Tuesday, June 24, 2014

How To Detoxify From Negativity, Part 1

This week, I had planned on having my regular Tuesday blog entry with an additional youtube video to accompany it.  The video was intended to be a lighthearted demonstration of things you can do to lighten your mood which contained concrete demonstrations of techniques like "Theta Yogic Breathing" side by side with silliness like wearing a tiara or sliding down a kid's slide.  That didn't work out.  So today, I don't have a video to present along with this blog.  But I do have an example of not going negative to tell.  The reason the video didn't work out is largely due to a lack of planning on my part.  In the past, when I have posted something on youtube like that, I have scripted out at least a rough outline of what I wanted to say and blocked out where I wanted each shot to take place.  This video, inspired by the promise of tiaras and swing sets, was much more casual.  The end result just didn't get the more polished, yet fun, flavor for which I had been aiming.  I could have tailspun into a huge self hate fest.  "I can't do anything right!  I'm a failure!  What was I thinking even trying anything like that? OMG I'm so ugly.  Who would want to see me on a video anyway?"

Honestly, if you had known me somewhere around 20 years ago, all of those things would have been said, plus many more.  Now, what I do instead is to treat that video shoot like a dress rehearsal.  Evaluate what worked and what didn't work.  Since I had already promoted the hoped for video on Facebook, I "shared" one of the funnier clips there.  (https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10203290788104749&set=vb.1661313822&type=2&theater&notif_t=like)

Sooooo …  One of our first tasks is to identify exactly what is negativity.  Just last night, while joking around, I realized the last 10 statements which had come out of my mouth could be seen as being very negative.  I had been thinking of them as more of a stand up routine.  Continuing in the same vein, I simply added this comment, "Excuse me Universe, I really don't mean any of this as a complaint and I'm not intending to be negative.  Consider this my warm up act."  I believe that is a valid way of looking at the situation.  What you say matters immensely.  The only things which might matter just a tiny bit more are why you thought or said it and what emotions you were feeling at the time.

Some negativity is easy to spot.  Perhaps it's the worrier who keeps you from sleeping.  The voice who counts your bills and is sure you won't have enough money.  Perhaps it's the critic who tells you you're old or fat or just unattractive.  Or the one who tells you you're not good enough or smart enough.

Some negativity is more pervasive and is so a part of our society we can never completely escape it.  An easy way to explain it, I think, is to consider the now very famous Mother Theresa quote.

"I was once asked why I don't participate in anti-war demonstrations.  I said that I will never do that, but as soon as you have a pro-peace rally, I'll be there."

She is demonstrating a core principle of the Law of Attraction.  Focus on what you want instead of focusing on what you don't want.   Simply by saying "anti-war" you are focusing on war.  Words have power.  When you give something a name, you give it power.  When you invoke the name (or say it,) you give it power.  An anti-war rally is giving "war" power.  Think about the Law of Attraction.  Power equals energy.  Energy translates into vibrational frequencies.  We are always trying to transmit at a positive frequency rather than a negative one.  So Mother Theresa was telling you not to talk about war, but to talk about peace.  Put your energy into a positive frequency rather than a negative one.

There is a sad but inescapable side track I find it hard not to glance at.  It is one thing to consider this on a personal level.  We can be as present and aware as we can.  We can notice the words we use and the feelings behind saying them.  We can learn to become more positive.  On a societal level is where it becomes very disturbing.  We simply do not have "pro-peace rallies" at any level.  Overwhelmingly we focus on what we don't want.  I think we do that out of our fear.  We're afraid if we don't acknowledge the negative, if we don't speak up about it, it will win.  Well we are speaking up about it.  We are acknowledging it.  Yet it isn't losing or going away.  Maybe it's time to try something different.

Anyway, on a personal level, we can do something different.  An easy first step to detoxifying yourself from negativity, is to take a fast from watching the news or stop watching it altogether.  I keep up with the news by simply following a couple of key news sources on Facebook and letting them scroll through my Home page like anything else I am following.  There are times that still ends up too much news and I cut a few sources.  For some people this will be a very hard, if not impossible, thing to do.  We're afraid of looking stupid.  We think if everybody else knows there was an earthquake in another country, yet we do not, we'll be judged as being less or stupid somehow.  Some part of us believes it is important to know about everything that happens.

Let's break it down with the second part first.  It is impossible to know everything that happens.  End of story.  But the more relevant something that happens is to you, the sooner you will inevitably know it.  If an earthquake is happening in your city, you will probably know it faster than anyone can tell you.  Working in a circular pattern out from your city, the closer it is, the more it may impact you and the more you may impact it.  The closer it is, the sooner you will know about it naturally.  For one thing, while you are listening to music or watching a movie instead of the news, the more local it is to you, the more likely they will interrupt your programming with the news.  Think about it.  If the only news you got was when they interrupt with an Emergency Broadcast Notice or an Amber Alert, is it possible that might actually be enough?

I know, I know.  If you didn't listen to more news than that, how could you keep track of Obama or Monsanto or whatever is your personal pet peeve?  First, "Impeach Obama" and "Boycott Monsanto."  Are those negative energy or positive energy?  Wouldn't the positive energy statements be closer to something about electing Effective Honest Politicians and supporting healthy produce and foods?

Focus on what you want not on what you don't want.

We already know that we live in a very negative society.  Rather than thinking about what we can do to be profitable as a country, we focus on the debt.  Nearly every rally is an anti-something rally.  An obvious and very human skill set for avoiding something is to leave the vicinity.  Remove yourself from the room.  Or in the case of society and the news, simply turn it off or unplug.  Trust the news that you need will find its way to you.

Oh and as for the worry you will be judged.  Anybody who is judging you, are they in a positive state or a negative state?  Your worry.  Negative or positive?  Back to that negative voice in the head.  Those racing thoughts that keep you awake at night and keep you from peace and self confidence.  There is a technique for those called "Theta Yogic Breathing."  Your brain has two hemispheres.  Left and right.  The theory is, as I understand it, that racing thoughts occur because your brain is firing rapid fire from the same hemisphere rather than shifting back and forth between them.  Your nose has two holes.  Using "Theta Yogic Breathing," you intentionally breathe in through one nostril and out through the other in order to break up the one hemisphere stream and get your thoughts oscillating again.

What you do is:  First, test your nostrils.  Frequently one side will be slightly clogged up and harder to breathe through.  Choose the more open nostril.  Putting a finger over the opposite nostril and plugging it, breathe in for a count of 3.  Hold that breath and pinch both nostrils for a count of 6.  Put your finger over the nostril you breathed in through and breathe out the opposite nostril for a count of 3.  Repeat this for 7 breaths.

Any of these anti-negativity techniques you hear about or learn, some will work well for some people while other people will respond better to something else.  The trick is finding the techniques that help you.  If you find that "Theta Yogic Breathing" works well for you, there are many other breathing techniques you might want to look into.  Some can be very effective at diminishing your negativity, while others have been used by athletes and can be very motivational.  For now, if the breathing really works for you, consider this variation.  During the part where you are holding your breath, visualize your negativity in that breath you are holding.  Perhaps it is a dark violent or ugly color.  Perhaps it is pale and sickly looking.  Perhaps thick and smokey.  Whatever that negativity looks like to you, picture it being held and then expelling from your body on that outward breath.  Picture a beautiful clean and vibrant opposite color for that air you are breathing in.

Ok .. maybe next time I'll have that video.  Or maybe not.  Let's both be surprised.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Pockets of Negativity

Back in March of this year, I was at a Hay House Writing Workshop listening to Doreen Virtue when the negative Nelly who has resided in my head nearly all of my life, channeled my father.  I'm listening to this delightful, positive woman who seems to genuinely connect with the panel members who have lined up at a microphone to ask questions.  She connects and gives each of them a book that is cherry picked to address whatever issue they asked their question about.  I am moved.  I am inspired.  I am happy.   In my head my father says, "They only do that as a marketing scam, you know.  She knows that for every book she gives away, you idiots will buy six more."

That's all it takes.  For that moment, I am caught.  Stuck in a pothole of disillusionment.  I snagged my hopes, my aspirations, and my dreams on a submerged limiting belief which hadn't even originally been  my own.  It had been my father's.  I still remember why he felt that way.  Sometime during his childhood, he sent away for Christmas ornaments.  I think they were supposed to glow in the dark.  I really can't remember anymore.  When they arrived, rather than being real Christmas ornaments as he was led to believe, they were paper.  Not origami.  Flat, two dimensional paper, as in just a drawing of the item he thought he had been going to receive.  It became a defining moment in his life.  It made him a bit of a skeptic.  Certainly he wasn't someone who would trust again once trust was betrayed, but truthfully, it seemed it also made him look for the catch or the lie even while the ball was still in play.   He was looking to be burned.

That.  That pothole of disillusionment.  That "looking to be burned."  That is why the Law of Attraction doesn't work for so many people.  If you believe in something, you have to believe in it.  Whole heartedly even in the face of it looking like a lie.  You must not only talk the talk, you must walk the walk, you must "be" what you believe.  For the Law of Attraction, that means you can't be looking to be burned.  You need to be excited about the possibilities and certain good things are always on the horizon.   You have to see every red light and traffic jam for the good things it may bring you rather than the irritation of it disturbing the flow of your day.

The first step is to ask yourself what do I really believe?  Take all of the things you've learned over the years throw them in the same pot as what you believe or has been handed down to you about God, the universe and everything else and shake them around together.  Look at where they actually seem to converse with each other and make sense to you.  Tell yourself your own story of what life is all about, who we are, what happens when we die.  Whatever life's mysterious questions, tell yourself the story that makes sense to you.  Tell yourself the story that answers all of your questions.

Have you ever played that game where person number 1 whispers something and by the time person number 10 is whispering the same secret to person number 1, it has morphed into a different sentence entirely?  With the exception of those who believe they have had a direct experience with God, everything from the Bible to a pastor's weekly sermon is fed to you via someone else's perceptions.  It is filtered through them just like a suspicion of salesmen was filtered to me by my dad.  In my opinion, you simply owe it to yourself to suss it out and figure out what makes sense logically to you.  You don't have to share it with anyone.  It is just your personal "backstage" to how everything works that enables you to believe the action "on stage" is real.

I can give you my own example.  I believe in the First Law of Thermodynamics.  Energy is neither created nor destroyed.  Arguably, each and every one of us is or has a certain amount of energy.  I tend to think of energy as flowing through humanity as water cycles through weather.  Now while it doesn't reassure me as to whether I will remember being me or not, this does give me a notion of death and the afterlife.  Energy cannot be destroyed.  So that part of me that is energy will not die.  It must go on to somewhere.  It supports the Law of Attraction for me.  Energy has positive and negative charges, just as our personalities and windows on the world do.   I can explain a lot more aspects about it, but for our purposes, that is what I believe.  By extension, you could say, that is who I am.

So it's March in San Francisco, I'm stuck in a negative pothole while listening to the very lovely Doreen Virtue talk, and suddenly the answer shocks me near to standing up.


It's like the riddle about the two men guarding doors.  One of the doors has certain death, the other has freedom.  One of the doors has a man guarding it who always tells the truth, the other has a man who always lies.  The man who always tells the truth (or for my purposes "believes") is the path to the right door and life.  The riddle's answer is:  You ask each man the following question.  "If I ask the other man which door to pick, which door will he pick?"  Then you walk through the opposite door.   You see, the man who always lies, when asked which door the man who always tells the truth will choose, will lie.  The man who always tells the truth, when asked which door the man who always lies will choose, will tell the truth.  So both answers will point at the lie, or in other words, the door that would kill you.

So I asked myself, "What if she is telling the truth?  What if she believes every word she is saying?"  At the core of the Law of Attraction is a belief in abundance.  There is no need to compete because there is more than enough for everyone.  The accompanying positivity adds being grateful and happy about every bill you pay and hoping the recipient gets wealthy in part because of you.  Why not?  I don't need you to be poor for me to be rich or vice versa.

And it was just like the riddle.  I knew.  If I believe that she believes what she is saying, then she believes what she is saying and she believes there is no need to compete and in that case ….  no need to scam.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Change (aka Why I am one of the Luckiest People on the Planet)

A long time ago I had a very sad lunch with a friend I didn't know all that well whose marriage was ending.  It was a strange situation in that she had incorporated me into her circle of friends to the point where she felt comfortable asking a very large favor (the one I was being treated to lunch for doing,) but I had always thought of her as a "friend of a friend."  "People pleaser" that I am, I did the favor even though it took me more than 50 miles out of my way on my day off.

It wasn't a very fun lunch and the food was not especially memorable.  What stays with me is the conversation surrounding her soon to be ex-husband, although we didn't actually know it yet then.  The chorus to her complaints was always, "He's changed.  Why did he change?  I didn't change."

My challenge of the day became how many ways I could think of to tell her, "Change is good.  People change.  It's a good thing.  People are supposed to change."

While I was never sure he meant it as a compliment, my ex-husband used to say to me:  "You are constantly reinventing yourself."  Now I realize it is probably one of the best and most advantageous things about me.  I have embraced change for most of my adult life and I have never made a change which didn't bring me more happiness.  The changes my ex-husband witnessed were mostly of the surface variety.  He met and married me as a Clerk-Typist working at Mare Island.  For a year or two afterwards, I worked as a Secretary and then chose to down size to working part time at a bookstore while I "worked" towards my true passion, writing.  Of course that drifted to community college classes and the growth of my other passion, photography.  For awhile, I created fine art photography and actually sold it at galleries and shows.

An underlying theme in my choices has always been freedom.  Freedom of time.  Freedom of choice.  The ever present itch for freedom always made me suspect that wedding or product photography would kill the passion inside me.  Even if I could think of an outlet for my writing in a pre-Blogger world, chances are copywriting or articles would be equally suspect.  The thing that makes the artist starve is their own artistic attitude and an unwillingness to compromise.

I need to take a moment and express my appreciation that I was able to make those changes.  I know my ex-husband wasn't happy about them, yet I was lucky enough to do them anyway.  I am blessed two fold.  First, that I have had wonderful people along the way who enabled me to change, whether they were totally onboard with the idea or not.  Second, that I have always embraced change.

You know I don't mean simply the transition from Clerk-Typist to Photographer.  Although a lot of my changes do include physical aspects, it is the accompanying emotional aspects for which I am the most grateful.

Let me give you an example of how they actually work in tandem.  Somewhere near the end of my marriage, I decided I wanted to learn how to build a computer.  My father had recently purchased one put together by a Mare Island retiree and it really didn't seem like that big of a deal.  I thought you could fine tune a computer to be more what you wanted or needed if you built one yourself.  I thought maybe you could build more computer for less than you might pay otherwise.  Mostly, I wanted a good media computer because I was getting sick and tired of discovering new and wonderful music in movies only to find no one "in charge" thought it was worthy of being released on a soundtrack.  It might seem like a big leap, from Clerk-Typist to Computer Geek, but when you frame it under "Recording Geek" it might make more sense.  Especially if I tell you that a few years earlier I mapped out what I needed to do to transfer reel to reel tape family home recordings onto audio cassette and did the work myself.

Around the same time as when I got the itch to build a computer, my ex-husband's work was buying new computers and selling the old ones for a cheap price to their employees.  I saw an opportunity.  After several months, a nearly rebuilt computer and several thousand "God dammit's" screamed by me in of all places our living room,  he convinced me to pay someone else to build one.  Honestly, it was one of the defining reasons I later concluded we were incompatible.  See, I may have been born with the self esteem to attempt building my own computer like that, but I lost it for many years along the way.  I had already changed nine or ten times just to build up the self esteem to believe I could do that.  Finding out that the only reason my re-built computer didn't work as well as the paid for one was because I had underestimated the aspect of Dell propriety software interwoven in the Bios and Windows operating system changed me an eleventh time and probably pushed me towards the self esteem I needed to believe I could get a divorce.

I believe change is unavoidable and by extension an essential component of being alive.  Say no to change and you find yourself being an accomplice to a tiny portion of your own demise.  Oddly my father was actually a fan of change, or at least the growth of technology, and one of his favorite notions was that of a "paradigm shift."  A paradigm shift as explained and paraphrased via Wikipedia is a change in the basic assumptions, or paradigms, within the ruling theory of science.  Among my family it morphed into less of a term about science and more of a term about society.  We live in times where an individual can actually experience multiple societal paradigm shifts in his own lifetime.  Don't believe me?  Just think about all of the different ways you have played or recorded music at home and let your brain wander to as many of the accompanying changes that had to happen as you can imagine.  Darwin's theory of the Survival of the Fittest was referring not to the strongest as popularly presumed, but the "Most Adaptable to Change."  When those societal paradigm shifts occur, those most adaptable to change just bob and weave along with them.

Even the most reluctant to change have it thrust upon them as they age.  One day you look at the "Sexiest Man Alive" cover of People magazine and think who the hell is that?  You never realize you've been listening to your favorite high school songs for decades until you hear them in some venue calling them "oldies."

Change is good.  People change.  It's a good thing.  People are supposed to change.

Lately I've realized it doesn't come without a price.  Perhaps more than one.  The one I have encountered recently are the people you leave behind.  A lot of people don't choose change and have only the amount that is inevitable.  For someone like me, chasing change like a spiritualist chases enlightenment, only I can really grasp how much I've changed.  Put it this way, not that long ago the person who was me would have been completely intimidated by the me I am now.  She would have noticed my confidence and the ease of my smile.  Depending on which earlier sister, she may have been jealous and hated me or she may have wanted to hang out with me and hoped that whatever I had was contagious.  I can make that guess, colored with emotional speculations, because I have scattered friends lost along the way.  The losses of a paradigm shift between my view of the world and theirs.  We transitioned from chatting buddies to strangers who no longer knew what to say to each other.  The worst part is that sometimes as we part ways and they are stating their case, I know exactly what they mean.  I just no longer feel the same way.   I won't lie to you.  I have suffered heartbreaking losses this way.  Yet it was still worth it.  I still say I am one of the luckiest people on the planet.

Did you hear the part about "I never made a change which didn't bring me more happiness?"

The greatest gift my childhood gave me was a model of how I didn't want to behave.  My parents had good intentions, but like many, neither the training nor experience to confidently pull off a "No Loss" job.  Those losses as well as those wins shaped me into the person I am today, was yesterday and will be tomorrow.  It left me with just enough self awareness not to like what I saw and have the drive to change it.  Even while I wallowed in unhappiness, my drive pushed, "if it doesn't make you happy, identify the problem and edit it out."  Taking in just the portion entitled "adult life," my life has transitioned from a black and white Kansas to the technicolor of Oz.

From jobs to hobbies to learning about the present moment, I have never made a change which didn't bring me more happiness.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

My Intentions

It is well known that Americans don't have enough savings, particularly for retirement.   They also carry a lot of debt.  It is so well known, I don't need to bother looking up any statistics to prove it to you.  It is common knowledge.

My intent is to help the 99% repair their relationship with money and turn their lives around.  It is a daunting task that has three elements I fear I may not be able to overcome.

The first, why listen to me?  I graduated from UC Davis with a BA in English, back when a BA seemed to mean enough every educated person didn't feel compelled to continue on for an MA or PhD.  My dream was to be a writer and I have spent decades working in retail and playing at writing and photography.  At the same time, valuing my free time and freedom itself, I have worked part time,  three half days a week, for nearly two decades.  Although my income lands me solidly among the 99%, the rest of my statistics are a little different.  I don't carry debt.  I have accumulated savings, including retirement savings.  I have paid off my mortgage and own my house free and clear.

At least all of that was true when I began this project.  Since then, I have been trying to sell my deceased parents home.  Between paying to have a bridge repaired and having dumpsters delivered in order to ready the property for sale, my savings have been whittled down significantly.  Even as it undermines my own confidence that I can do what I already did and teach others to do the same, it also underscores the necessity.

Money is a tool.  That's all it is.  Money is a tool by which you can buy education, comfort, and freedom.  They say money can't buy happiness, but it can buy things which will bring a smile to a loved one's face.  It can buy experiences a person will remember for the rest of his life.  Money is nothing but a tool, but it isn't one like a hammer or a saw.  It is more like putty or sand.  You can find yourself running out and wishing you had more.

Second, a huge percentage of my financial strategy involves the Law of Attraction.  Every time I open my mouth and try to explain its principles to somebody, I see that look on her face.  The one that suggests I just told her that fairies are real and I was haunted last night by a banshee.

There was a joke on Saturday Night Live years ago about learning to be an art critic.  After learning the fundamentals and beginning to critique a gallery's art, the student turned on patrons around her and criticized their outfits, their postures, their smiles.  Looking for the negative and pointing it out comes as naturally to humans as breathing.  When we've actually been given permission and free reign to do so?  We become relentless bullies, nearly unstoppable.

The Law of Attraction is the belief that "like attracts like."  We create our world with our thoughts.

I once read about a social experiment.  A researcher gathered a group of people together and had them look at two straight lines drawn on a chalkboard.  The two lines were exactly the same length, but the researcher had placed one individual in the crowd who claimed one of the lines were longer.  It turns out, I can give you advice and tell you what you should do and you probably won't follow it, but one person placed in a crowd, confidently repeating a lie, can cause you to agree with him and doubt your own eyesight.

Every day we are surrounded with a negative onslaught of news supporting the notion of a world of scarcity.  If abundance is mentioned, it is still framed as there being enough for everyone's needs, but not their greed.  Many of us buy things we don't really want or need, frantically stuffing ourselves to feel happy, while feeling judged for our attempts.

I ask you, who hasn't purchased some stupid, silly item, perhaps for as little as ten dollars, that seemed so great at the time, but we are later ashamed to admit?

How can I ever convince drowning victims, under water for the second time, flailing about with no idea who will save them, that they can save themselves simply by changing their thoughts?

At this point in my life, it feels like I have been every type of emotionally damaged and unhappy there is to be.  I can remember the days when my mouth would involuntarily scowl if I so much as saw a poster proclaiming "Love is a warm puppy."  It's as if negativity isn't happy just existing.  It has to roll around in the muck continually reaffirming its ugly existence.

"Ugh!  This smells really bad.  Here smell it."

"Ugh!  That really stinks."

I have been dedicated to changing the way I think for decades.  It still took me years to realize that love?  It IS a warm puppy.  Sort of.  Or at least the sustained joyful warm feelings about life and its wonderful possibilities that you might feel when enjoying the company of a baby of almost any species.

Third, we are all unreliable narrators.  In writing, an unreliable narrator is someone who tells a story, but who has a warped view and perception of everything.  We each have our personal story and we tend to believe the details we tell ourselves.  Yet we experience our lives through the distorted window of only seeing through our own point of view.

Think about that room with the chalkboard and two lines.  Even though they end up united in an answer as to the length of the lines, if you ask them about the experience afterwards, they will all have a different story to tell.  Some will have a simple recitation of facts.  Others will have anecdotal details which may not appear to be connected to the event, or at least not to anyone other than the person whose viewpoint felt they were important.  Unless the researchers are included, probably not one story will include the information one person was asked to lie.

At the same time, we continually second guess ourselves.  We say we want to lose weight and doubt we have the will power.  We ask the universe for some money.  Buy a lottery ticket and say "I knew that was a waste of money" as we throw our losing ticket into the trash.

I recently had a bad break up.  I loved that man so much.  My heart felt as if it had shattered into a million pieces knowing it had ended.  I cried and cried and cried.  One day, posting happy little kittens to cheer myself up on Facebook, I noticed how many friends I had who were talking and interacting with me.  My heart flooded with love and appreciation.  It was then that I realized how close I had come to seeing only what I had lost when all I had to do was turn my head and see all of the good things and people who are still right here with me.

Really that is everything I am trying to get you to do.  I am trying to get you to stop focusing on your losses and failures and to look and really see life's wonders.  I want you to appreciate all of your good fortune and know it didn't happen by accident.  You're not an ungrateful sinner who deserves only God's tolerance and indulgence.  You aren't a bad boy who is too lazy or lacks willpower.  Each and every one of us is no less a miracle than a blade of grass growing despite humans blocking its path with asphalt.  Each and every one of us is as important and essential as every atom that makes up a molecule.

C'mon.  (Metaphorically) take my hand and we can do this thing.  Just do one thing for me first.

Turn your head.