Archive for July, 2012

We are often unaware of how powerful our thoughts can be.

We feel something, get in a mood, dwell on a thought that creates negative emotions and don’t know how to get ourselves out of it.

We aren’t taught growing up that thoughts are actually what create our emotions, drive our beliefs and determine how we experience life. We usually think life just happens to us  (and often it seems to) – and that we’re left to just react to it.

What if we could change how we experience our lives? What if we could have the power to actually create our lives?

Most of us follow a path that has been laid out by culture, society, our family’s expectations, circumstances. And we admire those few who seem to find the strength to rise up and do something different. Break the pattern. Break the mold. They seem to drive their lives instead of letting life drive them.

How do they do it? They’re not smarter, better, luckier or have more advantages. So what makes them different?

Their thoughts.

They chose to focus on what they do want  and not on how things are now. They start to think new and different thoughts. Thoughts they haven’t thought before. Thoughts no one around them may have had or been allowed to have. Those thoughts lead to new possibilities as they re-imagine what is possible for them.

They start to dwell on what is possible. Open to something bigger, better, more rewarding in life. And as they focus on thinking thoughts that support that possibility, they start taking steps towards it. One step leads to another and soon they are creating a new experience. One that they want.

This is how you change your life.

Not by wishing and then convincing yourself why it’s not possible.

By thinking. By choosing to think new thoughts. And by choosing to let go of limiting thoughts.

What are limiting thoughts?

Those thoughts that keep you where you are, where you’ve always been and that keep you in the status quo. Thoughts that rise from the limit of beliefs the people around you in your upbringing held. Beliefs about what is possible and what’s not.

We often see a belief as something stronger than us. A belief is just a thought that you keep thinking. And you can change what you think.

How? By paying attention to the thoughts that are creating your life now.

  • Begin by taking time to reflect on what it is you are thinking about around an area of your life you’d like to change. Ask yourself: what thoughts do I have about this? Write down on paper a list of every thought you have about that topic. All the reasons you can or can’t change. What you heard as a child about it. What your neighborhood tends to think. What your religion says about it.
  • Examine each item on your list and start asking questions. Ask yourself: how do I know this thought is true? What if it wasn’t true for me? Where did this thought come from? Is it what I really believe or what I was raised to believe? And ultimately, does this thought still serve me and the life I want to have?
  • Make a list of new thoughts. Write down what you would like to experience. What would you need to believe to experience it? Start asking: “what if” for all things positive. Instead of immediately assuming it can’t happen or you can’t do it, start counter-attacking those thoughts with: what if I could? what if it happened easily? what if it was like ‘this’ [fill in your desired experience]?
  • Pay attention to how each thought makes you feel. Does the thought make you feel empowered or powerless? Does it make you feel lighter or heavier? Thoughts that feel good and create a sense of positive feelings  are ones that are life-giving to you.
  • Start focusing on what you do want to experience, not on what you don’t. Imagine it just as you would like it to be. Vision it for five minutes or so each day. Pay attention to those limiting thoughts and when they come up, say “thank you, but no thank you” to them and then choose to replace the thought with one that supports what you do want.

The old thoughts are going to keep raising their heads because they want to keep you safe and resist change. Keep working through them. Know that it’s normal to experience resistance and those old thought patterns are strong because they’ve been practiced so much and are easy to think. Don’t give up. Keep replacing them with thoughts that support what you want to experience. Keep choosing your new thoughts and beliefs.

Do not dwell on how things are now or the fact that you are not experiencing your desired state right now. Thoughts vibrate as energy and they attract like energy to them. That’s why when we think one discouraging thought, pretty soon we find ourselves in a bad mood and thinking more thoughts that make us feel even worse. And that’s also why it’s so hard to get out of a bad mood. We’ve “pulled in” thought after thought that supports the energy of the first thought. Breaking the mood takes stopping the thought pattern and choosing a different one.

Does this process take some effort? Yes. But far less energy than it takes to keep feeling stuck and discouraged and powerless.

Does this process work on trauma? Trauma can alter the way the brain experiences emotion and thought-processes. But much of traditional therapy approaches focus on treating the patient in a dis-empowered state and do not connect the traumatized person to their own inner power and ability to create. Trauma is powerful and must be respected, yes. But I believe the human spirit is yet more powerful. I believe nothing can be lost and perhaps everything be gained by examining what it is we think and, therefore believe, and choosing to change our perspective to one that allows us to experience a life that feels better.

Shifting thought patterns can open up new worlds of possibility and new states of being.

For more information on how to shift your thoughts and how thought works to create experience check out Mike Dooley’s life-changing book Infinite Possibilities.

The cost of war to the human spirit can be summed up with one word: loss.

The loss of sanctity of life, boundaries, safety, control.

The loss of relationship – with ourselves, others, loved ones, our jobs, who we used to be, the future we planned.

Loss holds the wounds of war in its hand.

We see physical wounds of war and we often perceive spirit wounds, but we do not look at life after war as a time of grieving what has been lost. Medicine attends to the body, therapists to the mind. The heart is left on its own.

And what the heart feels at the root of trauma is loss.

As a society, we don’t give veterans much space to actually grieve. We hardly even acknowledge that they are grieving. But they are. You can’t avoid it. And veterans aren’t the only ones grieving. Families of vets grieve, too.

What is lost?

  • Relationship. To yourself, comrades, people who’ve died, people you’ve killed, your past, future, loved ones, community,  work, faith, worldview, purpose in life.
  • Time. With family, friends, loved ones, children, careers, passions, important events, self.
  • Expectations. Of yourself, friends, families, loved ones, communities, employers and employees, your future, dreams, abilities, innocence, power, morality, ability to be understood.
  • Belief. In yourself, country, work,  purpose, worldview, religion, goodness, place in this world.

What can you do to grieve?

  • Acknowledge that it’s okay to grieve. Give you and your family permission to do so and understand that this is an appropriate response to what you have been through.
  • Don’t hide your feeling under the rug. Sadness, emptiness, restlessness, anger, depression, numbness – these are all part of grief.
  • Don’t let someone tell you you shouldn’t feel the way you do. Even if you didn’t lose or kill someone, the energy of war affects you, too. It takes an emotional, physical and spiritual toll.
  • Create a sacred space to grieve. Honor your service by giving yourself the space you need to grieve. Even if no one else respects your losses, you can. You know they’re real. Find space where you can process your feelings. Accept that it is normal to be grieving and to need time to find a new sense of wholeness.

One thing that cannot be said enough is that your journey in life after war is not to recover, but to become.

You are tasked with taking all the pieces that are left and putting them into a new sense of meaning and wholeness. You cannot go back to who you were before war, but you can find a new sense of purpose.

Learn more about Loss in chapter 5 of Close to Home.  DOWNLOAD the PDF VERSION FREE.

 

This is Independence Day. The day the United States celebrates her declaration of freedom.

Make this your personal Independence Day.

What do you need to be free of? What’s holding you back? What can you let go of? Or even just decide to let go of?

Freedom comes step by step. And it starts with an intention, the desire to be free, and discomfort with what is constraining you. You gain freedom when you let go and say no to whatever is keeping you from feeling free.You have to let go of the familiar and be willing to risk uncertainty.

But what if it’s a memory? Pain? Grief? Shame? PTSD? Physical disability?

To the extent that we can control our thoughts, we keep ourselves prisoner and we release ourselves by them. By how we choose to perceive and apply meaning to our experiences, motivations, actions, and reactions. It’s true that PTSD and physical disabilities can affect how our bodies and brains process thought. Authorities often say these are permanent wounds that cannot be overcome. That leaves people feeling powerless. But what if we started looking at what we can control? What if we started to believe in the power of attitude, in the power of the intention to be well, of the human spirit’s amazing ability to be resilient, to find ways to adapt, to achieve a new way of accepting ‘what is’ in a way that empowers us?

I’m not negating the biological effects of PTSD or the enormity of its affect on those with it. What I am saying is this: no one has the right to make you feel powerless. Including you.

Beyond PTSD, war muddies up the boundaries of guilt, shame, pride, and patriotism. It can leave you with secrets. It can leave you feeling more alone than ever. It can leave you feeling trapped.

If you’re feeling unfree in your spirit today, don’t berate yourself for it. Ask yourself: what if I were free? What if I could find a new sense of meaning and wholeness? What if I could create a new way of thinking about my life? What if I had the power to change my thoughts and that would change my feelings and create new circumstances and experiences in my future?

Let your mind explore the possibility of actually creating a future where you are happy and whole. Open yourself to the possibility that you could experience this. Then start thinking about the thoughts that limit you. Are they true? How do you know they are true? What if they weren’t true? What new thought could you think that would feel freer?

If you are in crisis today, let this be the day you choose life. Reach out and call a hotline. Don’t wait. Just dial the number: 1-800-273-8255.