Crafting a soul-prospering life sounds great, but how do you actually do this? It’s easier than you think.
It’s easier because you already know what it is that will give you a soul-prospering life. All you need to do is turn away from what the world says is valuable and worthy, quiet your mind, and follow the Still Small Voice within.
Yesterday we talked about zeroing in on the thoughts and feelings we have when we think about taking action on any of our outrageous ideas. We know we need to do this because doing what’s logical and reasonable isn’t always going to get us to our soul-prospering life. Sometimes we just have to let it rip!
We need to know how to handle ourselves, though, when those thoughts and feelings do come up because they can stop us in our tracks. We don’t want that. We want our soul-prospering life, the life of our dreams!
~Perhaps our first reaction is some form of anger because we “know” someone is going to take our hard work and our success away from us;
~Perhaps our first reaction is a form of sadness because we “know” we’re going to work really hard and there’ll be very little payoff at the end;
~Perhaps our first reaction is a form of fear because we “know” it’s too hard and we can’t do it. We may also “know” that the effort will crush us and/or that we’ll be worse off afterward;
~Perhaps our first reaction is to give up before we start–to not even try–because we “know” we’ll work, work, work, and sacrifice, and meet obstacles, and it’ll all be too much;
~Perhaps our first reaction is excitement and enthusiasm but then we soon lose interest, become bored, or numb, and move on to the next “shiny object”.
We may have a different go-to first reaction and thought than what we’ve talked about here and that’s fine. In a sense it doesn’t matter what it is, just as long as each of us knows what our own particular and unique feeling and thought pattern is. Once we know this, we can build and have handy a “Bag of Tricks” that’s ready when we need it. This’ll help us move through the obstacles we’ve previously thrown in our own path to stop ourselves.
Take time today–about 15 – 20 minutes in a place that’s quiet and where you won’t be interrupted–and think about what can help you soothe/calm/comfort yourself so you can be more in control of yourself. The goal is to be able to take the next step, even if it’s tiny.
Here are some suggestions:
This gets you up and moving instead of sitting like a “bump on a log” as the old saying goes. Vigorous exercise can be great for blowing off the excess steam if you’re angry and frustrated. Light, gentle exercise can be perfect for when you’re feeling sad or frightened.
Playing a musical instrument; singing or toning or making nonsense noises; listening to music that’s uplifting, inspiring, energizing, or soothing. Music can help you blow off steam or it can calm you or it can energize you or it can comfort you.
Taking a nap; make sure you get a good night’s uninterrupted sleep; relaxing.
Getting outside and taking deep breaths to oxygenate your system; enjoy Mother Nature’s beauty and majesty.
~To expand your mind and your knowledge base; reading something for pleasure; reading for inspiration; reading to deepen your spirituality.
Praying; meditating; contemplating; thinking about Something That’s Bigger Than All of Us.
Meeting with or calling trusted friends who will cheer you on; loved ones who encourage you; mentors who believe in you.
Gather the resources in a place that’s easily accessible to you. When you’re in the throes of some emotion, it’s tough to think straight and to remember where you put what you are desperately looking for in the moment.
Just like in your home you know where the flashlights and batteries are, you’ve stored the candles and matches in a particular spot, the fire extinguisher is handy, and you have your doctor’s and other emergency service phone numbers prominently displayed, this is the same thing. Have your Bag of Tricks, your emergency materials, handy, easily accessed, and ready-to-go for when you need them!
A reminder: we’re brainstorming so that means all ideas are worthy of being jotted down and considered.
~NO blowing off
~NO disparagement of any kind
of ANY idea, no matter how crazy or outlandish it is.
Also, do NOT:
~worry about the practicality
~fret about the money involved
~angst over how much time an idea might take to work out
~lament over the very few ideas you’ve come up with
~freak out over how may ideas you’ve come up with
~despair over the illogical ideas your brain produces for you
~feel like an idiot because of any idea that your creativity has gifted to you
We may find that a piece of one nutty idea combined with a piece of an outrageous forms a blockbuster action that move us forward faster and better than any rational or logical idea we’ve come up with so far!
Take the time today to write down as many ideas as you can. Don’t worry about the number of them, just write down all that come to you in the time you’ve allotted–I recommend 15-20 minutes of quiet uninterrupted time, perfect to do during your lunch hour (just sayin’!). Keep a notepad and pen, or other device handy, so you can jot down ideas that come to you during the day–trust me, they will!
Tomorrow we’ll talk about these. Be sure to make time in your schedule for 15 – 20 minutes of quiet uninterrupted time.
Part of self-mastery is taking care of yourself–your physicality. You need mental, emotional, and physical strength and wherewithal to master yourself. If you are tired and stressed, you’re more apt to take the easy way and knuckle under to your habits.
~Are you getting enough hours of sleep or are you skimping in favor of working later or sitting up at night worrying?
~Is you sleep restful or are you too tense to fully relax into a peaceful sleep?
~Is your sleep restorative or do you wake frequently throughout the night, even if just for a moment?
If you answer yes to any of these questions, take the time to pinpoint what’s going on so you can determine how best to help yourself. Research has shown that sleep is critical to your ongoing health and well-being and skimping on it or having poor quality sleep is very damaging, especially over the long term.
When checking in with yourself, perhaps you discover worry, sadness, or frustrations are bothering you. Ask yourself what you can do to release these so you can get a restful, restorative night’s sleep.
Some suggestions are:
~meditate/pray and connect with God/Source. It’s also great to pray/meditate with someone else because they may be able to pray in a way that your worried, agitated state is preventing you from doing.
~listen to soothing, calming music such as Brahms’ Lullaby, Pachebel’s Canon in D, Satie’s Trois Geyumnopedies, Debussy’s Clair de Lune.
~read uplifting, hopeful passages from inspirational or faith-based writings
~take a warm bath before bedtime.
~Improving your sleep can be something as simple as getting a new pillow, changing the orientation of your bed, opening a window for cool fresh air, adding a light covering so you’re warm enough. Also try changing the style of your pajamas, for instance if you’ve always worn a nightgown, perhaps changing to a pajama set of pants with a matching top.
When you check in with yourself, pay attention to your nutritional habits–what are they?
~Are you eating high quality, nutritious food or do you reach for what’s handy and quick?
~Are you sitting down to have your meals or are you eating on the go?
~Do you focus on enjoying and savoring your food or do you eat at your desk or while watching TV and just shovel in the food, not paying attention to what you’re eating?
~Do you take a moment to make your food attractive and appetizing or do you eat on paper plates or out of the take-out cartons?
~Do you eat in messy or dirty surroundings?
Some suggestions are:
When reviewing your eating and nutrition habits, you might identify areas where you aren’t properly nurturing yourself. The two biggest things you can do to help yourself in this area are (1) to step away from the junk food, prepared foods, convenience foods, and foods high in sugar and preservatives. Instead buy food that is natural and organic. Yes, these foods cost more right now, but the payoff in the future is immense.
Don’t economize on the quality of your food!
(2) When you eat, step away from your desk, turn off the TV, put away all electronics, and concentrate on your meal. Notice the aroma, the texture, the flavors. Eat sitting down in calm and clean surroundings and use real plates and real flatware.
Take your time and savor each mouthful!
~Are you in the rut of sleep-eat-work-sleep-eat-work?
~When was the last time you did something for fun?
~How long has it been since you took time off and just hung out with nothing more to do but relax?
~Have you taken time to enjoy your hobbies?
~Do you regularly spend time with your friends and loved ones?
~Have you developed a regular meditation/contemplation/quiet time practice?
You may feel awkward or guilty getting away from your routine, taking a break and giving yourself breathing room. This is an important part of self-mastery. You can’t get a handle on yourself if you are burned out, a slave to your routines, stuck in a rut, or fed up.
Perhaps your situation right now is such that you don’t have the time or the finances to actually get away, but you can do simple things that will refresh you.
Some suggestions are:
~choose TV programs that are interesting or educational, such as those found on PBS and the science channels–turn off reality TV!
~read a good book–fiction or non-fiction;
~take the scenic route back and forth to work instead of sitting in rush hour traffic;
~pack a picnic lunch and enjoy it in a local park;
~play with your kids, spend time with your spouse or partner; invite friends over for a potluck dinner and a movie.
Incorporate some of these suggestions into your life a little at a time–you don’t have to do these all at once! As you do this, over time you will find you’ll become more in control of yourself and your life.
You want to craft a soul-prospering life: Are you pleased with your progress? Ask yourself: what actions am I taking; what actions am I avoiding?
Then ask yourself: Why?
What are your excuses, your reasons, your justifications? What emotions are driving these (we talked about mastery over our emotions yesterday)? Have you paused to uncover the thought patterns driving your emotions (we talked about mastery over our thoughts on Monday)?
Once you have a clear understanding of why you are or are not taking action toward crafting a soul-prospering life, you can do something about it–you can take command rather than being bullied about by circumstances and your moods.
It doesn’t take long to check in with yourself and to get back to manning the controls of your life!
Most of the time, we are ruled by our emotions. For instance, we awake in the morning feeling tired and glum and this casts a pall over our whole day; we receive an unexpected pleasant note from a friend, and this buoys us during the difficult circumstances we encounter in our day.
We can be–and should be–informed by our emotions, but our goal is to remain in control. I don’t mean that we don’t feel or express our emotions or that we even them out to a monotone, but rather we acknowledge what we’re feeling–that we’re sad or worried– but we don’t get carried away by them. We listen to them for their wisdom but we don’t allow them to waylay us in the pursuit of our soul-prospering life.
As an example, instead of allowing anxiety to ramp up into a full-blown attack, effectively stopping us in our tracks, we can observe that we’re worried or tense or apprehensive and pause a moment to assess what the trigger is for this. We can ask ourselves what is going on around us–what’s our perception of our circumstances–and what thoughts are we thinking regarding this.
Once we have identified our thought pattern, then we can take back control. We can choose to feel the emotion, such as allowing ourselves to experience being fearful or worried, or we can acknowledge the emotion but insist upon moving forward: recognizing that we’re afraid to step out of our comfort zone but we’re going to take a small step anyway.
This pause doesn’t have to be for hours on end. It can be a matter of a minute or two of checking in with ourselves to determine what we’re feeling, what caused us to feel this way, and what thought patterns might be at the core of these feelings.
For instance, I went through a phase where I was unusually tense and apprehensive. A few minutes of reflection helped me pinpoint a thought pattern of this will be a disaster. I realized a difficult situation at work was triggering this thought pattern.
Once I had this information, I was able to prepare myself by closely looking at the statement this will be a disaster and determining the truth of it. I found I was thinking of this situation as being a disaster because I felt so helpless. When I thought it through, I realized that while a large share of the situation remained out of my control, there was a small portion that I could directly influence. This is where I focused my efforts.
Another aspect of thinking that the situation would be a total disaster stemmed from my worry that I wouldn’t always know what to do, how best to handle particular instances as they came up. I reminded myself that I had a wise friend who I could turn to for advice, which I did as I worked my way through the challenging situation.
Because I understood the context of my emotions, I was able to use what they were telling me and move through the challenging situation without being destroyed by it.
The next time you’re in the throes of strong emotions, take a moment to examine what you’re feeling, how and why you came to feel it, and, in light of this feeling, how can you use it to help you move into your soul-prospering life.
This week we’ll be talking about self-mastery, the true source of willpower, and the solid foundation upon which all lasting change is built.
Here are a baker’s dozen–thirteen–quotes to contemplate today. Jot down the ones that ring true to you and keep them handy. Throughout your week, read them often, think about them deeply, and do your best to apply their wise counsel.
You CAN do it; I’m so sure of it!
Your Friend and Pep Pal,
PS Let me know which quotation(s) resonated with you!
We each have only one life to live. How terrible it would be to come to the end of your life and realize you did not live up to your fullest God-given potential. — Garold N. Larson
My will shall shape my future. Whether I fail or succeed shall be no man’s doing but my own. I am the force; I can clear any obstacle before me or I can be lost in the maze. My choice; my responsibility; win or lose, only I hold the key to my destiny.— Elaine Maxwell
It seems to me that the term ‘free will’ is one of the most manipulated and exploited terms. The real explanation of free will is not that you have free will but that your will can eventually make you free, that will can liberate you, that will can release you from slavery. — Torkom Saraydarian
The cyclone derives its powers from a calm center. So does a person.— Norman Vincent Peale
Who contains himself goes seldom wrong. — Confucious
It will hurt. It will take time. It will require dedication. It will require willpower. You will need to make healthy decisions. It requires sacrifice. You will need to push your body to its max. There will be temptation. But, I promise you, when you reach your goal, it’s worth it. — Unknown
A man who governs his passions is a master of the world. We must either command them, or be enslaved by them. It is better to be a hammer than an anvil. — St. Dominic
I am, indeed, a king, because I know how to rule myself. — Pietro Aretino
Being a warrior is not about the act of fighting, it’s about being so prepared to face a challenge and believing so strongly in a cause that you are fighting for that you refuse to quit. — Richard J. Machowicz
Freedom is born of self-discipline. No individual, no nation, can achieve or maintain liberty without self-control. The undisciplined man is a slave to his own weaknesses. — Alan Valentine
Be master OF mind rather than mastered BY mind — Zen Saying
The height of a man’s success is gauged by his self-mastery; the depth of his failure, by his self-abandonment. There is no other limitation in either direction. And this law is the expression of eternal justice. He who cannot establish a dominion over himself will have no dominion over others. He who masters himself shall be king.— Unknown
A man has to learn that he cannot command things, but that he can command himself; that he cannot coerce the wills of others, but that he can mold and master his own will: and things serve him who serves Truth; people seek guidance of him who is master of himself.— James Allen