The shift began when I was downsized from my job as a corporate paralegal in a Chicago law firm. It seemed like a good time to try something different and that's what I told the employment agency. And so I spent the next year in Juvenile Court, helping to move abused and neglected kids from foster care to adoption. As it happened, this change in my professional life coincided with changes I was just beginning to make in my personal life.
My career change to social service turned out to be mostly permanent, and I was becoming more dissatisfied with big city life in a harsh climate. After a lot of research and a couple weekend trips, I had created a vision of the new life I wanted. I was going to head west, to a smaller city filled with everything I wanted. I booked a sleeper compartment and when the day came, I boarded Amtrak for the 44-hour trip from Chicago to Portland. Like most of the important changes in my life, I did this alone.
Everything fell into place as I settled into my new home. But I didn't know what I had set in motion. In just over a year, I was downsized again (for the 4th time), suffered a viscious emotional break from my troubled family and lost a potential partner. It wasn't just my dream that was shattered, I had been jolted down to my core.
And that's where my real healing began - with a soul retrieval from a shamanic practitioner. She collected the pieces of my damaged soul and gave me a start for the next phase of my new life. It wasn't easy; there was a lot more emotional pain as I dove into the world of self-help and personal development. But something else unexpected happened. Along the way I realized what a fantastic opportunity I had. As I discovered why my life had previously been going nowhere, I saw that I had been given what I asked for - albeit in a very different format and without my conscious knowledge.
From then on, I began creating. I took responsibility for my future (and mostly for my adult past) and decided what kind of person I wanted to be. And that's what I've been developing ever since.
That first downsizing and my inner guidance had prompted me to veer off the path I was on. It didn't take much effort on my part - I was just following what my intuition was telling me to do. And when I decided to move across the country, I thought that train ride was simply leading me to a better lifestyle. I was excited, not afraid. I have to admit I was pretty dense for many years, but I attribute that to all the blocked energy I was filled with. The more of it I released, the more I realized that I was free to fill those spaces as I wished. Freedom does take a bit of getting used to. It was there all along, but my lesson was to access it.
We have two minds – the one we’re aware of (our conscious mind) and the one we’re unaware of (our subconscious or unconscious mind*).
According to neuroscientists, we use our conscious mind only 5% of the time. That means that 95% of the time, we’re not aware of our decisions, emotions, actions and behavior.
Let that sink in for a minute. Most of our life operates on autopilot. Almost everything we think and do is governed by attitudes we don’t know about or have forgotten or buried.
It gets even more interesting.
Seventy percent – 70% - of our unconscious beliefs are limiting and negative.
Does that make you curious about what’s running your life? I hope so.
Assuming you’re like most people, you have limiting thoughts about what you can do and sometimes engage in self-sabotage. Do you know what’s causing this? Do you know what’s in your 70% of negative beliefs?
Something you probably do know is that too much negativity causes stress, and feeling stressed, in turn, strengthens our negative beliefs.
Do you ever get irritated or impatient or short-tempered when you’re stressed? Maybe you make mistakes or you start to feel hopeless. Those issues cause more stress because they disrupt your life further. The thing is, you can’t stop them while you’re still stressed. It’s basic physiology – we can’t be stressed and calm at the same time.
You can see how a cycle is created. We’re anxious from the pressures of modern life and from the limiting beliefs ingrained in our unconscious. Our distressing habits and beliefs have gone underground – into our unconscious – because we’d rather not feel their effects. But they do still affect us, creating anxiety and self-sabotage and other reactions. Our anxiety, in turn, keeps us locked into the stressful status quo because we’re focused on dealing with the demands of day-to-day life.
The way to stop the cycle is to become aware of it and make a deliberate, consistent effort to reprogram our negative beliefs.
Those beliefs are quite possibly keeping us tied to a life that we either chose long ago or we just fell into because of circumstances – from earlier authority figures or relationships, for example.
To override those patterns, you may think that all you need to do is exercise a little willpower or maybe repeat some affirmations.
It isn’t that easy. For one thing, our brain has a limited capacity for processing information, it can only do so much at one time. Some tasks require more attention than others, which is why multitasking only works with activities that require very little attention – like walking a well-known route and chewing gum. It’s the reason that driving while talking on the phone isn’t a good idea.
Something that has become a habit uses less of our attention than something new and powerful. Affirmations are promoted as a way to change our thoughts and actions. Maybe you’ve had a different experience, but repetitive affirmations haven’t been effective for me at reaching unconscious beliefs. They’re too shallow.
Our deeply-held, unconscious beliefs are changeable, but we have to do what’s necessary to reach them. It takes more time and effort to change programs that are imbedded in our unconscious.
Think of some examples in your life of things that aren’t working. Maybe you know you have skills in x, y and z but your employer isn’t interested in them. You’re good at your job but don’t feel satisfied or appreciated. You know what to do about it but you don’t do it or you don’t get the results you want. Or maybe you keep having the same issues in different personal relationships.
The explanation for these situations and others can often be found in your subconscious. To access it, you need to move into a different state of awareness via techniques such as guided meditation or hypnosis.
In these deeper states of awareness, our brain waves are slower than they are during regular everyday activities. While we’re in our regular 5%-consciousness activities, our brain waves are in beta. Some call this “monkey mind.” Our thoughts pull us in different directions and it’s difficult to relax. During meditation, your brain’s slower alpha or theta waves will be dominant.
If you’re curious, you can read more about brain waves here in my Central Nervous System resource pages.
*For the sake of simplicity, I’m using these terms interchangeably.
The content of this article is informational only. I am not a licensed counselor or therapist and I do not provide medical or therapeutic advice. None of the information provided is intended to treat or diagnose any health condition.
© karen elena james 2020
It has many names but one purpose. It's your inner guidance. It's knowledge without analytical reasoning. It's the language of your heart and soul, your inner wisdom, your true self. It doesn't think, it knows.
Unlike linear thinking, it's subtle. Sometimes it's just a whisper. If you pay attention to it and allow it space, it'll point you in the direction your deepest self wants to go.
Can you trust it?
In all honesty, I have to say that we can be misled. Many of us have fear of not fitting in and so many ingrained beliefs we follow automatically that it's easy to miss or dismiss our inner voice. But that doesn't mean we should.
Our guidance is there for us. It keeps trying to get our attention.
When we're tempted to do the "wrong" thing, something that's not in alignment with our true self and our best interest, we'll feel it in our body, like a dead weight or a storm cloud brewing inside us.
On the other hand, when we choose to do what's "right" for us, we're in sync with our inner rhythm. We'll feel lighter not only because we made a decision, but because we're no longer fighting against our fear. There's no more pressure, no more dead weight.
One last comment. As much as I believe in developing and trusting our intuition, I'm not so foolish as to discount the value of rational thought. There are many times when it's appropriate and necessary. I believe they complement each other, like conventional medicine and alternative treatments.
"Intuition will tell the thinking mind where to look next."
Jonas Salk, inventor of the polio vaccine
To read my in-depth articles about increasing self-awareness, raising self-esteem and improving self-expression, find them listed here.
It’s a universal technique to calm ourselves. It does more than that, but I’m going to write about the western practice and what it does.
First, here’s a little biology. We have two nervous systems that regulate our anxiety versus calm states. One is the sympathetic system, which quickly activates when we feel threatened. It’s the fight-flight-freeze response.
When we sense danger, our brain sends out signals and our body responds by doing things like increasing our heartrate and tensing our muscles for action.
In other words, we’re in a state of high alert, ready to do one of the following – flight, fight or freeze.
When the danger passes or we stop believing we need to defend ourselves, the second system, our parasympathetic system, takes over. This system slowly returns us to a state of rest or digest.
What does our breathing have to do with this? It gives us some control over the return-to-calm state.
When we’re in the fight-flight-freeze mode, our breathing gets more shallow and faster. Our inhale takes longer than our exhale. This matters because inhaling stimulates the sympathetic fight-flight-freeze system that we want to get out of. Exhalation stimulates the rest-digest system that we want to take over.
How can we encourage our rest and digest response? You guessed it – start lengthening our exhale. And now you know why that calms us and helps to lessen pain.
To read my in-depth articles about increasing self-awareness, raising self-esteem and improving self-expression, find them listed here