One concept I work with in The Way of Joyis what I call “Integrity Activates Change”. The way I see it, in order to create change — to pivot what you don’t want into what you dowant — requires being able to acknowledge and embrace your “whole” self — including all of your history, both “positive” and “negative”. Then I believe you are better able to make self-respecting choices that integrate all of who you are, including all of your different aspects or inner voices.
The questions I often return to that guide me back to my own integrity, the embrace of my whole self are:
Do you feel aligned with your vision and your passion?
What do you do when you hit roadblocks?
Even when something frightens, angers, or demoralizes you, how might you use it?
The next performance of Living Arts Playback Theater will be Traces of the Trade: An Afternoon of Film and Interactive Theater on the Legacy of Slavery on Feb. 4.
What is a challenge you’ve grown from that contributes to who you are and what you offer others?
Do you ever have days when you find yourself railing against things that Just Don’t Feel Fair? —where it feels like the universe is conspiring in a Job-like way to keep you from doing what you want to do? How can you follow your passion when you hit the roadblocks, the nay-sayers or the voices of self-doubt that appear to drag you down? In fact, is all that appears to be bad really bad?
In an earlier blog, I spoke about The Law of Attraction and how, for me, the most interesting work is to hold the stance of accepting, even welcoming, all that happens as food for spiritual/personal growth and development.
I want to be very clear that when I say to accept what’s going on, I don’t mean submit or “there’s nothing you can do to change things so just buck up and deal with it.” For many people the idea of acceptance is so connected to submitting or enduring that they believe the choice to “accept” would result in even fewer choices than they already have.
But I mean something very different.
I’m talking about avoiding a pitfall, the trap of keeping your focus on what should be and so losing sight of opportunities embedded in what is. Focusing on “what is,” rather than on something more “ideal,” makes you better able to make clear choices about how you want to relate to a situation rather than getting stuck in a self-defeating, powerless state of “it is not supposed to be that way” or “it’s just not fair.”
When have you seen an undesired situation transform from a challenge into something that ended up being a gift?
Vicki Dello Joio, founder of The Way of Joy: A Spiritual Fitness Program, is a teacher, speaker and performing artist. Integrating over 40 years of Chi Kung practice with other martial arts as well as her work in Yoga, Feldenkreis, physical fitness and theater, Vicki has developed a dynamic set of tools to increase awareness, transform obstacles into opportunities and enhance creative potential. Book: The Way of Joy: An Evolutionary Process to Awaken Inspiration, Focus Intention and Manifest Fulfillment, CD: Short Meditations for a Busy Life.
There is a popular saying I often hear circulating among people who are part of the movement to create a new improved paradigm for living and healing that says “you create your own reality”. For me, a far more interesting question to ask is how do you respond to whatever is happening? I don’t believe that there is some magical formula here.
Rather than asserting you can totally create your own reality, I prefer to say that you can choose how to respond to your reality, which consequently affects your reality. How you choose to respond to any given situation colors your perspective. This in turn influences how you experience your reality. Then, because your subjective experience is different, you can also say that your reality is different. So, depending on the nature of your response, you have changed your reality.
For me, the bottom line question is not whether or not we create our own reality, but what we do when things “out of our control” happen—that is, how we receive and respond to whatever occurs.
When something happens in your life and you transform it into a means for growth—even with particularly painful situations like the death of a loved one, undergoing a chronic illness, a business failure and so on—rather than trying to evaluate whether you have done a good or poor job of “attracting” it—it seems to me the real work is how to hold the stance of accepting, even welcoming, all that happens as food for spiritual/personal growth and development.
I am not saying I think we should rejoice when we feel pain and suffering. However, I am suggesting that when you allow the present moment, whatever it is, to somehow become a contribution to your life, it becomes possible to experience even the greatest pain in a way that doesn’t feel oppressive or make you feel like a victim. By keeping the channels open, you can discover how you might use those obstacles either for information or redirection of your qi.
Vicki Dello Joio, founder of The Way of Joy: A Spiritual Fitness program, is a teacher, speaker and performing artist. Integrating over 40 years of Chi Kung practice with other martial arts as well as her work in Yoga, Feldenkreis, physical fitness and theater, Vicki has developed a dynamic set of tools to increase awareness, transform obstacles into opportunities and enhance creative potential. Book: The Way of Joy: An Evolutionary Process to Awaken Inspiration, Focus Intention and Manifest Fulfillment, CD: Short Meditations for a Busy Life.
I just returned from a silent meditation retreat in the Trinity Alps in northern California. My beloved, who is a web designer, gifted me with a stay at the off-the-grid retreat cabin belonging to one of her clients. Here was a place I could live for several days in solitude, write, and listen to the hush of whispering pines and the varying rhythms of my own heartbeat as I wrestled with some of my own inner demons.
In need of some kind of transformation, I’d been craving this kind of time and heart space, especially as I’ve been trying to complete a difficult letter that has taken me a long time to write. Its been one of those projects where I felt an inner drive to complete it at the same time I felt an utterly stiff-armed (and stiff-legged) pushback to the kind of letting go I needed to do.
I arrived at the retreat cabin grumpy, sweaty and resistant. Even though a part of me did realize that it was a complete privilege to stay here for the week, what I mostly felt was afraid—scared that the resistance I had been wrestling with would just linger, take me over, eat me alive and that I would never get to the place of balance I was longing for. Even though I have taken many solo silent retreats over the years, this time I was entrenched in my “I don’t wanna” mindset and deep in the throes of “who-do-you-think-you-are??-itis.”
One evening, I sat outside with my journal facing a semi-circle of tall trees. Every now and then I’d look up from writing and breathe in the Trinity mountain air that is as fragrant as the most delectable wine. My mind began to drift, my body relax, I found myself gazing at a small semi-circle of trees in front of me. In a little while, several of them appeared to take on different kinds of personas, as though possessed by tree spirit elders who towered over me with authority and grace. The branches of one tree looked like a many-armed Hindu goddess wafting energy my way as her branches danced in the frequent gusts of wind. Another had a face near the top that looked like a benevolently smiling, child-like little bear, gazing down at me with utter delight. High in the upper branches of yet another tree, I was able to make out another more neutrallooking female face. With branches above her head that looked like a headdress, she seemed dignified, regal and somehow a little remote. At the same time, she seemed utterly compassionate—a Kwan Yin* of the pines.
As I gazed at her, my thoughts turned back to the writing I’d been doing. Although the mosquitoes had subsided earlier, I felt plagued by gnats of negative emotion. “I can’t do it.” “I’m not worthy” “I don’t want to” blah blah blah. I felt surrounded by a bubble of negativity, as though I was Pigpen (from Peanuts) surrounded by a dusty cloud of resistance.
In the middle of my descent, I looked back up at the tree circle. To my dismay, the Kwan Yin of the trees appeared to withdraw, pulling back from visibility and blending into the branches until I could no longer make her out. Urgently, I squinted and hunched, trying to make her out again, but no luck.
I leaned back in my chair, closed my eyes and brought my focus to my breath. As I did, I allowed the nagging of my brain mutter to fade away. I shifted my focus back to sipping the intoxicating air, and appreciating the quiet. When I opened my eyes, I saw, to my delight, that the tree goddess had returned to the upper branches, her branches gently swaying as though she was wafting good energy my way.
I began to play with my thoughts: When I invoked negative self-punishing images, she would fade. When I shifted my focus to gratitude, presence, and curiosity, she re-emerged. I was enchanted with this visceral experiment as I played with seeing how by simply choosing where to place my focus, the world around me seemed to change, bringing home Wayne Dyer’s axiom, “Change the way you look at things, and the things you look at change.”
Have you ever experienced taing a deep breath to readjust your focus from feeling like a victim to one of gratitude? What do you do to pivot when you are feeling self-doubting, angry or lost?