Welcome to the next article in this series on positive change. By now you should have had a chance to read the first four articles, in the following order. If not, please do so before you read this article.
You already have all the tools you need, and some advice on major pitfalls to avoid as you pursue the changes you want to manifest in your life. I’ve attempted to make this series as practical as possible, at least to the degree that I find these concepts practical in my own life.
All of the ideas I’ve presented to you thus far relate entirely to your own mindset, everything is internal. Some things might appear external on first inspection, but they are not, all of this is about your own interpretation and use of what is in the world around you.
As a recap, here is the structure for reaping positive change in your life –
- Repeat processes until you have what you want, you are where you want to be and can do what you want to do. Masters become masters through continuous improvement over time, but everyone starts at the beginning.
- Become self aware so you take the power of interpreting the world into your own hands. With this power your emotional response and follow-up actions are congruent with the kind of person you are becoming. Choose the positive viewpoint if you want to be happier and healthier.
- Master the art of continuous improvement even in the face of set-backs, which are inevitable. Your emotions are varied, and unless you master the previous two steps, at some point during your journey towards change, you will experience feelings that will hinder or even completely derail your attempt to change your life for the better. Being able to do it anyway, even when you don’t feel like it, means your negative emotions will not last long and will have minimal impact on your performance.
- Make smart choices and don’t follow the crowd by default. Most people do what everyone else does, and unfortunately the group consensus often causes more harm than good. Your power rests in your ability to think, and importantly, act independently based on what you believe is the right choice for your given situation, not just what everyone else does.
- When you’re not sure what the smart choice is, or you require more information to determine the right choice, then follow the success models of people who have done what you want to do or have what you want. Whenever you have the opportunity to learn from verifiable experts, gurus, teachers, trainers or mentors – which is pretty much all the time thanks to the knowledge economy we presently live in – do it.
- Avoid defaulting to ignorance in response to new inputs. As much as possible, drop preconceived notions and view everything in the world without judgment. The opposite of self awareness is ignorance. While it’s important to remain as open as possible, at some point you do have to make a choice. Balance smart decision making based on previous success models, within a flexible belief structure, but make sure you eventually take action.
The next step in this process is where things can become a little tricky. Up to this point everything we’ve looked at is within the realm of your control to some degree because it’s about you, however you don’t operate within a vacuum.
You have the power to interpret all things around you as you choose, but the physical world is also influenced by all the other people and things in it. Since you choose to exist in the world, you have to become aware of how the outside realm impacts you, and how you impact it, especially if you want to leverage it to help you realize positive change.
A Study In Spirituality
To continue this series it’s inevitable that spirituality enters the conversation. I’ve skirted around the subject already when looking at the nature of truth, however it has been possible up to this point to “understand” the ideas I’ve introduced in an intellectual way.
From this point forward in the series, intellectual understanding may have to give way at times to belief, which if you are deeply pragmatic, a hard-line scientist or academic, are restricted by a religion you have decided to adhere to, or have beliefs that contradict what I write, will cause friction.
There’s not much I can say about this, other than I hope as I clearly outlined in the previous chapter of this series, that you can open your mind to these ideas, even if you don’t consider them valid. You don’t have to agree, but don’t default to ignorance either.
It will help now, if I give you a little insight into my own background when it comes to matters of spirituality, starting with the subject of religion. Although religion is not necessarily the same thing as spirituality, it is often the first influence in our lives when it comes to subjects not of a physical nature.
My parents are not religious. In fact part of their motivation to move away from their families to come to Australia just before I was born, was to escape certain religious pressures that were present in their previous lives in Canada. If you take one step further back in my family lineage to my grandparents, religion played a huge part in their lives.
In my own upbringing religion played very little part. I was exposed to certain practices of the Jewish faith because of family in Canada, but only while visiting them there, and also the Christian faith because of the cultural background of Australia and my Ukrainian church-going grandmother on my father’s side (who also lives in Canada). Mainstream media, and certain religious friends, have offered further insights, however it’s fair to say, like most of my current contemporaries in Australia who are part of a largely secular generation, religion is not important to me.
As far as I can tell, religion has been a terribly corrupted force in human history, which is unfortunate because in its purest form, appears to offer truly enlightened ideas. Truth is in practice, and religion is one of the most misinterpreted and thus poorly executed set of ideas I’ve ever come across.
A long story short, I’ve never experienced a calling, and do not adhere to any specific religious order. I see parallels with the ideas I do follow and religious concepts, particularly in Buddhism, though I haven’t studied any religion enough to really talk conclusively, so it’s best to say that most of the concepts I’ve developed are very much a collective of influences, which includes religion, but is not strictly religious.
If not religion, then how exactly does “spirituality” come into this conversation on manifesting positive change, and why should you care?
That answer is complex, so let me explain…
Oh My God I Am Going To Die
I have a very specific memory from when I was a child, probably sometime around the age of five.
At the time I wouldn’t have called it a spiritual question, because I was too young to know what that means, but as far as I can tell it’s the first time I challenged the nature of my existence …and unfortunately came out wanting for an answer.
I was lying in bed just before going to sleep, in that state where you are tired so your mind and emotions can be a little haphazard, especially as a child still not fully developed and in control of all the tools your body gifts you with.
I found myself thinking about how I am just a tiny speck on this massively diverse planet, full of so many things I will never understand, and this planet is just one in a galaxy full of more things I don’t understand, and the galaxy exists in a universe so vast that the tools I’m trying to use to understand these things, my mind and body, are not capable of doing so.
I felt infinitely insignificant, yet I existed and that must have a reason behind it, which is something I was trying to understand.
Then I realized at some point I won’t be here. I’ll be dead and this sense of awareness I have now will no longer exist. I won’t exist.
As a five year old, heck, as an anything-year-old, the concept of non-existence, of no longer being physical or experiencing conscious reality, is, well, impossible to comprehend. I found these ideas extremely uncomfortable and more than anything I wanted to know why – what’s the point of “being” if in the end you don’t anymore?
I don’t know why I questioned these things or how I started along this thought train, but I’m sure it has something to do with a fear of death and very likely has a lot to do with television, in particular science fiction, which challenges the notion of reality on a regular basis (I was a fan from a young age, in particular Doctor Who and Star Trek).
I’ve since had these thoughts throughout my life many times, which unfortunately I cannot ever hope to “understand” in a physical sense, though I have managed to move closer to a sense of acceptance of the ideas, though I’m far from at peace with them.
The Scariest Moment In My Life
Ultimately I believe, and certainly for me this is the case, that you find – or at least go searching for – some form of spirituality when you start asking questions like why you exist and what is death. Often a tragedy can accelerate this process, which is unfortunate, but seems to be a mechanism the universe employs to force change when it really needs to happen.
In my case nothing concrete happened until my early twenties. I cruised through my teen years largely entertained by the material world, then suffered through typical teen angst and experienced all kinds of lows and highs – the best and worst that life has to offer.
As I entered my early twenties, plenty of poor thinking habits, bad self-esteem and self-inflicted drama resulted in anxiety and panic attacks, which I have written about before on this blog.
As much as I experienced fear and suffering during this phase of my life, as is often the case in our world of polarity, it forced me to really ask myself some important questions and come to terms with who I am.
I’ve not written about this on my blog before because I haven’t felt it appropriate, and frankly I don’t like talking about it, so I’m going to be brief. There was an incident in my life that really rocked me, but it was the catalyst for some serious awakening, which has forever improved my life since then. In many ways I’m thankful for this horrible experience.
I have an inherited heart condition from my father, which although not that big a deal (he’s lived all of his life with it with no significant problems), when combined with panic attacks and anxiety, which I cleverly added to the mix, makes for a nasty combination. During my twenties this condition, or really the fear I had of it, had a profound impact on how I lived, and in particular how I thought.
One particular incident, you could call it the epicenter of this earthquake of fear, occurred during a particularly “dramatic” part of my life (of my own doing of course), on top of which I was also experiencing a cold, and I managed to trigger the heart condition.
I was taken to hospital, and because I couldn’t stop the condition myself was given a drug that slowed my heart down for a moment to help it right itself. It was literally the scariest thing that has ever happened to me.
Those who have never experienced panic attacks or haven’t had things go a little wayward with their heart, or experienced a significant illness or challenge to their sense of existence, won’t understand this, but when these things happen you really do question death because you are very clearly reminded of it. Your heart is your engine, and when it doesn’t work right, you realize how fragile your body really is. You FEEL how fragile it is.
This wasn’t my only trip to hospital, but it was the worst experience and a turning point in my life. I remember leaving hospital with my mother, walking the corridor to the car park. I was thinking about what I was going to do and feeling fear about what I had experienced.
Then something inside me changed.
I’m not going to say this was a moment in time that changed me forever in an instant, but it was a spark of clarity and determination, which combined with many other moments of a similar nature, led to permanent change.
You see most of the problems I had, although resulting in physical symptoms, where actually a result of my broken mind. At least that’s what I chose to believe, because then I knew I could repair myself. Of course you can’t control what you are born with, but I could choose how I dealt with it, reacted to it and thought about it.
This experience forced me to make smarter choices, led me on a path to much greater self awareness and frankly, made me a much happier person. It took a long time, over many years, but this moment and many experiences like it, opened in me a very powerful sense of awareness, which ultimately led me to foster a form of spirituality as well. I changed how my mind worked, and started to build a new belief system.
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The Force Behind Everything
You could be wondering what all this has to do with creating positive change in your life.
I’ve related these stories from my past because they started me on a path that has led to very significant positive changes in my life. Every single major improvement in my life has come about largely because I question the nature of my reality. If I have a greater sense of my purpose and place in life, then I’m in a better position to leverage how the physical world works.
In the upcoming articles in this series I will explain how your ability to manifest the change you want depends a lot on how capable you are of working within the system that you exist in. It’s an infinitely complex system, but because you exist in your body, the amount of input from everything around you is minimal, at least compared to what’s actually happening.
In other words, your body and mind is filtering everything so you’re capable of functioning within the world. This is neither good nor bad (or both), it’s just the way it is, and as a result, you need to learn what are the variables outside of you that have the greatest impact on you. What are the 80/20 elements that have the strongest influence on how you live your life, and how you can best leverage them for benefit?
Based on my understanding and experience as a human thus far, I’ve noticed there are two key elements, one very tangible, and one much more spiritual, which have the strongest impact on what happens to you. They are –
- All the other humans on this planet, in particular those you come into contact with somehow during your life time.
- The greater universe, or intelligence, or spirit, or god, or whatever you want to call it, behind how everything works.
I will discuss other humans later, I want to deal with point number two now.
For much of my life, I wasn’t sure whether there was any kind of god or intelligence behind how things work.
Personally the word “god” has way too much baggage for me to take it as an accurate label. It doesn’t work very well as a label because everyone defines it differently. Considering how fundamental “god” is to so many people on this planet, in particular within religion, this is not a label you want to misinterpret, so I prefer to use something else.
I went about calling the force behind things, the “universe”, for lack of a better word. Frankly, I don’t think a single word is ever going to be accurate to describe a concept so large and not entirely comprehensible by our senses, such is the limitation of our current communication system, our languages.
Regardless, in my life, I’ve come to know this force and decided, if it’s real and impacts how my life progresses, I should learn how it works and become friends with it.
I wasn’t always like this, for much of my life I was closer to agnostic. That was until I started to seriously look for answers to these questions rather than choose to suffer in the futility of a meaningless existence, or at least that was how I viewed the world when feeling less than happy.
Coming up next in this series I will reveal to you the process I went through to discover what forces are at play, how they influence me, and if I choose to perceive them and accept them as real, how I can leverage them for my benefit.
Even if you are not at all spiritual, the process I will reveal to you is just as relevant, because you can do it from a purely practical sense, if you choose to. I’ll begin explaining the process in the next chapter in this series.
Update: Part 6 is now available: Is There A Force Behind Everything In Life?