Monday, January 17, 2022

Flow State, Resistance, and Accepting What Is

Sometimes words circle in my mind.  They might be my own, or occasionally someone else's, but they always seem to come at precisely the right time.  It's funny how universal wisdom can be whispered in your ear if only you're open enough to listen.

One such piece of wisdom came into my experience years ago, when my aunt, Valerie, said that "your pain is caused by your resistance to what is."  It was difficult for me to understand the time, but something compelled me to write it down.  It's only now that I realize just how much that applies to everything: our interpersonal relationships, our health, conflicts at work, and yes, even our path to abundance.  I'm not trying to suggest that simply dropping resistance is the magic pill that solves all that ails us.  But I am suggesting that the very act of dropping resistance and surrendering to what is is precisely what gets us into the very flow necessary to attract the solution, which I might add could very well be entirely different from what we expect.  

Flow state is the place where we manifest our desires.  So, how do we get into it?  The first step is recognition and acceptance of what isWhat is is the current state of things.  In Eckhart Tolle terms, it is the Now.  Resisting the Now will only cause us pain, so we might as well simply accept it for what it is.  Accept it without judgment.  This is not to say that we can't desire it to be different, for this how we create movement in our lives.  Remaining stagnant in life is also a form of pain that comes from resisting our desire for something new, therefore, it stands to reason that we must also accept those wants.  Only then can we truly step into a flow-state that leads us along the path toward a life of abundance.  

The truth of the matter is, I've identified plenty of moments over the years where I've resisted what is only to find myself stubbornly attempting to walk against the current, and only when I dropped the resistance have I been able to flow toward something truly better.  My most recent resistance within the financial arena has involved laying out larger sums of money.  Not surprising, right?  I mean, we're all excited about money coming in, but who really cares to shell it out?  While it's only natural to resist spending larger sums of money, the question should be asked, "Do I need to allow this money to be spent in order to propel me in the direction of what I truly desire?"  In some instances, the answer might be "Yes."  You see, I have a vision for my life, like most people undoubtedly do.  This vision is so strong and so clear.  I see myself with freedom beyond my wildest dreams living a life where time and money simply exist as tools at my disposal rather than as obstacles.  Along the path to this desired future, I am inspired to take certain actions.  Those actions are crystal clear.  One involves building my business, and the other involves paying off the mortgage on a rental property. Both of these things sound very exciting, don't they?  They are exciting, and when I think about each of them, I am easily able to move up the emotional scale into those higher-level emotions.  That being said, just because an action is inspired and aligned doesn't mean there won't ever be any resistance involved.  You see, both of these things involve large expenditures: business purchases, estimated tax payments, and large principal-only mortgage payments just to name a few.  It's easy to feel resistant to parting with larger sums of money.  Many of us are working to overcome scarcity mindset, an affliction that creates within us a desire to hoard our money, obstructing the very flow of abundance. What we must realize is that holding on too tight to something that must flow out of our experience might just block us from our desired outcome.  If the action is truly inspired, it is also aligned with the desired outcome.  Therefore the desired outcome might well be used in order to soften or eliminate the resistance altogether.  I just made an estimated tax payment, an action I don't particularly enjoy.  But I was able to soften my resistance to this action and accomplish it by visualizing my growing business and thinking about how wonderful it is to have so much extra abundance flowing that it has even created the need for me to do this.  As I prepare to write a rather large check to reduce the principal of the mortgage on that rental, I imagine the freedom I will feel when that obligation has been fully met.  As I picture my future self with all of the freedom she desires, I feel a sense of peace wash over me and have the realization that my resistance has been softened, and I've begun to climb the emotional scale toward a much higher place.  It is from that place that I take my action, and flow toward my desired result.

Recently, Tosha Silver, author of It's Not Your Money, has jumped in to save me from my resistance to large expenditures with two lines from her famous "Change Me Prayer."  The two lines read as follows: 

 "Let everything that needs to go, go.  Let everything that needs to come, come."

While I do not recite the entire prayer regularly, I do recite these two lines most mornings as I get out of bed.  I do this in order to remind myself of the importance of allowing things to flow both into and out of my experience, and more fully allow myself to accept and surrender to what is.  If what is is something that is supposed to exit our experience and we resist it, we greatly restrict our own ability to flow into the very life we are working to create for ourselves, so it begs the question: Which do we choose, our desired future or our resistance?

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    Sunday, January 9, 2022

    Paralyzed by Choices

    I remember being just seven years old and winning an elementary school spelling bee.  I was beyond excited.  I had never won anything before, and was exhilarated by experiencing an academic success; perhaps one of my very first.  As the teacher called my name, announcing me as the winner, she also revealed to the class that I was also to be the recipient of a grand prize.  I would have the opportunity to select from one of two items: a brand new watch or a calculator.

    The color immediately drained from my already pale, little face and my stomach was in knots.  I burst into tears, and jumped up out of the seat, running to the cafeteria as fast as my little legs would take me.  There I ran straight into my grandmother's arms.  (If you're asking why my grandmother was in the cafeteria, it's because we lived in a seriously tiny town, and she was the school cook.)  You see, not only had my teacher presented me with my first award, but unknowingly, she also bestowed upon me my very first experience with making a decision.

    Sobbing, I explained to my grandmother that I was going to have to make a decision.  I had never had to make a decision all by myself before, and I was absolutely terrified!  I mean, how do you go about making a decision?  And what happens if you make the wrong one?!  Would I spend forever swimming in a sea of regret over the path not taken?  I had no idea!  My little, seven-year-old self would have much rather been told which prize I had been receiving than have to do the work of deciding for myself.  Being devoid of choice alleviates the individual of a certain amount of personal responsibility and the dreaded feeling of regret that has the opportunity to come with it.  Regret truly is a cancerous emotion, and human nature is such that it will do almost anything to avoid experiencing it.  Even if that means avoiding the element of choice altogether.  It's significantly easier to allow life to keep passing you by, handing you things that you subsequently are forced to deal with than it is to bear the responsibility of having chosen in a manner that you later find undesirable. 

    In case you're curious what my grandmother said to my hysterical, seven-year-old self, she very simply stated that "You only need to make a choice for now.  You can always choose again later."  She went on to explain that I did, in fact, need to select one of these things, but that there was no reason I couldn't have both.  If I really wanted a watch and a calculator, I could have both of these things.  It just might not be at the same time.  

    The truth is that I really don't remember which decision I made.  Isn't that funny?  The very, first decision I ever had to make on my own...   While I may not remember the actual prize I chose, I will never forget that pit in my stomach, the anxiety associated with choice, or the wisdom my grandmother shared with me that day.  You only need to make a choice for now.  You can always choose again later.

    We frequently discuss the freedom and power associated with having a choice, but rarely address the responsibility or paralysis that accompanies it.  Along with the power of choices comes the knowledge and understanding that we are truly steering the ship toward our future.  But you see, here's the kicker:  we always were.  We've always been steering that ship, but passively. Sitting with our hands off the wheel, we could fool ourselves into the idea that the tides, undercurrent, or something else was to blame for the resulting undesirable direction to which we float.  Moreover, our successes get chalked up to simple luck as a result of our passivity.  

    When it comes to our financial lives, the choices can seem overwhelming.  More and more, people are becoming aware of the need to save money, but suffer from paralysis over the endless array of choices involved.  How much should I save?  Where should I save: retirement account? Liquid savings account?  Brokerage account?  If I use a retirement account, should it be an IRA or a 401k?  Pay down the mortgage or invest more?  Sometimes, when we feel we have entirely too many choices, paralysis sets in.  But where does this paralysis come from?

     Reasons for Paralysis:

    There are three primary reasons people seem to suffer from paralysis when it comes to financial choices (or quite frankly any life choices): lack of knowledge, fear of the future, or regret from the past.  Let's take a moment to address these one by one.

    Lack of Knowledge:

    Sometimes our financial choices are accompanied by a myriad of things we simply do not understand.  Perhaps we don't understand the jargon, rules, or details of a financial strategy well enough to feel confident executing a certain financial task.  We might also not know how to go about getting a financial professional to help us.  So, we simply bury our heads in the sand.

    I have a client that struggled with this for years regarding her retirement savings options.  She had access to a 401k at her workplace, but didn't particularly understand how it worked. She didn't know how much she was allowed to contribute, or what the recommendation would be for someone in her situation.  She had also heard about IRAs, and wondered whether that was a better option than the 401k.  If she could even get as far as deciding between an IRA or a 401k, she wondered how on earth she would decide which investments to choose? 

    Unfortunately, personal finance isn't the sort of thing most of us learned in high school (which is unfortunate).  So, we are forced to contend with it on our own.  Fortunately, there are a lot of ways to get this sort of knowledge.  You can start by reading books, magazines, and blogs that contain personal finance content.  You can also take courses. As I said before, this particular person is one of my clients. So, she decided to sign up for my group coaching program in order to educate herself on things she didn't know and address some of her limiting beliefs around money.

    Fear of the Future:

    We become so terrified of making mistakes that we allow ourselves to sit on the sidelines and do nothing.  It's ironic that personal finance is largely about living beautiful and fulfilling lives right now while setting aside for our future selves, and yet so many people find themselves in a state of panic right now and fear over the future.  That's no way to live.

    By Law of Attraction standards, the most important moment we can experience is the one we are in right now.  Nothing else truly exists.  This is not to say that we fail to set money aside in the now, for it is important to remember that every moment we are currently living was once the unknown future.  So, one of the most proactive, inspired actions to take regarding the future is to take pleasure in the process of setting funds aside now.  

    It seems that many people get a bit blocked when they try to conceptualize experiencing the joy of saving right now without overly focusing on the future. So, let's look at this another way.  Don't you love planning your vacation?  You look at websites in order to familiarize yourself with your options; you begin to book airline tickets, hotels, and excursions.  You fantasize, seeing yourself in exotic locations having beautiful experiences, and in the process, you feel pure joy.  The moment hasn't come yet and you aren't overly focused on it, but you are also gifting yourself a beautiful experience right now.  You are enjoying a delicious story for which you are the writer, designing your life in your mind.  As you book the airline tickets, hotels, and excursions, you are funding the experience in the now, and joyfully so.  You don't fixate on it; you just do it, and you're excited that you've set yourself up for an adventure-filled experience of your own design.  Clearly, the vacation hasn't come yet.  But you're aware that you'll enjoy the results a lot more if you give it your attention before it occurs.  Planning for our future financial needs and wants can be very similar.  We don't particularly need to obsess over it, but just like planning for a vacation, if we simply determine our projected future need, we can set aside from the abundance we experience right now, and take great pleasure in knowing that we're set to enjoy a comfortable future.

    Regret from the Past:

    It's entirely too easy to get caught in a loop of "should have."  I should have started investing sooner.  I should have cash-flowed college.  I should have run the other direction instead of filling out that credit card offer.  This negative self-talk lends itself to extremely low-level emotions on the emotional scale and tends to feed into perpetuating a negative money story, reinforcing our limiting beliefs, and creating scarcity mindset, all of which create momentum in the direction of that which we do not want.  Why would we carry that into our present and future?  

    I think back to what my grandmother said to me.  You can always choose again.  If you made a choice yesterday that you weren't happy with, try again.  You didn't invest in your 401k last year?  Don't just sit on the sidelines now because you did before!  Choose again.  You racked up some credit card debt last year?  Choose again.  Take that credit card out of your wallet; make the decision to stop carrying it, and start throwing extra money on the balance!

    Part of choosing again involves forgiving ourselves.  We must forgive ourselves for that which we did not know, our mistakes, and that which we feared.  Forgive ourselves; love ourselves, and let go.  Sometimes the letting go is the hardest part.  We want to punish our current selves for the sins of our former selves, but you want to know who else is going to suffer?  Our future selves.  Don't all of ourselves deserve better?

    As I think back, there are so many choices in my life and with money that I would love to have the opportunity to do again.  Sometimes, in the moment, I thought I was doing the right thing for myself, but later upon self-reflection, I suspect that I didn't.  That's a tough pill to swallow honestly, but allowing current me to beat-up former me won't help.  Perhaps the best answer is to choose to love former me and accept where she was at that time.

    ...and while I still can't remember whether I chose the watch or the calculator, (although now that I think of it, I think it might have been the calculator) I'll never forget that first experience with the anxiety that can come with decision-making.  I will also never forget what my grandmother taught me about the permanency of those choices:  You only have to choose for now.  You can always choose again later.

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      Sunday, January 2, 2022

      Something Sexy on the Sidelines

      The egoic mind is a funny thing; something shiny in the background captures its attention and away we go.  We find ourselves ruminating on this little side item until it makes its way center stage, stealing focus from what might arguably be the more critical parts of the current story.  It's not to say this sexy little side number doesn't deserve its moment in the limelight; it may even become the star somewhere down the line.  But the real question is what's its place right now?  Where does it belong in my current experience?

      Now the tricky part is in knowing that where our attention goes, the energy flows.  When we allow our minds to ruminate on little side items, we begin to create momentum in that direction, frequently stealing energy from other spaces in our lives.  While not always a bad thing, it's worth considering: Where do I really want to create momentum?  We've all heard anecdotes about the highly successful businessman that creates a brilliant empire, building his company from the ground up only to lose his family in the process because while he was creating momentum in this one area of his life, he failed to give attention to it in another.  While you can't entirely compare the businessman's family to the less critical side items in your life, the lesson remains intact.  Momentum is created in the direction of that which has our mental and emotional focus.  We will give the object of our mental and emotional focus the majority of our love, attention, creativity, and desires.  In the process of pouring ourselves into the object of our focus, we lay the groundwork for inspired action to flow into our experience and breath yet more life into it, and this, ladies and gentlemen, is what the beginning of momentum looks like.  Sounds pretty great actually. The creation of momentum becomes problematic when experience a lack of awareness when we don't entirely realize what it is that we're giving our attention to, or when we fail to curate the objects of our attention and something sexy on the sidelines sneaks in at the expense of something else.  It's all about deliberate creation, a phrase popular among those practitioners of Law of Attraction.  Perhaps to that term, we should add deliberate momentum as a predominant feature of deliberate creation

      Sometimes in life, we notice something on the sidelines that we really, truly want to promote to a more predominant position.  We make it the object of our attention.  We pour our love, hope, joy, and creativity into it, which leads to inspiration and inspired action.  We deliberately create the momentum that allows this thing on the sidelines of our life to flow toward the center of it.  Quite frankly, this is how many people start successful businesses.  They recognize something on the sidelines of their life that they're good at; something that brings them joy... They begin to give it their attention and become inspired to take actions to further elevate it.  Eventually, what was once their former hobby has become a full-fledged business.  Now, what about the reverse?  What about momentum that was not deliberate, that may or may not be serving our highest good?  What happens when we allow our minds to ruminate on something in the periphery that we might not really want or be ready to move center stage?  

      If we aren't deliberate in selecting the things we focus on, we run the risk of pouring energy into something that is not for our higher good or ultimately neglecting something that we would be served well to give more of our attention to.  When interviewing potential clients, I see this regularly.  When we start talking, people frequently get really focused on and excited about investing. They talk about how they really want to learn the skills to do that.  (Don't get me wrong, I agree that they should learn about investing, just typically not first.)  Their budget, on the other hand, seems to be something they're oftentimes way less excited about focusing on.  Budgeting doesn't generally feel anywhere near as exciting, and yet neglecting it in order to create momentum in another area prematurely can create other issues.  A neglected budget can lead to increased consumer debt, slower debt payoff, and less available funds to save or invest once you get to that step.  So, perhaps in this example, that shiny thing off to the side is likely to become a great candidate to take center stage eventually, but not immediately.  Again, it's an exercise in deciding which things in life should receive your focus (and when) so that you can create momentum deliberately rather than unintentionally.  

      This unintentional momentum can happen to the best of us.  If it happens that we notice ourselves focusing on something sexy on the side to the neglect of something else in our lives, we should first and foremost give ourselves grace for simply being human.  Next, it's critical that we recognize that we're experiencing some form of resistance related to the thing we're neglecting.  Investigate why.  What emotions are triggered by giving that item your attention?  Using the example of the neglected budget, could it be fear?  Do you fear learning that you're spending isn't really under control?  Do you feel overwhelmed?  Shame?  Then ask yourself, "Why?"  It's not necessary to allow the egoic mind to ruminate on the answers, but a simple awareness can go a long way.  If we can identify the resistance and reason for it, we can use that information to lead us into a state of flow.  

      Ultimately, it's up to the individual to decide whether that something sexy on the sidelines is the right thing to receive their focus and build momentum around, or if it's simply something that's being used as a distraction from something they've created resistance around.  It's a matter of priorities.  So, as this new year begins, and people naturally evaluate where they are versus where they'd like to be, it might be a valuable exercise to consider which items in your life are currently receiving the most focus.  Have you been focusing on something off to the side at the expense of something else in need of your attention or is this the year you intentionally promote something on the side to being center stage?  The choice is solely yours, let's make it intentional.  

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