Awaken to Joy
“Discover the positive in the life you are already living.”
(Welcome! This post is the first chapter from my book, Awaken to Joy. I encourage you to join me for the next 3 weeks, starting Tuesday, 9/6, as we explore each of the chapters to learn more about ourselves. Click here for more information.)
Chapter One: Focus and Awareness
A few years ago, I read a quote that essentially asked what causes us to be disconnected from our joy to lead us to behave negatively and what connects us to our heart to lead us to be loving?
The quote stimulated my thinking and inspired me to begin my work cultivating compassion and joy in my life and in my heart. My second child had just been born and I was feeling less than patient and loving. I was exhausted, frustrated, irritated, and impatient most of the time. Although even then, in one of the most challenging times of my life, I was capable of moments of enormous gratitude and compassion.
What was it that led me to be an impatient, frustrated mom one minute and then joyful and loving the next? We are all capable of being fully compassionate with ourselves and with those around us in any situation. In fact, that is our true nature, our authentic selves. Which means underneath the outer layers there are deeply compassionate beings within all of us. The negativity is just masking our true self.
Hopefully, we have all had an occasional taste of that authentic part of ourselves. When you are there, that place feels genuine, doesn’t it? It feels as if you are tapping into an infinite well of love, gratitude, and energy that cannot be spent. Then, when we experience the other side, the frustrated, impatient, negative side of us, however it manifests in you, it is as if you are out of body looking in, amazed that these words, actions, or thoughts can manifest from you. The negativity quickly saps us of energy, which then leaves us vulnerable to even more negativity.
Negativity begets negativity, meaning when we are feeling negative, we receive what we perceive as more negativity back at us. We manage this by interpreting life around us through our lens of negativity. A traffic jam could be the most annoying nuisance or a time to be quiet and relax; it all depends on our perception.
The opposite is also true – positivity begets positivity. So that is where we want to be, in a positive state that builds on itself. How do we do that?
We must begin by realizing we all have a balance of positive and negative within us, like a scale. You know which way you are tipped by what is coming out of you through thoughts, words, and actions. What is fascinating about our balance is we are conditioned to our balance, whether it is positive or negative, and may not even be conscious of its presence in us or its effect on us. Most importantly, we may not be aware we are actually tipped to the negative even when we think we are positive. I call it our “set point”.
Our set point is created by a combination of the level at which you were raised, the level of your friends, the level of our society in general, among other influences. We then add to our balance (either positively or negatively) by what we watch on television, read in books and magazines, how we handle our fears and needs, how we eat, how we judge ourselves and others, how we communicate, among many other areas. Regardless of whether we are conscious of it, our balance still affects us and we can make our lives more joyful and peaceful by making this balance in our lives conscious so we can then choose to change it.
We all want to open our hearts more, to experience more love, happiness, and joy. When we are living from our heart, we are living from our authenticity. We no longer need to pretend or wear a mask. Life becomes easier, more compassionate, more enjoyable.
Opening our heart takes two steps, introducing more positive influences which grow our heart and expands it so it is easier to find so we can live from there. The second step is to reduce the negative influences. In our culture, we are virtually bombarded by negative onslaughts. Between television, attitudes around food, the negative co-worker, etc, how can we feel safe enough to open our hearts, to experience more love? We need to become conscious of what we are exposing ourselves to so we can make different choices and allow our heart to feel freer to open. The more we open our heart, the higher our consciousness will go which brings even more joy.
Our consciousness means our ability to perceive and understand aspects of a situation. If our consciousness is low, we can only see our own perspective and tend to view our ideas as the only right ones with no exceptions. The higher our consciousness rises, the more viewpoints are visible to us. It does not mean that we necessarily agree with them, we just are able to see them and understand why someone might think that way.
Think of consciousness level as being in a building. If we are in the basement and only have windows near the ceiling that open at ground level outside, the world to us seems to be just feet walking by on the sidewalk and wheels driving by on the street. As our consciousness rises, so does our perception. Now from the first floor, we are able to see that the feet are attached to people and the wheels to cars. We can still see the feet and the wheels and can understand why someone from the basement would see the world that way; we also know that the world is larger from our perspective. But we still think that the people and cars must just disappear as they round the corner because that is where the world ends in our perspective.
As we move up in the building, as we do in consciousness, we are able to see a wider and wider perspective. By the time we are on the roof, we understand the connections between things; we see more streets, more buildings. We see that people are going places and the world continues way off into the horizon.
The same is true with our own lives. When our consciousness is low, we see the world from a limited perspective; we only see the shoes and wheels. This perspective keeps us limited and reduces our freedom. Freedom comes from being able to see more perspectives.
From the top of the building, you can have more compassion for the person who does not agree with you because you understand why they believe as they do. It frees us from judgment and allows compassion to flow into our heart. You can have more joy in life even in troubled times because you understand how your challenges are adding to your growth and will ultimately leave you stronger. Negativity serves to keep us in the lower floors. Anger, irritation, frustration, impatience, all aspects of negativity, only serve to limit us.
This program is all about raising your consciousness, taking you up a few floors so you can have a broader perspective, to live more authentically, and experience more joy. The higher our consciousness, the easier it is to access our compassionate nature. Therefore, the focus of Awaken to Joy is about raising our consciousness by deepening the well of positive energy within each of us and reducing the negative well. We do that by both reducing the negative variables and increasing the positive variables.
We will be studying various activities in our lives that are affecting our consciousness both positively and negatively without us knowing. For example, what do you watch on television? What do you eat? Who are your friends? How do you communicate? How do you judge yourself? Others? Each chapter will cover one of these and more. We will also study how to cultivate more love and compassion in our hearts.
Workbook Pages: Chapter One
Focus and Awareness
You are beginning an exciting, thought-provoking, often challenging adventure. May it lead to more compassion in your heart.
Step One: Focus Area – To receive the most benefit out of the series, I recommend you select one area of your life where you want to direct your attention for the work we are doing. This area will be where you watch the evolution of your shift in consciousness as well. The ripple effect will be amazing in the other areas of your life, trust me. But if you try to be aware of the work everywhere, you will quickly become overwhelmed. You may already have an area in mind. If you do not, use the questions below to inspire you.
- Think about your life. In what situations are you experiencing the most impatience? Frustration? Irritation? Is it with a particular person? Place? Time? The more specific you can be with yourself, the easier it will be to track your successes.
- What would be your ideal here? Begin to conceive of how you want to be. Just let yourself dream. Imagine a more patient, loving, joyful, compassionate you. Often where we would ideally like to be feels impossible, especially because our negativity often feels out of our control. But if you cannot even begin to conceive of the possibility, it becomes much more difficult to achieve. Our negative side is not out of our control. This year is about raising our consciousness so we can broaden our perspective and take control of our attitude.
Focus Area for Awakening Work: _______________________________________
Step Two: Create a Personal Mission Statement – Create a succinct statement that corresponds to your Focus Area. The Mission Statement is a goal of what you want to be, what you envision for yourself. State it in the first person present, indicating you are already there. For example:
So, first consider what is your ideal? Ask yourself, “How do I want to be in these situations?” (Use as much detail as possible so you can begin to really feel the way you will be.)
Now, create a succinct statement based on your ideal ideas. Make it as concise as possible while still having meaning for you.
Corresponding Personal Mission Statement:
Step Three: A Remembrancer – Find something you can use to help you remember your focus — special bracelet, a pebble in your pocket, a heart drawn on the back of your hand. Anything to remind you throughout the day that you have this Focus Area. Then answer the following questions:
- What exacerbates your negativity?
- What supports your positivity?
Group Discussion/Journaling Questions: Initial Focus
- at did you choose for your Focus Area? Why?
- Describe your ideal in that area.
- What is your Mission Statement?
- What adds to your negativity?
- What supports your positivity?
Let’s explore together and may you be inspired to live your extraordinary life.