Tag: beliefs

Our Thoughts, Our Choice

Our Thoughts, Our Choice

Byron Katie - The Work“The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.” William James

It’s Monday, but it doesn’t feel like Monday. It feels like Tuesday or Wednesday. I lost a few days last week due to a stomach virus and worked over the weekend to catch up. I’m pretty sure it will take a few days and more than a few reminders to get me back on track. Although staying on track has never been my strong suit. Structure and pre-planned discipline are ever illusive. What discipline I have, and my husband tells me I have a ton of it, is deeply embedded in my subconscious.

Work is not really work for me. I love what I do, and mostly I don’t get paid so maybe I shouldn’t even call it work.  Or, at least what I do earn from doing what I do doesn’t cover the hours I spend doing it.  I keep trying to make enough to get by without compromising my beliefs and values and intent, also a never ending challenge. Money. It’s an issue for so many of us, as I discovered from the results of the survey I sent out yesterday. (If you haven’t taken it, and have the time, it’s not too late. I always appreciate any input you’re willing to share. I’m looking for feedback before I wander off in another direction. I want what I do here to work for you.) At any rate, I am going to get into the issues around money here, soon, in a big way. So if you’re interested, stay tuned.

Before I sat down to write this morning I impulsively pulled out our new vacuum cleaner, which actually was still poised for launch in the living room where I left it yesterday. In fact, since buying this new appliance I’ve vacuumed every room in the house, often more than once a day. My whole attitude toward vacuuming has changed in a flash. It’s not that I don’t like vacuuming before, it’s just that it seemed like a never ending process due to castoffs from the array of pets that too often rule the roost. Up until now, it’s been a very unsatisfactory endeavor. It’s not like the carpets sparkle and gleam like a freshly polished kitchen floor. They just look like they should, fur free. The carpet is too old to come back to life. However, our new vacuum has changed the whole experience for me….because…it has a little red light!

The little red light comes on when it finds dirt and turns to green when it’s all clean! The first time I used it I was instantaneously smitten. I vacuum with such focus and attention on that little red light that vacuuming is down right meditative. (Or, obsessive.) Either way, it works! I can’t wait to get back at it!

It got me thinking about the power of our thoughts to influence our feelings and behavior. As Byron Katie constantly reminds us, a thought arises. It just does.  When we can become aware of our thoughts, then we can choose what follows. When we are unaware of our thoughts, what follows are feelings and actions based upon beliefs we may no longer actually believe. They are based in past experiences.  When we take the time to stop and question our thoughts, we can begin to align our thinking with our true values and beliefs.

For instance, the thought arises “It’s not Monday”. Is that true? My thoughts tell me its probably Tuesday. An external source is telling me it’s Monday and so I double check my belief. Sure enough it’s Monday. Continuing to hold on to my belief that it’s Tuesday when the whole world, including my schedule, is operating as if it’s Monday can cause me major stress. 

How about the thought, “maybe I shouldn’t even call it work”? Is that true? Of course not, I can call it whatever I like. There’s no law against calling what I do work. Chances are good, however, there was a thought that preceded that thought that was totally unconscious; A thought that came from an archaic unquestioned belief that I still hold. You can probably see it. When I dig down I come up with a few belief-based thoughts that led to this statement: 1) anything pleasurable cannot be of monetary value; 2) work by its very nature is not enjoyable, work is hard and grueling and forced upon us, work is what we don’t want to do; 3) writing is fun and enjoyable, therefore it is not work, and therefore has no monetary value; 4) work is something that one takes seriously and requires physical and mental effort alone, not reflective, intuitive, feeling abilities. You get the picture?

When we take the time to go back and find the belief that led to a thought, we can begin to get straight with our true selves. I was raised by parents who believed all of the beliefs I still hold in my unconscious. They did not see value in the me I was born to be and they instilled in me their beliefs and desires as to who I should be. I have to work constantly to strengthened my own beliefs and put aside there’s. Here’s what is true for me: 1) I believe that if we do what we love, with the desire and the practiced intention of making money doing it, then we can make money doing it.  2) I believe that work can and should be enjoyable, and that when it is not, it is still only our thoughts that make us suffer. 3) I believe work is probably an antiquated word in this instance. a better choice would be “career” or “profession”, or used with another word such as “work on a project”, that takes the bite out of it for me. 4) I have come to appreciate and value “down” time that includes deep, reflective thought, meditation, research and quiet reading as an essential part of my profession.

Williams James said it very succinctly in his quote. When we slow things down, and break them down, to get to our truest, bottom line thought in a stressful situation, we can change our thought and remove the stress. The key is to tune in and to pay attention to what it is we are thinking. My thoughts around the little red light created a whole new feeling in me about vacuuming. I’m still thinking on that one!

What thoughts cause you stress? What beliefs are associated with those thoughts?

Byron Katie’s book, Loving What Is, especially in the audio version, is a valuable tool for practicing this process. I purchased all of her audios through Audible and listened to each multiple times. She does live sessions with real people as they work the process together, or “do the work” as she calls it, and it’s very instructive. Incidentally, I find my membership with Audible both immensely valuable and affordable. I only purchase items I know I will listen to again and again. I use Kindle and pre-owned physical books for fiction or impulse purchases.

Defining Life Realistically As We Age

Defining Life Realistically As We Age

Duke Gardens
Sarah P. Duke Gardens
Duke University
Durham, NC

“Defining Life Realistically” is Carl Jung’s third task of his Seven Tasks of Aging. Speaking of a reality check, I can’t imagine being brought more back to earth than I have been over the last decade. Yikes! I think I’m still trying to find my balance.

When we “cling to illusions that are contrary to reality, then problems will surely arise”, according to Jung. We come into the aging process attached to so many illusions. Most of us are in no way prepared for the first intrusion of reality, whether it be the sudden death of a loved one, a broken marriage, children run amok, a health crisis, a lost job or any number of other life challenges. 

These may very well strike long before midlife, but when they occur in our youth we still believe to some extent that our life will go on forever. At midlife we very much begin to see the end and a sense of urgency descends. I was 19 when my father very suddenly and unexpectedly lost his job. He was sixty. Too young for retirement, too old to be hired by someone else in his field. He sent out over 200 resumes and received nothing. (Fortunately this is less true now.) I watched him crumble, his lifelong pursuit of a good, secure and stable life fall by the wayside. My belief in corporate America was shattered. I was able never able to recover my confidence in it and have been self-employed ever since. 

I carried forth with the illusion for the next twenty something years that I could create my own independent, successful lifestyle. I did not have to be controlled and dependent upon something or someone outside of my control. My midlife awakening was that I was wrong about that as well. I had faced endless obstacles trying to create an independent, successful lifestyle. I had encountered circumstances and events beyond my control. I had not been able to accomplish what I set out and worked so hard to accomplish, and I was running out of time and energy to keep trying.

I had been living in a dream world. I had not faced reality, and because of that I was simultaneously driven and living in a self-destructive state of mind. I had to let it go. I had to let the illusion go. I had to face reality. 

There are so many things that wake us up as we age. Our bodies are another never ending source of reality checks. Weight loss becomes harder. Building strength and endurance becomes a slower process. The damage we’ve done through fad diets, too much stress, indifference to our needs is harder to repair. We are no longer on the same track of trying to look a certain way. The illusion that we will one day, if we work hard enough, become a perfect size 6, or 8, or 10, or 12, slips through our fingers as middle age sagging and bulging and softening begins. 

This is all as it should be. A problem arises only when we cling to our illusions, cling to the idea that we can at sixty obtain the body of a thirty year old woman, that we can or should achieve complete control over our careers, that we are, in fact, not subject to the laws of the universe. Beliefs such as “I deserve, or am owed a happy marriage”, or “I have to have youthful skin at sixty” leads us to resentment, despair, anger and frustration. 

Coming to terms with what is, in a culture that wants us to believe we can have and do whatever we desire, is a challenge. It is, however, our challenge to embrace as we age. It is our task to take on and, it is in our best interest to do so. When we ignore this task and cling to our illusions we remain stuck and unable to step into the awakening of our inner life. 

What have been your wake up calls as you age? How have you navigated them? Are you aware of other illusions still needing attention?

Task 1 Facing the Reality of Aging and Dying

Task 2 A Life Review