Recognizing & Transforming Your Limiting Patterns

diamond

Recognizing & Transforming Your Limiting Patterns

By recognizing your limitations, you heighten your self-awareness and awaken to the realms of mystery and soul. Since dreams emerge from the unconscious and speak the language of the soul, whenever you pay attention to the deeper message in your dreams, you enhance your connection to soul. Playwright and novelist, Marsha Norman, once wrote, “Dreams are illustrations from the book your soul is writing about you.”

“Soul” differs from “spirit.” James Hillman, an American psychologist who studied at the C.G. Jung Institute in Zurich explains how “spirit is fast” and ascends in a vertical direction. He compares it to a straight arrow, “knife sharp, powder dry, and phallic.” In contrast to spirit, he speaks of the soul and its connection to the moon, the realm of the dead and dreams of the night. Soul can be experienced in the muddy, mucky waters we must sometimes wade through in life and the messiness that comes with growth. Our dreams speak soul-language which is why they are not easy to understand. Soul communicates with images that are imbued with importance and symbolism. Like poetry, in order to relish it we must dip beneath the surface and dive into its deeper meaning. Emerson once said, “Every word was once a poem” and this is true with dreams; every image was once a story of the soul.

A personal example of how dreams reveal our limiting patterns and awaken us to our highest potential is illustrated in a dream I had while going through a significant reinvention. For some clarity and support, I enlisted the help of a professional coach. After our first session, I had the following dream:

My coach and I are standing near the bottom of a hill that leads upward to a road. The hill is covered in snow. I am holding a silver ring with a large diamond in my right hand and I am not sure where it came from. A man pulls up in a car on the road above us and gets out. He is holding a small black pistol and is pointing it toward me. I am frightened and decide to hide the ring by pushing the diamond end into the snowy bank in front of us. My coach says something to the man. He puts his gun away and I am relieved yet concerned about finding the ring I just hid in the snow.

Issues of prosperity, self-worth, and the shadow and light side of my masculine aspects emerge from this dream. Let’s unpack this dream:

  • Snow covered hill: frozen emotions, unconscious perceptions, thoughts and feelings.
  • Ring: connection with Source, infinity.
  • Diamond: multi-faceted, strong, beautiful, valuable, inner gifts and talents.
  • Man with gun: masculine shadow aspect, threatening, challenging my self-worth regarding my ability to create prosperity.
  • Coach: masculine light aspect, wise, supportive, fearless.

During my first coaching session we discussed the responsibility that comes with success and prosperity. I shared my belief that in order to generate success, I would have to give up my freedom and slave away all day long. Wealthy, successful people must be workaholics and though I was willing to exert positive energy, I was unwilling to “sacrifice” my happiness. This dream was a gift from psyche that clearly exposed the sacrificial belief living in the depths of my unconscious. Here are the pearls of wisdom:

(1) The dream begins with me standing at the bottom of a small hill that leads upward to a road. The hill symbolizes the effort I believe is required to overcome some repressed prosperity issues. Since the road is visible from the bottom of the hill, the issues I am facing are not insurmountable and my ability to overcome them are within reach.

(2) I am holding a silver ring with a large diamond and unsure where it came from. The diamond ring represents my strength and multi-faceted capacity for creating prosperity but am unaware that it’s okay to claim it as mine.

(3) I am afraid I am going to be hurt by the man with the gun who might steal my ring. The gunman is the conflicted part of me, challenging my self-worth for deserving abundance.

(4) I push the ring into the snow bank. Snow reflects frozen emotions and some unconscious fears I am carrying.

(5) My coach talks to the man which causes the man to put away his gun. This reveals the wise, intuitive aspect, the “voice of reason” reminding me of my abilities.

(6) The dream concludes with a concern for having hid the ring so well I may be unable to recover it. Here again,  issues of self-worth and sabotaging my success are being exposed.

 “Until you make the unconscious conscious,” Jung wrote, “it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” We don’t wish to see how clearly they reveal the truth about our vain imaginings and fragile ego self-concepts, dreams bust them apart. This dream brought unconscious belief patterns into my awareness so I could address them. That’s why dreams are so powerful; they continuously communicate messages from our unconscious to our conscious mind.

For a deeper exploration into your dreams, please click HERE.

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Embodying a World-Centric Vision

Eckhart Tolle posed our predicament clearly when he wrote: “Humanity is faced with a stark choice, and the choice is this: Evolve or Die”. I believe what he meant is if we’re not stretching our minds to think outside the limiting thoughts we think day in and day out, and if we’re not stretching our hearts to encompass those we judge, then we’re shrinking, and in essence, dying.

It’s not just the muscles in our bodies that atrophy when we’re not using them, our minds can experience atrophy, our hearts can experience atrophy, even our souls can experience atrophy. It’s impossible to expand and contract, to evolve and die at the same time.

So the question becomes: If we’re committed to evolving, what are we evolving toward?

Expanding our consciousness requires a vision. The greatest leaders of our time led with great visions; Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream inspired people into action, Mahatma Gandhi’s vision called people into passive resistance. Action without vision can keep us stuck at the level of the problem; the vision is the beacon of light in the lighthouse guiding our boat into a safe harbor.

Within the Interspiritual movement the vision is a future global civilization based on the heart. In the Baha’i faith the vision is the Earth being one country.

Do you believe this is achievable?

It’s hard to imagine given the deep divisions, political fractions and prejudices we’re currently witnessing in our country. But skepticism and cynicism leads to apathy, and apathy leads to death. From an interspiritual perspective, these visions are not a pipe dream. If they were, then all of the spiritual experiences you and I have experienced and know to be true in our bones, would mean nothing. There is evidence of a transcultural, transnational, world-centric spirituality emerging worldwide.

Using the power of the imaginal realm, we call forth a vision into reality by imagining and feeling the vision as though we are living from it now.

Gently close your eyes and let your mind, your heart and your soul imagine a peaceful, unified world. Envision a civilization where our plans and decisions are heart-based…imagine a world without war; without heavily-militarized borders; without hatred or prejudice…conceptualize the immense resources we have put into new weapons being funneled into building new schools, where respect, kindness and compassion are important subjects being taught to our children…imagine using money spent on new wars being spent on cleaning up our environment and providing food and clean water to those in need…envision the fear and doubt we experience in our daily lives being transformed into love that is being spread across the globe. And finally, imagine children growing up in a world without trauma or fear, of being so loved, cherished and protected that they are inspired to share their gifts and talents with the world in remarkable ways.

Embodying a world-centric vision is attainable and holding to this vision is the first step. The second step is clearing the blockages preventing us from living in our heart. The Baha’i Faith states, “Acceptance of the oneness of humanity demands that prejudice—whether racial, religious, or gender-related—is the greatest contributor to humanity’s present afflictions. Prejudice is a false perception, or preconception, of others based on ignorance, blinding us to the fact that every person is essentially a spiritual being with unique talents and capacities, a mine rich in gems of inestimable value.”

Our job is to scour our minds for prejudices, not an easy task. No one wants to believe that he or she is prejudice or a bigot. The problem with prejudices is that they are frequently hidden in the shadows of the unconscious, but we all have them. Often we inherit them from our families and environment and they are alive and kicking in the collective unconscious. Becoming cognizant of our judgements and prejudices is a necessary step in evolving toward a peaceful, respectful, compassionate and loving civilization.

Third, sharing our highest vision with others is vital. We know a shared idea grows in intensity. Like seeds scattering from the wind, it spreads across the masses and shifts the collective consciousness. Sharing your vision of a world-centric experience with someone you trust, someone who can hold the space, is incredibly important to manifesting it into a reality.

Despite the unloving, selfish and prejudicial behavior we’re seeing in some of our nation’s leaders, let us remember that love is the most healing force in the world. Osho wrote, “Nothing goes deeper than love. It heals not only the body, not only the mind, but also the soul.”

May we evolve toward a vision of oneness and harmony fueled by love, the one true power that can heal all things, the life force energy that keeps us moving toward a heart-based humanity.

Namaste.

The Interspiritual Revolution

“Interspirituality points to the realization that although there are many spiritual paths, a universal commonality underlies them all.” ~~Wayne Teasdale, The Mystic Heart

There can be little doubt that traditional religious frameworks are no longer speaking to new generations as they have in the past, especially in the West. People are waking up, recognizing that what was the norm just a few years or even months ago is not that anymore, and feeling as if life is more uncertain than ever. Here’s where Interspirituality—a rapidly expanding, emerging global understanding—comes into the picture.

What is Interspirituality? Interspirituality is the appreciation and practice of spirituality centered on humanity’s most deeply shared values of the heart: interconnectedness, love, kindness, compassion, and service. “Interspirituality is at the heart space of all religions and spiritual traditions—of humanity itself.” It is an exploration of ourselves so deeply grounded in compassion and unconditional love that it dissolves any separation between human beings that stems from differences in beliefs, values, background or creed.

What is not Interspirituality?

Interspirituality is not about spiritual by-passing, a “head-buried-in-the-sand” approach to spiritual awakening. It acknowledges the reality of the numerous global threats surrounding us—resource scarcity and competition, climate change, environmental degradation, wars based on national and ethnic adherences, and economic and social disparities of various kinds. In fact, the environment and all living creatures are tended to with the utmost respect and important in interspiritual practices. As the next step in our evolution, Interspirituality embodies the ultimate understanding that we are simultaneously interconnected, independent and interdependent.

Finally, Interspirituality recognizes at the heart of every genuine spiritual path, there is a commitment to core values which honor peace, compassionate service, and love for all creation.

This December, we invite you to a new interspiritual experience in Central Coast California: Love in Flight Interspiritual Society (“LĪFĬS” for short). LĪFĬS is based on blending Interfaith teachings with Interspiritual core values and practices. Our vision and purpose is rooted in six core values: Authentic Connection, Consciousness of the Sacred, Inclusivity, Integrity, Lifelong Learning and Sacred Service.

Our Sunday services are bi-monthly: first and third Sundays of each month at 10 A.M., at the San Luis Obispo Library Community Room, 995 Palm St., San Luis Obispo. We are activating the connection and fellowship at LĪFĬS with a very special service on Sunday, New Year’s Eve, December 31, 2017! www.lifisslo.org

With Infinite Love,

Laura Grace, rev.lauragrace@gmail.com

USING NIGHTTIME DREAMS TO AWAKEN YOUR GREATEST POTENTIAL

Aboriginal pic for blog

USING NIGHTTIME DREAMS TO AWAKEN YOUR GREATEST POTENTIAL

Did you know that your nighttime dreams and your daytime desires are completely interconnected? They seem to exist at opposite ends of the continuum which is why we tend to discount or ignore them. But indigenous people like the Aboriginal Australians embody a term called The Dreaming or Dreamtime which describes the web of life between the spiritual and natural world. In essence, there is no difference between being asleep versus being awake; it’s all one big dream. Similarly, Shamans believe the dream world and the spirit world are exactly the same and that we are dreaming the world into being. This is why for thousands of years indigenous people knew they could count on receiving wisdom from their ancestors, guidance from spiritual realms and valuable answers to mystifying questions.

Let me share a personal example of how dreams provide specific direction and awaken your greatest potential. Many years ago, I was a Human Resource Director for a CPA and consulting firm. Everything was about chargeable hours, money and power, leaving very little room for valuing people. As time unfolded, it felt like the life-force was being sucked out of my soul and I finally mustered up the courage to resign. I was newly divorced and had a ten year old daughter to raise. Instead of immediately putting myself back on the executive market, I decided to take a year off and do some significant soul-searching. So I withdrew my 401(k) and spent the next twelve months delving into spiritual teachings, journaling my thoughts and feelings, and working extensively with my nighttime dreams.

One night, before falling asleep, I asked my dreams for guidance, specifically: What was the best way I could harness my gifts, strengths and talents, create the work I truly loved and be of service? That night, I had a powerful dream:

I am sitting in the driver’s seat of my red Toyota which is sitting in a parking lot. Next to me in the passenger’s seat I see a dark blue book with “Bhagavad Gita” scrolled in gold across the cover. I open the car door and see several brochures that I have written lying on the ground and next to them are various silver and gold coins.

This dream was showing me that writing combined with spirituality were a definite part of my life’s work. As I followed my dream’s cues I began writing articles for spiritual and personal growth publications, something I had never done before. Then the following dream occurred:

I am guided to look under my bed and discover enormous diamonds in the shape of crystals. I am amazed by their beauty. After I am through looking under the bed I look behind me and on my bedroom floor, I see two or three similar stones, not quite as large as the one lying under my bed. I awake feeling happy and inspired.

These dreams affirmed that the work I was meant to experience would take me deeper into my authentic self while providing abundance. The fact that the diamonds were shaped like crystals revealed the multi-faceted potentials within me. Now, looking back over the past couple of decades, I can see how prophetic the dream truly was. The articles I began writing were published which led to my first book Gifts of the Soul. The book and articles inspired ideas for creating a successful course called The Self-Mastery Program which supported individuals in accessing their inner gifts and creating a soulful life. I taught The Self-Mastery program for ten years and in the meantime, I penned my second book, The Intimate Soul. I also created several other programs, began teaching courses on dreams and coaching people how to understand and utilize them. Further, I attended an interfaith seminary program and provided spiritual counseling. The “multi-faceted” diamonds represented skills I never knew I had, and didn’t have, until I began using them: writing, speaking, teaching and counseling.

Dreams provide inordinate amounts of intelligence. Where does the wisdom come from? Worldly knowledge flows from multiple sources including advisability from your ancestors, illumination from the spiritual realm, sagacity from your soul and significant insight from the natural world. All of this adds up to one major source of infinite wisdom!

Dreams may very well be the purest form of knowledge since they are not clouded by our conscious thinking and programmed beliefs. Being willing to remember them is the first step. Tapping into their goldmine of information is the second step. And the more you pay attention to your dreams, the better your recall will be. Tonight, before going to sleep practice the following steps:

1. Think about one situation you would like to create, change or improve in your life.

2. Ask your dreams for guidance and be specific about the situation and your question.

3. Set your intention before going to bed and affirm your willingness to remember your dreams and receive guidance.

4. Write down (or record) any dreams immediately upon waking, even “snippets” of a dream. Pay attention to the landscape, dream images, character and how write down how you feel about them. Also try to capture the “theme” of the dream.

5. Conclude by letting go of attachment to outcome so ideas, images and inspiration can emerge. Dreams communicate in myriad ways, so reflect on your dream gently throughout the day and watch what bubbles up from psyche’s cauldron.

If you are ready to explore your dreams and see how they are an invaluable tool for growth, please check out any one or all three of the dream programs I’m offering the beginning of 2016:
1. LIVE SIX WEEK DREAM COURSE AT CAL POLY, SAN LUIS OBISPO, CA, Dates: Thursdays, 1/28/16-3/3/16, Time: 6:00 p.m. — 8:00 p.m. For more information or to register, CLICK HERE

2. LIVE DREAM RETREAT, Dancing Deer, Templeton, CA, Date: 2/20, Time: 10 A.M. – 4 P.M. For more information, CLICK HERE

3. E-DREAM COURSE: “Dreams for Healing: Using Dreams as a Pathway to the Soul” at SelfHealingExpressions.com. Dream course lessons are sent directly to your in-box and you may complete them at your convenience. For more information, CLICK HERE

The Brain in Love: Three Attributes for Maintaining Long-Term Partnerships

We humans are hard-wired for relationships. Yet, very often, we find ourselves struggling to maintain long-term partnerships images1that feel loving, supportive and healthy. Numerous factors play into the partners we are attracted to and the dynamics that ensue. But recent neuro-science shows us that more is going on and can be seen in various centers of the brain.

Biological anthropologist Helen Fisher, Ph.D., specializes in understanding the neuro-science of relationships. When asked if her brain scanning projects on people reveal anything about long-term happiness in relationships, Fisher replied with a resounding “Yes!” She explains that neuro-scans reveal specific patterns of brain activity among those who are in loving, long-term relationships and here are the top three winning attributes:

1. Overlooking the Negative and Accentuating the Positive. First and foremost, activity in the frontal cortex empowers a person to look for the good in his/her partner instead of focusing on what he/she dislikes or finds irritating. The psychological term for this is “positive illusions” and with lots of practice, it truly works.

2. Expressing Empathy. Brain activity occurs in the mirror neurons and aligns with empathy, the ability to relate, understand and share the feelings of others. Your facial expressions have the ability to trigger a strong emotional response in your partner. Mirroring openness and understanding are part of the empathic process and is a critical factor in connecting authentically and lovingly.

theme_relationships3. Controlling Your Own Emotions. The amygdala is shaped like an almond and is where we feel emotions like fear, anger, love and sexual desire. It is the area of the brain associated with the ability to regulate your emotions and is essential in maintaining well-being and harmony in relationships.

If you are interested in receiving some support in improving and/or healing your relationships, I provide guidance to individuals and couples. My approach embodies Depth Psychology (the unconscious, archetypes and dreams), spirituality, somatics (the body) and neuro-science. My areas of expertise includes:

Significant Life Changes
Overcoming Fear and Anxiety
Relationship and Family Issues
Women’s Spirituality and Empowerment
Spiritual Direction (for more information on this form of guidance, please CLICK HERE).
Dream Based Counseling (for more information on this type of counseling, please CLICK HERE).

Or visit: www.lauragrace.net, laura@lauragrace.net

Conscious Death, Dying & Dogs

PART ONE

One is moved to conclude that the heart is the most poetic organ of the body and may exceed the moon and stars in use as a metaphor…You can know of heartache, heart yearnings, heart shapes, heart renderings and heart feelings. ~Mike Denney, M.D., Ph.D.

As I wrap up the second year of my doctoral program in Depth Psychology, I just finished a term paper for my Conscious Death and Dying course that has stretched the shape of my heart. Some of the required readings for this course include Mortality (Hitchens, 2012), The Alchemy of Illness (Duff, 1993), Intoxicated by My Illness (Broyard 1992), and Good Dog. Stay. by Anna Quindlen (2007). I had heard of the last title but had never read it until my heart-felt professor stated: “If you only had to read one book, this is the one”.

That night, I opened the book, glanced through the pages then immediately set it down. It is a poignant love story about a woman and her beloved dog, “Beau”. Quindlen describes the immense affection she has for Beau and the lessons she learned just by observing him: how to accept things as they are, to measure herself not through the lens of the past or future but of the present. Her story continues as Beau ages and reaches the hands of death. Quindlen unflinchingly remains in the moment until his last days on earth, “Each morning I used to check to see if the old guy was actually breathing, and each day I tried to take his measure—was he hurting? Was he happy? Was the trade-off between being infirm and being alive worth it?”

Like Quindlen, I have a Beau but his name is “Guru.” And like Beau in the book, Guru is the same age, fifteen years old as of July 10, 2015. Due to severe arthritis in the elbow of his front left leg, Guru gets around by hopping on his three working legs. He sleeps more than he is awake, yet he still loves to go for a daily “joy ride” in the car, resting on my lap as we travel up and down the street. At one-hundred and five human years old, he can still smell the fresh salty, sea air and this daily ritual is the highpoint of his life, as well as mine.

Guru's 11th birthday

Guru’s 11th birthday

Guru is a black Pomeranian, pure alpha and not sweet as Quindlen describes Beau. No one would consider him to be a “good” dog; he can be affectionate one moment then without warning, snap and bite in the next moment. People think it is because of the pain he is in from being old. Sometimes I let them believe this is true but it isn’t; Guru has been a very difficult dog since he was four months old. After receiving his vaccinations, he began having seizures which we learned to control with Phenobarbital. And though his seizures calmed down, his behavior did not. Guru sought to keep everyone together, like a herding dog; every time my husband or I would leave the room, Guru would spin counter-clockwise, barking, “Get back here, don’t you dare leave, we’re all meant to stay together!” Obedience training didn’t seem to help, nor did all of the Dog Whisperer CD’s that we watched. A caring and concerned friend once pleaded, “Why don’t you just call the Dog Whisperer and invite him to work with Guru?” We never did contact Caesar and after fourteen years of Guru spinning counter-clockwise, his left elbow became so crippled with arthritis that he drags the leg next to his body while he hops around on the remaining three.

Guru is possessive, demanding and has an anxiety disorder. His behavior, at times, has strained my relationship with my husband. I have been over protective of this creature who appears in my night-time dreams, lives in the depths of my heart, and reveals all of his feelings and secrets when he looks at me with his dark brown eyes. I know this dog better than I know myself. Surely, we must have been together before. As strange as this may sound, in a desperate attempt to understand the dynamic between Guru, my husband and I, we once contacted a well-known “pet psychic” who confirmed this idea. She told us the most amazing story: in a past life Guru had been my partner and Thomas (my husband) had been his rival and the issue was never resolved. As hard as it was to believe and as reluctant as we were to admit it, Thomas and I both sensed there might be some truth to the psychic’s vision.

As my death and dying class unfolded, I kept avoiding reading Good Dog. Stay. It was too painful and hit too close to the heart. Guru’s fifteenth birthday was quickly approaching and I noticed that his eyes looked glassy and he was limping more than usual. Was it time to let him go? Was he in pain and if so, did the physical pain outweigh my desire to have him stay? My heart was aching and reluctantly, I re-opened Good Dog. Stay. I read ten pages, not the first ten, but the final ten. Quindlen’s courage and ability to embrace Beau’s death was inspiring. While reading it, Guru laid next to me on my bed. I remember crying as I turned the final page and asking Guru if he wanted to move on. I told him that he was a good dog despite the challenges over the years and that I would let him go if he was ready to leave. He listened then licked my left hand reassuringly. He was definitely trying to communicate something.

That evening, my husband and I decided to take Guru to the vet and have his matted hair—once shiny and glorious—shaved off for the last time. We also decided to have his teeth cleaned and his nails trimmed—all of the grooming that I used to love do for him but now required anesthesia because he would bite. We knew we were taking a risk, that he might not make it through the process. Yet we believed we were giving him one last chance to feel a bit better. Two days later, Thomas drove the car to the vet’s office while I cradled Guru in my arms, swaddled in his favorite red blanket. After we dropped Guru off, I sent him light from my heart and envisioned him feeling strong. My prayers of love and gratitude traveled to him as I hiked along the beach then worked some more on my Conscious Death and Dying term paper. At 3:00 p.m. the vet called to report that Guru was doing well and was ready to go home. Despite feeling groggy from the anesthesia, Guru’s enthusiasm and aliveness was evident and we knew we had made the right decision.

That was three weeks ago. And now, as we reach the end of July, Guru is still doing well but I know we are nearing the end. Each morning when I awake and check in with Guru, I am reminded that one more day of living for me is an entire week of living for him and his aging body. This helps me maintain perspective about the fragility of life and the incredibly short duration of a dog’s life. It also emphasizes how important it is that I remain present with Guru and be fully alive, now, more than ever.
In the meantime, I am profoundly aware of Guru’s impending ending inching ever so closely. It is no longer “years away”; it could be next month, tomorrow morning or even tonight as I lie sleeping. Good Dog. Stay. reminds me that my growth lies in my ability to embrace Guru’s deterioration while remaining most alive during this ending. Sartre was right: You have to live each moment as if you’re prepared to die.

I take comfort from knowing that I have been able to love this dog in ways I never knew possible. The love I feel for Guru has been the closest thing to unconditional love that I might ever know: he can growl and bear his teeth at me, and yet, I still love him; he can bite me, and though I scold him, I still feel love in my heart for him. I feel his fear when he struggles to sit up, I feel his excitement when we go for a joy ride, and I feel his love when his pale tongue weakly licks my hand.

Guru on 3 legs July, 2015

Guru on 3 legs July 2015

As I finish crafting this blog, Guru is lying on the floor next to me in his old lumpy bed with his favorite tattered red blanket. I feel deep gratitude for being able to process some deep emotions while writing. I held off from writing this blog because I was resisting the feelings that illness and conscious dying might elicit. I look over at Guru as I craft this final paragraph and he opens his eyes. He can still see me so I inquire: “Are you comfortable? Are you happy? Do you want to keep on going?” not expecting a response, and yet, his eyes widen. I am reassured by Quindlen’s last words in the final chapter of Good Dog. Stay.: “And when the time comes to ask myself some of those same questions, at least I will have had the experience calibrating the answer. Sometimes an old dog teaches you new tricks”.

I would love for Guru to stay and stay and stay…but I am acutely aware of his mortality, as well as my own. So I am grateful for all that Guru has taught me: patience, tolerance, perseverance, real love, remaining conscious and connected as a loved one ages, fades then dies. And though Guru, nor I, will live forever, I am reminded that the name “Guru” can be broken down into: “Gee, You Are You”, perhaps the greatest teaching we can learn from a dog who challenges us, a true guru.

My favorite Guru and Me