Friday, January 23, 2009


Attitudes are the mental context for our thinking. As the gardens in which our thoughts grow, our attitudes determine what kind of thinking we focus upon. Largely unnoticed, our attitudes range from seeing ourselves mired in the mud of life as helpless victims to a sublime appreciation as joyful beings of light, intimately connected with All That Is. When we adopt the discipline of being aware of our attitudes, we tap into a powerful method for focusing the power of the mind.
Attitudes are distinct from and yet often accompanied by an emotion. The ability to make the distinction between the mental and emotional components of our attitudes is very valuable, for the methods for changing the two components differs. Guilt is an example of how we often confuse the emotional and mental components of an attitude. Often when holding at attitude of guilt, we judge ourselves as bad and often engage in self-punishment. We try to prove, through our words and actions that we are, in fact, good. This behaviour can become all-consuming, a fixation that clouds our ability to honestly express our thoughts and feelings.
However, when wanting to change, or heal, an emotional experience, acceptance of the sensation is the primary requirement. Too often our attitude in reaction to emotional hurt is one of resistance. We distract, deny and oppose unwanted sensations and thus block the natural ability to heal the hurt. Emotional and physical imbalance is simply a messenger, seeking to deliver a message about a need for a change in perspective to the conscious mind.
Changing an emotional state is more complex than changing an attitude, which is a simple matter of choice. When we choose to change an attitude, the context for our thinking changes. A whole range of new thoughts becomes available whenever we elevate the vibration of our mental state. When our attitudes reflect an alignment of the conscious mind with the Inner Self, physical imbalances are not created.
The most fundamental mental context that seems to plague us these days is the attitude of being a victim. Widespread and often promoted by the media, victimhood spawns most of our destructive thoughts, mental images and attitudes.

- Life is hostile and a struggle. I often carry an attitude of cynicism toward life, masked behind intellectual justifications.
- I doubt my own ability to constructively interact with my reality. I doubt my power to create my life and manifest my dreams.
- Resources are scarce.
o I must acquire all I can and hold onto what I’ve got. I carry an attitude of greed.
o I worry about and often fear loss.
o I fear disappointment and believe it undermines my value.
- Outside forces create my feelings, thoughts and experience. I adopt an attitude of blame. I resist what I define as harmful outside forces, seeking to change them by resisting, enemizing and playing win/lose with them.
- Punishment and revenge are appropriate behaviours.
- Attitudes of sympathy and pity are considered comforting. I do not often focus on attitudes of compassion and connection. I have no awareness that my self-pity blocks healing.
- I attack those I blame, including myself, becoming a victimizer.
- I bond with others who are fixated on victim attitudes.
- My definitions of good and bad, right and wrong are consistent with my attitude of victimhood. I adopt attitudes of self-righteousness and righteous indignation. I compare myself with those I judge as less than myself, and seek to construct self-images that compare favorably with those I judge. I easily delude myself about my true self.
- I try to cope with uncomfortable emotions by distracting myself and denying my feelings. I am rarely honest with myself (or others) about my feelings and carry attitudes of hopeless, helpless and powerless.
- I often distract myself from my emotional experience with an attitude of judgment.
- I expect unfortunate events in my future and seek to protect myself from them. I carry a mental attitude of worry.
- I develop judgmental, prejudicial attitudes toward people I define as certain ‘types’, refusing to recognize those who cross my path as reflections of facets of myself. I carry attitudes of mistrust, contempt and dismissal toward others and therefore myself.
- I believe the past cannot be changed and carry it as an ever-growing burden in my life.
- I struggle with attitudes of dissatisfaction, unhappiness, separation, isolation and mental depression.

The Beginners’ Attitude, a mental discipline developed by one of my teachers, George Bullied, is an excellent guide for changing limiting attitudes.
To help clients safely explore their own beliefs, I ask them to commit to what is called the Beginners’ Attitude, a very useful notion introduced to me by a wonderful teacher and friend, George Bullied. Necessary to unblock our natural healing abilities, this concept simply asks that we have an open mind, an open heart and a willingness to step into the unknown.
To have an open mind is to free one’s thinking of judgment. I call a judgment any thought of diminishment of the self or someone else. With an open mind we are willing to consider any idea as a possibility. We give up the need to invalidate an idea before exploring it to see if it produces a constructive result.
An open heart is one that allows the full range of human feelings, rather than only accepting the ‘good’ feelings and avoiding the ‘bad’ ones.
The third step of the Beginners’ Attitude – the willingness to step into the unknown – is often the greatest challenge of all. We are often afraid to explore the unknown domains because … “you never know what might go wrong.”
We have all had the experience of expecting some outcome from the unknown, only to be disappointed. It is similar to driving through a new country expecting a map to reveal all that we encounter. When disappointed or lost, we may blame the map, or find fault with the landscape, rather than examine our expectations.
We often fear the next lesson in life, because we can imagine the one after that one as being very ugly. One client asked, “If I heal this fear of the unknown, will it be time for me to die?” At times we avoid the unknown because we simply find comfort in holding onto what we know.
Angie, an East Coast client who I worked with by phone, was struggling with unknown aspects of her future. “I’m afraid to start a business that lets me pursue my passion of teaching art to children,” she said. “I depend on the great salary I’m getting from the marketing job I’ve had for six years.”
“What’s in the unknown that you don’t want to face,” I asked her.
“I’m afraid of not having enough money to maintain my future lifestyle,” she explained.
I admired her honesty and thought to ask, “Angie, when did the unknown betray you?”
Put in that context, Angie realized she had never been betrayed by the unknown. Yes, she had disappointments, but every outcome, she realized, had contributed to her life. “Despite my fears about failing and losing some benefits my income provides,” she conceded, “I am excited about the opportunity to combine my creative talents with my love for kids.”
“I guess that’s the only way I’ve really grown in my life,” Angie realized, “When facing the unknown and believing my dreams aren’t possible, all I’ve had to do is to understand that my limitations aren’t real.”
Angie and I have had several ongoing discussions about what it takes to trust the unknown. Like most of us, Angie mistrusted it, especially at times of self-doubt.
As Angie learned to heal her fears, she found a greater ability to trust - not only the unknown, but also her abilities and her passion for teaching children.
“Sometimes, Angie, when we become complacent and resist growing in life,” I offered, “We subconsciously attract the unknown into our lives to help us move beyond our fears, failures and mistrust. In the process we recover our power to dream. materialize those dreams and trust – ourselves and the unknown.”
Any journey into the unknown forges a deeper experience of your own identity – the inner strengths, talents and dreams from which you manufacture your life. To be willing to step into the unknown ultimately is about the commitment to open doors to the discovery of unknown potentials of the Self – the greatest adventure of all!

Using a journal, or during a quiet meditation, identify your current attitude. A very useful attitude exercise is to simply examine the question: What result is this attitude producing in my life? Many years ago, I gave up worrying about the moral question, “Is this good or bad? Will this behaviour get me into heaven or hell?” Instead, I found the notion, “Do what works,” seemed to be much more useful. Its corollary, “Stop doing what does not work,” is at times, even more useful. Using these principles, I found myself examining the results of my life from the standpoint that I was their creator, rather than assuming they had been thrust upon me.

It is in our attitudes of acceptance or resistance that reflect our fundamental choice to see ourselves as the victims or creators of our lives.


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