Posts by barryjohnjohnson:
- Identify and release self limiting beliefs.
- Replace self limiting beliefs with positive affirmations.
- Meditate daily to keep the mind clear and open to self knowledge.
- Journal intuitions and thoughts on our true life’s purpose. We know what it is and we have received feedback regarding it, but tend to suppress or ignore it.
- Set a plan in writing to achieve your true life’s purpose.
- Say Nay to Naysayers.
- Build a positive support system and join communities relating to your heart’s desires.
- Identify and release fears and embrace uncertainty. Your path will unfold.
- Listen to your heart versus your head.
- When feeling instances of INFINITUDE, bask in it.
Trusting the Divine
In the field of mental health, most specifically relating to treatment of anxiety disorders, there is a concept relating to: tolerance for uncertainty. People with high anxiety have a low tolerance for uncertainty, whereas people with low anxiety have a high tolerance for uncertainty. An extreme example, is someone who suffers with agoraphobia, an anxiety based panic disorder whereby they may remain “shut-ins”, refusing to leave their homes. They do not want to leave their homes because of the uncertainty that something bad, no matter how slight the chance, might happen to them should they venture outside.
A recovering agoraphobic once described it this way. He feared that if he went outside a pterodactyl might swoop down and grab him. After treatment, he learned to smile at this. But this was a good analogy to describe his low tolerance for uncertainty. His fear overtook reason. In his mind, there was at least some chance, no matter how infinitesimal, that there was one such flying dinosaur left, secretly hiding out, surviving all these years, and it was going to get him if he walked outside. So he didn’t leave his home.
To a lesser degree, other anxiety issues will cause the fear of uncertainty to manifest itself in some fashion. Those suffering with Obsessive Compulsive issues may repeatedly wash their hands, in order to avoid the slightest chance of contacting some type of germ. Those with General or Social Anxiety Disorders may engage in what’s called catastrophic thinking, and avoid certain situations and activities, as again, there is a chance something will go wrong. Fears of flying or public speaking are common examples.
The generally accepted treatment for such issues is called Exposure Therapy. It is basically a carefully planned and incremental form of the old adage that you have to face your fears; that you have to build your tolerance and learn to embrace uncertainty.
This concept of embracing uncertainty has connotations for all of us, and there is a spiritual angle as well. How many of us has experienced or knew someone staying in a bad job or unhealthy relationship because the uncertainty of leaving those situations created more anxiety than the certainty of staying in those unhappy situations? How many people do not end up following their true life’s path because it is impractical, because there is a large degree of perceived uncertainty associated with following that path? The fear speaks out “Watch out! If you do follow that dream, a pterodactyl might just swoop down and gobble you up!”
In the spiritual realm, there is the not-so-Secret concept, put forth in one form or another by many teachers, that the universe, or higher power, will conspire to give you what you want or need, if you allow it to. So how do we allow the universe to unfold to grant our hearts’ desires and help us manifest our true selves without embracing uncertainty? In order to let the universe unfold for us, we have to hand over the controls to this greater force. It takes courage, faith and trust that we will in fact be taken care of, that we won’t be harmed and we will end up right where we are supposed to be, even if that is different from our original intent.
We then discover that when we trust, let go and embrace the uncertainty, the mental chatter in our own minds which expressed the fear of uncertainty, subsides. The quietness created then allows the unfolding universe to interact with our own intuition. We get clearer direction from within our own hearts. We become steadfast on a new path which may be riddled with uncertainty, and perceived as impractical by others. Ironically, we feel more certain about our direction.
So more connected, with a quiet mind, we aren’t practicing embracing uncertainty in a careless manner. We don’t jump out into a busy street, thinking “Oh the universe will take care of me”. We use discernment. We set intentions and we take careful, mindful steps in the context of proceeding onto a new path. With fearful mental chatter gone, this skill is enhanced.
We also practice non-attachment. We can’t embrace a new uncertain future when we are fully attached to our old lives. We also do not attach ourselves to specific outcomes after we have set our intentions. That attachment will also just create mental chatter trying to control the situation, hold on to our attachments, blocking you from aligning with how the universe is unfolding.
Simply put, Not Knowing exactly what will happen next in our lives is okay. In fact, it is actually liberating. The ability to let go, not know and not try to totally control what will happen next is a key skill and a sign of mental health. We need to learn to embrace uncertainty. We set our intentions without tying ourselves to outcomes, and we then trust in the divine forces which are certainly present..
As for the gentleman with agoraphobia mentioned earlier, he eventually ventured out his front door. At first, for just brief moments. A pterodactyl did not swoop down and get him. The mental chatter expressing fear of uncertainty gradually subsided. He learned to listen to his heart which told him he was safe to go outside despite uncertainties; that life is full of uncertainties which we can’t let imprison us or stop us from being who we are.
He left his old life inside and each time he went outside, he went farther and farther.
By Barry John Johnson
Stop “musterbating” and “should-ing” all over yourself. I wish I could lay claim to these terms. They
are the progeny of Albert Ellis, one of the early developers of cognitive
behavioral therapy (which is a lot like mindfulness). I find these terms to be
hilarious as well as an effective reminder to monitor the internal dialogue
that often times goes on inside our psyches utilizing and energizing the words
“must” and “should”.
When we utilize “musts” and “shoulds” we set up all or nothing scenarios
that will generally lead to unhappiness and generate anxiety. Such mental chatter can result from trying to satisfy other people’s expectations and it tends to be the default language of perfectionists. If these terms dominate our internal guidance
systems, our fight or flight mode may be almost permanently affixed in the “ON”
On the smaller scale, this dynamic may start with thoughts
in the psyche like: “I must/should get an “A” on this upcoming test”; or “I
must/should perform this presentation well and receive positive feedback from
others”. On a grander scale, we could have directives like: “I must/should
always be liked and accepted by others”.
So after we allow language like this (not usually
consciously) to permeate the mental scene, it gets translated by our survival
oriented fight or flight systems as: “If I am not succeeding in meeting these
absolutes I am then, in fact, under threat or I am not surviving”.
Our fight or flight network can be said to be an outdated
system from pre-historic days that served well
when real life or death threats were common, but now it’s just kind of
looking for stuff to do. Anything viewed as not succeeding can become “I am not
surviving”. The gates are lowered and the
hounds of anxiety are released.
The dynamic can be powerful and the consequences can be
huge, even keeping people off their true path or calling. Societal expectations
may dictate: “ I must/should be married with children by now”; or “ I
must/should have a reliable profession with a nice benefits package”. Yet,
following one’s true calling doesn’t always jibe with such common
norms and expectations. The anxiety provoking dynamics can kick in.
The key issue for people in this boat is then: Varying from one’s
true path and varying from social norms both result in anxiety. The key task is
then to discern between the two, with the caveat that the two are not always
What helps with this discernment, of course, is removing the
“musts” and “should” from our internal dialogue stream. You might inventory
whatever might be causing you stress at
any one time. You then may try to determine whether a “must” or “should” is involved in placing some
kind of excessive demand on yourself (perfectionism) or trying to get you to match the expectations of someone else or society in general.
From there, you simply change the semantics. “ I would like
an “A” on that test, but it’s not going to kill me if I don’t”; “It would be
nice if I meet the right person and get married, but I certainly can enjoy life
in the meantime”.
Sounds easy, but it is a little harder than that. Removing
“musts” and “ shoulds” takes serious
exploration and diligence. Meditation
will help calm the mind to more easily track your thoughts. Journaling may help with the exploration of
any big “musts” or “shoulds” in your life.
Start with simple awareness.
In the end, we can see that too many “musts” and “shoulds” do not serve us. It’s okay if some people don’t like you. It’s okay to get a “B” on that test. It’s definitely okay to go against the grain and pursue your dreams. We can relax more and be our true selves when we stop “musterbating” and “shoulding” all over our selves.
While we can make commitments to lifestyle and behavior changes at any time, the New Year is the traditional change resolution starting point. As someone who meditates, and promotes its use, I am happy to hear more and more people say that they intend to start a meditation practice as a New Year’s resolution. My concern is that many resolutions fall by the wayside within a few weeks and meditation can otherwise be an elusive practice to integrate within our busy lives.
I am hoping to provide some ideas to help people make a successful meditation resolution.
To do that, I want to consider what helps make resolutions successful in general, and apply that guidance to having a resolution to start a meditation practice.
Here we go:
Don’t have too many resolutions. Meditation should be a singular goal or one of two or three maximum. The reality is that the more goals you have the less chance for success you will have for any of those goals. We are actually subject to a “cognitive overload” which lowers our powers of self-discipline to achieve goals.
Do your homework. This is the prep work, the research and investment in your desired change. Do some reading on meditation. There are different types of meditation, different ideas of what meditation is. You can take a very secular approach or a more spiritual direction. There is a ton of information out there on the benefits of meditation which might enhance your motivation. Different people may have different tips on what works for them. The works of Jon Kabat-Zinn are a good starting point for a lot of people.
Be realistic. Don’t expect to meditate like a monk on the first day. Don’t compare yourself to experienced meditators you may know. Basically, start small and build upon that.
Have a strategy. Be specific. Write it down.
Part of a strategy would be to start small and build upon that, i.e. five to ten minutes per day of meditation for the first month. Part of the strategy could involve seeking out a teacher, meditation groups, course work, recorded audio or visual meditation media, apps etc. The strategy should integrate the practice into your life and it should anticipate obstacles to success. Examples would be to plan to meditate every time after a shower or after going to the gym; having a meditation audio program in your car or on your phone for easy access during busy times; attending a meditation group once per week; doing slow deep breaths throughout the day or at certain times, when not meditating.
Don’t expect perfection. Cut yourself some slack. There may be days that you didn’t get to meditate or days whereby you feel it is just too hard, there are too many thoughts spinning in your head. Use any setback as a learning experience. Remember that meditation is a practice. You are building a skill that doesn’t come over night. There will be days that you are not meditating at all. You will simply be sitting and doing some deep relaxing breaths. That’s okay.
Have a support system. Meditation in general, is a solitary pursuit not subject to the buddy system which can be helpful with other types of resolutions. That being said, you can still have a friend resolving to start their own personal practice and you can learn from and support each other. The books, media, phone apps available to you can be part of your support system. Find a Youtube meditation guidance video that works for you. A teacher or meditation group in your area can be part of your support system. Many yoga studios will have meditation sessions available separate from their physical yoga classes.
Create an accountability and reward system. Simple accountability would involve looking back at each week and tracking how your strategy is working. Look at what issues which have interfered with your practice and adjust your strategy accordingly. I will say that meditation in itself is a reward for the peace and relaxation it can add to your life, but otherwise treat yourself to a meditative massage, facial or healthy meal after a certain period of generally adhering to your strategy.
Put an emotional charge behind the resolution. I believe successful resolutions come from the heart, that there is a desired emotional state that comes from reaching a goal. People might set a promotion as a goal, but it is the sense of accomplishment, utility and/or greater financial freedom tendered which sets an emotional charge behind the goal. With meditation, we will generally receive greater tranquility, greater emotional regulation, less stress and anxiety, more focus and self-discipline.
If you can discern the desired emotional state, how you want to be and feel, behind your meditation resolution you will have greater chance of success.
Best wishes for a Happy New Year and successful resolutions whatever they may be
by Barry John Johnson
(Also for some basic meditation tips, check out my article on Elephant Journal: Meditation
is not a Battle Help for Newbs the Occasional Meditator)
Image Above Courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net