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We say we want simplicity. However, modern life invites complexity. There are so many moving parts and time-bound commitments. There is so much demand for our attention, our energy, our money. There is too much information to consume and too many choices to make. A microcosm of this issue was pointed out to me by a dear friend who is from another country: we have too many toilet paper choices!

It’s important to remember that our minds are wired to solve complex problems. This is one of the primary reasons we humans ended up running the place. The shadow is that complexity can be quite addicting. The pleasure hit of accomplishment or achievement is so strong that our mind will make up problems to solve. Isn’t that what worry is? Or overthinking? …


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One of life’s many paradoxes is that we are each sovereign, unique beings while also being community-oriented animals. This paradox causes us to get twisted up in what we can only generate for ourselves and what we can only receive from others.

People more individualistically wired tend to play the part of the “lone wolf” or the “solitary woman/man”. Their ability to be alone with themselves can create a false sense of not needing anything from anyone. This can lead to isolation and walling off of the heart.

People more wired to be pleasers tend to play the part of the “helper” or “martyr”. Their ability to serve others can create a false sense that their identity and value are external of themselves. This can lead to codependency or being taken advantage of. …


As I’ve done at the end of the past few years, I am sending out some journal prompts for personal reflection time. Whether you are going to take a day or so for a personal retreat or just find a quiet space on your calendar that’s just for you, here are some questions to ponder:

  • Where is my ego influencing my heart?
  • Where are there signs of drift or exiling myself from my core self?
  • What feeling(s) am I avoiding?
  • What actions(s) am I avoiding?
  • Who do I need to forgive?
  • How consistent am I in living a true story? …


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I was 40 when I went to therapy for the first time in 2011. At the time, I had no idea that going to therapy would transform my entrepreneurial pursuits. I just wanted to gain some insight on my (at that time) self-destructive tendencies and caustic resentment about my childhood that I’d held on to for 20+ years. My work with that therapist opened my eyes to many aspects of my behavior and life. It was my first glimpse of sitting in the witness seat of my own being.

Very few people knew I was seeing a therapist. I still saw it as a sign of weakness. That I couldn’t figure my own shit out so I needed outside help. This was also reflective of the conditioning of being part of a fundamentalist church where therapy was — at best — seen as corrective. The general consensus is that if you had more faith or belief, you wouldn’t need therapy. …


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Photo credit: Me. Bear tracks on the trail in Alaska in 2017

Like many words in the too-much-information age, we often reduce the meaning and power of words. Adventure is one such word. “Adventure” too often means a planned experience. Activities marketed as “adventurous” have agendas, itineraries, safety rules, insurance waivers, name tags. Of course, there are gradients of danger and risk that require these things. And there many experiences that could cause injury or death from poor preparation and planning and brash behavior. But most of the things that we’re calling adventurous are really just scheduled activities that provide a temporary jolt; a respite from boredom.

So what is an actual adventure? …


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Photo credit: The Times UK

There is such great comfort when your life reflects the story your mind is telling. Even if this is a comfortable illusion, the harmony between the story and the perceived reality is a type of peace of mind. It is the root of the old adage “ignorance is bliss.”

But oh the anguish when Reality arrives as truth — a truth markedly different from the story our mind has been telling. There is an intensity to the arrival of Reality. This is why most mystics call it “waking up”. It’s jarring. A cold ice bath, a bright light, a shaking. …


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Life is an endless spectrum of dichotomies and paradoxes. The mind can’t handle all the variants. It likes absolutes. So it is wired to be binary and dualistic; to see issues or people as polarities then choose a side. The side we choose often becomes our identity; which informs our beliefs and behaviors. The more strident we are about our “side” the more resistant we are to staying open. This is why I’ve said that ideology is a low form of consciousness.

Seeing the world through a dualistic lens creates a false reality. This is something all the spiritual masters and mystics throughout time have warned about. They encouraged being grounded in Reality (capital R intended) as an antidote to binary illusions. They encouraged seeing life as spherical rather than linear; allegorical rather than literal. …


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As this journey through a second awakening continues, I’ve been sharing here and on social what I’m discovering and experiencing. One of the gifts (said with only a slight amount of sarcasm) of a spiritual experience is that it brings the unconscious into the conscious; what’s been secretly influencing in the dark into the light. My work this weekend was focused on bringing into the light the stories my mind is telling about the current experiences.

The mind tells stories. Especially about anything that feels painful. And a spiritual experience is always painful. The mind is just doing its job: to create a framework to attempt to understand a painful experience. This is a survival mechanism and an evolutionary trait. …


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Credit: Reuters/Dwi Oblo

At least my mind is telling me that. More on that in a bit.

As you may have pieced together from my recent essays and musings on social, I’m smack dab in the midst of a second awakening. I’m essentially live-blogging it all; feeling called to share in words what my soul, heart, mind and body are experiencing.

Awakenings put you through the wringer, the sifter, the refinery, the crucible. They heal by cracking you open. They lift you up by knocking you down. But in the chaos and reordering, some order does begin to emerge — one of the first being an emerging understanding of the context of the story. This is the “why” of the experience. …


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The unaware mind is a banana republic.

Even before you are born, life begins to teach you. All of these early inputs are sensory — and possibly energetic. At some point in our development as a child, we began to be taught with words and experiences. These words and experiences then form meaning, mindset and mental structures. In turn, these form our narratives; how we see and approach and respond to the world around us. Some call these loops, stories, inner dialogue. I prefer the term “narrative” because these words are carefully crafted by the psyche.

This is all healthy and normal.

Until it is not.

A childhood that is full of intense and/or chronic trauma hijacks the mind’s meaning maker. It produces a set of narratives that secretly govern the lives of trauma survivors. Or as Jung put it, “That which we do not bring to consciousness appears in our lives as…

About

Justin Foster

When you show someone their soul, you set them free. Co-founder of branding firm Root + River. Speaker, writer based in Austin. @fosterthinking on Twitter/IG

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