Monthly Archives: May 2016

Staying Open


I’ve been thinking back on an experience I had about a year and a half ago.  My car was dying.  I’d spent a lot of time at the garage that summer so I knew this car was not going to last much longer. I needed another, but I had no idea how to make that happen.  I was still digging myself out of a financial hole. I was making progress.  The car was the last piece that needed attention so that I could relax knowing that I could take care of all my basic needs.

One blustery November day, I was on my way to work and my car choked its last breath and died by the side of the road.  I sat there in stunned silence. The car had over 200,000 miles and I was pretty sure it had its second cracked head gasket along with who knew what else ready to break.

I had no savings.  I had no credit. I lived alone and drove a half hour through back roads to get to work.  I had no idea what I could do.

Crisis has the marvelous effect of focusing our minds and keeping us in the present moment.  Luckily, I had been studying law of attraction for a couple of years at that point and I’d had some success with deliberately steering myself to better feeling thoughts and outcomes in my life.  I clung to that knowledge like my life depended on it.

It took about a week for me to go from sitting in a dead car, on an unpaved road, on a windy, cold day, to driving home a two-year-old car with 30,000 miles on it. It was a week full of anxiety, faith, and little miracles.  I made two decisions during that week, that served me really well.  I decided to stay open to the possibility that things could work out well and I actively looked for things to appreciate.

I started looking for things to be appreciate on the day when my car died.  I was grateful that it died on my way to work, when it was light out and I could knock on doors looking for a phone to use, rather than at 10:00 at night when I would be coming home from work.  There was sufficient staff on at my workplace that night, so it wasn’t a crisis when I couldn’t get there.  I had a good relationship with my mechanic, so he sent a tow truck way out to this back road to rescue me and my car and I got dropped off at my house before the tow truck continued on to the garage.

I had a lot of sleepless nights that week, but as I kept reminding myself to be open to the possibility of things working out well, they did.  A friend drove me around to look at cars. A co-worker picked me up on her way to work.  Another co-worker offered to lend me her car when she wasn’t using it. A family member lent me money for a down payment on a car.  My supervisor and landlord wrote letters of recommendation to help me get a loan.

As I listened to my intuition and stayed open to things working out well, they did work out in ways I never would have predicted.  By the end of this process, I not only had a wonderful, reliable car, but I knew that I had a community of people who cared about me and would rally around me in a crisis.  That knowledge was a wonderful gift.

I’ve been thinking of this experience because I have been struggling lately.  It finally occurred to me to look at what made that situation work out so well. I’ve used gratitude and appreciation to elevate my mood, but that hasn’t been enough lately.  The one thing I did in the car crisis, that I haven’t done with other situations, is to stay open to things working out well.  I was open to things working out in ways I couldn’t orchestrate or foresee.  I trusted that things could work out well without my control. I deliberately deciding to trust that things would work out well, even when I couldn’t imagine how.

So, I’m practicing that now.  It doesn’t come to me naturally, but I feel much better already.  It is easier for me to stay open to the possibility of things working out well than to have complete faith that they will.  That distinction helps me. Good things just need that crack of an open mind to move into my life.  I don’t have total faith in positive outcomes and I don’t need total faith.  I only need to be open to the possibility of things working out well for me.  I can do that.

My Latest Journey

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I’ve recently been on a journey of negative momentum.  I’ve been exploring the dark side of law of attraction.  It hasn’t been fun, but it has been an education.

Abraham Hicks refers to the less pleasant aspects of life as contrast.  Actually, they define contrast as variety, but they and their students generally use the term contrast to refer to experiences and emotions that we don’t enjoy. They’re always talking about the usefulness of contrast in generating and clarifying our desires for what we want.  I’ve found that contrast definitely does clarify what I want, but I’ve yet to develop enthusiasm for it.

This journey into negative momentum may have been an answer to a question I had.  It was one of those questions that comes up from thinking too much about what others think of me and judging myself by the judgements I fear from others.  That’s never a good part of my mind to visit.

The question was: Is it moral for me to focus my energy on just trying to feel good?  I grew up with the idea that what was moral was for me to try to help others who were less fortunate.  I should be helping others who are having a hard time or who have less than I have.

There are a number of problems with this approach to life.  There is an arrogance to it and I’ve certainly berated myself for that arrogance.  But the fundamental flaw is in thinking that I can make anyone else’s life better by feeling bad – by commiserating, by feeling sorrow or anger on their behalf.  It makes me feel awful and completely drains my energy, leaving me with nothing to contribute to others or myself.

What I have definitively proved to myself with this latest bout of negative momentum, is that I am no good to anyone when I’m in a negative state of mind. If my mood is bad enough, I can cast a pall over any gathering I attend.  In this latest downward spiral, I watched my negative moods affect those around me in negative ways and I came to the clear conclusion that I don’t want to do that anymore.

The positive clarity that has come with this is that when I make myself happy, I do actually benefit others.  When I’m happy and light, I can entertain and inspire.  That sort of good feeling is infectious and I communicate it well.  My mood, for good or ill, does affect others, so it is a public service for me to make myself as happy as possible.  I’m glad I got that cleared up.

By the end of this stint of negative emotion, I got pretty desperate to improve my mood.  Law of attraction is not helpful in this regard.  I started having anxiety attacks, something I don’t usually experience.  I got desperate enough to put my full attention on improving my mood.

One technique that I’ve learned from studying law of attraction, that did help, is what Abraham Hicks calls “going general.”  To “go general” is to take focus off of the minute details of whatever we’re thinking about and focus on the big picture.  I think of it as zooming out as you would with a camera.

For example, if I were worried about having money to pay bills, my focus on the worry might lead me to obsessively think about how many days until the bill was due, and the details of how much money I have available to me and where it is, and what other bills are due when.  By going over and over those details, I increase the negative momentum of the worry and the financial problem.

I could get out of that negative spiral by making more general statements to myself.  “I’m having some financial difficulty right now. I’ve had financial difficulties before and gotten out of them.  I will find a way to deal with this.”  It’s easier to move to a more positive place, when my focus is on these general statements because it slows down the momentum.  This more positive focus is what eventually allows solutions to come to me.

When I’m in a positive place, solutions just come.  They float into my mind at unexpected moments.  I hear a stranger say something and it inspires my solution.  Sometimes the problems just disappear.  I get a credit to an account that I didn’t know I was owed.  Someone repays money I’d forgotten I lent.  Things just work out.  That’s my experience.

This search for relief from negative momentum, eventually led me first to rereading books about meditation and living in the present moment.

In The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle teaches that negative emotions are about the past and the future.  We fear what we think might happen in the future.  We feel regret or anger over what’s happened in the past.  None of that applies when we fully inhabit the present moment.

Thich Nhat Hanh is a Vietnamese Buddhist Monk, peace activist and teacher.  He is a gentle, loving soul who teaches us to deeply experience the present moment.  He recommends that we smile to ourselves, to the present moment, and to everything and everyone we encounter.  He teaches a kind and loving appreciation of the world, by deeply experiencing it in the present moment.

In law of attraction terms, this focus on the present moment slows negative momentum.  In the present moment, I’m okay.  In the present moment, I am connected to the world.  In the present moment, anything is possible.  By going general and staying in the present moment, I got relief from negative momentum and I can start again, creating positive momentum in my life.