About what matters

Writing about what really matters

Month: August, 2014

An amazing creator of contrast


Contrast is the basis of expansion.

This is a contrasting moment, but more important, this is a defining moment.

… I am clearer now about who I am and what I am wanting.


You know how some people light the way? I’ve been noticing that there are also those who “dark the way.” They are what I’ve been calling this week amazing creators of contrast. I have one in my life right now, and perhaps you do too.

If you’re not familiar with contrast, it’s an Abraham-Hicks term that means a blast of what you don’t want that you can leverage to recognize more clearly–much more clearly!–what you really do want.

Useful, right?

Contrast might be something agreed on as being negative by many people, or it might simply be something that many people do prefer, but you do not. For example, someone spitting in your face would be agreed on as contrast by nearly everyone. A sizzling steak would be greeted with pleasure by many, but would be considered contrast by many others. Contrast is the key to discovering your own personal preferences, whatever they may be.

Contrast can arise anywhere, from anything, but there are people who delight in creating contrast for others. (Of course, this is rather bad karma.) It’s the amazing creators of contrast of this world who undertake the genuine service of strongly inspiring us to demand something better from life, right now!

I have felt supremely motivated this past week (thanks to my amazing creator of contrast) to create the changes I need in my life. I could easily have gotten angry about the contrast I experienced; I could easily have complained. But I  was able to appreciate the clarity of the defining moment. I chose to channel my feelings about the contrasting experience directly into fuel for taking action to create more of what I want, and less of what I don’t want. (I was thrilled that I was able to respond this way, and attributed it directly to the grounding work I’ve been doing recently.)

I complain considerably less now than I did when I was younger, thanks to finally realizing that negativity begets negativity, but my experiences this week led me to wonder whether any amount of complaining may be too much. I’m beginning to suspect that complaining, even just mentioning dissatisfaction to a confidante, has burned off considerable energy that I could have been using to turbocharge the creation of the change I need.

I’m sure you’ve heard these popular sayings …

Don’t get mad, get even.

Living well is the best revenge.

–Folk wisdom

One interpretation of these sayings would be to take the energy, the rocket fuel, you could use to get mad, and instead use it to power the creation of the life you really want.

That is exactly what I intend to do.

What about you … have you experienced any contrast lately? Is there any change you’d like to bring about in your life that would allow you to experience something different, something you do want? Can you use the contrast in your life to fuel that change?

This post is illustrated with the SoulCollage card I made today, Contrast.

You may enjoy this brief Abraham-Hicks recording about contrast: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t06lToUgCYQ

A day of rest

sweet dreams

Today I feel called to a day of rest.

Yesterday was go go go–lunch plans, dinner plans, a glass show, errands, a to-do list on the home front, cooking for the dogs, and a chai tea latte to keep me going through it all.

As of last week, I’m all but finished with a large and hairy project at work that I first started working on last year. It’s been in high gear for more than a month now, and I’m very happy to send it on its way.

What about you, dear reader? How long has it been since you’ve had a real day of rest? What about today? If today is for some reason impossible, could you schedule a day for yourself in the coming week? Something tells me you deserve a day all to yourself, doing exactly what you want to do–no more, and no less.

I’m off to do just that.

This post is illustrated with my SoulCollage card Sweet dreams.

Walk up to Life’s feast


I woke this morning with a picture in my mind–I suppose it was the tail end of a dream. Another person had cooked for me, and laid out before me many different dishes–a feast. I was tasting one of them and saying, “Oh, that is so good!”

This reminded me of the advice I received during a guided meditation from my sacral chakra totem, a leopard

Don’t be timid–walk up to life’s feast.

To me, that’s an entirely accurate description of what life is meant to be. I feel frustrated sometimes by the focus on the aspect of life that is suffering, or a “vale of tears,” in some traditions.

On the one hand, I do believe that suffering, or the possibility of suffering, is a key aspect of why we come here, why we incarnate. There are lessons that can’t be learned in paradise, and they are the ones we come here to learn.

At the same time, I believe suffering is often a clue that we’re going about life in an unskillful way.

I suspect that the possibility of suffering heightens the joy and pleasure we experience here, just as bitter, sour, and umami flavors enhance and enrich sweetness. (I’m thinking here of dark chocolate, lemon bars, and a wonderful and memorable chocolate-foie gras soup I had while traveling last December.)

But in addition to all we come here to learn, I believe we also come here to enjoy ourselves, to partake of Life’s feast.

Let’s dig in!

This post is illustrated with the SoulCollage card I made today, Life’s feast. I wish I had one of those gorgeous heirloom tomatoes to bite into right now!


How to deal with anger


Buddhism also teaches helpful meditation techniques so we are not swept away by the force of conflicting emotions like anger. These techniques allow us to take advantage of the brief gap in the mind between impulse and action. Through the practice of mindfulness, we become aware of impulses arising and allow a space in which we can consider whether and how we want to act. We, not our emotions, are in control. –Melvin McLeod

For me, anger and a sense of injustice are a motivating force. –Chelsea Clinton, the Clinton Foundation

I believe that anger can be sacred. Anger is meant to lead us to protect ourselves by saying a clear and decisive No to those who would otherwise use or abuse us. Anger is meant to help us create clear and helpful boundaries. Anger is meant to lead us to defend the weak and helpless, and to seek justice and truth-telling. These are all very good things.

I want to mention the upside of anger right up front, because anger is often perceived and talked about negatively–no doubt due to its profane side, which is itself abusive. Learning the difference between sacred and profane anger can be quite difficult for anyone who, like me, has had extensive exposure to inappropriate anger.

I’ve written before about the moment I decided I was tired of being as angry as I was, and that something needed to change. With the work I’ve been doing on grounding over the past month or so, all these many years later I feel like I have finally gathered a complete set of tools to transform my relationship with anger, and so I wanted to write about the topic again.

This past week I read the Readers Write section of the July issue of The Sun magazine. The theme is Never Again. Many of the entries are heartbreaking–particularly one written by a mother who is the child of an angry parent, has now become one herself, and doesn’t know how to change. This, for me, has been the path to that change I decided absolutely had to happen. For me it has been the work of many years, but I don’t see any reason why the process couldn’t move along a bit faster! If you experience anger as a force that seems like it’s controlling you rather than the other way around, I recommend the following …

  1. Cultivate a sense of humor. I wouldn’t say I’ve had every advantage in life, but I have had some important ones. I consider having a strong sense of humor to be at least one of my top five, if not higher. There are definitely things worth getting angry about, but there are a lot more that are well worth laughing about. There’s nothing like a sense of the ridiculous to help you keep your perspective, and appreciate life here on Earth.
  2. Let go of the past. If you’re getting disproportionately angry about little things all the time, in my experience it’s because you’re actually angry about something quite large that you haven’t dealt with. First you have to deal with the elephant in the room. For me, this step was about releasing bitterness about the big things that were bothering me. Once I did this, it became unusual for me to blow up over nothing.
  3. Years later, I started to meditate. If you don’t already meditate, I hope you’ll begin today. People have given me lots of “reasons” why they don’t meditate–but they sounded an awful lot like excuses. If you’ve been making excuses–I can’t meditate because my apartment complex is too noisy; my dog won’t let me meditate; I have no talent for meditation (all actual “reasons” I’ve heard)–I hope you’ll recognize them for what they are, take a page out of the Nike handbook, and Just do it. What’s so important about meditation, you may be asking? Why do people talk about what is, after all, doing nothing like it’s the second coming? I’ve always known I became calmer as a result of meditating, but I’m not sure I could have explained why as well the quote above from the Shambhala Sun, which really illuminated for me the value of meditation as it relates to anger. The much-talked-about “gap” really does make a huge difference in everyday life.
  4. Recognize the ego for what it is. When you recognize your own ego–as well as others’, they’re all pretty much alike, after all–and you no longer have to be right all the time, you suddenly have a lot less to be angry about. You really get it that there’s so much that happens that you no longer “need” to respond to.
  5. The last step (so far!) has been the work I’ve recently been doing on grounding. My (Donna Eden) energy medicine practitioner realized that a) relatively slight stress, like recalling an unpleasant meeting, could cause me to become ungrounded, and b) even when I was grounded, it wasn’t a stable state. When I asked what could cause these issues, she mentioned trauma, and reminded me, “You didn’t have the best childhood, you know.” Well yes–there was that. Using the same meridians as Traditional Chinese Medicine, she determined where my trigger points were, and devised an exercise for me to do three times a day. (It took a bit more than 10 minutes at first, and now it takes a bit less.) As I understand it, this exercise allowed me to ground myself, break up unhelpful patterns, challenge my grounding, and then immediately re-ground myself. She suggested doing it for two weeks, and ideally 21 days. I scheduled an appointment after about a month, doing the exercise faithfully during the past month. My colleagues were so good as to challenge my grounding quite thoroughly just before my appointment. Whereas before I’d likely have responded appropriately, but felt (and probably also looked and sounded) rattled, after doing this work I was able to be calm both inside and out. My breathing changed, I was definitely irritated, but I stayed grounded throughout. I was able to express my viewpoint calmly and logically, and when I came in the next day, I found the person who’d been trying to weasel out of work in the meeting was actually doing some of it. I considered it a victory all the way around.

This post is illustrated with the SoulCollage card I started making in January and finished today called, So you think I have an anger problem. In January, my mood shifted before I could figure out how to make the card successful, and I ended up making a card for Courage instead.

If you’re interested in seeing a Donna Eden energy medicine practitioner yourself, here’s a directory.

Rising above the ego


When the September issue of The Shambhala Sun arrived and I saw its theme–the Wisdom of Anger–I immediately put it into my current magazine rotation. As I was reading the magazine this past week, I came across this timely passage:

The basic act of aggression is ego. It is what distorts the energy of anger into a cause of suffering. When we define ourselves as separate and truly existing beings, we automatically set ourselves against others. –Melvin McLeod

I found this equating of ego with aggression extremely interesting and thought-provoking. This would certainly help explain why ego flare-ups and fighting often occur simultaneously. It also helps explain why some else’s ego flaring can feel so upsetting, if indeed it is an act of aggression.

A couple of egos belonging to coworkers working on the same project as I am were flaring pretty strongly last week at work. I’m sure you’ve heard “What you resist, persists,” and it’s certainly true in this context.

When I say ego, by the way, I’m referring to that part of us that loves nothing better than to make others wrong. That says, “I am right, and therefore you are wrong–which is, of course, the natural order of things. I will defend my rightness and attack your wrongness without counting the cost.”

That cost, by my reckoning, is substantial. I’ve seen it cost people their health. I’ve seen it cost people pretty much their entire support system. Perhaps it goes without saying that much if not all the time, the ego’s interests are at odds with our own. The ego has no problem, for example, with alienating helpful people. It’s happy to do so until no one is left. I’ve concluded that trying to make sense of the actions and decisions of a rampaging ego is like trying to make sense of a wildfire. I suspect the ego is like a disease that stops at nothing, not even at killing its own host.

Thus it is in our own best interests to learn to recognize the ego when it appears on the scene. I have found that my own ego always gives itself away by insisting, “I’m right!” And perhaps it’s true that I’m right much of the time … but that doesn’t mean anyone else is wrong. There are many ways to be right, many right ways to do things. Many paths lead to the same destination. No one has a monopoly on right–or wrong.

Recognizing one’s ego the moment it appears is, I believe, the key to getting it under control. Once you recognize it for what it is, its lies are no longer believable, and you are no longer at its mercy.

So as I was preparing to go to work this past Tuesday, the still, small voice within offered this advice: “Rise above.” Immediately the image I’ve created a SoulCollage card for here came into my mind … an eagle soaring in the sky, far above the treacherous, rocky ground below.

I found taking this advice to ‘rise above’ to be far more effective than engaging with others’ egos. The ego is always spoiling for a fight. But graciousness refuses the insult and disarms the ego, leaving it with nothing to fight, nothing to feel threatened or thwarted by. When someone else is pointing out how wrong I am, or how utterly I failed to notice or predict something, it takes just a grain of humility to say, “Good catch!” or “You know, I misunderstood,” or “I forgot to fix that,” or “I got that wrong, I’m sorry.” Takes the wind right out of the ego’s sails. That’s what I observed this week.

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