It’s a game…19!

If I were helping a friend navigate the “create your reality” game, how would I go about it?

Be honest…where are you emotionally?

The first thing would be an honest assessment of where you are emotionally on a daily basis.

For many people this is straightforward: a mix of positive and negative emotion.

For others it is predominantly negative emotion.

And for a minority it is both negative and also obscured by defence mechanisms like emotional inhibition.

That’s not to say this third group is lacking positive emotions, just that it isn’t immediately clear to them how they are feeling.

Some people can’t tell the difference between how they feel, and how they think they should feel.

Feeling good…or just a little less bad?

Where you are emotionally will determine the next step.

If you are in a mix of positive and negative emotion, your aim would be to focus on the positives and stop activating the negatives.

Whatever is going well for you, draw on that more. When negatives arise you can start finding better-feeling thoughts on those subjects.

If you’re feeling really good you can even start visualising and imagining things you’d enjoy having in your life!

But if you’re more on the negative end of the scale these efforts would backfire. Trying to feel really good when you’re in a persistently negative place is like trying to go jogging when you’re meant to be in rehab.

Vibrational rehab

People who feel persistently bad have usually spent many years practicing patterns of thoughts and attitudes that cause negative emotion.

One of these patterns is called “all-or-nothing” thinking in cognitive behavioural therapy. That’s the kind of thinking that says “learning to walk again is too slow, I’m going to start running!” Or “getting out of debt won’t solve my problems, I need to get rich right now!”

Or more directly if these analogies don’t grab you: “feeling less bad isn’t enough. I want to feel amazing!”

At the heart of this all-or-nothing attitude is resistance that leads to impatience and self-sabotage. You may not think you are sabotaging yourself but the bottom line is feeling so bad about where you are that you’ll only make a move if you’re guaranteed a radical and immediate transformation.

The challenge here is that accepting a small improvement means acknowledging how bad you feel already. We want to think we are close to our goal of feeling wonderful, and the more modest goal of feeling “slightly less awful” is like a slap in the face.

Learning to focus

But like any skill, deliberately feeling good cannot be faked. Whatever your learning process looks like (and biting off more than you can chew is also a learning process) the end result must include the ability to soothe negative emotions and allow positive ones to gain momentum.

I’ve spent three years working on this material, after more than 30 years of developing habits of thought that didn’t serve me – as well as many that did serve me.

The best way is to practice feeling slight relief. Deliberately finding a feeling of relief repeatedly throughout your day.

Finding relief is the mechanism of alignment. It is the way of opening up to the pure positive energy of your inner being.

Don’t think that slight relief is “not enough”. Just like the rehab example: relief is to feeling good as learning to bear weight on your legs is to running.

There’s not a single skill you’ve ever learned that didn’t start with the most modest attempt. Children must learn to sit up before they can stand, stand before they can walk, and walk before they can run. At not a single point do they beat themselves up for not running straight away.

Feeling good is something you’ve never deliberately practiced before. Cut yourself all the slack in the world and practice feeling relief, and applaud yourself every time you do!

It’s a game…06!

The whole point of feeling better consistently is that we can finally arrive at a point where real love is within reach.

Genuine love for ourselves and others is something we experience when we are in alignment with our inner being, what we sometimes call God.

But feeling better is like any practiced skill. You can’t go to the heights of skill right away.

I can’t start learning the piano and immediately begin playing my favourite pieces. They are too advanced.

But I can keep improving, and if I focus on improving then eventually my favourite pieces will be the next logical step in my improvement.

So while it’s good to be inspired by advanced pieces, it’s also very helpful to focus on improvement as our daily practice and source of satisfaction. Improvement is always within reach, even when Schubert isn’t.

The same applies to “feeling better” by finding relief, and “feeling wonderful” which is a point we will inevitably arrive at by practicing feeling better.

Feel better, find relief, practice that direction and wonderful feelings are inevitably in your path.

Take satisfaction in feeling better and finding relief, and you will master it even more easily.

And relief is so powerful. It can be used on everything. So even when impatience and doubt about your path strike you, look for relief. When you beat yourself up for feeling bad, find relief. When you find past traumas cropping up, find relief. And even when you have sudden insights and clarity and moments of elation, enjoy them but don’t forget relief.

After a time you’ll see all kinds of themes and patterns at play in your life. Just don’t give up. Keep finding relief and you will grow so strong and so sure in it that you will be able to soften any discord in your path, ease the turbulence that sometimes strikes, and find your way assuredly to the feelings of inner love, joy, freedom and contentment you seek.

Practicing happiness 14

Hello readers! I hope you’re all having a beautiful day!

Today I’ve been learning about schema therapy, and how we form patterns of beliefs in childhood that tend to dominate our adult lives.

It’s very similar to the Abraham-Hicks teachings, and another point on the map as I explore feeling better and finding better-feeling thoughts.

Lately my practice of feeling better has blossomed into full-fledged feeling good. I’ve found reliable avenues of practicing good feelings, and with that consistent practice I’m allowing more and more good feeling to flow into the rest of my day.

We make it complicated, but it really is so simple. Just feel better no matter what.

And that’s not a pressure to apply, it’s a skill to practice for your own direct benefit. If anything it’s about relieving the pressure.

We like to think we’d feel good if circumstances were different…but mostly our circumstances are what they are because we don’t know how to feel good.

But once you identify that you can choose thoughts that feel better (or thoughts that feel worse) you then have your hand on the remote. You have the control over how you feel, it just takes practice and consistency to reach a place of generally feeling better.

I can’t speak to your habits of thought, but mine were pretty bad. And I felt pretty bad too. My answer to feeling bad was to throw myself harder into escape attempts. I kept trying to understand the whole dynamic of my inner and outer worlds, convinced that I could then “overcome” suffering and “escape” unwanted experiences.

Feel bad, try harder, fail, feel worse, rinse and repeat.

Yet all it’s taken to feel better is…to feel better. Well actually I started with “feel less bad”. Bit by bit, with modest advances I practiced feeling less bad about things.

Nearly three years on its funny to look back and see the slow stop-and-start progress, punctuated by dramatic efforts that grew less and less frantic, until finally I couldn’t deny that “feel better” was what actually worked.

My aim is no longer to escape or overcome or transform myself…just to feel good. Because feeling good feels really good, and that’s all I really wanted all this time.

Practicing happiness 06

This series is a way of keeping me focused and honest with myself. Am I really practicing feeling better? Or am I going off on interesting tangents?

Tangents are fine, but the habit of ignoring how I feel is not fine.

Feel better is the bottom line, and it deserves to be my primary focus.

Over time it’s becoming clearer that I’m just not used to feeling better. Used to running off intellectually? Yes. But that hasn’t brought me the lasting happiness I desire.

Perhaps intellectual escape served me for a time. Perhaps it was better than the alternatives. But I have new alternatives now.

Maybe it sounds strange to say I must get serious about feeling better. Yet it’s an easy work and a light burden.

All it takes is practice. And my unwillingness to practice will dissipate in time.

Letting go 09: when spiritual struggle is an obstacle

My fascination with solving problems and searching for deep and meaningful answers has been the central theme of my life for more than twenty years.

This is my personal form of assertion: an attempt to take control of my life after concluding that life itself could not be trusted to bring me happiness.

I embraced this struggle via forms of mysticism that encouraged my negative view of life. With a deeply melancholic perspective I believed there was nothing worth striving for, nothing worth attaining, nothing that could bring lasting happiness in this lifetime.

Except to transcend it all; to find a state of being the mystics spoke of, where reality was transformed as the individual became united with the ultimate reality, the ground of all being.

Spiritual cynicism

You know the Socratic injunction that “wisest is he who knows his wisdom is worth nothing”? That’s supposed to be an insight earned through experience, not something to memorise and move on. It’s not wise to be a kid who parrots nuggets of philosophical wisdom.

But that was me. I took onboard a slew of sayings and aphorisms. I read the books they came from. I immersed myself in spiritual texts and tried to see the world through the eyes of these enlightened teachers, saints, and sages.

But this whole effort was an epic work of assertion. I was no different from a kid who thinks he can be president or a kid who wants to be a billionaire.

The only difference is that I thought spiritual enlightenment was going to be more powerful, more desirable, and more enduring than those “worldly” aims.

My struggle resembled a strange, entirely introspective version of the kind of person who chases after “get rich quick” schemes. Get enlightened quick, I guess.

But I never found myself willing to practice or pick a pathway or a discipline. I just wanted to work it all out myself using all the available resources.

And I’m not entirely wrong

And yeah, I’m not entirely wrong. I’ve seen in other areas of life like Kung Fu a similar struggle to master or attain an answer to my questions.

The answer eventually came. I just made it more of a struggle than it needed to be. A lot more.

Desperation doesn’t yield results. If we want answers we have to be in the right mode to receive them.

My spiritual quest is therefore two things. It’s an actual path of learning, experience, and progress; and it’s a massive assertion of control as well. It’s my attempt to force reality to comply with my wishes. It’s a hammer I use to feel like I’m shaping my life the way I want it to be.

That second part just doesn’t work at all.

And it arises out of fear. It’s an action-pathway I took to assuage feelings of misalignment, hopelessness and powerlessness. It’s something I crafted to give me a sense of being more than the dismal world I saw around me, to be more than the disappointing self I seemed to be.

Reconciliation

I can give up the spiritual struggle, and profound thoughts and wisdom will probably still appeal to me.

I’ll probably still be someone who cares about meaning and purpose and existence.

What I want to stop doing is using my spiritual search as the answer to negative feelings of fear and insecurity. Because it isn’t an answer, just a course of action, an assertion of control that hinges on an outcome.

Those negative feelings need to be acknowledged and faced on their own terms, not silenced and avoided with vague promises of enlightenment and transformation.

Owning up to feelings of envy and jealousy, inferiority and shame, insecurity and fear can be really tough. But letting them fester in the background doesn’t nullify them either.

And with the Abraham-Hicks teachings I’ve learned that these feelings aren’t bad: they’re guidance showing me that my thoughts, my vibration, is out of alignment with God/inner being.

That’s actually a good thing. Our negative feelings mean we’re looking at things in the wrong way.

In the past two and a half years I’ve practiced many tools for changing how I feel. I didn’t have these tools when I was younger. It makes sense that I would seize on the ideal of enlightenment to try to overcome those bad feelings.

But now I have the strength and the skills to face them directly and soothe them. I can accomplish real vibrational change instead of looking for escape.

Letting go day 01

A series on “letting go” seemed wrong a couple of weeks ago, but now I feel the need for it.

Clarity is good, but I don’t just want clarity. I also want ease and trust and letting go.

In the martial art I learn, it’s just not possible to focus on every aspect each time we train. As much as I wanted there to be a single correct way of training, there are many different aspects that need to be kept up turn by turn if you want to progress.

It reminds me of a story from the Zhuangzi:

‘I have heard my master say that they who skilfully nourish their life are like shepherds, who whip up the sheep that they see lagging behind.’

‘What did he mean?’ asked the duke.

The reply was, ‘In Lû there was a Shan Pâo, who lived among the rocks, and drank only water. He would not share with the people in their toils and the benefits springing from them; and though he was now in his seventieth year, he had still the complexion of a child. Unfortunately he encountered a hungry tiger, which killed and ate him.

There was also a Kang Î, who hung up a screen at his lofty door, and to whom all the people hurried (to pay their respects). In his fortieth year, he fell ill of a fever and died.

(Of these two men), Pâo nourished his inner man, and a tiger ate his outer; while Î nourished his outer man, and disease attacked his inner. Both of them neglected whipping up their lagging sheep.’

I’m hoping this series will remind me each day to let go and trust, and enjoy the ease that comes from it. I’m hoping it will take me deeper and deeper into letting go and allowing my life to unfold without resistance.

Feel good all day 11

Up til now I’ve practiced feeling good about things in my life and it’s improved my baseline mood to the point where I can feel good all day.

Reaching a new stage like “feeling good all day” naturally raises my expectations and desire for more. Contrast helps me focus on what I want, higher levels of feeling good.

Without planning or trying I’ve started to address thoughts and feelings closer to home and my own self and identity.

These are thoughts about my self-worth and how I carry myself in the world; and it’s exciting and gratifying to feel that all my focus on feeling better is now transforming the bedrock of my daily life.

It feels good to feel good. This tautology applies as much to my thoughts about myself as to thoughts about the world.

I don’t worry about world events anymore because it feels good to trust that everything is unfolding according to a higher plan.

And in the same way I can feel proud of myself for all I have accomplished. The feeling of pride and appreciation is accessible right now, and no action is required (or able) to justify or earn it.

The old patterns of thought I created were to protect me from painful emotions. I don’t need them anymore because the answer to painful emotions is not defensiveness or protection but a deliberate practice of finding better-feeling thoughts instead.

Inspired Feeling for INFP-Melancholics

When an INFP’s introverted Feeling function (Fi) is working well it integrates the auxiliary Ne, tertiary Si and inferior Te perfectly.

When Fi isn’t working the other functions come into play without balance or support and we end up grasping for genius ideas (Ne), trying to remember what worked before (Si), or looking for some kind of irrefutable logic to apply (Te).

How to use Fi (and why we don’t)

Fi at its most powerful is like an actor becoming a role he loves and knows inside and out.

Fi is knowing how things are supposed to feel and it draws on the other three functions to inform it.

Using Fi in this way is powerful but can feel a little fake. Being able to slip in and out of different roles or characters with ease seems too easy or strange, and we can feel insecure about our authentic self.

For example, when I learned to sing in a choir I simply imitated the kind of voice I was “supposed” to have. It took some confidence, and giving myself permission to do it. From my point of view I wasn’t singing with my voice, just imitating the inspired ideal of voices.

But for me that’s what singing is.

Singing in a small church choir was a pretty low-stakes game, and that’s why I could give myself permission to “pretend” to be a singer.

In other areas of life when it seems like the stakes are higher INFPs risk doubting and distrusting their Fi ability.

For example, in martial arts we’re warned against being someone who looks the part but has no true skill or power.

An INFP can take this to heart and reject the Fi approach, searching instead for a more authentic or objective basis of skill.

Building trust in Fi

I think without practice our Fi abilities fall into two categories. There are low-stakes contexts where we use Fi easily, and for that reason don’t prize it.

Then there are higher-stakes contexts where we distrust Fi because it feels unreal. And because we distrust it, we don’t practice it or explore it. It remains dormant or dislocated.

I think the answer is to learn to engage Fi and remain inspired by it even while practicing and improving our skills.

Imagine you’re learning to play the violin. You already have a Fi image of what it looks like, the feel of a highly skilled violinist.

But you don’t have the basic skills yet, and the gap between your skill level and the Fi image of playing like a concertmaster or world-renowned soloist is….embarrassing.

So instead of drawing on that feeling, you think “I’ll practice until I’m good enough and then I’ll start acting like it”.

But it won’t work that way because you’re rejecting your most powerful function out of embarrassment and fear. The fear of “who do you think you are?”

Practice with Feeling

The solution is to do both. Stand inside your Fi image of the highest skill and accomplishment, and bring that to your practice, no matter how basic or beginner-level it is.

Use the Fi to keep you inspired and engaged, facing toward your goal. And instead of looking like a fool or coming across as pretentious, you will bring to your practice the focus and sincerity of the very mastery you desire.

When a master of one instrument comes to learn another they don’t blush and cringe at their mistakes. They don’t cower and slouch like they have no idea what they are doing.

They bring the full bearing of their existing mastery into the practice, with the openness and patience of one who knows they have much to learn.

Anything less is self-sabotage.

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.

Feel good all day 8

Contrast never goes away.

There will always be unwanted aspects in our experience, but that’s how we expand and grow.

We can’t rid ourselves of contrast, but we can change how we relate to it.

With practice we can even welcome it, knowing that contrast is the first sign of new creation and evolution.

We never stop honing our craft. Never stop refining our desires. Never stop growing in our capacity for joy and appreciation.

That’s why the saints came to love suffering. Not as masochists or some weird emotional inversion but because the unwanted is the launching point for new desire, the movement of the spirit and the coming into being of a new creation. At every unwanted moment they look with anticipation for God’s response.

If you practice feeling better and soothing painful thoughts you’ll naturally apply these skills to contrast that arises in your life. And if you find the contrast too difficult or too tumultuous, focus on feeling ease and relief instead.

You don’t need to create drama or exacerbate contrast. Life can be easy, if you allow it to be.