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Coronavirus and Spiritual Bootcamp

We’ve reached four weeks indoors with no end in sight. For some, it might feel like the never ending Thanksgiving except without all the food, or the getaway plan when you just can’t take one more minute with your family.

Under the best of circumstances, no one can activate us like our closest relationships. The emotional investment in our spouses, children and friends increases the stakes and makes heated moments all the more challenging. In our current state- we are being forced to to collaborate and interact significantly more, while devoid of external distractions. Add hemorrhaging bank accounts, endless uncertainty and homeschooling into the mix.. and we have a recipe for disaster.

If we don’t live this time as consciously as possible, this period won’t end well.

We are being activated left and right constantly by the people that mean the most to us and whose presence we can literally not escape. That’s why right now, more than ever, we do not have the luxury of letting our thoughts run amuck. This is not the time to indulge in our stories or become our feelings.

Instead I invite you to play a little game with me in your pursuit of a different kind freedom. Freedom from your ego.

Your ego is relentlessly standing guard to protect you at all costs. Yes, at all costs. Why? The ego has one job: to help your inner child. All of them. Every scar, trauma, rejection and hurt feeling that went unprocessed throughout your early years — are all primed for eruption if set in motion. The ego will ruthlessly defend every pain point, do what it needs to do to avoid all discomfort.

Remember the ego was created to protect you as a child. It takes on many forms and it’s important to know how yours shows up. Recognize any of these manifestations in yourself and others?

Photo by Andrew Seaman on Unsplash

Martyr, Victim, Avoider, Addict, Narcissist, Busy Do-er, Sulky Whiner, Perfectionist, Achiever, Jokester, Procrastinator, Overly Cheerful, Overly Empathetic, Overly Agreeable, Rageful

Sometimes the ego helps us get along, other times it causes us to sabotage.

Remember the last time you blew yourself up? You may have even been completely justified for your rage, but because you spiraled out of control, you ended up having to apologize to everyone for your temper instead of making your point or solving the underlying issues.

Or how the other night when you finished the ice cream or the bottle of wine, because you “deserved it”? Or even more clever, maybe you finished it off so that you could start your healthy living tomorrow with no temptations in the house?

These are all examples of your ego, doing what it thinks is best to protect you, comfort you, defend you. It’s also why we avoid conflict, become addicts, and procrastinate. Issue is, your ego is protecting you like a child would.

While well-intentioned, the ego is delusional, completely disoriented, and in most cases, has the emotional and intellectual development of a 10-year-old at best. The ego has no concept of time and place and didn’t get the memo that you are no in the third grade. It doesn’t do well when challenged or questioned, but has unwavering confidence in its ability to protect you. Powerful yet completely unqualified for the current job description, it refuses to step aside and listen to the older more experienced adult self within you.

So what do we do? We remember that every single one of these moments is for us. It’s an opportunity for the ego to come to light so we can free ourselves from its control.

Photo by Suzanne D. Williams on Unsplash

This is not the part where I tell you to meditate.

Meditation teaches us to put a space between thoughts, lengthening the time between stimulus and reaction. We learn to watch our thoughts so that we can recognize that we are the awareness behind our thoughts. Instead of reacting, we breathe into the present moment, stay grounded and let the waves come and go.

That’s wonderful if you’re an experienced meditator and that pause is part of your every day interactions but what most of us are finding during this unprecedented time is that the ego is violently allergic to the pause, it goes into epileptic shock…

The quarantine has given us a unique opportunity, better than any meditation class can offer — it’s to be activated over and over again.

If we are willing to even just try, this period can be your own Spiritual Bootcamp.

Step One: Get Intimate

The fastest way to learn any new skill is through total immersion. And like it or not, you’re in it. The first step is to get intimately involved with the ego. Really get to know it. Figure out when it shows up. Start to recognize patterns.

Who are you when your ego takes over? If you don’t know where to start, I suggest you consider Victim and Busy Doer. All over instagram you see posts about happy hour all day every day, and organizing closets.

We’re a culture of progress, momentum, never looking back. And yes, the ego can often help you achieve and focus on the bright side but, if we don’t shine a light inside, we will find ourselves running in circles, learning the same lessons over and over again.

Step Two: Identify Triggers

Think about the different blocks in your day (morning, conference calls, school time), what might show up and how you respond to these moments when you’re emotionally charged. For me, the girls wake-up time used to be a trigger. After keeping me up half the night, my toddler would never greet me with a “Good Morning Mommy”, sleepy smile or an Instagram worthy hug. Instead, “Do you have a cake pop for me?”, followed by a tantrum because of course I didn’t have a freaking cake pop!

Another way to generate items on your trigger list is to think about each person in your house and which of their behavior dances on your nerves. Is it the open cabinet drawers in the kitchen, the perpetually lost toothpaste cap, or the deep breathing? How about dinner time at your house? What triggers you at the end of the day when all you want to do is relax with a glass of wine? Is it someone simply asking you what’s for dinner? Or leaving the dirty dishes for the dish fairy?

Keep a notepad with you to write down anything else that comes up throughout the day. Commit to it for 24–48 hours. Luckily for you, you’re quarantined so you don’t need that much time to get triggered enough to start seeing patterns. I’m always here to show you the silver lining.

Step Three: Notice + Listen

When activated, listen intensely, like someone might whisper something to you at any moment.

This work is very personal. An underlying assumption about consciousness is that there are no universal triggers. What bothers you will not necessarily bother me. My trigger might be the way your family showed love. The way I show enthusiasm might trigger you and inspire someone else.

That’s why each one of these triggers is an opportunity to heal something within you.

As you notice yourself getting triggered, tune into the feeling that you have, the words that you may be saying to yourself. Do you feel yourself get angry? Sad? Is your initial instinct to leave and slam the door or zone out? Do you try to control and fix the situation or pretend not to notice it?

As you reflect, notice what you do with your mouth, how your arms feel, if anything gets activated. Does this sensation, the sentiment that goes with the wave of feelings, feel at all familiar to when you were a kid? When else did you feel like this? When else does this automatic inner dialogue play?

These familiar feelings will be the first hint as to where these triggers come from. It will also help you to figure out what story you are latching onto when you are triggered.

It is never the actual stimulus, always the story that goes with it- which we usually are not aware of.

This is the antithesis of staying in the present moment.

The good news is that you actually don’t need to know exactly where the triggers come from, but you must be aware of where YOU tend to go.

Step Four: Where’d You Go, Bernadette?

Where you go emotionally is key. We all have an emotional home that we visit frequently. Even if it doesn’t serve us, we go back over and over again. It burns down, blows away, we rebuild.

Not anymore.

With each trigger, you’ll become more and more aware of your emotional home. With more awareness, you’ll start to feel similar emotional patterns. The more you notice, the less power these forces will have over you.

For example, I tend to go to victim mode. When my kids are having a really hard time regulating their emotions or accepting a boundary, I notice that if I let myself, I’ll be completely overwhelmed with the feeling that they are doing something to ME. How could they do this to me? After everything I’ve done for them, how much I care for them, how hard I work. No one appreciates me.

Or when someone speaks to me very boldly, I can feel threatened and shut down — the third of the most primitive survival mechanisms. Possums play dead, I go blank waiting for the moment to pass.

Where does the ego take you? Once you start to recognize the place you go, you’ll begin to understand why you’ve been reacting uncontrollably for so long. Get curious and watch closely. Listen as though you are waiting for a very soft-spoken secret to come at you at any moment.

You will be amazed at what is actually driving your thoughts, emotions, and behavior. Whenever the madness comes, be glad — accept that you now dedicated to a spiritual practice whether you like it or not.

I challenge you to do the work. For all you achievers and competitors, acti vate that part of your ego to help you do something good for yourself and stop reorganizing your closet.

It takes years and years to develop these muscles of awareness, or it can happen so much faster with an awakening.

Maybe this will be yours.

I believe in the power of education, technology, personal growth and lifelong learning.

But I know from experience that these are not enough. Information without understanding is confuses and misleads. Education and talent without application debilitates growth. Awareness without transformation only stifles action.

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My goal is to get the wind at your back so that you can live authentically, aligned, and create by mindful design:

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