Category Archives: Change

The Weight of Attachment

The Weight of Attachment
By: Jessica Burnham

Every time I go to the ocean, I feel this strong attachment and melancholy when I leave. It is almost as if I am leaving a part of myself behind, and I know it deep within my soul. There is a part of me that wishes I could control it and not have that feeling. Emotionally, it is an aching feeling. As the sun sets, I will sometimes remember singing Taps in the girl scouts- Day is done, Gone the sun, From the hills the lakes to the sky- all is well, safely rest- God is nigh. And with it I tune into the rhythm of the land. My heart goes into another way of being and with that brings a feeling of change.

Change is one of those things that either opens us up to new possibilities or gives rise to a shut down within like a top spinning out of control. When change comes upon us, we have a choice. We are being led to a cross roads where the universe is giving us an opportunity to grow and feel out what it means psychologically, emotionally and spiritually. No one’s cross roads is any more life shattering than the next- it is all a matter of perspective and openness. Have you ever watched a child try to control a top’s direction as it spins and whirls across the floor? The outcome is usually a crash and burn situation. What does that mean?

When we try to control a situation rather than allow it to simply deliver what it is there to deliver- we usually make it very negative. I was watching a father and his son at the beach, and the young boy was attempting to go into the ocean with his father to body surf on his boogie board for the first time. Every time the father got the boy to a certain part of the waves, he would turn and run away back to the beach laughing and yelling “No!” His father was getting frustrated and kept trying to persuade him to come back into the surf. Finally the father just gave up and went on to do his own thing, while the boy continued to play on the shore. The boy was not ready to take that risk yet of going further out into the waves. But as adults, we sometimes do the same thing regarding certain levels of emotional engagement, or with our career.

An opportunity comes up, and there is someone like this father persuading us to come out and test the waters. But we half attempt it and then decide to turn around and run back to the shore. Our free will gives us the opportunity to either choose growth or run away from it. The uncomfortable feelings that come with stepping out of our comfort zone into change usually pass. We just need to be with those feelings- engage and experience them without resistance. The more we flow with the way life delivers us these opportunities for growth, the less anxiety we will feel as we step into the ocean of waves around us.

Resistance is the road block to growth. And growth is essentially the purpose of our life. Yet we engage in resistance over and over again. What does it feel like when we resist? We usually feel stress within our body, indecision can mask as resistance- instead of making a choice we pretend we really don’t know what we want or what our intuition is telling us. What other red flags are there? Anger, resentment, a feeling like the world is passing us by and we’re not getting a piece of the pie- all of these feelings are important for us to pay attention to. They are there for a reason and it is up to us to determine what that reason is. This requires deep honesty with yourself. If you can’t be honest with yourself in regards to what your feelings mean then you will always feel a sense of anxiety and nothing will take it away. The mind will tell us that our temporary fixes will diminish this stress- but we all know that the relief lasts a very short period of time and eventually a bomb will go off inside of us.

Life yields so many gifts. Yet we tend to see what we are ‘missing out on’ more than opening up to what we are experiencing and being given in the present moment. As I left the beach today- I did feel a deep sense of sadness within myself. But I also knew, through grace and awareness, that it would dissolve rather quickly the less power I gave to that feeling. Rather than make it mean something, I just chose to experience it for what it was. And you know what? It did pass rather quickly. Without attachment and expectations- we get through the times that feel like weights are attached to our heart. Letting that heaviness go can be life changing. Sharing this with you, every month, is life changing for me. I thank you for sharing in this journey with me, and I hope that the next time you feel that weight of change- it becomes a little lighter because the attachment is not weighing you down.

Because I’m a Pisces!

Because I’m a Pisces!
By: Jessica Burnham

Recently, I was helping my step daughter in her ballet lessons from home. With her competitive nature, comes the desire to always find a way to blame her teacher for bringing her down whenever the going gets tough. I noticed this occur when she first took karate, and now, even with the sport she loves the most, she still does it. In her frustration with a teacher who told her she had not been paying attention, I asked her this question- why aren’t you paying attention? You would think I had just set off a bomb within her mind. Her response was lots of tears and an excuse that I loved- “but I’m a Pisces!”

I was so surprised by her responses! But why should I be surprised? Children are amazing mirrors for us, and they innocently show us the workings of the mind without so much internal manipulation as an adult. Adults are more masterful at hiding their shame and making excuses for themselves. So here was a child already learning different ways to avoid responsibility for not paying attention by actually blaming her inability to pay attention on an astrological tendency.

What?

It brought much laughter to me later. This laughter existing, because we all do it, just in different ways. All of us make up excuses for ourselves in the most complex ways to avoid taking responsibility for our emotions, actions, lack of action, and beyond. Most of the time, we are unaware of it because we have become programmed machines doing it as an automatic response any time we feel discomfort or want to avoid something. How amazing would life be if we could see our selves from the outside perspective, like I could see my step daughter so clearly, and laugh at ourselves rather than allow our mind to hold onto its rationalizations for dear life in pure dramatic form?

Sometimes I think of that scene in the movie Meet the Parents, where Ben Stiller’s character is on the airplane near the end telling the flight attendant that the only way she is going to get his bag from him is if she can take it out of his kung fu grip. His reaction is like the pure manifestation of our mind’s kung fu grip to old belief systems and judgments. How do we obtain the openness and flexibility to be able to confront such a grip on reality? What kind of structures can we place in our life to assist us in seeing ourselves from the observer point of view when we start to go to that place of denial?

In my coaching work with the Ford Institute, one of the ways we do this with ourselves is to write down all of our typical excuses, rationalizations or justifications in advance so we identify what they are from a point of awareness. Once they’re out there, it shifts something and it makes it more difficult to give power to them when we know what we are doing on a whole different level. We recognize as the observer of the mind that this is something we really do; it is not just something someone is telling us they see. There is power in observing from our own awareness. When others tell us what they see, the mind usually reacts discordantly. There may be more resistance, more stress.

From the Buddhist perspective, we have slowly become addicted to the mind’s power and the wheel of karma. There is so much suffering, yet we still engage in the same behaviors that cause us suffering without regard to the deeper consequences- the karmic ones. Reincarnating countless times, until finally our awareness evolves to a level deep enough that we just touch on the surface of enlightenment. Yet our laziness and resignation to the mind’s way of constantly dragging us into the past, into our worries of about the future, and its need to be right pops us in and out what we truly are like a contestant in a pinball game. The lights go on, the noise distracts us, and we give away our power to move in a certain trajectory to wounds that never heal.

Taking the step to acknowledge our weaknesses and make the commitment to become more aware of them is the beginning of liberation. Once we start to question the mind’s addictions and its constant wasting of energy, we start to bring the power back in and see how choice can enliven the soul. The choice to say- I’m not going to react in autopilot today. Let the liberation begin! Namaste.

Attaching to Self Sabotage

Attaching to Self Sabotage
By: Jessica Ahlers
Have you ever had someone ask you the question- “Are you a self saboteur?” If someone did ask you that question, how would you answer it? I feel asking ourselves this type of powerful question strengthens our ability to truly be honest with ourselves. After all, if we can’t be honest with ourselves, then we’re definitely not being honest with others about who we are underneath our many worn masks, nor are we kidding anyone. Most of our relationship view points are truly our own, and if you ask someone else what they think about their relationship with you- you will most likely get a response that differs greatly from what you think you will hear. I have found in my own life that no matter how much I might try to lie to myself about how others like to play the truth is always there for me to see in my reactions to others around me.

It takes the deeply hidden intricacies of the mind to develop the many unsuspecting pathways to self sabotage. In the end, we usually are not aware that we are trying to sabotage ourselves because it is a difficult subject to approach and be honest about with ourselves. Have you ever experienced a breakup, where the conditions yielded a person you never even thought existed due to the self developed perception you already maintained about them? This is a very common feeling after the ending of a relationship. Most of the time there are plenty of circumstances that yield this situation. I feel all of them are rooted in the understanding of what it means to be honest and open to the possibilities of the world around us. When we can remember that we are one with all, and whole beings, then our awareness that all traits exist in every one of us- no one excluded- is heightened.

Buddhists believe that if we can look at every person in the world with the understanding that everyone is suffering, just like us, then we will cultivate more feelings of compassion and understanding, rather than seeds of anger or frustration which typically lead to a dead end and more suffering for ourselves. In trying to practice this challenging way of viewing the world, I have found it opens many doors to self reflection and kindness. When we can be honest about our own suffering, as well as the suffering of everyone around us, a major part of the human condition, we can live a life that shines authenticity. With authenticity, our abilities to sabotage ourselves become weakened. Transparency within our own world leaves more room for opportunities on all counts- especially when it comes to happiness.

Recently I lost a friend that I had known for years. I have gone through many stages of mourning this relationship. I have felt anger, sadness, and helplessness. But in the end, I can see how both of our commitments to self sabotage caused our relationship to end. It was very difficult for me to accept this person’s behavior, and couldn’t believe how I was being treated. Basically, I was in disbelief of my own self generated view point that I had for years, and had to come to terms with the fact that not only do the qualities I witnessed exist in this other person, but they also exist within myself- I just have not accepted them fully, which is why I felt so angry and plugged in.

Our issues got in the way of enjoying one another without the limitations we placed on our relationship through our view points. We both judged one another in some form, and the judgments got in our way of simply having a good time and being grateful for the manifestation of awareness we both represented. Our quest to reject an opportunity for happiness in our relationship with one another was our own self sabotage. The most any of us can do is walk away from these experiences wiser, so we can continue to be open to the joy of being that we all deserve rather than repeatedly living out life times of suffering.

The Passing of Time…

The Passing of Time…
By: Jessica Burnham

Autumn. While witnessing the change that is taking place in nature at this moment, I find myself dwelling on how we as human beings handle the same type of change that whisks us into new places constantly while we grow. As we age, and life seems to continuously change just like the multitude of colorful leaves outside our window, we may begin to feel like everything is passing us by unnoticed. Sometimes there is this need to just slow down a little but the rest of the world continues on its merry way regardless of how we feel about it. Whatever our needs may be, there is a delicate balance within that can easily be crossed when the desire to control our environment outweighs the reality of what simply is. I have noticed with my grandmother that she often feels ignored and left behind as those and what she knows begin to die around her. As a result of feeling like her life is out of control, her negative tendancies that always existed before in her younger days seem to be amplified.

Her feelings of being left behind give way to depression and a constant need to talk about her pains, whether emotional or physical. Some people label it as complaining. The thing is, these behavioral tendencies were always there in the past, they just were not as prevalent as they are in the present moment, now that she has aged and is in a different phase of growth on all levels. The most difficult part of witnessing the amplification of these behaviors is seeing the self induced pain, the giving away of energy and how much suffering is occurring right before our open hearts.

We are left exhausted when we allow our darkest shadows to run the show 24 hours a day. We begin to find ourselves in this downward spiral of feeding our own psychic vampire. Like an invisible friend that is attached to the hip, we unknowingly allow its need to control the world in its way to get out of hand. I feel one of the greatest things I am currently learning is that I need to be on constant guard for my own little tendencies that need to be in control. In witnessing this suffering, I realize that if I do not choose to take a look at my own compulsive behaviors, they too will run my world when I am older and feeling the effects of aging. We have a unique opportunity called life. And in this opportunity we can reflect, even when the pain can be unbearable, on how we act out our need to control the world around us.

Finding compassion within the maze of our darkness can be quite challenging. Especially when someone is constantly projecting their need to control their environment onto you and pointing out everything that they view as wrong with the world (because it is not the way they want it to be). When I start to feel frustrated or irritated it is easy to react or simply walk away. But when I choose to open my heart and see how much suffering this person is experiencing, and how this suffering is like a big cloud of smoke skewing any ability to see beyond it, I try to find the compassion within and offer it up to them. It is important to remember that the behaviors I see before me that seem crazy or fervently overblown could be my own one day. Every potential that exists in others, also exists in us. Somewhere inside of me, the same misery has roots- only I am good at hiding or ignoring it at the moment. But the more life changes around me, I have the same tendency to play out the game of misery I am witnessing in an effort to control my environment.

The similarity between the word ‘ignore’ and ‘ignorance’ is striking. As most of us might have experienced, ignorance plays a large role in our suffering. Most of our ignorance is connected to our unwavering ability to ignore the truth. We play a game of contradiction within ourselves. And soon that contradiction shows up in our relationships. When we choose to take a magnifying glass to our psyche and reflect on our outer irritants, we give ourselves the opportunity to experience peace. We can look at those that have aged, like my grandmother, and learn from the wisdom of their experience. In this way, their suffering has come to us like a story teller. It says to us, “I am here to help you grow.” And, most importantly, the suffering of those when closely examined, does not go wasted and without purpose. Our gifts are many and all it takes is an open mind and heart to utilize this life and others’ lives, to the fullest. So I give thanks to my grandmother and all those around me for teaching me and showing me the potential that exists within my inner cosmos. And I will honor her by choosing to see where I allow stubbornness to take away from my fullest potential to simply be without the attachment that weighs me down.

Indecision Blues

Indecision Blues
By: Jessica Burnham

Then indecision brings its own delays,
And days are lost lamenting o’er lost days.
Are you in earnest? Seize this very minute;
What you can do, or dream you can, begin it;
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Faith and decision making- how do they relate to one another and how do we not allow our inability to trust ourselves and our faith in spirit to interfere with living our lives? How do we intertwine the trust we have in spirit, and the trust we have in our inner map so we don’t put up road blocks to opportunity and the flow of our greatness?

There is a fantastic character in the film called ‘Along Came Polly,’ that has the curse of never being able to make a decision. When Polly calls up her friend to set up a date, she will go around in circles for 20 minutes giving him several choices because making a solid decision about something as trivial as dinner is as painful as a root canal. It is extremely comical watching it in a film- but in real life, have you ever been in this situation, or had someone close to you do this with each decision making process in their life? Watching someone live their life like this, always with one foot out the door, can be a tortuous experience. Especially when you really care about that person, and you see their self sabotage move through not only their life but those close to them like lightning again and again.

I say lightning because it is paralyzing. When we cannot make a solid decision when given the opportunity, we paralyze ourselves. We never go anywhere and this begins to reflect in all aspects of our being, including our spiritual growth. There are many forms of indecision makers out there. Perhaps the most common is the person that believes that they have no power in their life, and the universe is only going to deliver to them what is ‘meant to be’. They are constantly watching for signs, and are distracted easily into the ‘next best thing’. This includes everything- jobs, healing, spiritual commitments, and relationships. Something happens in the sky, and they have to move to a new town. Okay, maybe that is a little drastic- but perhaps it is not?

When we receive a sign from the universe, our angelics, it is up to us to go inside and look through the glass with our inner knowing. This inner knowing serves as our antenna and the signals sent to it are pretty clear. It is our connection to everything around us, it is spirit. When we harness our power and let go of our fear of honoring our dreams and self judgment, making a decision suddenly becomes a much more simple process. We have this extraordinary gift called free will, and so many of us are afraid to use it. The gift of free will affords us experiences of all colors. Many include suffering, but so many more include the moments of revelation within our selves.

Stagnation is a transformative process in its own right. It transforms your desired outcome into stuck energy. This stuck energy clouds our mental capacity to see beyond our fears, and brings us nothing but wishes and unfulfilled hopes. If you don’t know what to do next- just doing something gets the juices flowing and the energy moving out of stagnation. It is like writer’s block. A writer can procrastinate sitting down and writing; because they fear they don’t know what to write about or what they write about will be perceived as schlock by their peers. But if they sit down and just start writing about some thought, some knowledge, then transformation takes place. When you succumb to the stagnation of your mind and its paralysis behind indecision, you are giving all your power away to the inability to become, constantly afraid of having nothing rather than something.

To become something doesn’t mean you have to be doing a hundred things at one time. That in itself happens much of the time out of fear of doing nothing in your life. It becomes a mechanism to feed your fears of being a ‘nobody’. When we sit and watch a flower over time grow with the seasons, bloom and open itself up to the sun, the elements, we are witnessing a subtle process of transformation. That is the way our lives are meant to be. Everything has its own steps, its own sequence of transformation. But when we become melancholy or overwhelmed with possibilities and the thought of making the ‘wrong’ decision, then we end up off the path to something much greater than our little power-tripping mind could ever dream of.

When Dorothy was lead to the yellow brick road in the Wizard of Oz, and she came to a cross roads, a very clear sign came to her- the Scarecrow. What if Dorothy sat there and said to her self, “Well, I don’t know if I can trust this guy. And, what if it isn’t a real sign from the universe leading to where I need to go? I don’t know. What should I do? Please give me another sign. I’d rather be safe and just sit here for who knows how long than do something I’m not completely sure of.” Then she would have sat there in front of a Scarecrow who claims he doesn’t have a brain, wondering, maybe I should have taken that offer a couple hours ago. We all know what happens after Dorothy makes many of her choices- a great adventure filled with meeting her darkest fears and greatest joys of friendship. And the outcome- I’d say a huge success.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said in the beginning quote, “Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.” The boldness to surrender your fears to the universe, to the great spirit within your heart and soul, and make a decision based on what you hear from inside, in meditation, from the joy that you are meant to be- now that is truly magical. Harnessing your power, as it was meant to be used and not abused- now that is truly magical. Let us all move beyond the stagnation of our minds and become rather than live in the possibility of becoming. So many people in this world and in the world’s past have been deprived of choices because of tyranny. It is our responsibility to take our given gifts in choices, and make them instead of fearing them.

Giving Ourselves to the World

Giving Ourselves to the World
By: Jessica Burnham

In continuing our discussion on emptiness, a friend asked me a really good question regarding his work as an artist. In being an artist, he was questioning his life’s work. He asked, “Is it vain” to put all this time into creating his art? Is it me pushing my point of view onto others? I thought this was a really important question.

We are all given gifts of medium. We come into this life with our own ways of connecting with oneness. We are all given gifts to help the collective consciousness end its suffering. So is it vain to allow your soul’s gift to be used as a medium for the greater good of all? Or is it vain to not use it at all, and make your self small by hiding this aspect of God? We are all expressions of this great spiritual power- and we come into this life with a choice. How will we choose to be used?

We can interpret this in many ways. Yes, we have free will- but most of us abandon our free will in the programming of our mind. Recently, I was thinking about rebelliousness. Most of the time we react blindly to everyone around us- whether it is another driver on the road, or someone you’ve known all your life. Growing up, I myself was rebellious against the status quo, popularity. I thought to myself- I don’t want to be a part of what EVERYONE is doing, so I’ll be different. I’ll hang out with the hipsters, and choose nonconformity, as opposed to conformity. What was funny to me about this idea in my present psychology- was how ironic that choice was. Honestly, I was even more plugged into conformity by choosing consciously to be a nonconformist. I played into that hand, and was controlled by that social group because I had to use so much energy to not be like them. And, I thought I was choosing not to be controlled!

This example of choosing to be used is the opposite of choosing to be used in your faith. When we hand our life over to our deepest, sacred connection to the universe, we are giving up our control and asking the universe to take us to where we are most needed. No matter the profession, we are always working to connect to as many people as possible in some form or another. Whether it be through selling a product, or cleaning up people’s garbage- we need to have a medium of connection. An artist can contribute greatly as a medium for connecting with the world around them. Whether it be in graphic design, or working with troubled children- art can work as an expression of the divine if we allow it.

Our greatest gifts can also come from our greatest tragedies. We can choose to learn something from an experience, and take it to new levels, or we can choose to be a victim. I grew up out of my childhood into a fabulous example of co-dependency. This co-dependent mindset gave me a great opportunity to see how I was really being used unconsciously. My co-dependency fulfilled my greatest wish- it brought me to times of despair. To times where my woundedness broke me and all I could do was turn over my life to faith. That was my only choice- and it was the one that worked.

Our viewpoints will always exist because our ego will always exist. And, much of the time they will be laced in our work. But, there are healthy ways to work with our viewpoints, perceptions, and belief systems. Most of the time, we feel helpless to the world around us. It just keeps going, and we walk around going with it- whatever that direction. So why not go in ‘whatever direction’ with your soul, higher self, in conjunction with the greatest wisdom of the universe, leading the way? We are always being used- so why not choose what will use us? With the intention in hand, and our purpose that excites us- the most beautiful story can unfold before our eyes and life as we know it can become something we don’t know- yet filled with that familiar feeling that this is your authentic self. This is divinity in action.

We can be a part of the change we wish to see in the world. What is your vision of change? How can you take that vision and become a part of it rather than it stay in this safe, cushiony place outside of yourself? How safe is it to not step outside of our little cozy box and give our self to the world? How many leaders in this world that worked for great change to end human suffering were sitting at home in their ‘cozy box’? James Farmer? Gandhi?

Many people who teach others to work with spirit- whether it is angels, deities, protectors- always mention an important part of the equation: ask. Go within and ask- use your power of free will to connect with your path into oneness. It will be the greatest gift you could ever give to the world.

Your living is determined not so much by what life brings to you as by the attitude you bring to life; not so much by what happens to you as by the way your mind looks at what happens.
Kahlil Gibran