Posts

Spiritual and relationship expert, teacher, counselor, advisor, speaker, and writer James Gray Robinson

A MATTER OF PERSPECTIVE

            I remember in art class the importance of learning how to draw or paint using perspective. It was necessary if I wanted my work to be “realistic” and look something like what I was painting. Converging lines, parallel lines, angles and other devices had to be used to make the portrait, landscape or other works look like real life. Photorealism was a whole different story, each work had to be sectioned off and a higher degree of attention had to be paid to each aspect of the work.

            I realized that perspective is the same whether we are talking about perceiving our world or creating art. There are some fundamental principles that apply if we are to fully understand the truth of what we perceive. These principles exist whether we acknowledge them or not, and if we don’t then what we may perceive may not be accurate. Accuracy of perception is critical if we are to fully appreciate our experience of life. Otherwise we will miss important information and knowledge that is available to make our life easier and abundant.

            The first principle is that our mind determines what we perceive. We look at the world through filters that are determined by our past. If we are unconscious of these filters, we will never see the world accurately and will continue to misunderstand what is happening in our life. It is like going into the funhouse at the carnival where mirrors are curved to distort how we see what is reflected back to us. If we don’t know that the mirrors are curved, and whether they are convex or concave, we will believe that what we see is real.  We will see things that aren’t there and will miss things that are.

            This is a large part of what we call consciousness or awareness. When we understand that what we perceive is distorted by our mind, we can start to detach from what we may perceive as threatening or unkind. We are not what we think and the world is not how we see it. Only beings with very advanced consciousness and awareness will see the world as it really is, and that is without emotion, assumption or prejudice. If we see someone struggling, most people would try to rescue that person. A more advanced being would see that person growing and learning valuable lessons that their experiences will teach them and not try to rescue them.

            I have talked with a number of very conscious beings and all of them talk about a perception of the world that I am only now beginning to understand. Their clarity and connection to the divine is remarkable. I would love to live in their world, a world without fear, a world that only is. I constantly catch my mind thinking in ways that make me suffer. I suffer because I fall back into old thinking habits based on events I incorrectly remember from the past. As I stop myself and take the emotion out of it, my perception of what is happening changes. It is amazing that the drama of any situation disappears when I let go of fear, lack or victimhood. When I simply sit back and observe what is happening, then someone’s behavior or what I perceive stops triggering me and I can relax.

            I can remember growing up that my father perceived his world in black and white, either what was happening was “the worst thing he had ever seen” or it was “the best thing he had ever seen”. I can report that my perception of what he was experiencing was far different. What was happening was simply life; it was neither “the best” or “the worst”. However, his reactions were mercurial and for most of my life, my happiness and equanimity were affected by his perceptions. It taught me that how we judge what we perceive will affect how we feel in any particular moment. The truth is how we judge what we perceive will also affect what we perceive. It is a vicious cycle. If we believe something is “bad”, we will only see the “bad” in the event. This makes what we see even more objectionable. Then we react to what we think we saw and on and on.

            Only beings with no judgment and open minds and hearts can experience life as it really is. Everything is perfect. Everything is peaceful; there is no reason to get emotional about anything. When we eliminate judgment and emotion, the only thing that is left is joy and bliss, which is our natural state of being. When we are in a state of bliss, there is no trauma, guilt, blame, right, wrong, good or bad. There simply is. The more we can detach from all of these filters, the more we can enjoy our life. It is not really a matter of positive thinking, it is a matter of not thinking. Then we can see things from heaven’s perspective.

Spiritual and relationship expert, teacher, counselor, advisor, speaker, and writer James Gray Robinson

THE LEVELS OF CONSCIOUSNESS

              Consciousness is a term which many people talk about but few really understand. Most vaguely know that having it is a good thing, and being un-conscious may be problematic. Many people go through life with the lowest entry level consciousness wishing things were different and wondering why life is so challenging. It doesn’t have to be that way. We are human beings and most of us don’t have the focus and discipline it takes to transcend the quirks and daggers completely all of the time. Sometimes we can, if we understand what the different levels of consciousness are.

            The entry level of consciousness is survival mode. We spend a lot of time in the past in order to survive the future. This is where victim consciousness is strongest, which is the belief that life happens “to” us and we have no control over anything that happens in this world. We are consumed with materialism because we believe that will keep us safe. The more we have in the bank accounts, our stock accounts and possessions hopefully will help us in hard times. We are always wishing life was different or better and we grasp for whatever our desires may be in the moment. Happiness is often confused with pleasure, for we feel good when we get what we want and we suffer when we don’t. We are controlled by our emotions. We suffer at all times, afraid that we will not get what we want and afraid we will lose what we have. We suffer from anxiety, high blood pressure and illness that are caused by the constant stress we create. We are trained by society and the powers that be to be stuck in this level of consciousness because we are controllable and easily manipulated.

            A next level of consciousness is self-awareness. In this level of consciousness we strive to discover who we are and what our purpose is. We begin to understand that our place in the world does not depend absolutely on what we possess. We start to examine the effect of our behavior and actions upon others, we relate to others and the world. We begin to be aware of the world and life is more than just survival and collection of possessions. It is at this level we become to be aware that there is more to life than survival. It is also the level that we begin to suspect that there is a God. Oftentimes we connect with a teacher or guide who has a higher level of consciousness to help us transcend the lower levels. We can transition from survival level to self-awareness through the practice of gratitude.

            The third level of consciousness is the dawning of the awareness that we are not who we think we are. We are not our thoughts, emotions or beliefs. Our awareness is not the same thing as our thoughts, memories or beliefs. The social conditioning that we experienced in the survival level begins to fall away and we seek the truth of what is really going on in life. We begin to connect with a larger consciousness that animates us and sustains us (all along). We are aware that the lower levels of consciousness are a dream state and we are beginning to wake up. We begin to take control of our mind and emotions, understanding that they will control us if we do not control them. We begin to focus more and more on the search for connection to the divine, universal aspect of our being. It is at this level we start to detach from our addictions to pleasure and pain, judgment as well as people, places and things. The need for companionship or a significant other decreases. We can transition from self-awareness to detachment through meditation and mantras.

            The fourth level of consciousness is forgetting our self and our selfish wants and desires. We are concerned solely how we can help others anyway possible. We have a deep and total compassion for all beings, we connect with the universal energy of love. We let go of our desires for sex, companionship, material possessions or status. We are only concerned with serving others and raising the consciousness of the planet. We begin to merge with universal knowledge and consciousness that results in longer periods of bliss and enjoyment of all that is. We spend longer times in meditation and solitude and seek only that connection with the divine that gives us joy. At this level we are in a state of being, and have dropped the need to do anything. Whatever actions we take are directed by our divine consciousness and intuition and for the good of all. We know that all of our needs will be met and we have let go of needless and foolish concerns of materialism. We transcend from the level of detachment to selflessness through focus on the divine.

            The highest level of consciousness is enlightenment. It is difficult to reach this level and to stay at this level for any length of time because it requires long periods of solitude and focused devoted thoughts to your divine self. It is simply a matter of reality because when we are at the highest level of consciousness we are not able to function in what most consider the real world or what some call the 3D world. We meditate for long periods of time, surrender the need for interaction with others because we are connected to the divine. Oftentimes we don’t eat or sleep, we simply bask in the arms of the divine.

            Most of the highest beings will spend time at the level of enlightment and then come back to the 3D world to interact with others. It is their karma to know the difference between being in the arms of their divine self and interacting with the real world. It is their recognized duty to help all beings raise their consciousness. We can be born into any level of consciousness. It is the grace of the divine that we can raise our consciousness anytime we like. It is also our ability to lower our consciousness at anytime based on our circumstances. This is what is known as free will. The choice is ours.

Spiritual and relationship expert, teacher, counselor, advisor, speaker, and writer James Gray Robinson

LIVING FROM THE HEART

            What does it mean to live in the heart? Why is that different from living in the mind? How can you tell whether you are in your head or your heart? The place to start this inquiry is to understand that the organ we refer to as the heart is more than just a pump moving blood around the body. It has over 40,000 neurons and communicates with the brain and the digestive tract regarding blood flow and circulation. When the heart communicates with the brain that something is off balance, we can feel it. This is where “light headedness”, or “dizziness” can come in which is the direct result of the heart not being in sync with the rest of our body. Something is off.

            Researchers have discovered that the electromagnetic field generated by the heart is much larger than any other organ, including the brain. This field is approximately 8-10 feet in diameter for a healthy person. This would explain why people who are sensitive to the fluctuations in electromagnetic fields can tell when a heart is diseased or distressed. Similarly, people who are experiencing large amounts of stress or anxiety due to disappointment or loss will experience fluctuations in their electromagnetic field that is often called it “a broken heart”.

            While there is no empirical evidence to prove what perceptions are harbored in the heart versus the head, there are some experiences I have lived that would tell me that there are distinctions between the types of perceptions we have when we are “heart-centered” and when we are “ego-centered”. These differences are quite dramatic and life changing. They show me that focusing on perceiving the world through the heart or while being “in the heart” make a big difference from “being in my head”.

            A few years ago I was brutally attacked by some gang members in Dublin Ireland. Due to my martial arts training I was able to disarm my two attackers and get them on the ground. At the time I was at a spiritual workshop and had been focusing on “being in my heart.” As a result, I did not want to hurt these attackers, once they were on the ground I was able to get away even though I was badly beaten. I never once thought of hurting them, I was only concerned with disarming them without any serious damage to anyone of us. I did not feel any emotions about them personally, I was able to see that it was a life lesson about being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I believe that the “being in my heart” enabled me to see the whole incident in a completely objective, non-judgmental way. It is the mind, the ego that would judge these people and make them villains and me a victim. I was actually grateful for the experience and that I was not permanently injured. The curious thing was that I did not have to forgive them. Being in the heart means that you understand that everything happens for a reason and there is nothing wrong. It is the ego that labels events “right or wrong”. Forgiveness is a concept that is only necessary if you believe something is wrong. Thus, I was able to love both the experience and the individuals involved.

            Many of us have experienced a loss of a loved one through death or moving on, or the break up of a relationship. I have been divorced twice, and both were very painful to me. When I meditate and go into my heart to experience those memories from my heart, I discover that there is no pain associated with those memories in my heart. It is the mind, the ego that attaches emotions to the memories. It is almost like the heart has no memory. There is no need for a memory when you are in your heart. We developed our memory for self-defense purposes, so we could remember what hurts and what is dangerous. I wonder if there is anyone who only remembers pleasant memories and never remembers painful memories? If there are, I would bet that they spend most of their time being in their heart.

            When I am in my heart, I feel calm and peaceful, whatever is going on around me. When I am in my head, I experience the negative emotions, anxiety, worry, fear. That is what our primitive minds, our ancient minds do…worry about survival and longevity. The heart cares not about these things; it only is concerned about radiating love and happiness.

            So how do you get into your heart? Meditate and relax. Feel your awareness drop from your head into your heart. Use your imagination to envision the joy and peace of being in a safe, calm, peaceful place. That is your heart. Leave all of your fears and anxieties behind in your head. Feel a warmth and golden light fill your chest cavity and expand throughout your body. Sit with this feeling for as long as you can. Start with short intervals, five minutes every hour. Expand these intervals as you can until you can keep this feeling as you go about your day. There are several immediate benefits. First, you will notice that all of your worries and anxieties melt away under the warmth of the golden light. Second, you will notice that your body responds to this new feeling with relaxation and well-being. Third, you will notice that people will start responding to you in a much different manner, with kindness and affection. Fourth, people will ask “have you lost weight?” The more you can stay in your heart, the more you will shift your reality to peace, happiness and calm. That is what we all want and it is called “heaven”.

 

Spiritual and relationship expert, teacher, counselor, advisor, speaker, and writer James Gray Robinson

THE MOST TRAGIC ADDICTION

             In my experience and observation the most tragic and insidious of all addictions is the addiction to suffering. The clinical definition of addiction is “compulsive repetition of a known behavior with adverse consequences.” In other words addiction is repeatedly engaging in actions that knowingly cause adverse results. There are two persistent issues connected with addictions, (1) what is causing the addiction and (2) how do we stop it?

            The reason I believe the addiction to suffering is the most tragic is because many people do not even know they are addicted to it. They live their lives of silent misery oftentimes believing that is how life should be. Many religions promote suffering as necessary and a part of life. The most ironic of all ironies is that the one thing we all have in common is that we all want to be happy. Yet we all suffer from this addiction to be miserable. The lucky ones are the ones that realize that suffering is optional and they do something about it.

            Suffering sometimes is difficult to identify. Oftentimes we experience periods of time when we are not in crisis mode and we are getting what we want. We think that we are happy. In fact, what we are experiencing is low-grade anxiety, not happiness. Happiness has nothing to do with getting what we want. The feeling that we experience when we get what we want is pleasure, not happiness. When we are experiencing pleasure, there is always the underlying fear that it will not last and we experience constant stress. In fact, suffering always follows pleasure. It is part of life.

            It would appear that the addiction to suffering begins at an early age, when we learn that we can get our parents’ attention and the attention of loved ones when we engage in forbidden or negative behavior. This is known as “negative attention”. When we are “good”, and follow the rules laid down by the authority figures in our lives, we sometimes only get occasional attention. We quickly learn that we can get attention by breaking the rules, defying our parents, and engaging in anti-social behavior. It seems that most people believe that they can only get attention by being the best at something or being a pest. It doesn’t matter that engaging in behavior that results in punishment actually is painful, it does have the desired effect, and people pay attention to us.

            Ironically, many times we are not aware we are engaging in this type of behavior. We mistakenly label life as unfair and ourselves victims, when we have created the behavior that has the adverse consequences. Then we suffer, stop making any effort to take responsibility for our actions and become drama kings and queens. Think of the people in our lives that live with the most melodrama, the most adverse consequences, and often view themselves as the ultimate victims in an unfair world. Both the behavior and the complaining about the adverse consequences is subconsciously calculated to get attention.

            Many times this addiction is underlying a more visible addiction, substance abuse, sexual abuse, or criminal behavior. When society has had enough of this behavior, it simply locks these people away with others with similar addictions. We can attempt to recover from these superficial addictions, but end up miserable and self-defeating because we are not aware of the underlying addiction to suffering. AA has a saying, sober up a horse thief and you have a horse thief. You do not become happy by becoming sober. This is why so many people relapse.

            So how does one recover from this addiction?  As with other addictions, the first step is awareness and taking responsibility for what we do. When we admit to ourselves that we are unhappy and want to change, that is half the battle. We have to stop lying to ourselves and saying that we are happy when we are not. The suffering only increases when we lie to others and ourselves. We have to identify the cause of our suffering, which is our thinking. When we are completely honest and admit that it is our thinking that is causing our suffering, not outside circumstances, and then we have a chance of becoming happy.

            You cannot stop thinking. That is humanly impossible. The only solution is to realize that our thinking is not who we are. In other words, we are not our thoughts. Our thoughts are the byproduct of millions of electrical biochemical events every second in our brain. Awareness is not thinking. We can be aware of our thoughts if we detach from them and realize that they are not real. So the addiction to suffering can also be described as the addiction to thinking.

            In order to recover from this addiction — the addiction to thinking – we have to let go of our attachment to thinking. Thinking actually is good; it is what gets us dressed in the morning, accomplishes goals, live in society and helps us survive in this physical dimension.  However, we have to recognize the difference between “I” as a self-aware life force and “I” as a collection of thoughts. The former is naturally happy; the latter suffers. The more we focus on the former, the happier we are. The more we fall into the trap of believing that we are our thoughts, the more we suffer.

            Instead of believing our thoughts, we can look at the sunset, we can observe what is going on around us without thought or opinion, we can enjoy just “being.”  Since we are human beings, we are going to lower ourselves into the hell of thinking from time to time, but it doesn’t have to be all of the time. If we remember that thinking is an addiction that causes suffering, perhaps we won’t do it so much and enjoy life more.

Spiritual and relationship expert, teacher, counselor, advisor, speaker, and writer James Gray Robinson

THE GIFT OF AWARENESS

            I receive a lot of emails from various self-improvement or spiritual development gurus and websites that contain messages of various ways to improve my life, my health, my relationships, my bank accounts or my enlightenment. There certainly is a lot of stuff out there competing for my attention and my dollars. I came to the realization that there must be a lot of people out there that don’t like what they are experiencing in order to manifest all of these people who are suggesting how to improve it.

            I have already written several articles about the trap of wanting something different or better in our lives. When we don’t like what we have, or focus on the fact that we lack something we only create suffering in our lives.  An entire industry has been manifested around manifestation, “the secret” to getting what we want or desire in our lives. These practices only serve to create short-term pleasure and rarely give us what we really want. The thing most of us really want is happiness, a way to enjoy every minute of every day, no matter what we are experiencing.

            I have decided that what I want is the gift of true awareness, which is one of the foundation stones for true happiness. I want to focus on what I have, not what I don’t have. So I am contemplating on what that means and how to give myself this gift of awareness. I am aware that truly enlightened beings are aware of everything at the same time. They are aware of their breathing, their thoughts, their actions and the same for everyone in the whole world, all at the same time. That kind of awareness is certainly overwhelming to the student on the path to enlightenment.

            Ancient wisdom insists that whenever I want life to be different, I am creating misery and suffering within myself. So the first step of the gift of awareness is to let go of the notion that what I am experiencing is not perfect. I do not need life to be different. If I were in the mode of thinking that life should be different, I would probably want my life to be different even if it was different. Wow, that is deep. In other words, when I have the habitual thought that my life should be different, I would always want my life to be different. So I have to change that habitual thinking pattern. The only way to do that is to stop wishing my life was different.

            So I started contemplating on how to stop wishing my life was different. After all, my mind has to have something to do. So I started looking for things that I could be grateful and happy about my life. The first thing that came to mind was the fact that I was breathing. I take that for granted most of the time. It is a really good thing that my breathing is a thoughtless, automatic process, because if I had to remember to breathe at all times my mind would not have anything else to worry about. I also started contemplating on the miracle of life itself. The options are not so good, I concluded. So being alive is something to be aware of, at all times, if possible. I was struck with true joy when I focused on the fact that I was alive. I don’t know why or how that happened, but I just threw my head back and belly laughed as I contemplated I was alive.

            Then as I started writing this article, I realized how fortunate I was that I could read and write. After all, there are millions of people on this planet that can’t do either of these things. I have a telephone, a computer, and a lot of material stuff that I really can do without, but that make my life easier. I realized that there are many things to like about my life and myself. I have to be aware of all of the many complex aspects of my life in order to be grateful for what I am.

            So I suddenly realized that the true gift of awareness is to focus on what I have, and to forget about what I don’t have. I decided that this year, instead of buying any new stuff, I would pull out all of my old stuff that I haven’t used in a while, wrap it in Christmas wrapping paper and put that under my tree. You should see all of the stuff I am getting for Christmas this year! Even though I am so blessed with abundance that I can go buy whatever I want, I am really excited because I have so much to unwrap for Christmas this year. I can also do this metaphorically with all of the gifts I have in the way of blessings of health, talents, friends, family etc. etc. I don’t have a room big enough for all of those gifts.

            So the true gift of awareness is to forget about getting anything new or different in my life. The true gift of awareness is to look at all of the many gifts I have. So now I have to start deleting all of these emails. I know that my life is changing constantly now; I do not need any magic secrets for that. 

Spiritual and relationship expert, teacher, counselor, advisor, speaker, and writer James Gray Robinson

DOING IT “WRONG”

            I had a astrological reading the other day. After studying my star chart for a while, the astrologer told me that according to the positions of the planets and stars, I was destined to struggle because the struggle increased the speed of my growth. It was my destiny to feel like I was doing something wrong because it made me be more conscious of what I thought, said and did. In other words, it was my karma to always feel like I was making a mistake, and that I was a mistake. This was the grace that fueled my growth as a spiritual being.  So when I was feeling like I was screwing up, I was paying my karma. I wasn’t actually screwing up; I was living my life in accordance with the divine plan of my life. So the irony of my life is that when I feel like I am doing it wrong, I am doing it right.

            When talking to others I have discovered that most of us carry an irrational belief that somehow we will never get it right. Somehow there is a belief buried deep in our subconscious that we must be screwing up because if we were doing it right, we would be enlightened, or at least we would be more enlightened than we are at the moment. We succumb to the temptation of looking to the left and right and comparing ourselves to each other. This is guaranteed to create suffering. We forget that our karma has everything to do with where we are in the moment compared to everything else. We are where we are because of the choices we have made.

            Due to the fact that most of us were raised in an educational system of some sort, we were programmed with the belief that life is graded. If you do well, you get an A and if you don’t do well, you fail. Life is not based on a grading system. There are no “A’s” and there are no “F’s”. If there are, the only grader is our ego. If you look back on the education you received, I would be willing to bet that the best lessons you received in school were not in the classroom. Our best thinking is done when we allow our minds to roam and imagine. Quite frankly, I couldn’t tell you anything about what I studied in school. I can tell you a lot about all the times I thought I was screwing up.

            As we get older, we keep grading ourselves using different grading systems. The size of our bank accounts, the number of toys that we have, or the kind of relationships we have all are grading systems that we use to determine how we are doing.  These are all created by the mind, for the mind to keep the mind in power.

            The good news is that if you are reading this article you are ahead of the masses. If you are like me, it was a big relief to know that my angst was only an illusion I created to grow as rapidly as humanly possible.  The truth is that without my angst I would be stuck so deep in the creek mud that I could only get out with dynamite (otherwise known as divorce, disease, bankruptcy or disaster, all of which I have experienced). Compared to dynamite, I would take my angst every time. If you feel like you are a mistake, take heart! You actually have the potential to become enlightened. We either believe or don’t believe everything is God. If we do believe it, then we have to conclude that nothing is wrong.

            It is our ego that judges our situation to be “wrong.” When we feel like we are doing it wrong, we are in our heads. If we looked at our circumstances through our heart, we would know that it is right. Many people think that they are schizophrenic or bipolar because they always have dialogue going on in their head between an angel and a demon. The dialogue is actually between our hearts and our heads. It is our head/mind that labels life as “right” or “wrong”, just like we learned in school. Our hearts don’t care about any of that, our hearts only care about loving others and connecting with God.

            The truth is that life is a mystery most of the time. We are not supposed to know everything. If we did, our heads might explode. Whenever you think you understand it, you don’t. We think we are screwing up when we actually are unloading lifetimes of karma. The trick is not to panic and to keep breathing. I have discovered that the more I concentrate on my breath, the less I care about how I am “doing.” So if you find yourself stressed out because you think you will never get it right, relax. Join the crowd. At least you are in the crowd going where you want to go. So remember, when you think you are doing it wrong, you are doing it right.

             

 

Spiritual and relationship expert, teacher, counselor, advisor, speaker, and writer James Gray Robinson

PRACTICING NON-VIOLENCE

             I had an experience with another driver several years ago. The driver had tailgated me for miles, and then passed me on the right of a four lane local road and cut me off at an intersection. I blared my horn at him to let him know how much I did not appreciate his aggressive driving. He got out of his car and started screaming at me and I actually thought I might have to defend myself. The traffic light turned green and he got back in his car and drove off at a dangerously high speed.

            Why did I create this event for my own enlightenment?  Ah, now there is the interesting question. I have to take responsibility for the fact that I create conflict with others in order to create attention. I did not have to blare my horn. The karma of that driver’s aggressive driving would catch up to him sooner than later. My superficial purpose was to help him see where he might need to look at his behavior. That is the superficial rationalization of a lot of my behavior. In fact, I was failing to realize that people I claim to want to help are only mirroring back to me what I need to change about my behavior.

            When we were children, we quickly found out that if we didn’t get attention by getting good grades and behaving politely, we could get attention by acting out, throwing temper tantrums, and eventually behaving in an anti-social manner. I am guilty of all of the above. I am an over-achiever with a guilt complex. Being a very clever fellow I have reduced my anti-social behavior and only occasionally throw temper tantrums in the privacy of my head. Instead, I subtly create conflict so that people have to pay attention to me. I could pass it off as being a type-A Leo, but hanging around spiritual teachers has forced me to look at my behavior and motivations more closely.

            It has been pointed out to me that one of my subtle forms of negative behavior is telling inappropriate jokes and making inappropriate comments that on some level I know will offend others. Up until now I rationalized this behavior by thinking I was helping people see where their issues were, known as pushing their buttons. I even thought I was being funny. Actually I was engaged in a very subtle violence towards people I said I loved. At times it became an art form of emotional terrorism. Now that I am aware of it, I have stopped this. This doesn’t mean that I will stop telling jokes. What it means is that I have to raise my level of self-analysis regarding the appropriateness of my behavior and my motivation.

            Another means of unconscious violence is gossip. When we pass judgment upon others with another person, we are conducting a violent campaign against the energy of that person that is really just a mirror of ourselves. I make every effort not to gossip about others, but sometimes I fall into the trap of character assassination. I rationalize it by pretending concern about the other person or “gathering information.” I know instantly when I realize that I am gossiping because I get a sick feeling in my stomach. Maybe I am starting to understand that I am talking about a reflection of myself.

            The piece that was missing was the realization that I was actually committing the violence against myself. I did not realize that when people state that my articles, behavior or jokes offended them, I was actually talking to myself.  I did not understand that when I was talking about someone else I was really talking about myself. There is the subtlest form of self-destruction, committing violence against myself and not even realizing it.  I kept missing this aspect of my behavior.  Spiritual principles state that what we become aware of will change. What we are not aware of will not change. I am truly aware that this behavior must change. The only way to take advantage of spiritual teachings is to apply them. Applying them means ending violence against myself. Then I can go on to the next issue.

Spiritual and relationship expert, teacher, counselor, advisor, speaker, and writer James Gray Robinson

A KIND HEART

In a recent article about Buddhism I was taken by a statement that happiness is the result of a kind heart. Therefore, in order to develop happiness one has to develop a kind heart. The energy of that thought swept through me like a spring breeze and I relaxed into a deep state of bliss.

            My experience in this world and the experience of many people I have met on the spiritual path includes emotional and physical trauma. Something happens to us that frightened or hurt us and made the world a scary, unsafe place. These traumatic experiences can harden our kind nature like a callus or scar tissue on our heart.  We become defensive and can push people away in order to protect ourselves from pain. Even more subtle wounds are created when we experience something that we don’t like. These wounds are often dismissed or ignored because they don’t necessarily hurt. These more subtle wounds might cause frustration, irritation, anxiety or stress, but are accepted as part of everyday life.

            As I trudge the path of happy destiny towards spiritual freedom and light, I feel it  is my duty to remove these calluses, bruises, or wounds on my heart. This is necessary to allow my heart to open and to expand my consciousness. I am convinced that happiness cannot be logically reached; it must be experienced through our hearts. It is reassuring that one of the oldest belief systems in the world (Buddhism) incorporates this belief in the form of the statement that happiness can only be reached through a kind heart.

            I often contemplate what is a kind heart. So far, the best conclusion I can draw at the moment is that a kind heart is a heart filled with compassion, awareness and acceptance. There is no room in a kind heart for resentment, resistance, anger or any other “negative” emotions. I further believe that these painful energies are the result of what the Buddhists call lazy or habitual thinking. I call it “worst case scenario thinking.” As a former attorney I often imagined what the worst-case scenario would be in a trial and plan accordingly. This defense mechanism was very useful; however, when it spilled over into my personal life it causes great suffering.

            One of the most important steps in developing a kind heart is to understand that we are not our thoughts. When we have thoughts of a hurtful or painful nature, we must not condemn or criticize ourselves for these thoughts. We have to simply accept them as random thoughts that are not real.  When we dwell on these thoughts or resent them (“resent” means “to think over and over”) we are building thicker and thicker calluses and scar tissue on our hearts.

            Another important step is to understand that we create our realities for the specific purpose of becoming enlightened. So when life does not suit us, we have to look for the message we are telling ourselves by creating something we don’t like. Some common themes I am witnessing these days include: (1) money has nothing to do with happiness; (2) companionship is not necessary for happiness; and (3) “common sense is more important than spiritual sense” (Derek O’Neill).

            In order to develop a kind heart, we have to understand that we do not need money, mates, material stuff and thirteen spiritual diplomas to be happy. We simply need to accept the fact that we are exactly where we are supposed to be — going exactly where we are supposed to go. In my experience, one of the most damaging illusions and lies that we tell ourselves is that we are not living the life we are supposed to live, that we are somehow doing something wrong and that we are victims. Whenever we experience stress and anxiety it is because we believe something is wrong somewhere in our life. This leads us away from a kind heart, because a kind heart is flexible and pliable enough to understand that everything is perfect.

            A great exercise for those anxious moments is to sit still and breath into the heart. Imagine that when you inhale you are sending light and oxygen into your heart (not the lungs). When you exhale imagine that you are exhaling all illusions and misunderstandings that hurt out of your heart. It is amazing how fast relaxation comes when one does this.

            It is not so important that we be kind to others as it is to be kind to ourselves. There is no need to feel guilty, ashamed, stressed or anxious when we have a kind heart. A kind heart is like a loving parent observing a child who is angry or frightened and knows that everything will be all right. The child (us) does not know everything will be all right, but the parent does. When we can feel the feeling that everything will be all right, we can relax and enjoy life.

            The payoff for having a kind heart is the inevitable effect that people will gravitate to us. We have to understand that some people will be kind, while others will project their anger and fears all over us. When we have a kind heart, we do not take offense at these people, we understand their pain and have compassion for them. This is how we can develop compassion for others, by being kind to ourselves.

            Ultimately we come to the realization that everyone is simply a reflection of the thoughts and feelings we experience. When we can respond with kindness to everything, to the thoughts, emotions, events and people that we like and dislike, bliss will be ours.