Lend Your Voices Only to Sounds of Freedom

I didn’t expect to be inspired by my kickboxing instructor last week. Nor did I expect to suddenly become obsessed with a Jewel song. It doesn’t exactly rock, so it’s really not “my kind of music.” But the message resonated with me so deeply from the moment the instructor played it for the cool down of the workout. Following that, she did something very unusual, but awesome: she remarked on what these ideas meant to her. (Just goes to show that mentors are all around us, in any place.) I went home and played “Life Uncommon” on repeat for most of the day, making more connections each and every time. You can listen here, and see the lyrics too:

Freedom is a principle that’s been majorly on my mind lately. As we are on the cusp of a significant election, I’m sure I’m not the only one. Political freedom is important, but the principle of freedom really is at play in all areas of our lives. Do you realize that at each and every moment, you are making the choice whether to free or to enslave yourself and others?

Every belief in your subconscious mind is either freeing you to live to your greatest potential, or it is limiting you. Every conscious thought you think either frees you or enslaves you. You are either freed by positive emotions, or enslaved by negative ones. Everything you speak either frees or enslaves yourself or others. Every action you take contributes either to freedom or slavery. And every result you set in motion either adds to the overall freedom of people in the world or takes away from it.

The song’s chorus shares this beautiful message:

Lend your voices only to sounds of freedom
No longer lend your strength to that which you wish to be free from
Fill your lives with love and bravery
And you shall lead a life uncommon

Most of us know to use our voices only to build people up, not tear them down or limit them, whether it’s our speaking voice or our voice online, in social media, in texts, etc. This is a behavior we must continuously be analyzing, and since you are the audience reading this particular blog, I’m sure you’re conscientious about this.

I want you to consider your thoughts as your inner voice to yourself, whether or not you talk to yourself out loud! Are you lending this voice only to sounds of freedom? Your thoughts lead to your emotions, and positive emotions charge us with energy, while negative emotions deplete energy. So when you dwell on negative thoughts, you are actually lending your strength to those things, which makes them grow and attracts more of it. It seems counterintuitive that we’d put energy into what we don’t want, but we do it often, without even realizing.

You may identify with some of these situations:

  • “I’m too busy” and “I don’t have time” are statements that create HUGE problems for most people. Freedom to do what we want with our time is so appealing and valuable, but a lot of us never get there, and it’s because we’re so focused on the stresses and the busyness of our lives. If you like being busy, that’s great; keep going with that. But if you’re like me and don’t enjoy the feeling of always playing catch-up and rushing around like a crazy person, stop lending strength to the idea that you MUST accomplish A, B, and C in order to be a good (parent, spouse, student, employee, citizen, etc.). Prioritize your time, of course, but remember to pat yourself on the back for what you DO accomplish, and let go of the worry about all you didn’t get to or didn’t do well. You will always have time for what’s important.
  • The way you speak about your finances tends to come true. If you keep saying, “I don’t have the money,” or “I can’t afford it,” or “Money is tight right now,” this will be your reality. Instead of lending strength to the scarcity mindset that imprisons you, focus on what you’re grateful for and put greater effort into more value to other people’s lives. You will experience abundance when that becomes your focus.
  • Have you ever tried to break a food addiction, but constantly focused on what you “can’t” eat? Willpower gets worn down over time. We must instead replace the negative habits with positive ones, and never shame yourself for slip-ups. Kate, an overweight character on the current TV show “This Is Us,” illustrates this perfectly. She constantly defines herself in terms of the size of her body: “This is always going to be who I am.” She thinks about her weight all the time: “Even when I’m not thinking about it, I’m thinking about it.” She tells herself not to eat the unhealthy food in her fridge, attaching sticky notes that say, “Don’t even think about eating this cake” and “Seriously, what is wrong with you?” Although it makes for humor in the sitcom, it’s actually very sad. Speaking to yourself in such ways only lends strength to what you don’t want.
  • When the signs appear that a cold is coming on, some people immediately give in to it. “I’m sick,” they declare in resignation, bracing themselves for the inevitability of impending discomfort. They lend their strength to the illness, and then the illness overpowers them. Do you believe that you are stronger than germs? I do. Instead of saying, “I hope I’m not getting sick” (your subconscious won’t hear the “not,”), I affirm out loud, “My body is strong and healthy,” and “I have limitless energy!” while taking steps to strengthen my immune system and rest my body. I won’t allow myself to even imagine being sick. (I can tell you that it really works. I haven’t dealt with anything more than congestion or an upset stomach in several years.)
  • When couples only talk about relationship issues, they attract more of the same problems and bad feelings, leading to disconnection. This one has been particularly challenging for me. I had thought that once the issues get resolved, greater connection will automatically follow, but this is usually not the case. The issues just get multiplied! Instead of doing this, constructively build on positive feelings of love and connection. Patience, unselfishness, faith, hope, and commitment will free your relationship to be the best it can be. Put your energy into these things. Most of the “issues” will naturally fall away on their own.

Set down your chains, until only faith remains…Set down your chains.

It strikes me that we can “set down” our chains. They don’t bind us tightly; we merely hold tightly to them. The power is in us. We can choose to hold onto faith instead. This same imagery can be found in scripture:

Shake off the chains with which ye are bound, and come forth out of obscurity, and arise from the dust. (2 Nephi 1:23, The Book of Mormon)

These chains that we allow to enslave us bind so loosely that we can merely shake them off. We were meant to “arise from the dust” and claim our birthright as children of God. Don’t remain in obscurity; come forth as the divine being that you are! Don’t deprive the world of the gifts that only you bring.

I’ll leave you with some final lines from “Life Uncommon:”

Let your words enslave no one and the heavens will hush themselves
To hear our voices ring out clear
With sounds of freedom

Remember that the one who is primarily limited and enslaved by your words is you. When you choose to have compassion on yourself, you will have compassion on others. And then you will not be afraid to let your voice “ring out clear with sounds of freedom.”

Reading this message will have done you absolutely no good unless change something, no matter how small, as a result. Look at your life. Determine the areas in which you feel limited. You’ll probably notice that you’ve been focusing on the very limitations that you resent. “No longer lend your strength to that which you wish to be free from.” Choose faith; decide to focus on what you actually want: how you want to feel, think, and believe; what you want to have, do, and be. Soon you will know how great it feels to be free!

Life is Hard…(Or Is It?)

“Your subconscious mind does not argue with you. It accepts what your conscious mind decrees.” -Dr. Joseph Murphy

I liked to distance run as a child, so in ninth grade I decided to go out for cross country. I went to the introductory meetings, but that was as far as I got. The coach was disappointed when I quit before the season even started. Why did I quit after having been excited about this sport? I suddenly got it into my head that it was going to be too hard.

Where did that “I can’t do it” belief come from? I’m not exactly sure, but every time I talked to my parents about cross country, they made comments like, “Why do you want to do that?” or “It’s going to be hard.” I don’t recall the exact words, but with every comment they made, I realized I was not going to be supported if I continued cross country. If I had been strong, I would have done it anyway, if only out of a desire to prove myself. But unfortunately, I was weak and had little self-confidence at that time.

Going into my senior year, I realized that it was my last chance to run cross country. I didn’t want to graduate from high school having regrets. During that previous three years, I had developed greater confidence in myself, so I went for it. I had a great time and loved being part of a team. I made some good friends, whom I wished I had gotten to know years earlier. However, I was never a strong competitor and was always back running with the freshmen girls. The other seniors, having had trained the previous three years, were out of my league. It was disappointing knowing I could have been like them if I hadn’t quit in 9th grade.

It would be easy to blame my parents for not supporting me, but I don’t. They simply weren’t, and still aren’t, interested in sports or competition. They didn’t really play sports growing up, and none of my brothers really did either. I think that they also weren’t excited about the prospect of having to drive me to and from practices and meets, which would have demanded a lot of their time. (And let’s face it, cross-country isn’t exactly thrilling for spectators!) Or maybe they wanted to protect me from disappointment and failure. Now I’m able to look back and see other motives for the negative commentary and lack of support, but at the time, all I could see was that they didn’t think I could do it, so it meant I couldn’t do hard things.

This was a belief that limited me–physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially–as I grew up. Thinking that “I can’t” is actually one of the most widespread and destructive beliefs in our society. The belief that “Life is hard” is something I hear all the time. I’ve bought into many beliefs that fall under that category, such as:

  • Change is hard.
  • Exercise is hard.
  • Marriage is hard.
  • Raising children is hard.
  • Keeping a clean and orderly home is hard.
  • Teaching is hard (and unrewarding).
  • Overcoming addiction is hard.
  • Trials are hard, and necessary in order to grow spiritually.

Are these statements true? In my experience so far, they seem to be. But I wonder how much I’ve needlessly struggled and suffered simply because I have always believed things are supposed to be hard? Maybe everything would seem easier if I change this idea that “Life is hard” to more empowering belief, such as that “I flow easily and effortlessly through all the challenges and experiences life brings.”

There are countless other limiting beliefs, especially in the areas of finances and love. A lot of our limiting beliefs come from adults who have influence over us as we’re growing up, as was the case in this example. But these kinds of beliefs can come from anywhere: our peers, the media, myths, debunked science, etc. Beliefs are never “true,” they are simply a models that help us make sense of our world. However, in our minds, they represent reality as we know it. Our subconscious minds make no distinction between fantasy and reality, truth and fiction. It simply takes at face value whatever our conscious mind feeds it.

So, if we don’t examine our beliefs, the scary thing is that these programs are running us and could be sabotaging our success without our even realizing it. The good news is that we can reprogram these beliefs so that our minds work for us rather than against us, so that we can reach our goals. How can this be done? Use this simple tool I learned from Jack Canfield (author of The Success Principles):

  1. Brainstorm all the beliefs you can think of that you feel are limiting you. Make a list of all the things you heard growing up that might somehow still be limiting you. Identify which belief you want to change.
  2. Determine how this belief limits you.
  3. Decide how you’d rather be, act, or feel.
  4. Create a turnaround statement that affirms or gives you permission to be, act, or feel this new way.

An example using this tool might look like this:

  1. “I can’t do hard things.”
  2. This keeps me from taking on challenges that help me grow and allow me to create, keeps me from joining new social circles and creating new friendships, and contributes to low self-esteem and lack of self-confidence.
  3. I would rather face challenges with a positive attitude that I can succeed. I would like to feel empowered and capable. I’d love to accomplish more.
  4. “I am capable of succeeding at challenging tasks.” Or, “I enjoy new experiences that challenge me and make me grow.”

Once you’ve created your empowering turnaround statement, to reprogram your subconscious mind, speak it out loud several times a day for a minimum of 30 days. Repetition and intensity are the keys here. This process is powerful. Any idea implanted this way can penetrate the subconscious mind, going deeper than reason, deeper than the conscious mind could ever hope to go.

Why should life keep being hard when it doesn’t have to be? I know I’m going to be working on this over the next month. I hope you’ll give it a try, too!

My Goals for 2016

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” Aristotle

As the final post in my goals series, I think it’s appropriate to post my own goals for this year. Because I deeply value personal growth (mind, body and spirit), connecting meaningfully with my family, and empowering others, all my goals stem from these overarching objectives. I have a vision of what I want to become, so I state my goals as affirmations in the present tense to bring my reality closer to that of my vision.

Health:

  • I am craving healthy, nutritious foods, only indulging in treats/desserts once a month.
  • I am achieving my ideal weight of 120 pounds by July 1.
  • I am exercising for at least 20 minutes daily. (yoga, P90X3, walk/jog)

Family:

  • I am spending an hour of quality one-on-one time with each child once a week.
  • I am having 20 minutes of quality time with my husband every night.
  • I am planning the next week’s meals every Saturday.
  • I am involving my children in family history and journaling every Sunday.
  • I am traveling to Destin, Florida with my husband and/or children in September.

Mentoring:

  • I am holding a mentoring appointment every week by Dec. 1.
  • I am posting to my blog at least 3 times each month.
  • I am spending at least 2 hours a week in training or study.

Personal habits:

  • I am meditating every morning for 180 days straight.
  • I am using empowerment tools every morning and evening (vision board, declarations, goals review, etc.)
  • I am writing in my journal every evening.
  • I am reading scriptures every morning and memorizing one scripture every week.

I’m far from making most of these goals life habits, and I know it will be a constant challenge, but I want to keep striving. I aim for improvement, not perfection, so I don’t beat myself up for falling short. Posting these goals here is my way of shouting them to the world, which will make it more likely that I achieve them.

What goals do you have for yourself this year? Are any of them similar to any of mine? I’d love to see what changes you’re striving to make. Shout them out in the comments section!

 

The Father of Motivation

An inspired and wonderful man, Dr. Wayne Dyer, the “Father of Motivation,” passed away last weekend. I’d like to leave a small tribute to him here, in my own humble way. Although I’ve only just recently become familiar with a small fraction of the large body of he created through his lifetime, his teachings have deeply resonated with me. I wanted to share with you just one of the powerful ideas he introduced me to, even though it’s incredibly difficult to condense it down into a simple blog post. (I encourage you to read his beautiful book Wishes Fulfilled, the source of all the quotes in this post, for a much richer explanation of these things.)

The idea is this: I am God. You are God. We are the image of God in the flesh. We are God in action. I have long been familiar with the idea my religion teaches: that we are all children of God, and that we can one day become gods and goddesses as well. But Dr. Dyer insists time and time again that our highest Self literally is God. This is powerful stuff. We aren’t just mere humans with the potential to become gods someday. We are, and have always been, God, and His power lives within us and is our power. Dr. Dyer uses an example to illustrate this:

“Imagine God as the ocean. If you take a bucket of water out of the ocean, is the water in the bucket the ocean? Yes, indeed, it is altogether the ocean–and the ocean, even though it is larger, is still altogether the whole of the ocean in the bucket. Now think of yourself as a bucket of God. Altogether God; and God is altogether you. It is only when you stay separated from the ocean that the water dries up. This is your task in grasping your highest self–staying aligned and not separated from your Source.”

In the scriptural account of Moses talking with God face-to-face, God says to him, “I AM THAT I AM.” He goes on to say that “I am” is His name forever. God speaks of Himself in “I am” throughout scripture. Here is the implication: Every time I use the words “I am…,” whether I speak them aloud or just thinking them, I am using God’s name. This means I need to take reverential care whenever I use these words, in order to avoid blasphemy or taking the name of God in vain. So never say, “I am stupid,” “I am ugly,” “I’m not good enough,” etc., if you’d never use these adjectives to describe God. But actively say things like:

  • “I am amazing.”
  • “I am powerful.”
  • “I am loving.”
  • “I am wealthy.”
  • “I am valuable.”
  • “I am vital and healthy.”
  • “I am beautiful.”
  • “I am intelligent and wise.”

When you say these things, especially out loud, you will feel a power immediately increase in your life. Even if you don’t see these statements as being true of yourself in the present moment, since God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, as you become more aligned with your true nature, you will become these qualities. Or rather, you always were these qualities, but they will more fully manifest in your present physical reality.

Dr. Dyer goes on to say:

“Every time you think of the expression I Am, you initiate God in action. Why not continually remind yourself that I live, move, and have my being as God, the I am that I am? … The words I am align you with the Divine, and at the same time remind you that you are the Divine, possessing the same power to create as God.”

This is a really big deal. We are more powerful than we can realize. The more fully we glimpse who we really are, the more readily we can harness and use this power, as long as we are in alignment with God. Learning this is what made the abstract idea of faith a lot more concrete for me.

So what keeps us from being aligned with God? Well, many things, but I’d like to discuss just one of them here, and that is judgment. When we judge, criticize, and condemn others, we have left the place of love, and since God is love, we are no longer aligned with Him. The natural man, as some call it, or the Ego, as others call it, seeks to divide ourselves from God, others, and nature. Even though we are all One, the Ego thinks we need to see ourselves as separate and distinct in order to preserve ourselves, and itself. So we set up boundaries and immediately judge the things and people outside of who we think we are, in order to create and preserve a sense of our own individual identity. (Read more about ego boundaries in Peace Which Passeth All Understanding.) Wayne Dyer explains that the letters in EGO could stand for “Edge God Out,” because that’s exactly what the ego is doing. He writes:

“My criticism and condemnation of the thoughts, feelings, and behavior of others–regardless of how right and moral my human self convinces me it is–is a step away from God-realization.”

I’d like to return to this destructive idea of judgment, and its common sidekicks blaming and shaming, in a future blog post and expand on it. For now, it’s sufficient to say that criticizing and condemning anything about another person will move us out of alignment with God and our power will disappear. And that is a devastating loss, because it is the power of God within us that attracts every good thing life has to offer.

I wish I could share more of what I’ve learned from Dr. Dyer, but let me close with one more idea that he expresses so well:

Your soul is infinity itself. It has no restrictions or limitations–it resists being fenced in–and when you attempt to contain it with rules and obligations, it is miserable….The ideal of your soul is space, expansion, and immensity, and the one thing it needs more than anything else is to be free to expand, to reach out and to embrace the infinite.

Let’s let go of the limiting beliefs we hold about ourselves. It’s all about expansion and growth. As long as we are constantly striving to learn, grow, and create, and encouraging this in others, we will live lives of great peace, joy, and abundance. Dr. Dyer exemplified this in his life of personal growth and service to an uncountable number of people. He will be missed, but I’m so grateful for the wealth of truth and insights that he left behind.