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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

A SHORT HISTORY OF LOVE

          As I get older, I have drastically changed my understanding of love. As I grew up, I was a big fan of Arthurian legends, chivalry, romantic love and happily ever after. As I got older (after two divorces) I started to understand that love has nothing to do with soul mates, life partners or mated couples. Love has nothing to do with how you relate to an individual; it is how you relate to yourself and the world. If you don’t love yourself, and you don’t love the world you live in, I guarantee that you will not find love in a relationship. Love is not a mutual exchange or based on what people can do for you. So many people feel attracted to someone and think “I am in love!” People go into relationships because they think that the object of their affection will reciprocate and then life will be perfect.

          I hear so many times that people are looking for that “soul mate” that will complete their lives. Unfortunately that is a fantasy that been perpetuated by novels and Hollywood and we eagerly believed this fantasy because it made life look so easy. The belief that someone could make us happy is a self-defeating lie, because happiness only comes from within our own psyche, our own belief systems (BS). I was trained by my parents to believe that happiness can only be found in a loving relationship (like theirs). The red flags should have gone up the flag pole, first because their relationship was not loving but an exercise of hanging on, and second because happiness will never be found in a relationship.

          The first thing we have to understand is love is a one-way street. Love is the desire that others be happy. It doesn’t require anything from anyone in order to exist. It is unconditional, in the sense that you don’t care what the other person is doing, you just wish the best for them. You don’t need anything from them and you don’t want anything from the person you love. The truth is we need to love all beings, not just a small circle of people who you feel obligated to or attracted to. The hardest task of all of the masters, prophets and gurus demand is to love those who seek to harm us. Turn the other cheek, in other words.

          We get bogged down in the sticky messes and dramas of relationships when we believe that we need something from the object of our “love”. The truth is that we do not love when we need. We do not love when we feel abandoned or rejected. We do not love when we get angry. We do not love when we lust. We do not love when we demand. We do not love when we are jealous. We do not love when we run away. My point is that there are a host of other emotions which occur in a relationship that have nothing to do with love, but are often confused with being “in love”. When we step back and analyze our feelings and desires, we can quickly see that love is a much higher emotion than lust, greed and possessiveness. Unfortunately, our culture has developed a model of love that is everything but love. The common message is that if someone loves another, then they will make each other happy. This is not love, it is co-dependency.

          If we carry traumas and issues from our parents we often time seek to mate with someone that will replace our parents and make our life enjoyable. We project our fantasy parent onto the object of our desire and believe that we have found our soul mate. This may last days, months or years but at some point the veneer we have surrounded our “loved” one with will wear off and we have to deal with someone we really don’t know even though we may have lived with them for quite a while. Then the lesson really begins. Do we have enough love for and in us to see that person as they truly are and then make a decision that is best for all concerned? Or do we go into fear and selfishness and become angry and resentful? We have the ability to love anyone and live with anyone (unless abuse or violence is concerned, then run). The question is can we separate the satisfaction of our needs and desires from the person we claim we love? This is one of the fundamental tests that we have to face on the path to enlightenment.

          Sometimes loving someone means not enabling unhealthy behavior. If someone is emotionally or physically abusing you, love requires that you leave or do whatever you need to do to keep yourself safe. This is the meaning of self-love. It is only then that the object of your love will be forced to look at their behavior and learn their lessons. If they love you, they will want you to be safe. If their needs and issues are more important than you, then you must let them go. The issue is do you love yourself?

          Fear and love cannot coexist at the same time. If we focus on love, fear will disappear. The mantra for love is “Let me be of service”. When we are focused on letting others find their happiness, we will be love. That is the only way it will happen.

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

ESCAPING FROM REALITY

             We live our lives of quiet desperation and wish that things were different. We feel stuck in this world, having no control over our lives and our circumstances. We work hard and then harder to get ahead and seem to lose ground. We search for love and it eludes us; our soul mate never shows up no matter how many workshops or energy sessions we attend. We look at our neighbors and despair that we are losing the rat race. We seek counseling and the secrets to happiness. It doesn’t matter what we do or what we have, there is always that sense of anxiety and longing for something else. We are afraid that we will not get what we want, and when we manifest it we are afraid that we will lose it. Buddha called this “samsara”, or the “dream”. Samsara is the world, as humans with an unsettled and agitated mind perceive it. I call it a false reality invented by our unrealized ignorance.

            There is a story about Sai Baba, a revered holy man in India who recently left this reality. A man suffering from insomnia came to him and asked Baba to help him sleep. Baba referred the man to a yogi master who taught him how to breathe and yoga. The man returned to Baba to thank him as he was finally able to sleep. Baba told him, “if you want to sleep, follow the yogi. If you want to wake up, follow me.” There are some basic principals that we can follow to “wake up”. These may or may not make you happy, but at least you will have the tools to be so.

1. Being busy does not equal being successful.

It’s surprising how easy it is to lose sight of the important things in life. Busy schedules and weekly routines have a tendency to make us numb and unconscious. We forget where we put our keys, we need personal assistants to remind us what day it is. We become walking zombies.

Look at everyone around you. They all seem so busy — running from meeting to meeting and firing off emails. Yet how many of them are really producing, really succeeding at a high level? Success doesn’t come from movement and activity. It comes from focus — from ensuring that your time is used efficiently and productively. You get the same number of hours in the day as everyone else. Use yours wisely. After all, you’re the product of your output, not your effort. Make certain your efforts are dedicated to tasks that get results.

Speed is not the same as efficiency. Slow down. Breathe. Focus on what you are wanting to achieve. Achievement is not success. Success is being happy.

2. There is no success and no failure.

The biggest achievements often come when you’re feeling the most frustrated and the most stuck. It’s this frustration that forces you to think differently, to look outside the box and see the solution that you’ve been missing. Life takes patience and the ability to maintain a good attitude even while suffering for what you believe in. In the long run, there is no success or failure. There are only lessons about what is important and what makes you happy. The fact that someone has more money or possessions or a trophy spouse has no relevance to a happy person.

3. Fear is not real, never regret.

Many of us believe that death is the worst thing that can happen, followed closely by ridicule and poverty. We often dwell on our memories, incarcerating ourselves in the prison of the past. We regret what we have done and are afraid to do anything new because we are convinced by our memories that we are losers and will always fail. We do understand that we are never doomed, we are never failures. We are always works in progress and we all have the potential to change the world. The worst thing that can happen to you is allowing yourself to die inside while you’re still alive.

4. Love and self-worth must come from within.

When your sense of pleasure and satisfaction are derived from comparing yourself to others, you are no longer the master of your own destiny.  When we look at others, we disempower ourselves to them. When you feel good about something that you’ve done, don’t allow anyone’s opinions or accomplishments to take that away from you. That way, no matter what other people are thinking or doing, your self-worth comes from within. Regardless of what people think of you at any particular moment, one thing is certain — you’re never as good or bad as they say you are.

Stop looking for someone to make you happy. That is not their job. Your job is to be authentic, strong, caring, kind and considerate. When you have those qualities, you will be happy. So many people postpone their happiness because they are waiting for someone to do that for them. The truth is even if you find your soulmate, you will not be happy because they can’t make you happy. Most of us fantasize that someone will show up that do everything for us and be everything for us. Unfortunately, that is a fantasy because the universe does not revolve around us. When we love ourselves and have self-worth, it doesn’t matter what anyone else is doing. We are a bright light shining for everyone.

The other problem with looking for a soulmate is we limit our compassion and caring to that one person. We have a bigger role to play, we have to be kind and compassionate to all people. We have to love everyone equally, not just one person. Realize that our roles are much bigger than we know and our lives will expand to include what we want.

5. Your friends are your mirror to yourself.

Look at who you spend your time with. Are they friendly, supportive, kind, caring, inspiring and nurturing? If not, you need to look at your behavior and actions because they are probably reflecting who you are. Do you spend all of your time gossiping? Do you spend all of your time regreting and talking about the past? Do you endlessly and constantly criticise yourself and others? These are the bars of the jail cell you have built yourself in this world. Consider being what you want in your life. Be friendly, supportive, kind, caring, inspiring and nurturing. If your friends are reflecting what you want to change, change your friends. When we surround ourselves with people who are filled with negativity, that is what we have to deal with on a daily basis.

6. No one gets out of here alive.

Yes, we die, often before we are ready. Yet when someone dies unexpectedly it causes us to take stock of our own life — what’s really important, how we spend our time, and how we treat other people.

Remind yourself every morning when you wake up that each day is a gift, and you have to make the most of it. The moment you start acting like life is a blessing is the moment it will start acting like one. Despite the debate on what and where God is, the truth is we create the kind of day we live from the first waking breath. A great day begins with a great thought. Choose wisely.

7. Stop judging.

Life goes a lot smoother once you let go of negative emotions. When we judge something or someone to be bad, we are judging ourselves. Grudges and resentment let negative events from your past ruin today’s happiness. Hate and anger destroy your joy in life. In order to free yourself from negative thoughts and emotions, stop judging. Recognize that everyone is doing the best they can and everything that happens in life is a lesson. If someone cheats you or cheats on you, free yourself and thank them. If you leave a relationship or a job, it is the universe’s way of expanding your life and your awareness.  You now understand the pain of that experience and you are much wiser. If you are the cause of the event, take responsibility and accept the consequences of your actions.

No one is a victim. No one can force anyone to make decisions and take actions that run contrary to their values and aspirations. You created your past, just like you are creating your future. If you’re feeling stuck, it’s probably because you’re afraid to take the steps and change what is necessary to achieve your goals and live your dreams. Let go of your fear. It’s always better to be at the start of a path you want to be on than being at the end of one you don’t.

8. Forget the past.

It is our memories of the past which trap us in this false reality. No amount of guilt can change the past, and no amount of anxiety can change the future. Mark Twain said, “Worrying is like paying a debt you don’t owe.” It’s impossible to be happy if you’re constantly somewhere else, unable to fully embrace the reality (good or bad) of this very moment. Accept your past. If you don’t make peace with your past, it will never leave you and, in doing so, it will create your future. Accept the uncertainty of the future. There is a reason that we don’t know everything at once. Our heads would explode. The universe created time expressly for that reason, so everything would not happen at once. 

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

WEIGHT LOSS

          Oh, how I punish myself with New Year’s Resolutions. This year, for the 57th yearin a row, I have decided to get fit, lose the fat shaped like an inflated inner tube around my abdomen, and not be afraid to take my shirt off in public this summer. Yeah, right. I can say that I am a warehouse of facts on nutrition, genetics, exercise, supplements, self-analysis and articles on losing the fat and getting ripped like the professionals. I still have self-image issues despite all of this knowledge.

          The Food and Drug Administration has released some startling figures about obesity in the USA. Apparently 26.7% of America is obese. Minority groups of blacks (36.8%) and Hispanics (30.7%) are even more obese. The trends are we are getting fatter. To be obese means that you are at least 30% fat by weight, which in turn makes us unhealthy. There is only one cause for obesity, and that is overeating. Sorry all you people who claim it is your glands or big bones. You inhale more calories than your body and lifestyle needs and create fat in your body.

          The interesting thing about fat is that it actually helps us by absorbing toxins in our body. So we have to look at why the toxins are there, and why we have to generate so much fat to protect ourselves. Toxins can be generated from two sources. They can be introduced into the body by consumption or absorption, meaning that they are eaten or absorbed from our environment. Eating processed foods that contain preservatives and chemicals not found in nature probably is the primary source of toxins by consumption. Some nutritionists go so far as saying that if it comes in a box or a bag, don’t eat it. Not only are there chemicals in the food, there are chemicals in the packaging that are toxic.

          A lot of the foods we eat that we think are healthy, such as fruits and vegetables, can be full of pesticides and growth agents that are toxic. The fact that people are ignorant of these facts contributes to a lot of the obesity found in the USA. It is interesting that in Asiatic countries, where obesity used to be unheard of, are now consuming more and more fast foods and beef, and obesity is now on the rise. I guess we are what and how much we eat.

          The other cause of toxins in our body is stress. Worrying, anxiety and depression create a lot of toxic chemicals in our body, which cause us to eat more. Being around “toxic” people also causes stress, and that creates the desire for more food. There are two reasons for this. Many times eating comfort foods (which are usually fatty) will change the chemical balances in our bodies that temporarily relieves stress (chicken soup, for example) and we feel better. The other reason is happy memories attached to eating certain foods can lighten our mood, if not our bodies. I am particularly fond of ice cream, which reminds me of when I had my tonsils removed when I was six years old and I was given all the ice cream I could eat at the hospital to make my throat feel better.

          We have to ask ourselves why we allow ourselves to get obese. The direct caus of obesity is overeating. A combination of emotional eating (eating when the body doesn’t need it) and eating toxic foods adds to the fat. The highest spiritual teaching is wecreate our own reality for our own enlightenment. If you apply that teaching, we have to accept the fact that we do this intentionally, even if not consciously. So why do we make ourselves look like this?

          The answer lies basically in our subconscious, and the hidden delusion that we have to protect ourselves. For most people, body fat is armor that protects us from pain. Ironic, isn’t it that the way we choose to protect ourselves from pain actually causes pain, and a lot of it. Obese people, for whatever reason, don’t want to get close to people and want to keep people away. This usually comes from some kind of emotional or physical childhood trauma, or eating habits formed early in childhood. In other words, we get it naturally; we are trained to do it. If we identify the underlying beliefs, and change those beliefs, it is amazing how quickly the weight comes off.

          No matter what we do to lose weight, if we don’t heal or resolve these underlying issues, the best we can expect is the “yo-yo” effect where our weight goes up and down all the time. There is no pill that does this. This is “home” work, and requires great diligence and awareness to correct. As long as we hide in the delusion that we are protecting ourselves behind hundreds of pounds of fat, we will continue to be obese. When we finally decide to let go of these toxic memories, love our toxic companions or remove ourselves from our toxic environments, the weight will go.

          There is no wonder that the USA is so fat. We are so attached to material abundance, being fat is a symbol of success and abundance. After all, we have most of the food in the world, and as we grow more and more obese, food riots are breaking out around the world. As a word of caution, when the Chinese come looking for payment of the trillions of dollars of debt we owe them, they know we don’t have the money to pay. So they will more than likely take payment in food, by force if necessary. Then we will have the opportunity to experience hunger like we never have before.

          The easiest way to let go of our fat is to help others, to share the abundance we take for granted in this country. I won’t make any lectures on eating healthy foods and quit eating the processed foods that the medical/pharmaceutical companies are forcing us to eat so they can make money on the illness it creates. You can research that yourself. We can start to take food off of our plates and share it with the less fortunate. We can decide to heal our traumatic memories and let all of that go. We can start making more loving choices for ourselves. We can send food to the countries that need it and teach them techniques for growing it themselves. We can quit sending money that dictators use to amass fortunes and military arsenals at the expense of their starving citizens.

          The other day I looked in the mirror and was happy with what I saw. I don’t think I lost any fat, but I am much happier with what I am.

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

THE FORMULA FOR SUCCESS

          The path of success goes through your heart, not your wallet. My parents trained me that success equals money and the only true measure of value was how much money someone has. I was told that money equals power and respect. There were a few people who were recognized as living lives that contributed to the common good, such as preachers, missionaries, and civil servants. However, these people did not earn the respect that people with bundles of money received. It was a confusing message because I did not understand what money had to do with value and worth. I remember wanting to follow a career as an Outward Bound counselor when I was in college. Helping people find themselves in nature seemed to be a noble use of my time and efforts.  My parents thought I had lost my marbles and got very upset with me. The only endeavors that would earn their support and love were the pursuit of law, finance, and the medical professions. I certainly can understand their concern that I not be a burden to them and do something with my life that they considered brought honor to the family name. So I rejected my ambitions of outdoor counseling and followed the family edicts, becoming a lawyer instead.

            As I followed the path plowed by generations of my family before me, I noticed a gulf between those who were truly happy living lives of service without monetary reward and what I was doing, e.g. trudging a path chasing after influence and monetary success. As a lawyer, I successfully developed and then recovered from an addiction to alcohol. This was not uncommon I later found, because almost 33% of lawyers become addicted to mind and mood altering substances. The only professional group that has a higher addiction rate is dentists. [To date, I have no idea why dentists get to be number one. Being a competitive person, I wanted to be number one.] I served for a number of years as a substance abuse counselor for the State Bar, and was asked on a number of occasions to talk to lawyers about their abuse of alcohol or drugs. These interviews usually had a bomb attached to them, if the lawyer did not seek treatment, the State Bar could investigate the attorney and seek disbarment. These interviews were not often happy.

            I was given to frequent moments of reflection on why people, including myself, who were considered by most of society to be successful, were so miserable that they self-medicated themselves into oblivion. What was missing out of their lives that they attempted to fill with alcohol or drugs?  I know that for myself that the money was not worth the stress and conflict that lawyers often found. I was acutely aware that most lawyers enter law school with high ideals of helping people, and then graduated with huge debts and the reality of making a living in an unfriendly arena. Even worse, the successful academic would find themselves in the highly competitive world of a law firm, where doing a good job is not enough, one must generate clients and income as well.

            The pressures of generating clients and creating income for the firm are immense. I remember well partner meetings discussing partnership shares that resembled a pack of lions fighting over a freshly killed carcass. There was a thin veneer of civility masking primordial instincts wanting more and more of the kill. Younger partners did not feel appreciated, middle level partners fighting to keep their status and generate larger shares, and older partners who oftentimes brought in the client, cuffing the younger lions away with disdain. I thought I was in Hell, and truth be told, I was.  If the public only knew what occurred in partners meetings.

            The ultimate question then is “what is success and how do we perceive it?”  I feel that success is any endeavor that brings satisfaction and fulfillment. If we are to create a society of self-empowered people who are happy and fulfilled, the definition of success must be changed. We have to reorder our thinking to acknowledge that those who provide services that improve our lives are as successful as those who simply generate money. If our planet is to survive, we must revere those who have other graces than money. The world will not continue to support a society that allows people to go without free healthcare, food and shelter and idolizes the wealthy. I am speaking here of a global society, not only the societies of the various countries. The United States is the biggest culprit, but all other countries are guilty of mischaracterizing success as well.

            In my life as a healer, I see client after client who has become sick because they do not perceive themselves as “successful.” This is a sure path to misery. They can be doing a wonderful job, have many friends, and yet be miserable. Then there are others who sacrifice their lives to make a lot of money and then wonder why they have no true friends or satisfaction in life. I certainly profit by helping these people change their mind about success, and I have much compassion for those who think happiness lies in the size of their bank account. All of this is a huge lie told by us to ourselves. Until we understand that success comes from how we feel about ourselves, instead of external mileposts like income, net worth and position, we will continue to dance with the demons of stress and addiction.

            The answer to the question posed above is that success is simply how we feel about ourselves. Image how life would change for someone that may not make a lot of income if they could look in the mirror and say “I am a success!” and believe it. Imagine how life would be different if people would tell that person how much they are appreciated. If you could change your mind about your definition of success, imagine the ripple effect on your life.  It is amazing to see the power of a changed thought.  The first thing that would happen is that you would stop comparing yourself to others. Comparing yourself to others is the fruit of the folly tree. All you have to do is declare yourself to be a success and the angst of not living up to the expectations of others falls away. The most successful person in the world is that person who does his or her best on a daily basis. What more can one ask of themselves? How much misery is born from doing your best and judging that is not good enough? It is the shortest path to my table.

                        We must create a society that respects those who are happy. We must create a society that respects those who do not care what other people think.  We must create a society that loves and respects those who help others without great reward. We must create a society that loves and respects those who are kind, innocent and compassionate. It would be fantastic if the Nobel Prize went to those who helped others with no reward, the anonymous who reject money in lieu of happiness. I realize that would be a huge shift in consciousness, but if enough people believed in it, these dreams would become reality. Success must be redefined or we will surely suffer.

 

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

THE MOST POWERFUL FORCE IN THE WORLD

           I used to think that the most powerful energy in the world is love. There were many reasons for this, as love changes everything. Love is the creative aspect to creation, it is the energy that flows through us all, it is life. The love of the creative energy of the universe created us, sustains us, renews us. After experiencing true happiness, I now believe that there is a stronger force, the force of happiness.

            If love is the cause, happiness is the effect. Happiness is the end result of loving ourselves unconditionally. Happiness is the result of loving our lives, not only the pleasant events but also the unpleasant stuff. Happiness is not only getting what we want, it is the wanting what we get. Just as love underlies all of our awareness and consciousness, happiness is the foundation of bliss. I believe that we are programmed and hardwired with happiness at our core, the problem is we are easily distracted by fear, anger, guilt, shame, blame and other negative emotions and thoughts. If we can let go of these negative experiences we can reconnect with our core happiness.

            Happiness is an experiential concept. It is not something to intellectualize, it is not something that you can “fake it until you make it.” You either feel happy or you don’t. Once you feel happiness, you know what it is and you can return to that state by quieting your mind. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to meditate or become completely thoughtless, but it does mean that you have to focus on the feeling of happiness over all other distractions.

            I believe that children are born naturally happy. When we trust that we will be taken care of and we believe that we are loved, then we feel happy. This is our natural state of being. At some point most of us experience trauma in our lives in the form of abuse that distracts us from our natural state of happiness. We create defense mechanisms to avoid any more trauma, however, these defense mechanism also distract us from our natural state of happiness. We fear others, we suppress anger and guilt, we deny our feelings, and we feel unworthy or invalid.

            There is a way back to our natural state of happiness. It requires trust and faith that we are not victims and that the divine creator knew what he/she was doing when it created us. First and foremost, we have to love ourselves. It is impossible to feel happiness if we do not love our lives and ourselves. If we love our lives and ourselves, we accept that everything will be okay and remember that everything changes with time. If we are not experiencing pleasure at any given moment, we are not concerned because we know that will change. If we detach from the pleasure and pain, we can start to get down to the underlying natural state of happiness.

            Our lives may be difficult or challenging at the moment. We are fully aware that the challenges are difficult and we may not know how things will turn out. If we are in denial, we ignore the lessons we have come to learn by creating our challenges, while if we are happy we fully embrace the challenges as rungs in the ladder to enlightenment. We become happy for ourselves no matter what happens and our circumstances are irrelevant.

            The biggest block to happiness is the illusion that if we are not getting what we want then we can’t be happy. We all were programmed from birth with beliefs by our parents, teachers and peers regarding what we want in life. If we don’t get what we want, we are programmed to suffer, especially by feeling that we are doing something wrong. We must let go of this programming and understand that happiness arises when we accept that what is happening is for our greater good. We can be happy that we have challenges because they make us strong.

            I received an email the other day from someone who had made the observation that most spiritual teaching these days are from people who are rich or live in great abundance. He wanted to know what good these teachings would do for people who struggle to survive from one meal to the next. My observation is that people who live in poverty often are happier than people who live in abundance. At least the people who live in poverty understand that happiness does not depend on material possessions or wealth. It is easier to accept this lesson when you are in poverty than if you live in the USA and are surrounded by material wealth. There is a spiritual truth that happiness may be easier to find on an empty belly than a full one.

            Finding happiness requires one to dig very deep under core beliefs and illusions to love us no matter what. That is the true nature of a spiritual path. Happiness is the goal that we all seek. Once we find it, it is easy to hold on to. We can be rejected, abandoned or abused, and we realize how artificial and illusory those concepts are. Happiness is what we all want. Where we become differentiated is how we believe we will find it. When we realize that all it takes is the love of self, we do not need the houses, cars, bank accounts or soul mates to be happy. We cease to suffer and begin to enjoy life. I am beginning to believe that enlightenment is the connection to this state of being.

            When we are happy we are connected to our higher self and our divinity. When we disconnect from our higher self and divinity we are unhappy. This is the easy and simple litmus test of our connection to God. I like to imagine that when we are in our hearts, we are happy. When we are in our heads, we often are not.  So when people say that the longest journey is from our heads to our hearts, what they are really saying is the longest journey is from suffering to happiness. However, even though the journey may seem long, it is easy. All we have to do is allow ourselves to be happy, love ourselves unconditionally and stop the nonsense in our heads. Let it be, let it be, let it be.

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

HOW TO LOVE YOURSELF

Having been in the wellness and healing field for nearly twenty years, I’ve read many self-improvement books and articles, attended many empowerment and enlightenment workshops and facilitated countless healings. I’ve also studied Eastern philosophy extensively, mainly because it offers solutions to the issues most found in Western consciousness. I’ve found that the most central concept to all of what I have studied is self-love, and that it’s mastery is directly connected to our wellbeing and happiness. This begs the question, “do I love myself?” and “how do I love myself?” I share a few suggestions from a book I wrote that explores this important question, entitled, “What is Love?”

When we love ourselves, we don’t criticize, regret our past, or feel inadequate. We do not allow negative feelings to dwell in our hearts nor fear-based thoughts to dwell in our minds. This does not mean that we ignore our feelings, rather that we deal with them. We do not experience fear of the future; we choose to experience excitement about possibilities and stay firmly planted in the present moment as much as possible. We do not blame others for how we feel or what we experience; we acknowledge the truth in every situation and take responsibility for our creations.

We cultivate the mindset that we are good enough. Good enough for our job, relationships, for love and affection, and for abundance. If someone breaks up with us, or we lose our job, do we feel inadequate, scared or ashamed? If we love ourselves, we accept that we’re starting a new chapter in our life and things are changing. Change is natural, suffering is optional. There is no right or wrong, good or bad—just the tag you choose. No one’s to blame or at fault and there’s nothing to fear. When we love our self, change can be fun.

When we love ourselves, we control our thoughts and are mindful of self-talk, doing our best to keep it positive.  The same holds true about others; we do not speak harshly about anyone; we acknowledge the oneness in all and know that how we think about others is a reflection of how we think about ourselves. When we’re not distracted by self-criticism, we can focus on better loving our self and serving others.  I read the other day that we should “always be kind to people, you never know what demons they may be battling.” This holds true with ourselves as well, so be kinder to yourself. We may not be able to control what thoughts go through our subconscious, but we can choose what we focus on. We can focus on positive or negative thoughts/emotions. If we don’t resist the thoughts that go through our minds and remember to focus on the positive ones, we will perceive life as a positive experience. This requires effort and discipline.

Most of us cannot master our thoughts by ourselves. We need teachers or tools to help us focus and train our minds and master our thoughts. We can seek happiness or misery. How we think in every moment determines which one we experience.

Our minds work in predicable ways. We experience an event and then start thinking about it. We’ve been trained to analyze events from our perspective and filter it through our belief systems. Then mental patterns kick in, and we enter into a spiral pattern of thinking, which can either spiral down to depression or spiral up to joy. We control which way we go. If we think positively, that is self-love. If we think critically and negatively, that is self-hate. If you find yourself feeling depressed or unhappy, you are in the downward spiral. Work to shake off depressing thoughts and think positively.

As soon as you notice that you’re behaving in ways that are not in alignment with what you want, change those behaviors. Life can become a game of finding happiness and love—the two most sought after experiences we can have—within yourself. Happiness lies in loving ourselves, accepting what is, and is not dependent on getting “our way”.  Happiness will not be found in someone else—whatever others think is none of our business.

Get there fast by replacing words: Instead of “fear”, think “excitement”. “I am excited” instead of “I am scared”. For “unhappy”, use “happy”. “That makes me happy,” instead of  “That makes me unhappy”. “The Divine” instead of “No One”.  “The Divine loves me,” instead of “No one loves me.” Substitute “for” for “to”, as in, ‘this is happening for me, not to me. Make a list of your own negative vocabulary to change. The effect may be instantaneous or gradual, but I promise that your life will change as a result. Because you’ll be loving yourself more.