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All about focus

There is a great deal of power in how I think.  Note that I didn’t say how I “choose” to think, although if possible it is always a choice helping me to pull the power I prefer into action.

My thinking, it would seem, has a tendency for setting traps.  They must be traps considering how often I will find myself proclaiming how cornered I feel.  Am I truly in this predicament?  Not even close.  As I wrote about recently regarding choice, it has become more and more obvious (with experience,) my fear governs and then disarms logic and faith by telling me my choices are not desirable or there at all.  If logic is masked it becomes more difficult to remember choice is always there and when it feels as though it is not, fear is ruling the thought process.

Fear tends to lie to me.

Were it simple to seize fear and shake it until it is disarmed and I am soundly into the faith camp, my life would possibly be a great deal less complicated.  As it stands (even with a great deal of the experience on the subject,) this is not always the way an over-active mind works.

I don’t want to paint myself as fearful.  I have overcome numerous obstacles and in many areas of my life I have become fearless, rising to challenges and not blinking an eye towards the solution or adventure in front of me.  What should also be said, however, is all the fear I have overcome did not necessarily come easily.  I come from a school of hard knocks.  More than often I have hit my head (until bloodied) repeatedly on a hypothetical brick wall before I was into enough of a submission to allow the lightbulb of change and better thinking to illuminate.  Perhaps this pattern is a sign of stubbornness, perhaps it is by-product of the addictive nature I will always possess.  Letting go is not as easy for me as it might be for others and when I hold on to anything I am not open to change, I will not get to see all the choices available to me. Choice becomes limited and what I do see is likely not favorable.

Fear will win.  Fear will always win without the awareness of its existence and the willingness to recognize, walk through and explore the faith that is absent when it’s there.  What I have learned again and again through the many fearful experiences and subsequent (hopeful) growth that followed is I can recognize the evil and focus on moving my way towards the solutions, answers and freedom faith affords anyone who practices it.  When I feel faith fear becomes fightable.  When I am in faith I can steer away from the very over-thinking which could otherwise take me to the darker and far more limited places.

In fear I am limited.  In fear I become limitless.

When I am focused on what I would like to move towards, be it as nebulous as “happiness” or as specific as a new way to make a living, fear will help me to believe the worst about achieving or accomplishing my goals, seeing only the things potentially going wrong or what would be lost in order to possibly gain.  If I am focused on a potential involving hope and opportunity, change with growth, adventure and a world filled with aspects I might never have considered by drawing out my own path alone (especially if laced with any amount of the aforementioned fear,) the process becomes magical and spins a cyclical outcome for better feelings and stronger faith.

How do I change that focus?  Oddly enough faith plays here as well.  Can I recognize I am fearful and stop?  Can I arrest the thinking and evaluate it quickly and easily enough to see it is harming my progress on a path limited in size and scope?  Should I argue with fear or simply shoo it away like a fly at a picnic?  It is obvious to me when I am in fear.  I don’t feel good.  I become unhappy, skeptical, defensive and guarded.  When I am in faith I am the opposite.  The stress is not there, the happiness, the comfort and the trust of the world around me are.  I have often described my concept of a power greater than myself (God, should you choose to call it as such,) exactly this way.  With God I am in faith, without God I live in fear.

Some would argue faith and hope live in a world of fantasy vs. the reality of a world of drama and hard answers.  Problems and “situations” do exist and will happen, but with faith have a potential to become the greatest answers and growth potential in a life.  But the world tends to perpetuate fearful thoughts and scenarios, there is no denying the world has its issues.  There is no escaping the events and topics that promote and could even build fear within any of our hearts.  For me, however, it is always the smaller, more personal matters where fear truly makes its deepest cuts.  It is in the matters occupying my over-thinking that I focus my attention to steering towards the faith and hope I speak of. If I fall into fear around the world I inhabit it is best for me to follow my own advice:

Stop. Smile. Breathe.

 

The choices we make

Once upon a time I was told there were no wrong choices, only “consequences” and results.

I always thought this statement to be interesting considering the amount of times I felt backed into corners or obligated out of fear because of something I told myself I had “no choice” over.

There is always a choice.  Therefore it would seem the question in focus is more about the matter of right versus wrong and not the question of whether the choice is there to make in the first place.

Considering I  am stating there IS always a choice (right, wrong or without any designation of type,) we now move into psychological territories.  Why would we assign a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ label to a decision at all?  Perhaps it feels simpler to understand an outcome or to know what the future holds based on one’s own previous actions.  Maybe we’ve been here before and the expected result is pretty easy to see.  It’s possible some choices feel or look pretty straightforward.  They might represent a question of morals, attitudes, strengths or weaknesses.  It could be that experience or even intuition is very much aligned or apparent in the potential of whatever this choice (at least the “wrong” version of it) could, would or will provide.

It could be that we are overthinking the process as a result of an inability or unwillingness to commit to ANY outcome, thus procrastinating or avoiding the choice completely.  Sometimes I will avoid making choices because I cannot convince myself to work through what I see as a risk involved (if I quit this job I may not work again and I will end up on the streets.) It is easy for me to see non-decision making as a safeguard, while telling myself I will simply wait for “something to happen” to alter the situation making the need for the choice in front of me null and void.

That scenario, however hopeful,  is not likely.  It can also become a recipe for many long and difficult days of the aforementioned overthinking.  Should I? Shouldn’t I? Will I? Won’t I?  If I do this will happen.  If I don’t this will occur.  I write a journal daily, this is definitely a side-effect of fear and delay tactics in making decisions (which will end up being made one way or the other whether you like it or not.)

Normal human beings probably don’t do that.

Then there is the faith component.  If I am in a good spiritual place I should ideally understand that decisions are nothing more than a lesson, opportunity or fork on the path.  If a choice appears to be something potentially altering in any aspect of my life, it should be obvious there is an opportunity for me to develop and grow.  Whether the opportunity is wholly about changing a situation in your life for the better or not, should not be relevant.  What IS important is recognizing that growth potential all decisions we make are capable of showing and providing us.  With faith comes willingness to accept the outcome of a choice, knowing it will possibly bring with it some hardship, perhaps a step or two backwards or a brand new, unknown experience one would never have considered without staring it completely in the face.  That being said, the result could also be spectacular and filled with all manners of pleasing outcome.

Unfortunately where fear is involved, faith is missing.  If I feel I cannot make a choice because it could potentially bring aspects and results I am sure would be difficult, I am still working on my perceptions of that outcome.  Those perceptions are likely based on my fears of something I do not necessarily know.  Perhaps I have known similar experiences but I do not hold the key to the future.  If I fear something from experience I would be better to remember the experience could very well have taught me how to avoid the same result in a new choice made.  Creating an outcome as a fact is like my playing God.  It does not show faith in myself or in my idea of what God is or can do, it does not show willingness and it does not give me the opportunity to experience new levels of awareness and growth.  It is a trap and all too often ill-handling of the many choices we are presented can hold us prisoner from full and future potential.

Leap and the net will appear.  Even the choices which don’t necessarily provide the picture of what we would believe to be the ideal result will offer us the chance to learn, create, mold and reshape opinions of ourselves, the world around us and the path we are on.  Every choice has an opportunity involved, although some come with prettier packages and others require patience and acceptance within a detour.  My experience has been filled with detours which, if not taken, I might not have had a plethora of other experiences valuable to the person I am today.

Choices can also offer the element of surprise.  Something which doesn’t initially feel like a slam dunk in a decision could end up being filled with opportunity and become “better” than anything you would have originally anticipated had you decided in another direction.  We do not know the future and can often be selling ourselves short by believing we do.

Choices are not always life altering.  There are times when a choice could be as simple as going somewhere or not going somewhere, getting out of bed or not, taking a job or not taking a job.  There may be no assigned outcome to either way of going in this sort of decision.  But Contrary action (going in a direction you are not inclined for whatever reason) could bring you to a place where you find a distinct happiness, meet a pivotal person, hear a magnificent message or learn a life lesson.  This sort of choice could be almost invisible to you, but has the potential to change your life in large or small ways.

Today I have choices to make.  Each one holds a value to both the person I am and could or will be.  Each will be considered, but not pondered too long.  All will change or alter the path I am on.  How?  I don’t know but I am looking forward to seeing.  Patience.

Stop. Smile. Breathe.

 

 

 

Defining Pride and requesting dignity

For those will agree with the SCOTUS decision recently announced, I thank you.  Fortunately you are in the majority.

For those of you who do not agree I ask you to consider the human battle for dignity and the point behind the pride that is felt by a homosexual individual in a country that largely has condescended to our existence either by ignoring why we exist as we do, condemning our nature as abhorrent or evil, feigning tolerance where it is not needed or necessary, or fighting our basic human rights under a veil of oft-misinterpreted or spun religious jargon used as a weapon to protect you from your fears and misgivings about something you simply do not understand.

Or in some cases you DO understand and cannot accept (or admit about yourself) based on those same misinterpretations and calls for judgment.

What is pride but the need for us to build our own lives in a shape that shies away from the shame and inequality we have been surrounded by?  Pride allows me to remember I am equal in the eyes of God, even if your interpretation of a man-made text tells you otherwise.  I am thrilled to see that the levels of pride and inequality are shifting in my lifetime.  This and the tremendous growth in support over time have brought me to tears on numerous occasions.   My gratitude is immense.

The real question remains: why should my marriage effect anyone else?   Where is my marriage threatening any other marriage, individual freedom or right to live in equality or dignity within the frame of our constitution?  Where is my marriage a threat to your marriage or your life?  Do you feel we will be judged for how we were created, or perhaps you still believe the judgment will come from what you believe is something we’ve chosen?

You would deny love and the chance to share that love as an equal to every other citizen in this country you wave the flag for?  Without the equality in marriage a gay man or woman is not afforded the same rights.  How are these rights for us posing a danger to you?  Where do you lose anything tangible from this gain for us?

You say God and the bible speaks to the definition of marriage as “between one man and one woman,” and so condemn any other definition as unholy or untrue.  The bible, you will say, portrays homosexuality as a sin.  But the bible also goes on to say divorce is a sin.  In fact, it adds that in divorce the wife should be stoned.  How many of our politicians crying out this “one man and one woman” definition have themselves been divorced? Once? Twice? How is picking and choosing bible interpretations concrete justification for denying other human beings created by the same God you would stand behind as righteous and “real?”

And there are so many other proclamations of sin in the Bible.  How do they all fit into your life.  Are they not important simply because they don’t pertain to the need you’ve spun out of this interpretation?

Look at what you fear.  It is creating a false sense of power within your thinking.  That is allowing you to decide that you, as a mere human, are able to judge and point the finger at those who are different than yourself.  How does this stack up for what you believe to be judgment day?  Do you believe God created only one flavor and the rest is less important?  Do you feel there is a divine right to living and all those who do not fit that definition are patently wrong or less than by comparison?  Are you truly able to steadfastly assign yourself as “God” by defining a man-written book into something that would allow you to judge others… a decidedly UN-God like quality?

Take a closer look.  Without picking and choosing what fits your agenda or co-signs your fears, are you sure you completely fit the definition yourself? Do you fit every statement made in the Bible?  Are you, by chance, thinking you are actually God-like?

It would be hypocritical for me to condemn those who condemn me.  I do not live in your shoes.  I do not suffer your fears or deal with your demons.  I, as a homosexual man, have lived with my own and would not wish that upon any soul living in an already contentious world.  Believe what you will believe.  Be what you will be.  But please open your minds to basic human rights and dignities.  We are all created equal even IF you don’t want to believe it.  Even IF your fears require you separate you from those not like you to “keep you safe.”

Dignity. In the big picture, that is all being asked for.  That is all we have fought for.  That is all that was won in the recent Supreme Court decision.

All love is equal.  All lives should be as well.  That is all.

Stop. Smile. Breathe.

On trusting in trust

One of the more difficult evolutions of my character and personality has been to trust.  The very idea has raised the hair on my neck over the years and the thought of it’s potential failure has set up fear alarms on many an occasion.

I admit I used to think it would probably be easier to assume nothing and nobody can be trusted.  The reality of this type of thinking resulted in living life looking over one’s shoulder and never truly understanding the core concept of relationships or peace as a result.

Life is filled with turning points (if we are lucky) and I have been truly blessed.  To believe in any form of sadness (whether intentional or not) as an easier path for living (hopefully) taking that person to an eventual point where it’s best to understand and perhaps redefine the word “easy.”

What is easy about believing nothing that means anything can work because you have built up a wall designed solely to “protect” you from being hurt, humiliated, shamed, disappointed or even embarrassed in the potential of failure?  Living inside that wall of protection can be perceived as a way to avoid the hurt and pain, but why would the unknown or unexperienced joys and successes not be worth the risk?

To trust in the best result, the right outcome or the success of a decision is the truest and most beautiful form of faith.  Isn’t trust just faith in the first place?  I put my trust in you or in anything and I am expressing an inward faith in the result (even if the obvious goal is a favorable outcome.)

But once I learned more about faith versus fear I began to understand the complex madness and beauty in simple trust and the issues began to melt away.  It isn’t necessarily smart to jump to the full opposite of the fear that built the walls.  I have learned to hone, listen to and heed my basic instincts and intuition.  When I know something is not to be trusted innately it is likely something I should steer away from.  But I finally learned things actually can be trusted and began to climb out of the hole I had voluntarily built.

The best way for me to learn how to trust was to trust (I know, that’s deep.)  Program tells me to take the leap and the net will appear.  In another conclusion I have learned to understand in some of my failures as possibly the best ways to lead me further towards my successes.  Making mistakes is not detrimental to my character or reputation.  I am stronger for each decision and it’s result, whatever that may end up being.  But in trusting I have become wiser and the result of the many, many times my trust and faith in a situation, place, person or thing has worked has opened my mind allowing me to grow and mature as a human doing (instead of just being.)

I once had a sponsor tell me there were no mistakes.  Yes, there are always consequences and results but we cannot be guaranteed they will be bad… and we cannot be sure even the bad result is not going to change our life in ways we may not have been able to experience otherwise.  Everything has it’s reason.  Everything has it’s purpose.  All my decisions were a basic part of the path I am on.  Even some of the things one could argue were NOT my decisions became part of the path based on my reactions to them.

But when I do not trust in the potential action taken:  the “yes,” the relationship, the decision, the experience… I risk not finding a truer, more vivid potential on the short trip on Earth.  I trust because I need the adventure.  I trust because I crave the change and I adore the growth.  I am teachable and trust helps me to learn. Where I don’t trust I am limiting my view, my potential and more than likely my mood about all things around me.  When I don’t trust I often end up in resentment and, as I have been taught, resentment is liking taking poison and expecting someone else to die.

Today I choose to trust in my future, my path, my relationships, my continued growth.  Faith is stronger than anything I could ever muster up on my own.  In it I am powerful.  It allows me the strength and happiness to enjoy life as I need to.  It really is happening for me and NOT to me.

Stop. Smile. Breathe.

The cup is more than half full

I don’t think you can take too many stabs at optimism and gratitude.  Personally I believe the more I concentrate in these arenas, the more I am likely to experience what they provide.

Here is my bottom line:  I don’t like every day I am live.  I don’t enjoy every experience I am have.  I don’t enjoy or even like every person I encounter.  I am sometimes under false influences (such as lack of sleep, hunger, elements of emotion or fear and not at my best self.)  I am not a saint.  I am not everyone’s cup of tea.

I am human.

When I allow any of the above factors to steer me towards the potential negatives of anger, resentment, mistrust or selfishness, it is only I who (truly) suffers the moment.  I will lose no matter what or whomever else is involved. When the negatives have a stronghold I am subject to a waste of time, energy and spiritual progress.  If I am not experiencing my best day as a result of my own thinking it is tantamount to throwing away time and happiness in favor of opting for doubt, suspicion and sadness.

It is easy to create a problem that does not exist.

Sometimes I forget how short life really is.  Unfortunately I am reminded from time to time when I experience a loss both personally or simply by watching the news and seeing what is occurring in our world.  The thought of wasting precious time in negative places feels criminal.  I want to share the things I have learned, the talents I was born with or have honed through my life’s education.  I want to see the world, experience the people and enjoy the magnificence of art and science.  If I am in my head angry about a perceived slight, a potential loss or something not working either as it should or as I believe it should I am holding on to thoughts and patterns detrimental to the simple positives which are being pushed aside as a result.

There is always so much to be grateful for.  Sometimes it is forgotten and taken for granted.  Sometimes it is perceived not to be enough.  But if my gratitude is front and center the rest has a chance to be pushed out of mind.  Nothing I experience in a day, no matter how intense or overwhelming should have the power to negate the beauty of my life.  The gifts, the opportunities, the people, the places the experiences are ALL so much larger and more amazing than any negative I encounter.  It seems ironic to think this simple fact might be a struggle to maintain.

Anger can be comfortable.  Entitlement can be addictive.  Expectations can be killers.

For me the biggest truth is to remember life is not happening TO me, it is happening FOR me.  To not see it as the gift it truly is must only be my own responsibility.  It is up to me to see the glass as more than half full and know whatever tempts me to defend myself against or move towards victimization or martyrdom is my devil.  These thoughts are not real (at least enough to cause me the harm I may think they are going to cause.)

Each morning I look at my fear.  I write it down and I respond to it with my best solution.  More than often the fear is not real.  Likely addressing it as I do allows me to take away the power it can hold.  This does not stop it from coming, I understand, but as with most areas of my world in my cumulative life education, it is never about my fear in the first place…. it is about my reaction to it.  It is I who holds the power over the fear, not vice-versa.  This is a daily challenge and always an evolving lesson.  Although I will never conquer fear, I have learned how to temper the reaction:

Stop. Smile. Breathe.

All the news that’s fit

There is an old saying which tells us “no news is good news.”

The implied meaning of the above saying would indicate not hearing anything at all is actually a positive because you aren’t hearing anything is wrong.  I get that. There is always a good case to avoiding news to not receive information you may not want to hear, (although in most cases it could be said those waiting for this news would obviously prefer hearing something positive.)

And while there is merit to the above line of thinking, where nothing could still mean it’s all good, it is also important to remember how programmed and conditioned we have become as a people to news being something to shock, sensationalize or sell… thus the idea that bad news has become (in the eyes of mass media) very good news for the ratings, the business and the bottom line, it still does not mean we want to hear about it and would not prefer the good over the bad every time.

Of course we want good news.

But not all news has to be bad, right?  I guess that would depend on to whom you are speaking.  News that speaks volumes in the decline of our civilization in my eyes could very well be the very answer another person has been waiting for.  If I were to receive news that a job I’d interviewed for was being offered, I can only imagine there would be one, two or more others learning soon after that the same position was not going to be theirs.  That might not be good news for them.

News is relative.  News is subjective.  News can literally be defined as anything one hears that has not been known already.   If news is simply information, then does it not make sense that it is really not about what that information IS, as much as the way we react to it?  Does it incite? Depress? Anger?  Is it disgusting or does it perpetuate fear?  Will the news change my life or barely go noticed?

When I watch television news I am often stunned by the seemingly unceasing flow of anger, hatred, disease, issues, pointing fingers and senseless suffering.  It never ceases to amaze me how much bad news we can create in our world in the name of religion, greed, politics and fear.   What is wrong is what often leads a newscast, a headline or the top of the page.  We have become conditioned to seeing and feeling the world in a wicked and scary way.  Why, we might ask, do people do these things? can’t everyone think like we do?  What is wrong with those people?

Perhaps the people we are questioning are thinking the same thing of us.

So what is the solution?  It is very easy to turn off the news on my television.  It is vital for me to keep myself informed through different and trusted sources.  It is important to remember not to bury my head in the sand simply to avoid some of the real harsh realities, but it is more advisable to remember I do not have to be the sum or result of the negatives that may (or may not) exist around the world.  To understand that these negatives exist is essential to understanding the world.  Shit happens.  To hold from judgement of others whose lives, backgrounds or beliefs may be somehow associated to what I might see as negatives is a task that is often very difficult to process, and very easy to succumb to.

But to remember I am not required to have an opinion or reaction to every piece of what seems to be a negative in the world is the ultimate goal.  I am not going to ever be sheltered completely from what I will see as “bad” news, but my reaction to it, whether my news or someone else’s… is what is going to help me stay in the best frame of mind possible.

My frame of mind is what helps me to work through each day and all of what that day offers with the most productive and positive outlook and result.  Nothing has to be worse if I do not react to it.  So it may be appropriate to state that no news is good news, but it might be more accurate to remember the news will only be as bad as I allow it to be.

Stop. Smile. Breathe.

The vicious Cycle: understanding the need for change

In Alcoholics Anonymous the definition of Insanity is described as repeating the same behavior over and over and expecting different results.  I have often described my own spiritual breakthroughs as being of ‘the brick wall’ variety:  where I will repeatedly hit my head upon a brick wall until it is bloodied enough to finally elicit a psychic change or breakthrough.

No, I am not literally hitting my head on a brick wall.  This is a metaphor.  But the insanity thing could hold merit in some of my behaviors and, most definitely, as examples or instances where I would seem not to be either capable or willing to surrender a particular line of thinking, habit or reaction.  This tends to happen when faced with a person, place or thing I am experiencing some form of resentment with.

Resentment is not always obvious to me.  It can be a blatant disregard for fact, my ego wrapped in an entitlement or retaliation, a conscious wall I have set up to separate myself from the situation or an unconscious fear of whatever it is I believe I am potentially not getting or standing to lose.

Unfortunately resentment is not something I can curtail or stop completely within the way I think.  It happens.  The sooner I accept it is a part of the fabric of my thought-process, the better.  The trick to this understanding is in an awareness of the process and my willingness to stand armed and fight resentment with better, more powerful and productive tools and thoughts.  Combating the negative with the positive and “right-sizing” my thinking will help to achieve a better, healthier, more spiritual end result.

Of course, that is easier said than done.

It sometimes seems the realistic view of my thought process will always set the default to defense.  It can feel I am here on Earth, one could say, to protect myself and make sure that I am going to get the things I deserve and am owed.  Very few people are different by this nature.  It is actually quite natural to want and need to protect one’s best interests.  What tends to be different is how, and to what lengths, this default setting might take people.  In my head it can be dangerous, but in the end that danger is never real to anyone but me.

I am aware that doesn’t necessarily make me sound at all spiritual, but please read on.

Fortunately the “default” I have described no longer has a long shelf life.  Often it doesn’t come up for air at all.  With a created habit of better thinking (a filtering process so to speak) and it’s results from the associated different actions,  I have been able to learn this change in thinking.  It is the result of being around people who want to enjoy life, with no tendency to feel everything and everyone owes them something for simply being who they are, that I am slowly eliminating the vicious cycles of the closed mind and embracing the changes which spark the adventure and growth I seem to always crave.

But the changes must always start with me.

Where I have a tendency to get stuck I might not realize I am actually repeating the wrong behaviors.  It has traditionally been easier for me to blame things around me… be it within the situation, the person in charge, the personality, the rule, the timing, the differences in moral thought or tastes…. it really doesn’t matter.  When I am unhappy it is likely because I am trying to control an outcome.  It is because I feel (often mistakenly) that I possess the best answer to whatever it is I am afraid someone else might be trying to do to or for me (often, if not always, with a different point of view.)  I have the potential to become an antagonist in a situation because forget I don’t have the power to know the future and often don’t completely know what is right for me or the situation at hand.

As a result I have experienced the phenomena of repeating situations over and over and finding myself confused and frustrated that I can’t seem to step out of the lesson with a resolution and continue down whatever path I am on (have you ever felt stuck?)  Repeated behavior means I did not learn what was supposed to have been learned from the experience in the previous time(s) it occurred.  I am doomed to repeat aspects of my life, experiences and relationships until I check myself and change whatever reactions and responses I know don’t work.

The change in me and my thinking is precisely the recipe to allow the results I believe I need in my world.  The fact still remains, however, I will not know what the best thing for me is going to be until it happens.  I can no more control an outcome (completely) than I can predict the future and how any outcome will pan out.

I have learned the key to this is in seizing the moments that are negative and remembering even my thinking is a choice.  If it doesn’t work I can change it and find something more positive that will.  If it doesn’t work I can learn surrender.  As with everything else it has to be about the reaction (or, in many cases, the non-reaction.)  By changing this thought process I am realizing and admitting it is time to end the vicious cycle.

Stop. Smile. Breathe.

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