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Monday, December 28, 2015

Choosing a Blessed 2016

By Nancy Rynes, author of Awakenings from the Light 

I think we all know at least one person who seems bound and determined to be miserable, even if he or she has all the best the world can give them.

I met Steve* recently while participating in an artistic workshop in a rural area of New Mexico, USA. Part of the workshop involved traveling to a remote location for a day trip of about 10 hours, so the instructor asked the participants to carpool. I volunteered my car and took three of the other workshop attendees with me for our class that day. Steve rode next to me in the front passenger's seat with the other two attendees, both women, in the back of my SUV. The first few minutes of the drive went OK but within a half hour, I had a feeling that riding with Steve could make for a challenging day.

As far as I could tell, and from speaking with folks who knew Steve better than I, this man had a pretty darn good life. He was retired, happily married to a spouse who was also a well-respected (and very well-paid) professional, and who graciously and fully supported his artistic hobby. The couple lived in a nice home, had no debt, traveled internationally on vacations a few times each year, and lacked for nothing that money could buy. 

Soon after setting off for our day trip, though, Steve began ranting about everything under the sun. Nothing and no one was good enough. He ranted about the other drivers on the road (they were fine, trust me). He ranted about a set of furniture he and his wife were ordering for their home. He ranted about politicians, religions, countries, the young people today, and much more. I think you get the idea. Nothing and no one (except for his wife) was spared from his impassioned ranting. And worst of all, he directed just as much, if not more, negativity toward himself as he did to other people. In his mind and in his words, nothing he did was right. According to him, he was dumb, forgetful, clumsy, slow, and pretty much worthless if you believed what he said about himself (I did not). In the end, it was how he spoke to and about himself that distressed me the most because I know  how damaging it can be.

Several times that day, I and the other folks on the trip tried to get Steve to think and speak differently about himself, his circumstances, and life in general. We tried everything we knew: pointed out the beauty in the world around us, called attention to the things he did well, showed him other options or choices he could make, and much more. But I soon realized that Steve had firmly chosen to be miserable on a trip that should have been fun, joy-filled, and beautiful.

The rest of us didn't let Steve affect our moods, though. We remained happy, enjoyed ourselves, had fun, joked, and learned as much as we could from the instructors. Unfortunately, Steve remained miserable no matter what we did to try to help.

By listening to Steve that day, I was reminded that, to varying degrees, many people choose to stay mired in misery and unhappiness even when they have every opportunity to live an amazing life. And some people who should be miserable, given their circumstances, choose to live in gratitude, joy, and peace**. It's all in the choices we make in our attitudes and how we live our lives.

Yes, cultivating happiness, contentment, and even joy are choices we can make in each and every moment. If you doubt this, read the books of Viktor Frankl sometime and you'll understand what I mean. Even while being imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp during World War II, in conditions you and I would find unlivable, Dr. Frankl chose to find beauty and love around him:

 
"We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms -- to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way."


If you want more love in your life for the new year, try learning to be more loving and kind to others. If you want more peace, learn to cultivate that for yourself and your family. If you want more beauty, learn to see it every day in the world around you. Remember, it's really up to you, and only up to you. Waiting on someone else to give you peace or love or contentment is like betting everything on winning the lottery. Probably not going to happen, at least not in the near future, and you'll waste a lot of valuable time in limbo in the meantime ;-)

My wish for all of us in 2016 is that we learn how to create for ourselves and our loved ones that which we most desire: peace, love, gratitude, kindness, and beauty each and every day.




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*Steve: not his real name
**See Awakenings from the Light for more examples

As always, if you are experiencing extreme or distressing circumstances in your own life, please consult with a qualified professional for help. You don't need to go it alone. Talking to a licensed counselor, therapist, or spiritual advisor when you need it is a way to show love and compassion for yourself.



Posted by Nancy Rynes, author of Awakenings from the Light ( http://NancyRynes.com )

All content copyright Nancy Rynes, 2015

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Letting Go and Choosing Peace

By Nancy Rynes, author of Awakenings from the Light

This time of year brings the holiday season and with it, more time spent with family and friends. The tradition is an old one across cultures, going back millennia. In ancient times, especially in colder climates, families and tribal groups spent more time indoors and away from the elements when the seasons turned toward winter. I can imagine them huddled around fires in tepees, long houses, or castles. Our very distant ancestors took time during the colder months to be together indoors telling stories, teaching youngsters the language and culture, or simply laughing, playing games, and telling jokes. 

Photo courtesy Flickr member Mikel Ortega

You too may be busy entertaining family this holiday season, and whether that is stressful for you or not I hope you take a little time for yourself before the new year comes. If you can, steal away somewhere quiet and give thought to the things you'd like to release as 2015 rolls to a close. It's my belief that it's easier for new things to come into our lives if first we release the tired, old  baggage that holds us back.

This is one way I like to let go of the things that no longer serve me:

1) I grab some small pieces of paper and a pen, and retreat to a place that is easy for me to hear my inner wisdom. This may be a quiet room in my home, a favorite hangout like a coffee shop, or an inspiring place in nature.

2) Next I take some deep belly breaths and relax. Ask my inner wisdom, my guides, or God to show me the top five to ten things keeping me from living my best life. I then write each one down on a separate piece of paper. Some of the things others have come up with include:
  • Fear of death / failure / lack 
  • Persistent negative thinking and self-talk
  • Addictions to food, alcohol, or drugs
  • A troubling health issue
  • Anger management 
  • Fear of starting that business, book, or creative project
  • Attachment to a destructive relationship
3) Once I have five to ten little slips of paper, I create a letting-go ceremony. I start a fire in the fireplace, then hold my little slips of paper in my hand and say a prayer something like: "God, I have in my hands the things that are holding me back. Help me to let go and leave them behind in 2015 so that I can be open to the good things coming in the new year."

4) Next, I read each one aloud and toss it onto the fire: "Fear of failure, thank you for trying to keep me safe but it is time for you to leave my life. I now release you and let you go."

5) At the end, I say a prayer of gratitude for all of the good things in 2015 and ask for what I want in the new year: "Divine, thank you for all of the good you brought me in 2015. Thank you for helping me write and publish my book, for all of the amazing people I have met, and for all of the love I still feel in this world. In 2016, please help me continue my spiritual work here on Earth and to be of greater service to you, to humanity, and to Nature. Amen."

Next time I'll share with you some ideas for starting off the new year in a positive way.

Remember, all in life is a choice. My wish to you this holiday season is that you choose to create peace, love, and joy for yourself and the ones you love.


Blessings,

Nancy

PS, if you haven't taken my fear survey yet please do so. I'd love to have your input before I begin the project:


Click this link to take the Fear Survey




Posted by Nancy Rynes, author of Awakenings from the Light ( http://NancyRynes.com )

All content copyright Nancy Rynes, 2015

Friday, October 23, 2015

Extreme Attachment Can Push Away What We Desire


By Nancy Rynes, author of Awakenings from the Light


Have you ever noticed that sometimes, the harder you try to grab on to something you desperately want, the faster it slips away from you?


Locked gate, by Jessica Patterson (under Creative Commons)

As an author publishing my first book this past summer, it surprised me that I had a very light, flowing attitude about book sales. I didn't have a sense of emotional need for Awakenings from the Light to reach any kind of specific sales mark, critical acceptance, or whatever. I simply showed up to the computer, created the best, most honest book I could, and then emotionally let go of the rest of the process. I didn't feel any worry or angst about trying to force something to happen. Instead, I asked for help and allowed the Divine to take over. I pledged to continue to do the work as I was called to do it (in my case that meant personal appearances, book signings, classes, etc.), but I didn't strive to go all-out on marketing. I simply asked Spirit to handle it. Guess what? The book has taken on a life of its own and sales have been going well, all without stress, strain, or worry on my part.

Now contrast that with another area of my life: my art. Sales of my artwork have been "Ok" (steady but not spectacular), and I have been very stressed, anxious, and overly-involved in striving to increase sales. It seems that the more emotionally attached I am to my art needing to sell well, the more I seem to try to brute-force an outcome. And when I try to force something to happen, my goal slips right through my fingers. I run up against one roadblock after another and the result is inner turmoil.

So what gives? Why does this happen?

Let's leave out attachments to people for now and focus on attachments to things, ideas, goals, etc. Some very basic level of attachment to things may help us: we're pretty attached to eating every day so we do some kind of work in order to put food on the table. But that's not the kind of attachment I'm talking about. I'm talking about the kind of attachment that gets in the way of Divine grace working in our lives. The kind of attachment I have had about my art sales is a good example.

This unceasing need to have things work out "just right" (in other words, the way we imagine it should be in our own minds) is simply clingy and controlling. We are trying to cling to an idea that may actually not be the best end game for us. Or we are trying to control a situation in which we're out of our league. As humans, we sure love our sense of control even if it's simply an illusion.

And control is an illusion in many instances. When it comes right down to it, the only things we really can control are the words we speak, the actions we take, and to some extent our thoughts and feelings. That's it. We might be able to influence more around us, but we truly cannot control most of what happens in the wider world out there.

Extreme attachment to a specific outcome can prevent us from achieving what we want for a variety of reasons, but I'll keep it to the spiritual for now (for a more thorough treatment of this topic, I have one full chapter on it in Awakenings from the Light). Clinging to the need for a particular outcome actually pushes the Divine grace away faster than anything else.

Attachment leaves little room for God to work in our lives. It prevents Spirit from helping out and perhaps bringing us something even better than we could have imagined. Sometimes I picture God simply saying with a chuckle, "Ok if you think you're so smart, let's just see what happens when I step back and let you try it your way for a while..."*

Think about it: if you're hellbent on a specific outcome that absolutely must happen the way you think it should, you may very well ignore other opportunities that come along because they don't fit your preconceived ideas. In my case, with my art sales, I had it in my brain that the only way I would achieve my financial goals is to have X number of galleries representing my art. I had my mind focused exclusively on the idea that gallery representation was the only way to sell art. And while it can be a great way to sell artwork, it's certainly not the only way to do so.

My attachment to a specific outcome has, in essence, shut out God and Divine grace. When I realized this, I also realized that it was time to change my mindset.

In my next post, I'll talk about being grateful for what you have now, some ideas for letting go, and how you might change the way you view the concept of "manifesting."


*For a fun read on this subject, check out Deepak Chopra's book Why Is God Laughing?



Posted by Nancy Rynes, author of Awakenings from the Light ( http://NancyRynes.com )

All content copyright Nancy Rynes, 2015

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

A "Wrong" Path?

By Nancy Rynes, author of Awakenings from the Light

Do you know of even one person whose path through life is straight, on-target, and  uninterrupted? I sure don't. Even if we look at the lives of people we think of as successes we will see twists, turns, and unexpected challenges. Sometimes circumstances will force us to take a detour from our planned route. Other times we don't pay attention to our internal compass and go off in a direction we didn't intend.

Maze photo by Flickr member Adam Heath (Creative Commons license)
  

In my book Awakenings from the Light, I wrote about the good things that can come to us when we listen to our inner wisdom. What that means is that we simply pay attention to our unique, internal compass that Spirit has given us, which will lead us to our best, most in-Spirit lives. I go through a quick, three-part check when making decisions: what do my "gut'" heart, and mind tell me?  When all three are in alignment, I know a particular choice is a good one for me. If there is disagreement, I do more soul-searching.  

But what does it feel like when we don't listen to our inner wisdom? What happens when we ignore our inner compass and go off in what we think is a wrong direction? And how can we recover if this happens? 

Recently, I was faced with a couple of decisions where my three-part check (gut, heart, mind) didn't agree. My mind spoke to me from a place of weakness or fear, asking me to make what seemed like a very logical and rational decision. This decision involved a particular opportunity that, at least on paper, seemed to made sense to pursue. But my intuition and my heart told me something different. My heart knew the decision to take this opportunity was coming from a negative place and it didn't feel right. My intuition and heart wanted me to pass it by, but I was channeling my old, responsible, pre-NDE self that day. I took the opportunity and began the project.  

Unfortunately, within a couple of days my mind realized that my heart and gut were right. This opportunity and I were not good fits for each other. My sleep became very sporadic, one of my personal red flags that something in my life is off. I went from 9 hours of sleep a night to 3 or 4. For those of you who need a solid 9 or 10 hours a night, you might be able to imagine the state I was in. I started each day with a sense of dread and became overly-emotional from the lack of sleep. I didn't want to face the day anymore and even became grumpy at times (not at all me). All of this  happened because I listened to my fear-filled mind at the expense of my heart and intuition. 

Many of us ignore our internal truth even if we think we have very good reasons for doing so. In fact, I would say that most, if not all, of the angst and drama we experience on a daily basis comes from ourselves – going against our own inner wisdom because of fear When we ignore our inner truth, though, parts of our lives can go haywire 

Sometimes it's good to stretch our comfort zones and try new things, but only if that desire comes from a place of strength. 

As I wrote in Awakenings from the Light, and as I apparently needed to see again in my own life, fear can lead us to make some very questionable decisions. These fear-based decisions can lead to anxiety, drama, and more fear. It's like running on a hamster's wheelSo how do we get make it stop? 

Hear, respect, and eventually follow the guidance of our inner wisdom. 

Sometimes we have to do things we don't necessarily want to do, like pay our taxes or go to the dentist. We have to make a living, eat, clothe ourselves, and have some kind of shelter. But ideally, Spirit wants us to get those needs met by being on a path that fits with our inner truth. The bonus is that the more we can live this way, the better our lives will flow and the happier we will be. 

This doesn't mean that if you're in a job or career you don't like you should quit right now. Please don't :-) Instead, give your intuition, heart, and mind time to weigh in. What are some things that you really want to do? Can you make a living at one or more of them? If not, can you make a living out of something related? *

But don't worry if you've made an unwise decision recently. Be gentle with yourself and take a second look 
  • Is it truly the "wrong" choice? 
  • Are there nuggets of good that you can find in the situation? 
  • If it's really a poor choice, can it be undone now or in the near future? 
  • Can you think about it differently and go along with it for a while? 
  • Can you take small steps to make things better with the choice you made? 
  • Can you take steps that will eventually lead you to a better path? One of love and strength rather than fear? 
  • How can you listen to your inner wisdom better next time you're in a similar situation? 
Being in the sciences for many years has given me a somewhat different take on decision making. In the sciences we're expected to dream up hypotheses, try to solve problems creatively, and experiment. A "failure" isn't the end of the world...it's simply a result from which we can learn. Wrong turns are part of the deal. 
So don't be hard on yourself if you've made a decision that didn't work out. Making a course correction, taking a different path, or changing your mind isn't "failing." You've simply made a decision, taken action, and received a result. Is the result one that you want? If not, feel gratitude for what you do have and change things up in order to bring yourself to a path that better suits you. Just because you tried something and it didn't work the way you intended doesn't mean you're somehow an inferior person. 

In my case, I thought about all of these things. I spent time in quiet solitude in order to let my heart speak to me about the best path. Should I stay on this project for now, knowing it was not a good fit? Could I make it the 6 months of the contract term? Is there something I could do to make it better? And could I let go and allowSpirit to help me?  

Over the course of a couple of days, I realized that I was so poor a fit for the project that not only was it stressing me out to try to play the part, but I felt I was being deceptive to the folks who hired me to perform the work. And as much as I enjoyed the perceived sense of security the position gave me, it was the feeling of deceiving my employer that led me to have an honest talk with them and make a change. 

And guess what? My sleep immediately improved!

*Check out the awesome book Second Acts by Michael Pollan for inspiration and advice on making a career change.



Posted by Nancy Rynes, author of Awakenings from the Light ( http://NancyRynes.com )

All content copyright Nancy Rynes, 2015


Friday, October 9, 2015

A Twisting Path


The other day, my lunchtime walk led me to a part of town unfamiliar to me. Strolling along Left Hand Creek in Longmont, I passed a churchyard situated on the other side of the road. Since my mind was focused on the path directly in front of me, I didn't notice what the churchyard held until my return trip.  On my way back, though, I stopped and stared at the open lot: a full-sized labyrinth. 

Photo of Chartres-style Labyrinth by Nancy McClure (creative commons license)
I had never seen a walking-sized labyrinth in person before. Large stones defined the twisting path toward the center while crushed limestone gravel formed its surface. I was due back in the office soon but the pull of the labyrinth was too strong to resist. I crossed the street and stepped into the churchyard. 
A labyrinth isn't a maze. It holds no dead-ends to frustrate the walker and it's impossible to get lost. One very twisty path leads into the center and one path meanders back out. You simply walk, letting the path guide you back and forth. All you need to do is to place one foot in front of the other. 

I paused at the entrance. Should I go in? Was there time?  

The winding path called. I entered. 

My first steps were quick and sure but I soon changed the rhythm of my walking. My steps slowed, and with them, my mind quieted. At first it seemed the path led me directly to my destination in the center, but soon the way twisted and I found myself heading in a completely different direction.  
The labyrinth was a metaphor for my life. 

At one point, my mind wanted to take over and tried to scan several turns ahead to "figure it out." But I noticed that if I tried to anticipate where the path led my mind became confused and I started to feel a little dizzy. While I could see the center, my brain couldn't get a clear idea of how I would get there given the apparent confusion of the path ahead. Trying to anticipate the twists and turns got in the way of simply focusing on putting one foot in front of the other. I found that the best way for me to proceed was to simply focus on where I was right now and maybe a few steps just ahead of me, then I could let my mind relax and trust that the path would lead me to the center, my destination. 

Walking the labyrinth isn't exactly straightforward, at least from the point of view of our logical brains. My mind thought I would neatly finish one quadrant before moving on to the next, but that doesn't happen in a labyrinth. My steps led me into the first quadrant, then I found myself leaving before finishing it, proceeding to the next quadrant for a bit then back to the first. From there, I moved on to the third. 
In a way, walking this labyrinth reminded me of life on a spiritual path: twists and turns were normal. The path often led me five steps forward, two back, then three ahead again followed by four in a direction I didn't expect 

Finally, my feet stepped into the center and I stopped, realizing that what I thought was my destination was actually just a wide spot in the road. The center simply gave me time and space to pause and reflect before continuing on...back out. 

I've heard from others that they have different insights each time they walk the labyrinth, that it's often best to simply go in with a quiet mind and let the insights come. 

Have you walked a labyrinth? Did you experience anything spiritual or gain any insights? 



Posted by Nancy Rynes, author of Awakenings from the Light ( http://NancyRynes.com )

All content copyright Nancy Rynes, 2015


More information on the labyrinth in Longmont, Colorado:
http://www.ststephenslongmont.org/site/cpage.asp?sec_id=180016232&cpage_id=180088002 
https://goo.gl/maps/CXVTAvEfeVE2