I have struggled with anxiety for as long as I can remember. In situations where I feel powerless, have no control, or lack needed information, my mind reels and any positive images I have of myself go out the window.
Every negative thought is reflexively followed with a wince and an internal or out loud "stop that!" It's an unpleasant ping-pong match; an exhausting battle of wills in my head.
Meditation and therapy, along with quite a few spiritual books, have helped me conquer some of the reactivity I experience.
Eckhart Tolle's "A New Earth", and the 10 weeks of online classes Oprah Winfrey put together to promote that book, took me to a particularly unexpected, deeper level of awareness. There were profound changes in my thought process and I put the teachings to work with some success.
However, after the Oprah/Tolle classes ended and the "freshness" of the ideas faded, so did my discipline in using them. Although to a lesser degree, I was still spinning stories and envisioning scenarios that might not be accurate. A year and a half later, I realized I was missing the structure of those classes.
So, beginning January 18, 2010, I will be participating in a structured, online, interactive "spiritual boot camp" called "Mental Muscle", created by James Mellon. I like the concept: "personal training for the mind."
I came across Mellon and his North Hollywood, California spiritual community in late August. By that point in 2009, I'd been through one emotional challenge after another. Faith in my new practices felt relentlessly tested. It was as if "the universe" was saying to me, "Not so fast! You want change? Let's see if you mean it."
Barriers in friendships and my own sense of purpose increased. Things I'd always unconditionally accepted about people now seemed unhealthy. I'd given a generous amount of love and care to people and didn't feel an equal and balanced level coming to me in return. As I grew apart from a few friends, I also wasn't finding new people I "clicked with" to fill the voids.
I was spending a lot of time alone, which was fine to a degree, but one day I took note that I no longer had an 'in case of emergency person' in my life. The realization made me feel sad, scared and unsure of what to do.
I stayed in that headspace for a month before feeling motivated enough to put myself "back out there." I went to new places instead of the same old haunts, and made some new acquaintances. I felt great and thought, "OK. This worked; I've licked the problem."
I was wrong. A few people I thought were becoming new friends showed me otherwise. The worst example was overhearing "a new friend" unfairly berate me one evening as I sat a mere six feet away. When I defended myself, the situation was further twisted around and thrown in my face.
My anxiety went through the roof. Shell-shocked, I retreated to my apartment for most of the summer. The story-spinning returned. I asked myself one pesky question more than any other: "Why am I still attracting this negative garbage?"
It was two months before my confidence returned and I decided to go out again. That evening, I met a man named Jonathan Zenz, who told me he was studying to be a minister of "New Thought." I'd never heard of the denomination, so he told me a bit about the philosophy.
It sounded very familiar. I reached into my bag, pulled out my copy of "A New Earth", and showed it to Jonathan. He said that if I was already on the 'Tolle road', his "church", The NoHo Arts Center for New Thought, and the founding pastor, James Mellon, was something and someone I should check out.
Within the hour, two other people shared their experiences attending this center. To me, these conversations were no accident; I was meant to have them. I went to "NoHo Arts" the following Sunday morning and have been there every week, sometimes two or three times a week, for the last five months. As I had not been a part of any religious or spiritual community for 26 years, this was a rather surprising development.
I found Reverend James Mellon to be a compelling, dynamic and inspiring speaker. If you are a spiritual seeker, or also want to make changes to your mental and emotional health, I think he is a person you should know. I will tell you more about him and the "Mental Muscle" spiritual boot camp in part two of this planned series.
For advance information on "Mental Muscle" boot camp, click here.
For information on "The NoHo Arts Center" click here.