Tag Archives: spiritual

Successful Willing

We are now more than half-way through January and you may want to reflect on any New Years Resolutions you have made. Most of us choose goals like losing weight, giving up smoking, learning something new, and finding a better job or relationship. Studies show that only about 2 out of 10 of us will manage to achieve our goals. When we do succeed in achieving a set goal, we often feel joyful.

New-Year-Resolutions

As Assagioli wrote:

“Since the outcome of successful willing is the satisfaction of one’s needs, we can see that the act of will is essentially joyous.”

If you find yourself far from feeling joyous, struggling instead with your longing to change, then maybe it’s time to take a closer look at how you make decisions. Assagioli has written extensively on decision making in his book The Act of Will. He describes six stages of the decision making process: defining purpose, deliberation, choice, affirmation, planning, and execution.

Which Way to Go - 3 Colorful Arrow SignsOur decision making process is only as strong as our weakest stage and usually we are more effective with some of these stages than others. For instance, I once had a client who skipped over any deliberation, which often caused her problems later once she realized that the action she decided to take wasn’t necessarily the best. Let’s take a closer look at each stage of any decision.

Stage 1: Defining Purpose

The first step is to identify your intention or goal. During this step, you explore your goal. Try to be honest about your motivation. Throughout this discussion, I will use myself as an example. My goal is to create more satisfaction in my life. Questions I need to explore are: What is blocking me from receiving more satisfaction? What do I need to do/feel/experience in order to create more satisfaction? Perhaps I need to spend more time alone, increase my self-esteem, garner more faith and trust, communicate my own needs more openly, or no longer fear taking a risk.

Try to narrow down one thing that you might achieve towards your goal. Pick the one that you feel most enthusiastic about, that feels most worthwhile. I pick: Write a book about subpersonalities. Finally state your goal clearly and precisely:

I use my will to … (write a book about subpersonalities).

Stage 2: Deliberation

Next you must weigh all the possibilities you have to achieve your purpose. This is the brainstorming stage where anything goes. It is not the stage where you evaluate, judge or reject any idea. Let your ideas flow, include everything that occurs to you, and play with the endless possibilities. For example, I can join a writing class or workshop (in the South of France!), I can schedule time everyday to write, I can find a class online, I can find a writing buddy that helps motivate me …

Then examine your responses and explore their consequences. Consider how willing you are to accept responsibility for them. Take your time for this process.

Stage 3: Choice

change-sign-postsEventually, you will have to choose one of your options. Some people never get beyond the deliberation stage. Instead they become enamored with the fantasy and, consequently, lack the will to actually perform the action needed to achieve their goal. (This is my problem! How many times, in my head, have I been interviewed about the best-seller that I  still have to write!?) Write your choice down clearly and precisely:

I use my will to … (write every morning).

Stage 4: Affirmation

Next you affirm your decision. Just by sharing my choice with all of you, I am affirming it. You might think this stage unnecessary, but it helps to ground the idea in reality and protect it from your own inner Saboteur. Later, whenever you might feel discouraged, you can come back to your affirmation. Write it down:

I (name) choose to … (your choice).

Stage 5: Planning

Planning can be a key stage to establishing your success. Paradoxically, we tend to limit ourselves when we think too big. Think in SMALL STEPS. Prepare a detailed plan that specifically is directed towards your chosen option. What is the first step you have to take? Who else is involved? What equipment, material, money, space, time, do you need? How do you evaluate your success?

Consider for a moment how you might defeat yourself. How might you resist this new change. How are you going to deal with any inner resistance? Use your imagination to visualize your plan to its successful completion. Always think positively about your purpose and intended outcome.

For example, my plan includes: reviewing my notes, writing an outline for the book, starting a chapter, and looking for a literary agent.

Stage 6: Execute

Finally, you actually execute the decision. Execution of will requires you to use skillful will, feelings, imagination and impulses to constantly supervise your activities. You also have to be flexible and adopt your plan to any change in conditions and circumstances. (For example, what if my “real work” starts to demand more time from my writing? What if I suddenly feel bored with my book?)

Slowly, you begin to work towards your goal. By focusing on your small successes, you can begin to enjoy the benefits of what you have achieved. In this way, you recharge the energy you need to continue towards your goal, and are always moving towards Joy.

Wish me luck! I’ll keep you posted.

Dark Days before Christmas

Light in the darknessIn northern Europe the days are growing shorter. Except for the oak trees with their withered sienna-brown leaves, most of the trees are bare against a bleak landscape and gray skies laden with cold, damp winds. The Dutch have a saying for this time of year: De donkere dagen voor Kerstmis. The dark days before Christmas. Indeed, every day is shorter and the nights seem to stretch out like a long, endless dream.

We are in the season of Advent, which mark the days before Christmas. Advent comes from the Latin word adventus meaning arrival. We freely use the word advent to simply mean “to come into being.”  This is the time of year that we await the arrival of light when the Earth will once again begin to tilt towards our sun. The days can then slowly “come into being,” promising their full splendor of sunshine and warmth at the summer solstice. For Christians, this is the time during which they await the birth of Jesus, when the Divine comes into being. Continue reading

When No Money Talks

Assagiolis writing about jail

Assagioli’s writing about his time in jail.

One of my favorite anecdotes from Assagioli’s time in prison is when his prison money was running out. He wrote in intimate detail about this experience in his book Freedom in Jail, under the chapter “An Incident and a ‘Test’”.

From the time of his arrest, Assagioli’s wife Nella was making sure that there was enough money in his prison account to warrant his receiving special treatment. In 1940, Regina Coeli prisoners could buy a more comfortable, private cell and more varied and higher quality food. Continue reading

A Litany of Endings

butterfly

My life has recently been full of endings. Having moved from Germany to Italy, I’ve had to say good bye to family, friends, and acquaintances, my garden, my bicycle, and the comfort of the familiar. My husband and I were only one week in Italy when his father died. At the same time, many issues from my past were suddenly emerging, demanding that I redeem them and finally put them to rest. It felt like endings were spilling over me from heaven. A shower of good byes marking the time of new beginnings.

During the last two sessions with clients, I always ask them to focus on endings. We take our time to reflect on how they have typically ended past relationships and how they might like to try a different type of ending during our last session together. We all have a typical way of saying goodbye. For example, there’s the tragic ending, the never-ending ending, and the disappearing ending.

One client had a ‘ritual’ ending. She would always return to the empty room/home/space that she was leaving, stand and acknowledge that space, and then say goodbye. When she told me this, I instantly thought of her birth. This client was a twin and the first-born. At the beginning of her life, a time of great numinous significance, of great endings and beginnings, her mother’s womb had not been empty when she turned to say goodbye.

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“A Hymn to Inner Freedom”

soloFRONTERoberto Assagioli’s “prison diary” Freedom in Jail is an autobiographical account of the month he spent in prison under the fascist regime in 1940. His conclusion is entitled “A Hymn to Inner Freedom” where he writes about every man and woman’s power to inwardly free themselves.

One does not need to be incarcerated to feel imprisoned. Part of the human condition, at different points in our lives, is to find ourselves enslaved by some uncontrollable situation to which we feel bound. Freedom in Jail shows us that no matter what our condition – be it catastrophe, ill health, old age, and even pending death – we always remain free and responsible for choosing how we actively accept the situation and what attitude we take. The mystery is that these circumstances can also lead us to our Higher Self.

Think of Viktor

Assagioli’s note: “Remember Viktor Frankl. Think of all those who are in jail,…” (Archivio Assagioli, Firenze, © Istituto di Psiconsintesi).

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Walking the Labyrinth of Your Soul

labyrinthgeneral

A labyrinth has often been used as a metaphor for a soul’s spiritual journey. Unlike a maze, labyrinths are usually circular in shape and have one, and only one, continuous meandering path that eventually leads to the center. This single path threads itself over the maximum amount of ground, without treading the same trail twice. There are no dead-ends, no intersections.

Labyrinths can be found in almost every religious tradition around the world. The design is mysterious and mythic, its origins unknown, yet primordial. It is an archetypical design, appearing across continents and cultures. The Hopi medicine wheel, Tibetan sand paintings, Troy dances, and the Tree of Life, found in the Jewish mystical tradition of the Kabbala, are all examples of labyrinths.  Even DNA, which encodes the genetic inheritance that defines our unique identity, could be viewed as a labyrinth, the double-helix strands spiraling around each other.

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Accepting Acceptance

Reconcilation2It may seem strange, but often the first step we need to take towards making any inner or outer change is acceptance. Usually we are stuck in some way because we are not willing to accept the reality of our situation, our limitations, past failings, or the consequences of what we think we desire. Too often we see acceptance as passive and weak. But if this is so, why is acceptance so hard to do?

Active acceptance is actually a very positive higher quality that requires a strong and skillful will. Recently, I had a woman come to see me who was struggling with her relationship with her younger sister. While growing up as the eldest daughter in a large family of nine children, Ann (not her real name) often played the role of mother to her siblings. This was especially true with her sister Liz who was 10 years younger.

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