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Are you connecting with your authentic self?

We live in a troubled world but our own pure, pristine presence is not troubled at all.

It is your own authentic self and it is exactly the same now as it was five years ago or 50 years ago – unchanged and untroubled by any of the external events of your life.

I have a picture of myself when I was about a year old in my mother's arms. She is smiling proudly, a beautiful young woman for sure. And in her arms is this adorable little child -- I admit it -- face and eyes filled with joy as I beam ecstatically at the world around me.

I realized, as I looked at the picture just now, that fundamentally who I was 78 years ago is who I am now and exactly the same is true for all of us. Try it, if you like. Take out an old picture of yourself and look at it for a moment. The form has changed, of course. But as you look at the picture for just a moment don’t you get a fleeting sense that “You” have not changed at all?

Difficult feelings are like a Colorado thunderstorm

I find – particularly in recent months -- that as I deliberately slow down every now and again and listen to the presence of what is timeless in myself a remarkable joy fills me. Difficult feelings such as fear or restlessness still arise, but they don’t last. They’re like the thunderstorms I’ve become used to since moving to Colorado.

Denver is on the front range of the Rocky Mountains and our thunderstorms usually roll in on a nice summer afternoon from the mountains. But here’s the thing. With all their noise and bluster, their thundering and rain, they often only last 15 minutes or the like – and the sunshine that is endemic in this part of the country shines again as if nothing had happened.  Sometimes it's even shining in the middle of a storm:-)

John Sherman, founder of a nonprofit group called the River Ganga Foundation, in Ojai, California, describes this process of connecting with our authentic self so well in his great little book, Look at Yourself:

Making contact with the reality of your nature

Writes Sherman: “Right now, in this moment, just look at yourself briefly with your mind's eye. See if it is not possible, even as you are reading this, to catch just a glimpse out of the corner of your eye of the feeling of you, the you-ness of you, the profound and primal ordinariness of you. See how certain, how literally unquestionable it is that you are here, and how that presence of you here is certain in a way nothing else could ever be.

"If you do this once knowingly, you will without fail do it again... and again... and again... And the day will certainly come, without regard to anything else you are doing or not doing, without regard to anything else that is being done or not being done to you, when you will notice that the underlying fear of life is dead -- an old and false notion about your nature snuffed out by contact with the reality of your nature."

Some last words from my wife

My sweet wife, JoAnn, who is a down-to-earth soul, puts all this in a little different way.

“I’ve learned that what works for me, if something negative or troubling comes up in me is to stop and give thanks and focus on something more creative and positive. It was hard to put this into practice in the beginning but I’ve been doing it long enough now to know that it really works. But I have to be very deliberate about it.”

I have to tell you now that whatever JoAnn’s secret is, it sure works. A more caring, even-tempered, loving friend and partner I could never wish to meet.

How about you? How do you deal with difficult feelings? What gives you fulfillment and joy? Please share. I’d love to hear from you.

My love and blessings to you.

Picture credit: Nanda Sunu

http://farm1.static.flickr.com/43/78401035_b340bad034.jpg

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Phillipa September 27, 2011 at 3:13 pm

I was angry and stressed out for years. Got burn-out with work etc etc..

Anyway, now I exercise more, first walking and now I have a bike :).I’m 54 and haven’t ridden for over 30 years.lol. The body doesn’t forget how to ride amazingly enough. Getting the body moving really helps to put the mind at ease.

And living More in the Now. Stopping and smelling the roses sure does help. Nowadays my raging hurricanes are more like a short squall.
We only get one shot at life. Make the most of it. 🙂

Regards Phillipa

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Christopher Foster September 27, 2011 at 6:09 pm

Sounds to me like you’re doing everything right Phillipa and then some. Thanks for your encouraging and inspiring comments. Keep doing what you’re doing and every good wish.

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Alex Blackwell | The BridgeMaker September 27, 2011 at 6:46 pm

Savoring every moment of every day brings me the joy. And to be honest, it’s the ordinary, everyday things that make me feel the most joyful – driving my daughter to school, kissing my wife and going for a run. These are things that define my life – and I try to celebrate them everyday.

Alex

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Christopher Foster September 28, 2011 at 11:41 am

It’s so true isn’t it Alex. It’s the ordinary, everyday things, just as you say, that bring the real juice of joy into our lives. Which emphasizes how important it is to be open in our hearts in the first place to the magic that is always present. Sometimes we have to look a little, maybe change our mind a little, but the magic is there.

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Linda/Positive Spin September 28, 2011 at 8:05 am

For me, it’s the little things too. Here’s when I feel I’m ‘me’…
watching my cat sleeping
watching the rooks as they gather for autumn
listening to the silence in my home
feeling the unexpected sunshine on my face
hearing my grownup child’s voice on the phone
pausing in my busyness to gaze into the night sky.
All these are ‘me’ and very precious. There are many more.
Linda/Positive Spin recently posted..How To Handle Toxic Criticism – Simple! Turn Into A Duck!

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Christopher Foster September 28, 2011 at 11:25 am

Great list Linda. Great ideas. I agree 100 percent of course. Really, what else do we have in life by and large except “little moments” — that can become memorable if we choose to see them that way. Blessings to you, and by the way, I love the notion in your latest post of turning into a duck…

One day in Hawaii JoAnn and me watched a pair of ducks kind of squabbling a bit. Then they both simply shook themselves and walked or I should say waddled about their business perfectly happy and content as if nothing had happened.

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noch September 28, 2011 at 9:31 pm

I used to stomp around the house when i get angry, and kick my fiance’s shoes (haha even in anger i love my own shoes)….. it’s weird, because i used to be so calm and never got angry, but now i realize i’ve actually just suppressed the anger and frustrations.

And so when i got major depression 2 years ago, everything started exploding out… so i went through a peak of anger, sorrow, frustration, despair etc. now i’m learning to manage my feelings by deep breathing, and to be alert when i feel heightened emotions…

It’s hard to catch myself all the time, but i find, when the mind is strong, actions will follow suit.

I like what linda says – it calms me down also watching my little puppy play or sleep 🙂
noch recently posted..being told what to do

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Christopher Foster September 30, 2011 at 10:07 am

Noch, this is very touching. It’s especially touching for me because I have experienced this phenomenon of depression also and I feel a lot of empathy for the experiences you describe here.

You’re well on the way to a whole new life. I’m really proud of you for your persistence and the way you have been true to your highest instincts in what is I know can be a wrenching and terrifying experience at times. It takes a lot of patience and trust to first of all accept what is happening and then find our own unique path to healing.

Like you, I used to be very “calm” and unmoved — but unfortunately, only on the surface. What was really going on was that I was numb to my own feelings, and as my wife was just mentioning to me, when we shut down our feelings, we not only shut down uncomfortable feelings we also shut down the genuine happiness and joy of life.

More power to you and I am with you in your journey. What the medical world calls “depression,” in my perspective, can often more accurately be thought of as a “spiritual crisis.” Or as “the dark night of the soul” experienced by so many of the prophets, known or unknown, in their quest for truth and freedom. Blessings and stay with it Noch.

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Galen Pearl September 28, 2011 at 11:24 pm

I like your wife’s technique of turning to gratitude. I start thinking of things I’m grateful for until I really AM grateful. That puts the difficult feelings in perspective.
Galen Pearl recently posted..Our Treasurest Place

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Christopher Foster September 30, 2011 at 9:41 am

Galen, thank you so much. I love hearing from you and sharing your thoughts. Reading your fine comment here I’m reminded of something someone once said to the effect, “Assume a virtue and it will become a reality.”

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Phil D. Malmstrom September 29, 2011 at 6:19 pm

I have to tell you Christopher, I think my favorite part of this post is the quote from your wife :

“I’ve learned that what works for me, if something negative or troubling comes up in me is to stop and give thanks and focus on something more creative and positive.”

What a beautiful soul you’re married to! Please give her a hug from me. 🙂

And I agree with you as well… We’re all born with God’s mighty spirit inside us. Our form changes over the years, but that presence lives and grows within us as we live our lives.

Have a Blessed Day my friend!
Phil D. Malmstrom recently posted..Thankful Thursday: Another 300

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Christopher Foster September 30, 2011 at 9:37 am

Phil, thank you for these warm words, and JoAnn thanks you too. I want you to know I just had the pleasure of giving my wife a hug, the first of the day actually, just as you asked. She says to say thank you both for the hug and the comment.

You have a blessed day too. I appreciate very much the agreement I feel with you regarding this journey of life we are all on.

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Don Shetterly October 1, 2011 at 3:11 pm

Just by slowing down, stopping and noticing do we truly find ourselves. I learned that the hard way when life almost ceased to exist. Since then, there is not a day that goes by that I don’t notice the birds, or the trees swaying in the wind.

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t just stop and feel my body, finding that center spot within me where i feel at home. Events changed and stopped me in my tracks many years ago but then I changed my life and each day i discover a little more of who I am.
Don Shetterly recently posted..High Resting Pulse Rate

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Christopher Foster October 2, 2011 at 9:13 am

You share a very inspiring story and some very inspiring thoughts, Don. Thank you so much.

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Harriet Cabelly October 3, 2011 at 10:28 am

Hi Christopher,

Martin Seligman, positive psychologist guru, has a great exercise known as The Three Blessings. Every nite before bed, write down 3 things you’re grateful for during that day. Nothing is too small or inconsequential- such as taking the time for that soothing cup of tea, waking up healthy (that’s a biggie) etc,…..

Meditating or simply spending time alone helps get us in touch with our true inner selves. We need to take the time to hear ourselves without all the distraction of the outer world and ‘things’. Walking for me is so therapeutic. I walk alone without listening to anything (no plug in my ear attached to an ipod) and listen to my thoughts/feelings as they flow in. Wonderful! I’ve built that time into my day everyday and it has become a real joy, one of the highlights of my day.

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Christopher Foster October 3, 2011 at 10:41 am

Thank you Harriet. Great input. What a super idea from Martin Seligman.

I find in my own life that the more intense life becomes the greater the need to take time, just as you say, to be with ourselves. Just listening. Just being quiet. Life loves balance, and it’s up to each of us to take responsibility, isn’t it? Thank you again for taking time to share your own experience here. Best wishes to you.

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