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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 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

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

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

FEAR OF THE FUTURE

            My personal opinion is that our biggest health issue on this planet is fear of the future. We stress, worry, plan, analyze, manipulate and attempt to control everything and anything in our life because we don’t know what the future will bring and our ego/mind cannot live with that. So rather than have trust and faith that the divine and the creative forces of the universe are conspiring to give us far more than we can ever dream. It must be a primal fear, a fear that we have encoded into our genetic code, because there are very few people that do not live with this fear on a daily basis. The gifted few that do not have a fear of the future are either deeply connected to God or have a mental disorder that prevents them from cognitive thinking. The stress and anxiety caused by this fear of the future puts great strain on our immune systems and causes disease, accelerated aging and illness. We have to find a way to let go of the fear of the future.

            The first step is to recognize the source of this fear. The mind/ego is the source of all questions, doubt, and fear. The heart does not have any fear of the future; the heart is always in the moment sending love and compassion to the world. When we have questions or doubts or fears, this is generated by our thoughts based on our past experiences. We always want to know what is going to happen in the future. Psychics and fortunetellers are making good livings these days predicting what is going to happen in the future. The irony is that we are the ones that make the future by our thoughts and actions. We can either make the psychic right when we believe what the psychic tells us and we subconsciously manifest it, or we can rebel and make the opposite come true.

            The second step is to recognize that it is our desire for something that pushes it away. That is why we are afraid, we are afraid that we will never get what we want. The truth is that there are a limited number of outcomes to our desire.  First, we will either not obtain what we want because our guardian angels know it is not good for us and will not let us have it. That answer is “no”. Second, we will get what we want and we will realize that what we thought we wanted isn’t what we thought we wanted. In other words, when we desire something and get it, we realize that is not going to make us happy. That answer is “oh no.” Third, we can get what we want and then discover after time that we have changed our minds and we want something else. That answer is “oh no, not again.” So basically our mind automatically sets us up to suffer because we look outside of ourselves for something that is inside us, and that is happiness.

            The third step is to want what we get. When we accept whatever comes in our life with gratitude, we prime the pump for more deliciousness to come in the future. If we are afraid of the future, it is because of ignorance. When we accept one universal principle, that everything changes, and we can accept life or reject it, we understand that we really do have control over what we experience. If we are happy with what we have, and we know that we will be happy with whatever we have in the future, all of the angst disappears. We still wake up, suit up, and do the best we can, but we let go of the desire. I mean, really, do we really want to stay in perpetual fear and angst?

            Finally, we have to realize that fear of the future is the number one indication that we have disconnected from our heart. When we live in our heart we are focused on what we can do for others, we are focused on being openhearted. This is the path to connecting with our heart. When we are connected to our heart we do not fear. There is no point because we accept all that was, all that is and all that will be as a gift, the present. Whenever we feel afraid, panicked, or stressed, we need to reconnect with our heart. We can’t think two thoughts at the same time. We can either focus on being grateful and openhearted or we can be terrified of our future. It is one or the other. Sometimes we have to post sticky notes all around the house to remind us to think positively, be grateful and be open-hearted. When we are openhearted, we feel peace and calm. We know that we will be fine. We do not fear the future. And life becomes wonderful.

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

SURVIVING HELL

            We all have been there. Hell. That place in your life that you did not think you could survive without losing something very important to you, like your self-respect and future happiness. Life often throws us unavoidable surprises that we are not ready to catch. It would have been nice if someone had yelled “incoming!” I just learned of the tragic death of young father in an automobile accident. He was young, and left a wife and two young children behind. Loss is just one level of hell. Other levels include poverty, public ridicule, illness, abuse by a loved one, the criminal justice system, and breakup of romantic relationships. Each person has their version of hell but hopefully won’t have to experience it. Many times one person’s hell is another person’s heaven. It is all a matter of perspective.

            I have found some guidelines on how to survive a trip to hell and return a new and improved version of you. Each one can be used by itself or in conjunction with the others. I have great compassion for those who are going through such traumatic times that they can’t breathe or sleep. Been there and done that. But if you try these practices, your return from Hell will be easier and quicker.

                      1. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. When we go through trying times, we are exercising parts of our psyche that may be weak or needs strength. Life has brutal ways sometimes of making us stronger. Sometimes even a superficial wound like a broken love affair can make us want to lay down and die. We feel like the future is not worth living. However, as we will see below, many times better and more exciting times are ahead and we have to be strong enough to get there. Winston Churchill once said during the German bombing of London, “when you find yourself in hell, keep walking.” So keep breathing.           

                      2. This too shall pass. Sometimes we have to resolve ourselves to outlive our challenges and problems. No matter how bad things get, remember that the current challenges and difficulties will pass. Everything changes. Use this knowledge to your advantage. The good times pass, the bad times pass, and the really painful and difficult times will also pass.

                      3. You are a survivor.  The present may feel like the worst ever, but chances are you have seen worse, or know of someone who has survived worse. If you live in the US, you are better off than most of the world and your survival skill can be pretty good. You’ve survived tough times and challenges, over and over. Remind yourself that you’re an experienced problem solver. And while you’re at it, remind yourself you’re fighter. You overcome, you don’t give up.

                      4. The worst won’t happen. A familiar saying is “90% of what we worry about doesn’t happen”.  While you may feel overwhelmed by life’s twists and turns and the intensity of the current situation, try to take each moment one at a time. When we experience trauma, we immediately go into the future and stress about what we are going to do tomorrow, 6 months from now or years from now. Cancel clear any thoughts about the future while you are stressed. Only make plans or consider the future when you are calm and grounded. If you make decisions about anything while you are stressed and overwhelmed, you will only make your situation worse. Calm down, breathe, and remember that you are stronger than you know and braver than you think.

                     5. Release expectations and control. Often, we deal with so much stress and anxiety not because of what’s happening, but because it is not happening as we please. We grow up having certain expectations about our life. These expectations were programed by our parents, advertisers, authority figures and society. We demand certain consequences and results. We provide the timelines on when we want these things. Life doesn’t care about our every wish and command, or our timeline. The more you can learn to let go of your expectations about circumstances, the more free and less stressed you’ll feel. Trust that the situation will work out for the best and be OK with it not turning out exactly as you had wanted. For once, relax and let the God/Universe take care of you. Take a few days off from running the universe and see what happens.

                       6. Learn the lesson. You may not be able to do anything with your current circumstances right now, but you will be able to reflect and learn from what’s happening in your life later on. When you get the point of the lesson, you will be able to use that wisdom to improve your life and the life of your loved ones. It is when you are in denial and resist the lesson that things get worse. Sometimes life takes loved ones or things away to give us something or someone better. Life is a classroom … imagine that it’s preparing you for a doctorate in living.

                        7. It always gets better. Life is a pendulum swinging between pleasure and pain. That is why it is always darkest before the dawn.  When things get bad, or terrible, rest assured that it can’t continue this way. Remember things always change. Rest assured the worst is behind you. It can only get better from this point onward. Stay hopeful and optimistic that your situation is about to change for the better. It will.

                        8. It is a gift.  When we are going through Hell, it is hard to be grateful for the experience. That is the only way we can learn and grow from the experience, to recognize that God never gives us more than we can handle and growth many times is painful. When we are grieving the loss of a loved one, embrace the gift of grief and understand that your heart will open and love will fill it if you let it in. The more we fail and stumble, the more growth and insight we have about life. The truth is success will follow tragedy if we accept the gift and learn the lesson. Get ready for better things in your future. If the fall was hard and painful, your bounce back should take you to whole new heights. Setbacks aren’t always what they seem. You may feel like you’re taking several steps back when in reality, you’re getting ready to make great leaps in your life.

          And soon enough you’ll realize that life is setting you up for something much greater.

 

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

GIVE IT UP

            Ever since I heard the word “enlightenment”, I wanted it. It is a word that is surrounded by mystique and mystery, something only a few people in the world have attained. Why is it so illusive? What is the gift of enlightenment, or is there a gift involved at all? Or is enlightenment something that we can only obtain at the verge of dying, when we realize all that we have attained and desired are illusions?

            My understanding of enlightenment is that is the state of our consciousness once we have rid ourselves of all desire. Immanuel Kant argued that enlightenment was the state of maturity, and therefor unobtainable by most humans. Humans are too lazy, too victimized and too comfortable to seek true enlightenment. Who seeks true freedom, which is the initiation of enlightenment, when captivity and immaturity is rewarded? What concepts must we let go of in ourselves in order to achieve this rare state of existence?

            Most people want to use reverse engineering to achieve enlightenment. They have heard that enlightened people know stuff that “muggles” (ordinary people) don’t know. They have powers that muggles don’t have. They can see into people’s souls and heal their greatest illusions. Who wouldn’t want that? The problem is everything is relative and no one is willing to pay the price for these mystical powers. People promise systems and modalities to achieve enlightenment, but they don’t have the dedication or desperation to give it everything they have. They believe that they are willing to sacrifice everything to obtain enlightenment, but when things start disappearing from their lives they revert to victimhood and self-doubt. They forget that the hallmark of the spiritual path is to remove the illusion of pain, and the only way to do that is to go through test after test until they can understand that pain really is just an illusion.

            When I first started on my spiritual path, I asked a very wise person how I could feel safe in a very unsafe world. His statement continues to unfold like a lotus blossom. He said, “get over it”. How do you get over the traumas and experiences that shaped my soul and my psyche? I continue to struggle on that one. While there are some character defects that I continue to heal, I happen to like a lot of things about myself. I am kind, compassionate, generous, wise and humble. (You can laugh). The pity is that in order to obtain enlightenment, not only do I have to let go of my character defects, I have to let go of everything I think about myself. Whatever I think about myself is a distraction and interferes with connecting with the divine. So I have to let go of myself.

            The truth is I have to let know of everything I know in order to rise above my limiting beliefs about who I am. This includes what I consider to be “good” as well as the “bad”. This includes the notion that I would like to have a companion to share life with. This is an antiquated notion that I inherited from my parents which has not served me very well. I have to let go of my expectations and needs, especially the feeling that I need anything. After all, everyone I meet is someone I can love and share my life with and the fact that I am interacting with any person is by definition sharing my life with someone.

            Intellectually I know that if the divine wanted me to have a life partner I would have one. Intellectually I know that if the divine wanted me not to have a life partner there is nothing I can do to have one. Enlightenment is the realization that the divine is operating in my highest and best good and it is only my myopic and short sightedness that keeps me from embracing that thought. I think I know what is best for me, and that is my biggest trap and impediment from achieving enlightenment. I must accept the fact that my highest self, my divine self, is running the show and as a physical being I do not.

            So I have to give up everything I know or want from life in order to transcend the physical, mental and emotional barriers that keep me bound to suffering in this life. As an aside, that doesn’t mean reject abundance given to me by the divine as karma, dharma, or grace from the divine. Simply because I have abundance does not mean I am attached to it or desire it. The zen nature of enlightenment requires that I not want it in order to achieve it. I have to give it up, let it go, and accept what karma and grace has given to me. That is probably the hardest thing in life to do but it must be done to transcend the illusions of reality and human life in order to achieve the deep divine connection that my soul seeks.

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

STOP CARING

         We are taught to care about everything. Another way of saying this is we are taught to be codependent. Codependency is a behavioral disorder that bases your feelings on how everyone else is feeling. If everyone else is happy, you can be happy. When someone you love is unhappy, then you immediately have to find a solution to this problem because you can’t be happy until they are happy. The key to being confident and strong is to not allow what is going on around you affect your happiness or journey. In other words, you have to learn how not to be attached to what is happening around you. Indeed, if we can transcend the attachments and codependency that we form with others we will experience a new freedom and joy that will radiate out and affect all who we interact with.

            Not caring and detachment does not mean lacking compassion. If someone is experiencing pain and suffering, we can have compassion for that person because we understand that is the human condition that we have transcended. We can give them comfort and support because that is our purpose in life, to help others. What we must stop doing is allowing other people to dictate how we feel about our life and ourselves. Have you ever had someone accuse you of “not caring”? “You don’t care about me” is the mantra of victim hood. When we “care” about someone, we tend to take responsibility for his or her happiness. That is not our job. Our job is to understand them and support them, and walk away if they persist in their victimhood and self-pity. Compassion has no attachments to their feelings or suffering, compassion understands everyone suffers and we can be kind.

            True freedom requires that we detach in the sense that we are above the melodrama. Developing the ability to control and manage our compassion without attachment is the essence of integrity. We tend to get sucked into other people’s problems that will distract us from being our greatest version of ourselves. Not caring allows us to be comfortable within ourselves and free to help or detach from whatever problems others are experiencing. When we detach from our compassion, we do not suffer. We only observe. In order to be truly happy, we have to detach from everyone else’s problems. Again, this does not mean that we don’t open our hearts and send them healing and love, or even offer to help them. What it means is that we do not let other’s problems affect our happiness or equanimity. I know that I have enough to do to master my emotions and deal with my own issues. I do not let other people’s issues cause me suffering. That may sound selfish or cold, but it is being realistic.

            One teacher shared with me that sentimentality causes more suffering than anything else. Sentimentality is being attached to everyone else’s pain. Sentimentality is wishing things were different, wishing things were like some half-remembered fantasy world that we build from the past. In order to be free, we have to have common sense and practicality in our lives. This requires detachment.

            Now admittedly, many people find caring terribly exciting. They are the first to come to the door with casseroles and tissues and will stay for hours commiserating and gossiping. Is that helpful? Probably for the short term, but we need to empower each other, not enable victimhood. Unless we are enlightened gurus or psychotherapists, most people have no business trying to cheer each other up. How can you cheer someone up if you are miserable yourself? So stop it. A compassionate being will come and hold space for someone is suffering. Just be.

            Ultimately, life is neutral, no adjectives required. It is our ego that wants to define, question, classify, control and manipulate. We have to allow life to happen, as it will, whether we care and try to control it, or not. When we stop caring, and detach, we can step back and enjoy life, rather than be controlled by it.  

            

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

A NEW RELATIONSHIP

           I hear from a lot of people that our reality is changing. I know that the poles are shifting (even NASA confirms this), weather is really getting weird, politics and world economies are changing. The most profound shift I hear about is how relationships are changing and becoming less codependent and more divinely inspired. Predictions are that the old way of relating to someone has to change, and will change. This is attributed to the fact that our consciousness is shifting out of the physical, three dimensional reality to a more spiritual, five dimensional reality. To be honest, I am not quite sure what this means, but I can tell you that one of the most incredible relationships I have ever experienced is far different than any relationship I have ever experienced.

            In the past, relationships were based primarily on whether the participants could  satisfy basic needs and desires of their partner. There was the chemistry factor, which is an antiquated way of saying that more needs were satisfied than not. There is also the Cinderella factor; that is the person you fell in love with may be a magical fantasy you create in your mind and project on the other person. When the clock strikes midnight and the magic wears off, you are left with someone that you may not even recognize. There are pheromones, organic compounds and brain chemistry involved in the old way of relationships that may change at any moment. Being a divorce attorney for many years proved that attraction can change almost over night and people jump in and out of bed with a frightening frequency.

            From a socioeconomic perspective, we created a fantasy life reflected in fairy tales of love at first sight and committed long term relationships as the ideal relationship. I grew up being told that humans were one of the few species that was monogamous and love was forever. My experience in adulthood was far different; I discovered that pain decides whether a relationship is forever — more than love. Statistically more marriages fail than last a lifetime. My observation is that many relationships that did last a lifetime probably shouldn’t have. In other words, the ideal committed permanent relationship may have died a cultural death, and we pick and choose who we live with based on many factors other than love. Obviously when one partner chooses not to fulfill the needs, desires and fantasies of their partner, the relationship loses its attraction. So what is the future for relationships and what are they going to look like?

            The first thing I have realized about the failure of my past relationships is a lack of maturity. Many others and I looked for people who will be more of an incestuous parent than an equal partner. Psychologists predict that most people marry a version of the parent we had the most issues with, hoping that we will have a parent who will do what we want. I have found this doesn’t work very well. This is especially true with potential partners who don’t want the responsibility of being my mother. So the answer is I had to grow up and stop looking for someone else to make me happy. I had to learn how to make myself happy and share that with someone. When I acted like a child needing something (sex, compliments, validation), the relationship failed. When I act like an adult that offers happiness, commitment and stability, relationships changed.

            When my sons were growing up, I noticed an amazing thing. The people in their peer group did not split off into couples and begin dating. They stayed together more as a pack and relationships were based on the group dynamic than a one on one dynamic. Eventually my oldest son bumped into one of these members in a more meaningful way and they now are married. They still have a large group of friends who they interact with, and they did not polarize into a separate unit like my parents did.

            Based on this trajectory, I can foresee relationships that are more like intense friendships than codependent polarized units that are separate from everyone else. The real relationship will have to be within our higher selves and us. When we connect with our spiritual core, the energy that created us, we enter a state of bliss that does not depend on how someone else is behaving. That is irrelevant. It also takes the responsibility off of our backs to make someone else happy. People take responsibility for their own happiness. The difference between this way of relating and the old ways of relating are huge. When we are strong and compassionate for our partner we can let them be who they are. We do not put any pressure on them to be someone else. We do not fantasize about who they could be to make us happy, because we are already happy. When we are in this state of being, there is no need to leave to find someone that will make us happy because our partner has ceased making us happy. It allows us to be free. There is a lot of fear wrapped around letting someone be who they are because we are afraid they will not like us and leave. If we truly loved ourselves, that thought would not manifest.

            I am still working on that relationship with myself. However, I am happy to report that my other relationships are doing well and I am constantly amazed how better it gets as my relationship with myself improves. I can see where we are going and I believe that it will look far different than anyone can imagine. Hopefully divorce lawyers will have to find something else to do.