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

MINDFULNESS

          One of the most important things we can do in our life to help us be is to practice mindfulness. Our lives are naturally forced to be involved in doing, and we are designed to simply be. We go to work, we have relationships, we spend our money, we wish things were different, and we wonder what is missing. What is missing is our awareness of what is going on in our life and the world. Many of us are looking for something to make us fulfilled, to make us feel worthwhile, to make us feel special. I hear many times from clients that their work, their relationships or their life needs to change and they are looking for what to change into. If their circumstances are abusive or dangerous, I certainly encourage them to make decisions that will make their life safe. However, if the problem is that they are dissatisfied with what they have created in their life, I encourage them to try something else before they quit their job, spouse, or circumstances. I encourage them to practice mindfulness.

          Mindfulness is the ability to be completely present in any moment. It is much easier to be mindful and completely present while things are quiet and relaxed. It is difficult to be completely mindful when your supervisor wants something done or your children are misbehaving. Life is simply a journey and we do not have to be perfect. All we have to do is practice. Being mindful can be as simple as bringing one hundred percent of your focus on to one thing right in front of you for a few minutes. When you have a quiet moment, look at one thing that is right in front of you and look at it, really look at it. I am looking at a vase of tulips my best friend gave to me. I am looking at the colors… yellows, pinks, green, peach, red and lime jump at me and this is just one of the tulips. The smell is perfume and earth. The textures are soft, crinkled, smooth and striped. The feelings that I experience while looking at them are love, amazement, gratitude, wonder and curiosity.  There are so many different things to notice in just one flower that I had not noticed before. The amazing thing is that all of the petty thoughts that I was thinking about before I focused on that flower have gone out of my mind.

          Mindfulness is also the ability to focus on whatever emotions we are experiencing in the moment. Are we sad, angry, afraid, worried, joyful, happy or peaceful? Really focus on the feeling/emotion and scan your body at the same time. Where in your body is the emotion? What shape is the emotion? What color is the emotion? What does the emotion feel like? By the time you have analyzed all of the characteristics of the emotion, it will have moved on. That is the nature of emotions, Energy in Motion…If you are experiencing an emotion that is unpleasant, you can let it go by being mindful about it.

          Mindfulness is also the ability to experience your body fully. Practice walking ten steps in one direction and returning. Focus on how it feels to walk, how your muscles contract, how it feels to life a foot off of the ground, feeling blood flow through your body, breath coming in and out of your body. Walking is such a complex action that we often don’t appreciate how miraculous our bodies are. When we are filled with wonder and awe about how incredible we are, negative emotions leave and we can start to appreciate just how special we are.

          Mindfulness is also focusing on our breath. If we could simply take 5 minutes when we first wake up in the morning to focus on our breathing, we can start our days with the realization that we are alive and everything else is easy after that. After we focus on our breathing for 5 minutes, we can also select a thought for the day, something uplifting and inspiring. Have a list of such thoughts handy beside your bed, and just choose one to start your day. The first thought we have in our heads when we start our day usually sets the tone for our day. If we choose a positive, enlightening thought, our day will start that way. If we don’t choose our thoughts, our thoughts will choose what kind of day we will have and that often won’t be as positive as a conscious thought would be.

          The way we practice how to be will determine what we do. If we are completely mindful, it doesn’t matter what we do, for we will be doing it consciously and with awareness. Many times the perceived problems with the job, relationship or circumstances simply disappear. Practice, practice, practice.

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

THE EGO

          One of the least understood aspects of our psyche is the ego. Some psychologists use it one-way, others use it another. Freud had an understanding of the ego; Jung had a different understanding. Both were experts in their field, the study of the mind. The sages of the East have a completely different understanding of the concept of ego. To them, the ego is the mind, and the mind is not the brain. The mind is the cognitive analytical function of the brain, and it perceives the data received by the five senses, judges it as safe or harmful, and then the mind tells the physical body what to do. The movie trilogy The Matrix had an eastern frame to their interpretation of what the mind interprets as reality. The physical mind is separate from the physical body just as the physical Neo was separate from his matrix construct as well as his true physical body.  It gets quite complicated when we try to differentiate between the mind, the body and the spirit.

          When we are born, we have an ego that is an infant. If all goes well, that ego identifies with the world in a safe and healthy way. It perceives the world as basically safe and supportive, a reflection of his first gods and goddesses, his parents. If, however, the circumstances of birth and childhood are traumatic and threatening, that is how the ego will interpret the world and that individual’s reality will be far more frightening than the healthy child. The ego is also similar to the operating system of a computer. Without one, the computer is basically a boat anchor. Depending on the operating system installed, computers can be quite a helpful tool. If the operating system (ego) is corrupted, then glitches and breakdowns are inevitable. This is why we suffer.

          The problem is that we identify with the ego’s perception of the world. So we can feel defective based on how our ego perceives the world. If the ego is defective, we will feel and perceive ourselves as being defective. We create the ego at a very early age to pretend that we know what we are doing. Even with a healthy ego, we have a distorted view of the world because we only can perceive it through the ego. The only way we can perceive correctly is to let go of the ego, the sense of reality. Whatever we desire distorts our perception even further, because the ego leads us to believe that we will die without it. Thus, we can’t kill the ego any more than we can kill who we think we are. However, to truly transcend this false sense of reality, we have to learn to access a higher operating system, known as divine consciousness.

          The problem for many people is that divine consciousness is not neatly wrapped with a box and ribbon. Letting go of the ego can only access it. That means that we have to forget about what we think is important, be still, and seek divine wisdom. We fall short oftentimes because we have identified with the material world, and cannot see that we are far more than the physical. We have to let go of the notion that we are this or that, we have to let go of the belief that this is good or this is bad. We have to let go of the belief that we need anything, we have to let go of the belief that we have to be happy. We have to let go of the need to know the divine. We have to completely open ourselves to the idea that we are perfect just the way we are, that there is a higher consciousness available to us as soon as we wake from the dream of the ego. The ego dreams are just as real as the subconscious dreams when we fall asleep. We just don’t know it.

          Many people ask me how do we let go of the ego? It is a simple question and it has a simple answer. The answer is to detach and observe. Do not get emotionally attached to anything. It is the ego that causes emotional reactions and breakdowns. (Otherwise known as faulty programming). Accept all things as perfect and remember that the true operating system is divine consciousness. We are simply here to experience what we are experiencing. It is the ego that says, “I don’t like this”. So we have to remove the faulty programming of judgment and simply let life flow through and around us. When we resist, we suffer.

          So in order to let go of the ego, we have to open the floodgates of the mind and the heart and don’t resist anything. When we resist, we get angry, we lose our connection to unconditional love. We become afraid, and that is when we get system errors coming up in our perception. Just like the matrix, computer metaphors are like life itself. The best course is to get the best operating system you can and install the best security features you can find. Hopefully this will allow you operate without the ego…or you will have to reboot.

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

THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS

          AH, the end of May and beginning of June. It is time for the annual Derek O’Neill “playshop” in Dublin, Ireland. It is a week of intense transformation, growth, struggle and perhaps even a little discomfort as we learn how to deal with our issues and let go of the misery and challenges that makes life so hard. The truth is this process started several weeks ago for me in that negative emotions seems to be waiting around every corner and behind every door. For someone that claims to know how to deal with these human hurdles, it is very disconcerting to find out that “all is not well” with my self. I hurt, I chafe, I rail at the Gods because all of the things that I seek for happiness is now causing me pain greater than I have experienced in a long time.

          What is heavens name am I doing? I was told very early in life that if I acquired a good family, an honest living, friends and material things that I would be happy. It didn’t work out that way for me. I have been divorced twice, made and lost lots of money, acquired and let go of many material possessions. I seem to be in a letting go mode at the moment, I have given away most of my possessions and toys. I wrecked my car last December, but I live in a place you don’t need private transportation so I am okay on that one. I know lots of very wealthy people, and they seem to be struggling as much as I finding the elusive state of happiness that we all crave.

          I have written many times on how to be happy, it doesn’t matter what you have or possess, who you are in relationship with or what kind of job that you have. It all depends on your state of mind, what you are thinking about and how detached you are from your circumstances in life. However, when it is your time to suffer, it is a long uphill climb to the top of Happiness Mountain. Many times I tell myself “snap out of it” but when you aren’t getting what you want, it is hard to get to a place where you don’t care. That is really the secret to being happy, not caring about what you get. If you have a lot, great; if you have nothing, that is great as well.

          Sometimes I wonder if Buddha was an alien who merely placed a carrot at the end of a stick and dangled it in front of our heads. After all, detachment and mindfulness are not “human” as far as I can tell. There are so few people that I have met that have achieved those attributes I wonder if they are actually human as well. Are detachment and mindfulness impossible goals?

          Apparently I have created a perfect dilemma for myself where I feel totally lacking of control and yet I see no end in sight. The goal is to connect with the divine and find the love for myself that I always believe only comes from each one of us. I am beginning to discover that even though I feel like I love myself there are days when I don’t like myself very much. I guess that is playing out in my reality as well.

          I am writing this blog simply to let you know that the pursuit of happiness is sometimes difficult and elusive. We do not feel happy and blissful all of the time unless we can give us our attachments to people, places and things. When you don’t want anything, you can’t be disappointed. I am struggling (I hope for the last time) with letting go of the one thing I have always wanted (that is a personal issue for me).  The zen teachers I know keep telling me I can’t get it until I don’t want it, which sounds pretty counterintuitive to me. In any event, it seems pretty certain that I will not solve this problem with the same thinking that created it.

          So the pursuit of happiness seems to be a misnomer. The pursuit of anything likely pushes it away. The only way to find happiness is to “be” happy. So we have come full circle on this little blog, which is that I know that I can’t find happiness. I can only let it steal into my heart like a warm nighttime fog coming through a window. I hope that I can discover how to speed up the process in Ireland. Their fogs are legendary. It may mean being unhappy for a little while longer, but I have been promised that all I have been through and done will be worth it. I have hope that it will.

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

COURAGE

          Sometimes life is too much. We don’t know what to do, we are afraid to do anything. Yet if we don’t do something, terrible things might happen. Our loved ones may leave, our parents may die, our children may fail, we will lose control or we may lose everything. Our minds go out of control seeking a solution for these often-irrational fears. This is a classic case of fear of the future. The only way to shift the fear and agony of the intensity of this circumstance is to seek courage and get back into our heart. When we are afraid and we don’t know what to do, we are completely in our mind. Our mind loves to control everything and everyone and goes berserk when it can’t. There is no way to think our way out of this situation; we have to take certain steps to find serenity and peace again.

          Courage is having faith and trust in ourselves to keep breathing and do the best you can. When we are in our minds and attached to outcomes, we create a self-perpetuating loop of panic and fight or flight. This is the well-known monkey mind that only keeps grasping and demanding life is a certain way. Courage is like a clutch that allows us to disengage the mind even for a brief moment to allow us to get back into being, rather than doing. Courage allows us to face the pain, the fear, the agony, the potential loss and see it for what it is, an illusion. East and West have different concepts of courage…in the West, we conceive of courage as fortitude, the ability to do things in the face of danger. In the East, we say courage is love, the opposite of fear. With fear, we shrink and lose ourselves in the ego. With courage, we expand and become more than we were before the fear.

          In the West, we say, “think twice before you jump”. In the East, we say “jump, then think.” We get stuck in life because we want to know we will accomplish the goal before we even try. When faced with uncertainly, we freeze because the ego mind does not want to take a risk. Courage means taking the first step, even if you don’t know where that will lead. Courage means letting go of results and keep breathing. Courage means being the best person you can be, knowing that nothing happens in life that isn’t for our benefit. There are some strategies for getting past the seemingly insurmountable fear of the future and into peace and serenity.

          First, we have to remember that we control our emotions or our emotions control us. We can change our emotions one step at a time. If we are panicked, imagine that you are only afraid. When you are only afraid, imagine that you are actually excited. There is a fine line between fear and excitement; it is only how you perceive it. Be excited for the opportunities ahead of you, the momentary crisis that you may be experiencing may only be the pain of growth. Set hourly goals for your self, to breathe, to laugh, to love, to forgive. Do these every hour and your emotions will rise to more positive and bearable ones.

          Second, continue to breathe. When we are in fear, it is because our brain is not getting enough oxygen. Just take a few minutes and breathe as deeply and slowly as you can into your belly and then exhale as slowly as you can until your lungs are completely empty. Do this for at least five minutes on the hour. You will be amazed how much better you will feel.

          Third, get still for a few minutes. While you are breathing will be a great time to quiet your mind. Focus on shifting your focus from what is happening outside of yourself into your heart. Allow your self to feel loved, and to feel love. Send love to whoever or whatever is causing your fear. When you connect to that love, you will connect to your immortality and the panic will decrease. Imagine how you would feel if you were truly immortal. Would the issues facing you change in their perspective if you knew you would never die? This is not a religious commitment, it is simply an exercise in shifting your perception to a higher level. When we look at our challenges and fears from a higher perspective (such as we are immortal) they are not so fearful.

          Finally, remember whatever you are experiencing is a reflection of what is going on inside of your subconscious mind. If you look in a mirror and see your hair is messy, you don’t try to comb the hair in the mirror that you see, you comb the hair on your own head that you can’t see. Then the hair in the mirror magically changes. So when we are able to calm our minds and get into our hearts, what we perceive as reality will naturally change. This takes patience and persistence. Sometimes events that took years in the making won’t go away in ten minutes. Simply continue to breathe, go into your heart, and do the best you can. Sometimes the transition from caterpillar to butterfly really sucks. But when you keep breathing and get into your heart, the results are worth it.

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

SENTIMENTALITY

          I have learned that there are many sources of misery and suffering in this world. It seems that every belief system has its pet theory. Buddhists believe that desire causes all suffering. Other religions claim separation from God (sin) causes suffering. Others believe that rejection of what is happening at any given moment causes suffering. Yet still others claim that fear causes suffering.  I offer the case of sentimentality as a major cause of suffering.

          When I say suffering and misery, I am referring to mental and emotional suffering. Physical pain as the result of physical trauma is unavoidable and actually the sign of healing. Mental and emotional suffering is the result of emotional trauma. While mental and emotional suffering cannot be seen, it certainly can be felt and often causes physical symptoms such as depression, illness and chronic conditions.

          Sentimentality is the result of attachment. We can be sentimental about people, things and ideas. This is often confused with love, and causes all kinds of emotional trauma when the object of the sentimentality changes. When we become attached to something or someone, we do not want to lose it. When we do lose it, and we always will because that is the way of this world, we suffer. It requires a higher level of consciousness and enlightenment to understand that everything changes; including people, and what we once became attached to is only temporary.

          When we talk about sentimentality, the most obvious object of attachment is “our stuff”, especially money. We believe that our stuff brings us comfort, security and power. This is an illusion. Many times we learn in history that the wealthy and powerful die penniless and isolated. Lottery winners oftentimes lose their wealth and dreams of security. We can lose our most prized possessions and lose any hope of joy and happiness along with it. I once owned a large house that was fully furnished with valuable collectibles. A business colleague persuaded me to rent it to her daughter. The daughter was addicted to crack cocaine and stole every item of furniture and art to sell for her addiction. At first I was outraged, but later could realize that it was a tremendous gift to show me how I was sentimentally attached to “my stuff”. When I let go of the sentimentality, I stopped suffering.

          People are also a great source of suffering. I cannot begin to count the number of people I have met who pine for their “soul mate.”  Even others, thinking that they have found their soul mate, suffer tremendously when these objects of affection and sentimentality change or leave. Suffering is great when those we depend on for happiness and security do not behave like we want them to behave. Having been a divorce lawyer for many years, I have yet to meet someone who wants to divorce that “bitch” or “bastard” who did not attach some affection or sentimentality to the relationship. When someone we have sentimentally attached to dies, great is our grief and suffering. We do not understand that these are the rules and everyone dies. We attach great emotional pain to the fact that we have been abandoned by those we “loved.” Again, it takes a great deal of consciousness and enlightenment to accept the inevitable and rejoice when someone we love dies.

       Another object of sentimentality is our beliefs. What we believe in oftentimes is utter nonsense, but try to convince someone of that. I have often said to people that we can be right or we can be happy, it is difficult to be both. The great philosopher Bertrand Russell said “I will never die for my beliefs, I might be wrong.”  We attach to our beliefs and will defend them to the death, or at least until we are convinced that we are wrong. Unfortunately, the more we are attached to our beliefs, the more difficult it is to be happy. The great conundrum is whether this is true if we believe we are happy. That question really makes my head hurt.

          The key is to remember that happiness has nothing to do with any of the above. Happiness is the result of our connection to our higher self, our higher consciousness, spirit, source, creator, or God. It has nothing to do with what we own, our beliefs or our relationships. Happiness is a symptom of the ultimate realization that everything is an illusion so we might as well have fun. The way to happiness is to serve others, live simply, and be humble. If you have the bad karma to have lots of stuff, a relationship with your soul mate, or a set of well reasoned beliefs, best of luck with that. Sometimes it is our struggles, misery and suffering that brings us to the realization that it is all an illusion and distraction from our true purpose, which is to be of service.

          So the next time you are upset, miserable or suffering, look at what you may be sentimental about. Is it something you have lost or something you want and can’t have at this time? Fear is simply a symptom of being sentimental. Be aware of your sentimentality and it will change. Be aware of your beliefs and they will change. Be aware of who you are and you will change. What fun!

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

THE POWER OF KINDNESS

          We are social beings. Even though we strive to detach and be powerful individuals free of negative emotions, we still enjoy and thrive in a community of like-minded individuals. If you find yourself in a community of people who do not support you and criticize each other, it is time to find a new community. There are usually two things that may be present when you realize that the people you have surrounded yourself with are negative and critical. First, we have to realize that people who are in our lives mirror aspects of our self that we need to heal. If we have surrounded our self with critical, closed-minded people, we need to open our hearts and minds to understand that everything we experience is in divine order and exists to help us grow into enlightenment. While we may not engage in negativity on a regular basis, there is some reason that we experience this in our lives, and it usually is a signal that we have to shift to a higher plane of consciousness. Second, it is when we recognize that we no longer resonate with people who are negative it is a signal that we are ready to grow into a more loving and supportive role in our world.

          The larger issue is trust. We can’t make friends and shift our reality unless we are trustworthy and cultivate trust in others. We do this with kindness and compassion. Manipulating, lying and being out of integrity only serves to alienate people and we send signals to the world that we are untrustworthy. When we are behaving in a way that destroys trust, we will suffer and eventually realize that we do not even trust our self. When we can’t even trust our self, we lose confidence, self-worth and our moral compass. The only way to cultivate true friends and surround our self with support and love is to practice senseless acts of kindness. If we want to shift the planet, more people have to get on board with this simple principle. Self-confidence fosters honesty, truthfulness and integrity.

          When we practice kindness, honesty, truthfulness and integrity, we also become transparent. What that means is we don’t have to hide anything from any one. When we are in service and tell the truth, we also do not have to have a memory. Only people who lie have to remember what they said. The gift of transparency is peace, joy and abundance. When we let go of negativity and controlling others, we can relax and simply enjoy what we are receiving in the moment. When we are playing God, we are stressed and anxious and can’t relax. The ultimate reward for playing God is suffering. God is not on vacation and there are no job openings. When we practice kindness, we also shift our perspective from the head into the heart. Kindness does not exist in the ego, only control and fear exists in the ego. To access kindness, we have to go into the heart.

          When we live in the heart, we find our self. We do not have to be anyone other than our self because we don’t worry about how other people think about us. When we are in our hearts, we only seek to serve others, we do not want anything from them. If you are in a relationship crisis, simply repeat to yourself, “be kind”. Most people who have experienced fear and pain in relationship forget how to be kind because they are in survival mode. We have to shift out of survival mode and be compassionate, which leads to kindness. This is also known as getting out of your head and into your heart. The easiest way to get out of our heads and into our heart is to repeat the mantra mentioned above, “be kind”. We instinctively know how to be kind, but what is usually missing is we try to do it from our heads, and it doesn’t work. What we have to do is get quiet and simply repeat, “be kind” until we relax. And we will.

          Kindness is a virtue they say. It is a virtue because “virtue” means “moral excellence”. Interestingly enough a “virtue” is also the highest kind of angel. So those who believe in the power of angels, being kind is the highest form of angelic energy. If you want to be a living angel, practice kindness, for that is how you will be known. Instead of getting angry, send kindness to the person that cut you off in traffic. Instead of revenge, send kindness to the person that hurt you. Instead of resentment, send kindness to the person that doesn’t act the way you want. Kindness heals all wounds. Pour it liberally on each and every wound you have endured and watch them heal. If you want to be powerful, be kind.

 

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

NO MUD NO LOTUS

          There is a brilliant Buddhist saying: “no mud, no lotus.” What this means is that the greatest beauty often comes out of our greatest pain. This is because the lotus flower usually grows in water that has deep mud at the bottom and the lotus flower sends its roots deep into this mud that oftentimes is ill smelling and may contain the refuse of the civilization that lives along the banks of the body of water. Yet an entire consciousness has been described as being contained in a lotus flower. The flower looks exquisite and pure, especially in the backdrop of a filthy pond. Three separate spiritual mythologies have chosen the lotus to represent purity and beauty; Hinduism, Buddhism and the Egyptians.

          In each of these cultures, the blooming of the lotus blossom arising from the filth and murky waters each day was compared to spiritual awakening. Due to the fact that the flower closes each night and sinks below the surface to be reborn clean again in the morning, it also symbolizes enlightenment. Furthermore the reappearance of the beautiful flower out of the murky water every morning symbolizes the detachment from desire and reward, the goal of any spiritual aspirant. Probably the most relevant aspect of the lotus is that the effort that it takes to rise above the muck and mire of the waters of its birth to spread its petals as purity and cleanliness symbolizes the effort that the spiritual seeker must make to rise above the symbolic muck of existence. This not only means the physical challenges of life, but it also means the challenges of freeing ourselves from the illusions and delusions of our minds.

          The mud from which a lotus grows is compared to the struggle and suffering of humanity. However, we must accept the fact that suffering is an essential part of human existence that makes us strong enough to rise above that suffering to gain enlightenment. When we stop habitually thinking negative thoughts and accept our innate birthright of joy and happiness we rise above the muck and mire and open to the beauty of enlightenment. It is this struggle that defines who we are and trains us to choose the path of righteousness over easiness. There are many comparisons to this in nature, as if nature understands this principle much more than we do. Many plants have the ability to persevere and break through solid concrete and asphalt through sheer determination and will to live. They do not need prophets and gurus to teach them how to overcome their worldly condition; they just grow. We have that same genetic urge to grow, that is why so many of us want to understand and rise above what appears to be senseless waste around them.

          The lotus also symbolizes rebirth, whether being reborn into another lifetime or a symbolic rebirth that happens after great grief, loss or intense suffering. Humans have a great tenacity and resiliency to survive great odds. It seems that the more we have to suffer and overcome, the more wisdom and grace we can obtain. This is the message of the movie “Unbroken”, the story of an Olympic athlete who survived being a Japanese prisoner of war. His greatest triumph came in the afterwards of the film which stated that he suffered great PTSD until he let go of his pain and resentment and forgave his captors. He even went on to be one of the runners of the Olympic torch to the Olympics in Japan when he was 80 years old. It is this greatness of the human spirit that reminds us of the lotus flower that thrives best in the foulest of conditions to bring us such great beauty. We can be reborn simply by changing our mind and behavior and becoming a different person. We can bring peace and serenity where we once sowed conflict. We can offer a smile or a kind word where we may have sowed indifference. Each one of us is a lotus flower who must rise every day out of our circumstances, that may be quite tragic, to become a beautiful expression of the divine. When we are knee deep in alligators, it is difficult to remember our initial objective was to drain the swamp. It is also a human condition that we do not realize that our difficulties make us better people. While we don’t want to seek difficulty, we do not have to fear or be traumatized by difficulty either. It is like an exercise to make us more athletic or better looking. The crap sometimes makes us better.

 

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

DON’T YOU LOVE MERCURY RETROGRADE?

         There is a term in astrology that many people dread; mercury retrograde. It is that time when the planet Mercury appears to be going backwards in the sky due to the alignment of the planets as we go our merry way around the Sun. Anecdotally, it is a time when communications, electronics, plans, health, jobs and clarity simply breaks down. People experience noticeable miscalculations, misunderstandings, mistakes, disruptions, confusion, breakdowns, and sometimes chaos! Emails quit working, computers start doing weird stuff. Astrologers recommend that we not enter into any contracts or commitments during this time. The current mercury retrograde started four days ago and will last approximately two and a half more weeks. Personally I am having problems with my printer. It just won’t work when I want it to. I downloaded new drivers, rebooted, cursed and pulled my hair and nothing. Just when I was calling tech support everything in the queue started printing. Egad!

            Astrologers tell me that mercury retrograde is a very important time in the year when we are supposed to rethink, redo, recalibrate, reconnect and simply rest. Part of the problem of today’s society is that we don’t pace ourselves, we don’t take time to rest properly. We get sore, stiff, frustrated, stressed and ill because we don’t take time to contemplate our lives and simply relax. In many ways, mercury retrograde forces us to put the telephone down and go run in the grass.

            This time of the astrological calendar is also the perfect time to practice patience and non-reaction. When we have a feeling that something may not go the way we want, we can prepare ourselves to be patient and kind. Just because something isn’t happening the way we want right now, it doesn’t mean that it won’t happen later. All things come to those who don’t react. I have always said that the universe has a really crappy way of teaching patience. It usually means wading knee deep in a swamp of alligators. When alligators surround us, sometimes it is difficult to remember that our initial objective was to drain the swamp. So mercury retrograde is a time to remember what our original intentions were and how we may have lost the path to the life we want. Although it is best to put our past behind us, and to keep the future in front of us, sometimes it is good to contemplate and meditate on how we can improve our thoughts and behavior.

            Mercury retrograde also affects how we communicate with our self, how we talk to our self and how we think about our self. For the next two and one half weeks, we can be more aware of how we do all of those things and what we can do to be more positive, grateful and joyful. When we are marching full speed ahead, sometimes that is not possible. So when your laptop is doing amazingly stupid things or your printer isn’t working (really bad for a writer), it is a great time to look around and see how good we have it.

            It is a great time to get organized and clean up the clutter, not only in our minds but also in our closets, drawers and other storage areas. If you haven’t used it in a year, give it away. Clothing, computers, electronics and other possessions will block the flow of energy and abundance if you don’t keep things flowing. Go for a walk, take off your shoes, treat yourself to something fun and silly. Go outside your comfort zone. Mercury retrograde is a time of unexpected results and can be down right silly. So have fun! Laugh at your experiences and keep a journal. See how playful and joyful you can make this period. If you can find fun in mercury retrograde, you will find it everywhere. While everything is falling apart, contemplate how you can do and think in new ways with new results. If you have been doing something the same way forever, change it! If you haven’t heard from a friend, call them (if your telephone is working).

            Most importantly, don’t take anything personally for the next two and a half weeks (or the next two and one half lifetimes either). Many people will be having the same communications problems that you may be experiencing. You may find yourself asking yourself:  “did I say that out loud?” Well other people may be saying the same thing.  So if someone says something that may irritate or confuse, give them a break, it is mercury retrograde! Have fun, relax, and enjoy the new you!

            

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

MEMORIAL DAY

           Memorial Day is the federal holiday established to honor those who died fighting for the United States. It is not clear how the holiday originated (hard to believe in the modern age) with many cities claiming to have had the first celebration for the fallen. Tradition states that it began in Charleston, SC in 1865 with a celebration by newly freed slaves to honor those who died in the Civil War to free the slaves. Whether the national holiday grew from that or other memorials for the fallen soldiers, Memorial Day has grown to be one of the major holidays of the US, at least in part because it unofficially marks the beginning of the summer.

            The irony is that it would seem that we only pay this holiday lip service as we continue to lose soldiers in conflict all around the world. One would think that any intelligent life would recognize the effects of violence on itself and cease perpetuating death and violence. How many orphans does it take to stop war? How many PTSD cases does it take to stop violence? When will we stop the idea that violence is a solution for any problem?

            My father graduated from the United States Military Academy (West Point) in 1945 and joined the occupational forces in Europe for three years following surrender by Germany. To this day he is apologetic about not being a part of the actual war against Germany. When he is asked if he served during World War II, he goes into a long story about not actually fighting Germans but he did have a violent incident with Russian troops. A more telling story is how kind and gentle he was before he went to West Point; and how angry and driven he was after that experience. Until the US Military Academy accepted women, graduates of West Point were quick to point out that the experience of going to West Point makes men out of boys. I am not sure what the tag line is now, but I shudder to think how many sweet, kind and gentle teenagers were transformed into killing machines and then unleashed upon an unsuspecting public without any deprogramming. This process continues unto this day.

            The affects of military service is overwhelming our VA hospitals and becoming more and more of a problem with PTSD and chemical warfare poisoning, not to mention the physical damage many wounded warriors have to live with. How much suffering do we have to experience before we stand up and cry “ENOUGH”! It is clear that we are losing the war against terrorism. A case in point is the Boston Marathon bombing. The lone surviving terrorist was sentenced to death several times over. One death will never repay the damage done to the victims of that day. Ironically enough, death is what the surviving terrorist wanted; now he gets to go to heaven and have 72 virgins. Somehow something is not computing.

            The truth is the wars that we are waging in other countries will likely bankrupt our country. We spend trillions of dollars in research every year on how to kill our enemies better. We could simply buy our enemies lock stock and barrel more cheaply. I am not suggesting that we do that, but I am questioning why we spend so much money on death and violence. Having the biggest and most deadly weapons in the world has not kept us safe.

            This Memorial Day we have to wake up and become more conscious about what we are doing as individuals and as a nation to perpetuate the fallen. We are the victims of our own device. There is too much money flowing into the hands of those that profit at war. There is too much disinformation being fed to us by politicians that want us to continue funding war and violence.

            I believe that we should honor our fallen and demand an end to war by whatever means are available. We have the resources, technology and intelligence to do so. We are funding both sides of every conflict currently waging in the world. We are so afraid that nations will turn on us if we don’t fund their violence that we have sold our grandchildren’s destiny to continue the fighting. We need to stop making weapons of mass destruction. We need to clean up our mess. We need to stop sending soldiers into harm’s way. We need to learn the lessons of our past so that we do not repeat them. The world will not support the status quo much longer. We either have to chose freedom or totalitarianism. We have to choose peace.