantee that LIFE will keep providing those challenges to you just to help you learn from them.  

The late, self-help guru Wayne Dyer had a great story about a guy who kept falling into this open hole whenever he walked a certain path.  Day after day, …walking…walking…oops—down he went into the hole.  Each day the guy tried a number of things to avoid making that same mistake while walking that same path, but no matter how he tried to sidestep the hole, he still kept falling into it.

Then one day he got the BIG idea to walk a different path, and guess what?  He didn’t fall into the hole. He was rewarded for breaking his behavior pattern with success; and he learned a NEW path for getting where he wanted to go without the obstacle that once beckoned him.

There are many ways to get through tough times—whether you face them alone or with help from others, but no matter what you do, please recognize that there are also many options available to you for support during your life difficulties, just as there are many other paths in life to walk, to avoid that darn hole.

On Relationships

How do you define a relationship?

Can it be with one or more others, or can it be with your own self alone?  Can you have a type of relationship with creatures other than human?  Can you even have a relationship with a concept or an idea?

What is this thing we call relationship and how does it affect you throughout your life?

Historical context: Early humans quickly learned that binding socially with similar-thinking others tended to mean greater chances of everyone’s survival. Formal and informal social contracts were the earliest forms of unifying individual efforts into more effective group defense for the group’s survival. The group effort was a mutual relationship based on necessity and convenience—joining with other families in unified food gathering and/or defensive efforts only made practical sense.

Of course that didn’t mean that you got along well with everyone in the group. It just meant your chances of survival increased by staying with them.

However, social units are inherently messy, just as relationships are often complicated.  Even now in any family unit, the ‘shoulds’ of parental responsibility may succumb to the harshness of the actual living situation. This could include the very real physical necessities to eat and live in relative safety, not to mention the less-visible family dysfunction aspects of each individual’s mental/emotional stability within the family mix, as well as the overall health of the society that supposedly supports them during their family-raising efforts.

And in the middle of all this chaotic uncertainty and possible instability, here YOU are just trying to decide how you truly feel about the people in your life who are closest to you—trying to define your own relationship with them—perhaps by considering what you wish it were, as compared to what it actually is.

Well the most accurate answer to give on how you actually feel about all the individual relationships in life may be to simply admit that ‘it’s complicated.’

Relationships with anyone and anything are complicated because you might feel a dichotomy for the person, the job, the family, the pet—a love/hate or a love/fear or a disgust/fascination or an attraction/repulsion for them—and the dichotomy list could extend onwards because what you actually FEEL for someone or something is often hard to define when it may be dependent on the interactions that you are having (or have had) with them—such as assessing what is their FUNCTION in your life—what was their function way, way back when it first started, and what is their current function in your life now?   

Not just what does someone MEAN to you emotionally, but try to determine what they DO for you—what purpose and position does that person fill in your NEEDS list—are they ‘number 1’ on your NEEDS list or are they closer to ‘number 23’? And WHY do you consider them so high or so low on that list?

As you perceive it, they have some purpose in your life or they wouldn’t be in it—so what is that purpose? (This exercise is about increasing your self-awareness, so be brutally honest with yourself on this consideration if you want to uncover some deeply hidden wounds.)

Parents are the easiest example to consider: When you were born to them, their primary functions in your life were as care-givers, providers, protectors, educators, etc.  But as time progresses, your roles might eventually reverse, and you may become their care-giver, provider, protector, and perhaps even an educator to a complex financial and health-care world that they must still navigate in advanced age.

That makes their actual relationship with you a little complicated, because it may have changed over time.

Or what about your long-term, love-interest relationship?  Has that changed in any way over the years?  In truth, if analyzing relationships were so easily deciphered there would be no need for marriage counselors or couples therapists.

And in all honesty, most relationships are often messy and hard to understand because you feel what you feel—that part is a certainty.  But WHY you feel that way is less easily determined because there is often a history involved somewhere in the mix.

Then there are the ‘shoulds’ to consider and note—like what you ‘should’ feel for that person such as for a parent or a family member. Accompanying the ‘shoulds’ come the too-frequent group shaming for what you are actually feeling instead, along with the inner guilt and the heavy conscience/lack of sleep and the feeling of personal inadequacy and/or self-doubt, etc., over the entire situation.  Relationships can be quite a mass of conflicting emotions to sort through even at their best.

So examining your relationships often becomes like trying to find the two end pieces in a plate full of one unbroken strand of spaghetti.  It’s a messy process and it takes a long time to sort it out.

To actually find your truth in relationships you will need to excavate all your emotional attachments to everyone and everything in your life—defining what you feel or once felt for them, and then determining WHY you feel/felt it.  Knowing the WHY of what you are actually feeling can help you understand how your psyche has been interwoven with the strands of so many others throughout your life.  

Early on, your spaghetti noodle and their spaghetti noodle may have intermingled and tangled together on your plate, so if you find one end piece to consider, don’t assume it’s your own until you first separate it out to see if that is indeed the case.

This is where journaling will help you define what you are truly feeling about all of those separate life situations and all of those somewhat messy relationships.  It can also help you assess the overall effect that others may have had on you during an earlier period in your life, or the effect that they are still having on you now, even in abstentia.  

We feel what we feel. That is never in doubt, and there is no judgment because of it.

Relationships merely provide us with the rich opportunity to explore our own feelings—to define them as helpful or unhelpful to our continued growth as loving individuals.

We call those inner explorations ‘increasing our self-awareness.’  

Or as some might say, it’s when we finally declare our right to sanity while still living in this insane world.

The Truth about TRUTH

Such a tough subject: TRUTH, especially since you’re so busy trying to find it and all.

After I’d written my first book, I was on lunch hour from my day job, just sitting in the car in the parking lot before heading back inside for the afternoon grind, when I made some blanket statement to the ethers around me that I wanted to know more TRUTH so I could write about it. I said something like this: “Please tell me more TRUTHs to write about in future books.”  Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it?

To which the ‘ethers’ immediately responded back to somewhat surprised me in Jack Nicholson’s “A Few Good Men” ominous voice and vernacular: “Can you HANDLE the truth?”   

At this point I paused, gulped, and said meekly aloud, “I think so…. Ah, …better get back to work.”

To this day I have no idea how Jack Nicholson got into my head (or something mimicking him), but the tone of the voice did give me a moment to reconsider whether or not I really could handle TRUTH in whatever form that it took.

This alludes to many things in life from the present to the future. TRUTH is simply TRUTH no matter what direction it heads or on whose toes it steps. TRUTH simply is. It is the one basis we have for valid decision making.

In this plane of existence I would say that we live by relative truths. And while I do believe there are such things as ABSOLUTE TRUTHS, here in Earth-plane we currently may not be capable of comprehending/accepting them. Again, that’s just my belief. It doesn’t have to be one that you share.

That same book I mentioned previously that questioned beliefs and faith, also questioned TRUTH.

The main protagonist was pretty adamant on hearing TRUTH above all else, even if the truth was unpleasant or horrifying.  But then she also framed TRUTH by her beliefs, which made her AI companion somewhat skeptical on her actual ability to suddenly know something that did NOT conform to the beliefs that she based her entire existence on, knowing that it could possibly shake her mental stability.

The AI created-humanoid said something like ‘but if TRUTH destroys hope, then there is no value to TRUTH. You cannot live without HOPE.’

I thought a bit about that statement and decided that for me, believing a hopeful lie was far worse than facing an unpleasant truth no matter how devastating that TRUTH might be to my life, because if you don’t even have TRUTH to stand on, then how can you stand at all?

Again, this gets into the ‘ethics and morals’ issues of questioning the meaning of personal integrity and doing what is the right thing to do in any situation over the alternative of doing what is either easy or self-beneficial.

These are the very issues that most religions around the world have attempted to define and establish as their true ‘guiding principles for right living and the betterment of humanity.’  

My opinion on the matter is this: While you are searching for what feels like TRUTH for you, be aware that there may be times when you will question your own ability to even define meaningful TRUTH.  And during times like those, when you feel that ground shaking beneath you and your head is clouded with so much doubt and uncertainty, know then that TRUTH will come to you if you still yourself long enough to allow it.

Stop, breathe deeply and just BE in that moment of stillness until TRUTH arises from your inner depths, because TRUTH is your one dependable companion in this life, even if it has occasionally annoying tendencies or burps during inopportune times.

I’d still rather travel with TRUTH than with a false companion wrapped in ‘hopeful lies,’ even if he does growl at me like Jack Nicholson.

On Pursuing Personal Transformation

I will occasionally mention resources available to you, whether books, or people, or courses that might help open you to your true higher potential. One of those information sources that I’ve found most helpful during my earlier growth period was Alberto Villoldo, PhD—psychologist, anthropologist, modern shamanic teacher of the ancient Peruvian Medicine Wheel philosophies/techniques who presently still teaches through The Four Winds Society, which he founded.

I’d been into alternative healing techniques (USUI and KARUNA REIKI) for quite awhile by the time the “shamanic” bug bit me, and I knew then that I had to learn more about that practice because it would further my general knowledge of energy-work.  So I took a two-year Shamanic apprenticeship through a different person, but read all of Villoldo’s books during that same time, and liked how he distilled the real philosophical life-lesson value from the physical “doings” of the practice that I was learning.

I still receive his newsletter emails, and in this mid-January one, he mentions a key thought often camouflaged beneath the shamanic rituals and cultural accoutrements that signify the Medicine Wheel practice: “Unencumbered by miracles, anthropomorphic gods, and the embroidery of centuries of telling, interpreting, and retelling, the medicine wheel was an itinerary for self-discovery and transformation.”

That statement accurately described the Medicine Wheel experience for me: “an itinerary for self-discovery and transformation.”

One could use the teachings of the Medicine Wheel to better understand the deeper aspects of living in this strange, enigmatic world, and then use that newly gained knowledge to transform one’s life. Shamanism was an interesting path to increased self-awareness—but it was ONE path to choose, not the only one. There are many.

For myself, I found shamanism to be far more right-brain focused than left-brain, meaning that so much of whatever you did during your training was dual-purposed; that there was the literal ritual or practice that you may be performing for the reason that you are given by your instructor, and then there was the ulterior reason for doing it that you may not presently understand or be told about because it’s meant to affect you at a level of consciousness to which you might not yet be familiar. There were different layers of consciousness triggered during many practices—particularly during trance-work or what is called “shamanic journeying.”

I wouldn’t call that type of teaching initially deceptive, but I would call it more self-revealing in time. There are some things in life that you simply have to discover for yourself to comprehend the magnitude of their value. Many of the life-lessons that I learned during my own shamanic experiences were definitely in that category of self-revelatory.  While some were pleasant, some were definitely NOT.  

Here in the January newsletter, Alberto describes his early teacher in the practice and the metaphoric/symbolic meanings of each primary Peruvian Medicine Wheel direction:

“I met Professor Antonio Morales, who became my first shamanic mentor, in the early 1970s. …

He was a Quechua native and a man of two worlds: a beloved professor of philosophy at the university in Cusco and a fearsome master healer of great regard in the countryside. It was don Antonio who introduced me to the medicine wheel—a map for healing, diversely represented by many generations of indigenous people.

The medicine wheel begins in the South, where we learn to walk with beauty on the Earth. The South is also where one goes to confront and shed the past, just as the serpent—the archetypal symbol of this direction—sheds its skin.

In the West, we call on the archetype of the jaguar to help us find those things that need to die within us so that we can be claimed by life. Here, one assumes the stance of the spiritual warrior who has no enemies in this life or the next.

In the North, the archetype of the hummingbird helps us learn how to connect to our passion and drink only from the sweetest sources—those that nourish the soul. It is here we learn to step outside of linear time, which binds us to cause and effect, and step into sacred time where all things are possible.

The East is the path of the eagle and condor—the flight to the Sun and the journey back to one’s home to exercise vision and skills in the context of one’s life and work. In the East we learn how to dream our world into being.

I remember thinking that here was the most elegant description of the ‘hero’s journey’ I had ever heard: a distillate of all those tales of other’s experiences—the very tales that we have fashioned into the myths and religions of our species. Unencumbered by miracles, anthropomorphic gods, and the embroidery of centuries of telling, interpreting, and retelling, the medicine wheel was an itinerary for self-discovery and transformation. There was something irresistibly primal and elemental about it, something authoritative, as if it represented one of the earliest descriptions of the phenomenon of awareness, the mechanism of consciousness.”

Just to be clear here, I’m not pushing the shamanic experience for you.  I’m merely saying that it is a path toward increased awareness of who you truly are and how you fit into the world itself.

I will say this though, that IF you do choose this particular path, make sure you have a reliable, reputable teacher—not one who shoves you toward the “ayahuasca quick-trip to self-awareness” with native plant-based hallucinogens and shady support systems.

There is NO quick trip to increased self-awareness. It’s a slow and lengthy healing journey because it’s meant to be that way for maximum effect in your life.

The Quest for Intelligent Beliefs

Just finished a novel exploring the philosophy of creating Artificial Intelligence (AI) robotic ‘beings,’ which as a serious consideration in today’s world is both fascinating and somewhat freaky.  What I enjoyed most about the book was the exposition of a specific religious perspective set against establishing proposed ‘rights’ for a new and artificially created ‘life-form,’ all of which are likely to be actual issues for the future of humanity (as it is now with ‘cloning’)—issues like the ethics and morality of actually creating a new life-form.  

Another issue explored was: Is there really an afterlife for humans and/or AIs, and does an AI have a ‘soul’ that could transition to such a location upon expiration from the earth plane?

Overall the book examined FAITH in general—WHAT we believe to be true and WHY we insist on those beliefs when there is so little scientific evidence to support it.  

As a book, to me it was pretty good at times when it considered serious social issues such as questioning the validity and basis of BELIEF in general, but then it slipped into the standard plot/action/main character-triumphs sort of thing to which popular fiction often resorts, which left me feeling a bit unsatisfied; but still it got me thinking about these core issues, which is a good thing.

I do love reading a good philosophical exposé mainly because it helps me to clarify what I truly believe myself.

Perhaps you also might find that over the course of your lives one of the most important aspects of finding your own truth is to define what you actually DO believe about the world around you so you can better understand how and why you interact with that same world because of those BELIEFS.

Sometimes we may not even know exactly what we DO believe about life in general until we can better comprehend what it is that we DON’T believe about it—it’s a means of establishing comparative values, etc.

Other times, all it takes is for someone to make a statement against some premise that for whatever reason we hold dear to our hearts, and we are instantly ‘triggered’—our tempers immediately flare, and we know then that a ‘personal belief’ was just questioned, and we automatically reacted to the questioning of it. That’s a very insightful moment for us if we can recognize it as such.

Why that is so potentially insightful is because that many of our most basic beliefs were established during our earliest years of initial comprehension about the world around us—back when we were around 3 or 4 years of age when our brains were just starting to ‘make some kind of sense’ over all that we were experiencing daily. 

PAIN and PLEASURE were big motivators back then since our newly-developing brains weren’t yet capable of logic or reasoning. And our caregivers often used those simple motivators to train us toward correct or acceptable behaviors. Threats of punishments to come or being shamed and ridiculed for displeasing them—where we felt less loved by them if we acted in certain ways—were all behavioral modification techniques employed to teach us how to view others and ourselves in the new world that we were exploring.

Back then, most parents wanted us to adopt their particular beliefs both for our personal safety and for their ease in training us in ‘acceptable behaviors’ to live in the world that they best knew—the world that had nurtured their own beliefs and had guided their own parents to train them when they, in reverse order, were babies themselves.

Dominant religious institutions in our particular world locale often tried to establish their early influence in our budding awareness to help shape the new world that we saw from their perspective, so we could either adapt easily into or counter the workings of the affecting world into which we were being forcefully thrust by simple reason of our birth there.  

Even educational institutions during our early development were often a mix of secular and religious influences, depending on where we lived or how we were raised. Some were open-minded and all-faiths considering while others were restrictive and limited as to what true ‘believers’ could think, say or do.

It wasn’t until late in our young-adult development period when we first began to understand that while everyone viewed life in their own particular way, that maybe we did or maybe didn’t agree with them, but that it was okay to feel either agreement or disagreement about it.  Or was it okay to question those other beliefs—or to question our OWN beliefs that we had known from childhood onwards?

Maybe we experienced some uncomfortable situations when disagreeing with the beliefs of our childhood didn’t feel sookay’ to us.  Maybe we found that if we were willing to agree with the established group doctrine, we were more easily accepted into the group itself; but if we disagreed with it, we were more likely to be criticized, ostracized, or even rejected by those closest to us, perhaps including family members, so it was a pretty big deal IF and WHEN we first made those rebellious noises of disagreement with the norms and standards of our previously-accepted world views.  

That’s the thing about beliefs in general—everyone has them and they may not be exactly the same, but should everyone have a right to their own beliefs?

I guess that’s something you’ll have to decide for yourselves.

Intelligent beliefs are the ones you adopt with full awareness of your true feelings for WHY you feel the way that you do.

When you can at least admit that WHY-ness factor and locate the origin of your accepting that belief as TRUTH for you, then you will know that it is truly YOUR belief that you’ve adopted—not merely a reconstituted, parental belief from a time when you weren’t capable of actually considering the merits of it for yourself.

Or maybe the world around you hasn’t changed much since your childhood, but maybe YOU HAVE.

Choosing Your Path

Long, long ago when life was still just a juicy mystery to me—back when I believed certain things to be clearly true and others to be evidently false because of it—back when I thought I could learn or at least deduce all I ever needed to know about life through researching the answers to my deepest questions by reading ancient tomes or by first-hand witnessing of life’s secret lessons shown only to spiritually-hungering me; yes, way back then in my most youthful, egoic ignorance did I assume that I could choose a path that would lead me into the ultimate clarification of my purpose for existence in the here and now, and by simply following that path I would reach the pinnacle of knowledge and awareness existing beyond my deepest desires and wildest comprehension.

In short, I thought that if I worked hard enough at it, I would eventually become ENLIGHTENED.  

But much to my youthful surprise, there wasn’t just ONE path that I decided to follow for possible future illumination.  No, there were many that I tried, and each one did show me hints of higher meaning in the daily doings of my life, but at the same time, I still needed to make a living in this world that we all share, so my quest for enlightenment took a backseat to my need to eat and live comfortably.  

Many folks understand that dilemma. And the more dependents that you have, the less extra time you find to pursue those non-essential endeavors. So my PATH to higher awareness needed to be doable but practical even if somewhat time-restricted.

Yes, even as I snicker at it now, that WAS how I pragmatically framed my “non-essential” spiritual quest.

Throughout those less-than-illuminating years, I did find that whatever elusive wisdom I doggedly pursued in such haphazard fashion always seemed to elude me. I was a persistent, perpetual seeker, yes, but what was it that I really sought?  Did I even know that?

As an avid (or more likely rabid) reader, I read classic wisdom books from historical philosophy to comparative religions. I read standard epics like the Bible (cover to cover), the Bhagvad Gita, the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Paramahansa Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi, Swami Muktananda’s Play of Consciousness, plus numerous books on various branches of Buddhism (Zen, Tibetan, Theravadic).

I read of both ancient and modern forms of Shamanism from the Siberian Steppes to the Meso/South American Native Cultures.  I even dabbled into psychology theorists like Jung, James, Rogers, Maslow, and many, many others. My desire to learn as much as I could about ALL OF IT and about ALL OF US was so great.

From all of those numerous works, I primarily learned that some form of meditation was a key to exploring inner states of consciousness and it could provide a respite from the constant internal striving that seemed to define my earlier adult life. So I learned to meditate.

Then somewhere down the line after decades of trying first one thing and then another, I finally realized that we don’t really choose our path in life as much as the path chooses us if we allow it to do so.  If we can calm the constant cacophony in our heads and allow our deepest intuitive self to guide us in our higher consciousness quests, we will naturally do what most needs to be done at any time, and feel greater peace inside while doing it. 

What I finally comprehended after all those years of intentional seeking was this:  It wasn’t that I needed to DO something, so much as I simply needed to BE.

I mean that sounds overly simplistic and maybe a little gimmicky, but it was still true.  And while it might seem easy enough to practice that simple premise, it took me a very long time to actually accomplish it.

There are those who claim you must suffer to reach enlightenment—that it is through the suffering that we understand our human frailty and accept our pending mortality—that we realize how ephemeral this moment in time truly is and how valuable that makes every moment of life for ourselves and for all others.  But I personally think suffering is only one path—one teacher to attaining a greater awareness.

We all know that there are many ways to suffer in this life, some of which we may have witnessed, if not personally experienced ourselves. Suffering might build character and help us develop a more true sense of humility, but it’s certainly not pleasant to endure nor is it always the easiest path to make sense of during the process.

In essence, I think that the true PATH for you is there under your feet right now.  Perhaps you don’t recognize it as such because of life’s distractions and society’s constantly-shifting smokescreens playing non-stop in front of you 24/7/365, but your path IS there and all you need to do to realize it is to stop long enough to simply breathe yourself alive again and let the world spin on past you. Once the world passes, you can see it more clearly for what it actually is:

It’s whatever you want it to be. 

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