Monday, August 1, 2016

Breaking Barriers -- It's an Inside Job

One of the beliefs I hold to pretty fervently is that each of us has it within us to tap into a higher guidance. We don’t need to turn to others to get our answers, they are within us. That’s right, I’m talking to you. Where people seem to get tripped up on this is trusting themselves enough to believe that they can get their own answers.

I love working with these Medicine Cards.
They are a great personal tool for insights.
So considering this, I get why people go to others for readings, and frankly this is why I will provide readings (I use Animal Medicine Cards). The insights I offer in my readings give people some sense of confidence that the cards seem to “work.” Once they acknowledge this, I remind them that the cards are just a tool, a tool they can learn to use, to tap into their own insights and intuition.

When we use the cards, it’s like having a conversation with ourselves. Our higher selves. But it gives us an excuse to look past the doubts we might have about being able to connect with our guides, ancestors, totems – whatever form God may be taking for you.  It takes practice, mind you, to trust what we see or feel, but it’s a good first step toward breaking down our own internal barriers.

But I didn’t really want to talk about using oracle cards. Like I said, I’m about everyone being able to find their own answers. In a couple recent readings though, a pattern seemed to emerge that tied into my long-held belief.

People were feeling low about different aspects of their lives, and didn’t know how to break out of the funk they felt. One of the more powerful lessons I’ve learned is that we have it within us to shift our emotional states, and by doing so, we can then break out of patterns that may have been dogging us.

It wasn’t until I started listening to Abraham-Hicks many years ago that this lesson really started sinking in for me; and frankly, it wasn’t until I was feeling especially low about my life circumstances that I really started to put Abraham’s teachings into practice. (If you’re not familiar with Abraham, they are essentially a channeled energy by Esther Hicks, and they offer workshops around the country and globe. Check out their website here for more info.)

Anyway, when I heard my clients tell me they didn’t know how to break away from their patterns of anger and fear I suggested they use a trick that was reinforced for me by Abraham-Hicks. Think of something that brings you joy. Simple, right? It’s easy to say, but until you put it into practice and can feel the difference it makes, it’s not so easy. And frankly, it can often be a journey to find a less negative emotion in the thick of your circumstance.

A view of the mountain landscape in Korea on a recent trip.
Though beautiful, when we are in difficult states of negative
emotion these kinds of memories may not be enough to snap
us out of our funk. We may need to take smaller steps.
For instance, let’s say you’re in a state of complete anger and frustration. Trying to remember when you were having the time of your life on a tropical island may not really help you because you’re not there and you wish you were and if it weren’t for your situation you would be there more often or right now, etc. So jumping from complete anger to joy may not be an effective approach.

Let’s say though, your anger is about work. Then consider a positive outcome as to why you’re working in the first place. Is it for your family? Is it for that new car? Is it to ultimately get a promotion so you can get the experience you need to start your own business? Will these thoughts make you immediately be joyful and happy? Probably not. But what they will do is shift your energy, your emotion, as you think about the benefits of what you’re doing. You can actually feel the difference.

Once you shift your emotions, even slightly, it becomes a stepping stone to find another focus and shift your emotions to another state closer to happiness. The important thing is to feel the difference. When you do, you acknowledge that you have control over how you feel. That’s powerful stuff.

This is our dog Maggie, who always lifts my spirits
So of course I’m going to be tying this back to feng shui. Let’s say you have a hard time recalling something that can shift you into a better emotion. This is where your home can come into play. Consider the things in your home. What do you have in your home that makes you feel good? Are there pictures of places you love? People who support you? Items given to you that have special significance? If not, start to add them. These are the things that promote a home that you love, which is good feng shui. They also can by your constant reminder of memories, items, people you can be thankful for that actually shift your emotion. So even if you forget during your day, away from your home, the things you need to shift your emotions, when you get home, you will be immediately reminded.

The things in your home then are key to helping you shift your life circumstances. They remind us of what we love, who we are and why we do things. They empower us to make positive, powerful changes in our lives.

It’s all there, in your home, and in you.

Friday, July 22, 2016

A Partnership in Balance

Sometimes we can’t always find the balance we need on our own. Our stresses can push us beyond our ability to ground ourselves so we ultimately don’t even know we’re out of balance. It’s not a fun place to be, and often, for me at least, results in a crash of one sort or another as a very clear reminder that boy oh boy was I out of synch with who I am.

So let’s talk about energy.

Bear with me. It’ll make sense in a minute.

Science tells us we’re all made of energy. It’s what we do with it that seems to then tread into the realm of metaphysics. We have auras that we can expand and contract. There are multiple layers of energy that represent different aspects of our consciousness -- mental, emotional, spiritual, etc. We have chakras, spinning wheels of energy, throughout our bodies that represent different attributes of our lives (e.g., fight or flight, sexuality, will, love, etc.). The list goes on and would be better explained by others more well versed in these matters.

One of the interesting things about these various energies is that they react based on our life experiences. The chakras can get mucked up by a negative encounter and need to be cleaned out. Disruptions in our various energy bodies can be indications of health issues we face, or have the potential to face. When we want to pull away from a crowd of people, we can actually pull our aura closer to our bodies as an energetic signpost that says “um, not interested in interacting with, well, anyone, thanks.”

This brings me to a book I read long ago, The Celestine Prophecy. It introduced among other things the notion that in our interactions with one another our energy fluctuates. For instance, a domineering person’s energy field may have a much more aggressive approach to another person, growing and expanding, as a way to assert dominance over the other person. If the person they’re interacting with is equally dominant, there will be a clash of energies that in the worst case could lead to physical confrontation. If the person though is intimidated, their energy may retreat closer to their body and they submit to the other person’s will. In the book, author James Redfield speaks to the need for us to work collaboratively with each other’s energies to gain the greatest benefit for both parties. (If this intrigues you, I’d suggest reading the book. Keep in mind the book is considered fiction, but the concepts really struck a chord with a lot of people. Me being one of them.)

Now this brings me to a guy I’ll just call “Art.” I ran across him in Toronto. Tall, thin and lanky, he sat in dusty clothes bordering on rags on the sidewalk surrounded by a circle of large stones and broken pieces of concrete. What he was doing in the middle of this circle actually evoked oohs, ahhs and applause from the small crowds who stopped to watch him.

He was building impossible structures. They were rocks balanced atop one another in ways that just didn’t seem possible – small stones holding up a large concrete block by a single edge. The stones seemed to be acting in ways against their nature. It was beautiful to see.

As I watched him work, in one piece I noticed how he would place a stone on another and then press upon it with his thumb, almost as if he were transferring something to the stone – communicating with it in some way.  

I struck up a conversation with Art and he told me that he worked with gravity and the rocks as he built these miniature towers. He would listen to his pieces and place them accordingly. In return, they seemed to listen to him because they did what he wanted them to do.

It struck me that he was breaking the barrier between worlds – the world of these inanimate objects, a place comprising of gravity and solid mass -- and the world I was walking in before I came across him. Furthermore, he was transferring what he learned in one world into the next and created something that seemed unbelievable.

I left that exchange feeling like I had just met a modern day mystic, and gained valuable insight about the exchange of energy between people and our world.

I realized that sometimes, most times in fact, creating more balance in our lives requires a partnership. A partnership with our family, friends or even the environment in which we find ourselves. And by crossing the barriers between us, trying to understand another’s world, we can balance seemingly impossible things.

So, is this really just a long-winded way of saying, we need one another? Perhaps. Or maybe it’s opening a doorway to people and places you hadn’t considered.

It’s your call.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Working Through the Anger

Sometimes I can’t shake an emotion.

Right now, for me, it’s anger.

I’m not the only one.

The events in the past 30+ days, in which more people than I can count on all my fingers and toes have been murdered in unfathomable circumstances, forced all of us to see a very ugly side of our humanity.

Some have called for unity. Others are struggling not to blame someone or something. Some are already seeing a difference (see my friend’s recent blog on Huffington Post).

For me, these events and their wrenching images that cling to my mind have created a veil through which I now look at the world. It is a temporary veil, because I refuse to make it permanent, but it exists nonetheless. It’s a veil that makes it more difficult to see the spark in others that makes me smile; one that allows me to more quickly see the bad in someone than the good; one that weighs on and drains me.

What do you do? More specifically, what will I do? I will contribute to organizations that will take donations of goodwill and multiply their impact far beyond I as an individual could. I will search for demonstrations I can attend where I feel like somehow I’m not alone in my fear and frustration and our 
voices can be magnified. I will look for opportunities to extend kindness instead of hate. I will assess what I can do to change my own thoughts and actions in the days and weeks ahead.

All well and good, but before I attempt all of this, I need to let go of this anger.

So, when you’re part of the community of “new age” or “spiritual” folks; you’ll often hear about how sensitive everyone is. Terms like “empath,” “emotional sponge,” and “airy-fairy” get thrown around a lot. Talk of needing to establish stronger boundaries, keeping our distance from “energy vampires” and not watching the “heavy” content in the news pops up regularly in conversation.

It’s not that there isn’t truth to what’s being said (and yes, I consider myself sensitive), but I think we do a disservice to all of us when we single out a group of people as being more susceptible/impacted to the horrors of the world than others. No matter how sensitive you are or what guru you may be following or what you’re watching on the television, we are ALL affected by the horrors we’ve seen lately.

Sure it may get processed differently but we still all feel something when we watch a video of a woman hoping her boyfriend isn’t dying next to her while her four-year-old daughter sits in the back seat. We all feel something as we learn of the 49 lives snuffed out too soon simply because of who they were. We all feel something as we watch police officers not running for their lives but running toward the lives they have sworn to protect.

We all feel something.

So what do we do to deal with those feelings? I don’t have the answer, but I’ve learned a few techniques that have helped me, so I thought I’d share in hopes that they may help you too.

My positive focus: My family at the top
of Jisimdo island, which is shaped like
the Chinese character for heart.
Focus. This is a big one for me. When I have been pulled fully into a place of anger in the past (that’s right, this isn’t my first rodeo), I’ve learned that changing what I’m focusing on makes a difference. Thinking about something that makes me smile or uplifts me (often my daughters will do the trick for me), helps me shift my emotional state. You may have a vacation spot along the ocean or a big race you won or a time when dog kisses made you laugh until you cried. Whatever it is, use it. Picture it. Experience it again in your mind. Notice how your emotions shift, if even for just a moment. It helps.

Nature. Take off your shoes; take off your socks; walk in the grass. I love the feel of the soft ground under my feet. It allows me to connect with the earth more easily. You can actually give your anger to the earth. Imagine it as a color in your chest and make it travel down your torso, hips, legs, knees, feet and then right into the earth. Consider how the earth absorbs plants, animals, even our own bodies and transforms it all into healthy nutrients for new growth. You know it can take pure, raw emotional energy and transform it into something beautiful.

Breathe. It’s the first step in most meditations. Why? Because it allows us to pay attention to something other than our immediate thoughts. Then it becomes a doorway to focusing on our body, specifically, our muscles and the tension being held there. Each breath in allows us to take in new energy. Each breath out allows us to release and let go of the tension in our bodies. When our bodies are in a relaxed state, it’s nearly impossible to be angry.

Drum. That’s right, start a beat. I happen to have several drums, but you don’t need them. You can drum on the counter, drum with a couple sticks or simply drum your own chest. Drumming has been part of sacred ceremony for thousands of years. Drumming is considered a way to connect to Spirit and Mother Earth, establish a greater sense of balance in our lives, and be grateful for all that we have. If you don’t know where to start, begin with the beat of your own heart – then allow the beat to evolve into something more, listen to your intuition – let it guide you.

These are just a few suggestions. No doubt, you have some of your own. All I’m suggesting is use them. If we cannot get out of this state of fear, anger and frustration; we’ll find we just attract more of it into our lives. The more we as individuals can do to shift our own emotional states, the better chance we have of changing the states of the people and places around us. Consider it a drop in the water of humanity, with a powerful ripple effect.

Imagine the impact a ripple of peace could have today.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Our Connections Remain, No Matter How Far We Roam

I love experiencing new places. Especially ones I perceive as so foreign to the world I know. New sights, new sounds, new faces, new foods – an adventure waiting to happen down every turn. I held to this mindset as a few days ago I began a trip to South Korea, about 6,600 miles from home. I’ve never been to an Asian country and had no idea what to expect.

This is due in part because everything was being planned for me and my family – airfare, lodging, meals and every stop along the way. It was part of a tour designed by our Taekwondo Grand Master for a group of about 30 of his students. It’s the first time we’ve not been involved in any of the planning, and frankly, it was kind of nice (and interesting serendipity considering I’m also working on letting go and trusting more – see previous blogs).

In some respects, there were a lot of similarities: high rises, mini-malls, chain restaurants and the like. In other respects, seeing the Korean language plastered across neon signs everywhere, street food stands offering not just corn dogs but tentacles as standard fare, and all the beautiful mountains made it clear that we weren’t in Kansas anymore.

This is the path we started on to get into the lush island forest.
One of the things I’ve been most excited about is being in nature here. I love trees, creatures of all kinds and connecting with the spirit of nature whenever I can. I wanted to see if it felt different, what the leaves of trees looked like and the variety of plants and flowers. (This is usually about the time my daughters look at each other with synchronous eye rolls.)

On our fourth day here we toured a beautiful island called Jisimdo or Camellia Island. Camellia refers to a beautiful red flower of the Camellia tree, which starts blooming in December and continues well into the spring. The island is also known for its connection to the heart because the island looks like the Chinese character for heart. In fact, at the top of the island sits a statue of two giant hands forming a heart.

Walking along the many paths, what struck me was the variety of flora – pine trees, bamboo trees and what seemed like lush tropical plants – all of which sprouted from a huge mass of rock protruding from the Yellow Sea. It seemed peculiar to have all of these seemingly different plants thriving together, but it felt kind of right too. Walking beneath the canopies, you could feel the life everywhere.

Some of the life actually visited me. A black and white bird with a full white belly made itself known
My first siting
to me from a branch about 10 feet above my head. I learned afterward that the magpie is one of the most plentiful birds in Korea. It’s also a member of the crow family, which is significant to me because I have always felt a connection to crows and they often give me messages of one sort or another.

One aspect I associate with the magpie is the energy of the trickster as it’s considered a mischievous bird. So I often connect it with the lesson of Coyote in the Native American Medicine Wheel – the trickster who reminds us to not take life too seriously or we may end up repeating lessons that just make us play the fool over and over.

So when I first saw the magpie, I thought, what a beautiful bird. But later in the path I saw him again, as he landed less than 5 feet away from me on a branch. Well anytime I have a bird or animal appear to follow me, I’ll typically take this as a sign that there’s a message in it somewhere. A good rule of thumb with signs is if you see something three times, and there’s an unusual aspect to it (e.g., you see it in an odd place or something calls your attention to it in an unexpected way) then it’s a good chance it’s a sign worth deciphering. And if, as in this case, it appears in a particularly unusual way, then that’s a good indication as well.

So yes, I typically need to lighten up and realize that I’m playing the part of the fool. On this trip, I’ve had to fight back the urge to make sure everything is going right for others, herd people to the right place at the right time and generally step in when there’s absolutely no reason for me to do so.

I took the message to heart and decided to just enjoy the walk in nature. (Clearly, the message is still relevant because just as I’m writing this the song “Out of My Hands” by Jason Mraz is playing through my headphones.)

The nice thing about this is the message I received wasn’t dependent on where I was – a foreign land thousands of miles away. I’ve received similar messages in the past right at home. It’s comforting in a way, knowing that no matter where I go, I’ll always be able to connect to Spirit in a way that resonates with me. So no matter the place or the adventure ahead, I’ve got a constant connection available, just waiting for me to pay attention. 

Even if the message is to stop being a fool.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Step 2. Trust.

OK. Step one, start letting go (see previous blog). Step two, trust.

And by trust, I mean really, truly trust that what comes next is what’s supposed to come next. And it’s for my highest good.

You may have noticed I’m talking to myself. I’m not crazy. At least clinically. But I do find that telling myself what I want helps me stay focused on it. Call it an affirmation with an edge.

While I believe that affirmations work, I also get hung up on the sometimes flowery nature of affirmations. The “I’m good enough, smart enough, and gosh darn it people like me” (thank you Stuart Smalley) approach sometimes leaves me flat. I need a little more of a kick in the pants – more like a “Get over yourself, and just do what needs to get done. People may like you, they may not. It’s not the point.” approach.

Now trust has never been an easy one for me. I could chalk it up to any number of things in my life, but that’s not really important. What is important is where I am now. In this moment. I know it’s not a fully trusting place. I’m scared. I admit it.

So, if you were my client, and you told me you had a hard time trusting others, trusting that all will work out, trusting yourself, I’d approach it something like this.

There are nine areas of the Feng Shui bagua at your disposal (and I could use the Medicine Wheel too, but that’s a topic for another blog): Career, Self-knowledge, Family, Abundance, Fame, Relationships, Creativity, Helpful People and Balance.

Of these options, I’d suggest working on three of them: Self-Knowledge, Family and Helpful People. 
Here’s why:

If we can’t trust ourselves, how can we expect to trust others, the world around us, etc. So, the better you know yourself (Self-Knowledge), the more confidence you have in what you can do and the more you can actual trust yourself to achieve your goals – you know your strengths and weaknesses and what you need to do to draw from one and manage the other.

Funny thing about this area of life (gua in feng shui terms) is that it is also the area of Spirituality. Keep in mind this reflects whatever spirituality you follow – it’s not dependent on any religion and it’s really based on how you define it. I have the belief that God is not something separate from us but a part of us, and as such is an extension of us. So, with that logic, I know that for me, if I can trust myself or my Self, then I’m also trusting in Spirit. Nice connection there I think.
Next area where you could focus would be Family. When we think of family, there are many aspects, and often people look to their time growing up to be influenced most by their immediate family. So, if you have trust issues (this is just one of my many issues btw), then one place to look would be your current relationships with family members and how they evolved to be what they are today.

Finally, let’s look at Helpful People. Seems self explanatory right? We all want people to help us with our “stuff.” And as much as I sometimes just want to run away to a mountain and be a hermit living with the bears and other four-leggeds, and winged ones, the people in our lives can have a HUGE impact on our happiness. So, I would suggest you reinforce this area of your home to focus on the kind of people in your life who would be able to help you be more trusting. People you ACTUALLY trust to have your back and be there for you through thick and thin.

You might now say, that’s all fine and good, but what do you do with that information?

Have I mentioned how great feng shui is? Well it is, because there is ALWAYS a way to enhance a space. Always. Feng shui “cures” are so versatile you will never be at a loss for a way to improve your home. And if you’re not sure what these “cures” do, in a nutshell they act as beacons for what you want to attract into your life. Combine your intention with a cure and you’re going places baby.

Cures come in many shapes and sizes, and not just wooden flutes and red tassels (more traditional feng shui cures), but things like plants, light, color, statues. crystals and more. The most powerful cures, I've found, incorporate something personal to you. So I won't go into which cures to use in my trust scenario because they would be different for each person.

Of course if you want to talk more about this, I'm available for a consultation (that's my shameless self-promotion). Just give me a call or email me.

So my journey is continuing. It feels a bit like a wobbly bridge over a chasm, but adrenaline is a good motivator.

Until next time.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Letting Go.

My name is Bill, and I’m a control freak.

I openly admit it. I’m not even ashamed.

In fact, I think it’s one of the reasons I’ve been able to excel in my corporate job. Part of me relishes in having a hand in so many moving parts, directing here, nudging there, sometimes downright pushing situations to get us where we need to be.

But as of late, it’s clear, that this approach is not the approach that will support my happiness. It’s one fraught with disappointment, failure and frustration because I just can’t, no one can in fact, control everything in any situation. So faced with this reality, it’s time to let go.

Not easy. Nope. I’m willing, but there’s this death grip I have on my current reality. One that I’ve created in which the pursuit of control as the solution for all things is my norm. And if I were to be honest, it’s also beating the crap out of me mentally and spiritually (and my physical activity has reduced significantly too).

So, what does all of this have to do with feng shui, energy of space, spirituality and the like? Well it’s time to take my own advice. I tell my clients that their intention is the seed for all that they want to achieve – and we use that to direct the energy in their homes or businesses and even attract more of that into their lives.

Time to set an intention of letting go in my life. One in which I can actually feel what it would be like to let go – a little scary, freeing, fulfilling, heart-opening, adventurous and even exciting.  

I'm also giving my intention an additional push, with the altar shown here. As I tell my clients, a powerful way to solidify any intention is to create an altar, and use it as a focal point each day for your intention. Simply sitting with it, focusing on the feeling of achieving your intention, will build the energy to support you achieving your goal. Even a picture of one can act as your focal point. 

What is your intention for your life? How are you going about making it a reality? Feel free to use this altar here as your focal point of your dreams. 

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Getting the Message

Recently I stepped outside my office and something odd happened. I was walking down some steps and I saw something falling. It was small and light, almost floating, but I put out my hand and it landed right smack dab in the middle. It was a feather. Two in fact. Small, beautiful, brown-striped feathers.

Sure, having feathers fall literally into my hand is what some might call a lucky happenstance. Now consider where I was when this happened. I work for a digital marketing company, what some might call my muggle job, and it has offices in cities across the globe – not rural communities surrounded by fields or small forests. I work in Chicago, in The Loop (which for those who don’t know is smack dab in the middle of downtown). 

So to have these feathers randomly fall into my hands seems less like luck and more like something purposeful.

Now I’ll add one more piece of interesting information. Lately I’ve felt pretty stuck, especially where my job is concerned. There are many reasons for it, but I’d decided that part of my problem was that I was letting this job take me away from what I really want to do with my life – but I also knew that dropping out of society, living in the mountains and becoming the next Radagast wasn’t a realistic option for a guy with a wife, two daughters, a dog, two fish and a crustacean living in the suburbs of Chicago. So instead, I decided to revisit some of my spiritual practices – first and foremost being to ask for help. By help I mean direction and by asking I mean asking Spirit (to me this covers all denominations and non-denominations). For me, the concept of a higher power is most notably present in nature – so this is typically where I turn for spiritual guidance. 

Then the feathers “appear” seemingly from nowhere. Interesting, no?

I’ve learned through my nearly 45 years on this planet that the experiences we have are what we make of them. Others may slough off these feathers as merely an interesting occurrence or at most a happy coincidence. I really can’t. It’s not who I am. I have in me too much of that child-like wonder and hope for life to be more special than that. I instead take this as an answer – one that tells me I’m heading in the right direction, and there’s more to come in the days ahead. It’s a reinforcement that life is special if we only pay attention. Ultimately, it’s that where I am is where I need to be, for now.

My question for you, though, is what’s special in your life? Are you paying attention? It can make all the difference.