Navigating The Storm: 7 Truths to Mastering Our Lives

Navigating The Storm: 7 Truths to Mastering Our Lives

by Beth Fortman-Brand

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781504377935
Publisher: Balboa Press
Publication date: 04/27/2017
Pages: 146
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.31(d)

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CHAPTER 1

Once upon a time, in a grand place named Greenleaf, there lived a lovely, bright redheaded caterpillar named Spark. She still lived with her mom and dad, along with her three sisters and four brothers — it was a big family. Spark was the oldest, and as the oldest, she took on much of the responsibility of helping to raise her younger siblings. Her parents were often busy providing food, shelter, and other things needed for the family's survival.

Spark didn't mind helping, because Spark and her family were close. She enjoyed playing teacher. Her students were her brothers and sisters and their friends. She was continually nurturing others and felt maternal. However, as she got older and her siblings were able to fend for themselves, Spark found herself with more and more quiet time and room to enjoy her own interests.

Spark loved taking long walks and exploring while admiring the beauty and tranquility of her surroundings. She felt connected to nature and was also aware of and sensitive to her environment and others. One of Spark's special relationships was with her grandmother, who lived nearby. Spark's grandmother was insightful, kind, and filled with wisdom that she loved to share. Spark was always inquisitive. She enjoyed learning and being a student. As a result, Spark was never afraid to ask her grandmother questions about how things worked and why they worked that way. Her grandmother explained the importance of spending time alone and being comfortable in quiet contemplation. Spark spent many afternoons with Grandmother, chatting about great topics, such as the meaning of life and their true purpose in the world, and attempting to make known the unknown.

One afternoon, when she and her grandmother got together, Spark began to cry.

Grandmother said, "What is wrong, my love?"

Spark became angry while she continued crying. "I can't believe my sister. I know she's the baby in the family, but she isn't a baby anymore, and she makes me feel so angry!"

Grandmother said, "I am sorry you are upset. Why don't you come over here, sit next to me, and share with me what happened?"

Grandmother motioned to her and opened her arms up to hug her. Spark went over to her grandmother and fell into her comforting arms, and they hugged. Spark began to calm down and stopped crying. She sat up, took a deep breath, and said, "All I did was walk over to her while she was having a conversation with her friend, and I guess it was pretty heated. Actually, you know, when I think back on it, I realize she was already really upset. You know that since she was born, I have always helped to take care of her, so of course I asked, 'Is there something I can do to help?' You would think I had insulted her. Instantly, she turned to me in a fit of anger and yelled, 'It is none of your business! You are always trying to mother me! You are not my mother! Go away!' Well, that really angered me because I have been nothing but good to her. All her life, I have always been there for her, and now she speaks to me that way! I just don't understand. I didn't do anything wrong!"

Spark became visibly angrier and more upset as she talked about it.

Grandmother said, "I am sorry you are so upset. I am curious, though — how did you respond next?"

Spark said, "Not so great. I was just so shocked by it. I reacted with just as much anger. I said in a loud, harsh voice, 'Then don't ever ask me for help again!' And then I stormed off."

Grandmother said, "Ah, honey, I can see you are angry, but do you understand why?"

Spark became a bit annoyed at her grandmother's question. "Yes, of course — because she disrespected me!"

"So she hurt you?"

Spark, now a bit calmer, thought about how she felt. She recalled other situations in which she'd felt hurt by someone who had spoken angrily to her.

Spark said, "Well, I guess that's why. Okay, you are right. I am absolutely hurt. I have a right to be! I would never speak to her that way."

Grandmother said, "It may help you if you try to look at it from a different perspective. If you think about it, she was already in pain and very upset when you approached her. Now, if that's true, wouldn't that mean that her anger wasn't about you at all?"

Spark felt as if her feelings were not being fully understood and was still a bit confused and a bit annoyed at her grandmother for her line of questioning. "No, because it was me she was speaking that way to. So isn't it about me?"

"Well, not exactly, sweetheart, and I am sorry you are getting upset again. I promise I am not trying to minimize your feelings at all; my only desire is to help you understand something that happens to many of us in many situations. Sometimes we take our anger out on others even when it has nothing to do with them. What's incredibly important to understand is that we often misdirect our angry feelings.

"However, you can choose how you allow the situation to affect you. That's why, when you are dealing with others, it is extremely imperative not to assume anything and not to take things personally. Because there are always many obvious and hidden factors that contribute to how a person behaves. For instance, when you first saw your sister, she was already angry, wasn't she?"

"Yes." Spark began to calm down again.

"So if she was already angry, then can't you see that maybe her anger had nothing to do with you?"

"Kind of. I guess so," Spark said. "But why did she turn it on me?"

Grandmother said, "I have a little story that may help you better understand what I am saying. Years ago, the farmers would keep the packs of coyotes from harming their sheep by shooting the coyotes in the rear end with a salt-pellet gun. A coyote would feel the impact from the pellet gun and think the coyote next to him had bitten him, so he would in turn bite the coyote next to him. In reality, it was really the farmer who caused the pain. The coyotes weren't aware of the true cause of their pain and simply lashed out at the closest thing to them.

"In your situation, your sister was already hurt and in pain. You mentioned she was upset, and when you walked up to her and offered to help, she turned and took it out on you. Like the coyote next to the other coyote, you got bit."

Spark continued to feel better but still did not totally understand. "That makes sense now when you say it is not personal. But then how is it not about me if I felt the bite?" Spark was still a bit confused about what to do with her pain.

Grandmother, as usual, was patient and understanding. Grandmother knew that this was a wonderful teaching moment for Spark to learn not to always be reactive and at the mercy of others' moods and actions.

"What's not about you is her anger, that's what's not personal. I'm not at all discounting that you are hurt and you feel like she bit you. What I am saying is that the only part of this that is about you is how you allow the bite to affect you and how you react to the bite. Fortunately, no one can make us feel anger or any other feelings. How we feel is up to us and has to do with what we are telling ourselves about the circumstances. You don't want to diminish your personal power by blaming others for how you feel. We all have the power to choose to control how we allow ourselves to respond to any situation. Spark, you can choose not to react by learning to stop and observe yourself before you react."

Spark, looking bewildered, asked, "Huh? How does one do that — observe oneself?"

Her grandmother smiled with delight at her inquisitiveness. "If you want to learn to observe yourself, why don't you try this? Spend the next few days noticing your thoughts. After a time, you might begin to notice repetitious patterns of thinking; you might find yourself having thoughts that are critical or judgmental. You can give those thoughts names, such as the judge, the critic, or the victim."

Spark said, "I guess I am willing to do that, because I really don't like feeling bad when others spew their anger at me, especially when I haven't done anything. Yeah, it's worth it. Okay, I am going to give it a go."

They hugged.

Spark said, "I love you so much, Grandmother, and I'm sorry I got a bit upset. You know that I always appreciate your insight."

Spark left with a strong sense of curiosity about what was going to happen when she did as her grandmother had suggested.

Over the next few days, Spark was surprised how many of her thoughts came from fear. She had always seen herself as a positive person.

A few days later, Spark and her grandmother met up. Both smiled, hugged, and sat on a big rock under a shady low-hanging leaf.

Grandmother asked, "Are you doing well? Were you able to observe your thoughts and come up with a name for your mind chatter?"

Spark smiled and shook her head. "As I think about it now, it's kind of funny and even pitiful that I am actually worried about what I observed. Because what I noticed is that I worry a lot. And now I am worried about the fact that I worry so much."

Grandmother said, "Really, sweetie? What about?"

"Well, like, will there be enough food? What if one of my brothers or sisters gets hurt or sick? What's gonna happen when Mom and Dad get old? How much longer will you be here, Grandma? Worrisome thoughts like those."

Grandmother said, "Wow, I had no idea you had all those worries."

"The strange thing is, I didn't realize it either until these past couple days, when I started observing my thoughts. So that's why the name I have decided to give the chatter in my head is the worrier."

Grandmother said, "That's perfect. You know, Spark, unfortunately, most of us tend to worry. It's wonderful that you are willing to make such an effort to grow. It is our ability to notice our chatter and name it that gives us the opportunity to start observing our thoughts."

Spark said, "Got it! Observing our thoughts is the key to not being defensive or letting others offend you, like I did with my sister."

Grandmother said, "Exactly. Choosing to be the observer provides us the space and time to allow ourselves not to react. And being aware of what we are telling ourselves allows us to have control over how we feel. As we become the observer of our thoughts, we can begin to realize how our emotions are directly related to our thinking. Spark, the truth is, your conflict with your sister is an opportunity for you."

Spark was puzzled. "An opportunity for what?"

"The opportunity to grow and feel more in control of your life. When we are willing to recognize that we are reacting or being defensive, we can learn to step back and observe before we react. The real benefit comes from not allowing the outer world to have such a strong influence on our emotional well-being. Not only that, Spark, but once we can quiet the chatter and become an observer, we can access greater wisdom from within."

Spark smiled and said, partly joking yet being honest, "Greater wisdom from within? I thought wisdom came from people with experience and from reading books."

Grandmother smiled and chuckled a little. "You're not the only one who probably thinks that, but knowledge comes from many places. When we learn to switch to the position of the observer and not just react based on the chatter in our heads, we then can consciously connect to our inner source of wisdom. Our wisdom comes from our spirit, and it is always connected to us and is the part of us that is not physical. Our spirit is also sometimes called our higher expanded self."

Spark looked a bit baffled. "Wow, that's a bit much to grasp. Before we get any deeper, I want to get clear here, because I am very interested and really want to learn why I am not supposed to worry and the benefits of not worrying."

Grandmother said, "Oh, there are many benefits to stopping yourself from worrying, but I'll name just a few. First, when we project worry into the future, it blocks our ability to experience the present moment. That's because we are not able to be present to what is happening now if we are thinking about something else. Second, our thoughts are very powerful, as they are what determines how we respond or act toward an issue and can therefore influence our behavior. Third, where we focus our attention and how we feel about things influence our lives in many ways. For example, stress from worry releases chemicals in our body that can create illness. Also, we attract what we believe about ourselves and the world around us. Unfortunately, worrying can ultimately contribute to an undesired outcome."

Spark looked visibly surprised. "Wow, I didn't realize the impact worrying has on my life! Oh no," she said, half joking, "I hope I don't start worrying about worrying now. All joking aside, how do I stop worrying?"

Grandmother said, "First, you do exactly what you have been doing the past few days. You learn to stop worrying by becoming the observer of your thoughts. This brings you into the present moment. Then, when you are in the present moment, you are able to make wiser decisions. In the present moment, your thoughts are more likely to represent the truth and not something that may or may not happen or that is out of your control. Also, Spark, one of the things you can do is ask yourself questions. For instance, 'Do my thoughts best serve my well-being?' and 'Is my worrying going to help or change the outcome in a positive way?'"

Spark said, "Sounds like it's important for me to pay close attention to what I'm thinking so that I can begin to have a sense of control over my own well-being instead of letting others affect the way I feel."

Grandmother said, "Yes, and in addition to not being affected by others, observing your thoughts is a wonderful tool that gives you a sense of empowerment in all matters in your life."

Spark felt optimistic and was excited to use her new tools. They heard her brother calling her for dinner, and before she ran off, they hugged.

Spark said, "Thank you for your love and wisdom. I am looking forward to the next opportunity to observe myself and not react."

Since she was young, Spark had loved educating others. Spark was so excited about this new revelation she had learned that she wanted everyone in her community to know about it. Spark made it a point to share her new knowledge with as many as possible. However, not everyone understood or was ready to hear her message, because some were not as open as she was to new and different ideas. This resulted in Spark being shunned for being different and having strange and unconventional thoughts.

When her grandmother became aware of the situation, she approached Spark.

Grandmother said, "I have heard from your siblings that some people in the community are treating you unkindly. I am sorry for that. Sounds like your excitement to share what you learned didn't work out so well. I understand your generous nature and desire to share what you have learned; however, I have learned over my many years that people are more receptive when you lead by example. This allows them the space to come to you when the time is right for them. I think it is never wise to push or force information or knowledge onto others."

Spark nodded in agreement because she could relate to what her grandmother was saying, since she also never liked it when someone told her how she should think, feel, or act. "That's true."

Grandmother said, "We are all a work in progress, and you meant well, so don't be hard on yourself. Learn from it instead."

Spark and Grandmother kissed and hugged and then went their separate ways for their day.

As time went on, Spark's process of observing life, asking questions, and seeking answers provided her with the knowledge and awareness that things happened for a reason. She also learned that paying attention to her emotions was the first step in self-awareness and the key to staying balanced. She recognized these internal feelings as signals of higher wisdom that she could always trust. Ultimately, she learned to be guided by her gut feelings. By becoming the observer of her thoughts, Spark realized she was much more than just her repetitious thoughts. This realization brought her a greater sense of peace and strength.

Eventually, through trial and error, Spark developed a powerfully effective tool to create mindfulness for herself, and she used it all the time. First, she stopped and took a deep breath, because she was aware that focusing on the breath brought one into the present moment and allowed one to be mindful. That created the space to look within. Then she'd ask herself, "What am I afraid of?" and she was willing to listen to the small voice of her higher expanded self to achieve greater perspective. Over time and through leading by example, Spark became a respected leader within her community.

Recently, the weather patterns in Greenleaf had been changing. As Spark and her family found themselves struggling through increasingly cold, wet winters and harsh, dry summers in their search to find food, there remained great joy, appreciation, and profound love within the family.

(Continues…)



Excerpted from "Navigating The Storm"
by .
Copyright © 2017 Beth Fortman-Brand, Matthew Schonbrun, Agnes Deason.
Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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