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A Journey to Myself

October 2, 2011

Today’s Guest Post is by Alanna Bergquist.  This journey of inner development is wonderful.  Hope you are as inspired as I am.

Marie

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Star Dust by Kristina Swarner

I’ve come to a place in my life where I can appreciate that the best way to connect to those I love is to first connect to myself. I have a stronger, deeper relationship with my husband, family and friends now that I have started diving deeper into my relationship with me.  I understand now more than ever that this is a process and a practice. It is not a sprint to see how fast I can find peace; it can go away as fast it comes sometimes. One thing I do know is that the more I practice the easier it is to find that peace again.

My journey started with a seeking to understand an unhappiness I was carrying. This feeling didn’t make sense; I had a loving husband, supportive friends and family, a house a dog and a cat, with plans for children; everything I could want. But there was something missing, I just didn’t know what it was.  When I got to the place where children were soon to be a reality, I knew I had to figure out this unhappiness in myself. I knew if I didn’t I would only continue making the people I loved most miserable along with me.

I started searching for answers, through reading (and Oprah watching) but I never really shared my feeling with anyone else about how lost I was feeling. Then I met a woman who inspired me to take a chance on something I would have never thought of doing before. She explained that she had taken this awesome 5 day seminar called CHOICES, it’s a place that helps you to focus on self-awareness and gives you the tools to help you to create more of the things you want in life and less of what you don’t. Like more happiness and peace and confidence and less frustration, conflict and unhappiness. I was intrigued and felt that this is exactly what I was looking for.  I explained to my very supportive husband that I thought I needed this that in fact we both needed me to do this and he agreed, not fully understanding how right I was.  At Choices I found out what it was that was missing from my life….it was me. I realized I had been in the passenger’s seat of my own life, watching it go by me without taking the wheel and taking control. It was at Choices that I saw my first glimpse of what it was like to feel love for myself, that SAME love that flows so EASILY from me to others.  This kind of love comes from a place of understanding. I was given insight and tools to understand the reasons behind the things I was doing that kept me unhappy. It helped me to accept myself just the way I am, and for the first time I could just let myself BE, knowing that I am not perfect and that’s OK.

Choices introduced me to the concept of TAPES; these are unconscious negative thoughts that influence the picture of how we see ourselves. These “Tapes” affect the actions and decisions we make every day. They stop us from doing the things that would create peace and happiness in our lives. Tapes are our fears and insecurities that lead to us creating what we fear. Through my experiences at Choices I was able to discover some of my loudest tapes. I found out that I felt guilty for having such an easy life compared to everyone else. I felt I didn’t deserve all the good things in my life because I didn’t have to suffer or struggle to have it. I felt my story was insignificant, that I didn’t make a difference. I judged myself for not being happy because I had it so EASY. This was a never ending, and damaging thought pattern.  I discovered insecurities about my intelligence or lack there-of. I come from a family of intelligent people who have meaningful conversations about politics, religion and world issues but I felt I was incapable of such conversation. I loved to listen to them but never thought I had anything to bring to the conversation. I wasn’t someone who paid much attention to world issues. The way I had unconsciously interpreted my life experiences created some very loud Tapes that probably sounded like this: “I’m insignificant” “I’m not smart enough” “I have nothing to bring to a conversation” “I’m not important” ”I don’t make a difference” “I’m a bad person because I don’t appreciate the good thing I have” “I don’t deserve love” “I will only make the people I love miserable” “If I can’t do it or say it perfectly I won’t try at all”

Before Choices I didn’t know that I had these thoughts so I never took a moment to question them. You don’t know what you don’t know. I walked through my life feeling like I had nothing good to bring to the world. My actions were in turn speaking the truth of my unconscious.  Choices calls these actions “Self-defeating Games” because when you play these games you set yourself up for failure. Anything you do that does not get you closer to finding peace in your life is a self-defeating game. My top 10 games were; judging myself, judging others, having unreasonable expectations on myself, feeling unworthy, blaming others, having to be right, giving up or not trying at all,  playing a victim, acting angry and starting a fight; I was really good at starting a fight. Everyone has their own set of self-defeating games and it’s possible we have played them all at different times in our lives. Other self-defeating games include over-working, over committing, addictions, obsessive behaviors, gossip, focusing on the bad, black and white thinking, being a problem, self-loathing and many others.

I have found it very interesting and helpful to learn our subconscious is like a computer full of programs. Some programs are there for body functions like breathing, pumping blood, hormones and digestion, which have been working since before we were born and other programs are down loaded as we grow up. From birth until the age of 6 our subconscious is in download mode; it’s downloading every bit of information about how the world works and what expectations are on us; in order for us to know how to survive and thrive in this world. We use our subconscious mind 95% of the time and it is much more powerful than the conscious mind. Our conscious mind is where new thoughts, ideas and creativity come from, it’s what we use when we learn something new before it gets download. The problem is most of the time our conscious mind is used up in thinking about the future or the past, leaving our subconscious to run the show. This is being on autopilot and is the opposite of being present. We can only be present when our conscious mind is paying attention to the now. If we are not present, than our subconscious is run the show and we do things automatically without thinking. We don’t question why we are doing them; we just do them because that’s what our program has learned to do. Because of this process just positive thinking doesn’t really get you closer to finding peace and happiness. To help explain that better, say I have a new conscious thought like “I deserve to be happy” but I’m not even aware that my subconscious has the tape “I don’t deserve good things.” That new conscious happy thought doesn’t have a fighting chance against the much stronger unconscious negative thought. Because the new thought only appears when we are present and when we are on autopilot which is 95% of the time our subconscious plays the tape” I don’t deserve good things.”  This is why life gets filled with things that are more in line with our subconscious tapes

Choices had opened my mind to a new level of understanding me, which lead to more patience with myself and paved the way to letting go of past hurts that I was holding on to so tightly. Putting a light on those tapes helped me to realize what was holding me back from happiness. The only way to bring in more peace is to be able to record new tapes by becoming aware of the thoughts and fears that hold you back; understanding that those thoughts are not true; and discovering a better tape like I am a deserving person, I am a lovable person. Doing this takes the power away from the negative and gives you back the power to bring happiness into your life. It’s more than just saying “I am a loveable person” it’s actually feeling that inside that helps you to press record on that “tape player” and start seeing yourself in a new more loving light. Choices helped me to “put a different pair of glasses on” and see myself and my life in a new way and I was incredibly happy for a while.

This really was just the beginning of my journey to peace.  A few years after Choices, I became a mother and the stress of my husband’s job started taking a toll on his happiness. I stopped reading and spending time thinking about me and was enveloped in my role as a mother and doing my best to support my husband through his challenges. Negative thoughts started to creep in again in the form of expectations.  I wanted to be a perfect mother, wife, and enlightened human. I had to eat right, make healthy meals for my family, have a perfectly clean house, I could never get angry with my child or overreact; I had to help my husband through this difficult time and stay positive. Obviously I could not keep up with my expectations and I became overwhelmed. When I get overwhelmed I shut down and shut off and I’m on autopilot again. I numb myself in front of the TV, eat salty fattening foods that strip me of energy and I don’t care, I don’t want energy, if I had energy I might want to take on all those expectations again and that is just too overwhelming to think about. So I was pushing my fears and feelings of inadequacy down with TV and food and that was pushing away happiness at the same time.  I started to withdraw from the things that were good for me like my talking with my husband, family and friends. I stopped exercising and started eating worse. I was unhappy again and that meant I was a failure. I was punishing myself for not being the perfect person I was supposed to be. I became unconscious and believed all my negative thoughts, and again I was alone dealing with this shameful unhappiness. Thankfully with the help of Choices I gained a certain level of self-awareness. I knew I was playing more “Self-defeating Games” like my addiction to food and the TV, giving up, shutting down, and feeling like a victim of all my expectations.  I picked up a few self-awareness and spiritually enlightening books, and started to apply some helpful tools like meditation and breathing, and becoming aware of my thoughts again.

Slowly with practice and purpose I started to incorporate meditation into my day, but really it was more like paying attention to my breath in order to stop that automatic thinking. I would take a few deep purposeful breaths and only concentrate on how my lungs felt when I breathed in and how it felt to breathe out. In doing so my mind stopped thinking and I became present.  Being present is not a thought or a concept for my mind to wrap around; it is a feeling. The same feeling I get when I look up into the stars on a dark night or when I look at my baby and I have no words or thoughts, I am just in wonder. I can never forget that feeling but that doesn’t mean it’s always with me. Giving myself this time for breathing and being present helped me remember “Nothing in life is good or bad but it’s our thoughts that make it so.” I have a choice here, I can keep doing what I’m doing or figure out what I was doing to get me back here and take control of my life again.  I discovered that some of my old tapes were back but they had changed ever so slightly.  I dove deeper into self-discovery again, and I realized that I could not receive from the world what I was not giving. Any understanding or empathy from someone outside of me couldn’t make a difference if I did not first give it to myself.

It always has to start with ourselves. If we are not willing to go into that dark scary place of our negative beliefs about ourselves and life; we will never be free from them. If we can be still and listen, without judgment, to all of the things that cause us stress or worry, it can be very empowering. Imagine that it is not you but a friend who is telling you the things in her life that cause her stress, how would you treat her? Would you point out how stupid she is for thinking that? Would you tell her “just think positive, you’re overreacting?” And if you did those things would she feel understood and loved and safe?  To really make a difference in that friends life just let them be exactly who they are in that moment.  Remember that “this too shall pass” right now they are in a difficult situation, they need to be heard so that they can see the situation more clearly and realize that it is not going to kill them, they will survive. Everything they are feeling and thinking is a normal part of processing a difficult situation. This helps them to trust you and know this is a safe place. If you can do this for yourself it opens up a whole new possibility and gives you the freedom to go through a dark place in order to come out on the other side lighter and free. That is the best way to love. We hold on so tightly to our negative painful thoughts, pushing them deep down inside because we are afraid to see them or feel them or afraid that if we go to that place we may never find a way out. Not realizing that our heart and mind is FULL of those negative painful things anyway and we are not free to receive anything good or peaceful that comes our way. When you let go of the negative you can hold on to the happiness that is all around you but couldn’t see before. You realize that everything you ever needed was within you all along.

We have this incredibly rare and precious ability as humans to be able to see someone else’s struggle, feel empathy for their plight and appreciate the life we have. No other animal on this planet can do this. It is an incredible tool. But sometimes we misuse or misinterpret what this empathy is for….we feel bad that someone else is struggling and we feel guilty that we did not struggle in the same way. This can lead to many self-defeating games. Guilt is a major self-defeating game, when we feel guilty we aren’t feeling grateful. Feeling grateful is the point of empathy. To appreciate that someone else had gone through something difficult and made it through, having learned a lesson and we are capable of learning that same lesson without having lived through that pain. It helps us get through our own pain, to know we are not alone and appreciate what we have. This is why it can be so empowering when you hear someone else’s story.

Appreciation or gratitude is a wonderful tool to help bring you out of a bad place. But it’s hard to see what we are grateful for when we are blinded by our negative thoughts. Our negative thoughts will usually outweigh our desire to feel grateful or good because that’s how we have been programmed. It takes time and practice to stay present so we can be aware when we are slipping into our negative thought patterns.

So now when I feel myself become upset, or overwhelmed. This is my cue to tap back into that feeling of being present. If I can just I slow down and pay attention to my breath and my body I become present. When I am present I am aware of my negative thoughts; that awareness creates disconnect from the thoughts; I no longer feel like my thoughts are the only possibility. I know there so much more and there seems to be space around my thoughts, it is in that space that happiness can come rushing in.  I can finally see my life from a different perspective, I am able to take my power back from the fear and guilt and desperate feeling of being overwhelmed. I can see what I have right in front of me, the love of my Husband and son, my friends and family. I start feeling love for myself again. It’s like breaking free from the chains of my thoughts, finally being able to see them for what they are…just thoughts, not the Truth. The Truth is something you can feel and may not be able to describe.  But if you want to know what it is to be grateful for what you have; imagine your life without it.  I’ve seen an e-mail that sums it up perfectly. If you want to know the value of a mother; ask someone who just lost one,  the value of a healthy child; ask a parent with a sick child in the hospital, the value of your legs; ask someone who just lost theirs in a car accident….the list goes on. We are capable of learning those lessons by listening to others stories, their stories can help to remind us of what we have and feel our Truth again and find peace with what we have right now.

This is my story, my Truth, it has been therapeutic to write it, read it and share it. I hope it touches your life or opens your eyes to the possibility of more. For me it has been a wonderful tool to continue to learn about myself and others. I firmly believe that love is made up of understanding and so in order to love myself I had to take the time to understand myself.  With a new understanding of myself I know I am better able to love everyone else in my life, and others that I have never even met.  Thank you for letting me share my story with you.

by Alanna Bergquist

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Do you have an inner journey you would like to share?  Please let me know.

And finally, here is the website for the choices program that Alanna talks about.  There are many roads to inner development and I wholehearted encourage you to find the one that speaks to you.

www.choicesseminars.com

Shanti peace,

Marie

If you enjoyed this art work in this post, please check out Kristina Swarner.  Her stuff is beautiful and also for sale on Etsy.

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Nurturing my friendships

Since becoming a mom I often feel that my time and attention are being pulled in many directions.  The kids demand, rather than ask for my attention and are honestly so in need and incessant that they get the lion’s share of what I have to give.  Plus there are the other people who want my time and attention…  my dear hubby, my sisters, the rest of my family, work, friends, clients… sometimes if feels like there just isn’t enough of me to go around.   Keep Reading

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