Good Vibrations

Good VibrationsSince the beginning of last year I’ve focused on managing my thoughts and staying present. This post appeared originally on The Spirited Woman where Andrea is a weekly blogger. Enjoy it!

By Andrea Chilcote

Remember the Beach Boy’s song Good Vibrations? My favorite part was the refrain

“Gotta keep those lovin’ good vibrations a happenin’ with you”

If you’ve been following my posts for the last few months, you’ve noticed a theme. Since the beginning of the year I’ve focused on managing my thoughts and staying present, and the practice, while imperfect, has been enlightening.

Every now and then, somewhat counter to my natural style, I get organized. This week I’m organizing my “good vibrations,” and I thought I’d share an insight here, along with some really good news.

In one post connected to that theme, I suggested that thoughts are prayers, directing the flow of apparently coincidental circumstances. In another related post, I told the story of my own passionate thoughts and feelings about a young Siberian Husky born without kneecaps and needing very expensive surgery to survive. Through that story, I hoped to inspire all of you to find feelings of compassion for something meaningful that you can affect in a small way, vs. feeling sorry or helpless in a world that seems to have no shortage of tragedy.

I’m thrilled to report that the angels at Alley’s Rescued Angels in Los Angeles raised enough funds for the pup’s surgery and it was performed last week. Just one week later he is walking proudly, tail wagging, and has a bright future ahead.

I am certain that the loving thoughts, prayers and well wishes from around the world played a significant role. Literally, caring individuals rallied in an effort to share the story and raise money. But maybe even more importantly, all of the loving thoughts served as healing medicine. You need only review Larry Dossey’s amazing work to know that is truth.

Do you ever really ever doubt that we are all connected? Separation may just be the biggest illusion we face. And, if we are all connected, in my opinion we have we have responsibility to lift one another up through our thoughts and feelings for and about one another, vs. squandering them as is so easy to do.

I ran across a fascinating study conducted by a Case Western Reserve University researcher. The research found that when the brain fires up the network of neurons that allows us to empathize, it suppresses the network used for analysis. It shows for the first time that we have a built-in neural constraint on our ability to be both empathetic and analytic at the same time.  The work begins to explain the “emotionally engaged intuitive understanding which allows us to relate to one another as people.” (Or, I might add, other beings, such as animals).

As I build my insights from my simple observation of thoughts and feelings I have a new focus for my practice: breathing. I don’t think I breathed at all the day of the pup’s seven hour surgery, even as I prayed with fervor. I’m exhaling now, present to the simple opportunity to connect and shape our collective experience.

Pray As If

by Andrea Chilcote

The following post appeared originally on The Spirited Woman at the start of Arizona’s monsoon season. It’s finally fall…and the lesson endures the seasons.

It’s that time of year in Arizona when we long for the monsoon to come and cool the temps by at least a few degrees. Early Saturday morning, toward the end of a lovely, meditative hike with my friend Beth and the three canines, I felt several drops of rain hit my arms and face. While scant raindrops might go unnoticed by most, we desert dwellers are on high alert, and treasure them even if only a few fall.index

“It’s raining,” I exclaimed. “Well, at least I felt raindrops.”

I looked up to the sky. There were some rogue clouds – indeed, one which was producing this sprinkling – but certainly no monsoon-style, cumulonimbus towers.

Then Beth said something remarkable. “It’s funny, I was just thinking about doing a rain dance.”

“You did one,” I replied.

I was reminded of a classic lesson I learned many years ago reading the book The Isaiah Effect. In it, author Gregg Braden relays the story of having been invited by a Native American friend, David, to share in an experience of what he thought was to be a prayer for rain during a major drought.

Gregg observed his friend’s short and silent ritual, after which David was ready to leave and get lunch. Puzzled and apparently expecting a longer and more participatory ceremony, he said he thought they had come to this place to pray for rain.

David answered.  “If we pray for rain, rain could never happen. Because the moment you pray for something to occur, you just acknowledged that it does not exist.”

He went on to explain.

“In my prayer, I began with the feeling of gratitude for all that is and all that has come to pass. I gave thanks for the desert wind, the heat, and the drought, for that is the way of it, until now. It is not good. It is not bad. It has been our medicine.

Then I chose a new medicine. I began to have the feeling of what rain feels like. I felt the feeling of rain upon my body. Standing in the stone circle, I imagined that I was in the plaza of our village, barefoot in the rain. I felt the feeling of wet earth oozing between my naked toes. I smelled the smell of rain on the straw-and-mud walls of our village after the storm. I felt what it feels like to walk through fields of corn growing up to my chest because the rains have been so plentiful.”

Like David’s, Beth’s rain dance in her mind and heart had been a prayer for rain, though perhaps less intentional. And so began that morning’s desert lesson. Be careful what you pray for – you just might get it.

It turns out that’s the title of a book by Larry Dossey MD. Dossey is known for his groundbreaking work exploring the role of prayer in healing. His research has led to what he calls the non-local mind and the merging of spirit and medicine. He says this book’s purpose is to help people gain the ability to reshape private thoughts for the benefit of mankind.

Back at home after the hike; the lesson was presented as another reminder that our thoughts and feelings pack a punch. They are, as Braden, Dossey (and I) have witnessed, our prayers.

Settling down to breakfast, I glanced at a post from the evening before. It was an account of an unfolding event in which a man’s three dogs were apparently stolen before his eyes. Even though it involved strangers, I had been shaken by it. I felt the man’s grief, as well as anger toward the person who, on the surface, appeared to be a perpetrator.

I tried to wipe it from my previously blissful psyche. But my sadness prevailed. Then, suddenly, it dawned on me that I was praying for rain. I was further endangering the situation by amplifying my own negative emotions. A calm came over me and I very simply and deliberately imagined – felt – a positive outcome. Even more importantly, I reframed my feelings toward the woman suspected of wrongdoing. Reminded of the wise saying, “Let God handle the details,” I did not wish her to have a change of heart and return what she had purportedly stolen. I simply raised her up in my heart, in a loving and non-judgmental way. In my prayer, I asked that she connect with her highest and best self.

One hour later, I saw a post confirming the outcome. The dogs had been returned and all was well.

I don’t claim to fully understand the quantum mechanics of prayer, and I don’t believe my practice was solely responsible for this welcome outcome. Yet I know what Dossey says is true. Our private thoughts do impact the collective.

Reframing emotions is not easy. I was able to reframe mine on this morning in good part because I just had walked in the rain that my friend’s mental dance had produced. This is the first lesson, spirited women, the one before the big prayer. Gather strength from the seemingly small or inconsequential miracles that you create with the resonance you put out through your thoughts and feelings. Your faith will build as you gain awareness of how very powerful you are.

“We must feel the feeling as if the prayer has already been answered.”

—Gregg Braden

(Another) Gratitude Prayer

by Andrea Chilcote

The following post appeared originally on The Spirited Woman where Andrea is a weekly blogger. This summer, followers of this blog will enjoy bi-weekly archived posts that have appeared on The Spirited Woman but never before on this site. 

Many times I have written of my gratitude for a blessed life. Tonight, as I am full (and very tired) from a week of good work, good friends and good fortune, it’s all I have left to share.

At the risk of being repetitive, I wish to offer my prayers of gratitude to you today as catalysts for your own. It doesn’t matter if this has been a tough week or an easy one, a full and rich expression of life or a rather dilute or convoluted one. It’s my belief we all have something to be grateful for, and in expressing that feeling we draw more of it in.

Here is my list. Add to it as you wish, or create three new items as I did.

  1. I am grateful for the open minds and hearts my clients brought to our work this week. In what way (large or small) did your work open a small window for someone?
  2. I appreciate the small kindnesses I was shown in the midst of a busy schedule. What small kindness were you offered (or did you have the honor of contributing)?
  3. Tonight I am warmed with gratitude for the kind people who help me rescue another death row husky. And I’m even thankful in advance for all the help I’ll get with her. Is there something you did this week that felt exhausting but necessary? Look for the gifts that were given to you along the way.

I will sleep more soundly tonight having acknowledged this small yet important grace. If you are feeling anxiety, stress or even simple weariness, try gratitude as an elixir. It just might give you the boost you need.

What if Thoughts Were Prayers

by Andrea Chilcote

The following post appeared originally on The Spirited Woman where Andrea is a weekly blogger. This summer, followers of this blog will enjoy bi-weekly archived posts that have appeared on The Spirited Woman but never before on this site. 

I’ve been observing my thoughts more than usual these last few days. The practice was sparked by a theme that emerged in many conversations with clients and friends. People seem to be lamenting (obsessing?) over situations in the past, situations that, despite the energy they put into wishing, cannot be changed. Or they’re worrying about future possibilities that have not yet arrived, even creating detailed mental causal chains. “If this happens, then I will have to do that, and then it will cause ____.” (Fill in the blank with the worst possible scenario).

What if thoughts were prayers? What if our minds were sacred mechanisms that direct the flow of circumstances the moment we conceptualize them? I know this to be so in my own life. But just how does this happen?

I’m educated as a scientist. While I haven’t worked in that field for many years, the analytical, hypothesis-forming style of thinking never left me. I find it fun as well as enlightening to examine seemingly un-scientific principles and figure out a tangible explanation for why they work. It’s a way of bridging the mysterious with the material. So this week I set out (once again) to determine some of the ways in which our thoughts become our reality.

Part of it can be answered with a simple economics principle, opportunity cost. If my mind is engaged in futile or unproductive thinking, I quite literally miss out on the moment-by-moment opportunity to learn, teach, connect, find joy or simply observe. This week, I have gently coached others to adopt more discipline in their thinking in order to enjoy or seize the moment at hand.

But there’s more. Why are obsessive thoughts so dangerous? After all, they’re fleeting and hidden in privacy of our minds.

One problem is that they’re laced with emotion – negative thoughts are partnered with negative feelings, positive thoughts with positive one. Test it for yourself. The next time you find yourself thinking a pessimistic “what-if,” notice how it feels. If there’s fear or frustration, you’ll get what I mean. In contrast, the next time you have an inspirational or creative thought, notice how empowered and hopeful you feel.

We are ever more likely to be productive and ultimately successful when we live in a positive emotional state. It’s logical then to conclude that negative thoughts literally stall movement in the direction we truly desire.

If you’ve ever tried to shift your feelings unsuccessfully, try shifting what you’re thinking about instead. Not only does the clever brain partner thoughts with feelings, it attaches pictures. Much of the time, there’s an HD movie going on in our minds. Choose your entertainment wisely, because these trailers are predictive of the actual feature film.

This morning, as I was titling this post, I opened today’s “Note from the Universe.” It read:

“The reason your thoughts are so powerful, Andrea, is because they’re how you aim ‘God.’”

Yes, thoughts are prayers. And I can’t explain this coincidence. I’m glad there’s a spark of mystery left.