Guidance from Spirit – Maybe It Does Make Sense

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Image by Sasin Tipchai from Pixabay 

Receiving guidance as a former atheist often feels crazy-making.  I started this spiritual quest as kind of an exploratory whim when Christopher was ill, and it’s turned into something quite serious in my life.  I’m grateful to know that I’m not the only one out there; in my last blog I cited data from the Pew Center for Researchwhich revealed that one-third of people receive and follow divine guidance.

That number also coincides with the approximately one-third of people who have a sense of their calling, or life’s purpose.  For me, they’re one and the same.  I’m curious as to how much overlap there is between those groups, though in the past I would’ve been one of those who had a calling without the benefit of guidance.

However, my guides tell me I’ve always followed guidance even though I didn’t realize it.  I’ve always tried to make my most important decisions following my gut instinct, which in hindsight is a practice of conferring with my Higher Self, or soul.   I don’t think they meant that I literally always followed guidance unless guidance included, even back then, making mistakes so I can learn.

I guess by that criteria, I probably have.

We sometimes ask why we are presented with unremitting challenges, which are actually there so we can learn and grow on that subject.  Challenges are always opportunities to learn because if we already could easily handle the challenge, there would be little to learn from the experience.  By learning in that manner, we master the topic, and also then potentially teach it to others, which may be related to our calling.  That’s how that works.

We understandably might wish that we get a break from all this great learning and growth.  After all, even kids get spring break, right?

We get breaks too, but if we have a glass-half-empty mindset, we will only notice when we are uncomfortable and having to learn a lesson. We’d be less likely to notice when we’re enjoying the fruits of our labor, relaxing, or resting.  But just like school, the lessons get easier once we actually learn.  In contrast, we fall farther behind if we continue to resist learning, since the lessons and life get progressively harder over time.

In short, resisting the lesson creates unhappiness.  We’re in “school.”  We’re here to learn.  Just do it so you can graduate to the next lesson.  It’ll make your life easier and you’ll be wiser in the end.

You don’t have to believe in guides and angels to understand this reality. Many of us know this already, whether we believe the lesson comes from God/Spirit, the universe, karma, or other.  It’s how the world works IMHO, regardless of whether you believe the lessons are divinely ordained.

It’s not all just struggle.  There are also invitations to grand adventures, as I’ve written about previously regarding our calling or our Hero’s Journey.  You’ve reached a certain point and now you can “graduate” to a fantastic opportunity, where you’ll have a whole new set of lessons and challenges.  That’s how it works.  The lessons never end.  You’re forever in school but at least you don’t have student loans for this education.

Guidance departs from my calling where I have also chosen to enlist guidance on the more mundane aspects of my life.  I’m not necessarily recommending this to people, I’m simply sharing this as a reality of my spiritual journey.  For example, I enjoy just going to the store for my errands and asking Spirit if there’s anything else I need, and Spirit will often guide me to something wonderful that I hadn’t thought of, or a great price on something I frequently use.  I discovered frozen edamame in my local grocery store, cashew milk ice cream at a discount, a new energizing facial cleanser, and 30% off stuff I like to keep around the house like Special K cereal.

That’s better than cutting coupons.

Discounts aside, receiving and following guidance are not without issues.  After all, as I mentioned earlier, messages are about what you need to know right now, not necessarily the factual truth.  By receiving message I am accelerating the lessons and the challenges they bring.  It’s not always comfortable or easy.  I guess the cashew milk ice cream is some consolation, like Mom taking me out for a cone after a hard day.  I feel that Spirit is sympathetic to my frustration and despair that I sometimes experience after a particularly challenging lesson, which are also the richest and most meaningful ones.

Just remember that lessons are like cost-averaging:  Where you invest a fixed amount of money in your stocks each month.  When the market is high, you get fewer shares but they’re doing well and growing.  When the market is low, you get lower performing stocks but you get more of them.  Either way it’s good, as long as you continue to stay in the game.

Lessons are that way too.  The harder the lesson the richer the learning.  The easier the lesson, the more you feel confident and capable, but you just don’t learn as much.

A win-win, either way, right?

Back to School

Back to school!

Back to school!

This year, back to school takes on a whole new meaning.  For the first time, there’s no bus schedule (well, a different bus schedule), PTA night, fee night (replaced by a big tuition bill), teacher meetings etc since my youngest is now off to college.    Since we moved out of the suburbs before the ink on his diploma was dry, we now live in the city within shooting distance of the university.  His yellow school bus is replaced by the city bus to campus, and on the first day of school he called in a panic because he didn’t have the $1.75 bus fare.  Different worries, for sure.

But the boys are not the only ones back to school.  After swearing I’d never ever go back to school, guess who has her backpack packed this Fall?

Part of me feels crazy for doing it and a part of me feels I have no choice but to follow my passion in positive psychology.  After being out of school for 20 years and having written hundreds of exam questions for thousands of students, I’m going to be on the receiving end of voluminous reading and writing assignments, uninterpretable test questions, vague academic assignments, and unreasonable professors.  Turnabout is fair play.

I can’t wait!

However, I am noticing that, like re-entering the dating scene after a 20+ year hiatus, things are different now after the early 1990’s since I’ve been a student.  I admit I’m having a bit of a culture shock with the re-entry as a student into the education system.  There’s the online course management system, there’s a discipline I have no formal background in at all, there’s students that are 20 years younger than me (though many of us are mid-career), there’s the distance element to this program, and it’s a fancy-schmancy private school (with accompanying sticker shock) when I’ve always been educated (and worked) in public institutions, literally my entire life.

I’m also continuing my day job since it is an executive graduate program where we meet in person once per month, with online interactions in-between.  So, my 20 years of experience juggling commitments will be an essential and useful skill for me to be able to manage both full-time programs.  I have also picked up other skills over the 20 years I’ve been in the work world that will hopefully help offset the disadvantage of being unable to devote 100% of my time to the program, such as critical thinking, writing, and a great deal more wisdom than in my 20’s.

Even the logistics of taking notes is different.  Do I use my iPad, my laptop, paper/pen?  Just for some perspective, I didn’t get a personal computer until graduate school and it was the Mac II, with 1 MB of memory.  Post-It notes and email became widely available only after I started my job in 1993.    I actually used to take notes using a fountain pen, which back then was quaint.  Today it’s positively pre-historic.

Mac II computer

Mac II computer

I liken the re-immersion into the modern dating and graduate student world to an Epcot Center roller coaster ride:  scary, exhilarating, fun but also interesting and delightful.  Positive psychology teaches us that stimuli that are enjoyable but not challenging (eating chocolate, watching TV) provide positive emotion that is short-lived, but those that also challenge us will provide growth and long term enjoyment.  I’m already enjoying the ride!

Boredom: An Enemy of Being Present

I’m a novelty junkie.  I like to try new activities, learn something I didn’t know, or discuss a new topic, idea or angle.  One of my favorite things to do, ever, is try a new dish or type of cuisine: combines my love of food with novelty. I had to learn to cook because I wanted to be able to control the level of variety of my diet.  Some may view this as intellectual curiosity.  I call it, on my less forgiving days, a constant need to be entertained.

On one hand, I have much energy and enthusiasm to explore the new and different.  When I can indulge this need, I am engaged, creative, interested, and in the moment.  On the other hand, I get bored easily when I am supposed to do a repetitive task, talk about a subject I find worn, take an exercise class from an uncreative instructor.  My boredom is no one’s problem but my own, but it does pose a challenge to my goal to be present.

I’ve talked so frequently about the importance of being present, and how it’s essential to peace of mind and happiness*.  Chris told me last night that only two short years ago, I was never present. (I think that’s an exaggeration, maybe almost never present.  But I digress.)  So to be where I am today (often present, usually present, something along that line) is a huge big-deal for me, and it has made an enormous difference in my ability to stay centered, calm, peaceful and access my creative and spiritual side.   With it, I believe I have grown my personal power.

Until I get bored or frustrated.  Frustration is a bit easier, as I can just look at my feelings with amusement, that something trivial, like an excruciatingly slow driver, can get me out of the moment and into my judgmental left brained self.  Twenty miles per hour under the speed limit?  Hahaha.

But boredom?  I have found no salve for that one.

Boredom is actually standing in my way right now.  My gym, the YMCA, for years has had three locations near my home so I can  luxuriously pick from among the array of classes, instructors and times to find a class that solves my exercise ennui.  I have managed to keep a regular fitness schedule for years, until they’ve all but eliminated most cardio classes and replaced them with repetitious, boring, conditioning classes.  The remaining cardio classes are taught predominantly by the most uninspiring instructors.  Consequently, my workout routine has gone down the drain.  The weight room?  The treadmill and weights are repetitious by definition.

Boredom also gets in my way in my relationships.  When someone talks about a topic that has a been there-done that quality to it, I just tune out.  I can’t help it.  And observing this phenomenon in myself does not help me re-engage because they’re still talking about something painfully dull once I notice (and try not to judge) my boredom.   When our boys were young, they were obsessed with Pokemon and would talk literally incessantly about the intricacies of each character and their battles.  It seems my blank and glazed-over look must be permanently seared into their fragile psyches.   I can’t imagine this is good for any of my relationships or work productivity/creativity.

So, folks, there is my dirty secret and I confess that I have made no progress on this front whatsoever.  But acceptance is the first step for growth. But I’m not going to sit and wait for something to happen, because, well, it’s like watching paint dry.

watching paint dry

watching paint dry

Here is a blog I started to write about my breakfast boredom.  I didn’t publish it because I thought you’d find it ….dull.

 Breakfast Ennui

I have had between 17,000 and 30,000 breakfasts in my life, give or take a few.  I’m not sure because I love breakfast and eat it early and often.

Trouble is, I get bored easily – with food, with a book, with a TV show, you name it. I also don’t want to put that much effort into breakfast since I’m usually dining alone.

So, let’s put the FUN back into breakfast!  How do you keep breakfast delicious, interesting, healthy yet satisfying?

My favorite, easy breakfasts are:

  1.  Toast spread with butter and avocado – add a little salt and pepper – divine!
  2. Plain or vanilla yoghurt – add berries, craisins, pomegranate seeds, nut/seed mix (I keep a jar with toasted, chopped nuts mixed with sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds and sprinkle on salads, yoghurt, oatmeal)
  3. Steel cut oats – same as above but add brown sugar, almond milk.   My sister cooks in advance and keeps in fridge, then reheats.  But I find the Red Mill brand can be cooked quickly in the microwave by addinga little water, cooking with on medium heat for 2.5 minutes, stirringthen adding a bit more water, then microwaving another 1.5 minutes.  (Use a big bowl because it bubbles up and you can end up with a big mess and no breakfast)
  4. Quesadilla – tortilla with cheese, add salsa and avocado.  Maybe not so healthy.  Nor is my brie toasted on artisan bread.  Oh well.

I love the above but I’ve had them, oh, 4-5,000 times so needless to say, even they are getting old.   Other things, like smoothies or cereal just don’t fill me up or hold me for long.  What do you love for breakfast?

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*Ego v. Bliss:  A Standoff, Four Ways to Become More Patient, Newfound Respect for My Right Brain,  When You Hit Rock Bottom