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Am I Making Progress Yet?

"The man who views the world

at 50 the same as he did at 20

has wasted 30 years of his life."

-Muhammad Ali

Me Making Progress...

The Non-Athletic One Scaling What Felt Like Mt. Everest!

Ah, the wisdom of Ali always astounds me. How frequently we

get stuck in our own mindsets, old beliefs, perceptions of the

way things are or the tenor of the world! I can be a "poster

child" for this myself. Ali's quote reminds me to examine how

far I have come since I was 20, if anywhere at all!

I have read many spiritual books that say how our thoughts

create our reality. Of course, for many years, that didn't sit

well with me. I always thought that there were many things in

my life and my circumstances that were out of my control.

Which I still believe.

But I did notice that I was often repeating the same patterns

in my life - some great and some not so good at all. I knew

there was something in this when I found out that a boyfriend

in my 20s and then one in my 50s were born on the same day

and shared some of the best of qualities and some of the

worst behaviors.

Coincidence? I think not. The patterns in my relationships

with these two guys were almost identical.

Now, don't get me wrong. I have been the recipient of many

blessings in my life and have witnessed many miracles. But

some of that takes work and I have found that the more I am

aware of a negative pattern, the more I am able to

consciously eliminate it. Also, I have come to love the adage:

"change your thinking; change your life." I believe this with all

my heart.

A case in point: I have always been a very positive person and

I love people (on the most part!), finding them infinitely

fascinating. But years ago, I saw a hidden part of myself and a

certain negativlity around my life and the people who

inhabited it.

After I first started my spiritual studies, my sister and I were

walking along the beach in Sanibel. I thought it might be fun

and enlightening to try an interesting exercise I read about in

a book.

Whenever you had a negative thought, you were to say "OUT!"

to that thought. The premise was to do this in your head but I

thought it might be revealing to use the same approach in the

conversation my sister and I were having as we were just

walking along. Whenever one of us said something negative,

the other one would say "OUT!"

Guess what happened? We said a lot of OUTS on that walk! It

was business as usual...we were joking and gossiping about

others and ourselves with lots of judgments, assumptions and

pettiness going on. After about 20 minutes of this, my sister

didn't want to play the game anymore. I can't say as I blame

her. We were both shocked at the tenor of our conversation -

not all negative but certainly

not all positive either.

Now don't get me wrong... when I seriously started examining

my thoughts and trying to shift them, I never had any

aspirations to turn into a "goody two shoes" or Pollyanna. After

all, I come from an Irish family where much of our humor is

founded on making fun of ourselves and poking fun at others.

Not only is that firmly embedded in me, I happen to like this

kind of humor and am not

about to change it.

But I do want to change any thoughts that are interfering with

my positive experience of life or that can create the same

unpleasant experiences over and over.

How do I know when I'm making progress?

I find it often the little things. Small examples: I don't

experience road rage when a driver cuts me off; I don't find

myself quite so impatient when a bank teller is slow and the

line is long; I don't condemn the person who is getting on my

nerves at work. I have started assuming maybe each one of

these "annoying people"

had a bad day. So it's time to cut that person some slack.

And I believe these small things are the best indication I have

of my mental and spiritual progress. I certainly don't

remember to make that shift all the time, but at least I have

developed the habit of questioning my thoughts when they are

negative or judgmental.

And guess what? This mind shift always makes me more at

peace, more in love with life and more respectful of the

people around me.

The Dali Lhama once said that his religion was kindness.

How great is that?!

Another way this negative thought business operates is when I

start condemning myself for those things that my positive

thinking have not overcome. When that happens, I try to

consider when and

where these thoughts and patterns of behavior have started.

Usually it goes back to my childhood. (Big surprise there!)

But I have found that the "blame game" about our families

doesn't work either. Someone said:

"When it comes time to do your own life, you either

perpetuate your childhood or you stand on it and

finally kick it out from under."

On the other hand, I believe when it comes to your past

experiences, you can't change your own dysfunctional patterns

(and everybody has them) if you are denying them or hiding

them from yourself. I may be less advanced than others in my

psychological and spiritual insights.

But I do know that as Plato was purported to say,

"The unexamined life is not worth living."

For most of us, I think the pattern we most need to examine

and work on is the critic in our head that says things like: "I

screwed up big time here and I'm going to feel guilty about it

the rest of my life" or "I can never forgive myself for that."

When we fall into this kind of emotional hole, let's remember

that a great definition of God is "Mercy and Compassion." As

spiritual beings having a human experience, our lessons are


of the most difficult kind. So if God can forgive us

and expect us to move on, who are we not to use the same

mercy and compassion towards ourselves?

So watch those thoughts and try to stay on the sunny side of

the street. And, remember that the "Big Boss in the Sky" has

already forgiven you for anything you have done...

can you do the same for yourself?


Share this with a friend. See below.

Who is Kathleen Pasley?

Kathleen has a life that encompasses numerous

areas of endeavor: writing, fundraising, marketing

and spirituality.

Two things help define her: she has been on

a serious spiritual path for 35 years and has

known serious depressive episodes.

She is committed to speaking from the heart

on spiritual issues and sharing honestly

and openly about mental illness.

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