How to free yourself from a downward spiral, Part 1

Preceded by perception are mental states, 

for them is perception supreme.
If with perception polluted one speaks or acts,
suffering follows.

 

By Kim Michaels

 

We all have certain issues or topics that stand out in our minds, certain problems we encounter again and again, certain limitations we cannot seem to get past. Obviously, we do this because we are meant to see and overcome something in ourselves, so we attract to us the situations that confront us with what we have not seen. Yet once we do see it, we also become teachers, for now we can serve to inspire others to overcome the same limitations. Thus, whatever you are going through is your potential for becoming an example who can help humankind transcend the treadmill of personal and epic dramas.

For me, one of the issues I have run into over and over again is how we humans so often close our minds and refuse to see something, even though it is clearly limiting ourselves. Why do we so often get ourselves into a negative, downward spiral that ends up sucking all joy out of life, yet we cannot free ourselves from it and thus continue on the same track for decades or lifetimes? Why – I have often asked myself – does this happen and why is it so difficult for us to see what we cannot see? Why can we be stuck for a long time in a frame of mind that makes it absolutely impossible for us to see something, yet once we snap out of that state of mind, what we could not see before now seems completely obvious?

I first became aware of this problem as a child, and it was shown to me by my father. He was a very intelligent man and in many ways also a very sensitive and considerate man. Yet he was born in May, and he had the typical bull-like psychology of a Taurus. They say this astrological sign makes people act like a bull tied to a stake. It will wrap the rope around the stake until it is so tight that it can no longer move. Yet the bull will keep struggling against the rope endlessly, because it simply is not capable of changing course and unwinding the rope. That was certainly true for my father.

Even at a young age, my father realized that his great dream was to become an engineer who could build bridges all over the world. I believe many of us as children have a vision of what we are meant to become, what our mission is in life. So I believe my father saw his divine plan, his true potential. And given that he was both intelligent and disciplined, I believe he could have achieved it, even though he had some hurdles to overcome—being born in a working-class family in which no one had ever gotten an education beyond the 7th grade.

For the first three years, my father did very well in school and was at the head of his class. Yet then he suddenly flipped and refused to learn. This was brought about by his reaction to the teachers and their unjust disciplines, with cruel forms of corporeal punishment. I am not trying to defend the teachers; the Danish school system of the 1920s was obviously lacking in many ways. Yet many other students went through the system and found ways to deal with the same conditions without reacting like my father did.

Even as a child, I saw that my father’s reaction to the teachers was HIS reaction; it was caused by his psychology. And I also saw that his psychological reaction – at the age of ten – had set his life on a track that made it absolutely certain that he would never fulfill his life dream. My father did in fact end up working menial factory jobs for the rest of his life, never going beyond the level of a worker.

So ever since I was ten, I have been contemplating this mechanism of how we allow aspects of our own psychology to limit us in ways that either sabotage our divine plans or take all joy out of life and turns life into a negative experience. I have personally always been a very optimistic, joyful and even carefree person. My mother used to think I took life far too lightly, yet I have had my share of personal experiences, where I allowed my own psychological conditions to limit me. And what I want to focus on here is specifically the problem of going into a spiral that causes us to focus on some negative aspect, so that we lose the joy of life. 

 

The meditation drama

When I was 18, I found the a movement in Denmark that promoted a form of eastern meditation. In order to make this article neutral, I will call it the meditation movement. I met my first wife who had just returned from a teacher training course in Switzerland. We got married and it was our common goal that I too should become a meditation teacher. I thus took the first part of the teacher training, a four-month course in Switzerland. Towards the end of the course, I saw a very recent video of the spiritual leader of the movement. Up until then, all the videos I had seen of him were at least a decade old, and he did have a certain radiance and spiritual light. Yet while watching this latest video, I suddenly heard my inner voice say: “But he has no light in him!” At that movement I was spiritually out the meditation movement, but it took me a while to actually leave, and I did not leave gracefully.


When I came back from the teacher training, I became aware that an upheaval was underway in the movement. The cause was some organizational changes, where a group of new leaders (who had taken some advanced meditation courses but had little life experience) were put in charge over the old leaders who had spent ten years building the movement in Denmark. This caused a power struggle, and because I saw the obvious shortcomings of the new leaders, I aligned myself with the faction of the old leaders, some of whom I knew personally.

For a time, the old leaders and many of the older members attempted to change the organization and the new leaders, but they were ultimately unsuccessful. And as it started to become clear that the organization wasn’t going to change, a very clear negative spiral started to form. People switched in very subtle ways from taking a positive approach of seeking to bring change to taking a negative approach of criticizing and complaining about things they thought could not be changed.

I obviously didn’t see this as a negative spiral at the time, so I allowed myself to be sucked right into it, constantly talking to people who had the same attitude. Thus, we would all confirm each other’s negative view and feel how justified we were because of all these shortcomings of other people. The essence of this was – as is the case with all negative spirals – that we felt powerless because of what other people did (or didn’t do). Thus, our focus was on changing these other people, and since they refused to do what we so obviously saw was the right thing, then we had no other option (or so we thought) than to voice our self-righteous indignation at any opportunity. We somehow thought that if we only kept complaining enough, this in itself would change things for the better. Or rather, we didn’t actually think that consciously, but it was obviously an unconscious – and illogical – assumption.

As a result of this, my first wife and I – along with a group of our friends – left the movement with anger and resentment in our hearts. And that is precisely what happens when you allow yourself to be sucked into a negative spiral. The only thing you get out of it is negative feelings that are eating up your life and attention, putting you in a spiritual catch-22. For me this negative state of mind lasted for a couple of years, where I would constantly go over in my mind how I had been let down by the meditation movement and how I was NEVER going to get involved with another spiritual movement ever again.

The only thing I remember about this time was how empty I felt. I had grown up in an environment where nothing stimulated my spiritual longing, and finding the meditation movement had been such a positive awakening to my deepest dreams of a better personal life and of playing a role in improving the world. These were legitimate dreams, although at the time seen through a naive filter. And when I decided to enter the negative spiral, the dreams came tumbling down, which was almost more than I could bear.

I do not remember the thought process that led me out of the negative spiral, but I do remember coming to a point where I consciously decided to no longer allow myself to think about the issue. I had realized that my own focus on the negative was making me unhappy and I decided to stop.

In retrospect, I can see that what I had done with the meditation movement was exactly what my father had done in school. I had allowed the human imperfections of other people to affect my state of mind in a negative way. This did absolutely nothing to change other people, but it did do something to my own state of mind. As my father’s reaction had set his life on a track that sabotaged his divine plan, my negative reaction could have done the same, for it could have stopped me from ever becoming involved with another spiritual organization.

Shortly after I had made this shift – which set me on a track that led out of the negative spiral – I heard about the teachings of the ascended masters and an organization I will call The Church. I can see today that if I had not made the conscious decision to stop feeding my energy into the negative spiral, I would not have been able to find the masters’ teachings, and I certainly would not have been able to go into another spiritual organization—as was an obvious part of my divine plan.

 

The first spiral in The Church

It took me a while to work through my negative attitude to spiritual organizations to the point where I could finally accept The Church. Yet once I did, I felt I was back in my dream of personal growth and of helping to change the world. The meditation movement obviously had been a flawed organization with a false leader and immature people. The Church was the real deal, because it was based on the teachings of the ascended masters, who were beyond human flaws. Thus, it was obvious that this organization and its members and leaders had to be of a much higher caliber than those in the meditation movement. Consequently, I had to be of higher caliber in order to have found The Church.

Yet within a year of being in The Church in Denmark I had become embroiled in another negative spiral. The outer cause was a conflict between the local group leader and about a dozen members, including my first wife and I. Looking back, I still think the leader was obviously too controlling, for example by refusing us to meet in our own homes and requiring us to drive three hours to have decree services only at her house. Yet it is equally obvious that I once again allowed myself to enter a negative spiral, and this time I was among the instigators.

Once again, I participated in the pattern of endlessly talking about the leader and about how she was the one who needed to change, how blind she was and how she was out of touch with the masters’ teachings (all the while overlooking that my own negative attitude was also out of alignment with the masters’ teachings). Yet something was different in the sense that The Church’s teachings were clearly more profound than what had been offered in the meditation movement.

Thus, it was more difficult for me to continue to justify my own behavior. I probably also could see that I was in danger of repeating the same pattern that I had been through before, and I had no desire to once again end up feeling empty. Finally, I do know that I often felt the presence of the masters, and this gave me a sense of co-measurement about my own vibration. I realized that my vibration was out of alignment with that of the masters.

The situation finally came to a head and a meeting was arranged between a group of us and the leader. I had prayed for guidance from the masters and during the meeting I started speaking and my voice turned very soft. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this was Mother Mary speaking through me. I do not remember what was said, but I still remember the vibration of unconditional love. After that experience, the leader went back home and nothing changed on the outer. Yet those of us who had been to the meeting could no longer participate in the negativity. I personally made the decision to stop talking about it because I could not reconcile my negativity with the unconditional love I had experienced.

Shortly after that, my first wife and I moved to the United States in order to experience The Church at its headquarters. This became my second spiral.

 

The second spiral in The Church

Before we left Denmark, we had little actual knowledge of The Church, its organizational culture and people. Only a couple of people in Denmark had been to the U.S. and they gave highly idolized accounts. On top of that we had some brochures and then there was, of course, the very profound and beautiful teachings that the masters had given through The Church. Despite our experience with the meditation movement, we had reasoned that because of these high teachings, the human problems we had witnessed before simply couldn’t exist in The Church. Our experience with the controlling group leader should have been a warning, but we didn’t heed it. So we arrived in America with a set of idolatrous expectations that was literally a house of cards just waiting to come tumbling down.

To say that our first impression of The Church was a shock would be a gross understatement. The Church had only recently moved its headquarters to Montana and everything was still in a very uncompleted stage (undiplomatic translation: it was a huge mess everywhere). We also quickly realized that the organization had more rules and regulations for its staff than anyone could possibly follow. And, of course, the people were as full of human flaws as anywhere else on the planet.

After two days, my first wife comes to me in a panic and says: “I can’t stand it in this place—let us just pack up and leave, right NOW!!!” I managed to calm her down by saying that we hadn’t come this far to leave so quickly, and she agreed to give it another chance. Yet for her this was the start of her personal negative spiral that took her out of The Church, was instrumental in the break-up of our marriage and took her away from any spirituality for years. This was a deep vacuum for her, which she eventually pulled herself out of, but only after years of emptiness.

Why didn’t I join her in that spiral? Well, after our talk, I walked down to a nearby river and I prayed very intensely to El Morya for guidance in how to respond to the entire situation. The answer he gave me was that the masters had called The Church’s ranch for “The Inner Retreat.” The meaning was that if I judged the place based on the outer conditions, I would miss the inner purpose. I realized this was true.

A couple of days later I had the thought that when I arrived, there had not been a trash can at the door with a sign saying, “Leave your ego here.” Thus, I had obviously brought my ego with me and it seemed a fair assumption that everyone else had done the same. So given that I didn’t expect myself to become perfect by walking through the door, how could I expect that of anyone else?

Yet the real breakthrough came a couple of days later, when I was contemplating what I had seen of the organization. I had begun to realize that much of the organizational culture and structure was not a direct product of the ascended masters but a product of the personal idiosyncrasies of the spiritual leader, called Mother. I didn’t necessarily see this as a negative, but I did see that an ascended master organization did not have to be this way (as just about everyone there believed).

Suddenly, the thought came to me, “If Mother made a mistake that effected you personally, could you handle that?” In other words, Mother was seen as an infallible messenger who did everything under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. So if I saw her make a clear mistake, how would I deal with that? What was really at stake here was whether my personal relationship with the ascended masters could survive if their messenger was not perfect.

As I contemplated this, I had a breakthrough experience. I realized that I was not there because of Mother. I was there because I wanted a direct, personal relationship with the ascended masters, and I obviously could not have a direct personal relationship through anyone else. Thus, if I allowed myself to think that my relationship with the masters depended on anyone or anything outside myself, I would allow such outer conditions to stand between me and the masters. I would thus refuse to fulfill MY responsibility in building such a relationship, namely that I would let nothing in this world stand in the way of my inner relationship with God. This breakthrough sustained me through everything I experienced in The Church, because I always came back to the fact that no matter what other people did, it was my personal reaction that determined my personal growth.

Yet what this breakthrough did not do was to prevent me from going into another negative spiral. The Church was not a democracy and the leader of a department was pretty much the one who decided everything. I started working in a department where there was already a conflict between the leader and a couple of other people. I walked right into that and sided with the other people against the leader. We repeated the familiar pattern of endlessly talking about the leader because we felt he was not willing to listen to us (which he actually wasn’t).

After several months of this, I went to the head of human resources, who was a trained psychologist. I explained what I had seen and what I thought. I asked her to openly tell me if she saw that I was wrong. She asked me to write my ideas down and she would present them to the business manager. However, the issue eventually ended up on Mother’s desk. One day I was called into the psychologists office and she had a personal message to me from Mother. It basically said that the whole matter was a product of my critical analytical mentality and my European male pride. And if I wasn’t willing to change, I had to leave in 24 hours.

At this point I truly faced one of these decisive moments in my life, where the way you respond will set a pattern for the rest of your life. So I walked out of there and thought deeply about this. Before I even started, I had known that the matter might get to Mother’s attention and that if it did, I would no doubt have my personal psychology exposed. Yet I decided to go ahead because I would actually welcome such an exposure.

Mother had asked for my response and her letter had even left a couple of points that I could very well have argued with, and I certainly had plenty of options for defending myself. Yet I suddenly felt a deep inner peace, and I decided not to argue or defend myself. I decided to completely let go of the desire to change the situation or change other people. I decided to focus exclusively on myself and what I needed to overcome in my own psychology. I decided to not let other people’s reactions become an excuse for not looking at the beam in my own eye. I also realized a very profound truth, namely that you can be right in the outer things you criticize but not be right in your motives and vibration.

After I had made that decision, I sat down and I suddenly felt the Presence of El Morya descend upon me. Yet it was not the blue-flame stern El Morya as he was normally seen in t The Church. It was the most pink and loving Presence I had ever experienced, and I completely melted away into it. I realized that this is the love that the Guru has for the Chela who has decided to take full responsibility for changing himself, instead of focusing on changing other people or the world.

Now, even though I had let go, it still took me at least a couple of years to fully see the pride and the critical analytical mentality. Yet as I exposed and surrendered it, I felt like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders. I no longer had the tension of going through life with the feeling that I had to analyze and judge every situation and every person I met, seeing how they stacked up on this scale of perfection that I had come to accept (probably lifetimes ago). And of, course, I also no longer had to judge myself according to this impossible standard, which meant I could begin the process of fully accepting that God is unconditional love and that God has unconditional love for me. And that experience of unconditional love has done more than anything else to enhance my relationship with God and the ascended masters.

 

The spiral that was not

During the mid 1990s Mother became increasingly affected by Alzheimer’s. This was not openly acknowledged until shortly before she officially retired in 1999. It was very clear to me that while Mother was still functioning as a messenger, she held a spiritual balance for many people in The Church. Yet as she became ill, she wasn’t able to do this, and this caused many people to flip into a negative spiral.

I especially remember how an old friend of mine came to me and started telling me a lot of negative stuff about Mother’s personal life. This person had been part of the spiral I was in with the group leader in Denmark. In retrospect, I can see how she was sent to test me to see whether I would allow myself to be pulled into another negative spiral. Yet because of the breakthrough described above, I was not even tempted to go into this spiral. Mother’s personal idiosyncrasies or actions – even if I could see they were not the highest possible – had simply become irrelevant to my personal relationship with God and the masters.

After Mother retired, many more people joined the spiral of guru-bashing and by that time, e-mail had blessed the world. Numerous e-mails were sent but I felt no temptation to participate in it, neither to vilify nor to defend. Then another power struggle took place in The Church between a group of old leaders and a group that wanted to continue the changes initiated by Elizabeth. Although I thought the new leaders were more in alignment with the times, I again felt no desire to enter the fray on either side. The Church as an organization had become irrelevant to my relationship with God and the masters.

Why did I not get drawn into these spirals? Because I had taken responsibility for changing myself and thus no longer took responsibility for changing The Church or other people. Yet I still had to pass a more personal temptation, where I did not stay out of a negative spiral.

 

A work spiral

After I left The Church behind, I moved to Utah in late 1997. There I got a job as a technical writer, although I had no prior work experience. My first job was a great job with a great boss, but the pay was very low. So when I was offered a job in a software company with much better pay and benefits, I decided to take it although I had been warned about a difficult work environment. Those warnings turned about to be understated, and there were times where I would gladly have given up the higher pay to have my old work environment back.


The specifics of the situation are not important to the point I want to make. In retrospect, I still think this was the most dysfunctional work environment I have yet encountered. I had co-workers crying in my office, and I saw people who had spent four years getting a college degree in technical writing decide (after a few months in that department) that they didn’t want to work like that for the rest of their lives. Yet what got to me was that for the first time in my life I was not appreciated by my supervisors. Truth be told, no one was appreciated in that environment, but I took it personally because this touched on a wound and an attachment I had.

I therefore went through what always happens in a negative spiral. I started focusing on the outer problem and the need to change the situation and other people, especially the two people who – realistically – were the cause of the dysfunction. I would talk endlessly about this with anyone who would listen, and probably some people who didn’t want to. My handful of co-workers and I felt like victims, and we behaved like victims—powerless with no other option than to complain.

This went on for a couple of years with varying intensity. The job market in the area was very tight, so I could not find another job of any kind. I therefore felt stuck in an unbearable situation, but what was it that made it unbearable? Was it the actual situation – as dysfunctional as it was – or was it my REaction to the situation? Obviously, the unbearability was found in my experience, and I finally had to realize that it had nothing to do with the situation itself. The situation itself wasn’t unbearable—it simply was what it was. It was my REaction to the situation that was unbearable—to me.

At the time, I thought – as all victims do – that there was no other way for me to respond than the way I did. In retrospect I can see that I could have done many things differently. For example, I do think it was my responsibility to speak out about the situation. Yet I should have done this with non-attachment, and when I had said what needed to be said to the appropriate people, I should have let it go instead of continuing to complain. I also see that I should have approached the situation as a learning experience. I did in fact learn a lot about editing and proofreading, but I could have learned it in a way that was much more pleasant for myself and my supervisors. Yet most importantly, I could have recognized the beginning of the negative spiral and I could have decided to look at myself instead of seeking to change others.

I could have looked for what was my test, what was the wound and the attachment that caused me to react to the situation with less than love. I could have realized that I had an attachment to being appreciated by my supervisors and I could have worked on it. I could have realized that you will sometimes work with people who are so psychologically wounded that they cannot appreciate themselves and thus cannot give appreciation to others. And thus, I could have approached these people with love and understanding instead of feeling victimized by them.

Instead, I did what always happen in a negative spiral. I reasoned that my lack of peace was not MY lack or peace but was caused by the outer situation. Thus, I started working toward changing the outer situation, including changing other people or getting them fired or demoted if they would not change. I justified this by reasoning that our department was inefficient and that this cost the company a lot of money. Yet the fact is that no one had made me responsible for the company or its profits. Thus, I was falsely taking on a responsibility for something that was NOT my responsibility. And I was doing this as a camouflage, as an excuse for not taking responsibility for what WAS my responsibility, namely changing myself.

Why did I fall into this trap when I had had the breakthrough I had in The Church? Because this situation was much more personal, in that I was actually being viciously attacked by a co-worker who clearly saw me as a threat to her position and wanted to make me look bad. And although I realized this was a product of her wounded psychology, I had not sufficiently dealt with my own wounds that I could remain at peace about it. Had I done so, I know from many other experiences that her negativity would eventually have come back to her. But now I allowed myself to also go into a negative frame of mind, which did nothing to help resolve the situation but only made myself miserable. I thought I was working for a just cause in correcting a wrong, but in reality I was simply acting on my own psychological wounds.

How did I get out of the spiral? Well, again it took me years to fully work through my wounds, but what broke the spiral was that I finally decided that since no one had made me responsible for the company and its profits, I would stop feeling responsible for changing the situation. I would simply approach it as a job and do what was required of me without worrying about being efficient, being appreciated or doing more than required (as I have done in any other job I have had). And by breaking the false sense of responsibility, I was able to start rising out of the vortex of negative energy I had created around myself over a couple of years.


In the next article I will focus on how we can pull ourselves out of a negative spiral.

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright © 2009 by Kim Michaels

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