Tag Archives: self inquiry

Forget “What if?” & “What was.”– Acknowledge “What is!”

what if_what was_what is

For some reason the lesson of dropping “What if?” came in my mind this morning. I knew I had written a blog post about it in the past, but I couldn’t remember what I wrote. This morning I found it through my blog’s search engine, and re-read it. It’s from the time when I lived in an old building in New York. (I no longer live in NYC, the post was written in 2011.) I’m glad those days are over! But the lesson I learned, or maybe I should say “insight I had”, is still one that I need to work on. It was good to be reminded.

Ugh, where do I begin. Let me start off first by saying that it is 12:15am, and I am very tired. I’m afraid that if I write something right now, it will sound like a sleepy person babbling — and the blog post will be pockmarked with typos. But I’ll do my best!

Last night I was in dance class. I barely made it through the class because I got two huge blood blisters. One on each big toe the size of a silver dollar (that’s exaggerating… more like a quarter). Then, that same night, in the middle of the night, I hear a BOOM! The sound woke me out of my sleep. I thought a shelving unit fell off of a wall. I checked everywhere I could think of, but everything seemed okay. Then I heard another crashing sound, but this time it sounded smaller in size. It had to be in the bedroom near the front door, the room I had not yet checked. When I opened the door I saw that a big section of the ceiling crashed to the floor! Dust and sheetrock pieces everywhere! After that, I tried my best to go to bed (because it was almost 3am), and not think about it. I knew I had to call my landlord in the morning, and there was nothing tha could be done in the middle of the night. But my reasoning with myself didn’t work, I couldn’t sleep. Then, later that day, while on the phone with the landlord, I’m told that the supervisor of the building is coming right over to check it out. To make a long story short, the supervisor (after looking at it) said that he didn’t believe that the ceiling just fell like that. Someone made it happen, someone made it come down. He basically hinted that the whole ceiling in that room would need to be replaced, and he wasn’t sure the landlord would cover the expense. Two hours after that, I had to leave for a therapy appointment for my spine. Walking gingerly because I can feel the blisters under my toes, I notice a sign at the subway entrance. The subway train I need is not running – at all. (*sigh*) At this point I am really feeling in the dumps. But then something clicks. I have a little conversation with myself.

Big Self: Aimee, you keep thinking about the ceiling falling. When did it fall?
Lil’ self: Late last night.
Big Self: So that would be in the past, right?
Lil’ self: Yes.
Big Self: And if it happened it the past, it means it’s not happening right now, right?
Lil’ self: Right.
Big Self: And the other thing you are worried about, is having to pay for that ceiling. This would be something that could possibly happen in the future. The future doesn’t exist right now. So that means you are angry or upset about something that doesn’t exist.
Lil’ self: (*sigh*) Ya.
Big Self: So if you get your head out of the past, and out of the future, what is happening right now, in the present?
Lil’ self: I’m finally getting on a train that can take me to my appointment to see one of the best massage therapists in the world. (In my world that is!)
Big Self: So let’s look at this a little differently. Instead of focusing on “what if?” or “what was,” we are going to look at “what is.” You took one of your favorite dance classes and got to hang out with your friends last night. You got a few blisters, but now you are fine, they are healing nicely. Part of your ceiling fell in your apartment. The building you live in is 140 years old, so this kind of thing happens, old buildings break down. Good thing the supervisor came immediately over, and he is fixing it for you. And thank goodness no one was in the room when it fell, they could have been hurt. So this is very fortunate! Now you are on your way to getting a super-duper massage, and therapy for your spine. Soon you will feel amazing, and you finally found a subway that can take you there (after walking to a different train station). Lucky you!

After this little conversation with myself everything become light. The day was great. I had much to be thankful for. And all was suddenly well. It only took a bit of gratitude & awareness to change everything in seconds.

Now if I can only get some much needed sleep and catch-up on a few Zzzzzz… Tonight I am going to sleep through the night!

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Do you want to be right or happy?

carousel+freedom

[I created this blog post almost a year ago. I think it’s good to re-read and to be reminded. It is posted below.]

There is always room for blame. There is always a reason, an excuse, a point-of-view; why things are the way they are. Why people are they way they are. Why the world is the way it is. It’s easy to say “That’s not right. Someone or something is wrong.” But who’s job is it to correct it? To make it right. To set it straight?

The answer is never outside of ourselves. Life is always a mirror. When we see something we consider wrong; something a mess or amiss, there is always a reflection of something we personally need to clean-up or set straight. It could be a matter of ‘letting go’, or it could be a matter of taking personal responsibility for correcting in ourselves what we dislike most about others. It’s easy to say “I’m not like that” or “I didn’t do that.” But an individual life or personality is vast, there is always something within ourselves that we don’t want to see or acknowledge. Something we are doing or being that isn’t in alignment with our highest values. There is also deep-rooted misery within ourselves that we desperately need to discharge, release or defuse (if only for a moment), through pointing the finger or through seeing life as lopsided. It takes the responsibility off of us, & sets it somewhere else. This misery, or this thing we can’t put our finger on, is the very thing that gets triggered easily by others, or by life itself.

If you let go a little you will have a little peace; if you let go a lot you will have a lot of peace; if you let go completely you will have complete peace.
– Ajahn Chah

When I see a ‘mature’ person. It touches me deeply. I feel the truth & the wisdom in who they are being. When I say mature, I am using the word as this quote does: Maturity begins to grow when you can sense your concern for others outweighing your concern for yourself (quote by John Macnaughton). But when I read that quote, I don’t think that it means to put yourself or your personal needs aside & to place everyone before you — but to see that there is no separation between you & anything in the world. Turning a blind eye, tuning out, being defensive, judging harshly, or being cruel — it only means that you are ultimately treating or viewing yourself that way. In the end, everything comes back to you. Each life happens through the eyes of the one living it. Therefore, we can either fully open up to life; trust it, get intimate with it — or we can shut down, close ourselves off & wonder why life is so difficult.

carousel_lonelinessWhen there is a strong need to be right about ideas we have, or about the way life should be, or about the way people ought to behave, we set ourselves up for suffering. We actually begin to confuse ourselves, because we start to live life from the mind instead of the heart. We let fear & ego take a position of power, instead of simply allowing life to flow, & allow love to be the driving force in all that we do.

I often think of the quote: Do you prefer that you be right or happy? (quote from A Course in Miracles T-29.VII.1:9). I think of it when I see someone suffering over an idea they have about the way things should be, or when I find myself hanging on desperately to something as ephemeral as a thought. A thought that I know isn’t getting me what I ultimately want. And what can we all say we ultimately want? Everyone wants to be happy. Yet many of us are on a mind-game carousel that takes us nowhere, or better yet, to a place of pointless suffering & energy wasted. Many of us would like to get off this ride. If only we could see that we ourselves, no one else, has the power to stop it.

For me, self-inquiry helps to stop the mind-game carousel. To simply stop; to look nowhere for answers but within. To be honest with myself. To ask myself questions. To get to know myself on a deeper level. It doesn’t matter what others are doing or saying. But to witness with compassion what I am doing & saying, what I am thinking & feeling, & why. After that, my mind slows down. I become more spacious & patient, more open & tolerant — more understanding. I begin to see everyone as the same, & life itself as perfect, unfolding as it should. My breathing goes from shallow to full. My body releases its tension. My attitude lightens up. My face brightens up. My heart opens up. And my mind follows my heart, it too opens up. There is no longer a need to be right, not even a desire. To be happy is more than enough.

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Filed under awareness, resolving conflict

Do you want to be right or happy?

carousel+freedom

There is always room for blame. There is always a reason, an excuse, a point-of-view; why things are the way they are. Why people are they way they are. Why the world is the way it is. It’s easy to say “That’s not right. Someone or something is wrong.” But who’s job is it to correct it? To make it right. To set it straight?

The answer is never outside of ourselves. Life is always a mirror. When we see something we consider wrong; something a mess or amiss, there is always a reflection of something we personally need to clean-up or set straight. It could be a matter of ‘letting go’, or it could be a matter of taking personal responsibility for correcting in ourselves what we dislike most about others. It’s easy to say “I’m not like that” or “I didn’t do that.” But an individual life or personality is vast, there is always something within ourselves that we don’t want to see or acknowledge. Something we are doing or being that isn’t in alignment with our highest values. There is also deep-rooted misery within ourselves that we desperately need to discharge, release or defuse (if only for a moment), through pointing the finger or through seeing life as lopsided. It takes the responsibility off of us, & sets it somewhere else. This misery, or this thing we can’t put our finger on, is the very thing that gets triggered easily by others, or by life itself.

If you let go a little you will have a little peace; if you let go a lot you will have a lot of peace; if you let go completely you will have complete peace.
– Ajahn Chah

When I see a ‘mature’ person. It touches me deeply. I feel the truth & the wisdom in who they are being. When I say mature, I am using the word as this quote does: Maturity begins to grow when you can sense your concern for others outweighing your concern for yourself (quote by John Macnaughton). But when I read that quote, I don’t think that it means to put yourself or your personal needs aside & to place everyone before you — but to see that there is no separation between you & anything in the world. Turning a blind eye, tuning out, being defensive, judging harshly, or being cruel — it only means that you are ultimately treating or viewing yourself that way. In the end, everything comes back to you. Each life happens through the eyes of the one living it. Therefore, we can either fully open up to life; trust it, get intimate with it — or we can shut down, close ourselves off & wonder why life is so difficult.

carousel_lonelinessWhen there is a strong need to be right about ideas we have, or about the way life should be, or about the way people ought to behave, we set ourselves up for suffering. We actually begin to confuse ourselves, because we start to live life from the mind instead of the heart. We let fear & ego take a position of power, instead of simply allowing life to flow, & allow love to be the driving force in all that we do.

I often think of the quote: Do you prefer that you be right or happy? (quote from A Course in Miracles T-29.VII.1:9). I think of it when I see someone suffering over an idea they have about the way things should be, or when I find myself hanging on desperately to something as ephemeral as a thought. A thought that I know isn’t getting me what I ultimately want. And what can we all say we ultimately want? Everyone wants to be happy. Yet many of us are on a mind-game carousel that takes us nowhere, or better yet, to a place of pointless suffering & energy wasted. Many of us would like to get off this ride. If only we could see that we ourselves, no one else, has the power to stop it.

For me, self-inquiry helps to stop the mind-game carousel. To simply stop; to look nowhere for answers but within. To be honest with myself. To ask myself questions. To get to know myself on a deeper level. It doesn’t matter what others are doing or saying. But to witness with compassion what I am doing & saying, what I am thinking & feeling, & why. After that, my mind slows down. I become more spacious & patient, more open & tolerant — more understanding. I begin to see everyone as the same, & life itself as perfect, unfolding as it should. My breathing goes from shallow to full. My body releases its tension. My attitude lightens up. My face brightens up. My heart opens up. And my mind follows my heart, it too opens up. There is no longer a need to be right, not even a desire. To be happy is more than enough.

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every path you take leads to a dead end

All paths lead to nowhere (now-here). So you might as well skip the plan, & just get present.

I was looking at a diagram with a friend this morning. It’s one of those charts that show you different paths, depending on what choice you make. As he examined it he said, “This is pointless! Every path you take leads to a dead end! What’s the use!” When I heard that, something clicked. I laughed inside. I heard the truth & the wisdom. It made me smile to hear how every path that we think will lead us somewhere — brings us right back to ourselves.

I need peace,
I need children,
I need money,
I need property,
I need space,
I need accomplishment,
I need success,
I need creativity,
I need sex,
I need love,
I need freedom,
I need education,
I need friendship,
I need career,
I need protection,
I need expression,
I need rights,
I need balance,
I need security,
I need religion,
I need opportunity,
I need equality,
I need partnership,
I need family,
I need health,
I need answers,
I need individuality,
I need truth,
I need unity,
I need simplicity,
I need comfort,
I need luxury,
I need silence,
I need understanding,
I need help,
I need companionship,
I need solitude,
I need forgiveness,
I need romance,
I need independence,
I need support,
I need acceptance,
I need travel,
I need work,
I need solutions,
I need nature,
I need attention,
I need beauty,
I need respect,
I need allies,
I need nothing.

Pick any one of those that rings true for you, & ask yourself what you think it will ultimately give you. In what way will it be the answer? How will it complete you? Will it end the search? The constant need to want, like, or need something — will it finally be over?

And really be clear. Do you think fighting against something will give you what you want? Do you think you will be happy? What about striving for something? Or working for something? Will that do it? Will you be complete then? How about creating something? Will it end there? What about not wanting anything? Will that finally finish the job? What will it take for you to feel like you are whole & complete & content — like there is no path to take that would be better than the present moment?

Where are you in all of this? And why is it that you need so much to feel like everything is OK? What is it about you that isn’t working for you? Why are you never enough? Maybe the problem is you?

For me, when I get stuck on the “you” problem (a.k.a. the “me” problem). I can usually trace it to three things (actually, just one, one will do the trick). All three things lead to suffering. And all three things are just confusion in my opinion. Confused thinking.

1. FEARFUL
Bring any problem you have to mind. Trace it down to its roots. Go really really deep. Don’t cut yourself short. Dig down deep. What’s down there? Really look at it. Expose it. Give it a good face-to-face look. Is it fear? You betcha. So the problem you think you have — that you needed something to solve — really isn’t the problem, is it?

2. LOST
I can pretty much take any problem, any source of suffering, & catch myself dwelling on the past, or in the future. If I take myself out of those places (that don’t exist!), & I get fully present to what is happening ONLY in the present moment — if I can do that, then I am fine. And I don’t mean the current moment somewhere else. I mean right now, right here — with the one that was lost in past/future based thinking. If I just get still. If I stop & just feel what it feels like to be in the present moment fully — I will see that the suffering is unjustified.
The next time you are frustrated, or angry, or jealous, or stressed, or lonely, or discontent — the next time you are suffering in any way — ask yourself where you are. Where are you mentally? I bet you aren’t present to the gift that is now. This moment, in all it has to offer.

3. SEPARATE
Ahhh… back to the “me” & “you” problem. :) Don’t cha just love it! It’s everywhere. Look over your day. Look throughout your life. Look all over the world! Don’t you see it? It’s like a disease that everyone is suffering from. There is a Zen quote that I really love, it’s “No Self, No Problem.” That quote is one of the most profound quotes I know. (And if you have ever seen my Facebook or Twitter pages, you know I am a quote magnet. So if I say this one is tops, I mean it!) Everything is integral in my opinion. Just like it is becoming more obvious that we are all part of one world (no country is separate), because the planet earth is showing us that (e.g., destroy the rainforests, and everyone everywhere feels the impact). When you believe that every person, every living being, isn’t moving as one, from a common source, totally & infinitely connected — you will feel it. And it isn’t a good feeling. It’s called suffering.

All three of these things, these roots of suffering, or feelings of incompleteness, all of them can instantly disappear.

On Thursday evening I was bent out of shape, not in a good head space. That night I couldn’t sleep. I felt terrible. The next morning I received an email from someone. They reassured me that there isn’t a problem. Everything will be taken care of. All is well. After that, I was light as a cloud & had the most amazing day! How is this possible? I asked myself, “Aimee, what happened between last night & this morning? How can you go from distraught to bliss? Nothing happened, but a few brief words from another person! Nothing physically changed — just a few words were read!” I thought about it & I realized that I could trace the distraught feeling to all the roots of suffering I mentioned above. And the person that reassured me in their email, addressed each one of the three roots: There is nothing to fear; This won’t happen in the future; We share the same goal. –And whalla! I was back to bliss! But what I should have realized is, that I don’t need that to come from outside of me. Not from any person or circumstance. It was there all along.

Try it for yourself. Just notice. Hold up your wants. See if they can solve your problems once & for all, or make you feel totally complete & whole. Then, hold up your problems. See if you can trace them back to a feeling of fear; past or future based thinking; or an idea that you are a separate individual. Have fun with it. Have fun digging & checking out the roots. Dig deep. Get your hands dirty. Everyone is in the mud. But everyone doesn’t have to be stuck.

Take a good look at what paths you want to take to get you somewhere, that isn’t already here. Check to see if it leads you to a dead end (right back to you). Or just give up the search, & find what you have always been looking for — right here, right now — in this moment — just as it is. See that it is already perfect, already complete. Stop & settle into it, fully feel & embrace it. Feel how it feels to love fearlessly.

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Filed under awareness, peace & bliss

No Past, No Future, No Problem

“When you say to someone ‘you’re history’ it doesn’t mean that you’re a part of it; it means that you’re obliterated. That’s what history means.”
— Unknown

I think my Change the Meaning of the Past post (on January 8th, 2012) was too brief & too fast. I got a few comments from readers that it was hard to catch all that Alan Watts was saying & they also wanted more to read. Well, I can’t slow Alan down & I can’t transcribe the whole video, but I can write a bit more about the topic & post an additional video for you.

The Alan Watts video that I embedded in this post gives a bit more detail & has good pacing. It’s quite relaxed & fun to watch (especially Alan’s printed pants).

To me, the bottom line of what Alan Watts is saying is: THE PAST IS THE RESULT OF THE PRESENT. I could probably talk about that sentence for an hour. Actually, I know I easily could. But for now, I want to take it in another direction. (Because you can watch the entire 6 part video on Alan’s view that I embedded above, & get almost an hour of talk about that sentence from him.)

I want to share a different take on: being, living in the present, & staying out of past/future based thinking.

To me, suffering is only possible if your mind is in the past or future. If you are truly in the present, suffering is not possible.

But someone might say: I am in extreme physical pain from an illness (or physical injury). I am completely present. This pain is happening right now, & I am suffering!

My question for you would be: but are you comparing how you feel right now to a time when you were not in pain? Are you comparing how you feel or how you look, to the past? Are you comparing the predicament you are in right now to a time when you were not in it? Are you adding to this moment thoughts about the future? Thoughts based on fear? Like: what if I never get better? What if this gets worse? What if I am never the same? Why is this happening? What if I die? What if this takes a long time? What if I lose what I have over this? What if I never feel good again? — Also, let me ask you: what is your point of reference for pain & pleasure? Is it not based on the past? So in my opinion, it’s not the pain (illness, injury, or situation) that is making you suffer — it’s you. It’s your thoughts. Thoughts overrun by past & future based thinking.

Try it out for yourself today. Or better yet, try it out for yourself this week. Set aside a piece of paper. Every time you get stressed, or feel uneasy, or feel that unwanted emotions are arising — make a note of it. I want you to write down what what you are feeling & thinking. Go into detail. After that, I want you to write down what is happening in the present. Write down where you are & what is TRULY happening in the present moment. Not what you are thinking is happening, but what is really happening. Just note the facts. Don’t paint a picture of them. Just write down the basic facts without adding meaning to them. At the end of the day, or end of the week. Go back & see if those detailed thoughts & feelings about the situation matched the basic facts of the present moment. And if any of the fears that were noted in the detailed thoughts were as scary, as uncomfortable, or as painful as you thought they would be.

Alan Watts has a quote that ties in nicely to what I was just sharing with you:
[Being free from the past] simply involves a change in your thinking. It involves in other words; your getting rid of the habit of thought whereby you define yourself as the result of what has gone before — and instead, get into the more plausible, and more reasonable habit of thought. In terms of which; you don’t define yourself in terms of what you’ve done before, but in terms of what you’re doing now. And that is liberation from the ridiculous situation of being a dog wagged by its tail.

Just remember: no past, no future, no problem! :) Stay present. See what is happening now as a gift.

[To watch the entire “Time and The More It Changes” video (in 6 parts) from Alan Watts, click here.]

[Photo of the “No Past, No Future” tattoo is from the F*ck Yeah, Tattoos! blog.]

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Filed under awareness, great quotes, tv & video, unlearning

Lost Time Lost Life

A few weeks back I was at an appointment waiting to be called next. I looked to my left & I saw a newspaper – the Wall Street Journal. As I flipped through it something caught my eye. It was an image of a man & a woman totally enthralled with one another in a blissful state. The man was reclining on a cloud made of stuff; tennis rackets, wine glasses, classical instruments, elegant accessories, overnight case, golf clubs, champagne flutes, skis, etc. The advertisement had two tag-lines: Element of Well-being / For a Better You.

My immediate reaction was a long sigh. Was the viewer supposed to think that this cloud of materialistic stuff & a vacation stay in a hotel would bring them bliss? I feel so tired of the marketing that is pushed down people’s throats. All day everyday everywhere we look we are being marketed to. The idea of “this thing” or “this look” or “this place” is what you need to feel great, to feel happy, to feel whole. Most of us know that none of those things bring lasting happiness, yet we are sold that idea over & over again – & we buy it!

Everyone talks about a vacation or a lifestyle that they desire. Most of us hate some part of the way we look as well, comparing ourselves to others & feeling like some aspect of ourselves is inadequate. Or it can be the other way around, we think that the way someone else looks or lives isn’t good enough for us. Who taught us that? Where did we get our standards from? What did we pattern ourselves & our lives after? Why is it that our life is the way it is? Did we fully create it? Or did we allow society to greatly influence our decisions & views.

If you lived alone on an island, would you be worrying about the same things you desire or stress about today? Would you want the same job you currently have? Take a close look at your life & ask yourself, “If I lived alone & I never or rarely saw people, what would I be passionate about, what would matter most to me? What would my life be & look like?”

Would you need a vacation? Would you be working as hard as you do? What would matter to you? More stuff? Faster car? Bigger income? Smoother skin? An academic degree? …Or something freely available & priceless like love. I think we could say that love would be the most important thing, yet we don’t see that or act like that in our day-to-day lives, & every money-driven corporation & business wants to keep it that way.

There is a Betty Shine e-book that I found on the internet called The Infinite Mind. It had a fantastic exercise that brought light to this topic. She guides us to take a good look at ourselves & see what our lives are really about. Most of us can say, “I’m not totally money-driven, I don’t spend all day chasing stuff, I care about love” but, when we take a closer look, our lives don’t show that.

Try it out for yourself. I’ll post the Betty Shine exercise for you. Let me know how it goes & what you think. I know it looks long, but trust me, it goes fast & it’ll be an eye-opener for you as it was for me.

First Step

The first step in reclaiming your life is to arm yourself with an notebook and pen. Don’t use a pencil, you may be tempted to rub something out. When you have acquired these items, begin the analytical process by underlining the heading, which will be MATERIALISM.

List everything you have bought in the past twelve months, apart from the usual day-to-day goods that we all have to buy, on the left-hand side of the page. If you wish to take your time and be specific, this may take several days. When you have finished, return to the top of the page and, on the right-hand side, write against each item how many hours you or your partner have had to work to acquire it.

Second Step

When you have finished both lists, start a new page and write down the heading LOST TIME, LOST LIFE and underline it. Then put down everything you would have liked to have done, either with your partner or with friends and family, if you had not been working so hard for your acquisitions.

At this point I will remind you why I asked you not to use a pencil. This is because pencil can be erased, and the words you may wish to erase could, if studied carefully, be the turning point in your life. Look at them and ask yourself how and why they have appeared on the page. Why do you want to erase them? Do they disturb you? If so, then you must look at why they are creating a disturbance. After all, the words are only there because you put them there. They could be the something that you have been deliberately ignoring because you could not face up to the consequences, or they could be meaningless at present but a warning sign for the future. They may even be positive words that foretell a happy, healthy future. Whatever they are, ignore them at your peril, because they are a form of clairvoyance, of ‘clear sight’.

Third Step

Now turn to a new page, write down the heading AILMENTS, and underline it. Then list all the ailments you have suffered during the past twelve months. Ask your family and friends how they would sum up your general health during those months. It is quite normal for us to try to block out the unpleasant things in our lives, especially illnesses, and others may help give you a clearer picture.

Fourth Step

Study all the exercises over a period of a week or more. Do not rush this stage. Take your time. Only when you have made an honest assessment of everything you have written down can you turn a new page.

Fifth step

On your new page draw several horizontal lines across the paper, leaving at least two inches below each line. It is important to note that what you put underneath these lines will affect your future life. Write STRESS on the top line – it represents how much stress and ill health you are prepared to suffer for the type of lifestyle you have at the moment. Ask yourself whether you can honestly sustain it, knowing the full facts, because if you cannot, you know that your immune system and your mental health will suffer. Put down YES or NO on the line. If the answer is YES, you will know that you have given a lot of thought to the answer and that you are in control of your life. However, it would still be in your best interest to read on, to find out what your future may hold.

If the answer is NO, then decide which material possessions you could do without so that you can enjoy more stress-free hours with your family and friends. Write them down in the space below the line…

Yay! I’m so glad you made it through steps 1 through 5 & gave it a try. If you want to view the full exercise click here, & if you would like a copy of the e-book that that I found the exercise in, click here.

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Filed under awareness, how to, revolution, transformation, unlearning, wealth & money