The BIG WANT and the tiny.little.steps

when-you-know-what-you-are-doing2Artwork credit: Marcos Perez

Once you have developed a habit of noticing ~ of mindful, gentle awareness ~ it is important to set a clear, simple intention.  You can think of this as identifying The Big Want.  What motivates you?  What lights the flame of inspiration in your being?  What is the guiding vision you have for your life?

While these questions can help you identify the big picture of where you are heading, there is an art to choosing a goal or setting an intention.  And research has demonstrated several ways in which we set ourselves up for failure in our desire for change / movement:

  • by choosing goals that are too abstract / lofty (e.g., I will conquer all of my fears) or overly ambitious (e.g., I will become fluent in a foreign language in three weeks);
  • by focusing on too many goals at one time (e.g., I will overhaul my diet, start a daily exercise regimen, work regularly on my novel, write letters to my friends back east . . . all starting now!); and
  • by failing to maintain adequate and appropriate resource (i.e., engaging the will takes energy and requires good nutrition, adequate rest, and exercise).

I invite you to recall your last attempt at New Year’s resolutions and notice how common it is to slip into these pitfalls of intention.  (Check out my post on New Year’s resolutions here.)

In order to increase the possibility of meeting your goals, experts recommend the following.

  • Attend to one intention at a time.  Touch in with the Big Want that motivates you, and then identify bite-size, manageable, attainable goals.  You are more likely to succeed by making successive small changes than by trying to leap from where you are to Where You Want to Be.
  • Make the goals clear and specific.  “I will refrain from eating refined sugar for three weeks, excepting one treat on Friday evenings and honey in my daily morning tea,” versus “No sweets.”
  • Keep your energy up.  Research indicates that willpower decreases as they day goes on.  Not only that, but we apparently only have one well of willpower to draw from, for all of the activities that require the will.  So eating good meals, with adequate protein and healthy fats, will help us maintain our resolve throughout the day.  Additionally, setting aside time in the morning (when willpower reserves are plentiful) for tasks that require our will (e.g., exercise) increase the likelihood that we will meet our goals.

Once your intentions and goals are in place, continue to resource yourself in gentle, loving mindfulness.  Notice how you feel when you meet ~ or don’t meet ~ your goal for the day.  Just notice, allowing the information to inform your resolve.  “Loving” is the key word to noticing.  If it isn’t loving, it’s judgment ~ and, more than anything, self-judgment is a surefire way to sabotage the will.  Part of this process ~ of loving awareness ~ is an acknowledgment of our present-moment wholeness, the realization that we are ok as we are, even before we engage a process of change.

This postcard is the third and final in a series on Engaging the Will.  

Rafia Rebeck, MA, NCC, LPCC, is a Nationally Certified Counselor trained in the Hakomi Method of Psychotherapy. She offers a warm, sincere, and safe approach for those who seek personal transformation through mindfulness. Please feel welcome to get in touch by contacting rafiarebeck@gmail.com.  If this postcard was meaningful for you, I invite you to share it with others who may benefit.

Light bright, light bright

baby shine light

It’s that time of year. We sit in reflection of the year gone by.  We imagine ways to shape the year to come.  We shine a light on our own beings with the innocence and wide eyes of our own child selves.  We make resolutions. We are resolute ~ “admirably purposeful, determined, and unwavering.”  The days are waxing. The light is increasing. And in this moment everything feels so . . . hopeful.  Our intentions are so very, very pure.

But what happens next month, or next week, or tomorrow, or even (as a friend of mine experienced) 11 hours later (8 of which were sleeping) ~ after defining our new selves so admirably, so purposefully, so determinedly, so unwaveringly ~ what happens when . . . *gulp* . . . we fail?  How do we meet our own precious humanness? Is there shame? Anger? Disappointment? Self-aggression?  Or is there possibly, even in the midst of a swirl of negativity, is there the sweet, tiny voice of compassion?  Is there a whisper of our basic human goodness? A reminder that we weren’t really all that broken to begin with? A remembering that even with all of the _______ that we wish we weren’t, and even without all of the _______ that we wish we were, that we are still and always inherently lovable?  Is there . . . ?  Maybe . . . ?  And how can you tune into the light that is already in you ~ the one that requires no resolutions to shine ~ the one that your child self lived unabashedly, unwaveringly, without resolutions ~ how can you tune into that place of inner brightness and find out?

Mind Your Mind: What “The Secret” Kept Secret

Joyful Balance LLC Mind Your Mind

Many people were excited by a movie called The Secret, in which certain experts tried to explain the power of our thoughts in creating our own reality.  The examples in the movie were thin, focusing primarily on the acquisition of material objects and wealth and suggesting a kind of magical thinking: “If I simply want something badly enough, I will get it.”

This movie evoked a phenomenon I refer to as New Age Self-Hatred.  If my life is not going quite the way I want, then there must be something wrong with me (or at least with my thoughts), as if perfecting our thinking is the key to a life free from suffering.  As if it is even possible to have a life that is completely free from suffering.

And here is where many people get stuck.  They know they want to show up in their lives in a certain way.  They try to think positive thoughts.  But beneath the surface are hidden core beliefs, beliefs that seep out in unconscious gestures or habitual expressions, beliefs that are sending out signals about how they are really feeling.  It is these deeper intentions that shape the world we live in.

While pain (in the form of sadness, anger, jealousy, disappointment) is a natural part of being human, and while the level of discourse in The Secret is specious, there is truth in the idea that our thoughts ~ our beliefs, our emotional stories about ourselves and the world ~ have a tremendous impact on our experience.

Sufi mystic Hazrat Inayat Khan put it like this:

A person thinks, “Some day I should like to build a factory.” At this
time he has no money, no knowledge, no capability; but a thought
came, “Some day I should like to build a factory.” Then he thinks of
something else. Perhaps years pass, but that thought has been working
constantly through a thousand minds, and a thousand sources prepare
for him that which he once desired. If we could look back to all we
have thought of at different times, we would find that the line of
fate or destiny . . .  is formed by our thought. Thoughts have prepared for us that happiness or unhappiness which we experience. The whole of mysticism is founded on this.

If thoughts can accomplish this, so can love or imagination; even a
dream can accomplish it according to the impression which it makes.
Some thoughts are like things, like objects, other thoughts are like
beings. Some thoughts are like angels by our side, and some are like
devils. They are all round us, either helping us towards the
accomplishment of the objects before us, or drawing us back from
those things we wish to accomplish.

One of the reasons that somatic therapy is so powerful is that the mind does not exist only in our thoughts.  Neuroscience research tells us that there are neurons ~ the basic communication system of the mind ~ throughout the body, especially in the heart and in the gut.  The intuitions that we are trained to ignore (i.e., the gut feeling, the heartfelt sense) are in fact another manifestation of mind.  Somatic therapies, like Hakomi, allow us to include these channels of experience, so that transformation can happen on a whole-body level.  So often, clients say to me some version of, “I understand what you’re saying , but I don’t feel it in my body.”  This is where the full understanding of the mind ~ mindFULLness ~ creates a doorway to powerful transformation.  Including the body matters.

Believing is seeing ~ can you imagine a world where hummingbirds nest on a peach?

Believing is seeing ~ can you imagine a world where hummingbirds nest on a peach?

No amount of therapy (or meditation or prayer or . . . ) can completely eradicate the “inconvenient” emotions — sadness, anger, grief, disappointment, jealousy, shame, etc.  When someone we love passes away, it is natural to grieve.  When someone violates our boundaries, it is natural to feel anger.  However, our beliefs about these events, and about our natural responses to them, about ourselves as we experience them, and about what kind of world we are living in, have the power to shape that very world.  Therapy that works at the level of beliefs, including the whole body-mind system, truly holds the potential to change our minds.

For more information about Joyful Balance Counseling, please contact Rafia Rebeck, MA.