Posts Tagged personal growth
The Enchanted Forest of Childhood
There was a wooded lot two houses down from my home in the neighborhood where I grew up. We called it “the woods.” At times, the lot became an enchanted forest. This was especially true when I invited a friend to play in the woods with me. One of my friends shared my enthusiasm for vintage horror films. We transformed into monsters and created our own scripts using the enchanted forest as our stage.
One afternoon, I remember playing Frankenstein to my friend’s Wolf Man. I can still clearly remember scenes from this “play” forty years later. When our time together had almost expired, an invisible alarm clock sounded inside me. We had to return to my house. My friend’s mother would be calling any minute to arrange a pickup. I stood at the border of the woods, one foot in the wilds and the other on the neatly mowed grass of an adjacent home. This is the thought that ran through my head:
Next year we’ll be in seventh grade and we won’t be able to do this anymore.
Another alarm clock had sounded, only the chimes of this one struck an infinitely more somber note. The chimes said the time had arrived to put this chapter of my life behind me. I was not in the least bit happy at the news.
The Paradox of Growing Up
Growing up is often associated with pain, and I am certainly no stranger to this experience. Growing up is scary. We have to separate from the umbilicus of parents, stand on our own two feet, compete for a niche in society, establish loving relationships, become parents, and face death at the end of our journey. Truth be told, I’ve never really wanted to grow up. To this day, I am not a big fan of “putting away childish things.” But it seems growing up is something a human being cannot avoid if he or she desires to lead a constructive, creative life.
Here’s a trick I’ve learned that makes the medicine of growing up a lot easier to take—ladle in generous doses of daily joy.
You may be thinking (or laughing to yourself and at me): How do I do that with the uncomfortable pressures and time crunch of work and family responsibilities? Relax. We’ll get to the answer, but first, we need a little more background.
I get stuck creatively and psychologically if I’m not experiencing joy on some kind of a regular basis.
The Power of Joy
Obviously, joy is a precious and elusive commodity. It takes effort and a multi-faceted strategy to experience it. Joy is the elixir of life in my universe. It is the oil that allows this machine called me to run smoothly. When I’m feeling joy, I’m more creative. My work reaches a higher level. I am more motivated. I want to expand my heart and mind. I want to do what it takes to reach my goals. I am more equipped to help others. When I’m feeling joy, work becomes play. I’m back in the enchanted forest with my sixth grade friend. Resistance evaporates in the presence of joy.
Where does this joy come from? It comes from within me. It comes from within you. The only way to find the joy that does not depend on something outside of ourselves is to establish daily practices that uncover this innate joy. Since we are all unique individuals, we have to find the way to tap into this joy, or source, that we resonate with, that works for us. The only generalization we can make is: JOY IS WITHIN YOU, waiting to be discovered, if you haven’t discovered it already.
I’ve had to go out of the mainstream to find my joy. It hasn’t been easy, because I’m a very conventional person. Yet, something inside me kept pushing me to find an undefinable something more. I was always attracted by the idea of finding God within me, but the Eastern inspired approach of dissolving the ego never remotely interested me. And it is obviously impractical and inappropriate for survival and success in our Western culture. I would add that it’s also a mentally unhealthy approach.
Thankfully, I’ve found that any ego destructive approach is totally unnecessary. Through my research and personal experience, I’ve learned that consciousness has evolved beyond the concept of ego dissolution. There’s nothing wrong with a healthy ego. We need one in our Western civilization to survive and enjoy our lives. I’ve found a path that honors both the individual self and the universal self. It’s a path of embodied consciousness. It embraces both transcendent and every-day awareness.
You Are More Than You Think You Are
The foundation of my practice is meditation. It is my gateway to a reservoir of inner peace, joy, and love.
What do you want? Don’t settle for less than you deserve. Anything is possible. Peace is possible. Love is possible. Joy is possible. Find it. It is waiting for you in the depths of your heart.
David Gittlin has written three feature length screenplays, produced two short films, and published three novels. Before quitting his day job, he spent more than thirty years as a marketing director building expertise in advertising, copywriting, corporate communications, collateral sales materials, website content/design and online marketing.
Where does self-confidence come from? Where does it go when we need it most?
How does an energetic child with a mountainous capacity for curiosity grow into a narrow-minded, emotionally constricted adult full of hopelessness and suffering?
The answer is simple. We lose the key to the door that opens to a satisfying existence; belief in ourselves and the faith that every day can be sculpted into a masterpiece of joy.
Self-confidence is an elusive commodity that fluctuates with life’s events including, but not limited to; our mood, brain chemistry, the weather, acceptance or rejection. It is a fragile, unpredictable elixir; here today, gone tomorrow. Yet for a fortunate few, it is a constant, a second nature, a faithful servant and friend.
With self-confidence, we can create the next, great wonder of the world. Without it, we walk bent over through life, a mere shadow on the wall, a faint reflection of our glorious and noble human potential.
If your self-confidence is at a low ebb, you can take the first step towards a more joyful and productive life by LOVING YOURSELF. Forgive yourself for past transgressions, whether real or imagined. Start each day with a clean slate. The past is dead. The future is a possibility based on how you think and what you chose to do in this very moment.
Think with hope in your heart. Hopeful thoughts are positive, creative, loving thoughts. Hopeful thoughts will fill you with possibilities. They will fill you with confidence in yourself because they come from your true self, the real you.
There are always two roads stretching before us. One road leads to freedom and joy. The other one leads to misery and limitation. Take the time, right now, to cast away doubt and fear. Listen to your inner voice, the one that wants to set you free.
Self-confidence comes from being the person you truly are; your best self. Trust yourself. Love yourself. Let the flame of love grow in your heart. Seek the sources that support and nurture your truest and best self. Self-confidence will bloom automatically, along with passion and a free enjoyment of life.
The transmission of an awakened human being can be life transforming and life enhancing. It is like cosmic orange juice–a vitamin for the soul, water for the seed, nectar for a heart thirsty for joy, wholeness, well-being and fulfillment.
In his book, Healing the Spirit/Matter Split, spiritual awakener Saniel Bonder writes:
“As [students] lose more conceptual, belief-based faith in their old pursuits, the pilot light of their intrinsic being becomes more accessible to the catalytic heat of our transmission. With a sufficient exposure to that energy, Being itself is then able to initiate the awakening and trans-formative process within the individual. The results are no less profound than that of a caterpillar becoming a butterfly.”
One of the major obstacles to personal and spiritual growth is an inability to admit that we need something outside of ourselves to truly activate and accelerate the process of self-realization. That something is hard to define and harder still to find. We can admit that we need family, friends, a spouse or boy/girlfriend. We can accept the help of a trained mental health counselor when our limited internal and external resources are not enough to meet the difficulties life hurls at us. Yet it usually takes a rare form of desperation to seek the help and wisdom of a spiritual teacher.
It is only when everything else fails to satisfy that we are ready to go beyond the boundaries of convention and delve into the realm of the Spirit.
This point of extreme desperation is the beginning. It may require a change from one teacher to another. The deep need for spiritual nourishment may begin with curiosity and deepen with time, perhaps lifetimes, until the time is right to dive deeply. You may audition innumerable teachers and philosophies until you walk into the right room. Once you walk through that door, however, it soon becomes clear that what you hear and feel are what you are looking for. The transmission and the words fit like a glove—perfect for your needs. In time, you won’t hear everything that you want to hear, but that is another stage of the process.
I am grateful to have found in bountiful measure the cosmic orange juice that my heart craves. May it be so for you.
Blessings on your journey.
I’m on a Jet Blue flight to San Francisco. The purpose of my journey is a two-day “personal retreat” in Sonoma with my teachers, Saniel and Linda-Groves Bonder. The retreat is part of an intensive ten-month course entitled “The White-Hot Yoga of the Heart.”
I’m concerned about filling the two days with Saniel and Linda with enough meaningful material to discuss. It will be just the three of us. No other students will be present, which is usually the case with the other “in person” retreats and the tele-course seminars. I won’t be able to snooze or go off into my own little world. There will be no opportunities to take “time off” during our sessions. Gulp.
We’ll spend some time working on marketing projects that I’ve initiated and we’ll take a trip to the beach or the mountains. We’ll do some meditation. This still leaves a lot of time to fill in two days, including lunch and dinner.
We’ll talk about “my stuff,” or in more dignified terms, “my process.” As I’ve grown on this path, I’ve become less inclined to talk about myself, yet some self-talk is necessary. It’s a challenge to decide what is worth talking about and what isn’t. I suppose it’s hard to know in advance what to talk about, but it makes sense to come ready with a few notes. When push comes to shove, I think the shotgun approach is the best way to go: just blurt out whatever comes up on the topics I’ve come prepared to discuss. The golden nuggets will spew forth in the midst of the dross.
I’ve learned to try to listen to feedback and not sit there thinking about what to say next. For me, that’s easier said than done.
Lately, I’ve developed the habit of saying succinctly what little I have to say. This new habit only exacerbates the problem of how to fill the time. My teachers are experts in filling the awkward gaps in conversation. Still, I feel responsible for coming to the retreat with enough material to fill the space. I’m not exactly brimming over with material.
I’ll just have to be cool and see what happens. I’ll fill you in on the flight home.
The Midwest Book Review gave “Three Days to Darkness” a “Thumbs Up.” It’s encouraging when anyone other than my wife, daughter, mother-in-law, and best-friend Joe Canzano responds positively to my novel. (My mother read half the book. She liked the writing but not the story).
Here’s the review by Diane Donovan, Mid-West Book Review eBook reviewer:
“The magic number is three. Three days to save the world. Three people to help Darius McPherson succeed. And three important life lessons to learn in the process.
The setting is a war being planned in Heaven itself by a reluctant warrior too young to be in Heaven in the first place, and the mission involves saving humanity from its own follies: no mean assignment for a young man killed in a drive-by shooting and suddenly tasked with saving the world.
Three Days to Darkness is about magic on many levels: the incongruity of Heaven and its purposes, the absurdities of Mankind, and the passionate concerns of a boy faced with apocalypse on a scale that moves beyond singular death and into the destruction of humanity itself.
As if this wasn’t enough, add demons and a road that literally leads to Hell (albeit paved with good intentions) and you have a fast-paced thriller novel that defies the usual genre definitions of fantasy, thriller or action piece and creeps into the realm of the impossible.
Three Days to Darkness darkens rapidly as Darius investigates company clinical trials, angel operatives, and deadly courses of action, spicing his approach with a cocky blend of offense and defense that presumes a degree of training he actually lacks: “Crooking his arm, Darius lifted his hand just below chin level with all five fingers splayed. He reminded himself of David Carradine as Caine in a “Kung Fu” TV episode. A more experienced angel operative would certainly prepare to attack with “way more” subtlety, he figured.”
Doses of humor are tossed in for effective comic relief as Darius questions why a Heaven governed by the concept of free will would intervene in the affairs of man – and why it would choose to do so for one event and not another: “Darius sat perfectly still for a while with his hands in his lap before speaking again. “I’m confused,” he said with a solemn expression. “On the one hand, you say everything that happens to a man is the result of free will, and on the other hand, you send me to Earth to stop a pill from going on the market. I don’t get it.” “Good observation, Darius. It sounds like a contradiction, but it’s more like a distinction. We have to pick our fights carefully. We try not to interfere with the operation of human free will. We sat by and watched in horror, for example, when Roman soldiers crucified Christ and terrorists flew commercial airliners into the Twin Towers. But there are times when we must take action, when a worldwide catastrophe could result from human failure, to put it in a shorthand manner. We intervened during the two world wars and the Cuban Missile crisis, to cite a few recent cases. We have also been involved when the psychological, moral or spiritual evolution of the species is at risk. A literal example of such a case was our influence on the outcome of the famous ‘Scopes Trial.’”
What lessons will Darius learn in his latest incarnation as a new angel? He has only three days to absorb them – or witness the end of all days.
Three Days to Darkness is a fast-paced, vivid read that incorporates all the elements of a superior mystery, thriller, and fantasy. It’s certainly not a portrait of a predictable afterlife, a conventional Heaven, or a banal post-life mission. All these facets merge to create a uniquely involving story
blending amusing moments with engrossing encounters between disparate forces; each with their own special interests and agendas.
And Darius? He’s in it for the ride, and takes readers along with him in an unexpected journey through Heaven, Hell, and beyond.”
I have found one of the best ways to keep my life interesting is to make a regular practice of doing things I haven’t done before.
If I am bored, apathetic, uninspired, or generally in a rut, it is usually because I have allowed myself to become a creature of habit. I have found the best ways to renew enthusiasm include exposure to new ideas, a new hobby, continued education, or even a new career.
We are all born with a natural curiosity to explore the world around us and the world within ourselves. This innate curiosity is often most evident in children. As we grow older, there is a tendency to lose touch with this curiosity as survival needs, responsibilities, and pressures to conform literally choke the life out of our thirst to know more.
Nature hates a vacuum. If I am not moving forward, I am automatically moving backward, even though it may seem I am standing still. Within us, there is an urge to expand. I must make a conscious choice to move forward; to expand. If I don’t, the default choice of moving backward and becoming smaller will automatically be engaged.
It takes an act of will to grow, to reach my highest potential. It takes courage, determination, and perseverance to blaze my own path. I must constantly remind myself the rewards far outweigh the risks.
I must always remember Self-realization and the achievement of personal freedom require discretion, discernment, and self-examination. I am endowed with the creativity to shape my life into the reality I carry in my heart. The path stretches before me. I only have to take one step at a time.
How do I begin? I listen to my heart. I summon the courage to follow my heart, even if it tells me things that may make no sense at first. I live with my heart on fire as much as possible.
I am very clear about what I want now. I am Love. I am Peace. I am Joyful. I am creative in a way that benefits others. I am Radiant. I am having fun.
The most important thing to remember is that I am not alone. I make an effort to connect with my Divine Self every day. I seek the things my heart yearns for, and then prepare to receive them.