Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Living Acceptance

The more I Live Enlightenment, the more Enlightenment Intentions I find. A quick recap for those of you who are not familiar with the practice of Living Enlightenment. This is a daily practice that uses the concepts and habits of being behind Enlightened Being as a focus points. The principle is to stop waiting for some mysterious event to happen to transform you into an Enlightened individual and to start practicing the core skills and habits that would be natural one day when you finally do become enlightened. This is not so much about creating enlightenment as it is about creating empowerment using Enlightenment as an inspiration. The Enlightenment Intentions are the focus of the practice and are single words that create a focal point around which you conscious choose your actions and words.

Currently there are 21 defined Enlightenment Intentions and whilst I use all of them I find that some come up with regular frequency. Acceptance is one of these. The aim with Living Enlightenment was to create a practice that would change how I experience my life. I wanted to step out of suffering into joy and contentment, but I found that I could not easily define this new experience I wanted. I knew exactly what I did not want, so I had to first start with defining this new me. I needed to understand what she would be doing and saying. The process of reframing what I did not want into positives I could create resulted in the Enlightenment Intentions.

Acceptance is not a new concept (especially for those of you who do spiritual reading), however what was new was the thought that I could actively and consciously create this in my life. For some reason I had always expected things like Acceptance to arrive one day, when the new me was finally bestowed on me (not that I knew how that would happen or what would create that either…. I had a vague idea that I needed to be doing things, achieving things…world records, a directorship in the workplace…. )

But back to Acceptance. It is one of my favourite Enlightenment Intentions to practice and dare I say, one of the hardest. It does not matter how many times I revisit this simple little word, I always learn something new. When I take a look at my own life, most of the anguish (and dare I say, suffering) I experience is caused by the fight I am in with the world. In my mind a story goes round and round… this is not the way it is supposed to be! It is supposed to be different! I am supposed to be different! The problem is, the more I fight, the harder life gets and the more miserable I get.

But during those moments where I can just relax and Accept that the world is what it is...I find that I can consciously choose to let go of having to judge every moment...then something new happens - I find laughter and joy bubbling into my day. It is more than that though. The moment I relax and just ‘Accept’ where I am (and what I have) is the moment I can really start to engage with what is and it is in that moment I find I can create a new experience. When I am not fighting, I can make new choices, act in a different way and say different things. The lesson of ‘Accepting what is’ was THE thing that took me the longest to learn on my way to a world record. For years I was the good girl, patiently waiting for things to change and be the way I thought they should. I should have a team of eager and enthusiastic (and supportive) divers, I should have someone like world record holder Nuno Gomes there to guide me and ensure I did not make any mistakes, I should have the equipment I needed... the list of the things that would need to be in place before I could really get going was quite long. And then one day I got fed up waiting! It was now or never- I either went ahead and made a pan to dive with what I had or I gave up and walked back into my rather boring and normal life. Needless to say I chose to let go of all the things I should have and instead work with what I had. I chose to ACCEPT where and who I was and in that moment a weight lifted off my shoulders. I was able to start making decisions, all of a sudden consequences I had been avoiding were easy to accept. The result ? My 146 meter dive, which was a dive that petrified me as I did it on my own (breaking all the so called rules), but that was the dive that got me full corporate sponsorship, a dive team, gear and my first world record attempt.

These days I take the practice of Acceptance into my work and personal life. It is not easy to sit in a meeting and make a choice to not be irritated or defensive but instead take a deep breath and just accept everyone without fighting and get on with my job… but it is rewarding.

So how do you bring the energy of Acceptance into your life? What is it you practice? This is not something I can answer for you. Living Enlightenment is a choice that you make to explore who you are and what the different Enlightenment Intentions mean for you. The place to start is with a set of questions that are open ended. Keep on asking the questions becoming aware of your answers as they change and you grow. So….

What would open up for you if you started being Acceptance ? If you let go of resisting, let go of attachment and just breathed who would you be ? What would you be saying and doing? Where in your life would Acceptance bring change? If you were already living in full Acceptance of your life, its circumstances and the people that surround you, what would your life be like? Now.... how can you start to bring that intention, that energy of Acceptance into this moment, this day?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Getting Started Living Consciously - Managing Emotions

Over the last decade (if not more) I have been obsessed with one thing, escaping suffering. For most of my life I have felt like a stranger in my own life. I have no control! Everything I say or do is driven by one thing and one thing only. My emotions!

In my search to escape suffering I have read most everything I could find in an attempt to escape. I soon realised that I hadn’t a clue who I was being emotionally. Around me people reported that I was angry or sad, but I was oblivious. How had I become so disconnected from myself. With an effort I started to pay attention to these pesky things called emotions, and soon realised why I had spent to so long with amnesia –  they were out of control. Bottled up for so long, my emotions were so desperate to move and flow, to be heard and acknowledged that I felt almost completely overwhelmed.  Ignoring how I felt because it was uncomfortable feeling was no longer an option. So I let them go, let them be what they needed to be. I let the memories come and go, holding onto nothing, just acknowledging that this is who I am, who I was…. And to my surprise after a while they were spent out. There, but no longer a controlling force. They no longer demanded my attention. I had survived the emotions that my child’s brain had told me would destroy me!

When I look at the journey I am on, I realise what an important first step just acknowledging your emotions is. These days I talk about making choices in spite of my emotional attachment to ideas, people or places, but that is not an option if you are not able to let your emotions just be. My goal is to be Living Conscious Enlightenment which means that my emotions no longer dictate what I say or do (some days are easier than others). To get to that point I had to first dive into those emotions. I no longer fight my emotions but to get to that point where I could choose who I want to be in spite of what I was thinking and feeling, I had to first step into my biggest fear, feeling. 

Avoiding emotion is something a lot of us learn as children, indeed, it was the only way I could survive my parent’s divorce. I remember taking pride in never feeling, never crying – I could handle anything. And then, one day I could not. The problem was that hiding from my emotions had become a habit. The mere thought of experiencing one of those troublesome and unwanted things petrified me. How ? What was I supposed to do with them? How was I supposed to control them? For my whole life I had learnt that emotions were bad. They got in the way, they got me into trouble. They were the reason I overreacted at work, they were the thing that made me break out into frustrated and angry tears at the drop of the hat. I was spending so much energy keeping them in I had no energy for anything else.  No-one ever told me that emotions are a part of being human. They need not control your every response, your every moment. Emotions are water, they need to flow and slowly, step by step, I let them in.

It started simply enough, with just acknowledging what I was feeling when I was feeling it. Then as I started to become aware of this world inside me, I started to allow them to express themselves. First in the privacy of my own head (where there are no witnesses and no judges telling me I am wrong), then in public. I can’t say my first attempts were very successful. I had never had any experience or practice telling people how I felt, so I had no clue what words to use. But as I gave myself permission to exist and feel, it started to become easier. Is this what all those books on Emotional Intelligence were talking about ?

These days I find that I still have too much energy in my emotions, which means that often the words I use come out with too much force, so I am not focusing on taking the time to acknowledge and be present with my emotions, to let all that energy spend itself before I express myself. Some days that is not possible and on those days I just give myself permission to exist. It is no longer about getting it right, it is now about not backing down and letting my fear get in the way. Every time I engage with both my emotions and express what I am feeling (and needing ) is a success and every time I do it, I get a little better at it. One day I will re-read this and wonder how emotions were ever an issue. I hope I remember the journey to get to that point and how it took a conscious choice and yes, courage. No-one ever said that Living Enlightenment was going to be easy, but as I walk this road it seems to get less difficult, or maybe the rewards become more present as I reconnect with me.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Transforming Self Doubt - Creating Conscious Deserving.

The other day I was asked an interesting question, what is stopping me? From the long list of really, really good reasons only one turned out to be true, my self doubt. Simply put, I don’t know what it is that I have to offer and until I know that there is no way I can stand up in front of the world (and its inherent critics) and exist. This fact fascinated me. Could self doubt really be such a powerful force ? In that moment of awareness I suddenly saw my life from a slightly different angle and from there, doubt was a persistent presence that had kept me trapped in mediocrity and sameness for my entire life. Doubting my worth had been the trap that had held me on my world record journey. It alone is able to stop my momentum. I don’t even need to step out into the range of the world’s critics. In my head I have my own critic and she is always asking me simple, unanswerable questions... Why am I different? What have I got to offer ? Why am I special ? In my mind I am a normal, flawed person who has a long way to go. In my mind I have a list of things that need to be improved on, a set of reasons why I will never be really special and could never be better than the person next to me, never mind the greats out there. Who am I to challenge people like Oprah, Deepak Chopra or world record holder Nuno Gomes. They are special! They are not me! I am nobody!

As I put words to this thing called self doubt I am able to finally see it’s shape. When did I learn to see only my faults? Why is that my default view of life? Why is being the best me I can be something that will inherently disempower the people around me? And why does the mere idea of standing out from the crowd and living up to my potential fill me with guilt... awful, gut wrenching guilt and embarrassment. Somehow I believe that being me is be an act of deliberate defiance, one that is intended to out shine you and so make you look stupid. There, hidden underneath it all is this voice saying over and over again, do not make him (or her) look bad, adjust who you are so they always shine, never, ever make someone else look or feel stupid simple because of who you are. An impossible (not to mention draining) task.

How insidious this way of thinking is! Hardly visible to the conscious mind and almost impossible to get a good grip on. With effort I wrench myself back into this moment, a moment where I have the ability to consciously choose. I am no longer living default me. I now choose to be conscious. I choose to be empowered. I choose to live enlightenment and this self doubt can not exist in that choice.

To Live Enlightenment is not about focusing on what you don’t want, it is about focusing on (and so creating) what you do want. Here I was focused exclusively on this beast called self doubt. I had lapsed back into my default unconscious mind. Time to stop and step back into consciousness. You can’t create a negative, so the first step would be to find the opposite of this thing called self doubt. If I no longer was filled with self doubt, who would I be? The word that came to me was one of my Enlightenment Intentions, Deserving. The moment I choose to be deserving I change how I view myself. I no longer see the list of things that are wrong with me, instead my focus is on a list of reasons why this will work, why I am the right person for the job. With that single word I no longer see you as someone whose power comes only when I make myself less so that you feel more.  Your power is a part of your being, something you can choose at any moment. In fact, that single word, Deserving, opens doors for all of us. We are all deserving, no-one more so than any other. The only difference seems to be that some people understand and live this and others, wait to be declared deserving by some external agency and so never step into their greatness.

Is it really so simple ? I knew the answer to that, a resounding Yes! My biggest fight in getting you to believe in living conscious enlightenment (and so stepping into your power) is to get you to let go of what you think is true and just get on with it. What if you could choose in any moment who you want to be, who you are ? What if it is the conscious act of choosing that changes your experiences? What if choice is the only way to step into your power ?

True empowerment is the ability to consciously choose in any moment of any day who you want to be. True choice is where you ignore what you don’t want, ignore the endless reasons why not and instead focus on why it is possible.

So this week is about letting go of waiting and instead living Deserving! Anyone want to join me and see what happens ?