Tag Archives: Meditation

Self-Help Success Story: “Joe Vitale’s ‘Zero Limits’ Method Is Great. But There Are, In Fact, Limits”

There’s a fun spirituality book called Zero Limits by one of the speakers featured in the movie The Secret. It’s by law of attraction writer (and super nice guy–he once called my friend to tell her he liked her book) Joe Vitale. Maybe you’ve heard of it.

The book is autobiographical–more a memoir than a traditional self-help. I love a good memoir, and it’s an entertaining read. But even better, it’s practical; it gives an in-depth explanation of a New Age/New Thought-type process for altering your state of mind and your beliefs (and maybe your reality, too). I’ll get into that in a second, but first, a brief assessment for those of you who already know the book.

Does this spiritual practice work against depression?

Yes. As a technique to deal with depression, Zero Limits can be awesome. I’ve tried it with some decent results. But be warned: the process is very similar to just saying mantras, and personally I’m not convinced these mantras are particularly special.

Have you tried it? For how long?

Yes. Not for long, though. Just a few days.

What were your results?

The first time I read Zero Limits, I was super excited. I wrote about this already, in You’re Getting Closer. That first night, I said the phrase over and over, and as I did so, my mood lifted and my head cleared. I entered into the state of meditation and stayed there.

The next day, however, the effect lessened considerably, even though I continued the practice. I decided that my belief in the technique, rather than the technique itself, had been responsible for my results. Since then, I’ve used the method just a few times, and never with the same commitment.

Personally–and this is just my opinion–I’d be more inclined to use the Zero Limits method on a specific situation or physical need, rather than as a way to heal depression. When I repeat a mantra in order to break out of a bad mood, I often end up more frustrated than when I started.

Is this spiritual practice enjoyable, though? Is it easy?

Yes and yes.

How does it work? What do you do, exactly?

Though there are other aspects to the technique, the main activity is repeating four lovely statements as often as possible–continuously?–throughout the day. They are:

  1. I’m sorry.
  2. Please forgive me.
  3. Thank you.
  4. I love you.

I won’t go into the philosophy behind the choice of statements here; for that, you can read the book. (And I recommend that you do.) The basic idea is that the statements have a cleansing power and can help you resolve any undesirable situation–like depression. By using them and visualizing a cleansing action (such as an eraser erasing a chalkboard), you rid the program from your mind that created it or brought it into your experience.

What’s the up-side?

Like I said, it is enjoyable. And it’s easy. And if you stick with it, you’ll likely see results. I happen to prefer other practices, that’s all.

What’s the down-side?

The book claims that the method is a version of an old Hawaiian healing tradition called Ho’pononpono. However, it’s significantly different from that tradition–a spinoff created by a kahuna named Morna. I’m sure Morna is or was inspired and wonderful. But I would’ve preferred she give her method a different name from the original.

The legend of the book and part of what makes it so popular is that Hew Len, the co-author of the book and of the method, emptied a mental ward of patients by using this method–nothing else.

What’s the bottom line here?

My super scientific, soon-to-be-patented depression effectiveness rating for the Zero Limits method: 5 on a scale of 1-10.

Where can I find out more?

You can read my book summaries and takeaways here:

Best Spirituality Book for Depression: Zero Limits: The Secret Hawaiian System for Wealth, Health, Peace, and More by Joe Vitale and Hew Len

Best Spirituality Book for Depression: At Zero by Joe Vitale

Or you can find the book and info about Joe Vitale and co-author Hew Len here:

Zero Limits on Amazon

Joe Vitale’s Official Website

Hoʻoponopono and Hew Len on Wikipedia

Hew Len’s Official Website

Joe Vitale’s law of attraction success story: “I am rich

Self-Help Success Story: “I Tried Mindfulness for Depression”

So, I have a confession to make: I’ve always hated the idea of mindfulness. Here I am, all spiritual and New Agey and stuff, and I’ve never even initiated a conversation about it. Ridiculous, right? Here’s my excuse.

Until very recently, I knew nothing about this spiritual practice. It was just a vague term, and not an especially pleasing one at that. Whereas for some, the idea of mindfulness inspires a sort of beatific glow, for me, it was just another entry on the never-ending to do list of life. Just learning more about it seemed exhausting. Then I actually did learn more–and abruptly changed my perspective.

Right now, as research for this site, I’m reading Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zin for the first time. Now a modern classic, this gives one of the more detailed, systematic (even medical) approaches to mindfulness meditation. It’s based on the successful hospital classes led by Kabat-Zin many years ago, with more recent additions in the revised version I’m reading. I’m also reading several books by Thich Nhat Hanh right now, and listening to an Eckhart Tolle audiobook. I didn’t think of Tolle as a mindfulness meditation teacher, but I’m seeing now that he is (though he might not appreciate the label).

Previously, I viewed mindfulness as a sort of bland, unoriginal approach to spirituality. I mean, it’s just so popular, right? Even non-spiritual people are doing it. After doing the above reading, though, I changed my mind.

Mindfulness, it turns out, isn’t what I thought it was.

I thought mindfulness was: Enjoying life.

Mindfulness is: Being aware of and accepting whatever thoughts come, whether or not they’re thoughts of enjoyment and appreciation.

I thought mindfulness was: Thinking pleasant thoughts about the ordinary things you see around you as you go throughout your day.

Mindfulness is: Feeling your “inner body,” as Tolle calls it–bringing your attention to the energy within you throughout the day.

I thought mindfulness was: Eating more slowly. Listening more carefully.

Mindfulness is: Being who you are. Doing what comes naturally to you when you’re acting from your highest self.

I thought mindfulness was: Not future-thinking. Not past-thinking.

Mindfulness is: Using your mind in the ways that it serves you. That includes some future- and past-thinking.

I thought mindfulness was: Being in a state of deep acceptance of what is.

Mindfulness is: Being in the state of meditation. Even when you’re not totally able to accept what is.

I thought mindfulness was: A politically correct alternative to more advanced ways of meditating.

Mindfulness is: As advanced as I ever need to be.

In other words: Before, mindfulness seemed to me both overly simplistic as well as impossible to achieve. Now, it seems to be exactly what I already do every day: meditating, appreciating, loving. Rinse, repeat.

I still don’t love the word mindfulness for some reason. At this point, the
guilt-producing mental associations still sully it. But I do like mindfulness itself.

Here, a self-interview about using this practice for depression.

Does this spiritual practice work against depression?

Yes. For sure. Probably for everyone.

Have you tried it? For how long?

Possibly the main takeaway I got from my recent reading is that I’ve actually been practicing mindfulness meditation for at least four years now. I don’t do many long sitting meditations these days, but my main spiritual practice is to enter into a state of meditation–just a behind-the-scenes sort of sensing of the Divine–in the morning and to hold that place throughout the day. I certainly don’t always succeed in this (read You’re Getting Closer to see what I mean). But when I fail, I return. It’s my most consistent spiritual habit, and as it turns out, it’s nothing special–just what everyone is talking about: mindfulness.

What were your results when using mindfulness for depression?

At times, total transformation of my mood, immediately. Other times, frustration due to just not feeling it.

Is it easy?

For me, yes and no. It does take work, especially for the first several years of practice. It’s a tough habit to create and keep.

How long does the effect last? Does it keep working or does the effect taper off after a few weeks or months?

The mood effect does not taper off at all for me if I practice consistently throughout the day, week or month. And after a break–even a long one–I can pick up right where I left off.

How does it work? What do you do, exactly?

The answer to this question is different for everyone; there are so very many ways to be mindful.

For some, mindfulness is simply noticing what is and thinking thoughts of appreciation. For others, it is noticing unhelpful thoughts and letting them pass, turning their attention to their present surroundings instead. Right now, for me, my main mindfulness practice is to say a mantra many times throughout the day, as follows: I am sensing my inner body. I’m doing what feels deeply right. This reminds me to come back to myself, then check in with my intuition when making any kind of decision. It works wonderfully for me.

I also say, Thank you, God, and There is time for that, too. (This last because of my Type A accomplishment obsession.) And since I’m not so great at just thinking about trees or children’s smiles or whatever, I think thoughts of appreciation about these things. In other words, instead of saying to myself, Here are the trees. They are green and beautiful, I might say something like, I so appreciate these trees. I am so lucky to live here.

Does that make sense? For me, this subtle difference is huge.

Is this practice scientifically backed?

Yes. There are many books on the benefits of meditation in general, but mindfulness meditation is particularly well-researched. It is used outside spiritual circles–in hospitals, therapy practices and much more.

What’s the downside?

None that I can think of, except that it may take years and years of practice for it to feel natural and easy. At least, it did for me. And I definitely still struggle.

Self-Help Success Story: “Byron Katie’s ‘The Work’ Works For Me”

In the very famous book by Robert Cialdini called Influence, he tells a story that has been co-opted many times since, and now, I think I’ll do it again.

Beginning in the year 1961, Yale University conducted a set of frightening psychological experiments on a mix of average people. Bear with me a few moments—this is a little complicated. (But worth it.)

In each iteration of this study, three roles were played: the subject, the button pusher, and the director. The idea was simple: the button pusher would attempt to teach the subject, who was sitting in a different room, a set of word pairs. Then the button pusher would test the subject’s learning ability. When the subject responded incorrectly, the director (wearing a white lab coat) would tell the button pusher (the actual subject of the experiment) to deliver electric shocks of increasing intensity to the subject by—you guessed it—pressing a button.

Of course, the set up was a bit of a sham. No actual electrical current was delivered, but the subject made a convincing show of suffering, anyway.

The results of the study and subsequent studies shocked the researchers and the public alike: 65 percent of the button pushers complied with the researcher’s demands and pushed the torture button until the highest level of pain (an excruciating 450 volts) was delivered repeatedly—despite the fierce cries and protests of the subjects.

When the results of this study were announced to the public, they apparently caused quite a media frenzy. Respected analysts and psychologists made pessimistic observations about the evil inherent in human nature and society. What the journalists apparently did not reveal, however, was this:

The button pushers were in absolute anguish a great deal of the time.

They paced. They protested. They cried—even grown men cried. They begged not to be required to go on.

They didn’t want to do it at all.

In Influence and other analyses of this fascinating study, a clear conclusion is drawn: People in general put a great undue trust in authority. We listen to our leaders—or the people we perceive to be our leaders—and do almost anything they ask, whatever the consequences may be.

And I agree with this idea. In fact, I could not possibly agree more. However, there is a second conclusion to be made, and personally, I think it’s even more important than the first: People are almost totally unaware that the source of their greatest anguish is not other people.

It is themselves.

At any point in time during this experiment, any of the button pushers could have ended the torture of both the subject and themselves by doing one simple thing.

They could’ve stopped pushing the button.

Here’s the thing: We are powerful. Our minds–our beliefs–are the source of our greatest pain, as well as our only true joy. And yet, as many times as we New Agey-types say this, repeat this, remind ourselves of this, we often seem to forget it.

Which is where Byron Katie’s The Work comes in.

When I first came across Byron Katie’s website, there was a prominently displayed quote that went something like this: “The Work has one purpose: To end suffering.”

And I thought, Yeah, right, you guys. Everything I need to end suffering is right here, on this website.

A reasonable reaction, maybe. But that was long before I ever put The Work to the test.

What is The Work?

For those of you who are not familiar with The Work, here is a brief description from thework.com: “The Work is a simple yet powerful process of inquiry that teaches you to identify and question the thoughts that cause all the suffering in the world. It’s a way to understand what’s hurting you, and to address the cause of your problems with clarity. In its most basic form, The Work consists of four questions and the turnarounds.”

The questions are:

  1. Is it true? (Yes or no. If no, move to 3.)
  2. Can you absolutely know that it’s true? (Yes or no.)
  3. How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?
  4. Who would you be without the thought?

Pretty simple, right? And yet, The Work is one of the most powerful spiritual techniques I’ve ever tried. It combines well-known cognitive psychology principles (CBT is similar, and similarly amazing), neuroscience (brain rewiring theory, and all that), and–you guessed it–spirituality to address anything and everything that ails you.

And it delivers.

Can you be more specific?

Here are some of the negative thoughts I’ve freed (or partially freed) myself from through this method, just during the first two months of practicing it:

  • I’m not thin enough.
  • I’m not accomplishing enough.
  • I’m annoyed by [insert person’s name].
  • I’m angry at [insert person’s name].
  • I want to work more.
  • I don’t want to breastfeed anymore.

Another thought that I’m not totally rid of yet, but that I’ve already made inroads against: “I am depressed.”

Really? That doesn’t seem possible.

It’s true.

What do you mean, you’ve freed yourself from these thoughts?

I mean that when they come, they don’t feel as strong to me anymore. They are there, then I recall The Work that I did on the thought and how I turned it around, and it sort of makes its way through me to somewhere else. They’re not quite real anymore. I don’t take them so seriously.

And for depression, a condition that may be physically-based? Does it work for this, too?

Absolutely. I can honestly say that before The Work and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which is very similar but not quite as powerful as The Work, I was never entirely convinced I could one day be completely free from depression. Now, I am.

But it will take time. This is not an overnight miracle cure. It takes, as the name suggests, work. Depression has made such deep inroads–superhighways, really–in my mind. All that needs to be slowly undone.

If it’s this amazing, why doesn’t everyone know about it?

People find The Work when the time is right. Also, Byron Katie’s ideas are pretty darn controversial. In her world, the problem is never the other person; it’s always you. “No exceptions.” Change your perspective, and you won’t suffer anymore, she says–no matter what anyone else does to you. A lot of people are stuck in victimhood.

Anything else we should know?

I cannot do The Work justice in this blog post. Rather than attempt the impossible, then, I direct you to one of my favorite Byron Katie YouTube videos ever (and that’s saying a lot, since I’ve been binge-watching them every chance I get). In it, Katie helps a distraught woman plagued with guilt over a relationship mistake see the truth of the situation.

(By the way, everything you need to do The Work is available for free on Byron Katie’s website.)

Self-Help Success Story: “I Tried Mantra Meditation for Depression”

new thought and prayer

For several months, I had a mantra. A long one, one that I made up that said everything I wanted to remember each day. Since I haven’t had a whole lot of luck with many other types of meditation (I’ve pretty much always used mantras as a focal point during sitting practice rather than focusing on the breath or just clearing my mind), I figured I might as well make it a good, complete one. Each stanza is, for me, a consolidation of a great spiritual principle that upon contemplation can allow us to feel the feeling of feeling good (my definition of the state of meditation).

Here is the mantra that I used:

Angels, guides, God and all there is,  

1.
Please. Please.  
Help. Help.

2.
Notice. Notice.  
Accept. Accept.

3.
Surrender. Surrender.  
Flow. Flow.   

4.
Love. Love.
Give. Give.

5.
Body. Body.
Energy. Energy.

6.
Thank you. Thank you.
Life. Life.

I love this mantra. I love mantras in general, actually. And yet, I don’t use this one anymore. In fact, for the past year or so, I’ve used mantras only sporadically. Why is this? The reason is simple: other spiritual practices took precedent.

I just don’t have time for them all.

Here, a self-interview about using this practice for depression.

So do you recommend mantra meditation for depression, or not?

Absolutely. I have a strong feeling that I will circle back to it–maybe even to using it daily–after my Byron Katie obsession is no longer in the critical learning period.

And mantras in general? Do they help, too? Or is it best to combine them with meditation?

Mantras are just mantras. Unless they’re used in a certain way, in a meditative frame of mind, they’re just not all that effective.

I remember a time several years back when I thought I wanted to buy a particular house. So one day I said this mantra over and over for, like, a solid hour while doing yoga: “This is my house.” And I didn’t feel at peace about it at all–and I did not end up buying that house (thank God).

So what was the difference?

First, the mantra should be something that feels deeply right to you. Something that really increases your peace. And second, the mantra should be something you use as a means to an end–achieving a state of meditation–not as an end in itself.

So does that mean you shouldn’t use mantras while doing the laundry or at work?

Not at all. Sit-down meditation is awesome, but you can meditate anytime. I call this “walking meditation.”

How effective is mantra meditation for depression, really?

The thing about being depressed is that it’s really, really hard to boost yourself up out of it using the usual methods. I can remember so many times that I tried to force myself out of a bad mood using some kind of sitting or walking meditation, usually with a mantra, and just ended up more pissed off and frustrated. Maybe I’m just really bad at it (actually, I’m pretty sure this is the case). But I have a feeling I’m not the only one with this problem.

Sometimes it works really well. Other times, it’s just not enough. Personally, I’ve found that meditation is best when I’m already feeling either emotionally neutral (it then kicks me into a bit of a high) or already positive (it then kicks me into an awesome high). When I’m actually depressed, I need something … stronger.

Self-Help Success Story: “I Tried Positive Thinking for Depression”

Is positive thinking effective for increasing wellness and inner peace? I mean, really. It’s so corny. So Pollyanna. And yet, we spiritual people swear by it. Non-spiritual people, too. We give it credit for so many of our life achievements.

What gives?

I love this question. Really, really love it, partly because the answer isn’t straightforward. So the other week when I ran across an interview with Eckhart Tolle and Dr. Wayne Dyer in which it was asked, my ears perked up.

Strangely, positivity is a very polarizing subject. You have the extreme believers and the extreme haters. The believers think it’s the reason for everything good that ever happens (I’m looking at you, Rhonda Byrne). The haters view these people as not only misled, but downright ridiculous. Barbara Ehrenreich, for example, has become well known for books like Bright-sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America. Not the book idea I’d want to commit to for several years of my working life.

But there are a few less skeptical, more balanced approaches to the anti-positivity argument as well. And I was pleased that in the Dyer-Tolle interview, both shared interesting, balanced perspectives. They agreed that if a person really wants to achieve greater inner peace, positivity isn’t the goal, or even necessarily a great starting point. Instead, they say, work on being true to yourself, being honest–even if there’s some difficult emotions that come up.

Then Dyer mentioned Anita Moorjani, who wrote a book (Dying to Be Me) about her near death experience and what she learned from it. In it, she says that it’s not about positive thinking. It’s not about manufacturing good feelings where there are none. It’s not about mantras, and the law of attraction, and The Secret, and Norman Vincent Peale.

Positive thinking is a mere substitute for the real thing. Real enlightenment. Real joy. Real love.

It’ll only get you part of the way.

Pema Chodron would likely agree. Her (awesome) books are full of insights about the importance of honesty and authenticity–even suffering. She has a ton–really, just a ton–of amazing quotes on this topic. Here’s one, from When Things Fall Apart: “To stay with that shakiness—to stay with a broken heart, with a rumbling stomach, with the feeling of hopelessness and wanting to get revenge—that is the path of true awakening. Sticking with that uncertainty, getting the knack of relaxing in the midst of chaos, learning not to panic—this is the spiritual path.”

So, okay. Maybe positive thinking isn’t all it’s touted to be. But, well–what is, right? Any idea that has entered the popular consciousness with as much force and repetition (not to mention anecdotal and even scientific evidence, a la the placebo effect) suffers from oversimplification syndrome. Maybe positivity isn’t the cure-all, or even one of the truly great spiritual practices out there. That doesn’t mean I’m giving it up anytime soon.

Briefly, here’s my take: As many of you know, I’ve experienced chronic dysthemia (low-level depression) for most of my life. Spirituality and prayer have always been a source of help for me, as have many other practices. But the very first true breakthrough I ever experienced regarding my depression resulted from reading a book on changing one’s thoughts. It was called Telling Yourself the Truth: Find Your Way Out of Depression, Anxiety, Fear, Anger, and Other Common Problems by Applying the Principles of Misbelief Therapy, and I still recommend it to this day (though there are other, similar books on the subject I prefer now). The basic message: your negative thoughts are responsible for your negative feelings. To change the feeling, change the thought. Oh, and by the way, those negative thoughts aren’t true, anyway–not nearly as true as the more objective–and yes, more positive–alternative perspectives.

The message was simple, and in some ways quite obvious, and yet, as a Christian who had always relied on prayer alone for healing, it was radical to me. When I began “taking my thoughts captive,” as the Bible teaches, I was finally able to cap off some of the depression.

These days, I use positive thinking as a tool every day of my life, both in a knee-jerk sort of way and as a dedicated journaling practice. Don’t get me wrong–I’d love to be more like Eckhart Tolle, who is able to “just be.” And Moorjani, who tells us that rather than try to drum up better-feeling thoughts, we should simply live a life that celebrates who we really, authentically are–whatever that may be.

I’m working on it.

Self-Help Success Story: “What’s Happening to Me Is What’s Happening In My Own Mind–Nothing Else”

In the world of alternative spirituality, it’s become a bit of a cliche: Everything we see, everything we experience, is merely ourselves, reflected back at us. We are here to discover who we really are, say our Buddhist teachers (like the great Pema Chodron) and our channels (like Esther Hicks, Jane Roberts and many others). This is supposed to make us feel better when things go wrong, I suppose; it’s not really happening, right?

But that isn’t the only reason we appreciate this teaching. We also like it because it gives us a sense of control. In his awesome pop psychology bestseller, What Makes Your Brain Happy and Why You Should Do the Opposite, David DiSalvo tells us about the human mind’s neurotic need for certainty and understanding–even in the face of very few facts.

Knowing what’s really going on at all times–with ourselves and everyone around us–is a major driving force of our actions and thoughts, he writes. There is a distinct physical and chemical pleasure response from coming up with a reason or explanation–no matter how accurate that explanation may be.

Enter all kinds of false conclusions. We even assign meaning to pure coincidence, making causal inferences from scant information.

And in Predictably Irrational, Revised and Expanded Edition: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions, Professor of Behavioral Economics Dan Ariely agrees.

So in a sense, believing the world is a projection of our own minds is a pretty attractive scenario. If I can change my mind, I can change my life, we conclude. Who doesn’t want that kind of power?

However, there’s a flip side to this perceived super power, a quandary to consider: What about when something goes wrong? Who do we blame when someone is truly mean, truly heinous, truly inconsiderate, truly . . . well, wrong?

Hmmmm . . . . That’s a hard one, isn’t it?

Clearly, your partner was not being nice when he told you he’d rather spend a night out with the guys than with you. Obviously, your mother should never suggest you go on a diet, and your sister is unfair to expect you to babysit her kids every week.

I mean, let’s face it: It’s one thing to believe in theory that everything that happens is a just projection of ourselves. It’s another thing entirely to act like we believe it, to truly believe that we’re the only ones responsible for our reality.

Some spiritual-but-not-religious folks have a code word for what happens when things go wrong. They call it “co-creation.” They think that even enlightened people experience bad stuff on occasion (in other words, even Esther Hicks gets sick). This is because, well, we’re not really the only ones out here on this plane of reality. And some, but not all, of the out-there stuff affects us.

We’re all in this thing together.

Another explanation, which I like even better, comes from a lesser-known but equally awesome teacher named Matt Kahn. (Get a free long excerpt of his book, Whatever Arises, Love That, here.) Kahn says that when bad stuff happens, it’s not because you didn’t create or visualize right; it’s because there’s some serious work going on inside you. The idea is similar to the Buddhist idea of working out one’s karma. (See Kahn’s video, “The Karmic Return,” for more.)

For quite a while, I accepted these explanations, and in fact I still do–partly. I do believe (for now, anyway) that there really are other people out there, and that those other people are actually doing things. If reality is a projection, I think it’s a collective one.

However, there’s another layer to this idea that I only recently truly discovered. And the teacher that led me to it was Byron Katie.

Here is Katie’s take on the topic in a nutshell. She says that it’s not that so-called “bad” stuff never happens to enlightened or “advanced” people. (She probably gets her disproportionate share of hate mail, for example, due to her nobody-is-a-victim philosophy.) But when you know that a comment just isn’t true, that comment doesn’t feel truly mean to you anymore. Instead, it just feels like pain. It feels like an angry child is speaking to you, someone who doesn’t understand you–someone who’s hurt and afraid.

Recently, I started using Byron Katie’s method of questioning my negative beliefs, and it has really changed things for me. I didn’t realize how negative I was until I started writing down the automatic thoughts in my mind. From the first time I did The Work (Byron Katie’s name for her process, which is similar to cognitive behavioral therapy), I was able to step back significantly from my experiences and realize that what happens to me isn’t really what’s happening to me. What’s happening to me is what’s happening in my own mind.

Needless to say, this was an incredibly freeing revelation.

I would really, really love for you to go down the Byron Katie rabbit hole with me. For a very short video introduction to her view on this topic, watch “Byron Katie explains a post: ‘Your partner’s flaws are your own, because you’re projecting them” on YouTube

Spiritual enlightenment. It isn’t just for gurus anymore.

colorful-abstract-background-1084082_1920

Lately I’ve been noticing that the term “spiritual enlightenment” has lost some of its exclusivity. People–friends of mine, and a few authors I’ve read–define it in a multitude of ways: peace. Calm. Positivity. Joy: smiling joy, constant joy, childlike, carefree joy.

Right now, I like this definition: happiness.

Isn’t that the best definition of spiritual enlightenment there is? It’s not knowing God; as I am part of God, I already know her. It’s not something you do; doing is not ultimately important in this life. It’s not having the ability to meditate for hours on end, though clarity of thought is a very wonderful thing.

It’s just happiness.

Happiness is the truth of life, and happiness is enlightenment.

And when you put it that way, suddenly enlightenment feels much more attainable; I know I can get it because, after all, I’ve gotten it before—a little.

Even recently I’ve gotten it. As I have tried to discipline myself to think positively on a continual basis, especially regarding my body, I have felt the happiness that I desire to feel all the time to some (heretofore small) degree.

Now, I just want it more.

How can we remember to be spiritual? You know, on a day-to-day, moment-by-moment basis?

buildings-123780_1920

Still reading Conversations With God, Part Three, and still loving it. Today read a passage in which the God character discusses people who’ve had near-death experiences. He says that even though these experiences are incredibly powerful and life-changing (like the spiritual awakenings that many of the rest of us have had, only much more extreme), after a time the person usually forgets what they’ve learned.

“Is there a way to keep remembering?” Walsch’s character asks God.

God replies that there is. He says that we must remember that the world we see around us is really an illusion, and that instead of acting based on what we see and experience here and now we must act according to what we know is really true, in the world beyond this temporary physical place. Because in the world of the spirit, everything is perfect, everything is beautiful, everything is right, and there is no sin, and no pain, and no fear and no struggle, nor will there ever be.

And that is of course my true goal in life, my challenge—the challenge not just of losing weight, but of achieving enlightenment, and of finally being truly, deeply happy. Not just fulfilled—not just pretty happy.

But really, really, truly, smiling, singing, spreading-it-around, happy.

I have never experienced this feeling on a continual basis, but I have gotten glimpses of it—recently quite a few, actually. I’ve known what it’s like to be able to hold on to my understanding that it is all much bigger than this visible world, with its longing, its pain, its perceived desire—even one as huge and consuming as the desire to be thin—and that it is all truly well with my soul, and with the world, and it always would really be.

So I am not there yet.

But I am getting closer.

I really don’t know how to be humble.

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Reading the wonderful Matt Kahn’s book, Whatever Arises, Love That. (Great title, eh?) So, the main message is to send love to whatever comes up in your experience, which is what Eckhart Tolle, my friend Leta Hamilton, and many others agree is one of the most useful spiritual practices you can do.

And man, I super suck at it.

I don’t love a lot of things. A whole lot of things. My ego is just always–right–there. I can’t let go of my opinion long enough to love what is, even though I know that doing so is the core definition of humility.

I really don’t know how to be humble. But I’m working on it.

Something I may or may not have learned since last Sunday

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Ever since getting into this New Thought/New Age spirituality thing, I’ve been confused about something: If God isn’t God as I once thought him to be, but instead the substance of all that is and ever will be, who should I be praying to? I’ve been praying to God, since presumably the message still gets through. But it doesn’t feel quite right. Well, earlier this week, I remembered some advice from Kryon to talk out loud to the many angels and guides that surround us constantly … and so, that is what I did. I imagined a group of real beings with individuality and personality listening to me and going to work on my behalf (since, again, presumably that’s what they do). Beings who know me, like me, and are like me–not some ethereal love-fluff in the air.

It felt right. I felt heard. It made sense.

I think I really learned something here.

(Anyone else prefer this kind of prayer?)

A moment of clarity

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At a playdate the other week, one of my sons hit another kid. The playdate wasn’t with just one other family; a whole big group of us was there.

Sometimes, when something like this happens, I have a moment of, “Okay. How do I handle this situation calmly but effectively, in a way that makes me look like a good mom?” I didn’t know the others well, so this response may have been even more likely–normally.

That day, though, wasn’t a normal day. That day I was “in the zone.”

In You’re Getting Closer, I discuss this phenomenon–this state of continuous meditation, during which everything you do feels inspired. That morning, I decided this would be one of those days; I’d listen for guidance on what to do–even the little stuff.

And so, when I saw what happened, I knew without hesitation what to do. I talked to my son, and gave him the choice to either apologize or to leave the playdate.

Then, we left the playdate.

It’s so, so nice to have that feeling of clarity, of knowing exactly what to do and how. I don’t have it nearly often enough.

This is what acceptance looks like

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A while back, I resolved to learn how to accept what is, give up compulsiveness, in order to become more, you know, Buddhist monk-like. The only part of this resolution that stuck, however, was cleaning my house less often.

I don’t consider this a success.

Things I would be, think, and do differently if not for the opinions of others or other self-imposed limitations: A complete-as-I-can-get-it-right-now list

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  • I wouldn’t wash my clothes every time I wore them.
  • I would collect beautiful garbage everywhere I went and use it to make amazing art pieces.
  • I would never negate a compliment.
  • I would never argue.
  • I would never defend myself.
  • I would someday “walk the earth,” stopping only to sleep in hotels and eat at restaurants.
  • I would sip coffee all day.
  • I would eat stir-fry every day.
  • I would never wear a bra. Ever.
  • I would never say “yes” to things I didn’t really want to do. (That includes sharing my food.)
  • I would never be in a hurry.
  • I would spend more time digging in the dirt.

Going with the flow is a pain.

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Right now, I’m sitting in a comfy spot on our playroom floor, drinking coffee and watching the baby eat baked apple slices. It’s morning and all the noises are soft ones: distant bird calls, faint refrigerator whirring, the sound of my hand sliding across this paper. Soon, my older son—the not-so-quiet one—will wake up. And all I can think is, Am I ready?

What can I do with this precious hour before the real work begins? What feels most useful, most inspired? Should I meditate a while longer? Read a book? Get some writing done? How can I best “go with the flow”?

In You’re Getting Closer, I talk about my daily effort to live in The Zone—to do only what feels most inspired. Times like these, though, I can’t seem to figure it out, not even when it’s quiet and calm. How, then, will I be able to do so the rest of the day, when distractions (like my older child) are everywhere?

Going with the flow sounds easy enough. But it sure takes a long time to learn.

Okay, Matt Kahn is definitely my new guru.

Love what is. That’s Matt Kahn’s simple message, and even though he believes in angels, channelling, reincarnation, etc. etc., he doesn’t really focus on it too much.

My mantra this week based on this amazing YouTube video of his:

(https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=eIx5iFNjj-0)

“Fiercely, aggressively, enthusiastically love. Ridiculously, embarrassingly love.”

All week, when my mind has gotten a bit crazy, I’ve been thinking about a person I love or thinking up a way to show love right then–to focus on someone other than myself.

It’s helping.

The very last time. Maybe.

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This is the librarian who now hates us.

When a friend of mine mentioned her love of the library recently, a idyllic image came to mind. There was a mother, there were two happy children, and there were three large piles of loved books.

I really should take my kids, too, I thought. It’s time I stopped slacking off. So, I packed us up and off we went.

There was screaming. There was peeing. And there was a dramatic parking lot escape. And the next day, all I had to show for it was a pile of books in the trunk of my car that would soon have to be returned . . . to the library.

Last time I compare myself to anyone ever again. Last, I tell you. Maybe.

Three Things I May or May Not Have Learned Since Last Sunday

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1. A difficult three-year-old is almost twice the work of an easy baby. Added bonus: they don’t nap.

2. A fireman costume layered over a bathing suit layered over regular clothes and topped with a motorcycle helmet is appropriate attire for every occasion.

3. Television isn’t nearly as bad for kids as I used to think.

Science.

Sometimes, meditation is just hard work.

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Recently, I posted a summary of a great book called 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works–A True Story by news anchor Dan Harris. In it, he says that just maintaining the meditation discipline is enough; it’s not necessary to actually feel better afterwards. Sitting down, coming back, trying again is “the whole game.”

Sometimes, meditation is just hard work.

I like this idea, and yet … I kinda hate it. Esther Hicks always harps on the importance of finding a good-feeling place. Feeling good, grateful, etc. helps us manifest what we desire, after all. If there’s a day in which meditation isn’t doing this for me, shouldn’t I spend my free time on something that does? Like going for a walk in the woods, or playing volleyball, and doing it in a meditative frame of mind?

What do you guys think?

You met *how* many gurus in your lifetime? Sure, buddy.

Recently, I wrote about a book called Autobigraphy of a Yogi by Paramhausa Yogananda. The book is, more or less, a litany of miracles and gurus the author witnessed firsthand—and it is quite lengthy. My first reaction: how did one fairly normal young man growing up in India meet so many enlightened masters in one lifetime? I mean, granted, he was training to be one, too. But seriously.

My conclusion, which may or may not be true, was that at least at the time the book was written, India was a culture of belief. Even people who were without the author’s fanatical, wholehearted search for God (like his brother Ananda) believed strongly in omens, predictions, etc., as evidenced by the stories in the book. Therefore, more miracles actually occurred.

This reminds me of the beloved Indonesian guru in Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love. His parents told him his whole life that he was spiritually gifted, so he just never questioned it. As a result, he became a very intuitive miracle worker.

There is, and was, and always will be, a whole lot to be said for simple faith.

What do you think? Does more faith mean more miracles? Or are there the same number of miracles happening either way, but when less faith is present more of them just go unnoticed?