Bonus post: don’t forget relief!

This work is subtle.

Can you tell the difference between contentment versus trying to feel contentment?

Trying is never a good idea because it implies a denial or refusal to accept where you are.

It’s easy to think you’re in control, feel content, then find an old negative thought and lose your contentment.

How do you get back up? You can’t force it. You need relief.

Relief.

Relief can be used whenever you are feeling less than content. Relief is the feeling of resistance letting go, bringing you closer to alignment.

I’m told that after contentment, letting go of resistance feels like fun because the positive now outweighs the negative.

So wherever you are, find a feeling of relief until you eventually arrive at contentment (could be ten minutes, could be ten months, depending on subjects and individuals).

Ups and downs

In my experience on this journey I’ve run into two mistakes. The first is trying to get ahead of where I am instead of just feeling relief.

Relief always works, nothing else works better than relief. Use whatever thoughts bring you relief. Relief is a path that can’t fail unless you stumble into the second mistake of thinking:

“Well if relief is so great, more relief will be even greater!!”

This can trip us up because it sounds like we are still finding relief. But in fact we are rejecting relief for the sake of some unlikely thing called “more relief”. But relief is just relief, and rejecting it for any reason is a mistake.

New territory

I was going to say I’ve made three mistakes, but I’m cutting myself some slack on this one because it was new territory for me.

On arriving at the stage of contentment, relief doesn’t work anymore. I wasn’t expecting that, because I’ve never been to contentment so deliberately till now.

I didn’t know how to proceed, and since I was feeling pretty good I decided to try to feel “more good”.

It turns out that “more good” is like “more relief”, spurious and misleading.

What I will try to do next time is just enjoy the good feeling in the same way that I enjoy the relief feeling, without trying to make it more or bigger.

It’s a game…22!

I had an amazing experience recently where I was completely tuned in and aligned. I felt really good, and I knew exactly the right words to say, and I was funny! Perfect timing, the right words, and an unshakable good feeling.

This experience was so good that I wanted more. I had a taste of how good alignment feels and I wanted to return to it as soon as possible.

But it didn’t quite work out that way. I felt like I was making progress in feeling really good and finding alignment, but then I’d come crashing down and feel terrible.

This up and down cycle hit me a couple of times before I understood what was happening: I was desperate to feel alignment again, and rejecting where I was. I was no longer practicing contentment, relief, or feeling better. In other words, I was getting ahead of myself.

The answer…difficult thought it seemed…was to be content once more with how I was feeling and where I was, even though it wasn’t as amazing as alignment.

It sounds paradoxical, but this is still a vibrational game and you get out of it what you put into it. So if you put in contentment you get contentment, if you put in insufficiency you get insufficiency.

Where we trip ourselves up is that we think God responds to the intentionality of our vibrational states. We fear that if we are feeling contentment, God will say “okay, cool, if you’re happy I’ll just leave things the way they are.” We think the squeaky wheel gets the oil.

But that’s not how God operates. God says that if we believe we have received what we ask for, then it will be added to us.

So what does “insufficiency” do? It stops us receiving what we have asked for, and so it becomes more insufficiency.

That’s why chasing anything – including alignment – doesn’t work. Because it is driven by a sense of insufficiency or lack.

But if we can find contentment, we allow ourselves to receive more of the good feelings, ideas, and manifestations that match genuine contentment.

So embrace the paradox. Find contentment wherever you are and more will be added to you.

It’s a game…20!

The good news about boredom.

I get bored easily. I have friends who get bored a lot, and it can feel like the bane of our existence.

Not to mention the nagging feeling that it’s our fault. If only we were out living more adventurous and fulfilling lives full of people and activities.

“I don’t have time to be bored, too busy having fun!” taunts the inner voice of imagined instagramable extroverts. “Just get out there and live life!”

So the first bit of good news is that they’re wrong. Taking action to overcome boredom doesn’t work, as you well know. When you are bored everything you touch gets infected by the dissatisfying ennui.

If you’re frequently and strongly bored, then you’re obviously not in a place to embrace sudden inspiration. Ignore those people who make it sound like boredom would no longer be a problem if only you’d love more like them.

So what can you do to relieve boredom?

Well the second bit of good news is that this is the wrong question to be asking. Trying to get rid of boredom doesn’t work because you can’t push things out of your experience by giving them attention.

The right question is this:

How can I feel better about being bored?

Finding relief

The third and biggest bit of good news about boredom is that it’s actually a very high emotional state! It’s the highest you can get while still being negative.

I used to think boredom proved that life was bad, because it was often the best I felt. When nothing bad was going on I just felt bored.

If only I had known how close boredom is to contentment! Boredom is one step away from contentment on the emotional guidance scale. Having lots of boredom, being frequently bored; this is excellent news because it means you are frequently so close to contentment!!!

All it takes to go from boredom to contentment is a little relief. Just knowing that boredom is so close will help. Next time you feel bored, look for relief not in the direction of excitement or inspiration or enthusiasm because that is too big a jump. Instead look for relief in the direction of being content.

All those times I felt bored I was focused on the lack of excitement and enthusiasm and interest and novelty. But if I had instead started appreciating what I already had: lying on the couch with the window streaming sunlight over me, nothing needing my attention, no one hassling me. No effort required, no jobs to be done. Appreciating the stability and security of my home. Appreciating being in my body and relaxing.

Just look for relief that feels like contentment, and when you feel content let that be enough for you.

Turning lead into gold

I think it was Jung who popularised the idea that alchemy was about inner transformation. Turning “base metals” into gold was really about turning boredom and other negative emotions into contentment and other positive ones.

Isn’t it wonderful then to know that all your boredom can become gold? Instead of complaining about how often you feel bored, isn’t it exciting to realise that you are that often on the verge of contentment?

The lead of boredom can become the gold o contentment. All it takes is the practice of finding relief in that direction.

After all, if you are feeling bored it means first and foremost that you have everything you need. And since you create your reality that means you have allowed yourself to receive so much already.

You are right on the tipping point, and now that supposed bane of your experience is the threshold to your happiness.

Tempting fate

Sometimes we feel drawn and almost impelled to pick up a topic or commit to an action that seems like it would change our circumstances for the better.

It’s the mixed feeling that if we just say something now or push a little we can get things moving and have what we want.

But it’s mixed because at the same time we feel hesitant. Something is off and action doesn’t feel like the next logical step so much as a venting of steam, not inspired but slightly manic.

Don’t do it

If you feel mixed about a course of action you’re pretty much guaranteed a result that is at best mixed and at worst a painful and difficult letting go of resistance.

The problem is that your reality is already a perfect match to the sum of your own thoughts and attention. You can’t solve a problem with the same mind (or feeling) that created it.

The mixed, uneasy feeling is your own guidance telling you what lies in store. Yes, your action might “move things along”, but not in an easy, enjoyable, magical way.

The man in the mirror

I love the analogy of looking in a mirror and trying to change the reflection instead of changing yourself.

The whole of your reality is a reflection of the thoughts you think and the story you tell yourself. So if you aren’t happy with it, change your thoughts and tell a new story.

The impulse to try to “bang things into place” by force or by interference might seem like the quickest path to the outcome you want, but it’s still all about the reflection.

If you are at peace your world will be at peace. If you feel contentment your world will reflect that. So what if you feel an urgent, uncomfortable need to stir things up and express your inner conflict and frustration?

When you’ve had enough of turmoil and doing it the hard way you’ll find yourself valuing ease a whole lot more, and declining the sudden and pressing offer to tempt fate once more.

To feel as good as possible

Focus on the word “contentment” and feel it. It might take a few seconds to really embrace the good feeling of contentment.

If you can feel contentment you can then go to a better feeling:

Appreciation

Love

Freedom

Joy

Contentment is easier and more stable, and good enough if you’re not used to feeling good.

Appreciation is also very good because we have less resistance and fewer preconceptions about it than love, joy, and freedom.

But whatever feels best to you.

Resistance

You might feel some resistance to feeling good. A bit like you’re reluctant to relax or let your guard down.

Keep focusing. The whole point is to feel the relief of letting go and allowing these good feelings.

You might also have resistance in the form of thoughts that dissuade you from the task.

But hopefully the exercise is general enough and simple enough that other thoughts don’t really have a foothold.

If they do, try to soothe the thoughts gently.

Eg. “I suck at this kind of thing” well it’s okay to suck at it. It’s just an experiment, right? I’m giving it a go, and maybe it’ll be interesting. It’d be nice to have this trick up my sleeve to feel content whenever I want to.

“This is pointless” Actually the point is to feel better and I’d like to do that more, and if I can feel better just by focusing on the feeling I want to feel then that would be worth practicing I think.

“This won’t change anything” It will give me the ability to find relief and feel better, and if nothing else were to change wouldn’t it be better to feel good rather than feel bad?

Do it all the time…eventually

My goal is to feel genuine appreciation all the time.

Feeling appreciation makes me a better person – the person I think I’m meant to be. I’m happier, more creative, much nicer to be with! People have commented on how much happier I am.

It makes my life better. I’ve already seen how feeling appreciation can transform my day from a monotony of worries and burdens to a light and easy adventure.

And the only thing I need to do is practice feeling appreciation.

From general to specific

With credit to the Abraham Hicks material, I’ve found that practicing a general feeling of appreciation eventually translates spontaneously into specific appreciation for things in life.

It’s a bit like suddenly coming into a whole heap of money and thinking “wow I’m rich!” And then after a while being inspired to spend your money in specific, good-feeling ways that enhance the feeling of well-being and prosperity.

So the more time I spend feeling appreciation, the more I will continue to notice wonderful things to appreciate in my life.

This is how feeling good really does change your life, because in consistently feeling good you are naturally drawn to entirely different aspects of your present experience and hence to a different future experience altogether.

On being special

We all want to feel special.

Special in this context means “marked off from others by some distinguishing quality”.

So to be precise, we all want to be special in a good way.

Maybe we won’t admit it to ourselves or to others, maybe we prefer a different form of words, or a different kind of specialness. Maybe we’d rather say loved, respected, admired, important, powerful, rich, talented, and so on.

But these are, I would argue, just different ways of being special.

Some people may have found the special status they are looking for, but for most of us the desire to be special brings to light the inverse: we don’t feel special, or loved, or respected, etc.

In my experience and study, our search for some means of becoming special is ultimately futile because it is based on a misapprehension. We take “not special” as the default reality and seek to change that reality.

But “not special” is, according to various mystics, sages, philosophers and other observers of the human psyche, a false belief or fear, hence any attempt to remedy it by becoming more special is bound to fail.

The desire to feel special is part of a natural desire for wholeness, peace, joy, and other good things. But we have misdiagnosed the problem, the obstacle to experiencing these very positive emotions.

It seems that the obstacle is reality. I’m not special enough, that’s why I don’t experience these positive emotions. Therefore I need to find a way to become more special.

But the true obstacle is a false self-image, a self-image that contains gaps and holes and knots.

The self-image is false because we built it when we were children, on the assumption that we could take other people’s reactions to us at face-value.

In other words, if your siblings always treated you like a little prince or princess, you would accept at face value that this is how you deserved to be treated. You would assume that something about you was causing this response in them, as surely as good food elicits hunger and ends in satiety.

But if your siblings treated you like a perpetual nuisance, a wearisome annoyance, or an unwanted competitor for parental attention, then likewise, you would assume these reactions followed naturally from some aspect of yourself.

Young children do not understand that the minds of their elders are clouded and confused by a variety of motives: fears, desires, anxieties, and their own flawed self-images.

Children grow up, unwittingly cultivating these false selves. Expecting everyone to treat them like a prince and becoming angry and resentful when others don’t. Or expecting everyone to resent and despise them, and denying opportunities to experience something better.

A large part of our spiritual path lies in recognising that people’s responses to us when we were children were governed by forces and themes much bigger than we could have understood at the time. We come to understand the motives of our parents and siblings. We recognise that the way they treated us was not about us at all, or only minimally.

But the flawed self-image we carry around is hard to shake. It’s like being raised in a cult, and then having to relearn everything about how the world really works. Learning that the government isn’t out to get you, or that aliens aren’t coming to rescue you. Or that your leader wasn’t a prophet but a narcissistic manipulator.

That’s why genuine religion both depreciates and transforms the self. The theme of death and rebirth is ubiquitous because so is the mechanism of our flawed self-image.

In practical terms, what can we do about it?

In a religious context there are devotional and meditative practices designed to lower the protective barriers of this false self. These include practices like trying to feel the presence of God rather than focusing always on your selfish fears and desires, or trying to recognise the fragility of the self in metaphysical terms.

At present I’m just trying to remind myself that I don’t actually know who I am, and to then try to be conscious of the subtle traces of my false self-image where relevant – usually in the midst of fears and desires.

In the context of wanting to feel special, what we seek is not to be found by adding something to ourselves, but by letting go of, or seeing through the illusion of this false self-image. The reason we don’t feel peace and joy and contentment is that we have learned to expect much less from life. We can’t accept whatever peace and joy and contentment are available to us in the present, because our self-image is too tightly wound  to accept it.

We’ve been inculcated with a false requirement to change ourselves, improve ourselves, achieve something in order to be content, to be happy. We’re primed to view everything in life with respect to how it advances or impedes our desire to be more special.