Are we in control of our lives or are we not?

Well, for many years I believed that I was not in control of my life, I just felt lucky when things were working as I wished, and then I felt like a victim when things went wrong… all in all I felt pretty powerless about most of it.

But things have changed for me, completely changed I would say, as I have slowly realized that I can live my life “by design” as opposed to just “by default,” but to be honest with you, this truth took a long time to take hold, and a lot of inner work on my part… as many good things do 🙂

So, Are we in control of our lives or aren’t we?

Here is the thing: we will never be able to control most of what surrounds us: the weather, the traffic, the constant changes, and mostly: the people around us. But we are always in control of our actions and our reactions to those variables, so in a way, we are in control of our lives.

If we see ourselves as victims of our surroundings then we will never feel we have control, but if we switch our perspective and realize that the way we decide to act or respond to everything that surrounds us will determine our true experience, then we will feel truly empowered and in control.

Is what happens to us a product of simple fate or is it something we bring onto ourselves (consciously or not? )

How much of our experience is self-made and how much is just imposed into our human condition?

I truly believe that what happens to us, to a great extent, is the result of our own making, whether we like it or not, I know most people cringe when they hear this, and so did I for most of my life, but I have come to realize one major thing:

We are often totally unaware of how we bring things into our lives, so we cannot possibly take responsibility for it, until, we become aware of our internal patterns, deep seated beliefs and subconscious workings. And gaining that kind of awareness is no small feat!  Sadly, a lot of people never do.

On the other hand, yes, there is a part that we can call fate, and this is because we do not live alone nor isolated, we live in a big wide world with millions of other people and living creatures as well as natural forces, and because of this, we do depend on all of them, to a certain degree as well.

However, the more aware we are, the more in control we can be, simply because we realize our own part of responsibility and we can begin to take control of what we can indeed change, and for the remaining of it, what we would call “fate”  we can also be in control, in the sense that our reaction to what happens is definitely under our control.

There is a lovely “Serenity Prayer” that my parents had on a wall at home for years, and it has always been in my mind… here it is:

Serenity Prayer This little prayer illustrates what I am trying to convey in this post.

Yes, there are things that I cannot change, but the way I look at them will change my experience (accepting as opposed to resisting.)

And there are things I can definitely change (they are under my control,) in fact, a lot more things than I think.

However, I need to be wise enough (aware enough,) to tell the difference, which means: I need to do my work of introspection and self-discovery in order to gain that awareness/wisdom.

So, in my newly acquired view, we are pretty much in control of our lives, but this is a “control” in which our ego does not play an important part, it is not about getting things “my way” but rather it is about merging in with the flow of life, learning to dance with it, and co-create our experience through this dance. 

Have a lovely week!

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Living the Life of Your Dreams!

Is it really possible to live the life of our dreams? or is it an old cliche? or maybe a lucky strike that only hits a few fortunate ones? What does it really mean to live the life of our dreams? Do we actually know?

dreams

Living the life of your dreams has little to do with accumulating wealth or reaching specific standards of comfort, but it has a lot to do with living with passion, with presence, living in the flow and being happy and grateful everyday. Living the life of your dreams simply means aligning yourself with your own unique purpose, with the fulfillment of your own and unique mission in this lifetime.

Each one of us came to this world on a mission (believe it or not), it is not by chance that we were born, and it is not by chance that each one of us is unique in many different ways. There is a purpose for our life and our passage into this earth, and it is not until we connect with that mission and purpose that we can truly live the life of our dreams. Living our mission has also a lot to do with contributing to the world in a unique and meaningful way. If we only focus on what the world can give us, without focusing on what WE can give to the world, we will most likely miss our purpose altogether.

Every child is born with a little seed that carries their life’s purpose and potential in it. if a child is given true freedom to explore their innate talents and interests from the very beginning, and is respected for their strengths instead of labeled for their flaws, that child has a much better chance to figure out his/her purpose in life. More often than not, we try to make children “fit into” the cookie-cutter model of the person they are supposed to become as opposed to allowing them to blossom into the person they already are.

Teaching our kids to compete, to be better than others, to be “winners”, etc. is really damaging, because it teaches them that there isn’t enough for everybody, that in order to be happy one has to win and to be better than others to make sure they have their fair share. This brings in a world of competition instead of cooperation, a world of individuals instead of communities, a world of have and have-not’s, a world of winners and losers, a world that is far from ideal… this is the world we live in, and we can change it, one child at a time. We all have this responsibility as adults and role models, and we need to keep this in mind.

We don’t need to be better than others, we just need to be the best version of ourselves, we need to let our baby seed blossom, not by winning over others, having more than others, comparing ourselves to others, but by finding our unique purpose and living it, then there is no room for competition, just for fulfillment. Every person has a totally different purpose and they are all worthwhile.

Living the life of your dreams or rather finding your purpose and embodying it, may take a lot of deconstructing old patterns and beliefs, it may also take you away from people or situations that don’t support you truth. But there is no wasted time, life is a journey of discovery and growth, so instead of resenting all the time spent in less than ideal situations, relationships, jobs, etc. be thankful for those experiences and struggles as they will probably bring you closer to finding yourself.

When you find your true purpose and mission in life and you start to embody it, you will live from a place of authenticity and truth, so everything else will come into alignment with that truth: your work, the place you live in, the relationships in your life, etc. Living your truth takes courage, but living in such a way is not only a dream but a necessity, because if we don’t, our whole system (our body) starts to fail.

Ayurveda, which is one of the world’s oldest medical systems, originated in India more than 3,000 years ago, refers to the divine role in which each soul participates from birth as an important part of healing. Healing is a matter of supporting the body to fulfill its birth role, thus allowing the soul to fulfill its spiritual task for this incarnation.

The word Dharma, used widely and sometimes misunderstood, basically means the Law that “upholds, supports or maintains the regulatory order of the universe”, according to this law, every single one of us (and every other living being) has a role to play in the harmony of the whole, which is to say we all have a unique mission and purpose that will bring harmony not only to our own lives but to the whole world.

In that light, I would like to share two excerpts from the Bhagavad Gita about Dharma:

“Better is one’s own dharma thought imperfectly carried out than the dharma of another carried out perfectly”

“Better is death in the fulfillment of one’s dharma, for to follow the law of another brings great spiritual peril”

In the search for the life of our dreams, we can start by finding what really moves us, inspires us, attracts us, interest us, and see how that aligns with our unique talents (because they usually go hand in hand), and try to bring more and more of that into our lives, even if that means making changes, sometime small sometime big, but do not be afraid, if you are in the right path, everything else will fall back in place….

I wanted to share a video that really moved me, it is about a young girl that was lucky to find her passion and calling at a very early age, her story is remarkable and at the end she encourages us all to not give up on finding our mission for this life, it is a little long but a true gem. A 23 year-old mother of 30

An last but not least, another Inspiring video (shorter and more generic)

Have a good week!

Suggested articles:

How to find yourself when you have lost yourself by Rebecca Lammersen

Rumi, Dharma and Passion by Catie Joyce

Living my Dream by Dagmar Spremberg


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What does it really mean to be strong?

I have often struggled with the concept of strength what does it really mean to be strong? aside from having strong muscles of course 😉

strong

For a long time I felt I wasn’t strong enough, I felt I could be broken easily, I felt my emotions were so raw and deep that I could loose myself in them. After struggling with recurrent bouts of depression in my adult life, I came to the conclusion that I was indeed anything but strong, and I felt like a failure in that respect.

Moving to the US made things even more complicated for me, as the American culture really values strength, resilience, stoicism, undaunted optimism, etc. as great qualities.
On the other hand showing vulnerability, neediness, pain, despair, etc. are not OK in this culture, at least that is the way I perceived it, inside and outside my own home. I felt like I could not show my vulnerability because I would not be respected, let alone understood, so I didn’t.

But for the past few years, I have learned to embrace the side of me that feels vulnerable; I have accepted that sometimes I need help or a shoulder to cry on, and that is OK. I have realized that I am human! and it is OK to feel weak or needy or sad sometimes; hiding these feelings and pretending they are not there can only hurt us in the end, because all that energy gets trapped in our bodies and can cause many other problems including diseases and unnecessary anger.

I have realized that being strong has nothing to do with not feeling (or not showing) vulnerability, but rather with the capacity to feel it and accept it without judgment, to have the courage to ask for help and the bravery to let go of our pride.

No long ago, at a lecture by Dr. Ronald Siegel (one of my favorite authors), he explained the concept of the warrior in the Shambhala vision, which is very different from the concept of warrior we may have in the west. The Shambhala warrior is someone that is open and able to feel everything deeply, the pleasant and the unpleasant events of life and can withstand all challenges with acceptance and inner peace.

That is to me the meaning of real strength, not pretending, not hiding, not denying our vulnerability and our need for others, but rather embracing them with honor.

Sure we don’t want to dwell on negative emotions, we need to let all those emotions flow without getting stuck on them (in our heads), but it is OK to feel them at times, we just need to let them be.

I would like to share with you a few small pieces of a wonderful excerpt from The Invitation by Oriah:

It doesn’t interest me how old you are.
I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool
for love for your dreams, for the adventure of being alive.

I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own
without moving to hide it or fade it or fix it.

It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true.
I want to know if you can disappoint another
to be true to yourself.

I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine
and still stand on the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon,”Yes.”

If you wish to read the entire excerpt, you can find it here: The Invitation

So today, I feel I am strong, I feel I have the courage to love, to fall, to loose, to start over and most of all, to allow myself to experience all of it and share it with others.

And I want to raise my children not only to accept their emotions and be comfortable with them, but also to accept it in others and be supportive and compassionate. It is sad to see that some people are so uncomfortable with showing emotions that they are unable to relate to those that do, they can’t even show compassion and support to others because they have no idea how to handle their emotions, let alone other people’s.

So be true, be real, be vulnerable, be what you need to be, and trust your strength, it is there!

Have a good week!

Related posts: Embracing your Vulnerability


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Finding True Peace

Last week I attended a Peace Ceremony at my kids school and in the program, there was a quote that I really liked, and I wanted to reflect on it today. Here it is:

“Peace is not the absence of noise, trouble or hard work,
it is to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart” 
– Unknown

peacedove

This is such a powerful statement, and so important to keep in mind!
as we often hope to find peace in a place of quiet, harmony, and calm; but true and lasting peace comes only if we carry that place within us.

If we are not at peace in our hearts, we can be in the most beautiful and quiet place, and have total harmony around us but still find turmoil and chaos inside; but if we are at peace in our hearts, it doesn’t matter what the outside circumstances are, we can still remain calm and in harmony through anything.

One of the best ways to find peace in our hearts is by letting go, letting go of control. This is not easy and goes against a strong human tendency, but the more we practice it, the more we become good at it and it eventually becomes easier and easier.

Our human tendency is to control everything in our lives, we like to have certainty about future events, we like to know what is coming, we like to plan and predict our future, etc. But no matter how well we do, life keeps changing and we can’t predict much of what happens, as there are too many factors at play.

“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”
– Lao Tzu

This does not mean that we have NO saying in the way our lives unfold, in fact we have a LOT to do with the way our lives unfold, but our real strength and power comes from being open to change, being totally present and accepting our reality as is.

If we are open to change, as opposed to clinging to the way things are or the way we want them to be, we are part of the flow of life which is always changing, and in that way we find harmony with it.

If we are totally present, we can live more fully, every single moment of our lives with no interference from our past, our fears, our predictions, etc, and that way we can be more in touch with reality, which in turn will allow us to have more clarity. Clarity will then help us make the best decisions at the appropriate times, and take the actions that are best for us.

And finally, when we accept our reality as is, we stop resisting what is, and this will free our energy so we can use it more wisely towards better outcomes.

So, letting go of control is the first and more important step towards finding real peace, and it is worth all the efforts it may require, because true and lasting peace has no price.

“If you let go a little, you find a little peace, if you let go a lot, you find a lot of peace,
if you let go absolutely, you find absolute peace”

– Ajahn Chah

So, start looking for peace inside your heart and you will eventually find it for good!

Have a good week!

Related post: Practicing Acceptance and Letting go of Control…


Announcements:

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Avoid Unnecessary Hurt

I recently came across a quote that I found interesting and I wanted to share it with you today:

“When people hurt you over and over, think of them like sand paper.
They may scratch and hurt you a bit, but in the end, you end up polished and they end up worn out.”

– Chris Colfer

pinkflowers

Although by no means we should allow people to hurt us over and over, it is important to keep in mind that we have little control over what other people say or do, but we certainly have control over our own emotions and reactions.

I strongly believe that people are not out there to hurt you, but they have their own issues and challenges and if they can’t keep their negative emotions under control (envy, resentment, anger, etc.), they may say or do things that hurt others; whether they do it on purpose or not, it is still a result of their own lack of emotion control. Your reaction is also the result of your own emotion control.

You can choose today not to let other people’s comments or actions bring you down, you can decide to grow in understanding and wisdom and raise above it or, you can sink in despair, anger, resentment,t etc. But remember, it is always YOUR choice!

Some people believe they have little control over their emotions and they feel victims of their circumstances, but the truth is we always have a choice, and we need to become responsible for our own well-being, therefore responsible for our own emotions and reactions. Once we accept this simple truth, we can work towards achieving peace by learning to tame our emotions, one of the best ways to do this is to quiet our minds, because our thoughts and beliefs are responsible for our emotions.

We are not victims of our surroundings, we are the creators of our life, so we can choose how to live, it takes some effort and commitment but it is worth every minute spent on it. Knowing that you don’t depend on others for your happiness is an empowering thought. This to me was a wonderful realization, one that gave me freedom from the people around me and the circumstances around me.

This does not mean we should let people get away with anything, when dealing with difficult relationships we should certainly take action to prevent further hurt. But ultimately others can only hurt us as much as we allow them to. Below is a short list of what we can do to start:

  • Avoid people who tend to say or do hurtful things, if you can
  • Talk to them when you are both calm and at peace, let them know your feelings, without blaming them
  • If neither of the above are possible, practice detachment and self control when you are in their presence

The list above can be used in many different contexts and situations, not only in regards to difficult relationships but also for difficult circumstances. If you find yourself in a situation that is less than desirable, you have 3 choices:

  • You remove yourself from the situation, OR
  • You fix the situation, OR
  • You accept the situation and learn to live with it, in peace

As Eckart Tolle would say: “resisting your present reality can only lead to frustration and despair.” By resisting he means resenting your current situation and allowing it to bring you down.

Some people find it hard to believe that they can become immune to hurtful actions and words from others, but they are hurtful only to the extent that we allow them to be. With some conscious work on yourself, you can little by little attain freedom from external circumstances. If you want to read more on this topic, I have a few more postings that might be of interest to you:

Have a great week!

Ego vs. Self

This week I would like to talk about the distinction between the ego and the self.

For a long time I had been confused about the distinction between the two, and it wasn’t until a few years back that I started to grasp the difference and understood the importance of being aware of it.

wheel

I personally associated the word “ego” with a sense of pride, which to me had a negative connotation. However, I later discovered that our ego simply means our sense of self-esteem or self-importance and our notion of personal identity. So, there is nothing wrong with our ego, it is normal and natural to have it.

However, it is truly important to realize where our ego comes from, that is, where our sense of worth and identity comes from, because more often than not, it comes from the wrong places, wrong concepts and, wrong beliefs.

As I delved more and more into spiritual, self growth and well being texts, I started to comprehend why there was a clear distinction made between the ego and the self and how important it was to understand it fully.

Most of us associate our personal identity and sense of worth to things such as:

  • Our bodies, our looks
  • Our culture, nationality, race, religion or even political views
  • Our profession, our career, our success or failure
  • Our thoughts, feelings and emotions
  • Our role in the community, etc

For instance, if we believe we ARE our body and looks (depending on our beliefs about them) we can identify with being beautiful, ugly, overweight, skinny, etc. and that can be the one aspect that rules most of our self worth.

Regardless of whether we are happy or unhappy with the particular body we have, we can not and should not derive our sense of worth from it, because we are NOT our bodies and looks.

We can also derive our sense of identity from our culture(s), our our nationality or even our race. We can also identify so deeply with a religion or political view that we come to believe we ARE them, but although we can participate or be a member of a religion or party, our identity is not derived from their doctrine.

If we believe we ARE our profession, career, success, failure, etc. It means we see ourselves as being a “lawyer” or a “Doctor” or a “Secretary” and we let that define us. Or, in terms of success and failure, we can see ourselves as being rich or poor, successful or unsuccessful, etc. Either way, none of these things really define who we are.

As for our thoughts, feelings and emotions, if we believe we ARE what we think or feel; it means we judge ourselves by the way we see the world, we can be anything: arrogant, weak, intelligent, sad, etc. But again, we are NOT our thoughts, nor our emotions and feelings.

We can also be defined as the role we have in the community, for instance, we can be the daughter or son of such and such, or the wife of so and so, or the mother of so and so, etc. Again, our particular role in a community is not who we are.

So, who are we? you may ask, and it is a good question. I have asked myself this question many times.
Well, that is when the distinction between ego and self comes in handy, to explain this conundrum.

The ego is our sense of identity through the things mentioned above, but deep inside us there is a real, true and unchanging identity that is our essence, our core and our only identity, and that is the “self.” the self is basically us but after we peel off all the layers of the ego, once none of the ego-defining aspects are there, or we go beyond them to find our true nature. The self is simply the presence inside each and every one of us.

To explain this a little better, have you ever had the experience that you are just witnessing your thoughts? That there is one that thinks and deep inside one that just observes without judgment?

This is a truly life-changing experience, at least it was for me, because I realized then that the “observer” was my true self, buried deep beneath all the other layers, which is why it took me so long to find it.

There are very nice analogies that are often used to explain this, my favorite is that of a wheel, in which the outer edges are the ego-defining aspects of ourselves, always changing and moving, while the axle in the center is our true self: stable, strong, grounded, unchangeable, etc.

The problem is, our sense of identity gravitates often on the edges of the wheel, so we are constantly being thrown out of balance and have a sense of instability, uncertainty, unsettlement and confusion. If we are able to find out center, however, we also find our balance, our inner peace, in other words our true self and we can live life from a much more real and satisfying place, while still filling the roles we need to fill during our lifetime.

There are many ways of finding our true self, but perhaps the most important is by quieting the “noise” of the outer world and the “chatter” of our thoughts. Only then we can stop and wait for our self to emerge, and I promise, it will!!

If you want to read more about this, I highly recommend the work of Eckart Tolle, I find his way of explaining these complicated concepts to be incredibly compelling. You can start with The Power of Now, it is a clear and concise book that will change the way you see life.
By the way, he will be in DC this week, so if you are interested in seeing him live, check the announcement below!

All your current notions of self worth, whether they are working or not for you, they are not real, in reality you are much greater, much stronger, much wiser that you can possible imagine!

Have a great week!


Announcements:

*Eckhart Tolle is coming Washington! October 4th, 2012, Get your tickets here.

*Silva Life System in the DC area, October 13th for spanish speakers:“Reencuentra tu Alma” y “Tener Razón o ser Feliz” call Diana at 703-866-4030 or email her at silvamethod@cox.net

*Spiritual Cinema Circle Get a free trial and change the way you see movies, make this pastime a life changer

Observing your Mind

For all my US readers, I hope you had a nice Labor Day Holiday!

This week I want to reflect on the tricks our mind plays on us and how our awareness can limit the negative effect they have on us.

monks

I have often read, heard, and written about the mind and how it works; but there are very few instances in which I have experienced first hand the separation between my mind and “me” and have noticed that I was being tricked by it. Last week I had one of those clear instances and it was really empowering, that is what inspired this post.

Our mind plays tricks on us and as long as we identify with it we are caught on its tricks, it isn’t until we can distance ourselves from our mind and realize it is not “who we are”, that the tricks loose power and our real self emerges and becomes stronger.

Our thoughts and our beliefs (that happen in our mind), as well as our emotions (that are the consequences of those thoughts and beliefs), are closely connected to one another, but none of them are a true reflection of who we are. The problem is most people get their sense of identity from them, which in turn, hinders their ability to find their true self, their true identity!

So, last week was the first week of school for my children. Although this is their second year in school, to my dismay, their first day back was quite hard, especially for my son, who did not want to go back and was really upset about it. As we got in the classroom, the teacher took him a little too briskly from my arms and walked away holding him, as he was screaming, crying and begging me not to go. It was excruciatingly painful for me (I am sure many moms can relate to the feeling).

As I was driving back home, quite upset still, my mind kept replaying the moment when she took him from me and he started yelling in her arms and reaching out for me, as I kept playing that memory in my head I was feeling more and more upset about it and angry at the teacher and guilty at letting her do that. I could see how my upset escalated as I replayed the incident again and again in my mind.

Then, suddenly I realized it, my mind was tricking me! I somehow was able to separate myself from the thought and notice that it was my mind that was inflicting pain on myself and not the incident itself. The unpleasant moment had lasted maybe one minute, his crying probably 5 – 7 minutes at the most, yet, by replaying that moment in my mind, I was making my upset last and last and last…

Right as I realized the pattern, I stopped my mind, I moved out of that thought and suddenly the pain subsided, it disappeared and I was at peace again. Just by noticing the workings of my mind I was able to ease the pain almost instantaneously.

I then remembered an old Buddhist story that I like very much and that illustrates this point:

Two Buddhist Monks were on a journey and they came to a deep river that they had to cross; at the bank of the river was a woman that asked them for help as she could not cross alone.

As monks, they weren’t allowed to touch a woman, however, the older monk carried the woman in his back and helped her cross the river.

The two monks continued their journey in silence, but the younger monk was upset and uncomfortable. Finally, at the end of their trip, the older monk asked the younger one why he was so upset and the younger one expressed his disapproval at his companion for breaking the rules and carrying the woman on his back; to which the older monk replied: “Brother, I carried her for just a few minutes, why are you still carrying her?

Aside from illustrating my point on how our mind can make a short lived event into a long lasting accumulation of pain, un comfort, anger, guilt, etc. Another important lesson about this story is that when we judge others, we often wind up carrying their doings on our backs for as long as we hold any particular judgment and attach to it.

Your mind has a life of its own, but if you become the observer of your mind and are able to separate from it, you will benefit tremendously and find inner peace in every moment, because you are not your mind, you are not your thoughts, you are not your emotions, you are much deeper than that, you are the stillness underneath all the turmoil.

Have a great week!


Announcements:

*Silva Life System in the DC area, September 1&2 For more info call Diana at 703-866-4030 or email her at silvamethod@cox.net also, for spanish speakers there is a special conference:“Reencuentra tu Alma” y “Tener Razón o ser Feliz”on Oct. 13th

*Healing with the Masters, 2012 Workshop Series start September 11th . Free online event.

*Conversations with God, with Neale Donald Walsch. 7-week online course starts September 13th Register here.

*Eckhart Tolle is coming Washington! October 4th, 2012, Get your tickets here.