Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Morning Reflection: The stories we believe in ourselves

The stories we believe in ourselves.

As little children we love stories. We love being read to. We love how in a story, the world makes sense.

As we grow, we tell ourselves stories to explain why the world works in the way it does. In light of the chaos present in the universe, telling stories allows us to create structure, logic and understanding.

But sometimes we tell ourselves stories to explain things we can’t understand. As the child of an emotionally absent father, I created the story that I was such a bad child my father didn’t want to be around me. It was either that, or try to understand a situation for which I had no reference, logic or rationale.

A good friend of mine adopted the story that she was overweight because her mother was pressuring her to lose weight, when in truth it was about the mother’s issues, and nothing to do with my friend. She carried this for many years, and in some aspects still carries it. An untruth, made into a truth, by a desire to be accepted, loved and cherished.

When we accept these stories as a child, they become the filters through which we understand the world. The child who believes they must be perfect will never know the peace of ‘good enough’. The teenager who believes they are different will never know the feeling of being a part of something larger. The adult who believes they are destined to fail will never know the satisfaction of risking and winning, because they will never try.

Unless they un-learn these stories, challenge the narrative, break out of the imaginary chains and soar into the new truth.

That they are enough. They are powerful. They can succeed.

Make sure that every child within your influence hears the right stories. That life is tough for all, but hard work and persistence makes a difference. That we all fail at some time, but we try again. That heartbreak is rarely permanent, and never a reason to stop loving.

And most importantly, that they are loved, cherished, valued and cared for.

They are. You are. We are.

Change their story, change their life.


-- Dr. Alan Barnes

Monday, March 19, 2018

Morning Reflection: You have to face, and feel, your feelings

You have to face, and feel, your feelings.

We all have feelings we like to feel. Feelings like joy, happiness, excitement, love and comfort to name just a few. Those are the emotions that make life worth living.

But we also have to deal with the other type of emotions, like loss, loneliness, frustration, pain and shame. Those are the emotions that hurt, and make us wish for a change in how we feel.

How do you avoid your negative feelings?

For me, for a long time, it was food. That’s how I ended up morbidly obese, and closer to death than I want to admit. But that wasn’t my only ‘coping mechanism’. I would also become angry at myself, preferring the pain of self loathing rather than the pain of someone else being angry or disappointed in me.

Last night, I had an occasion to face a negative feeling, rather than try to run from it, or busy myself in something else to forget it. The negative feeling was sadness, after I failed to follow through on something that someone very dear to me asked of me. It wasn’t something earth shattering, but it made that person feel unappreciated.

But this time, rather than get angry with myself, or get quiet and withdraw, I made the conscious decision to allow the feeling to exist, and feel how it felt. No avoidance, no rationalization, nothing to try to ameliorate the feeling of acknowledging that I let someone down.

And it didn’t feel good at all. But I lived.

Growth comes when we stop avoiding our feelings, and learn from them.

Growth comes when we accept that things might hurt for a while, but we don’t try to dull that pain with other measures.

Growth comes when we take a deep breath, and allow the truth of who we are to wash over us, and bathe us in the emotions that can change us.

Like the small flower that struggles to pierce the earth to find the sunlight, or the child who struggles to walk despite falling again and again, we too can struggle through and learn from our painful emotions if we will but face them, feel them and find the strength to change through them.

Running from your emotions never solves the problem.

The only way out is through.

Go through it. You can do this.

-- Dr. Alan Barnes

Friday, March 16, 2018

Morning Reflection: Choose a different window

Choose a different window.

Everything in life comes down to our perspective, our own window, or our point of view. What we see today as a truth may very well be understood to be an error when we look back at it from tomorrow. History is replete with examples of this.

But so too are our own lives. Yesterday, in a moment of ego, I left a comment on a post on Facebook, which angered someone greatly, and he left a reply that was obviously full of frustration. When I initially read his comment, I felt my soul shift into what I can only describe as ‘battle mode’, and I immediately began composing my responses, none of which were true to my highest ideals of being a peacemaker.

But in that first moment, I didn’t want peace, I wanted vengeance. I wanted superiority. I wanted to use every ounce of whatever talent and intellect I possess to crush his argument (and his ego) into pieces. He’s not someone I know, and he had treated me in a way that I felt was inappropriate, unkind and rude.

This is not the person I aspire to be, but this is who I am if I allow myself to be that person.

Thankfully, it took a couple of minutes, but I was able to exercise some humility and try to see it from his window, his point of view.

And so I apologized. Not because I thought my argument doesn’t have merit, but because he was right when he said I could have done better. Could he have phrased his reply more kindly, sure. Are there things that he said that I feel were incorrect, yes. Would we necessarily see eye to eye on this topic were we ever to meet, I honestly don’t know.

But my apology to him brought forth an apology from him. Neither of us were seeing it from each other’s point of view, and we both asked for forgiveness, which was given. Good wishes were exchanged, and each of us grew a little closer to kindness.

In order to be a peacemaker, we have to be willing to give up our own window, and see things from someone else’s point of view, so that we may search for truth together, rather than trying to pull each other down.

Peace requires humility. Yesterday I was able to find some. It doesn’t always happen. I am so grateful that the other person in this equation was able to reply from a place of humility. He helped me more than he can know.

Wherever you are today, I implore you to find someone with whom you disagree, and make an effort to reach out and try to understand them.

The only way we will have peace in this world is when we strive for it.

-- Dr. Alan Barnes

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Morning Reflection: Where do you focus your attention?

Where do you focus your attention?

In this digital age, it’s easy to lose focus on the important things. There is an ever increasing plethora of attention grabbing apps, websites, channels and ways to communicate.

Yet in a world where information acquisition is easier than ever, we often allow our attention to be drawn away from that which is important, to that which is immediate and/or immaterial.

I have come to realize that our attention is usually focused in one of 3 spheres. The first is the ‘sphere of concern’. This sphere contains things which draw our attention, but over which we have very little input, and thus can effect very little change in our lives.

The second is the sphere of influence, where we can focus our attention, backed up with action, to make a difference, though not necessarily have a defining input to change the outcome of a situation.

Finally there is our sphere of control, where our ability to apply attention and action can have massive changes in our lives, as we control the outcome of a situation or an event.

I find that I often allow my attention to drift into my sphere of concern, because this is usually something that requires no action from me. In this way I can feel good about being concerned about something or someone, but have very little responsibility for doing anything.

But when I focus on my sphere of control, I can make significant changes to my life in a short space of time, but it requires me to take action and actually do something.

It’s so much easier to focus my attention on things that do not present risk or require work.

But this produces no results. Focusing on my sphere of control helps me to take action in my life, and achieve and become more.

It’s all a matter of attention.

Where will you focus your attention today?

-- Dr. Alan Barnes

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Morning Reflection: Take a moment to wonder

Take a moment to wonder.

How much time do you set aside each day to marvel at the universe in which we live? When was the last time you drove out onto a dark country road and stared up at the night sky in amazement? Or when was the last time you sat quietly on a beach and listened to the majesty, power and timelessness that is the ocean?

If you are like me, you are probably guilty of taking all of this for granted. We get so caught up in the complications and chaos of life that we forget to appreciate where we are, when we are, and what we have.

You are a wonder of biology. Whether you feel that we are evolved, designed or created, can we just agree that the human body is an incredible organism? No technology even comes close.

Your mind is unfathomable. We can dream, feel, think, talk and adapt in a universe that we barely understand, yet we can create, design, and build in a way that just blows the mind.

We as a species have left the earth and returned safely. In the future, we will colonize other worlds, and plant our footprints and flags on planets that have never known our touch.

We are capable of loving and being loved. Despite heartbreak, fears, loneliness and pain, we push forward in our relationships and understandings. Do we fall sometimes, of course, but we manage to get up again.

If life has worn you down with its weight, I invite you today to view your world through the eyes you used when you were five years old.

Look around you at the technology, the majesty, humanity and nobility that surrounds you.

Look up, look around, and feel again that sense of wonder. This universe, galaxy, and planet; your country, town, home, and yourself. All of them are miracles.

Today, celebrate life, celebrate yourself, and celebrate wonder.

And rise.
-- Dr. Alan Barnes

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Morning Reflection: A disciple of desire.

A disciple of desire.

It seems that one of my constant, ongoing and unrelenting struggles in life is to find discipline. Anyone who has seen my desk in my home office can attest to this. Unfinished projects, unfiled paperwork, non-actioned post it notes and incomplete ideas scribbled on any available paper.

I wish I was more disciplined, yet in some areas of my life, I have discipline.

Since finally making the decision to lose weight almost 2 years ago, I have lost over 140lbs naturally, no supplements, medication or surgery. Obviously this is not something I could have managed without discipline, yet I struggle to take that strength of will and apply in other areas of my life.

Truthfully, I have found that a discipleship of desire is the birthplace of discipline, yet the associations in my subconscious are very different regarding some of those words.

The word disciple evokes feelings of reverence, but also power. I think not only of spiritual discipleship, but also of physical strength, emotional control and financial freedom.

Yet when I consider the word discipline, my association is a negative one, and I find myself immediately wanting to move away from anything that looks like discipline imposed upon me, not generated from within myself.

But the more disciplined I am in my life, the greater sense of freedom and peace I find within myself.

In my attempts to become more disciplined, I realize that I have to manage my desire in order to manipulate my discipline.

That which I desire strongly breeds of itself the discipline necessary to achieve or possess it.

So I find myself becoming a disciple of desire, so that I might have the discipline to achieve my dreams.

What do you desire?

-- Dr. Alan Barnes

Monday, March 12, 2018

Morning Reflection: My reactions are my responsibility.

My reactions are my responsibility.

It took me a long time to learn this truth, but my reactions are not reflexes.

A reflex is an action that occurs without conscious thought, like the way we pull our hand away from something hot. A reflex carries no judgment, no decision, no initiation of thought. It just simply occurs.

For the longest time, I thought of my reactions this way. Why…because it made things easier. If my reactions were in fact more of a reflex, then I didn’t have to think about them, didn’t have to control them, wasn’t responsible for how I acted and what I said.

After much thought and meditation, it occurs to me that I thought this way because it allowed me to evade the responsibility of choosing my reactions. It allowed me to act as a child, rather than an adult.

As I have grown through my journey, I have come to realize that my reactions are actually responses, that occur as a result of the way I see and feel about the world. But in truth, the way I see and feel about the world is a representation of my own inadequacies, fears, needs and aspirations.

My reactions are, in truth, a reflection of my perceived place in reality.

Since my reactions affect others, I feel that upon me falls a heavy responsibility, that of making sure that my reactions are congruent with the way that I would like to treat the world.

Where I could choose to react with anger, I hope to react with kindness. Where I could choose to react with fear, I hope I may react with faith. Where I could choose to react from pride, may I instead react with humility.

My reactions are my choices, and it would be wise for me to consider them carefully, and learn from them.

Because the reactions that I don’t ‘think about’ are in fact a roadmap to the deeper nature of my soul.

If I would learn to master my reactions, I must first learn to understand myself.

-- Dr. Alan Barnes