Top Ten Things I Learned in 2014 (not a lie)

Every January I put together a list of top ten things for the previous year. I do it instead of a Christmas card and I send it out to my friends and family as a greeting and an update on my life. This year my theme was “Top Ten Things I Learned in 2014.” I sent it out to friends and family this year, but I also thought I’d post it to my blog. Why not, right? I learned a lot in 2014. It was hard to narrow it down to ten main things. But this is what I came up with:

10 There is a master plan for my life. Everything that happens was meant to happen. This plan was created jointly by God and by me and if I choose to trust in it, even though I might not always understand where it’s going to lead me, I will be all right.

09 I have the power to attract into my life exactly what I need.

08 It’s nice to be able to let go of what I don’t need anymore.

07 God is anxious to bless me and help me progress. His answers can come, if not immediately, then quickly. It’s important to ask the right questions.

06 We often make things harder than they need to be. Struggle is really unnecessary most of the time.

05 I’m pretty good at interpreting dreams.

04 People are not what they appear to be. They are much more complex and layered, and much older than we realize.

03 There are lies that we choose to believe every day. (This is why I started this blog.)

02 Prepare for the future. Do whatever you are prompted by the spirit to do in order to begin or continue that preparation.

01 Loving and accepting yourself just the way you are is key. To everything. Knowing who I really am makes all the difference. If you really want God to teach you about yourself, he will.

Feel free to comment and let me know what you have learned recently.

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Lie #26: Guilt and Shame

“Shame is the emotional state we experience when we feel badly about who we are. Guilt is the emotional state we experience when we feel badly about what we’ve done.” (Dr George Simon, PhD)  I propose that neither are really productive forms of transformation. Many people believe that feeling guilt and shame helps them to change, to repent, to do something different. In reality, shame and guilt have some of the lowest energetic vibrations on the spectrum of feeling. (This article addresses some interesting experiments done about vibrational energy.) Feeling or encouraging guilt and shame not only lower the vibration of our body’s energy, they often get stored there. Once negative energy gets stored somewhere in our bodies, because we believe it has a place there, it begins to cause problems for us physically, without us even realizing it. Those emotions can then cause us to beat ourselves up, over and over, never really invoking change but just keeping us in a lower vibration.

Perhaps a more productive and positive way to motivate ourselves to change is to feel regret or remorse. The important thing is not to stay in a regretful place, but to recognize that we may have made a wrong choice and let the sadness or sorrow about that choice motivate us to do something different. Once you are motivated to change, once you have chosen to do something different, allowing yourself to accept a new pattern of behavior, there is no need to keep feeling the remorse. Allow yourself to believe that you’ve changed and that you don’t have to go back to where you were. I like how Elder Richard Scott put it in his talk entitled “The Path to Peace and Joy:”

“To you who have sincerely repented yet continue to feel the burden of guilt, realize that to continue to suffer for sins when there has been proper repentance and forgiveness of the Lord is prompted by the master of deceit. Lucifer will encourage you to continue to relive the details of past mistakes, knowing that such thoughts can hamper your progress. Thus he attempts to tie strings to the mind and body so that he can manipulate you like a puppet to discourage personal achievement.

“I testify that Jesus Christ paid the price and will satisfy the demands of justice for all who are obedient to His teachings. Thus, full forgiveness is granted, and the distressing effects of sin need no longer persist in one’s life. Indeed, they cannot persist if one truly understands the meaning of Christ’s Atonement.

“When memory of past mistakes encroaches upon your mind, turn your thoughts to the Redeemer and to the miracle of forgiveness with the renewal that comes through Him. Your depression and suffering will be replaced by peace, joy, and gratitude for His love.”

No one belongs in a vibration of shame or guilt. I do not believe that God ever intended us to get stuck in those feelings, simply because they do not motivate us to change. They are not appropriate and they only cause us to feel bad about ourselves, and that is not a fun place to be. Let’s choose to change by feeling something else—something that will make us want to be better.

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Lie #25: Circumstances are a result of actions

I am almost 44 years old and I have never been married. I have never really had a boyfriend. There are messages that sometimes reach my ears that these things must be my fault—or, in other words, this circumstance must be a result of my actions—things I may have done or didn’t do. People have asked me if I have done this-or-that in order to find a husband, and I have wondered myself if I have missed opportunities and failed to merit something on my own. It’s not that I haven’t tried. And I have spent a lot of time wondering what I did wrong to find myself where I am. I guess hearing that philosophy (that blessings or circumstances happen as a result of action or lack of action) and it making sense to me caused me to believe that. Many of us probably believe it, just because we may not understand and it’s the only way to explain why we’re not where we expect to be.

But now I know it’s a lie. Where we find ourselves in life is not really a result of things we have done or didn’t do. I feel like the truth is that there is a master plan—a plan that my Heavenly Parents and I created together in the premortal life, and I am simply carrying out that plan. Therefore, my circumstances are a result of my belief and intent. This belief and intent has been in force for longer than I can currently conceive. I am simply following my plan. This means that I haven’t done anything wrong, and that I haven’t missed any important opportunities. Everything has happened as it was supposed to happen—the good, the bad, anything that appeared to be a mistake—it was all part of this master plan. It’s time to stop rejecting the parts I don’t like and just accept what is. If I created this plan, together with God, then I need to trust that we knew what we were doing and that I am eventually going to reach the circumstances in life that I desire. Until then, I plan to be at peace with right now.

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Lie #24: Scars

We all have battle wounds from this thing we call life. We all carry evidence of our experiences—good and bad. Sometimes they are physical marks, like that half-inch white scar at the tip of my right eyebrow from falling into the corner of a dresser drawer when I was four. Sometimes they are emotional wounds that we carry around with us. We may allow those experiences to define us. We may think that we have to keep them because they are part of us—part of who we are. We may think we’re stuck with them and that there’s no real delete button.

After all, science has proven that everything is recorded in the subconscious. From the very beginning of our existence until the present, our subconscious minds have recorded every thought, feeling, action and experience. Like a computer hard drive, every keystroke has been recorded and can be recalled. Even if things are sent to the recycle bin or trash, the computer still keeps them in a special place and they can be recovered. Our brains work much the same way. Even if we don’t consciously remember something, the memory is still there. There are techniques that can be used to access repressed memories and bring them back into consciousness.

So what about those things we’d rather not remember? What if we watched a movie we wished we would not have watched? Are those images imprinted permanently upon our minds? If we witnessed or experienced some horrific trauma, are we forced to replay those negative scenes in our minds for the rest of our lives? I think this is what most people believe, and this is the lie.

The truth is, there is a delete button. It is made possible through the atonement of Jesus Christ.

“Because of our imperfections, there is a continual concern within each of us that makes us hope we are worthy to have our sins forgiven. The Lord realized that a onetime forgiveness at baptism would not serve our purposes. This was evident in the days of ancient Israel when once a year the congregation of Israel observed the Day of Atonement. During this sacrifice, two goats were brought to the high priest. One goat was sacrificed to the Lord, and the priest conferred the sins of Israel on the head of the other goat. This goat, carrying all their sins, was then led into the wilderness and set free, symbolic of the Savior’s being led without the wall of Jerusalem to be crucified for the sins of the world (see Leviticus 16:21–22; John 19:16–20; Hebrews 13:11–12).” (Gerald Melchin, “Thy Sins Are Forgiven”)

“You must understand that you are free to determine to overcome the harmful results of abuse [and other trauma]. Your attitude can control the change for good in your life….I know victims of serious abuse who have successfully made the difficult journey to full healing through the power of the Atonement. After her own concerns were resolved by her faith in the healing power of the Atonement, one young woman who had been severely abused by her father requested another interview with me. She returned with an older couple. I could sense that she loved the two very deeply. Her face radiated happiness. She began, ‘Elder Scott, this is my father. I love him. He’s concerned about some things that happened in my early childhood. They are no longer a problem for me. Could you help him?’ What a powerful confirmation of the Savior’s capacity to heal! She no longer suffered from the consequences of abuse, because she had adequate understanding of His Atonement, sufficient faith, and was obedient to His law. As you conscientiously study the Atonement and exercise your faith that Jesus Christ has the power to heal, you can receive the same blessed relief. During your journey of recovery, accept His invitation to let Him share your burden until you have sufficient time and strength to be healed.” (Richard Scott, “To Heal the Shattering Consequences of Abuse”)

We are free to determine to let go of our need for our scars and allow them to be healed. Only the Savior can completely erase them for us. We cannot do it ourselves. Many of us suffer needlessly from carrying heavy burdens because we do not open your hearts to the healing power of the Lord. “Repentance is a process of cleansing. It is difficult, but it has an end, a glorious end with peace and refreshing forgiveness and the miracle of a new beginning.” (Richard Scott, “To Be Free of Heavy Burdens”)

Alma described this miracle of a new beginning after he had been cleansed: “Nevertheless, after wading through much tribulation, repenting nigh unto death, the Lord in mercy hath seen fit to snatch me out of an everlasting burning, and I am born of God. My soul hath been redeemed from the gall of bitterness and bonds of iniquity. I was in the darkest abyss; but now I behold the marvelous light of God. My soul was racked with eternal torment; but I am snatched, and my soul is pained no more.” (Book of Mormon, Alma 27:28-29, emphasis added)

Are you carrying something that’s weighing you down? Do you have a scar in need of healing? “If you have felt impressions to be free of burdens caused by yourself or others, those promptings are an invitation from the Redeemer. Act upon them now. He loves you. He gave His life that you may be free of needless burdens. He will help you do it. I know that He has the power to heal you.” (“To Be Free of Heavy Burdens”)

It feels really good to be able to let go.

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Lie #23: Loss

Not long ago there was a broken sprinkler pipe that flooded one room of my basement apartment. Nevermind the carpet and the expensive electronics in the room, the books and music and papers. I was worried about a stack of boxes on the floor filled with old photographs, some dated as early as the 1890s. I rushed to inspect them as soon as I realized, and found the bottom box soaked through. But the pictures inside, although they were a little damp, were unharmed. I had been wise to put each one in a plastic protective sleeve and they had been preserved.

Many of us are afraid of losing things. These things may be material possessions, computer data, memories, precious mementos, our youth, our health, our minds, and of course, loved ones. Anyone who has ever lost something valuable will remember that terrible feeling. The pain is most extreme when we have lost a loved one. We may be tempted to believe that when we lose something, the loss might be permanent.

“Much of the misery encouraged by Satan comes from losses. Satan experienced that kind of misery when he lost his [opportunity to receive a physical body]. Now he tries to inflict similar losses on those who have proceeded to mortality. Satan encourages a loss of virtue, a loss of integrity, a loss of reputation, a loss of ideals, a loss of wholesome associations, and even a loss of life. In contrast, our Heavenly Father created us to resist and to overcome such losses, to be whole, to have joy. He wants us to return to him, and he has provided a way for that reunion to be achieved.” (Dallin Oaks, “Joy and Mercy”)

I assert that the lie for this post is loss itself. We can feel like we’re losing something. We can feel really unhappy about it. But anything of real lasting value is never lost. It’s either temporarily in another place or it’s added upon. There is no lasting happiness in what we possess. Happiness and joy come from what a person is, not from what he or she possesses or appears to be.

There used to be this television show that I really liked. I lived for the opportunity to watch it each week. I was sad when it would be on hiatus and I would have to wait a few weeks for it to come back. I derived great pleasure from being involved in the characters and following the storyline. The characters felt like my friends. And then I made some changes in my life. They were good changes—changes that helped me improve and become a better person. In becoming better I began to see that this particular show wasn’t really beneficial to me. There was stuff that was good about it, but there was also stuff that wasn’t good, and if I was choosing to make changes, this show wasn’t going to help me in that direction. So I needed to make a choice to lose the show—to eliminate it from my life. I made that choice, and it was hard. I still wanted to watch it. I tried to justify that it wasn’t that bad, when I knew in my heart that it was promoting ways of life that I didn’t agree with. And if something doesn’t promote God’s agenda, then it’s promoting the devil’s. That’s all there was to it. So I gave it up. I was proud of myself, but it wasn’t an easy thing. It took me a while to realize that it wasn’t really a loss. It was a sacrifice, but it was a sacrifice that gave me strength. So really, I lost nothing. I gained.

“And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s, But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.” (King James Bible, Mark 10:29-30 and Matthew 19:29)

When we lose something for the sake of the gospel, in an attempt to become better, to be more perfect and more pure, are we really losing? I think Jesus is asking us to look for more lasting pursuits, and we will find blessings beyond anything we can imagine.

“It is true that men can find employment and considerable enjoyment in the acquisition of wealth, and in expending the same in the busy scenes of life, but after all, there is something unsubstantial and unreal about everything of this character. Decay is written upon everything that is human, death is written upon everything that we put our hands to and upon ourselves. We know that we are here but for a short time; we know that everything we possess will, like ourselves, perish and pass away; that our existence here is an ephemeral one—shortlived, therefore when we can contemplate the future and the life that is to come, and can understand anything connected with it that we can rely upon, there is something in the contemplation that lifts us above everything of a sublunary or perishable character. We are brought nearer to God, we feel that there is a spark of immortality within us, that we are indeed immortal and partakers of the Divine nature, through our inheritance as the children of God. And this is the effect that the principles of the Gospel, when properly understood, have upon mankind.” (“Universality and Eternity of the Gospel,” by George Q. Cannon, Journal of Discourses, Volume 15)

“For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.” (Luke 9:24)

“I believe the Savior is telling us that unless we lose ourselves in service to others, there is little purpose to our own lives. Those who live only for themselves eventually shrivel up and figuratively lose their lives, while those who lose themselves in service to others grow and flourish—and in effect save their lives.

“We become so caught up in the busyness of our lives. Were we to step back, however, and take a good look at what we’re doing, we may find that we have immersed ourselves in the ‘thick of thin things.’ In other words, too often we spend most of our time taking care of the things which do not really matter much at all in the grand scheme of things, neglecting those more important causes.” (Thomas Monson, “What Have I Done for Someone Today?”)

My injunction to you is to step back and ask yourself if there is some important cause that you are neglecting. We can always be better. We can always sacrifice something that doesn’t really matter for something of lasting value. It’s worth it.

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