Monday, August 9, 2010

The First Four Steps to Inner Peace

"Bliss"                                                  B Upton
In her book Conscious Evolution, Barbara Marx Hubbard talks about how we are poised to birth a universal humanity and compares what we are experiencing to the metamorphosis of a butterfly. 

As soon as the caterpillar starts weaving its cocoon, imaginal disks appear that hold the blueprint of the butterfly to come. The immune system of the caterpillar does not recognize them and attacks them, but they only continue to grow. When there are enough of them and they link up- the disks turn to cells and the butterfly is created from the old. Hubbard says that each of us who believes a different world is possible is an imaginal cell in the new global culture! Our numbers also continue to grow and technology is allowing us to "link up" like never before. Everyday, we grow in strength and in our ability to co-create a more conscious and loving world.

But for us to be most effective in creating the blueprint for an awakened humanity, we first have to make sure we are awake and compassionate to ourselves! 

Don't fret if this makes you a tad bit uncomfortable- we are conditioned to think of loving ourselves as being egotistical and selfish - when in fact, egocentricity and selfishness arise from lack of self-love. If you want love, you first have to give it to yourself. You cannot give to, or receive from another, what you will not give to yourself. Putting an end to self betrayal and embracing our essence as pure love is the work before us.

I will be sharing seven steps to help you experience more inner peace and self-love in your life. I offer the first four here. They might sound too simple, obvious, weird, etc. to work- but I hope you will give them a try because the world needs you to be in your power right now and I'd love to see you be in your joy more too!

1. Connect to the Earth
Spend some time everyday in nature. Enjoy a few quiet moments as you feel the earth beneath you. You might want to imagine that you have "roots" extending from the bottom of your feet and spine sinking deep down into the earth. Feel yourself growing calmer as you go deeper...then on a big inhale, draw the earth's healing and nourishing energy into your body- into your every cell. Exhale tension and all your worries down into the earth and inhale peace and strength. Give thanks. It's beautiful way to begin the day.

2. Connect with Your Breath
Breathing- we do it about 20,000 times of day, but how often are we conscious of the nature of our breathing? Check yours right now. Is it smooth, effortless and deep? Or does it feel shallow and tense? Unfortunately, for most of us it is the latter. Our breath is reflecting the incessant chatter of our minds! We are seldom without thoughts that keep us anxious and in a decidedly non-peaceful state. But when you begin to simply observe the breath, not trying to change it, just watching it and being aware of every sensation - a funny thing happens. Your breathing naturally slows down and the ties of your ego/mind begin to loosen. As the breath deepens naturally you may find it easier to dive down past surface thoughts, letting them go like the ripples on a pond. As you allow the breath to more completely fill your lungs, let your tummy relax...your mind will follow. In many languages the word for breath and spirit is the same- get acquainted with yours!

3. Connect with Gratitude
You will find that as you connect more with the earth and your breath that there will be a natural bubbling up of feelings of gratitude for life's blessings. You may start noticing little things that were under your radar before- a stranger's smile, a cool breeze, or the scent of  flowers on your path. Some like to hone their ability of appreciation by keeping a Gratitude Journal (and it can be a nice thing to leaf through when you are feeling down.) Remember nothing is too small to note! A positive side effect of this is that it is impossible to be in a blaming, judging mind when you are connected to gratitude- over time you literally begin seeing the world in a new way!

"The Irresistible Flowers of the Butterfly Bush"              B Upton

4. Connect with Beauty 
I think beauty is a requirement of the soul and without it something in us withers. Beauty comes in many different packages- from a pink and gold sunrise to music that stirs our soul- from leaping dolphins to a poem that delights. The beauty and the bounty of our natural world awakens our most loving and protective instincts to be responsible stewards of this jewel of a planet. When we look into the eyes of someone we love and see the light of their soul shining back, it triggers our respect and compassion for all humanity. I hope with time you will come to appreciate your own beauty- the beauty that comes when you align yourself with your highest, most loving and most authentic self!

No matter where you are on your spiritual journey I hope you will treat yourself generously and compassionately, realize that your pace is just right, that you are perfect in your imperfections and that there has never been a better time to do the work and to come into the power and magnificence of your true self.

The next three steps to inner peace will be coming soon. For now I hope these four will help bring more awareness, peace and acceptance of where you are in life now. 

PS Enjoy this little video that I call Butterfly Love- sorry it is a little blurry and they get lost a bit in the grass, but then again, they deserved a little privacy!


Monika Kretschmar said...

Beautiful. Thank you, Barbara, it's worth reading it again and again. Even though the steps seem simple, it takes time to let them sink in and really apply them. I'll come back to it.
And butterflies, they are such marvelous messengers of beauty, ease, and simplicity.

Barbara Upton said...

Thank you Monika! Yes, what often seems the simplest is not necessarily the easiest! Have fun with it!

Paul Lichtenberg said...

Hi Barbara, Barbara Hubbard’s work is indeed a reflection of a great movement, an “evolution in consciousness,” as the increasingly familiar term states it. Barbara’s is a version reminiscent of Pierre Tielhard de Chardin, whose now popular `The Phenomenon of Man’ put the evolution of consciousness on the map. His Law of Complexity/Consciousness is similar to Hubbard’s analogy of the butterfly; there is an inherent tendency for phenomena to arrange themselves in more complex groupings, and thus creating higher levels of consciousness. In human beings, because of language development, consciousness has “folded back on itself” and vis-à-vis the development of self-consciousness, awareness of awareness emerged. This is truly remarkable and, as we have seen, in a relatively brief period of time, we are moving from a worldview and worldspace constituted in duality, to reaching a nondual level of consciousness which, by the way, Buddhism has been advocating for 2600 years! In nondual awareness, the shift is, as you say, from “a fear-based world of aggression, greed and destruction to one founded on love that values cooperation, respect and compassion.”

Even in my field of discipline, clinical psychology, this shift towards a nondual perspective in a way radicalizes the therapeutic mission, because well-being, what the Buddhist monk, Matthieu Ricard, defines as "a deep sense of serenity and fulfillment; a state that underlies all other emotional states,” no longer means helping individuals adjust to society via symptom reduction. The therapeutic now means (at least as far as I’m concerned) radicalizing self-perception and dismantling those very beliefs that streamline us into society’s mode of existence. The therapeutic means cultivating self-awareness which, as it evolves, thoroughly opens the psychological space for awareness of awareness. In simple terms, it is exactly what Hubbard and de Chardin are advocating: an awakened humanity beginning with awakened individual minds. And it begins with the most simple: awaken every morning with the words, “I am grateful to be alive so that I can cultivate compassion for all beings, without exception.” This is what Buddhists mean by the word “virtue.” As The Dalai Lama recently said, “It is self-evident that a generous heart and wholesome actions lead to greater peace and that their negative counterparts bring undesirable consequences.”

best, Paul Lichtenberg

Barbara Upton said...

Thank you for your thoughts Paul-
Yes, Tielhard de Chardin another of my heroes!
For me the 5th step to inner peace is connecting with the shadow. Although unity consciousness is the goal- it seems that we have to come into acceptance and love for where we are now- which means accepting and loving all parts of who we are- especially the parts we have denied and rejected in ourselves. Would love to hear your thoughts on that.

Paul Lichtenberg said...

Thank you, Barbara. I very much like this step. It is deeply psychological. The Jungian metaphor of shadow is appropriate in describing those unconscious aspects of our being that we, as you say, “deny and reject in ourselves.” A whole book could be written on the shadow aspect of consciousness but I’ll just state here that the task in “connecting with the shadow” is the most critical part of healing because the integration process of finding, making, and understanding is what allows for not only healing (making whole) but transcending previous levels of being. In my opinion, the remedy for all afflictions on all ontological levels of being (physical, mental, spiritual) is understanding. Afflictions, or the “shadow” aspects of consciousness, are the degenerative psychological forms of our personalities manifesting out of (what Buddhist philosophy would phrase as, “dependent upon”) misattuned parenting. From an evolutionary perspective, parenting has replaced instinct and, because it’s a higher form of conscious activity, more devastating consequences can occur if there are ruptures in (this case, psychological) development. On the positive side, mind has significantly more freedom than earlier stages of consciousness and thus allows for transcending embodiment and realizing consciousness itself! The key in this stage for reaching fruition, however, is the integration of shadow aspects of consciousness for the sole purpose of—in simple language-- learning how to get it right. When we heal from emotional suffering, we begin to master the vital task of understanding: developing (in)sight into awareness itself; first through self-awareness and then in what Buddhism refers to as Pure Awareness, that is, the absolute and fundamental interconnectedness of all phenomena. So, the therapeutic potentially has a crucial role to play in spiritual development. No wonder why Matthieu Ricard, in `The Quantum and the Lotus,’ calls Buddhism primarily therapeutic.

Elizabeth Cunningham said...

Beautiful, wise, and inspiring, Barbara. It is a pleasure to read your posts!

Barbara Upton said...

Thanks for your feedback Paul- I agree integration of the shadow is "the most critical part of healing" and I don't think there has ever been a better time to do the work!

And thanks too for your comment E!