Looking to retire? Or maybe find a new job? Want to transition to something new? First, start by asking yourself some worthy questions:
• Where do you seek security? Through an attachment to your home? Your ethnic group? Your denomination? Your job title?
• Do you have a staunch attachment to some belief that prevents you from manifesting your courage?
After eighteen years of extensive and original research on a simple word, “courage,” I have been amazed how people have difficulty claiming and applying the original definition of courage, “heart and spirit” (the spirit and the heart are one). Perhaps it’s because no concrete tool has been available to distinguish the actions of courage such as simply giving yourself permission to claim your courage or instilling self-discipline to finish (or start) a project. Trapped in attachments, our hyper-individualized culture does not support taking time to reflect and notice how often throughout the day we say, “I am so busy ….” Then there is the issue of “needing” more and more stuff and activities to confirm our “identities”—the right car, the latest technology gadget, the trendy new workout or incessant text-messaging.
This attachment dilemma starts with a slogan I use in my training programs that reflects a cultural mantra: “have, do, be.” Merging your professional and personal life you will find that, with courage, you are able to transcend the “have, do, be” focus of society to achieve the “be, do, have” mode of living that leads to personal fulfillment. In the spirit of “be, do, have” you are making a gift of your life and ultimately, that choice touches all of mankind. This is not an easy task when society values what you have and what you do.
This type of spiritual learning does not happen intellectually. It cannot be learned from a from a form that requires you to fill in the blanks or from a Roman numeral outline that requires you to follow the sequential details and then, “Bingo!” the answer appears.. Processing content details like an outline or a form is the opposite of a contemplative lifestyle, which is the source of spiritual learning. Contemplation means non-attachment. Therein lies the sacredness of the small things in life.
Cultivate a Contemplative Dimension
So to begin this type of learning, you need to cultivate a contemplative dimension grounded in a practical conviction of Being. In spiritual courage*, there is acceptance in every circumstance, including death. Acceptance should not be confused with resignation; to the contrary, acceptance is the ability to accept what is at each precious moment. You can begin to do this by asking a couple of questions:
- “What can I control at this moment?” Of course, the cosmic joke is “nothing” (other than acceptance, free of struggle, judgments and angst).
- “What prompted me to create this circumstance?”
A person aligned with his or her true Self accepts rather than resists the answers. They give their fullest attention to their emotions and what lies underneath them. An example would be feeling anger. Anger (not aggression) is an attitude that offers an opportunity to be vulnerable in heartfelt courage. Is frustration underneath the anger? Unrealistic expectations of oneself or others? This practice reflects spiritual maturity, and being present in each moment so as to recognize underlying issues is the gateway to spiritual development. This choice also reveals how compensatory attitudes such as grace, forgiveness and gratitude are more powerful than the immediate emotions and their underlying influences.
Attachment Traps (old French, attaché, meaning “nailed to.”)
A contemplative life may include a meditation practice keenly aligned with reflection. This spiritual commitment to reflection resides in simplicity and yields a harmonious and natural life. Probably the biggest trap to this lifestyle approach is attachments. Attachment, like the word courage, is Old French, attaché, meaning “nailed to.” If, instead, we choose an appreciation for the present, we will not be nailed to future “things” that might seduce us into thinking we have that illusive control. Besides, every day is a day of uncertainty. Only the ego mistakenly believes that you have a schedule set in stone when you walk out the door. Why? The ego strives for certainty.
Letting go of attachments to outcomes diminishes the unhealthy desires and emotional ups and downs that start to move you to your heart or true Self. This work becomes easier when employing courage-based actions such as disciplining oneself to refine the inner observer or making a declaration giving oneself permission to claim one’s own personal courage. The heart matures during different stages of courage development. Soon, the distortions of the false self, witnessed as “instant opinions,” begin to diminish.
For example, a person’s relationship with work is a deeply personal choice. Some of us who desire an early retirement may be vacillating, hesitant to do so during economic uncertainty, but as our courage consciousness matures we will notice huge shifts in perspectives on fear, blame or how to transition to a new phase in life. Lack of courage stymies a positive shift in behavior, allowing attachments to continue controlling our lives
Whether to material items or social values, attachments can be tough to let go of because they seem to provide safety and comfort, yet they limit our spontaneous enjoyment of new experiences in the present moment. Ironically, in order to step up in life or career, each of must first delve deeper into our true Self to find a solid foundation that supports living a courageous life.
- Do you operate in scarcity mentality and unconsciously stay attached to the almighty paycheck while your dreams wither for lack of spiritual nourishment?
- Are you willing to let go of your possessive attitude toward everything (or everyone)?
- What do you pine for?
- What thought patterns keep you up at night?
Try making a list of the things to which you are attached. Review the list and assess where and how these attachments found a home in your psyche. After identifying your attachments, the next step is eliminating this draining energy, which requires stopping—taking a step back from the busyness of thinking and doing to allow time for contemplation. Stopping helps us learn to become indifferent to the outcome, which should not be confused with loss of spirit or passion but rather with a keen sense of discernment. Spirit and passion remain constant, only regrets diminish. Non-attachment centers us in Being and all its daily joy.
The decision to be content with only the material world or to strive after the spiritual world is always a personal choice. As one dear friend said at the last stages of her life, “Honey, you ever seen a U-Haul truck pull up with the hearse?”
*Spiritual courage. The spiritual journey requires being in the present. It is a trust in faith that propels you to continue growing. You become a “witness” to your attachments and learn to self-correct. You surrender your ego to a higher level of consciousness, and you begin to exist in a place “where courage meets grace.” As all this happens, humility steps in to replace arrogance and self-righteousness. The sacred within awakens and reveals your Spiritual Intelligence.
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