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I think I’m cranky because my back hurts.  I think my back hurts because of this, that or the other out there.  But it all comes down to my thought. 

I’ve decided to listen to my thoughts to see just how the thoughts are dictating how I’m feeling.  When I listen like that it makes perfect sense.  Sometimes I can hear a constant stream from “it’s cold,” to “the cat is being a pest, I’m tired, I would rather be doing that, what an ugly car.” Chomping away at all that’s not right. 

Okay.  I take a breath.  I’m grateful for all I have.  You know that was a kind thing he did.  I’m grateful he is in my life.  Oh, but look, I have a thread coming out of my sweater.  You know all my clothes are ratty and in need of repair.  Off I go again!

It seems logical to say that my back hurts because I need an adjustment.  And if I felt better, I’d have better thoughts.  But I believe it is the other way around.  That form follows thought.  I’ve been told as much by many wise folks.  But I say, no, my back hurts because I’m not getting enough rest.  Wait a moment, maybe it’s because I’m not getting enough exercise.  Always it’s my thoughts telling me I did something wrong, or I didn’t do it enough.  Do this game enough, without awareness, and watch it grow into something worse.

If I’m going to have my life move more in the direction I choose, all the affirmations and intentions won’t work until my thoughts are more in alignment with what I choose. 

I know of two good ways to control my thoughts.  One is, of course, meditation.  I’ve found it’s best when done regularly. No matter how small the time, as long as it’s regular (that means as many days in a row as you can, shooting for every day.)  The other way is intensive journaling to unload most of that chatter.

Awareness, as always is the key to it all.  Watching to see how your thoughts are creating your reality. Coloring how you feel, emotionally and physically.  It all comes from the thoughts.

I’m going to try making that connection: between how my body feels and what my thoughts are doing.  The discomfort might well be coming from thoughts I had hours ago, but there’s no time like the present to clean it up.

Very powerful things, intentions. They dictate how we go about our lives, what our priorities are, and the ultimate effect of our actions.

Some cultures speak of Karma.  I believe that comes directly from our intentions. If you put out generous and loving intentions, you are likely to get the same back.  Though it’s not always in a linear, tit-for-tat exchange.  The energy in intention bounces around and can easily get you from behind!

I was reading Sharon Salzberg (one of my favorite and most under appreciated authors).  She was talking about how the Buddha taught that these intentions and consequent actions were what defined a person’s life – not their caste.  A radical view then, Sharon said, and a radical view now.

Our intentions or motivations are what truly outline what we do and who we are.  Though they are not readily apparent from the outside.  We can never be completely sure what another person’s intentions are.  The motivation could be greed, revenge or generosity or caring, but it would look the same, externally.

The beautiful thing is that we can each decide our intention. It is always our choice.  And this, more than anything else, shapes our world.

Sharon says, when we understand our connection to all things, we can’t help but want to do good.  To set our intention for such.  It’s not something we need to strive for, it is something that comes from within, naturally.

Though we can practice.  Sharon suggests meditation to listen to and practice control of our thoughts. Then we can make more conscious intentions. You need to know where you’re going if you have any hope of getting there.

I’m off to the beach this weekend.  I’ve set my intention to feel loving toward the people I will be with and to be safe on the road.  I want to rest into the present moment and spend some quality time, in the sun, with the ocean.  Amen.

I wish for you to choose more and more loving intentions and smooth sailing ahead.

It sure feels like, these days, books keep telling me, “I know exactly what you need!” This is generally proceeded by something like “Start a regular habit of journalling every morning. That will get you what you want.” But I’ve been journalling for more years than I can count. Okay, I say to myself, maybe that’s an exaggeration. Perhaps it’s more like Meditation. A regular schedule of meditation will solve all your problems! Make everything just right. I used to meditate quite regularly. Now, it’s a little more sporadic, when I can get it in. Still, I know to meditate, and I do it, if not regularly. Lo and behold, the next thing I read is that I must journal every day. I give up! The solution to all my problems is that I just have to do what I already do. This makes me weary.

Maybe I’ve read too many books. Is it possible I’ve learned everything I need to learn? I’d say that is unlikely.

I find, though, if I look under those rocks, I often find a tasty nugget of gold. For one thing, I am certainly entitled to feel good about myself and all I’ve learned. How far I’ve come. It’s also possible, when I let go of that anger, frustration or whatever other negative emotions creep in, I will find the one piece of information which makes a huge difference for me. A new twist to the journalling or a way to find more time to meditate in a busy day. How lucky I am to be so far ahead that I only need to tweak my practices instead of having to start from scratch to establish them! I don’t have to stop reading. Just release the attitude.

The Positive Slant wins again.

 I have been going on a bit lately about feelings for my upcoming book.  How important it is to check in with how you’re feeling.  They are the gauge that tell you how you’re going.  Feelings are true and real, just not necessarily so.

Every day I read a page in Chellie Campbell’s wonderful book, “The Wealthy Spirit.”  I’m liking the notion Chellie brought up in one of the day’s readings that you can’t always wait until your feelings are where you want them to be.  If you did, you’d probably never do anything.

In regards to my recent experience in the car, I haven’t felt much like driving in inclement weather.  I was able to escape it yesterday. (Though the road crews were out early and with their high tech solutions, made the roads pretty clear, from my point of view, there was still a whole lot of snow and I was not inclined to risk any more poles.)  But today, I had to venture out.  If I waited until I felt like it, I would hide under the covers (at least inside the door) until well into April.

It is an interesting path these feelings take.  They come out of our thoughts: “I’m scared. I can’t do it.  What if?  I’ll mess up again.”  I think we’re all familiar with that song and dance routine.  These thoughts make me feel like I can’t, like I doan wanna.  Which keep me from moving.

There are two ways to go here.  One entails controlling my thoughts.  Meditation, I believe, can help in training the mind.  But it’s so easy to lose track in this multi-tasking, quick -cut, short attention span world we live in.  You can forget about calming the feelings.  That’s often a losing battle once it’s taken hold of you.

Ultimately, it must come back to the thought. But you need to change (or usurp) those chattering thoughts with one simple demand:  “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway.”  Susan Jeffers had the answer way back in the mid 80’s.  There really isn’t any other way around it.

I would say you could use that same technique with any brand of fear you have.  Feel the reluctance, the insecurity, the nervousness. The plan is always to acknowledge the feeling, whatever it is, and then follow Dr. Jeffers and do it anyway.

First, you might want to scan it through your feelings, though, to see if you really do want to do it.  Even if it feels like your particular flavor of feeling, do you still feel it’s right to do? (I do want to go out, even if I don’t feel like it.)  If there’s something you can do to pad the way, by all means, do it.  If that means waiting one more day, getting the proper tools or supplies, asking someone for help, get busy and do it.  Just don’t forget (or get lost in the preparations) and just do it.

As I grapple with doubts about my life, my choices, my ability to hear the inner voices, Sharon Salzberg, in her book “A Heart as Wide as the World,” has a few things to say about doubt ~

She uses the example of knowing completely that she wanted to meditate, but unsure of which tradition to follow. This “hindrance of doubt” certainly gets in the way of meditating, of being in the present moment and tuning into the power in the now.  It keeps us from listening and seeing the truth.  Believing in the doubts gives them power and makes it difficult to connect to anything. 

Doubt won’t allow things time to unfold.  It wants everything right now.  If the relief we seek isn’t materializing as fast as we need it, we assume our doubts must be correct.  Being in doubt, rather than allowing ourselves to really look at the situation, makes us back away from it.  This also erupts further into comparisons. All this noise makes it  hard to hear Guidance.

This doesn’t mean we should never question.  Sharon explains, “When the Buddha urged his disciples not to simply accept what he said without any investigation, he meant that doubt should impel us to discover the truth for ourselves.”

One way she suggests dealing with doubt is to “recognize the confusion, the indecision, the questioning, not as authentic inquiry, but simply for what they are: doubt.”  This quiets the chatter since we no longer have to figure out if the doubt is right or wrong. We don’t need to find evidence of doubt’s validity.  We can just say, oh yeah, there goes another doubt.

Sharon tells a story of the Buddha, talking to villagers about how they should decide between all the teachers around in his day.  He told them if it feels wrong, stay away.  If it feels right, stay with that teacher.  Basic instruction: Listen to yourself.

You can come to see that at the heart of most doubt is a question about whether or not you can actually do it. But that can be transformed by developing a sense of confidence in your ability to see what’s real, what’s true (even if you’re not quite ready to believe completely in all that you doubt).

Sharon concludes her essay this way: “When we realize that access to the truth is our natural birthright, we can overcome the doubt that seeks to separate us from our experience. Then we draw as close as possible to each moment, not with confusion, but with wisdom.”

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