Monday, March 21, 2011

Back In The Saddle...Again

Renovation Complete!

Now that I've cleaned out the cobwebs, let's get back to doing some blogging! As usual, my posts may be concise, or they may be long and detailed. I reached a point in my life where I thought I didn't need or want to do this anymore...then I got a Facebook account, and starting writing "notes" on it, so I thought, why not go back to my blog, make a few changes, and just refer people to it? That way, I can make it look the way that I want to, and I'll get use from it once again? That makes perfect sense.

What's Happening?

Well, I'll tell you LOTS has been happening as of late, and in the several years that have passed writing this blog. I made some necessary changes in my life, and it just gets better every day. This will give you an idea:

A few weeks ago, I was in a funk for 5-6 days non-stop. It seemed to appear from out of nowhere, and I just couldn't quite figure out why it did. It made no sense to me; I was doing my best to be positive and see the lighter and brighter side of things, no matter what. "That's easy," I thought to myself, "From here on out, life is going to be a piece of cake." I was shown otherwise.

For the past year and some change, I've been a devout student of Inspirational, Spiritual, and Self-Help authors, because I felt that there was something wrong with my life. It just seemed that my life was empty and meaningless, stuck in the past, and I had a constant fear of the future. I truly didn't know the meaning and purpose of my life, and all I could think about was running from everyone and everything. Living life itself had become a threat in so many ways, and I only knew to fight it every step of the way.

A few friends suggested that I try going to church. I chickened out several times before deciding to finally do it. I went with an open mind and heart. Something happened to me that day that never happened to me before in my life; a feeling of immense inner peace that brought me to tears. They weren't tears of sadness, but of joy. I felt a tremendous burden being lifted from shoulders and heavy heart. I opened up to everyone, and was sociable in ways that I never thought possible. It felt so "right." Despite all of this, I didn't go back the next week, or the week after. I had excuses as to why I never returned. Yet, I couldn't forget that feeling that overtook me that Sunday morning.

Sometime shortly after, I discovered the teachings of Dale Blackford. He hosted a program on (the online radio station for the Unity Church) called "The Heart of Being." His message was simple; Live in the NOW. I listened intently to his words and followed his advice to the best of my ability. His thoughts and views struck me so much differently than anyone else. Sadly, due to reasons I don't agree with, removed his program from their lineup. I tried listening to other shows, but it wasn't the same. They didn't appear to carry the same passion and intensity that Dale's show did.

Right around the time I discovered Dale, I found someone else. I remember surfing the net, looking for a station that I used to listen to for years on AM radio and online, called Personal Achievement Radio. It seemed to be gone at the moment, and I found instead. I thought, "What the heck, I'll check it out." I noticed that the program lineup consisted of a lot of psychic and so-called Spiritual things, but what I heard coming out of my speakers was much different. I had found someone talking about life in ways that once again, I'd never heard before.

I had stumbled across a program called, "Letting Go With Guy Finley." I thought to myself, "This must be a special of some kind, and it's not always going to be on." I looked in the program lineup, and I was pleased to see that his program was on every week, and was replayed several times over the course of week! I went on a frenzy, gobbling up everything that I could find on this man; podcasts, writings, videos, etc. I read several of his books, The Secret of Letting Go, The Courage to be Free, Let Go and Live in the Now, among others.

At first, I listened only a few times a week, trying to keep the lessons that I had learned fresh in my mind. It wasn't enough; I started buying audio tapes and books (that came with free DVD offers.) I found him on Facebook and Twitter, always looking to see if there was a new podcast or writing available. I amassed a huge collection of podcasts and radio shows, and kept them always with me on my mp3 player, so that I could listen whenever I left my home. I felt good to be listening and learning all the while. I started to see things in a different light, and began to feel different than everyone else around me. I have long since thought that the human race as a whole is asleep in many ways, and this just fueled the fire.

I began to feel justified in my status updates and responses to people that if only they would wake up, things could change. Sometimes I could come across as arrogant, condescending, or just plain rude. Some of my friends pointed this out to me, yet I still persisted. My radio show rants morphed into sermons about what is wrong with humanity, extolling the virtues of Spirituality and that if only you could "let go," life would change for the better. I was becoming a fire-and-brimstone preacher of sorts, in my own way. At least that's what I thought it to be. I let this all go to my head, and was starting to see someone who was very much like the me who had a mental meltdown. On the outside, it appeared that I "had it together," that I had "finally seen the Light." On the inside, I started to feel troubled and confused. It was easy to say the words to someone else, but to truly implement them on a daily basis? You know how that goes!

This past Christmas, I received a wonderful book from my friends called "The Way of The Peaceful Warrior," by Dan Millman. They had read it in the past and told me of a few of the principles within it. I wrote it off as yet another self-help book, until I sat down and began to read it on Christmas Eve. I didn't rush through it, but I didn't exactly take a long time either. I attest that it did in fact change my life. I felt that "light-hearted" feeling come back to me once again. The wise words of Socrates (the teacher in the book,) were once again unlike that of any I'd ever known. He helped me to realize that I was not on the road in life that I wanted to be on. The "path" that I started on was a result of this book. Even though the journey I speak of from time to time is far from complete, I still feel that I'm "home."

Shortly after, I was introduced to "The Music Lesson" by Victor L. Wooten in audio book form. Again, I had my doubts to some degree. I knew Victor was a super talented musician, but I never realized how much he was into Spirituality. The book focuses on music concepts, but once again much differently than I'd ever imagined. Each character had something to teach, sometimes really challenging my paradigms about music and life itself. It was an intense and deep time as I listened to that book. As a result, I fine-tuned my playing and listening abilities. I felt so good inside!

I had dabbled with meditation for a short time, and had been successful with using guided meditation to relax for short periods in my life, but I never was able to make the feeling stay with me for more than an hour. My therapist had given me a Jon Kabat-Zinn Beginning Mindfulness Meditation CD, and I tried it a few times. I thought, "I'll never be able to do this on a regular basis." As time went on, I started using it more and more, until the days I meditated outnumbered the days that I didn't. One of the great things about meditation is that if you practice it frequently, it will start to take over every aspect of your daily life. I don't mean that it will put you in a dream state or turn you into a zombie, but it will help you relax, and allow you to look at your life in a different way, no matter what life demands of you.

A friend I had met recently, Greg Bandfield, sent me a tape of some of his thoughts on life, and I listened intently, finding that we do have a lot in common in our search for happiness and peace. I felt a warmness in my heart that I had written off as non-existent. Thank you, Greg for sharing this with me.

Soon, I started to believe that the reason I felt stressed out all the time was because of "things." I had always been a rebel, going against what everyone else believes, and does, so this fueled another inner fire. I started looking into Buddhism and the possibilities of monastic life (becoming a monk.) It all seemed so simple; give up everything and start a new life. If it worked for the Dalai Lama, it can work for me too. Piece of cake, right? Sure it is...

All the while, intense turmoil was beginning to build within me, questioning the very fabric of my being, existential thoughts once again coming into play, and it was scaring the hell out of me. My first reaction was to resist them, saying "No, you can't do this to me! Everything was perfect! I had it all figured out! You can't take this away from me! I've found ZEN!" I started to hold tighter and tighter, not listening to everything that I was taught in such a short time. I began to become weary and weak, losing my grip on life itself, and many of those old habits, thoughts, and feelings came rushing into my mind, the floodgates being busted open! Even though I chose not to act out those feelings consciously, they somehow seeped into my life once again. The old familiar feeling of anxiety first thing in the morning greeted me as though it had never left; I began to get angry at things and people once again, just like before. I started to indulge in old habits and buy things again. The only thing that was different was that the rage was gone.

As you may have seen in my past writings (or if you have known me personally for some time,) rage was a dominant force in my life. If I didn't like something or someone, I would get angry; very angry, for I felt that it was the only thing that I had to protect myself. I had to take apart my ego and my beliefs, and see just what made them tick (or tick me off, for that matter!) Letting go of that part of me was like turning myself inside out, and standing outside in a rainstorm naked. I realized that rage was indeed tearing me apart inside, and I didn't want to be The Incredible Hulk and David anymore. I wanted that more than anything in the world.

I've grown to realize that I will experience feelings from time to time, no matter what. Resisting them will only strengthen them, and trying to put sugar on them to make them taste good will only leave a bitter aftertaste in my mouth. Ignoring them is like turning off my personality completely. Only recently have I seen that I was resisting so much all the while when I thought I'd reached Zen. Condemning others for their choices in life, no matter how petty they may seem to me was FAR from Zen. I had just found another way to be angry at things outside of me, blaming them for how life is.

So, my "living for the moment" consisted of taking a deep breath, immersing myself in that water of life, and going underwater as fast as I can without looking at anything, making it to my "destination," and coming up for air, frustrated because I didn't like the view that was around me. I never saw those feelings and emotions, because I didn't want to; I wanted to push them away, as I thought they could do nothing for me anymore. I'll be an Olympic swimmer of sorts, taking "risks" like I never have before. Was I really doing that? No, I was pushing away natural parts of my being, mistakenly believing that they were worthless. I allowed everything I was learning to numb me, to intoxicate me.

For the record, no one has ever implied or told me that feelings or emotions are bad things to have, but it is important what we do with them. They need to be used merely as a "barometer" to check how we are dealing with our lives. They are not facts! For instance, even if I wake up with an anxious feeling inside, I can still have a great day. That feeling or emotion does not have to dominate the span of 24 hours; it can be maybe 24 seconds that you ponder something, weigh its importance, and even if it is truly something important, you have a better perspective of it because you don't see it as a threat anymore; rather just as something that is a necessity of day-to-day life.

Those thoughts of impending doom are not our friends; they are the manifestation of a constantly chattering thought-mind. You can't turn off that thing, but you can sure take everything it tells you with a grain of salt. Think of it as a TV set that is always on, and the channel is always changing, the volume is going up and down, and the picture goes from total static to absolute razor sharpness. With a lot of inner work, you can find those "hidden controls," and watch it from as far of a distance, or as close as you like. Once again, not all thoughts and feelings are bad; sometimes a great idea springs from these inner workings! Ask any inventor, artist, musician, writer, or engineer! The key as always, is to stay awake in the present moment, seeing things as they really are...just being.

Once I decided to let go yet again, the funk slowly lifted, and things became even clearer than before. Life is an amazing thing if you allow yourself to experience it, and the lessons that it wishes to teach. I still embrace the teachings of all I've discovered, but I am truly working to implement them within my daily life, more and more each day...


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