Posts

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

MINDFULNESS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE EGO

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GETTING OUT OF MY HEAD AND INTO MY HEART

           I am amused by all of the self-improvement empowerment literature that discuss how we dis-empower ourselves by thinking dis-empowering thoughts. This line of thinking recommends that we think empowering thoughts, make empowering choices and live empowered lives. I could not put my finger on why this huge cultural phenomenon did not ring true to me. Then I remembered that Albert Einstein once said, “You can’t solve a problem with the same thinking that created it.”  The problem is not how I am thinking; the problem is that I am thinking.

           A lot of the self-empowerment focus is on how to be wealthy and abundant. I suspect that most people would rather be happy. I know that when I am happy, I don’t care whether I have a big bank account, material things, the perfect soul mate, or anything else for that matter. The defining question in my life at this time is “am I happy?”  If I am not happy, then I know I have moved from my heart into my head.

           I often contemplate the difference between living in my heart and my head. One of the greatest moments of my life was to discover that there is a difference between being in my heart and in my head. At one of his workshops several years ago, Derek O’Neill taught a meditation of looking at life through the heart. It took a bit of practice until I finally felt and experienced the difference between looking at life through my mind and looking at life through my heart.

          When I look at life through my mind, the first thing I notice is all of the thoughts that are rapidly crossing my mind. Either critical or analytical thoughts, or both, fill my awareness and quickly steal my happiness from me. I am obsessive-compulsive by nature, that is why I was such I good lawyer. This is also attributable to an over developed defensive radar that is constantly scanning the horizon for danger. When my primitive brain is activated into the fight or flight mode, my mind goes on overload and is calculating at warp speeds. My self-perpetuating mind wants this condition to exist at all times which gives it something to do. I am a Leo, and my calculating analytical mind is constantly trying to figure out how to conquer the world. Leo’s are particularly well suited to rule the world, by the way. We just have problems convincing everyone else of this well-known fact.

          When I look at the world through my heart, it seems like I have stepped into a completely different dimension, which has a completely different perspective. I look at life as completely safe and wonder-filled place to be, and I can truly believe and trust that there are no dangers on the horizon. I step into a place of harmony and equality; I am a part of the world, not separate from it. Duality disappears and all is one. I am at peace, and I have no memory of trauma or disappointment. I don’t care who rules the world, I am here to help people, not control them. It doesn’t matter whether I have ten dollars or one million dollars; I have faith that I will be given everything I need to exist.

           The most amazing difference between life viewed through my heart and life viewed through my mind is the absence of fear in my heart. I have to conclude that fear is not real; it is a figment of my imagination. In other words, it is a thought that my mind creates in order to give it something to do. After all, if I am afraid, my mind gets to work overtime. When I am in my heart, I do not fear. There is no fear, because there are no thoughts in my heart, only love.

           This is similar to “detaching” from my mind or my thoughts. Many meditations recommend that we detach or imagine that we are watching ourselves thinking. While difficult, it is possible to do this. At first, don’t get caught up in doing it for longer than a few seconds. It will take lots of practice to be able to sustain this detachment for more than a couple of minutes.

            I had an amazing realization recently, that when I am in my heart I am experiencing God, the divine creator who I AM. I get to experience the world as my higher self, my Christ self experiences it. Buddhists describe this as the Buddha that exists approximately 18 inches above the top of my head, and is illustrated in Christian art as the dove floating above Christ’s head. New Age practitioners describe this as the 8th or 10th chakra, depending on your school of thought.  It is typical that in trying to analyze and describe the aspects of living in our heart, our mind has projected that “place” out above our heads and as something separate from us. This is the basis of the belief that God exists somewhere “up there,” and not within us.

           So to answer all those people who contend that we should think differently to solve the problems that our thinking creates, good luck with that. I would suggest that we stop thinking from time to time and start living in our feelings and our hearts. Thinking will not make us happy, only being in our heart can make us happy. We do not need empowering thoughts; we need to stop thinking. This does not mean that we all move into caves and become yogis. This means we need to shift to another perspective on a regular basis and remind ourselves how it feels to connect with God through our hearts.

 

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

RAISING VIBRATORY RATES

             Many spiritual teachers and new age gurus talk about raising our vibratory rates. What they are really talking about is changing the way that we relate to the world, each other and our minds. Most spiritual beliefs include the proposition that we have a soul, or spirit, that is separate from our minds and thoughts. It is commonly referred to as the “higher self”, or an awareness of the perceived and the perceiver. When we can observe our minds thinking, our personalities working, our bodies doing, we can stop being held captive to these aspects of ourselves and begin to become aware.

            We constantly struggle with how we perceive the world and how we fit in it. This is the role of philosophy, the study of life. Many scientists, theologians, spiritual leaders and holy men have endeavored to explain why we see the world the way we do and why we suffer. Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed, and scores of prophets and gurus have taken turns sharing wisdom and their perspective of how to become happy and enjoy our lives.

            The current notion is to “raise our vibratory rate.” There are no machines existing that measure vibratory rate, so this must mean something other than a physical phenomenon. There are many metaphors running rampant through this belief system, such as “being the light”, “we are not the Doer”, and others. What, we ask, does this really mean? I believe that the basic message of all religions and philosophies is that in order to truly relate to this world and understand our roles in it we have to attain a certain manner of thinking and awareness of our surroundings.

            Another way of describing this concept is that we actually do not raise our vibratory rates, we simply stop those beliefs that distract us from our true nature. Our true nature is energy, awareness and being that is not our bodies, thoughts and beliefs. It is this energy that gives us life, breath, and awareness, and survives the cessation of our physical bodies. When we become trapped in the beliefs that we are our thoughts, our bodies, our circumstances, we cannot understand life from the bigger perspective. The bigger picture is that we are here to have experiences and to learn how to love others and ourselves without condition, and this leads to happiness and bliss.

            We talk in terms of “raising vibratory rates” to describe how we feel. When we feel light and happy, we have “raised our vibratory rate”. When we feel sad and depressed, we have “lowered our vibratory rate”. So we are actually talking about how we feel about others and ourselves. Feelings are tied to thoughts, thoughts are tied to beliefs, and beliefs are tied to our experiences, and our experiences may not be what we perceive them to be.

            Let me give an example of how we perceive the world can make a huge difference on how we experience it, what we believe about it, what we think about and how we feel. I was on a flight the other day and the attendant announced that there was a recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor on board. The Congressional Medal of Honor is given for military bravery far above what is expected in battle. This particular man had won his CMH in Vietnam, a war that produced few heroes and divided the United States. The thought that went through my mind as the man received thanks and applause, was that we should be giving the same accolades to men who had refused to fight and declared Conscientious Objector status or fled to Canada. These were pacifists who were ready to give up everything they had for their belief that killing others was not an appropriate way to handle the situation. People who are willing to sacrifice for non-violence are just as honorable and courageous as those who are willing to kill others to keep what they have. Until we are willing to honor those who refuse to fight, we will continue to have war and killing.

            Even in this age of “raising our vibratory rate”, we continue to celebrate those who kill. Whether it is “the enemy”, or an animal, or ourselves through addiction and pain, we glorify the taking of life. One of the biggest debates we have now is over abortion. People take hard stands on these issues and refuse to compromise. The irony of all of this is karma will even it all out in the end. When we commit violence to force compliance with our beliefs, we are only hurting ourselves. It is interesting that the Dalai Lama resigned because he could see that the Buddhists were not following their own beliefs when they rioted to free Tibet. When people refuse to participate in violence, peace will come. This is “raising vibratory rate”.

           

             

            

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

THE GIFT OF AWARENESS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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