What a Gem

Thoughts to Contemplate by Dr. Luann Robinson Hull


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Thrive

Maximize Your Happiness Potential

happy gear brain image

“…The desire for happiness is essential to man. It is the motivator of all our acts. The most venerable, clearly understood, enlightened, and reliable constant in the world is not only that we want to be happy, but that we want only to be so.”—Matthieu Ricard

There is an endless supply of resources on how to follow the yellow brick road to happiness. And in recent years, the scientific community has jumped on board fortifying us with impressive data providing empirical evidence to show that we as a species have been hardwired to operate from a foundation of happiness and well-being (Happily Ever After…Right Now, prologue xxx). All we have to do to create that possibility for ourselves is to to focus on training the area of our brain already blueprinted to strengthen our happiness potential. This region is called the Anterior Cingulate Cortex (ACC). It governs thinking and emotion and also has been shown to support us in having more empathic responses, which evoke feelings of loving compassion, heightened social awareness, and increased sensitivity to the moment.

The ACC’s job is to utilize a specific neuron unique to humans. This neuron is stimulated to increase in supply when a positive or neutral response eclipses a negative reaction to an emotional trigger —even if it is just taking a breath or two. The stock continues to multiply with every nanosecond you choose not to fight (or flee). As these “happy,” calming neurons develop momentum they can eventually provide enough gusto to balance out the effect of the unruly cascade of neurochemicals designed for your survival, originating from a different region in your head. As this development is unfolding, your brain states are being altered by a process called neuroplasticity. Therefore, you can run your own programs rather than having your programs run you. It just takes some determination. And, your rising band of will power, will definitely support you in the process of this peace-making between the back (reptile) and the front (reason) of your head.

We are fundamentally primates with an endless supply of distractions and possible triggers. We will lose the keys, forget people’s names, and falsely perceive situations by making assumptions based on our emotional sensitivity, all of which is repeatedly re-enforced by any current triggers. Science now demonstrates that until we decide to clear the festering wounds of yesteryear by being available to resolve and balance whatever is out of whack right now, this dilemma will persist.

We are each likely a product of survival strategies, which hide out in our unconscious psyche. These habituated ways of coping most always originate from woundedness—something hurt us and we developed tactics to protect ourselves from future, similar pain. Conditioned beliefs, actually begin to form patterns of behavior that take root in our subconscious data-bank, where ninety-five percent of our actions, words, and deeds live (according to Bruce Lipton, Cellular Biologist). Until it is held in check, this subterranean belief system will repeatedly distort your reality through the lens of fear and insufficiency because it “thinks” it has to do this in order to keep you alive.

“All the greatest and most important problems of life are fundamentally insoluble…They can never be solved, but only outgrown. This outgrowing proved on further investigation to require a new level of consciousness. Some higher or wider interest appeared on the person’s horizon, and through this broadening of his or her outlook the insoluble problem lost its urgency. It was not solved logically in its own terms but faded when confronted with a new and stronger life urge”—Carl Gustov Jung.

And so how can we upgrade our operating system to a “broadened outlook” where seemingly “insoluble problems” and life dramas will “lose their urgency?” Abraham Maslow, famed humanistic psychologist, referred to this state of expanded consciousness, as “self-actualization” where we are operating on all cylinders, fortified by the stronger life urge that strengthens our most optimal potential (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-actualization).

Of course, in order to fully support this “life urge” you have to be willing to keep unraveling the complicated system that responds to your upsets. Therefore, when you are triggered by a high intensity event, it is vital that you get some distance between you and what happened before your conscious mind is hijacked by the limbic system, “whose” agenda it is to repeatedly override your ability to reason. By strengthening your consciousness, you are countering your deeply entrenched conditioning to survive. You are programming your brain to recognize that the defensiveness, which your initial reaction will evoke, is likely going to cause the very harm you are trying to prevent. Here is an example:

You are at a traffic light turning left. You are late to an appointment. You have patiently awaited your turn. The moment has arrived. You make your move. Out of nowhere, a little red corvette cuts in front of you. You snap and yell obscenities at the driver, only to find just following the release of your expletive, that the one behind the wheel is your boss.

Admittedly, stopping to take a breath under such circumstances is not easy work, though clearly it would have been the better choice in this scenario. It is now being proven scientifically that your conscious choices will not only improve your interactions with others, but will also liberate your biology to such a degree that you can eventually emancipate yourself from suffering altogether.

What are the tools that will support you in the process of actuating the grandest version of yourself? You can start by taking a breath the next time you are triggered, and then another. If you do not already have a practice, consider beginning some type of formal meditation (mental focus). Here is a link to support you in getting started: http://zenhabits.net/meditation-for-beginners-20-practical-tips-for-quieting-the-mind/ . In addition, please find more information here on the effects of meditation regarding the anterior cingulate cortex.

http://www.wakehealth.edu/News-Releases/2013/Anxious_Activate_Your_Anterior_Cingulate_Cortex_With_a_Little_Meditation.htm

Meanwhile, my esteemed colleague, Dr. Jean Watson, and I will be offering a full day workshop on in depth methods for changing your biological destiny (briefly discussed here) with specific practices. This promises to be a life changing event. Click here for more information and to register.

Hope to see you there!

Believing in you!

Luann


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Autumnal Equinox ~ On Balancing Happiness

originally posted on website October 13, 2011

Dear Friends,

It is only mid-October and already the snow has boldly announced itself in Colorado, tumbling through the clouds like flying saucers, these plate sized flakes have been falling for most of the day—in torrents. Tonight, the temperatures are predicted to plummet into the teens. The summer sun has exited the scene. And, once again, same as last year at this time, I am scratching my head. Why is it that I am I living in the upward regions of the Northern Hemisphere?

In Dan Buettner’s interesting book, Thrive, he shares his findings on the location of the world’s happiest regions, suggesting that countries near the Equator enjoying a “sun bonus” tend to be happier, regardless of their status or development. Mexico, for example, ranks second in happiness on the World Values Survey, well ahead of the United States—even though it is a third world country with twenty percent of its population living in extreme poverty.

Are there other factors contributing to the “secret sauce of happiness” in Mexico besides sunshine? Beuttner mentioned the Mexican culture’s emphasis on social life and frequent interaction with family and friends as top on the list of the happiness quotient—different from our North American inclinations, which emphasize work and success. His findings about Mexico are definitely thought provoking. Why aren’t people happier in America (where everyone, including Mexicans, seems to want to live)?

Talk to any Mexican immigrant (illegal or otherwise) and s/he will more than likely tell you that s/he’d rather be here than anywhere, and yet once s/he arrives s/ he can’t help but recognize the differences in mood and demeanor here. Take Luis, for example (a Mexican immigrant). I am always delighted when he comes across my radar, usually when he is stocking produce at the local grocery store. He is quite possibly the happiest person I have ever met. Luis works two jobs (that I know of)—both of the blue collar variety, and is not in the least concerned about whether the sun is shining or if the snow is blowing. He is just happy to be alive—happy to be neatly arranging the apples, happy to be asked about his day so he can tell you how happy he is—and just generally full on happy. I have known him for ten years and I have never, not seen him happy. Now then, what is it that Luis is dialed in to, which seems to be largely missing in many of his North American neighbors?

I recently read an article in the New Yorker (September 19, 2011) on T.S. Eliot, poet, playwright and literary critic, who has been described as “arguably the most important English language poet of the 20th century.” And yet, as I explored his life story I found that he was chronically depressed, married to an unhealthy and unstable woman, and had a nervous breakdown at the height of his career. Even so, he “…changed the way poetry in the English language was written, which he was able to achieve in a relatively brief amount of time under less than favorable circumstances.” The problem with his marriage was described in the article as “an asphyxiating mutual dependency.” Eliot seemed to be anything but happy, and yet he was still able to express his talents in revolutionary ways, influencing the entire English literary scene while in the process.

In all the years of my study on human behavior and the development of consciousness, it is my belief that the condition of an “asphyxiating” dependency is one of the most limiting and toxic, though all too familiar predicaments of our species. We have touched on the subject of dependency before in these postings, and what it is in our human psyche that may exacerbate this deeply perplexing state, which scientific research has now shown to be connected to our brain circuitry, conditioning, and synaptic connections gone haywire. For purposes of explanation here, we will describe dependency in adulthood as something of a “learned helplessness (a conditioned behavior—remember Pavlov),” which causes the repeated belief (branding it in your brain) that there is an inability to take care of one’s own needs. Sadly, learned dependency can show up across all levels of human conduct from the micro (in our personal relationships) to the global (like depending on other countries for cheap labor, oil, and natural gas).

Abraham Maslow (1908-1970), a leader in the school of humanistic psychology, invested his life in researching the possibility for maximal human expansion and introduced the idea that people have a hierarchy of needs, which he believed had to be met in order for them to “self-actualize” into their most optimal potential (full-on-happiness). He sequenced these needs in the following way: Physiological—food, shelter, water;Security—steady employment, safe neighborhoods; Social—belonging, love, acceptance; Esteem—personal worth and recognition; and the peak experience: Self-Actualization, which he described as profound moments of love and happiness. He was a shape shifter in the psychological arena. Prior to his innovative thinking, most of the mental health world had focused strictly on pathology and illness. Humanistic psychology introduced the idea that one could develop a rich reservoir of inner resources (regardless of the difficulty) through a therapeutic process of identifying and then removing the obstacles or mind-blocks, which interrupt personal development and optimal growth. And, it is my belief based on both my professional and personal history, that part of this “removal” involves facing and moving through real or imagined fears.

One could only wonder how the life and talents of T.S. Eliot might have developed had he been exposed to this humanistic approach in ameliorating his chronic depression. Given the extraordinary range of his talent, how might things have changed for him had he not been imprisoned by his own limiting thought forms, which included “asphyxiating dependency”? And, of course, despite living his life beside the inner demons that plagued him, his contributions to literature are extraordinary. Nonetheless, one can’t help but notice how a melancholy mood must have influenced his writing, evidenced in the dark, shadowy excerpt below:

RHAPSODY ON A WINDY NIGHT

by: T.S. Eliot (1888-1965)

TWELVE o’clock.
Along the reaches of the street
Held in a lunar synthesis,
Whispering lunar incantations
Dissolve the floors of memory
And all its clear relations,
Its divisions and precisions,
Every street lamp that I pass
Beats like a fatalistic drum,
And through the spaces of the dark
Midnight shakes the memory
As a madman shakes a dead geranium.…

T.S. Eliot was not only brilliant. He was a genius. Why then, couldn’t he get a grip on his emotions? And why are these states of melancholy that plagued him most all of his adult life, so much less frequently seen in Mexico?

Karla McLaren, who wrote The Language of Emotion, provides interesting insights into how losing the traditions, rituals, and coping mechanisms from our tribal roots could be responsible for some of our post modern pathology, both individually and globally. McLaren suggests that our predecessors’ ways of learning to survive provided a noteworthy framework for human development worth reviewing. She offers the possibility that a few of the factors, which may cause many of our current human relationships to become so dysfunctional and need-based, are directly related to the lack of emphasis and training on how to really feel safe and secure to the core of our DNA.

McLaren’s theory is that in the post modern world, we lack the broad societal support and preparation (aside from the shrink’s couch, most always after the fact), more available in tribal cultures, with which to move through trauma (anything from a tooth extraction to a gunshot wound). In all of our contemporary sophistication, we have lost our sense of tribal union, and the training, rituals, and support systems that were originally built in to our early history, starting with the clan. This training was repeatedly handed down in order that we could be appropriately prepared for how to deal with the inevitable traumas of early existence. Back then, there were saber tooth tigers. Now, even though we are more civilized, there are other manifestations of disaster that can cause deep upset, and these disturbances, in many of us, go unresolved due to the way our current brains process catastrophe.

In contrast to how we are living now, all tribal cultures had a structure for training their inhabitants on how to live in the world. It went something like this: Learn about possible danger and how to take care of yourself. Go out on your own and face the dangers (even if it is a brush with death)—putting into practice your tribal training whenever the wooly mammoth shows up. Fully experience whatever it is that you have to go through in order to prove to yourself that you can survive (and if you don’t survive—oh well…). Return to the village and celebrate your victory over fear/death, feasting on love and support with family and friends. (It should be noted here, that anything fully experienced, regardless of what it is, will contribute to a “fully resourced psyche (one fully capable of managing trauma and the emotions resulting from shocking events),” which many of us on this planet are operating without. And this unfortunate state, in my view, is a strong contributing factor to some of our individual and collective dysfunction.

After reading Buettner’s account of life in Mexico, it occurred to me that there may be something of a playing out there of the tribal ways described above. Their crime is rampant and the police force noticeably ineffective, “…with hundreds of police murdered each year in ongoing drug wars and rampant kidnappings for ransom. The month I was there, two police chiefs in Nuevo Leon were assassinated, their bodyguard was handcuffed to a chain link fence and shot in the head, and a journalist was seriously injured when gunmen stormed the newspaper’s office.” There’s more, but you get the point.

Here is my theory on how I believe Mexican’s may cope, given some of the background Beuttner provides. Children who grow up in Mexico have to be street smart. They are taught by their parents and peers early on about danger and how to take care of themselves. They learn how to face their fears—daily, frequently having to put into practice the survival skills they have been given. Most everyone belongs to a huge family support system. They have lots of fiestas and siestas. They don’t take much of anything too seriously, or anything in life for granted because of the unfathomable (to us) dangers they live with every day. My simple conclusion? They are conditioned early in life on how to face their fears and insecurities rather than run from them. Therefore their brains don’t get trip-wired or short circuited as easily by the cortisol (a chemical caused by the fight or flight response) released in our human heads whenever we face a threat or danger.

Now, I realize I am likely going to have to do significant research on the topic I just opened up here in order to even begin to prove my point, and that I have made some sweeping generalizations. Having studied human behavior with some considerable focus over the last twenty years, I believe I have just barely begun to scratch the surface in finding access to the real answers on why we humans let our minds hi-jack us into to suffering with such immense and unnecessary magnitude—baffling.

T.S.Eliot, I get what you went through. I have done it too. I have stayed in situations that were less than favorable because I was afraid to go, when I should have bolted for the door. I have also bolted for the door, when I should have stayed, listening to mind-chatter that doesn’t know what it’s talking about. And about the closest thing I got to a vision quest (the tribal version of going out on your own in the woods and facing your fears early on in life) was an overnight at Susie Schnepp’s house, where I could easily persuade Susie’s parents to take me home in the middle of the night if I whined enough.

Scot Peck, M.D, psychiatrist and legendary author of The Road Less Traveled, states that once a behavior is learned and conditioned in early childhood, it is extremely difficult to change as an adult (I know this one by heart). Nonetheless, it can be done (I also know this to be true, though it must be with an indomitable will, as Gandhi once emphasized). And so, back to learned helplessness. If on some level we learn repeatedly that we will not be okay unless something or someone is there to save us, that is what we will grow up to believe. I don’t care who you are or what it is you think you need to save you (be it a man, woman, the government, the stock market or a simple pay check), if you think you will not be okay without it and therefore you believe you have to keep or maintain it in order to function in the world—you will suffer on some level.

Luis, on the other hand, does not seem to suffer, and as far as I can tell, lives his life as close to being self-actualized as any human I have ever met (refer to Maslow’s model mentioned earlier). In his world, the sun is always shining, an attitudinal circumstance, which has nothing to do with his proximity to the equator. How does Luis do it? I am guessing that he has turned and faced his fears a few times, has the support of family and friends (who he frequently mentions in our conversations), doesn’t take life too seriously, doesn’t worry in the least what the stock market is doing, and is just plain and simple—hardwired for happiness (though most of how he got there remains a mystery).

As for me, I still want the sun to shine and I freak out more than I would like to admit. Nonetheless, by exercising that indomitable will of mine—even just a little, I have turned an about face on more than one occasion staring down some pretty significant stuff—with my “hands shaking and my boots quaking” (to quote John Mayer from his wonderful song, “Say”). And just like you, what I have learned, is that I really can shed those anxious fears and imaginations—one by one. Who knows when I am going to completely tip over into the happiness zone like Luis?

Peggy Farmer, Ph.D, author of Exploratory Surgery for the Soul states, “When you quit running the program of the risk-aversion-construct, you will more effortlessly live your life from a place of presence rather than allowing your past thoughts, conditioning, and memories to influence your current experience. Masters are always happy—no matter what. And nothing is more likely to tip you into mastery (self-actualization) than dropping the old programs.

Time to tip.

A final reminder from the late Steve Jobs (Apple Computer Wizard) to keep you on the course:

1. Follow your gut. The people who are crazy enough to make change happen, do.

2. Do not fear failure

3. Embrace competition. It makes you better.

4. Don’t settle

Now then. Go ahead and do something that really scares you (and I don’t mean jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge).

Believing in you,

Luann

Suggested reading:

Thrive, Finding Happiness the Blue Zones Way, by Dan Buettner

The Emotional Language, by Karla McLaren

Exploratory Surgery for the Soul, by Dr. Peggy Farmer

Happily Ever After…Right Now, Stop Searching, Start Celebrating! By Luann Robinson Hull


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Spring Clearing ~ Resurrecting Love, Peace and Hope

originally posted on website April 25, 2011

There is no difficulty that enough love will not conquer; no disease that enough love will not heal; no door that enough love will not open; no gulf that enough love will not bridge; no wall that enough love will not throw down; no sin that enough love will not redeem. It makes no difference how deeply seated may be the trouble, how hopeless the outlook, how muddled the tangle, how great the mistake; a sufficient realization of love will dissolve it all. If only you could love enough you would be the happiest and most powerful being in the world”—Emmet Fox

Dear Friends,

Regardless of your political, religious, or spiritual persuasion, you may agree as you witness some of what is going on in the world, that humanity in general may not be “loving enough.” Emmet Fox, spiritual leader and Christian mystic, talks about the kind of love that transcends hatred, revenge, and righteousness in his teachings. Many religious and Indigenous cultures interpret these times, which seem to be burdened with fear driven behaviors, to be a fulfillment of prophecy. Texts, theories, and spiritual material abound on the subject—everything from the Bible, to the Koran, to the Hebrew version of the Old Testament, and countless “New Age” interpretations, address the possibility of where we are headed as a species. And of course, the famed Mayan calendar stops on December 21, 2012. Many wonder if this is a foretelling of “the end,” or just the end of our current status as a species. Could they have had some clues about the possibility for a “human upgrade?”

In the Bible, the-end-of-time paradigm includes the Rapture discussed in Revelations, which is perceived by some to mean that all “believers” will be chosen for a Divine rescue when Jesus returns and hence spared the consequences of our sinful ways (Armageddon). The Muslim fundamentalist version also has a messianic figure (The Twelfth Imam, preceded by eleven others), who will emerge out of humanity and bring together the chosen Islamic people causing them to reign over the world. A Jewish version of utopia includes the coming of a messiah, who will see their tribe as the “chosen” ones to prevail. One version of Hopi Indian prophecy suggests their exemption from inevitable disaster (due to the misguided actions of the white man), and that they have been chosen by “Great Spirit “to guard the planet, or whatever is left of it, until Creator’s return. There are many “New Age” versions of salvation. And from what I have gathered in my own experience with this genre, it is important to beware of any “self proclaimed gurus” (spiritual rock-stars, if you will), who seem to be the real deal until they promise you things like “instant enlightenment” if you exclusively subscribe to their method of “getting there.” Exclusivity is the key here, which is not so different from any religious dogma that proclaims there is only one, elite way to God (or salvation/ultimate enlightenment), and that way, is their way.

I understand that I have presented a radical simplification of some of the prevailing beliefs in religious and spiritual ideology, and therefore might not have provided what may seem to be a fair picture of the various different philosophies discussed. Nonetheless, before you are tempted to get hung up on whether or not this information is accurate, realize that my sole intention here is to present some probable common threads among many belief systems, and that there could potentially be a scientific explanation for our current human inclinations and behaviors.

Please consider the possibility of similar themes (outlined below) among the belief systems discussed. We will then explore what may be happening in our current brain circuitry to influence our thinking and beliefs.

Fall (humanity has fallen from Grace because we have allowed our sinful nature to take over); Redemption (we therefore need to be “saved”); And, regrettably, there will only be an exclusive, chosen few for this Divine rescue, who subscribe to a specific belief system (based on the perspective of whatever philosophy is being upheld). Further, whoever resists such a choice will be subject to the catastrophes for which humanity is doomed.

This theme of fall/redemption/rescue/exclusivity has been pervasive since time immemorial, and it has only been in the recent past that our current evolutionary status as a species is being more carefully examined from a scientific lens on what in our biology could be continuing to strengthen such a pervasive hold on this negative approach to our lives. Many of us believe, however, that we have come into existence with an “upgraded operating system” (Cynthia Bourgeault, The Wisdom Jesus) already installed—one that will support us in accessing a much more favorable way to function in these human body suits. How do our brains really work, and what centers are most activated during this segment of our human development? Are we indeed wired for the upgrade in consciousness that the prophets through the ages have attempted to inspire us into recognizing (re-cog-nizant or being open to a more expanded perspective on how to look at things)? What is going on in this brain circuitry of ours and is it possible to optimize the blueprints, which are quite potentially already hardwired in us, ushering in an entirely new layer of expansion for our species? Haven’t we evolved before? I mean, at least we aren’t living in caves and hunting wooly mammoth anymore. And it must have taken enormous courage for our ancestors to transcend the challenges required of them to “listen” to the inner Force, which would support them in laying the foundation for our current evolvement. So isn’t it up to us to carry the torch, using our own will and fortitude to more fully activate that Inner Guidance system—the one that will direct us to our part in supporting the Divinely mapped course for human development?

The evolutionary model of the human brain posits that our modern anatomy consists of three parts: The oldest (reptilian); paleomammalian (including the amygdala where the fight or flight response stimulates our emotions); and the most recently evolved layer, the cerebral /neo-cortex, which has initiated a surge of interconnections among the neurons from the other regions of the brain (Damasio, The Feeling of Emotions).

The reptilian brain (the most primitive, roughly originating 4 ½ billion years ago) was designed to keep us alive and the arousal from this region appears to have maintained a strong and powerful influence over our behaviors, which emphasizes predatory tendencies and aggression (no room for loving kindness or forgiveness from this bully-beast); the limbic brain (paleomammalian or mid-brain) is a few million years old. It fuels a variety of functions including emotions, which instinctively respond with resulting behavior (if not effectively intercepted by the cerebral cortex/heart connection); and the most recent addition, the cerebral/neo cortex/frontal lobes (holding the higher centers of cognitive function capable of supporting conscious choices like “turn the other cheek.”)

Antonio Damasio (University of Iowa College of Medicine) and Joseph LeDoux (professor of Science in the Center for Neural Science at New York University) have made some important contributions to the study of human consciousness providing a multi-tiered picture on our development and where we now stand in the process. Here is what LeDoux (1996, The Emotional Brain) says about our current developmental status as well as some optimistic possibilities for where we could be headed. “As things stand now, the amygdala has a greater influence on the cortex than the cortex has on the amygdala, allowing emotional arousal to dominate and control thinking. …The amygdala pathways to the cortex overshadow the pathways from the cortex to the amygdala. Although thoughts can easily trigger emotions by activating the amygdala, we are not very effective at willfully turning off emotions by deactivating the amygdala.” So, too much juice from the amygdala can flood our cognitive functions and cause them to “drown” before reason and heart can even begin to have a voice. This is why when we get triggered by something, unless we have done a significant amount of work to prepare ourselves for this moment (like some form of a spiritual practice—I don’t care what it is but it must be a spiritual practice that requires discipline on your part), your reptilian brain, having the most numerable and firmly entrenched pathways to the cortex, will take over and retaliate. Of course this region is further powered by the mid-brain centers (amygdala), which will exaggerate the fight or flight response by firing up your emotions. Naturally, if all of this occurs in the absence of a balanced brain (and heart), the resulting scenario is predictable.

Good news. LeDoux goes on to say that human primates have more cerebral connections than other mammals and that these could be strengthened to transcend the current hold that the amygdala and reptilian centers have on our species, or if the nerve pathways between the two can somehow even equalize “it is possible that the struggle between thought and emotion can strike a balance.”

Einstein said that you cannot resolve a problem at the same level of consciousness from which it originated. Maybe he was onto something. Is that why Jesus is asking us to “turn the other cheek” with full awareness that you must operate out of a different perspective than the one that created the difficulty if things are really going to get resolved? “He was the first in Western Civilization to call people to a radical transformation of consciousness at least six stages ahead of where they were at the time”(Bourgeault, The Wisdom Jesus). And coming from this highly advanced view, “turn the other cheek” had a multifaceted meaning, which included self advocacy and complete spiritual integrity. An earlier interpretation on how to manage things (“an eye for an eye”) hadn’t seemed to be working out so well when Jesus arrived on the scene of an earthly quagmire roughly 2011 years ago. And of course, this “eye for an eye” thing, retaliation, force against force, etc., is still pervasive on our planet today. Make your own observations on how well you think that modus operandi is working in our current world.

As I have mentioned many times in these postings, my fascination with the subject of human consciousness and the evolution of our species has been a life-long passion. And in my ongoing pursuit for answers, I have meditated in ashrams, sat with my feelings until I thought my guts would fall out, studied, contemplated, and researched for over twenty years, like many of you. Occasionally I think I am may be making some progress in transcending the biological firm hold of my ancient physiology. Even so, I still give way to anxious thoughts and act on feelings that do not originate in love. Though when I am able to look through the lens of love, this is what I see:

“The self that God created needs nothing. It is forever complete, safe, loved and loving. It seeks to share rather than to get; to extend rather than to project. It has no needs and wants to join with others out of their mutual awareness that Heaven is the natural state of all of the sons and daughters of God (not just a chosen few). And that forgiveness (both of ourselves and of others—being temporarily more for those who are temporarily less by turning the other cheek) is the means by which we will remember our true Divine nature,” the interpretation for which could be as many as 7 billion versions. Even so, each perspective when operating through impeccable Divinely actuated love can make a contribution toward expansion, growth, and ultimate freedom when the path chosen is fully dedicated to complete spiritual integrity. And despite a popular belief system that we are all originally sinful Matthew Fox, Episcopal Priest and spiritual visionary, made a breakthrough point in his book, Original Blessing, 1983. We all originate from the same Divine seed and therefore are originally blessed—each and everyone one of us. “Holding no one prisoner to guilt and blame (including ourselves) we become free and therefore set others free. Acknowledging Christ (Buddha or whatever your vision of a Spirit is) in all of our brothers/sisters, we see His Presence in ourselves” and therefore recognize the universal connection of all life forms on this planet and beyond (all quotes from the Foundation for Inner Peace, 1985).

Yes, I still get triggered, I still have periods of despair, I still feel defensive at times, I am still tempted to blame and project, I still occasionally feel separate, isolated and alone, and I still often wonder where in God’s name humanity is headed despite my frequent optimism that we as a collective do have the capacity, fortitude, and good nature, to move into a more favorable way of operating. As I have said to you many times in these postings, I am a work in progress. And here is one of my most recent epiphanies. I don’t have to make it so hard. I don’t have to have impossible expectations of myself (and others). And if I keep on opening to the Divine inspirations which are attempting to access my conscious awareness through any opening that I am willing to make available, I am destined for delivery into a more awakened state of being, where I can just allow the amygdala/reptile to do whatever it does without letting it take over. I know I can strengthen those cerebral connections by refusing to let my fear and emotions take hold before I have a chance to bring love and reason into the picture. I know I can move fully into my most optimal destiny in this life-form, which includes a permanent state of well being, happiness, freedom and peace. And I also know that if I can do it, so then can you.

I believe that for every fundamentalist and narrow interpretation of each tradition, ideology, or political belief that there is a more expanded understanding if we are just willing to look. The animal in us (reptile) is narcissistic, scared, and sees itself as separate and alone (it so wants to be “right,” “chosen,” and “special”). And if I can practice emphasizing calm and loving states when I am not in a fizz, the likelihood of my being able to access feelings of peace and compassion when I do start to escalate (and I am tempted to let the reptile take over), increases exponentially. Further, I believe that when I engage in practicing tolerance and love for myself and others (even when I am the most challenged to do so), I am contributing to the possibility of tipping human consciousness to another level.

The prophets and teachers, who have come to assist us in expanding into the upgrade for which we are fully wired (study the brain if you don’t believe me), taught us based on our limited ability to receive and translate the information into some version that could make sense to us based on our evolutionary development at the time. And regrettably we have interpreted much of their loving and wise teachings through the lens of fear. From this perspective what they shared can be twisted into a convoluted quagmire that ends up not even remotely resembling the wise and simplistic messages they were hoping to convey. Nonetheless, there has been help all along the way. All we have to do is pay attention.

Jesus made it very simple. He had no theology—just a direct line to God without the veil of ignorance and temporary amnesia to which humans have been subjected for reasons that may be beyond our understanding. The theological part of Christianity came later by those who invented it a few centuries after Jesus’ death. He simply said, “these things so can you do greater than I…and whenever two or more are gathered in “my name” (Love), the possibilities are endless.” Could He have meant that when greater numbers of us wake up the momentum from such a phenomenon will provide a much more substantial influence than with only one person (Him) operating out of conscious awareness? Kahlil Gibran a Sufi (the mystical side of Islam), is said to have “channeled” Jesus in his famous work “The Prophet.” Here is what he said on Reason and Passion: “Your soul is oftentimes a battlefield, upon which your reason and your judgment wage war against your passion and your appetite. Would that I could be the peacemaker in your soul, that I might turn the discord and the rivalry of your elements into oneness and melody. But how shall I, unless you yourselves be the peacemakers, nay, the lovers of all your elements?” And so from this vantage point, isn’t it up to us to exaggerate whatever positive qualities we possess to become those “peacemakers and lovers of all our elements?”

According to the ancient Maya we will enter a time when enlightenment (transcendence, the end of suffering, etc.) is more readily available but it will not be imposed. Instead, we are given free choice on whether or not to engage in the obedience, discipline, detachment, and surrender necessary to show the way for both ourselves and others (Redfield, The Twelfth Insight). With this potential in mind, is it possible that everyone on the planet is on a quest shared by all to access the soulful part of ourselves from which this consciousness springs, regardless of how it may appear? And I believe that it is the duty of those of us who are aware of such a possibility to become a beacon of light rather than feeding the dark forces of negativity, seemingly pervasive in every corner of our existence at this time. Then together, instead of protesting this darkness, we will transcend it.

Please join me in the practice of just being aware the next time you resist or feel yourself being betrayed by anything, whether it be Obama, war, Boehner (Speaker of the House), the government in general, a religious belief, your friends, intimate connections, family, etc. If we could just stop for a minute and consider what is happening in our physiology, caused by this trigger maybe we could take a breath and ask ourselves a simple question. “What would be most helpful here—to fire up and strengthen the ambush of chemicals that are telling me to retaliate? Or could I ask my head and heart to negotiate a more loving outcome? And maybe if I can keep practicing the latter method of operating over and over and over again, who knows how many of those cognitive pathways I will light up with the “God-fuel” that is destined to transcend all human error? My part is to enforce the discipline, determination, and obedience necessary to stay true to such a practice.

If we can persist in expanding our awakened hearts, by “loving enough” through this Divinely seeded soul of ours, eventually we just might see that each and every one of us on this planet is chosen, and that the only thing separating us from such an understanding is our fear that it may not be so. Let us join together in creating a reservoir of love so deep and vast that the sheer magnitude of its influence will fully transcend our fears and anxious imaginations. And this “love tank” is already available. All we have to do is keep making our donations and then watch in wonder as an unlimited supply of love, peace, and hope abundantly flows back in our direction. And all the while, the entire universe is benefitting because you have decided to become the change that you want to see in the world (Gandhi).

Believing in us,

Luann

Suggested reading:

The Twelfth Insight, by James Redfield

The Power of Constructive Thinking, by Emmet Fox

One River, Many Wells and The Original Blessing, by Matthew Fox

The Wisdom Jesus, by Cynthia Bourgeault

Happily Ever After…Right Now, Luann Robinson Hull

 


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On Hummingbirds And Happiness

originally posted on website June 14, 2010

“The goodness of a thing lies in its awareness and realization of its specific nature.” – Aristotle

Dear Friends,

The last time we connected in January it seemed it could be a long winter’s journey into spring. Now, suddenly it is June when the days extend endlessly into dusk and dawn starts to light up the sky just a few hours after midnight. About the time I find the lengthy winters in Colorado intolerable, summer boldly announces itself. And to me, the hummingbird (appropriately named for its captivating hum) is the official ambassador of the season. They have a magical way of ushering in the warm, sunny days, and bear a stunning resemblance to Peter Pan’s Tinkerbelle (if you are inclined to use your imagination).

While observing these fascinating creatures over the past several years, I have noticed that it seems they have a breathtaking ability to be fully engaged in whatever they are doing. And I suppose their innate wisdom informs them to do so. How else would they be able to muster the focus that keeps them from falling out of the sky? And what gives them the skill and momentum to suspend themselves in mid-air, fluttering their wings from forty to eighty and even up to two hundred times a second? Where does the ability to perform these acrobatics as well as the “innate wisdom” that guides them, originate? To me, the answer is obvious. Mother Nature.

When migrating, hummingbirds go for thousands of miles and soar to unfathomable heights while abstaining from food-all with a remarkable focus. Upon their return to your summer garden for nourishment from the nectar of the flowers, they will contribute to the life cycle of the providing plant with their delicate sipping extraction. And while connecting to the blossom, not only can they hover indefinitely in a state of uncanny suspension, but they also have the ability to fly in any direction whenever they choose. Then once they have been satiated by the sweet snack that attracted them, they will most certainly dart off in a blink without any attachment whatsoever to the experience. Because they know without knowing that they will always be cared for by the Divine cycle of Life in which they are fully engaged.

Doesn’t every living creature come from the same magnificent Mother Nature that created the hummingbird? And if so, don’t we humans being part of that Divine Life Stream, have a shot at developing our own version of magnificence? What then interrupts us from being able to awaken this brilliance of ours? Why does it appear that we can often find it so challenging to be fully engaged in whatever we are doing? Are we sometimes (or often) pestered by the inconvenient interruptions of our insidious beliefs? And can these be exacerbated by a menacing mind that never stops? Does this endless chatter take us away from the possibility of being fully connected to whatever it is we might be doing in the moment? If the tiny hummingbird can be so fully engaged in life, why is it sometimes difficult for us in our humanity to do so?

I have serious doubts that hummingbirds suffer. They might incur injuries or physical impediments that cause them pain, but it is unlikely that they ever sit around and wonder about their usefulness in the world, their personal feelings of worth, how they have been rejected or betrayed by other hummingbirds, or whether or not they are loved and cared for. They just go along offering their magic, doing what they do, or perhaps more appropriately-being who they are, accepting and expanding their territory from a bird’s point of view.

So what about human suffering? Is it possible that it could sometimes be self-inflicted because of how we buy into our beliefs and perceptions of what is so? And due to our conditioning over time, isn’t it often difficult, if not impossible to budge these beliefs and perceptions into a more positive way of framing things, thereby making us more available for each of the precious moments of our existence? (Here is a clue on how the hummingbird has an advantage-s/he is not in the least distracted by beliefs and perceptions).

Having been a professional in the mental health world for over twenty years, I have been exposed to many interventions for the relief of suffering, some of which are focused on changing our thoughts. And, I have found the exercise of such to be both personally and professionally challenging. How can you argue with a mind (argue being the key word here) that has had its way with you for thousands of years? It is a combination of primal conditioning, genetic inherited thought, and an infinite array of environmental influences to which you have been repeatedly exposed. I would say the odds are pretty much stacked against you if you think you are going to get rid of all of that stuff. Therefore, you can imagine my relief when I discovered a new way of addressing the thought-changing-dilemma through my work with Andandagiri and Krishnaraj, faculty members of One World Academy (www.oneworldacademy.com).

Among the many beautiful teachings that they offer, I find the following has been key in my own process of transformation: If you can become consciously aware of when you are being triggered by a person (either yourself or another) or event, you will automatically be focusing your momentum in an entirely different way. Rather than going into a fizz or trying to fix things by plotting what to do from a reactive lens, instead, you will be stepping back, even if only for a nanosecond, and aligning with the more peaceful, Witnessing you, that is ever present to guide and protect. This Unmoved Mover will systematically calm the spin you are in-every single time. All you have to do is to be willing to allow whatever is going on in that mind of yours (by being aware) without a need to do anything. It is then, in that momentary awareness that you will be quietly informed by your Wise Internal Counsel on how to respond to the situation, if at all. And how will you discern the difference between your responsive voice and your reactive voice? The latter will always want to make a case for being right. It never listens. It only wants to speak and be heard. The responsive Voice on the other hand, has no agenda. It takes It’s time and is only interested in truth, growth, and the highest good for all involved.

“The opposite of smasara (sanskrit word for suffering) is when all the walls fall down, when the cocoon completely disappears and we are totally open to whatever may happen…”-Pema Chodron (The Wisdom of No Escape ).

For some reason (I have never been able to determine why) we humans want to be significant. We strive for significance across all areas of our lives. We want to be noticed and loved and important. And so we build skyscrapers around our hearts to protect our vulnerability in an effort to be more significant without being hurt or damaged in the process. If we are fortunate, what we eventually come to learn is that the only way we can be safe is when we are willing to fully become exactly who we are. And of course if we are all connected to the Grand Life Stream of magnificence, wouldn’t it make sense that who we really are is already magnificent-without our ever efforting or trying to make it so? Coming to such a realization requires letting go of the walls, the cocoon, and the need to be significant. Hummingbirds know this and so they don’t have to prove anything. They just continue practicing who they are in all of the moments of now by going along about their business, making their exquisite contributions to the world and receiving back in kind. When you think about it, isn’t their way of operating in the world a pretty simple formula for happiness?

Rest easy. Don’t work so hard at it. You already know what to do. And if you need another suggestion on how to jump start things a bit, take this lovely offering from an old friend with whom I recently connected. This was his response when I told him my wish for him is that he is sublimely happy. “I am happiest when I can live in gratitude for all the things, big and small, that are in my life.” Pretty much sums it up, don’t you think?

Loving you,

Luann