From anxiety to eagerness

I had an interesting experience just now as I went for a nice midday walk with my wife:

It was the most relaxed and happy I’ve ever felt on a leisurely stroll, but after half an hour I started to feel unwell, a little like being car sick.

I didn’t know why, but asked for an easy explanation and immediately I knew what was going on.

Dampening the senses

In the past my anxiety levels were much higher, and walking without a purpose or destination would trigger lots of vigilant behaviour that made me tense and uncomfortable.

In an effort to combat the anxiety I would do various things to dampen my sensory acuity and block out or filter the stimulation flowing in.

But anxiety itself would also filter and channel my awareness in strange ways, heightening my attention to movement, sounds, and possible “threats” in a fight-or-flight way.

I won’t bother trying to detail all the little things that contributed to this tunnel vision or active filtering of my sensory experience. Suffice it to say that being more relaxed and appreciative as I walked had an impact on those processes and left me feeling disoriented and then sick.

Rediscovering eagerness

As usual the answer was to “feel better”. And what felt better in those circumstances was to allow myself to once more feel an eagerness, excitement, and active engagement with my environment.

My previous attitude was like putting on blinkers to relieve the stress and anxiety of too much going on. But now that I feel better I actually want to see what is going on, appreciate it, take it all in, and revel in the environment around me.

This change in attitude is the difference between fearfulness and anticipation, a shift from wanting to hide and be invisible to looking out with a sense of eagerness for what my universe has in store for me.

I think the nausea was a direct physiological response to subtle things I was doing to avoid looking at the world clearly. But since I create my reality, I know that looking for things to relish and look forward to will eclipse and outshine anything I would once have sought to avoid.

From relief to appreciation

Everything is changing, evolving, and expanding.

The last few days of meditation have been like a flood of relief. Today it no longer feels like relief, and once upon a time I’d have lost faith and given up because “it’s not working anymore”.

But relief is the feeling of releasing resistance, and it doesn’t make sense to think that there must be never-ending resistance to let go.

Think of relief as preparing a space for appreciation. When the same practice of meditation – letting go of your thoughts and your stories – is no longer bringing relief, that’s actually a sign of progress.

Appreciation is a more stable, powerful, aligned energy than relief. Relief only comes when we let go of resistance, but appreciation can be forever.

Sometimes it’s easier to focus on relief without finding the appreciation implicit in it. It’s a relief to get what you want after a long period of feeling deprived. But often we get what we want and then immediately forget about it, moving on to the next thing.

It’s how you play the game

I’m gradually getting my head around this idea, from the Abraham-Hicks teaching, that life will always contain contrast and always call us to expand. The question is how we welcome (or don’t) this call.

From a negative point of view nothing in life will ever be “enough”, we will always want more and never find contentment. No sooner are our desires fulfilled than we want something new.

But from a positive perspective this inherent incompleteness is the source of growth and expansion. If we can just learn to appreciate what is, and find a way to feel eager about what is coming next, then instead of an unending struggle or Sisyphean frustration, the exact same life is revealed to be an infinite journey of discovery and ease.

The flip side of “something always goes wrong” is that things are always getting better.

Floating downstream

When we look at life in ways that feel bad, we are fighting the current that carries us.

But as we learn to let go of the oars, we feel relief at giving up the struggle followed by enjoyment of the easy journey before us.

It’s the ease of this journey, and the sheer genius of the blessings along the way, that offer us endless opportunities for appreciation and savour.

Relief comes when you rest your tired muscles. But when they are no longer tired, then relief is replaced by enjoyment, satisfaction, and appreciation.

Take it for granted?

It might seem unfair, but good things in life happen to the most positive, happiest, easy-going people.

We might prefer that good things happen to us because of how hard life has been, or how much we’ve struggled, but it doesn’t work that way.

It makes sense, because the positive, easy-going people are appreciative of everything. They’re so appreciative that they take good things for granted.

Isn’t that bad?

Were told that it’s bad to take things for granted. We think it means the opposite of appreciation and gratitude.

But to grant means to give, bestow, or allow. Taking for granted doesn’t mean being ungrateful, it means:

“to regard (something) as not requiring proof”

In other words, taking for granted is believing without seeing.

Getting it wrong

Sometimes we resent positive, easy-going people for the good things they enjoy. We tell ourselves that we would appreciate good things much more, because we don’t expect them.

Aren’t we therefore more deserving?

But that’s not how it works. God is bestowing good things on all of us, but it’s up to us to accept or allow them.

God makes the rain fall on the fields of the good and the bad alike. Like the parable of the workers in the field, He undeservedly pays the same wage to the late-comers as to those who had worked all day.

When we look askance at those who seem to have good things just fall in their lap, aren’t we like the all-day workers griping at the unfairness of it all, and thereby missing the point about the One who grants us everything?

Taking as given

The good news is that we can change our attitude from one of negativity, struggle, and griping, to one of positivity, expectation, and trust.

After all, each of us has aspects of life where we take good things for granted – take them as given – however small they might seem.

It takes practice to change, but as I meditate I feel the relief of letting go of old stories where I’m struggling and hard-done-by. I begin to feel the tremendous ease of life. I feel that nothing could really be a problem or an obstacle unless I tell a story about it being a problem or an obstacle.

And if I let go of that story, I feel the immense reserves of pure energy quietly beside and within me. Nothing ostentatious or grand, but an ever-fluid ocean of potential, of power.

My only mistake is trying to put up walls in and around that moving presence. The walls of story and belief can’t capture or contain or limit this ocean; all they can do is make me sea-sick and distraught at the effort of holding them together.

As easy as that ocean feels, let me feel that same ease in life. Let me trust that I will float on its currents, and not be dashed to pieces on the rocks. Let me inhabit the breadth and magnitude of it, as I know that it uplifts and sustains us all.

In the receptive mode

God wants us to be happy.

“All things work for the good of those who love God”.

God is always shining love and light and blessings upon us. He is always turning circumstances and conditions to our advantage. He is constantly bringing us satisfying and fulfilling experiences.

All we need do is appreciate, allow, and receive these benefits. There are no preconditions or requirements unless we call “receiving” a requirement or “appreciating” a precondition.

Allowing, trusting, accepting, these attitudes let us see the good things coming to us and feel the alignment with God’s love and joy within us.

It’s easy; it only seems difficult or elusive because we have practiced looking for difficulties and treating happiness as hard to find.

As we practice feeling better we begin to appreciate this lightness and ease. We appreciate and enjoy the feelings of relief that well up inside as we let go of any struggle or effort.

Allowing life to be easy is all it takes for life to actually be easy. Allowing good things to come is all it takes for good things to actually come.

It is only our resistance that disallows, and resistance lies in thoughts like “life is hard” instead of “life is easy”.

Feel good all day 9

Feeling good is a skill, and like any skill you need to practice it until it becomes permanent.

And like any skill there’s a progression to it. You can look forward at people who surpass your current level and feel inspired. You can look back at how far you’ve come and feel appreciation.

The beauty of it is that we always expand and grow and develop, and if you appreciate that fact, then you can reach the ideal point of “satisfied with what is, and eager for more”.

This morning I felt dissatisfied with where I am. I felt like it was “not enough”. Dissatisfaction prompted me to focus more on what I do want, but thank goodness I’ve learned and practiced enough to know that the answer is not some grand effort or intense push for “more”. The answer is simply to focus again on satisfaction, appreciation, and eagerness for what is coming.

If you can find satisfaction now you can find it anywhere. If you can feel appreciation now you can feel it any time. And that is the basis for eager anticipation of what joys our future holds.

I want vitality

I’ve changed the title from wanting to be free of pain, because it’s much more effective to focus on the wanted than the unwanted.

When pain or other unwanted physical symptoms arise they tend to grab our attention.

But that’s largely because we haven’t practiced directing and focusing our thoughts and attention.

My pain used to arise whenever I was stressed. But I’m much better at letting go of stress now.

So now I’m noticing pain arise differently: it arises after I’ve been feeling really good.

A faster stream

Abraham-Hicks uses the metaphor of a stream to make the point that when we feel good our stream is flowing faster. While feeling good is obviously what we desire, a faster flowing stream means that resistance is amplified.

A great example is when you work on improving your posture and find you can no longer bear slumped or slouching positons that used to feel normal.

Or when you take up exercise and find you can no longer bear sitting in front of the TV like you once did.

After feeling good?

Notice I said the pain now starts after I’ve been feeling good, and that means I’ve stopped focusing on thoughts that feel good, I’ve let my mind wander, and some old resistance has cropped up.

The best bet would be to not lose focus in the first place but that’s okay. It’s all part of the journey.

Instead we can take the opportunity to clean up our thoughts and attitude around whatever subject has triggered the resistance, or around the subject of our physical body itself.

A body that feels good

If you are prone to physical aches and pains like I have been, it means we’ve been telling an old story about our bodies that isn’t up to speed with the fullness of health and happiness.

I used to have many negative thoughts about my body, and I’m excited now about applying all that I’ve learned to my physical well-being.

The way forward is to start appreciating every aspect of your body that works well and feels good.

If your back hurts, I’ll bet nearly every other bit of you feels good in comparison. Appreciate the hell out of every inch of you that works well and feels good.

Appreciate instead of noticing or focusing on unwanted symptoms.

If you devoted as much time to appreciating what works, what feels good, as you have to what hurts…imagine the transformation to your quality of life and happiness!

We create pain…and appreciation

The truth is I used to ignore the parts of me that don’t hurt. So my physical self-image is of a body I only really noticed when it went wrong.

I’ve been training myself to look for unwanted aspects of my physical embodiment. And so all I have in my memory is selective evidence of a body that is always going wrong!

What I want now is a total inversion on that score: set an intention to feel physically good all the time, appreciate my wellness, and let aches and pains become the most minor exceptions to this new rule.

Feel good all day 1

Aaaaand I’m back!

Phew! It’s a relief to have a focal point once more, a coherent goal to guide my thoughts and feelings, an aspiration, and an inspiring ideal!

I can feel good all day. If I don’t, I can feel okay about it. Every time I feel less than good, it will help me focus and improve. Because that’s how we learn!

Plan of attack

First, focus on subjects that feel good and ignore subjects that don’t feel good.

If you can’t ignore a subject, start softening it so it doesn’t feel as bad, and then ignore it.

Appreciate: Weather, possessions, activities, interactions, ideas. Everything has an appreciable aspect to it, and if it doesn’t then soften and soothe your thoughts and then ignore it.

And above all keep reminding yourself that you want to feel good all day.

It’s easy. You know how to do it, you want to do it, and now you’re doing it!

Happiness Day 30

For thirty days I’ve been focusing on happiness, wanting good feelings to be the norm and bad feelings the rare exception.

So how did it go?

It went really really well 😄

Right from the beginning it reframed my inner landscape. The intention to feel good got me to look up instead of down, and start appreciating how often I felt good already.

Abraham teaches that our reality is created primarily by our inner being (God) who is pure positive energy. The role of our physical self and our worldly focusing mind is significant, but in terms of negativity it can only really create friction, it can’t halt the power of our inner being.

That’s why it is always possible to feel better, whether better be less bad or genuinely good.

In other words things are always better than they seem. Happiness is attainable, it just takes practice to retrain our focus.

What is life like now?

Life is really good now.

I’m laughing and smiling a lot more. I’m finding deeper appreciation of the many good things in my life.

I’m handling the contrast so much better! I can soothe bad feelings much more easily, and I even appreciate contrast because I can see how it’s helping me to focus in certain directions.

I’ve had insights just come to me on subjects dear to my heart. By day 30 I found myself musing on inspiration and the question I’ve long deferred: what do I really want to be doing in my life?

I no longer feel like I need to explain, justify, or apologise for my mood and lack of energy, because I’ve shown myself for thirty days that it’s entirely up to me how much energy I have, since I can decide what to focus on and how I focus!

Satisfied and eager for more

Last night my 1yo daughter slept through the night in her cot. That is a genuine miracle! I never even thought it would happen, and yet it all happened so suddenly and so easily.

And I allowed it to happen. My focus on being happy weakened my resistance and my negativity, and opened the tiniest crack in my old story, and circumstances that seemed unwanted opened the path for this new sleeping routine.

Many other things have shifted, small but meaningful and sometimes enormous in their significance to me. Things that were difficult have gotten easier. Things that felt hopeless feel easy. And things I already enjoyed and appreciated have become even more satisfying and wonderful.

What next?

This challenge has only whetted my appetite for more.

I can feel so much potential to feel better and refine my processes. There are many things I would like to allow into my experience, and now I know how to do it.

And without planning it, blogging has become a new experience for me and a wonderful discipline and tool for helping me train my focus.

Being able to write here fulfils an old desire that my writing become more like my private journaling in terms of ease and content.

I’ve written 55 posts in this thirty days. To put that in perspective, the previous 55 posts took about six months to write.

Blogging each day not only kept me focused, it also helped me develop my thoughts and deepen my understanding of this path I’m on.

I don’t yet know what form the next segment will take, but I want blogging to be part of it, and I want it to take my new habits even further.

Thank you for following, reading, and liking my posts! Having you reading my posts has helped keep me honest and on-track!

Happiness Day 27

Being specific in your desires.

I’ve wanted my life to change but I’ve had only a very general idea of what that might look like.

General is good.

When you’re feeling bad you don’t want to get into specifics. Go from bad feeling specifics to bad feeling generalities. From there it’s easier to feel better and slowly get to the point of feeling good generally.

But I’ve been gradually more aware that my lack of specifics on certain subjects is indicative of where I’m at.

According to the Abraham-Hicks teachings we don’t need to get specific to get what we want. God knows all our desires and needs.

But as we get closer to being a match to those desires we will naturally find ourselves contemplating the specifics.

What are your dreams?

I spent a lot of time crushing my own dreams, in the mistaken belief that dreams are a cause of suffering because life never lives up to them.

I thought I was doing the right thing, but I actually dampened down my own inspiration and enthusiasm for life.

And naturally I was not as happy as I wanted to be.

My wife would often ask me what I like, and I’d shrug because I had spent years earnestly trying to be devoid of preferences as a way of becoming immune to suffering (didn’t work!).

Rediscovering the details

There’s a kind of rehabilitation to it, the work of rediscovering the details of your dreams and desires and rescuing them from “what does it matter?” and other cynical thoughts.

What makes this process exciting is the knowledge that these details already exist for you, and that rediscovering them is really about tuning into that aspect of yourself and your reality.

You can’t get it wrong. There’s no danger of making mistakes and choosing the wrong thing, because your preferences are already there.

For me this is especially pointed when I think about a new house, because to my mind there are so many varying styles and details of architecture and location that I appreciate, I feel like I could find the good in anything.

But finding good in anything is not the same as knowing what you most want. In fact it’s not even close!

Count Your Blessings Day 10

Getting picky!

I can feel all of this work coming together.

I’m laughing a lot more and feeling good a lot more.

I’m really sensitive to “old stories” that don’t feel good.

In fact some things that felt good before – like my morning routine of getting my son ready for school – don’t feel so good now.

I want it to be an easier, more enjoyable process for us both. And it’s as if being happier has raised my expectations.

I don’t want to rush, and I don’t want to feel pressed or pressured. So I won’t.

It actually doesn’t matter if he’s late for school. What matters is that he gets enough sleep and we have a good time together.

What I love is walking him to school, playing the feeling game together, talking about how good the day is going to be.

I love the trees along our walk, especially the enormous fir tree in front of the old college.

I want to live among trees like that. That’s my dream.

I wrote all that just minutes before waking him up. While his breakfast cooked I helped him get dressed, and now he’s 90% ready, with 10 mins to go, and he’s still able to watch his favourite YouTube channel.

It can be easy, if we allow it to be! And we allow it by focusing on what we want and really feeling it.

Later

The walk was fun. If I focused on getting there my son got slower and more tired. But if I focused on enjoying the walk myself he sped up to walk alongside me.

We ran into an old friend on the way there and she stopped to chat as we walked along.

I’m now sitting in a garden beneath the amazing fir tree while I finish this post and ask myself “what next?”

What next?

I was contemplating wrapping up this Blessings series because I missed a day and wasn’t sure how to keep it going.But I can see that’s coming from a feeling of worry, when really there’s nothing about blogging that should inspire worry.

So I’ll keep letting it evolve and see where it takes me.

For now I think my original purpose has been served. Counting my blessings changed my perspective of what blessings are and how many I have.

It’s beyond counting now. Yet the focus on appreciating what is in my life is still valuable.

For appreciation to become my dominant feeling I need to practise it.