The Seeds We Sow In Our Minds

Photo Credit: Sarah Vrba
Photo Credit: Sarah Vrba

The law of attraction. We talk about read. We read about it. We even practice it in little ways throughout our daily lives. Think, act and focus on the relationships, emotions and experiences you want in your life and they start to gather around you like drops of dew in the morning sunlight. The beauty of this almost supernatural law is the simplicity of it.

Our thoughts are real things, not just phantoms. And even the smallest change in the way we work on our perception of our lives, our wealth and our relationships can change everything. Scientists have even started to decode our brain waves.

There’s only one small catch. Time.

Anyone who has created a vision board, meditated on a problem or just adamantly wanted a new life has probably noticed, the goals don’t pop up the next morning. They take time. They also take practical steps in the physical world. They might even involve some tough conversations or decisions.

Here’s the tricky part about envisioning a goal or desire. It’s like planting a seed in the autumn and then the slow, cold winter sets in. Six months later, a bud pops out of the ground from a seed you forgot you scattered there the year before.

This is a play on the old adage “Be careful what you wish for.” Because when you envision something for yourself you might not get it for weeks, months or even years. I’ve noticed that a lot of the most intense transitions in my life sprouted from my adamant wishing for change months before. Then suddenly my relationships are changing, my living arrangements are changing, my work life is changing.

In the midst of asking why this is all happening at once, I’ll have a realization. Oh my goodness, I wished for this back in February of last year. This very thing. Every element of it was something I spent time thinking about and wishing for. And now it’s happening and I’m not even sure it fits my dreams now.

Plant seeds you want to see burgeon over the long haul because the universe has a way of listening and delivering. Just on a timeline that is totally different than a school calendar or a personal growth chart. But, who knows? Maybe we are wise for ourselves far in advance and our hearts really do know best.

Advertisements

Are You Feeling Scared? Nervous? Wondering What Will Happen Next?

IMG_0554

There it is again. I thought I had lost its blinding, white headlights in my rearview mirror miles and miles back there. I thought the bumpy, yet direct, road I swerved onto would trick it to keep going straight and leave me alone while I traveled deep into the woods. But there it is again. Following me. Threatening to slow me down and nip at my heels.

That’s fear for you. It doesn’t follow any kind of linear logic. It can pop up just about anytime and anywhere and accepts even the most half-hearted of invitations. It’s a guest that will move into your spare room and stay forever, unless you kick it out on its ass.

Some lessons must be learned again. And again. And again. My hardest lesson has always been learning how to evict fear and worry. For a long time (we’re talking decades here) I thought that I could get myself prepared for any uncertainties in my life by sitting still, thinking, fretting, plotting every possible maneuver. But all that processing always led to the same place.

Suddenly, instead of feeling capable of starting a new job, moving to a new house, or starting a new project I felt completely hemmed in by spine-tingling imaginings of public failures.

The only question echoing through my head from that trapped plateau, repeating over and over again: What if? What if? What if? Possibly the least interesting and least satisfying of all the possible questions we can ask ourselves in this lifetime – at least if you ask that question with the voice of fear.

I’m learning to ask, What if it’s enough to try? What if I can transform into anything I want? What if it doesn’t matter that lots of things don’t work out? What if my love of life made everything worthwhile? What if I can save myself, right now?

When I ask those questions, the blaring headlights tailgating me down the winding road at night start to disappear and fade into the distance. Sometimes asking yourself the right questions, embracing yourself and taking a deep breath can help you embrace the uncertainty and the thrill of “What’s next?”

Warning: The Unexpected Side Effects of Traveling

Photo Credit: Sarah Vrba

A quick scan of Facebook or Instagram pulls up a heavy overload of people traveling and living it up in new locations. Huge beaches, cloudless skies, skyscrapers, old churches, cocktails, theater shows, endless parks, strange, cobbled streets. It’s beautiful, somehow strangely reassuring. And plenty of viral clickbait articles suggest travel as a way to expand the mind and give your life meaning.

Travel does expand your shit. It hits you in the gut with truth. When sustained for months on end travel completely transforms and unmoors who you think you are, and not always in the ways many pro-travel articles state.

  1. You’re the Outsider. Constantly. Unrelentingly.
    This one goes without much explanation. It’s an obvious aspect of travel. The stinging realization that we are not, after all, an intrinsic part of the worlds we visit. After traveling constantly for the last nine months, I’m starting to get the nagging feeling that every true experience, deep understanding and knowing of a place is just beyond my grasp. There’s a secret and profound world hidden away from me. I’m not a part of it. I can’t float effortlessly down a street or order without an awkward turn of phrase. I have to suck it up and accept that I stick out like a sore, strange thumb a huge chunk of every day.
  2. Your Face Changes
    When I look in the mirror after all these months of travel I can see that I have fundamentally changed. I’m not the girl who left nine months ago. I’m not the girl I was three months ago. I have aged and rejuvenated in strange and inexplicable ways.
  3. What You Thought You Always Wanted Either Grows Stronger or Dies
    When you’re always the stranger and your body and spirit change like silly putty every day, the things that matter to your core spirit start to protrude from your gut in prominent, and sometimes painful, ways. If you thought you wanted to live in a cabin in the country before you started traveling, you might realize you were totally wrong. Maybe a city will charm your bungalow right out of your thoughts. Or maybe you booked a two-week stay in the forest and you realize you hate it. Or maybe you thought you were an extrovert and wanted to be surrounded by people and activities constantly. Then you suddenly feel like you are recovering from mental exhaustion after only five days in a crowded city.
  4. Your Relationships Will Never Be the Same
    The “growth or death” side effect of travel applies even more intensely to your relationships. Those people you wave goodbye to before your travel will either stick by your side or fall away. People you truly cherish and look forward to seeing again tend to appear in dreams and pop up in lots of memories. As for the people who didn’t treat you well, only a few weeks of travel will normally spell it out for you. If you happen to be with your partner on your travels, get ready for some bumpy, epic, transformative experiences. This shit will either break you into mean, jagged little pieces and you’ll say goodbye at your home airport, or you’ll be bonded for life with memories and victories no one else can share.
  5. You’ll Become Your Best Friend
    All that soul searching and reality checking starts to feel like second nature after a few months of tumultuous surprises and jagged turns. This process also helps you become your own best friend and value the tiny things that make your day meaningful and blessed. Cups of tea, an intense workout, laughing with friends, sleeping in, creating art or just taking an evening walk. I end up finding ways to honor myself and enjoy that time more than ever before.Who knew there were so many upsides to feeling like silly putty?

Burning the Fear Monster

FireJump

Farewell to the fragility, to the unawareness of beauty, to the constant quaking and wondering of those first three decades. I treasure my youthful years and the nights I spent curled up with the fear of “what if.” I treasure the mistakes and blunders I made and the times I didn’t take the plunge. There were nights I was certain it was the end of the road. The nihilistic creature lurking in the pit of my stomach and the back room of my mind regularly came forward. It stood up and spoke for me and laid down the law.

I became that creature in totality for days at a time. I was too scared to accept the loss of money or friendship or opportunity with calm, for what it was, a change, nothing more. I imagined I was too fragile to open the new mysterious door waiting for me. I imagined each person only gets so many doors, so many knocks, so many chances in each life and as each one was spent, nothing came along to replace it. There were months of feeling unworthy, unholy and unclean. There were years of faulty thinking that repeated the same mantra, “SOMEDAY, SOMEDAY, SOMEDAY.”

Yet, slowly, each year I added a piece of confidence or a shred of resolve to my personal monument. Those scraps of courage and self-worth congealed after every fist fight with the hungry, voracious monster called fear. I would get up from my self-pitying, fearful corner at the end and walk toward that little flicker. I held the burgeoning tatter of wisdom in my hand with total clarity and made it completely my own.

Tonight is an opening ceremony, the lighting of a new sacred fire, one that will burn continuously. It’s also the closing ceremony of fear. The fire of love and curiosity burns away the tatters and shreds of the old habit called fear. Oh fear, the classic wolf in sheep’s clothes, pretending to be realism, safety, certainty and grounded logic, while it quietly slips in the back door and cuts out a little piece of your hope and your time.

As I look back over the last decade, I feel so immediately free, right now, in this moment. Let’s all light a fire and scare the shadowy fears away to sup with themselves, somewhere else. Anywhere else. This moment is ours.

 

Leaving

“If something’s not right, it’s wrong.” -Bob Dylan

Sometimes walking away and ending a phase feels as liberating as telling a bad boss to shove it. Finally, a breath of fresh air, the sense that the entire world is open, anything is possible. That sense of disconnection and dissatisfaction that crops up in life is as unpredictable and unrelenting as a long dream that feels slightly off. How? Why? What makes a relatively stable situation feel empty?

I’ve said it before but quitting and ghosting on certain places and events is crucial for a healthy, bold life. But it’s not always the right time, it’s not always possible and it’s definitely not an action to be taken for granted. That’s why when the chance to quit an unsatisfying house or job or project comes along, I like to take it.

Society has been built on telling people they have to choose a path, a religion, a belief system based on some stable aspect of their lives.

Stay in that job or you’ll fall into debt. It doesn’t matter if you hate it and dread the alarm every day.

Stay in that congregation even if they spit on you and call you names. That’s the work of the divine giving you direction.

Stay with that person, even when they ignore you or mistreat you. Love isn’t that common in this world.

Those are all lies. So when you get the chance to walk out, take it. I know that’s not always possible, in fact it can be the nearly impossible, but love and happiness don’t come from misery or stagnation. I’m cutting the chord with an old chapter of my life and I guess it makes me hope others get the chance.

LOVE

June Queen

Photo Credit: S. Vrba
Photo Credit: S. Vrba

The world unfolds in luxurious splendor in June. The May Queen relinquishes her chilled and crisply green crown to the soft, warm embrace of Juno’s love.

Today was a magical day as all of summer’s buds and leaves burst forth, indulging in every color and rustling as the branches expired under the weight of a million petals.

Photo Credit: S. Vrba
Photo Credit: S. Vrba

The endless northern sun awakens every flower and unearths the deepest dreams in these still, warm and wild summer nights.

Photo Credit: S. Vrba
Photo Credit: S. Vrba

This northern, budding world can only stay for a few, sweet months before it is swept away with the northern winds. Today I remember that the June Queen is kind. She wants to see our deepest creations unearthed without the sting of the lash, but with a gentle, soft caress.

 

On Learning to Love a Place Called Saturn

Saturn's rings in ultra-violet light, taken by the Cassini probe.  Photo credit: NASA/JPL/University of Colorado
Saturn’s rings in ultra-violet light, taken by the Cassini probe.
Photo credit: NASA/JPL/University of Colorado

Have you ever lived somewhere that challenged you daily?

Some cities feel like a long lost friend in an instant, without having spent more than a solitary afternoon wandering the corridors and filthy bystreets and packed plazas. Other cities give you the willies in ten seconds flat. Not even the willies. It’s a blindness. A sense that you might never know what it feels like to belong in that very particular labyrinth.

It’s the near certainty that no matter how much you pretzel your thoughts into conformity to its will the city and you always end up in a mental fistfight. The city wants you to think and be one way but you won’t take the medicine.

You’re McMurphy and the city feels like your very own Nurse Ratched.

There’s a lot to be learned from these personally tender clashing places. The ones that have challenged me served as mirrors to my most intimate past and present, especially when I had to stay for an unrelenting stretch of developmental learning before I could stretch out and fly away. These physical places serve as a strong reminder of the inner work the god Saturn pushes us to do throughout our lives.

How to Love the Challenger:

I faced up to my weak points and all the areas of myself that needed major restoration work. Challenging living situations force me to face those things I always postponed or pushed out of my mind. For example, I always felt poor while living in a certain place. I constantly felt stuck and holed up because of it. It meant reevaluating my business strategy and how I budgeted my lifestyle (both pretty commonly dreaded items.) Once I did, I felt lighter and clear-headed.

I learned to see with fresh eyes. There were so many times I saw challenging places through the eyes of a past self. I became blind to my daily routine in these challenging places and forgot to see as the person I was in the specific day. Once I started to notice the details of my daily world, I suddenly felt better about my current living situation. Check out this NPR interview on the benefits of mindfulness in daily life.

I reevaluated my life goals. When we live in a situation that makes us feel unhappy or frustrated, the ideals we hold onto in our deepest recesses become sharp and defined in a way that only comes from uncomfortable places. I learned what I desired for a happy, simple life and I spent time everyday focused on how to make that happen.

I found confidence in my chameleon ways. Once I learned to see through fresh eyes and keep my symbolic broom closet cleaned out I realized I could live in a huge range of places and succeed with determination and a driven focus on clarifying what I bring to the world.

 

Situations always change so if you are living somewhere you would like to leave someday, and maybe someday very soon, I hope your challenging place becomes your healing Saturn, the god of karma and inner work. If you do that inner work, chances are you’ll find the next place you land a lot more entertaining.

5 Things To Do Today

 

Photo Credit: Sarah E. Vrba
Photo Credit: Sarah E. Vrba

Wondering how to begin a huge project that makes you feel like hitting yourself over the head with a hammer when you try to visualize its immensity? Try these tactics. I promise, these are nicer than they sound at first glance. It’s sugary medicine.

1 Count your f*%king blessings. I don’t really need to explain that one.

2 Pull your head out of the negative dream cloud. That’s the cloud that keeps you stuck in first gear. It’s the cloud that says, “You can’t.” It’s just as much of a daydream cloud as the good stuff that we fantasize about doing. So ditch the negative cloud. It’s a waste of energy.

3 Put on rose-colored glasses. Now that you ditched the negative dream cloud, you can safely move onto the next stage, putting on some good cheer and making your reality feel warm. Happiness is an active choice. Joy in creating art is an active choice. Indulge in the feel-good sappiness of enjoying shit. People tell you to be a “realist.” If you’re going to create something, ditch the realist for an hour and bring on the dreamer.

4 Write a sentence, sing a verse or draw a picture. Just do whatever it is you’ve been putting off. Even if it’s just for five minutes. Do it. Five minutes turns into an hour more often than you might think.

5 Move. Don’t be a couch potato. If you hit a wall take a long walk, stretch your muscles, go for a run or a bike ride. It clears the cobwebs. If you can’t ditch the negative dream cloud or find your spare pair of rose-tinted glasses this is the perfect way to fake it until you get a new pair.

 

Side note: It never hurts to rock out to a Neil Young album in your underwear to get the good feelings going.

 

Rite of Spring

Photo credit: Sarah E. Vrba
Photo credit: Sarah E. Vrba

Berlin is blushing today. The chattering of birds, the distant sound of discussions as two people walk briskly in the fresh, sun-kissed air, the whir of bicycle wheels as a young girl whips past you on pavement, the scent of beer and bread around every street corner, the white and yellow flowers boldly peeping their heads from the grounds of graveyards and parks. The city is alive and breathes with an irresistible, euphoric lightness.

This is bad news for those who want to better themselves on this slow day. If you thought you would be a sober, responsible person today, you’re out of luck. It feels obligatory to have a crisp, light beer in the warmth of a sun that has been hiding for months until this moment. It’s a shame to sit trapped inside behind your double-paned windows when even the most intellectual of people are sitting outside with a simple notebook, pen, and a delicate cappuccino perched before them as they soak in the sun on the street.

The city is at once at rest and abuzz with hope and determination to enjoy life in every detail and pursuit. The current pulls you along until you are sure the divine is speaking to you in your limbs as you walk, and your heart as you see and believe in human existence.

Even the trees, which haven’t yet begun their slow, fragrant April blooming, seem to reach to the sun with their tangled, naked limbs outstretched and jubilant. I stepped into my own imaginary canoe today, designed just so I could hop in and row along with the rest of the participants in this river of slow, yet determined, indulgence.

Your Best Words

"Sunrise on Mount Shasta" by Michael Zanger - Sunrise on Mount Shasta Uploaded by PDTillman. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
“Sunrise on Mount Shasta” by Michael Zanger – Sunrise on Mount Shasta Uploaded by PDTillman. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

So there’s this little book out there that you might have heard of called The Four Agreements. Recently, the first agreement – “Be Impeccable with your Word” – has been confronting me on a regular basis and I feel like a toddler all over again trying to relearn this simple, yet mystifyingly difficult, agreement. Many argue that this first agreement is the most difficult to master – although the other three require some serious recalibration, don’t get me wrong.

The first agreement demands you only say what you mean, that you don’t use words or thoughts against yourself, and that you use the word for positivity and love towards yourself and others and in your life. Pretty simple, right? That’s what I thought, too.

The deep challenge of keeping your word for integrity, love and truth often shows up when you are at the beginning of a new path, starting from scratch and taking lots of little missteps throughout your day. Are you learning a new skill or job? Are you trying to pick up a new talent or beginning a new relationship? All of these life challenges demand major growth and it’s easy to start the running background noise of “I can’t do this. I’m no good.”

These thoughts sneak into your mind, probably before you even realize they are there. Slowly, the habit gets ingrained. I would take a gamble and say that nearly everyone battles with the challenge of staying positive and hopeful during times of major upheaval. If they keep a brave face on, there is a high likelihood they had to practice thinking positive thoughts for a few weeks, months or even years before they became a natural.

One way to strengthen your positive thoughts and to be impeccable with your word is to take little, positive physical actions every day. Shooting for your dreams and aspirations by taking little steps towards your goals – like doing your chemistry homework, finishing that chapter of Proust, or practicing your painting – will start to mold your thoughts slowly but surely. Come up with clear and specific small goals that can be accomplished in that day. Write them down if you want. Then do them.

Another way to encourage positive thoughts and words is to make a list of 10 things you are grateful for every day for an entire month. This exercise helps you to frame your day in terms of positivity and light, which will help you craft your word into positive magic charms every single day. You’ll be a master wordsmith that can take every situation and put into language why it has merit and value. You won’t even have to write them down eventually because they will be humming like background music in your mind as you go about your day.

These two little exercises can make your day powerful and poignant. If you are resilient and keep doing them every day, you’ll find that in a few weeks you have made steps on your journey and that you’re enjoying each step more fully.

Slough off the little demon sitting on your shoulder whispering “can’t” and “won’t” to you. Let him fly off and set you free.

Here’s more about The Four Agreements along with exercises to feel lighter and truer:

http://www.toltecspirit.com