Sometimes it feels as though the transformations you want to experience are arriving too slowly! When you stumble in your evolution, lose your passion for the process or just have times of feeling “stuck,” it is useful to receive support so that you don’t become impatient or lose faith in your inner wisdom. I find that a good focus to keep yourself on track is to begin thinking of your life as a “playground of transformation” and to experiment with the following ideas!
Cultivating compassionate curiosity
To better move through the times when you don’t feel as connected, it is important to cultivate a willingness to stretch into places that feel “beyond your comfort zone” and lovingly “investigate” yourself! I am referring to developing an ability to observe yourself, your thoughts and your actions. Each of us have many aspects of Self–an inner wise person, the inner child/children, an inner critic, and so forth. You also have a part which can observe you with compassion.
This part of yourself is can be an essential ally when something disturbs the rhythm your practice. Often we run up against some kind of inner interference that temporarily throws us off course. When we wear the eyes of the compassionate “inner detective,” we can recognize that these disruptions are actually calling our attention to some perception, thought or feeling that needs to be shifted so that we can move forward again. Since you are creating your world through your perceptions and their resultant thoughts/actions–being willing to become more conscious through self observation is a key to changing not only yourself but through you the outer world as well.
Eliminating Inner Interference:
Many of the inner stumbling blocks we encounter in our lives are unconscious perceptions, outmoded beliefs and habits. In order to understand them, it is useful to begin to look at what energies motivate our behaviors. Fundamentally, all human behavior is either based in love or fear.
The motivation of LOVE produces:
gratitude, compassion, appreciation, caring, wonder, mercy, sympathy, harmony, admiration, thankfulness, empathy, benevolence, exhalation, patience, tenderness, courage and thoughtful regard, as well as actual love.
FEAR on the other hand expresses itself as:
anxiety, anger, jealousy, envy, doubt, judgement, blame, shame, depression/shut down, bitterness, holding yourself back, feelings of being a “victim” or “inferior,” power abuse, impatience, emptiness, cowardice, suspicion and actual fear.
In the larger culture, people use many methods to avoid feeling their fears and so are not able to identify or clear them away. These unbeneficial coping mechanisms include such things as: procrastination, distraction by keeping “busy” or staying involved in other people’s “trauma-dramas,” blaming the situation or other people, using substances such as alcohol, narcotics or food and/or behaviors such as sex, excessive watching of TV, playing computer games or hoarding to stuff feelings or shut feelings down. People also try intimidating others in an effort to feel more “powerful,” hold onto emotional pain because it provides a kind of “excuse” for not moving forward or even identify others as “enemies” who then become the focus for what are actually a person (or culture’s) inner, unconscious fears.
Since your unconscious mind can be such a strong motivation for your actions and thoughts, it is useful to begin observing yourself so that you can get a clearer sense of what is happening below the surface of your mind.
This means being willing to engage your compassionate inner detective to observe how you are in the different aspects of your life. This is important as many of us behave very differently in different situations. Take the time to notice how you are at work and at home. Notice how you behave in relationships. Begin observing how you think, what language you use about yourself and others and observe the times that you are judgmental. Also look at how you deal with disappointment and notice what is happening inside when you forget to be engaged in your spiritual practice. Pay attention to what you learn and see how you can begin to become more conscious about your thoughts and actions. As you pay attention, you may begin to notice that many of your difficult moments involve strong feelings. Conscious and unconscious perceptions held in your mind blend with the input of your emotional body and exit you as feelings. Sometimes, the feelings you express have little or no connection to what is actually happening in the present moment! Indeed, often they are often connected to past events and the perceptions you developed then.
Many of our interference patterns are actually connected to our anxiety or fears. Often, these fears are actually unconscious so that they are difficult to recognize. With the assistance of your compassionate and curious “inner detective,” you can look at the ways your fears reveal themselves.
Our fears/anxieties are usually expressed in some form of the fight/flight/freeze response. While it is easy to recognize a literal “fight” or “freeze,” we may not readily notice these responses when they are wrapped in our behaviors. For example, if you become controlling, blaming, argumentative or bossy in certain situations, it is a form of the “fight” reaction. On the other hand, if you becomes vague, withdrawn, confused or emotionally immobile you can think about it as a “freeze” reaction. If in response to a situation you easily lose patience, give up or repeatedly don’t have “enough time” to do something then you may be expressing a form of “flight.” Notice these reaction with deep compassion as they are very human! Catching these behaviors is the first step of disabling the fear which is behind them. The prize is to relinquish the grip your unconscious fear’s have on your life!
As you compassionately observe yourself, make notes about when feelings come up and under what circumstances. Developing a picture of your reactions will support you to want to dig a little deeper. An excellent method is to journey to a teacher or power animal to ask questions such as “What fear is underneath this behavior?” A deep meditaion on this queston may serve you in a similar way. As you bring the fears into the light of consciousness, you begin to disempower them and loosen their grip on you. Once on the surface, fears can be healed far more easily than ones that are hidden in the depths of the unconscious mind.
As your fear becomes clearer, see if it has a message for you. By finding out more about the fear, you can begin shifting out of your old, disfunctional behavior and learn new ways of being that are healthy and can contribute to moving you forward.
Using gratitude to make you more resilient
Making changes in your life can be stressful but gratitude has a healing effect on the body. Research by the Institute of HeartMath has found that people who practice gratitude regularly are able to sustain their positive biochemistry and regulate their moods even when stressed! In other words, the continued practice of gratitude allowed individuals to have a physical and emotional resilience that was not accessible to those who didn’t practice gratitude.
Feeling gratitude helps you to nurture the seeds of your new dream of yourself. The time in which we are living offer us an opportunity to shed the old, outmoded ways of being human. As each of us changes, we in turn help to rocket human evolution forward and so transform everything and when you commit to being grateful in spite of personal struggles, fears, illness or other “disruptions,” it becomes much easier to be peaceful and loving even in difficult times.
Expanding possibilities–Shamanic Imagination.
The shamanic journey process is one very ancient method which can expand you beyond your ordinary way of perceiving the world and help you to move beyond your mind’s limitations. While you are in the journey state, you are able to FEEL experiences and new possibilities before they are physically realized. This in turn, supports you to stretch into new places of consciousness and help you to shift out of old beliefs that limit you. Expanding your perceptions of what is possible, actually helps you to realize new ways of being. This can support you to grow!
In addition, the unconditional love and guidance that the transcendent spirits offer can buoy you up and give you courage to keep going forward. Their expressions of compassion can also support you to have more compassion for yourself.
Getting support from the human world
We human beings are social primates. There is a reason that solitary confinement is considered a harsh punishment. In the psychological theory referred to as, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, after the need for physiological support–such as food, water and shelter–and the needs for safety, the third layer of human needs are social and involve feelings of belonging. Without the close connections of family, friends, and larger social groupings, humans become much more susceptible to loneliness, social anxiety, and clinical depression.
Especially during those times when you are engaged in making changes in your life, it is important to become an active participant in supportive communities. This may mean that you need to be willing to stretch into places that feel uncomfortable by meeting new people, going to gatherings and taking classes. Supportive, social relationships can help you to integrate all that you are learning and experiencing as your new life continues to unfold.
On the other hand, you may also find that you may have to let go of older relationships that do not support your growth. This is usually something that occurs organically. In the course of our changing and evolving, some of our relationship naturally “grow apart.” While it can often be emotionally difficult to experience this kind of shift in a relationship, it is also true that as one person leaves you, you become open for others to enter into your life.
If at any point you need even more support than your “friends and family network” can provide, give yourself full permission to seek out a professional person, such as a therapist or counsellor, who is especially skilled at assisting people on their life paths. A good counselor is worth their weight in gold in helping to sort out feelings or untangle patterns when they feel too overwhelming to deal with on your own!
Being compassionately persistent
There is no substitute for being willing to pick yourself up when you falter or stumble on your path. Indeed, our journeys through life are seldom straight. They are usually a long series of starts, stops, twists, turns and restarts. When you falter, stall or get lost along the way, remember to repeat all the steps I’ve outline here. So long as you give yourself permission to look at all of your life as exuberant explorations on the “playground of transformation” you can keep making progress with no limits upon how far you can go.
© 2011 Evelyn C. Rysdyk
(Excerpt from the soon to be published book: Spirit Walking: A Course in Shamanic Power)
Nationally recognized shaman teacher/healer, speaker, and author of Modern Shamanic Living: New Explorations of an Ancient Path, Evelyn C. Rysdyk delights in supporting people to remember their sacred place in All That Is. Whether through face-to-face contact with individual patients, workshop groups and conference participants, or through the printed word–Evelyn uses her loving humor and passion to open people’s hearts and inspire them to live more joyful, fulfilling and purposeful lives. In joint practice with Allie Knowlton as Spirit Passages, her web site is http://www.spiritpassages.com.