Well, I seem to be keeping to my New Year's Resolutions so far. This may not seem all that impressive, only a short way into January, but it's good going for me. I've normally forgotten them by lunchtime on New Year's Day.
What I decided this year was to put some of the useful stuff I write about in this blog into action for a change. All too often, I'm all full of bright ideas when I'm writing, but they slip out of sight when I switch off the PC.
This year it's going to be different. I'm going to be different...
There are two main simple strategies I'm putting into practice. Simplicity is important, I think, for actually doing stuff. Anything too complicated tends not to be there in the front of your brain when you need it.
The first thing is to deal with some of this great big well of negative emotions inside me. Goodness knows, I've been writing here about dealing with these emotions for long enough, and I have been acting on some of my advice. But it's a big issue for me - as I think it is for most of us, if we're willing to face up to it - and I really need to start doing more.
The hard bit is remembering what's really going on when those unwanted emotions well up inside you, when you get all annoyed or whatever particular emotion is bugging you today. That's the time when it's easy to lose the plot entirely and start getting all caught up in the drama of the situation. And you feel so unspiritual: 'like I've done all this new agey stuff all these years but I'm still like a bear with a sore head when some idiot does something I don't like. I should not be jumping around shaking my fists with steam coming out of my ears at this stage in my spiritual development! It's not fair!'
But it's a question of remembering that when this happens, it is part of our spiritual development: a very important part. These emotions are coming up to be released. I've written about this in more detail, including the various techniques for release in my recent post Letting Go, but the crucial ingredient of my New Year's Resolution is to remember to make the right connection in my head about what these emotions are all about.
When emotions came welling up, the old Simon used to get sucked into the drama of whatever situation had triggered them off, thereby stoking them up even more. If he thought about spiritual matters at all, he would reflect on the unfortunate contrast between the calm, joyful, advanced being he wished to be and the raging inconsolable madman he actually was. Which made him feel even worse...
But when these emotions well up now, the new Simon makes the all-important connection and thinks 'Ah-ha! There is work to be done! These emotions are coming up to be released!' and starts to put the appropriate techniques into action.
The last few days, since I've been doing this consistently, I've felt some really massive energy begin to shift within me. As a result of this, some emotional blocks to doing stuff are starting to fall away at last.
The second prong of my New Year's Resolution is to be in the moment more, instead of spending so much time in my mind. Once again, this is something I've written about a great deal here at The Secret Of Life - and most recently on Harmony's blog - but actually doing it for any length of time (like for more than a few moments) has proved more difficult.
For some reason, something seems to have shifted now, and I'm managing to close down my unnecessary mental chatter for longer periods of time. Partly I'm doing this by stringing along my ego, working to appease the very part of me that keeps those internal thoughts droning on in the first place. I tell the 'little me' inside what a wonderful achievement it will be if I can only switch off my mind for the next two minutes, or until I get home, or until I reach the next lamp post - or whatever suitable marker is in the offing...
It seems to respond well to these challenges and goes along with me at least some of the time...
It's great when this happens: when the chatter drops away and you feel the power of the moment, when you're really present in the now. There's sometimes peace, sometimes joy, always stillness. If you haven't yet connected with this, you may find it's easiest to experience when you're out in nature: out in the country or in a garden. You can read more about it in Eckhart Tolle's books. I particularly recommend the concise, very practical volume Practicing The Power Of Now.
To help stabilize this state, I'm also using a neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) technique called anchoring. I've picked a word that describes best how I feel when I'm like this: 'joy', which I then repeat to myself when I'm in the present moment and also when I want to get back there. After a while, the mind begins to connect the word 'joy' with this state and so in time simply saying - or thinking - the word 'joy' brings me back there.
A bonus effect is that saying the word 'joy' when I'm in the moment is also a good way to keep the mind occupied. Whereas it could easily drift back into its usual internal monologue, it is too busy instead with its allotted task of repeating this word. (The best way to outsmart the mind is to tie it up in one of its own tricks...)
I don't remember to use these two techniques all the time, but by keeping them simple and, I think, moving them up my subconscious list of priorities, I'm putting them into practice more and more. And the more I use them, the more they are becoming a habit.
To summarize, the two strategies are:
1) Realize that emotions coming up are an opportunity, not a setback: use the techniques to feel and so release them.
2) Switch off the mind and be in the moment. Use the NLP anchoring technique to help to stay in this state and return there.
This strategy is already starting to pay off. I've spent the whole of today 'in the zone', the first time this has happened for ages. I don't know how long I'll stay like this - it's not usually more than a day or two - but I'm enjoying it while it lasts. Each time I reach this state, it's subtly different. The all-important connection to joy is there if I pay attention to it, but this time the natural focus is much more on a kind of inner stillness and calm fluid action. The internal dialogue is largely silent - naturally silent, I'm not having to force it right now - and the internal critic, in particular, is keeping its trap shut, which is a cause for celebration in itself. There's a kind of quiet confidence about everything I do. It never occurs to me that I won't be able to do whatever I choose - though admittedly I haven't tried sky diving or bungee jumping yet. My actions seem to flow and be easy. When I've done one thing, I move on to the next, and whatever I'm doing, it always seem to be exactly the right thing for me to be doing right now. There's no self-doubt about it.
These aren't extraordinary things I'm doing: I've done the ironing, written some letters, repaired my glasses, written this blog... How does that famous saying go? 'Before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water.' That seems to be how it is shaping up in this latest mini-taster of progress I'm having. 2009 feels great so far. And it's still only January...
(P.S. If you're a blogger you may be interested in The Quote Effect, an interesting new project by Davina of Shades of Crimson. This is your chance to contribute three favorite quotes from your blog for inclusion in Davina's upcoming eBook. There are more details here.)