Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Practicing Gratitude to Attract Abundance

As the holidays approach, I find that my thoughts keep wandering back to my niece.  She's a kind and intelligent little girl.  She loves to laugh, sing, make up stories, and is often the case with other kind and intelligent children, she desperately wants a puppy.  She dialed this order in to Santa, her parents, the tooth fairy, and anyone who might listen a solid year ago...  Her parents, on the other hand, weren't nearly in such a hurry to grant this fairly adamant wish.  Like any intelligent set of parents, they wanted to test their daughter's ability to handle the responsibility of a puppy.  They cleverly devised a system.  They drew up a chart with a list of chores that she should be doing weekly.  It was explained to her that she would need to prove that she could: A.) Do the chores, and B.) Make this a routine that didn't require them to constantly remind her about.  In other words, they were looking for initiative and responsibility.  Could their daughter remember that there were things that she needed to do without her parents' constant reminder?  Could she handle the responsibility of completing the same boring and occasionally even annoying task week in and week out?  On the surface, this test seems simple enough; however, closer inspection reveals a rather clever design.  My niece is still a very little girl.  So, her chores are incredibly simple: watering house plants, putting toys away, making her bed, cleaning her room.  

My niece's chore list all seem to have a commonality.  They all require her to treat something in her life with respect.  For example, take something simple like putting the toys away.  Have you ever noticed that parents get very upset with their children when this doesn't happen?  They don't like the mess, but they recognize that every time they buy a toy for their child, it costs them money.  Toys cost money; money costs time.  When the toys are left out to be stepped on and broken, I can't help but wonder if some of the frustration comes from the idea that their time has been devalued.  The simple act of putting the toys away when they're not in use is a highly suggestive act.  It reveals an underlying attitude of respect for the object, and gratitude for having it in your life. Moreover, parents seem to be a bit more generous when they feel like the items they've given are appreciated.  In fact, isn't this just human nature?  No one wants to give you a gift if you didn't appreciate the previous one, right?

This situation involving my niece provides some very real-world insight into the practice of gratitude.  

Recently, we've discussed several laws of the universe, ideologies containing elements of universal truths intended to help us navigate the flow of life.  Some of these universal laws are centered around the idea of "awareness."  The Universal Law of Gratitude is almost entirely focused on awareness and is one of the building blocks of an abundant life.

The Universal Law of Gratitude is simple in its suggestion that gratitude breeds abundance.  In other words, the more things you are grateful for, the more you will attract things into your experience to be grateful for.  A gratitude practice is the cornerstone of a Law of Attraction practice.  This is also why it pays to treat our money with respect, even if it appears that you only have a little of it.  It is absolutely imperative that you handle that which you already have with love and respect.  Sometimes, I hear people sing songs of complaint about how "broke" they are, and that their rent is too high, or that they "can't" save money.  I've been guilty of this myself in past years, but I must say, we have to practice a different way.  These ideas are quite literally money repellant.  We must reframe these ideas.  Again, I repeat: This takes practice.  If we want to have more in our life experiences to appreciate, we must demonstrate that we are grateful for what we've already got.  Otherwise, we are simply demonstrating with our behavior that we don't want the responsibility of having more of it.  

Money is a responsibility, and just like my niece wants to be worthy of having a puppy, I too want to be worthy.  I want to be worthy of the responsibility of handling more money.  So, first I must demonstrate my gratitude for that which has already been entrusted to my care.  As I've referred to before, we must stop the record of limiting beliefs that we've been playing over and over again.  As illustrated by the previous example, none of us are "broke."  We cannot tie our identities to such ideas, and must replace them with ones that lend themselves to gratitude: I am perfectly capable.  Rather than the complaint that "my rent is too high," perhaps it is worth considering whether or not you would like to be a homeowner one day?  That might also be considered an expensive endeavor.  So, a replacement idea might be in the realization that this experience is preparing you for the responsibilities of homeownership.  It's entirely too easy to claim that "I can't save money" if you're looking at the gap between where your savings account is at currently versus where you would like it to be.  But could you bring yourself to look at each dollar you did save with love and admiration?  Could you appreciate each and every one of those dollars and even yourself for what you were able to do?  If you can love and appreciate what you did, and what is already there, you are demonstrating through your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that you want the responsibility of more to come into your experience.  You can choose to use your attitude to either attract abundance or to repel it.  The choice is yours.

Practicing gratitude for that which we can see is only one part of the equation; practicing gratitude for that which we don't see is the other part.  It often feels more difficult.  Interestingly, it seems easy for us to notice the "lack" of something in our experience.  Again, this focus on "lack" is directly related to the limiting beliefs that we must continuously work to catch and release.  I would challenge you to work on being grateful for that which you cannot easily see.  Look at what's there. Ask yourself: What would I really notice if it were missing?  My health.  The fact that I have savings and available credit.  I would miss that I can keep up with my rent/mortgage/bills.  If suddenly, it was taken for me, I would really miss the fact that I get to work from home and have wonderful benefits like health, dental, vision, 401k, and many others.  I would miss the overwhelmingly positive response I'm getting from people regarding my business.  I would miss the relationships in my life.  Perhaps, if I would miss the absence of these things so intensely, they are the very things that deserve my gratitude now.

As Americans enter a time where giving thanks is a deeply ingrained tradition, I challenge you to look at your own gratitude practice.  How can you practice gratitude every, single day, and demonstrate through your behavior that you are ready, willing, and able to accept the responsibility of more abundance in your experience?

...and for those of you that may be wondering, yes, my niece is getting her puppy.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Align to Design a Life You Love

I've been working to design a life I love for some time now, and things are certainly headed in the right direction.  Some of this work has been on my own, while some of it has been in a group setting with my friends at The Fioneers.  There's something about the process of deliberately designing your life that requires you to stop and take stock of that which you've built around you because the truth is that there is nothing you've surrounded yourself with that has come to you by accident.  Much of our current life's circumstance is the direct result of our past thoughts, feelings, and subsequently behaviors.  

Ten years ago, I was living on the West Coast, living a life by my own design.  I was producing a lot of theater, had wonderful friends, and enjoyed my community.  I had also designed my way into a situation where I was felt a bit stuck.  I couldn't see a path to a higher income or higher level of theatrical success, both of which were important to me.  These were desires which were starting to come up within me.  I could envision myself returning to New York (where I had previously lived), and having greater income opportunities as well as theatrical ones.  What began to happen was remarkable.  I remembered how much I enjoyed working as a substitute teacher when I had been living in the city, and the pleasure I derived from helping students.  I remembered the vibrant energy that filled me as I walked through the bustling streets on a Spring afternoon.  I was inspired to do a bit of research and learned about a handful of programs that existed in New York City that were geared toward training teachers.  They were remarkable opportunities: a Master's Degree with no added debt, and a salary while earning the proper credential.  I knew instantaneously that I would be accepted into one of these programs, and return to the city.  

The Universal Law of Commitment suggests that the key to having that which you desire is in having no indecisiveness whatsoever.  It states that if you commit to a thing that aligns with your overall purpose, things seem to (almost magically) fall into place.  

Fall into place, they did.  It seemed almost absurd that these programs would select me when they had so many local applicants that might seem less of a gamble than I.  But the truth is that I didn't even give my mind the opportunity to think about that.  I believed with everything in my being that this was going to happen for me; and then it happened.  This manifestation felt miraculous to me, but let me be clear.  It wasn't without action on my part.  I did my part mentally and emotionally first.  I was fully committed to the understanding that this would happen for me.  That being said, people aren't giving you jobs, fellowships, opportunities you don't ask for!  In other words, I had to ask for what I wanted.  Then, I had to take inspired actions.  I had to apply for the program, collect recommendations, prepare for group interviews, fly across the country to interview for these programs.  I didn't wish a wish, do nothing, and then be surprised my life hadn't changed.  Simultaneously, I didn't take any actions that felt upstream for me. All of the actions I took felt good and felt right at the time.  I felt the wave of internal inspiration that made me act.  If an action felt really grinding or uphill to me, I didn't take it because it wasn't flowing.  In fact at that time, in my West Coast life, there were some things that were flowing, but there were some other things, and important ones at that, that were starting to feel very uphill.  I can't help but believe that it was like that so as to help me to redirect myself into the flow of my desired life.  

There's a funny thing about our desired life:  It is constantly changing.  But isn't it a little bit fun to hit a moving target?  My life desire is shifting a bit.  I feel myself wanting greater freedom.  Within that shifting desire, I am starting to see the path:  I see me working part-time; that's unusual in the realm of education, but I'm fully committed.  I only plan to choose that which flows for me.  I'm not exactly sure how that will come about, but I will keep my eyes wide open, and be ready to take action when the right situation comes along.  The truth is, that this is a medium-range plan in terms of time frame.  I am not looking for it to happen tomorrow, as we're on track to hit Coast-FI within the next two years, but if the opportunity comes sooner, we're open to it.  

In order to be open to an opportunity, we must align ourselves to it in the present moment.  Alignment means being open mentally and emotionally, making ourselves a vibrational match to that which we want.  But it also means preparing your life situation or environment for a potential shift.  People that are expanding their families or beginning to work from home align their spaces by preparing nurseries and offices at home.  What about our finances?  How do we align ourselves financially for that which we desire? What does it mean to get prepared for opportunities that could create a huge life-shift?  While I don't expect a huge shift of this nature to happen tomorrow, I must do the preparation that feels good in the now.  We cannot live in the past, or in the future.  Now is the only moment in which we can live; therefore, we can only really deal with the past or the future "on the level of the present," as Eckhart Tolle suggests.  

This is where visualization is incredibly helpful.  I ask myself, "If a huge, life-shifting opportunity were to come right now, what things would make it really easy to accept?  What would make it flow?"  The mind in me has a lot of ideas to offer (it loves to throw shade on an otherwise bright and sunny pathway).  It offers: What about medical/dental insurance coverage, retirement savings, liquid savings, and monthly income needs?  These are the things that can be taken action upon right now.  The opportunity that comes to me might or might not include insurance.  If it does, great.  If not, what are my options?  I can find out about these things now.  Right now, I can control my knowledge of my options.  It turns out that if my partner and I file domestic partnership in our state, I can simply be added to her insurance plan, which is identical to mine, and will not cost us any more.  Easy.  Monthly income needs: I don't know what my future opportunities look like, and I'm confident that they will provide me with plenty of money, but is there something I feel inspired to do right now?  Paying off our rental will increase our monthly take-home substantially; the side business I am starting will also provide some income.  Liquid savings: We're already saving quite a bit; just keep going.  Retirement savings: we're already contributing to our pensions; and there's a lot going into my Roth 401k.  I feel really good about that.  We have Roth IRAs, could open solo 401k's with the opening of our new business (as that's a special type of retirement account for the self-employed).  Being so close to Coast-FI, this isn't a huge concern, but rather, a mini-consideration.

One thing that I find on my mind is considering the length of time my partner will wish to work full time.  We check in periodically about this, and she has indicated to me that she doesn't have any "end date" in mind.  That being said, my soul's desire is to be prepared for her to change her mind at any point in time.  At the end of each school year, I want her to have to choose either to work another year or not.  Plain and simple.  I don't want our life decisions to be based on golden handcuffs.  If she chooses to work full time for another five years, her pension will be secured; another ten years (beyond May) will secure our health insurance through our retirement.  That would be our ideal, and that knowledge makes me feel very secure.  But, I cannot control the future, nor can I live in it.  Despite nearing Coast-FI, what can be done is further padding our retirement by way of her retirement accounts.  Also, she is the older of the two of us and will reach the traditional retirement age sooner, meaning we'll easily be able to access her retirement funds sooner than mine.  This is another reason why we might want to bulk her account up a bit more. Recently we bumped her contribution level up by a couple percent, but I think we'll do that several more times over the course of this school year.  Having a larger nest-egg could go a long way in compensating for the possibility that we "miss the mark" on securing health insurance for life.  While I'm very much attracted to that dangling carrot, I don't feel good about requiring her to keep doing something for that reason alone.  So, I feel inspired to "buy the choice."  

So, while I mentally and emotionally line up to the possibility of a life-shift that will bring greater freedom into my experience, I will also line up my finances and open the door of allowing these things to happen.  Right now that looks like: increasing her retirement savings and paying off the rental (which was already our intention).  What are the opportunities you're trying to align yourself to?  What things do you need to put into place, financially or otherwise, to be able to say "yes" if those opportunities should arise?  Taking appropriate inspired action now can line you up to an easy "yes" when it arrives.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Unlimited: Playing Catch and Release with Limiting Beliefs

Do you ever stop to think about why you expect things to be so hard?  I grew up hearing that "Hard work pays off."  In some respects, perhaps that paid off.  I am a "hard worker," a loyal friend, coworker, and employee.  I have a lot of attributes that make me someone that people want to hire, work with, and keep around.  These are all good things, but I can't help but think about some of the negative impacts the "Hard work" mentality has given me.  

Perhaps my problem is in the phrasing alone.  The connotation of "hard work" may have done as much damage as it has good.  While I believe that any "job worth doing is worth doing well," I'm not sure that "hard" has to come into play.  Over many years of psychological conditioning, it seems that it has set me up to having some limiting beliefs that are not serving me well.

I spend many years believing that work was something to be endured.  Isn't that the essence of "hard work?"  If it felt like play, would it really be "work" at all?  If it filled me with joy, didn't that mean I wasn't working "hard" enough?  If I spent all of my time with my head in the clouds pursuing my theatrical passions, did that mean I wasn't being adult enough?  I mean, seriously!  They call it a "play."  Ironically, plays are really a lot of work, but I digress...

I got used to the idea that "fun things" shouldn't make me money because they weren't really "work," and if they felt like play, then they weren't really "hard."  So, this meant I was violating the sacred policy that "hard work pays off."  But did it actually pay off?

I spent a number of years working in positions that I liked, but also detoured me from what I felt to be my larger purpose.  But hey!  That's "hard work," right?  I also stayed for too long.  I would walk right up to the line of misery and then stay for a few more years.  Isn't it supposed to be hard? Did it pay off?  Not really, I stayed too long.  I took time away from my larger purpose.  I was underpaid.  I didn't advance (which is fine, because I didn't really want to, but still).  When eventually, I moved on I didn't particularly feel ahead in my overall purpose, career, satisfaction level, or financial wellbeing!  Yet, "hard work" pays off?

I decided to get trained in something that I found very interesting, and has the ability to create a pretty nice income.  It's "hard" intellectually speaking, but somehow fun for me.  Sounds like a winner, right?!  Well, sort of...  Enter our friend "Limiting Belief!"  I took that training and started working for someone else that absorbed entirely too much of my time for very little pay.  There are some industries where you theoretically have to "pay your dues," but doesn't it make sense to at least look at the whole picture to ask yourself? While I enjoy this particular career area, do I enjoy it in this context? Will this situation get better?  Will they pay me what I'm worth?  Are they taking advantage of my skills, but robbing me of my time and my money?  

So, why do we do this?  Why do we continuously accept the wrong position, with the wrong people, for the wrong pay?  Why do we buy into the idea that work should be endured; that we shouldn't make money doing fun things?

Much like the Law of Attraction, The Universal Law of Self-Worth states that you can only attract that which you feel worthy of attracting.  It's very difficult to admit that you don't feel worthy of something; it feels entirely more vulnerable than most people's comfort level will allow.  Yet, we all have those areas, and many times they can be found in relation to work and money.  If I grew up believing this "hard work" ideology, it has set me up to believe that what I am worthy of is a position that will "allow me the opportunity to experience work as being hard."  Well, I got that.  In both the above examples, I experienced work as being hard.  And if the belief is that it takes "hard work to get ahead," and my goal is to get ahead, I am likely to keep putting myself in positions to experience work as "hard" rather than leaving them in favor of something that feels better.

What I, like many other people need, is some new programming.  There are two more Universal Laws that offer some wisdom that I find helpful.  The first of these is the Law of Release; let go of anything you no longer have use for.  This requires a certain amount of self-awareness.  We must realize that we are holding something that doesn't serve us.  Since we know that these things come up over and over again, we must continually watch our thoughts and catch the ones that aren't serving us well.  When I catch myself thinking that fun things and financially lucrative things aren't the same; I must notice, stop myself and let it go.  This will take practice, but it's worthwhile if the thought or belief doesn't serve our greater good.   The Law of Belief suggests that you can have whatever you want so long as you can give up the belief that you can't have it. So, the two ideas work in tandem.  In order, catch myself thinking the thought associated with limiting beliefs; practice releasing it; replace it with the thing I desire.

Reprogramming ourselves takes practice.  I am currently working on extending my business, the details of which will roll out shortly.  In the process, I find myself running into some limiting beliefs.  I catch my mind resurfacing old ideas.  It says things like "If you really want to help people, you can't charge them!  If you're going to make money, it shouldn't be that much!  Work is supposed to be hard, not fun!"  The first step is to catch it.  I notice that my mind is doing it again, and literally tell it to stop.  Stop the mind dead in its tracks the moment it comes.  At the very least if you can stop it from circulating the thought over and over again, you're moving in the right direction.  That part get's faster over time.  Then feed the mind a new idea, "People choose which things to spend money on, and do so if they feel it adds value to their lives. My prices are industry standard prices.  It is good to enjoy things and earn money doing those same things."  Saying such things one time, doesn't change years of programing.  We must be gentle with ourselves, and recognize we're going to have to play "catch and release" with our limiting beliefs for some time.  That's okay, it will eventually become second nature.

Now, my example involves one that I am currently running into in my own experience.  I challenge you to consider where you have limiting beliefs where money or career is concerned.  Do you have beliefs about "good people and wealth" going together, or what happens "every time you have money in the bank" or that you "will never be able to retire?"  I challenge you to try this week to catch some of your limiting beliefs.  Practice stopping yourself, and replacing the thought with a new belief, one that will serve you better.

I'd love to hear how it goes.

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

The Path of Least Resistance

If there's anything that living through this global pandemic has taught me, it's the art of being deliberate and thoughtful with my actions.  I the morning, I would mask up just before leaving the house to get on bus number one, then bus number two.  Enter the school building; immediately hand sanitize on my way to move my timecard and drop my backpack and coat at my desk; walk down to the restroom to wash my hands; return to my room; sanitize again.  This ritual has become second nature in my life, as in the lives of many others.

The other day, I finished teaching my in-person class and left to catch one of my two busses heading home.  As I stood in my place toward the back of the bus, my eyes happened upon a woman standing just a few feet from me.  She was talking to another woman, wearing her mask as a chin guard.  I turned my back toward her so as to avoid breathing where she exhaled.  Just as I positioned myself to have my back to her, I glance up again only to see that the old man seated a few feet in front of me had his mask below his chin, and the teenager two seats away had no mask at all.  This one particular commute illustrates a tremendous source of inner turmoil I've been faced with recently (since Labor Day really).  Every day that I teach in-person at my school, I am required to take four busses to commute there and back.  While the MTA may be taking appropriate action to sanitize busses and trains, I have been interacting with people whose  perspective on safe practices are in discord with my own.  

The Law of Resistance states that anything in which you resist, you draw unto yourself.  While I do my best to practice detachment in those moments on the bus and draw my attention to something that feels positive, I can definitely say that I have some resistance in that area.  What is resistance?  If you distill it down to its very basic essence, resistance is fear.  There's a funny thing about resistance, aka fear: you will encounter fear over and over again.  It will literally keep reproducing itself until you are forced to deal with it.

Strategies for Dealing with Fear/Resistance:

1.)  Change your mindset.

The last few weeks, we've spent some time talking about focusing on the present moment, as it is the only moment we're actually able to actively live within.   Focusing on the now really helps lower resistance because fear is largely attached to the future.  We need to practice centering ourselves by pulling our minds into the current moment.  Glance out the window and notice the raindrops or leaves falling.  Really watch them.  Perhaps, glance inward and notice how you are actually feeling in that moment.  If you try this you will notice that it is much more difficult to feel resistance (or fear) while you actively stare down the fear itself.  Once it has lessened just a bit, ask yourself "What can I do right now?" There are likely to be options, at least one of which will strike a chord with you.  If the situation that causes resistance is one that is likely to keep surfacing, it might also be worth considering "Is there a way to practice the manner in which I handle these situations that lesson my resistance to them?"

2.)  Change the situation (or your place within the situation).

Sometimes the situation causing the resistance literally doesn't need to happen.  Moreover, if it does need to happen, maybe my role within it is one that can be altered?  Do I need to be a part of this situation at all?  If so, do I need to interact with this situation the same way I have in the past (that has caused me resistance)?  It's important to realize that changing your position with regards to a situation isn't the same as ignoring it in order to avoid dealing with the problem. Remember, fears of a similar nature will continue to resurface over and over again until you find a way to deal with it.  

Strategies in Practice:

There are people in my life that have a lot of resistance surrounding the idea of retirement.  Many of them have a scarcity mindset.  They're resistant to the idea of investing, fearing that they will lose all of their money because investing is complicated and they don't understand it.  One such friend panics internally whenever related conversations come up.  First address the mindset.  This fear isn't actually a fear about what's going on right now.  Right now, this person is fine.  They're earning enough money, have some liquid savings, and spend less than they make.  This fear is 100% future based.  Starting by recognizing that they're not in a "dire place" right now is critical.  Next, consider what can be done right now?  They could open a brokerage account and fund an IRA, find an investment professional to help them, or start contributing to the 401k at work.  After considering what could be done right now, they might consider which of these options is the "path of least resistance?"  Yes, I am advocating for the path of least resistance.  They're already dealing with huge amounts of resistance and we're trying to lessen that.  Why would we want to select the hardest, most anxiety-producing option?  In this scenario, starting up the work 401k might feel manageable.  Then, when this fear comes back up (and we know it will), they can tell themselves that they've already started taking steps to address this, and invalidate that fear.  It will take time and practice to alter the course of a mindset that has been practiced over and over again.  But repeating the little actions that can be taken right now can and will help.  Especially if you consciously remind yourself that the fear is invalid or unnecessary when it comes back up.

There are other instances where changing the situation becomes necessary.  Before I started teaching, I had become extremely unsatisfied with my job.  I was greeted with a lot of resistance on a regular basis.  I felt that I worked too hard for way too little money, and no longer felt passionate about the work.  I felt like getting ahead was virtually impossible. Plus, there were certain tasks that really annoyed me.  First, I reflected on my mindset, asking myself whether or not there were things I still enjoyed doing there.  Next, I changed worked with my manager to change my position within the situation.  I switched into a slightly different role that provided me with more of the tasks I enjoyed and less of the ones that I didn't. I knew that I still wasn't entirely satisfied so I thought about what I would enjoy.  I thought back to some of the happier employment situations I had been in, and realized that I enjoyed teaching, and wanted to live in NYC again.  So, I started taking the actions that I could take in that moment, which included applying for programs that would help me become credentialed and employed teaching in NYC.  Within months, I was moving back to the city, and starting along a new career path.  I utilized the present moment to address my mindset, I changed my position within my existing situation, took inspired actions, and ultimately changed my situation entirely.  As an added bonus, addressing the resistance I was experiencing resulted in having my master's degree paid for and my income more than doubling.

Some of you may be wondering what has become of my current situation.  About a month ago, I made an appointment with my partner's primary care physician (I liked her so well I made her mine as well).  We looked at my labs, documented my family medical history, and chatted about my dietary and exercise routines.  At the end of the visit, she provided me with a letter suggesting that I should teach remotely in order to be cautious.  That same evening, I filed the appropriate request.  After that, I didn't really spend much time thinking about it.  I merely went on with my daily life.  Approximately three weeks later, I received notification that my request had been granted.  I am permitted to continue teaching remotely.

You see, the source of my resistance was related to being in crowded public places during this pandemic.  It didn't feel like something I wanted to be doing. Yet, I love my students and want to be able to provide them with the support they need.  When greeted with this resistance, I realized that it would be best for me to advocate for myself in an effort to change my position within the situation.  Now, I get to work with my very same students; It's simply the context that's changed.  

Remember, the art of overcoming resistance involves confronting the fear itself.  Sometimes, it's best to go with the simplest method of doing so whether it be a slight mindset shift, or changing your position within a situation, or the situation itself.  The path of least resistance isn't necessarily a bad thing!