Spirituality Does Not Mean ‘Easy’
I am guilty of a most false assumption: “Everything in my life will go smoothly since I am on a spiritual journey.”
Isn’t that cute?
What a rude awakening to find out that I’m not always going to get my way from that God that I have always loved and tried to please!
My first clue into this was the drive from Missouri to Florida right after being married. My new husband and I were enjoying the scenery, albeit a little lost. My husband pulled into a gas station to ask for directions (yeah, I got a winner) while I waited in the car. Out of nowhere, I was suddenly filled with jealous thoughts: “What if he finds someone in there more attractive than me? What if he finds her more interesting? What if? What if? What if?!”
I was never jealous with previous boyfriends–not once. My attitude was, “Hey, if you want to date someone else, go right ahead. I don’t need to waste my time.” These thoughts that surfaced during our honeymoon trek came as a disarming and alien surprise.
At the time, I didn’t know what to do with jealousy, and was quite embarrassed and overwhelmed by the emotions. I tried to hide what I was feeling, but didn’t do so well. Fortunately, my husband was kind enough to talk me through my feelings.
…Which would have been great if all I needed to do was talk! I felt better in the moment, but those feelings were only a taste of what was to come. I had a whole slew of faulty childhood beliefs that were surfacing to be healed. This was what my spiritual journey was to be for several years: Clearing false beliefs from my childhood–not just jealousy, but a series of dysfunctional attitudes and concepts about relationships overall.
What the heck? I wanted to be married and live happily ever after! I wanted to ride off into the sunset, live on the beach, and be eternally wise and wonderful! That emotional work was getting in my way of my FUN! How dare it!
I eventually learned that this is the spiritual process, and healing needs showed up in all areas of life: my relationships, career endeavors, and how I perceived myself. Even those who wouldn’t consider themselves on the spiritual journey have issues that arise to be healed. This clearing of false beliefs, shedding light on what is real and true (until the next round of clearing!) is what this journey is about! It is simply part of our journey as humans moving into Something Greater.
How disappointing, I have thought–at first and many times since then! Yet, how necessary to be able to move forward unimpeded by my fears and false assumptions. How much stronger my intuition became because of my willingness to do the work. What better life choices I have made because of my willingness to let go of my lesser ideas of “fun” and short-sighted ways of doing things.
The spiritual journey is about clearing away our personal ideas of what is real, valid and important; and open to our intuitive nature that knows what is better for us. Our Higher Self waits for us to loose our little wills and cooperate with the bigger picture that can only be perceived when we tap into it! And we can’t tap into it while we hold fears and wrong ideas about whatever situation is at hand.
The spiritual journey takes diligence, willingness, and spunk. What are you willing to let go of so you can grow?
Love Encourages Change
Each new year brings new energy and desire for change! Often when we have something we want to change in ourselves, the first response we have is anger, frustration, rejection. We then try to go about our desired change with a hammer over our heads!
How many of us do well while getting bossed around, criticized and rejected? It might work for a little while—or a long while, if we are super-tolerant—but after a time, we stop trying so hard, or try to get away from the hammer, thus avoiding the task at hand.
We do better at change when we have encouragement, acceptance and a caring eye guiding us in the new behavior.
Who is the best person to do that for you? Maybe you have a supportive friend, or an encouraging therapist. But you are with you all the time! You are the one who will walk with you through all of the ups and downs of life!
Here are a few ways to encourage yourself through any change you want to make:
A little love goes a long way to melt raw materials and create a masterpiece. Take a best friend with you into 2014…YOU! Happy New Year, and happy new YOU!
Sympathy or Empathy?
There is often much confusion about offering sympathy or empathy. What is the difference? Which is appropriate, and when.
When I was at Unity School (now Unity Institute) taking a spiritual counseling class, our teacher, Dr. Robert Brumet, gave an impactful visual demonstration of the difference between sympathy and empathy. He approached one student and said, “Oh, you have a pen! Can I hold it?” The student handed him the pen. “This is a pen? How wonderful! Do you like it? Does it write well? Thanks for sharing with me!” Dr. Brumet then proceeded to walk away from the student—carrying the student’s pen!
“That’s sympathy,” he told us.
Then he walked up to another student and asked to see that student’s pen. He looked at the pen, turned it side to side, nodded understandingly, and handed it back to the student before walking away.
“That is empathy.”
This demonstrated that sympathy is taking on someone else’s problem as our own, carrying it with us, trying to solve it, worrying about it or taking control of it. It can disempower the rightful owner of the problem, taking away the learning opportunity inherent in every challenge.
Dr. Brumet’s demonstration defined empathy as understanding another person’s problem, seeing it for what it is, allowing them to resolve it as they deem necessary, and empowering them through our belief in their own competency.
When my husband and I first began processing together, he taught me the concept of “holding the space”. Holding the space simply means being a compassionate but neutral listener, open to guidance that might support the speaker. Is this not what therapy is in essence? If he shared his process with me, and I walked away with it as my own, how would that help either of us?
In our work towards emotional healing, carrying around another person’s pain adds the pain of one person too many! We have our own work to do! While we can understand and support others, we do not have to solve their problems. What a relief!
Imagine Your Awakening
The power to imagine will ease you into something greater than where you are right now. Let your imagination awaken you to new possibilities!
Love Is the Answer
Jane Elizabeth Hart, author of Spiritual Power Tools, would often say in her classes, “Love is the answer. What is the question?”
She was reminding us that every day provides opportunities to love—and not just the easy ones. As her students, we would ask her, “What do I do about this person? What do I need to do to forgive and release them from my life?” At times, underneath such questions was the ulterior motive of either making the person change or wanting them out of our lives altogether! Jane Elizabeth would respond with the bottom line answer: Love.
This was our direction: That no matter how much processing, forgiving and releasing we do, our action step is still the same: to love unconditionally, without judgment or hesitation. Her question became a tool in the midst of difficult interactions. We could ask our selves, “If I were coming from love, how would I act?”
At Christmastime, there is an energy of love which opens our hearts to giving and receiving love. Let your Christmas intention be to share love freely, especially with those more difficult characters in your Christmas story.
Love is the answer. What was the question?
Now that we are in full swing of the Lenten season, what have you released for this time? Are you spending your energy staying away from chocolate or sugar? Or have you decided to release something that will make even more of a difference to your Soul? Even if you have no investment in the traditional Lenten season, how about ditching guilt and resentment towards yourself for a while?
It is so much easier to forgive other people, isn’t it? I mean, we don’t have to live with those people (not the easy ones to forgive, anyway), so why should we hold a grudge against them? But our own selves? We have to see our own thinking and behavior every single day! That starts building up after a while. And if we find out we have been wrong? Watch out! We pull that guilt hammer out and start hitting ourselves with it so quickly!
How do we release these regrets and resentments directed at oursleves?
First of all, find out what you need to forgive about yourself. Acknowledge it, understand it, label it. This helps us have something more concrete to release rather than it being an abstract, generalized ideal. For example, seeing times when I have been impatient with others over time is much easier to forgive than trying to forgive myself for being a “bad person” over all. “Bad person” doesn’t teach me anything, nor does it give me new choices for my behavior. Impatience, on the other hand, I can grasp, and it has the alternative of being patient.
Secondly, speaking of patience, be patient as you transition from the old behavior that you are releasing to the new behavior. You might have heard the saying, “A habit wasn’t created over night,” meaning that it won’t be changed overnight either. You have acknowledged, understood and labeled your behavior, now let yourself practice the new behavior, with a gentle and wide learning curve.
Finally, during this transition, add energy to the positive choices you make, and quickly pass by the times you fall into the old behaviors. Yes, see that you missed your desired mark, but move on quickly! Don’t let that old hammer have time to resume its flagellating! Take time to feel gratitude toward yourself for your new behavior.
Forgiveness is not just about stating that we are suddenly just peachy about ourselves. It is about making changes, with compassion, and moving into a new way of being with ourselves. Enjoy your chocolate, and give up the guilt!
Lynn Barrette, LCSW Blending psychology with spirituality, I offer tools for forgiveness, acceptance, meditation and relaxation, and positive parenting solutions.