Cultivating Peace Within

Cultivating Peace Within

Some people possess a very special gift: they embody the presence of peace within. When we have a chance to sit close to someone like that, we also feel calm. They radiate inner peace in a way that deeply touches us. The presence of their inner peace stills our wandering thoughts and calms our anxieties.

Whenever we have a chance to be with a soul who lives in the eternal Now, we can feel this subtle source of peace and joy. Through their presence, we’re able to connect to that source as well. Their inner tranquility calms the turbulence in the world around them, and they teach us by example how to find peace within.

You too can learn to live this way. Living from a place of inner peace is not reserved for gurus and spiritual masters only. It is a learned behavior, just as constant worry is learned.

You can shed your learned ways of hurry and move through life as if there is no need to be somewhere else in this moment. You can move through life as if you already are exactly where you need to be — as if you are arriving with every step. Every moment of your waking consciousness can bring you closer to that perennial peace within —embodied in the presence of Now.

When you choose to move through life this way, you dissolve your sense of isolation in the world. You start remembering that you’re not a separate individual rushing about to avoid bad and reach for good. Instead, you start feeling again your connection to the whole, like droplets remembering they belong to the ocean. The drop of water does not need to do anything – it simply feels the embrace of the ocean and lets itself be carried along by the current in each present moment.

That inner current of peace is your spiritual core; the inner voice that whispers to you whenever you tune out the brassy loudness of the material world. To truly feel alive and at peace, it is essential to learn how to tune in to the presence of one’s spiritual core in each moment, and to live from that inner presence instead of reacting to the outer chaos.

When we forget this, we act in ways that cause pain or separation between ourselves and others. We become reactive; we may misunderstand others and lash out in fear or anger. And afterwards, we beat ourselves up with guilt, shame and regret.

You cannot change the past, but you can release its hold over you. The power of healing the past lies in this present moment. From this place of mindfulness, you can choose forgiveness and reconciliation to clear away misunderstandings, anger and grief from the past. It is exactly in this moment, Now, that the work of healing must be done to set you free.

No matter how difficult the challenges of the past were, they are over. You are here Now, reading these words. You are alive Now! Treasure the fact that you are alive in this moment and embrace the opportunity for healing it offers. Sit down quietly and go within: meditate to look deep and sweep away the woundedness, prejudice and mistakes of the past. Accept the opportunity offered by the presence of Now, so you can be free.

This present moment offers a gift. It allows you to forgive, to heal and return to peace within, which is your natural state.

Life is present in this moment, waiting for you to choose what to do with it, and your choices determine the quality of your peace within.

About the author

©Copyright Ada Porat. For more information, visit https://www.adaporat.com. This article may be freely distributed in whole or in part, provided there is no charge for it and this notice is attached.

A Vibrant Inner Life: The Secret to Resilience in a Changing World

A Vibrant Inner Life: The Secret to Resilience in a Changing World

Are you feeling rushed as you read these words right now? Welcome to the modern world of constant connectivity! And the faster our pace of life, the more essential it becomes to nurture our inner life for resilience.

We’re living in an amazing age, every bit as futuristic as the Jetsons or Star Trek sagas some of us grew up with. I love being able to connect face to face with clients on the other side of the world, or download a song in a second. Yet this continuous connectivity also poses a challenge: many of us have trouble disconnecting from all the intensity for some peace and quiet. Our inner life can silently wither even as we chase the outer holy grail of success.

The thinner we spread ourselves, the more we skitter across the surface of our outer lives, never going deep. And technology can track us down just about anywhere, anytime, it seems there is literally no escape!

Trying to keep up the pace can take a huge toll. That stress shows up in suppressed immune systems, high blood pressure, anxiety, depression, insomnia, and digestive ailments.

What is needed is more resilience: the ability to rebound from setbacks and challenges, similar to the elasticity of a rubber band returning to its original shape after stretching.

Resilience can be developed with practice, just as you can develop muscle strength by exercising.

The process of developing resilience starts with a reminder that our true nature is eternal and not time-bound. We literally need to disconnect and remember that our souls exist in timelessness.  Poet E. E. Cummings put it this way:

“How fortunate are you and I
whose home is timelessness:
We who have wandered down
from fragrant mountains of eternal now
to frolic in such mysteries
as birth and death
a day, or maybe even less…”

By connecting to the soul’s eternal nature, we regain our inner sense of poise. We can learn to not push into the future, nor run from the past, but to walk our path in this present moment with unhurried grace.  Lama Surya Das calls this place of the eternal present “Buddha Standard Time.” In his book with the same title, he quotes Liu Wenmin, an early sixteenth century poet, making peace with time:

“To be able to be unhurried when hurried;
To be able not to slack off when relaxed;
To be able not to be frightened
And at a loss for what to do,
When frightened and at a loss;
This is the learning that returns us
To our natural state and transforms our lives.”

The busier we are, the more we need time out of the rat race to regain perspective and renew ourselves from within. It is our inner life that ultimately sustains us, and not the outer bells and whistles.

Honoring your inner path of truth is essential for a meaningful life. Research by palliative caretaker Bronnie Ware showed the number one regret of dying people is wishing they’d had the courage to live a life true to themselves, and not the life others expected from them.

How do we honor our inner compass amid the frenetic demands of life so we can live without regrets? Three concepts come to mind: Stay true. Stay present. Follow the energy.

  1. Stay True:

A commitment to truth, at all levels, is automatically a commitment to freedom.  It is always truth that sets us free. And where Higher truth prevails, why would anyone need to lie?

In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Polonius advises his son Laertes:

To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.”

Any “security” gained through loss of inner freedom actually submits to fear at the cost of integrity and truth.  A nation that puts national security above personal freedom has lost its true power base.  In saying this, I am not suggesting that a country should suddenly lower its guard against all enemies (both real and imagined). I am saying that addressing the outer issue before addressing the inner conditions in consciousness that created it, will simply not solve the problem.

This is why politics is not the answer to what plagues the human condition. Politics is like a trainer who seeks to harness and train the collective energy so it will function for the good of all. It will ultimately succeed only at the lowest common denominator.

True freedom is an inside job that starts with elevating consciousness at the individual level by aligning to Higher truth. That alignment fosters confidence, resilience and trust.

  1. Stay Present.

Stay in the Now.  Past and future are always adjuncts to that.  Don’t let the busy-ness of the world rob you of this priceless gift of NOW.

That means you need to make peace with your past so you can live without regrets. It also means you need to release the need to control the future because that is an illusion causing unnecessary anxiety.

You and I do not know what the future will look like because it is not yet manifest. There is no other human who can accurately predict how life will play out, because the future is created through a myriad possibilities and individual choices that ultimately manifest when conditions are favorable.

There are no veterans or pros for where humanity is going now – it is new to all of us. The choices you and I make in each present moment, will collectively decide the future that unfolds for us. So let’s nurture our inner resilience and stay true to our path right here, right now!

  1. Follow The Energy.

Let your body be your barometer. It will show you what you really need.  You always create the perfect scenarios to get what you really need.

There are no good or bad energies.  All people and things are just energy… which is, essentially, neutral.  Energy is as neutral as the electric current that lights up both a cathedral and a drug lab.

Some frequencies of energy may seem particularly useful and attractive to you for where you’re at in your individual consciousness right now. Other frequencies can repulse for the same reason. That does not make them good or bad; they are simply useful to your journey at this particular time or not.

Pay attention to the things that attract or repel you; they are clues to what you need to do, choose or say in order to move forward on your path.

Together, these three principles can help you cultivate a richer and more resilient inner life, no matter how much turmoil you face in your environment.

About the author

©Copyright Ada Porat. For more information, visit https://www.adaporat.com. This article may be freely distributed in whole or in part, provided there is no charge for it and this notice is attached.

Challenges and Gifts of Change

During times of change, we often experience an instinctive desire to control or direct the process. If we could only control the process, we would feel more comfortable with it – or so we think!

And so, we try to retain a sense of control by attempting to manage the pace, direction and volume of change in our lives. We attempt to shift the unfolding realities of life from one outcome to another to feel more secure. Sadly, these attempts keep us looking at external outcomes for happiness or security, rather than looking within.

Our attempt to control life keeps us identified with the content of the process instead of the context. In so doing, we miss life’s true blessing: the perfection of each moment as it unfolds. There is a more effective way to navigate through change!

Identify With The Contextual Field

One powerful solution for inner peace lies in learning to identify with the contextual field, and not the shifting content, of life. We can choose to focus on the larger picture or context of life, and allow the shifting details of life’s content to flow past us without attachment or aversion. As each wave of probabilities show up, we are free to select which aspects to focus on and which ones to ignore.

When faced with a job change, for instance, you can focus on attracting a new opportunity that would bring you into more alignment with your core values. This choice aligns you with the context of the Field, not the myriad tiny details. Then, allow this contextual focus to bring you specific opportunities to choose from. By identifying with the Field, you can trust the law of resonance to bring you opportunities that are aligned with your intentional focus, and you do not need to micro manage the process.

Really Letting Go

Change can take many forms as we grow into new ways of being, leaving the old behind. We may need to leave behind relationships, jobs, friends, homes or other vestiges of the old that no longer serve us. To really, really let go of the old, there is a certain amount of grief that needs to be acknowledged.

By facing the feelings of loss and grief, we are freed from the ties to circumstances and people we have outgrown, and we are free to move on. It is very important to acknowledge these emotions, for it is in their expression that we find freedom and healing. Emotions that are suppressed never go away – they simply resurface further down to road for us to deal with!

Flying Blind

In shamanic cultures, the bat represents powerful medicine. Bats do not have sight, yet dart about with incredible accuracy and speed because they trust their inner radar. In the chaos of sudden change, it may feel as if you’re flying blind, too. However, this is an opportunity to connect with and trust your inner radar.  When you connect to your inner guidance, flight through the unknown takes you to higher ground.

 

Flying blind also challenges our preconceived concepts of life. Fear may prompt us to resist change, yet faith calls us to surrender to the process, trusting the Divine guidance within. As soon as we let go, the current of change can carry us to new perspectives with grace and ease.

Turbulence and Cross Currents

From an energy perspective, any choice or action can be observed as a wave form that ripples outward in all directions. In quantum physics, this phenomenon is known as the Lorenzo Effect. Energies we’d set in motion through previous choices may continue to ripple out and back like waves for a while afterwards. As we make new choices, the old and new wave forms can clash, resulting in turbulence known as standing waves, cross currents and even collapsed waves. We may experience the turbulence as mental fog, confusion or overwhelm.

Don’t let this temporary turbulence throw you off course. It’s part of the process of shifting directions! If you can stay focused during change, the temporary turbulence will give way to a new current of greater clarity, ease and understanding.

Remember Why

Overwhelm and confusion only arise when taking our eyes off the goal. When feeling overwhelmed by the process of change, simply bring your focus back to the reasons why you chose change in the first place.

The very nature of change embodies a sense of upheaval. Clashing beliefs, crashing hopes and the looming unknown may bring into question many values you’d blindly accepted before. This is your great opportunity to choose differently. It is a call to revisit your values and to bring your life into higher alignment with your soul’s purpose.

Fine-Tune Your Compass

Each one of us creates our own reality, moment by moment. When we set our intention unwaveringly on reaching our highest potential in life, we become unstoppable. Our very being starts emanating the frequency of what we hold in mind, thereby drawing resonant outcomes to us every moment through our continuous intention.

Is change rocking your world? This is a very appropriate time to ask yourself whether you are living the life you really want. Are you doing what your heart desires, or are you compromising for the security of a job, social status or acceptance? Are you joyful?  Is dissatisfaction nibbling at your bones, causing you to blame others for your circumstances?

Remember, your experience is your choice!

To change your life, you need to change your mind about things first. If life doesn’t serve you well, you can change it! It’s as simple as that.

The more consciously you participate in creating your reality, the more you’ll resonate with the outcomes that follow. Every thought, emotion, fear, desire and choice influences what you attract in life.

If your life doesn’t reflect what you had intended, it is not too late for change. More than 90% of the motivators that drive or sabotage us, are in the subconscious. By clearing out limiting emotions and beliefs from the subconscious, you can pave the way to reach your highest expression of being. This process of fine-tuning and growth is the ultimate gift of change!

About the Author

©Copyright Ada Porat. For more information, visit https://www.adaporat.com. This article may be freely distributed in whole or in part, provided there is no charge for it and this notice is attached.

Six Steps To Tame Your Inner Critic

We all have one – that inner critic that spews forth endless criticism, judgment or disapproval about our efforts. It might lead with critical questions like “what were you thinking?” or self-blame like “what’s wrong with you?” or “you’re such a loser!” And since our thoughts hugely influence how we feel and behave, the inner critic’s negative self-talk can become downright destructive.

This critical inner voice was formed out of painful early life experiences where we saw or experienced hurtful attitudes toward us or others close to us. Over time, we unconsciously adopted and internalized this pattern of destructive self-criticism, allowing it to continue the internal monologue even when there is no need for it.

When we fail to separate from the inner critic, it can run rampant in our lives, creating conflict and sabotaging our success.

Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron has said, “If we want to make peace with ourselves and with the world at large, we have to look closely at the source of all of our wars.”

Both war and peace start within us. If we want peace in our lives and in the world, we need to learn how to stop this internal violence and abuse. We must learn how to proactively address our negative thoughts and develop a more productive dialog within.

Here are six steps to tame the inner critic:

  1. Develop awareness of your thoughts. Awareness precedes change, and taming the inner critic is no exception. Become aware of the voice of your inner critic; recognize that it is merely an aspect of your psyche and not all that you are. We get so used to hearing our own narrations we can become oblivious as to their source. Pay attention to your inner narrative; recognize that just because the inner critic says something, doesn’t mean it’s true.
  2. Allow yourself to observe the inner critic. Become aware of when your inner critic shows up, and what its negative messages are. Notice how its messages are often exaggerated, biased, and disproportionate. Its power to control you lies in its ability to operate unchallenged. Typically, the inner critic’s judgments and accusations may not be fully truth-based. Allow yourself to see this inner bully for what it is, so you can take appropriate action.
  3. Examine the evidence. If you are thinking in terms of absolutes (“You’re never going to make it” or “nobody loves you”) ask yourself if that statement is true. Looking at evidence on both sides of the argument can help you look at the situation more rationally and less emotionally. The evidence of insight empowers, while the condemnation of the inner critic always tries to diminish.
  4. Identify the truth. Ask yourself what advice you’d give to a friend struggling with self-criticism, failure or doubt. Now, give that same advice to yourself with kindness. If you’ve made a mistake, having a decent regret and resolving to learn from it, is usually enough – you don’t need to condemn yourself for life.
  5. Replace overly critical thoughts with more accurate statements. When you find yourself thinking, “I never do anything right,” replace it with a balanced statement like, “Sometimes I do things really well and sometimes I don’t.” You are allowed to make mistakes! Each time you find yourself thinking an exaggerated negative thought, respond with a more accurate statement and move on; don’t ruminate on your mistakes.
  6. Balance acceptance with self-improvement. There’s a difference between always telling yourself that you’re not good enough and reminding yourself that you can work at improving. When we resist our flaws, they persist. Instead, accept your flaws for what they are today, and commit to work on improving in these areas. Acknowledging your weaknesses for what they are today doesn’t mean you are doomed to stay that way. It simply reflects your baseline today, and you can use that information to strive toward becoming better. That way, you use the input from your inner critic to motivate you instead of to bully you.

Your inner dialogue with yourself is a critical part of your psyche. It will either fuel your success or prevent you from reaching your full potential. Taming your inner critic and silencing the excess negativity will empower you to live more effectively and to develop your full potential.

About the author

©Copyright Ada Porat. For more information, visit https://www.adaporat.com. This article may be freely distributed in whole or in part, provided there is no charge for it and this notice is attached.

Shadow Dancing: Integrating The Shadow In Our Personal And Collective Psyche

Deep beneath the social masks and happy faces we present to the outer world, lurks a hidden shadow: an angry, wounded, fragmented or isolated part of us that we tend to bury or ignore. Integrating the shadow is essential for a balanced life.

The shadow compounds all the dark impulses—hatred, aggression, sadism, selfishness, jealousy, resentment, sexual transgression—that are not socially acceptable and thus hidden out of sight. The name originated with Carl Jung, but its basic origin came from Freud’s insight that our psyches are dualistic, sharply divided between the conscious and unconscious. Socially accepted norms require that we suppress our unconscious side, but what hides in the shadows will attempt to come out.

Whatever qualities we dare not face within ourselves, we tend to project out onto others. Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is integrated in a person’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is. The work of becoming spiritually conscious requires us to face and integrate the shadow, or else it will sabotage our best intentions.

Put another way, one does not become enlightened by imagining light, but by making the darkness conscious so it can be integrated. Rampant shadow projection is a hallmark behavior of the spiritually unconscious.

The shadow always wants to be heard – when ignored, it turns ever more mean and nasty. Resisting the shadow simply solidifies it, causing suffering. This arrogant behavior causes pain and suffering in anybody who has suffered because of the shadow’s cruelty, either in themselves or others.

And herein lies a great gift. Whenever the shadow projections out there trigger an emotional response in us, it means that there is a need for forgiveness, healing and acceptance. This emotional charge is a dead giveaway that we need to do some healing within ourselves so we can become neutral to the shadow projections out there.

In other words, we’re able to recognize the shadow projections out there because the same potential exists within each of us, whether we act on them or not. Most of us are uncomfortable with this truth, which causes us to further suppress and project our own shadow. In truth, the enemy is not out there but in each of us.

The enemy is in the White House, but the enemy is also Muslim; the enemy is a Jew, the enemy is a terrorist or a non-documented immigrant; the enemy is the person we choose to blame for our own situation, and the refugee from whose needs we recoil… the enemy is in all of them, and also in you and me. In truth, the enemy is really not an enemy at all. It is but a dark reflection of the shadow that resides in each of us and gets projected out there onto whomever we choose to judge and condemn. This enemy is an orphan, cast out of our consciousness and wandering the dark alleys of our collective unconscious as the shadow.

We cannot fight the shadow with more shadow, for that simply escalates issues and increases suffering on all sides. Instead, we need to heal the shadow by bringing the light of consciousness to it. The wounds in consciousness can only be healed through consciousness.

Bringing shadow material into consciousness drains its dark power, and can even recover valuable resources from it. The greatest power comes from having accepted our shadow parts and integrated them as components of ourselves.

The shadow can be a source of emotional richness and vitality; and integrating these orphaned aspects of our being can lead to restoring personal wholeness and leading more authentic life. We start this process by recognizing the shadow existing in us, forgiving ourselves for our fear and aversion of it, acknowledging it for what it is, and learning to use its powerful energies in productive ways.

In their book, Romancing the Shadow, authors Connie Zwieg, Ph.D. and Steve Wolf, Ph.D. share effective ways of decoding the messages of the shadow in daily life to deepen one’s consciousness, imagination, and soul.

Integrating the shadow takes honesty and courage, but the rewards are immense. First, the suffering stops. This is the surest sign that we have chosen the right path again: the unnecessary suffering stops.

More importantly, new possibilities emerge everywhere in life. Author David Richo calls this work “shadow dancing” in his book, Shadow Dance: Liberating the Power and Creativity of Your Dark Side. Changing our relationship with the shadow allows us to discover a critical shift in our viewpoint: Where everything seemed sterile and barren and there seemed no possible answers before, now everything seems possible.

How to manage the shadow currently rampaging through society? A few things come to mind.

  1. Become part of the solution. Instead of cursing the darkness, align with the light by consciously changing your tribal attitudes, words, and actions. Refuse to dehumanize others based on their race, religion or background. Recognize that the world’s wrongs have their seeds in you and me as well. The potential for good or evil exists in each one of us. Once we begin to acknowledge that in ourselves, the shadow immediately begins to diminish.
  2. Recognize opportunities for healing, change and growth. See the rampaging shadow out there for what it is: an opportunity for each of us to heal. Now is the time for true shadow work to begin. The spiritually unconscious cannot do this work; it needs to start with you and me. When we take responsibility for the work of forgiveness and healing in our own lives, we will find the courage to start doing so on a larger scale. That is how we heal the world; not with bigger weapon systems, more name-calling or hatred.
  3. Strengthen your commitment to higher goals, vision and values. Nurture your core values, your soul and your spirituality. Meditate, spend time in nature, do energy work to set your soul free, and cultivate an attitude of gratitude.
  4. Learn how to practice detachment. Do your very best to continuously release thoughts of resistance and attachment, for they are simply sides of the same coin. The Sedona Method has a wonderful phrase to summarize this process: “Embrace that which you resist, and surrender that to which you cling.” Detachment frees you from anxiety so your inner space can be peace.
  5. Remain in the Now. The past is over and no amount of worry can change it; the future is not here yet; so stay in the present moment. This moment is a golden opportunity to grow in consciousness. Choose to see every event of your life as a gift from heaven, sent your way with the sole purpose of enlightening you.
  6. Stay open to the possibilities. During turbulent times, the ego works overtime to find some security. In the process, we often settle for the safe rather than the good. When you have faith in a Higher Power and stay open to all the possibilities in the Field (even those you have not yet conceived of), you are making space for optimal outcomes to show up.
  7. Keep learning. Perhaps you cannot change all the things out there that trouble you. But you can learn something new each day that will help you outgrow the limitations of tribal thinking and become the highest expression of yourself. What will you learn today? Tomorrow? Next month? It is the accumulation of small changes over time, that feed the evolution of your consciousness.
  8. Stay involved. When faced with the shadow and all the cognitive dissonance it creates, it can be tempting to hide your light. You may want to play it safe, go into denial and avoid conflict. I’m here to tell you that you were created for bigger things! You are on this planet at this time because at some level, you recognized the potential for growth, change and fulfillment offered by the very things you call challenging in your life right now. This is not the time to find excuses for remaining passive, or to wait for heaven to come and rescue us. We are the ones that we’ve been waiting for! So muster your courage, stand tall, breathe in faith and let your light shine, for you are meant to be here now! Become an instrument of change and healing, and your own fulfillment will follow.

Finally, remember that shadow is aligned with the ego and never wins in the end!

About the author

©Copyright Ada Porat. For more information, visit https://www.adaporat.com. This article may be freely distributed in whole or in part, provided there is no charge for it and this notice is attached.

Seven Ways To Overcome Cognitive Dissonance

Cognitive dissonance is the discomfort of self-image colliding with reality. Such collisions are inevitable, as self-image tends to be based on values – what is most important to you – while reality tends to be created around behavioral choices, expectations and commitments in the world around us.

Psychologist Leon Festinger coined the term ‘cognitive dissonance’ to describe the uncomfortable tension we feel when we experience conflicting thoughts or beliefs (cognitions) within ourselves, or when we encounter behavior that is opposed to our beliefs.

For example, if someone believes that they are not racist, but then discriminates against another based on race, this confronts the discriminator with the discomfort of facing that their behavior is in fact racist. To escape this discomfort, the discriminator may rationalize their behavior on some other grounds, no matter how obtuse, but which allows them to hold on to their otherwise discredited belief.

Not everyone feels cognitive dissonance to the same degree. People with a higher need for consistency and certainty in their lives usually feel the effects of cognitive dissonance more than those who have a lesser need for such consistency.

To release the tension between two opposing cognitions, we can take one of three actions:

  • Justify our behavior by changing the conflicting cognition;
  • Ignore the dissonance by diverting our attention to new issues; or
  • Minimize the dissonance by changing our behavior.

While cognitive dissonance happens to all of us, it is HOW we respond, that determines whether we evolve through expanded understanding or whether we devolve into a reactionary, limiting stance.

Unconscious strategies can serve as temporary coping mechanisms, but will not result in optimal long-term solutions. To optimally resolve cognitive dissonance, we need to take conscious action.

Unconscious Coping Strategies

Some unconscious strategies often used to cope with cognitive dissonance, include:

  • Avoidance– avoiding information that leads to dissonance by avoiding discussion of emotionally charged topics.
  • Distortion– deleting or distorting facts and beliefs to reduce dissonance.
  • Distraction – distract oneself from uncomfortable issues by focusing on other issues.
  • Confirmation– exercising selective bias by embracing information that confirms or bolsters one’s own cognitions while ignoring other, verifiable facts.
  • Reassurance– looking for reassurance from others that one’s cognitions are correct and OK.
  • Re-valuation– changing the importance of existing or new cognitions to reduce inner dissonance.

Cognitive dissonance is a formidable adversary that can destroy good judgment. But this is something we must overcome as individuals if we wish to grow and mature.

A huge part of combating cognitive dissonance is learning how to navigate from outdated worldviews and limiting belief systems to updated ones where we expand our understanding and grow in maturity. That transition takes effort, but the alternative is worse – delusion and stagnation.

Healthy Coping Strategies

Here are seven healthy strategies for overcoming cognitive dissonance in ways that empower and lead to personal growth:

  • Question Everything

The first step in overcoming cognitive dissonance is to go deeper; questioning our own values, motives, desires and expectations. We may not have answers to the dissonant issues yet, but cognitive dissonance offers us a chance to review our own principles. When we do so honestly, we can release those that no longer serve us, update our outdated frames of reference, and recommit to our core values. This willingness to question ourselves as well as the dissonance outside of us, forms the foundation for personal growth.

  • Comfort vs. Accomplishment

Human beings are absurdly insecure. We tend to cling to comfort and avoid discomfort to feel safe and secure. Ironically, comfort is the enemy of accomplishment. It’s at the edge of our comfort zone where true growth is achieved: the place where we question our cultural conditioning, beliefs and ideas. When we muster the courage question our own tightly-held beliefs, we stretch our comfort zone until we become more adaptable and fluid in our living.

  • Live and Let Live

In a world of rampant anti-intellectualism and mindless trolls hell-bent on attacking the Other, we can find personal freedom by recognizing that we need not change another’s belief systems in order to feel safe.  In fact, it takes all kinds to make a world, and the sum of diversity is richer than the individual aspects that comprise it. When we recognize that we do not gain stature by chopping off another’s legs, we become more tolerant of the endless variety of belief systems that make up society.

  • Celebrate Uniqueness

Personal freedom lies in recognizing that we are limitless souls experiencing life in a dualistic Universe.  When we recognize the uniqueness of each soul sharing this human experience, we find the equanimity to celebrate the uniqueness of each life, no matter how different, without the need to judge or change them. It also frees us to celebrate and develop our unique gifts and talents as a gift to ourselves, the world and our Creator.

  • Harness Dissonance for Growth

We can learn to harness our cognitive dissonance as a tool for growth instead of seeing it as a threat to comfort. Indeed, a rough road often leads to greatness. One of the ways to turn perceived threats into opportunities, is to ask ourselves about a challenge, “How can this be useful?”  Rather than resist the challenge, we can look for ways to use it as a stepping stone for growth.

  • Find the Humor

Humor and joy are powerful tools to help us escape the intensity of cognitive dissonance.  Anthropologist Joseph Campbell said, “Find a place inside where there’s joy, and the joy will burn out the pain.” When we learn to poke fun at our own fears and failings, it sets us free to find joy. Comedians use this principle well by ridiculing the very things which others take too seriously. Robert Frost quipped, “Forgive, O Lord, my little jokes on Thee, and I’ll forgive Thy great big joke on me.”

  • Get Off The Hamster Wheel

There’s an awful dread that comes with knowing that we are fallible, prone-to-mistakes, and imperfect mortal beings; but there is also a kind of awe-inspiring beauty to it. The idea that we can learn from our mistakes; that we can transform pain into knowledge, anger into courage, and loss into love, is at the heart of the soul’s journey.

To fully participate in this journey, we need to actively participate in shedding the habits and limiting beliefs that have kept us running on the hamster wheel of life without any point of arrival.  The change that needs to happen is not outside of us; it starts within. As Gandhi said, we need to BE the change we wish to see in the world. The more we use the discomfort of cognitive dissonance as a sharpening stone to hone our core values, beliefs and truths, the more we will experience inner peace, regardless of the outer challenges we face.

Conclusion

The choice to courageously deal with obstacles is at the heart of personal growth work. Cognitive dissonance can actually help us mature.

As dissonance arises, we can face it head-on. We can work at getting a clear sense of what has changed in our environment and how best to respond. We can recommit to our truth and values despite the dissonance it evokes, and determine to hold our space as unique souls until the tide turns.

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