Through her story of change and evolution, Galen inspires and motivates us in our lives. Galen empowers each of us to have courage to embrace change when we feel that things are not working or that we are not living our lives the way we desire, and most importantly to keep moving with continued growth. As we flow with life, and keep moving in the direction of our dreams and the highest version of ourselves, our life takes on a sacred, serene and even magical essence.
My journey of awakening and personal expansion
The primary change I made in my spiritual/emotional life was to change from a life driven by fear to a life grounded in joy. I made this change because the way I was living was not working for me anymore. I lived a life of constant vigilance, believing that this vigilance was necessary to prevent bad things from happening to me and to the people I loved. I believed that only by controlling my external world (including events and people) would I and my loved ones be safe and happy. By now you are probably laughing and shaking your head. Or maybe you recognize a little of yourself, either in the past or perhaps even now.
This approach to life quit working for me because I wore myself out. Constant vigilance is draining, and unceasing attempts to control what can’t be controlled are very stressful. I lived with chronic anxiety and occasional depression.
My children provided the strongest impetus to change and the gave me the courage to do it. I am the single parent of a diverse group of five adopted and foster kids, some with “special” needs and all with “normal” needs. I think of children as God’s 12 step program for control addicts. My determination to cure my son’s autism, my conviction that I could heal my foster daughter’s emotional damage taught me what I could and could not control. Finally, cracks began to appear, and my frantic but futile efforts to plug the proverbial leaks in the dike failed.
One of my favorite movies is Dragon, the biography of Bruce Lee, a person I admire greatly, not just for his martial arts mastery, but even more so because of his philosophy and approach to life. In the movie, Lee has a series of terrifying encounters with a demon. When he balks at his teacher’s prediction that he will fight the demon, his teacher assures him that he will do it to save his children. I understood that. My failing approach to life was choking my own spirit, and I knew I would pass my demons on to my children unless I changed.
If necessity is the mother of invention, then exhaustion is the mother of major life changes. I came to a place (literally the hospital emergency room) where I knew deep in my soul that if I didn’t change, I was going to die. The scale had tipped and I was more afraid to stay the same than I was to change. In that sense, fear became my friend.
My Inspirations and Influences
I was already in therapy, but I got serious about the hard work I needed to do. I also realized that therapy was only a piece of the global changes I had to make. I went to an energy healer whose work I did not understand, but my sessions with him catapulted me through transformation at warp speed (to use a term any Star Trek fan will understand). I attended Taize healing and wholeness services. I read a lot, soaking up wisdom from many sources like a parched camel at an oasis. The writings of Pema Chodron especially resonated with me. I have always felt connected to the Tao Te Ching, and read it again with renewed purpose. Perhaps the single most influential strategy I used was going through A Course in Miracles. This self-help spiritual therapy program took me step by step from fear to love.
Today I support my continued growth with a number of practices. I continue to read, as the stacks of books by my already overfilled bookcases can attest. I am part of a warm and open faith community. My deep connection with Pema Chodron’s teaching has led me to Shambhala training in meditation and mindfulness. My taekwondo practice integrates the physical and spiritual, and provides invigorating challenge and focus. (I’m testing for my black belt in November–wish me luck!) And I have recently begun practicing qigong.
My Positive Life Changes
My life has been completely transformed from the core of my being outward to my everyday life. To borrow from Christian vocabulary, it’s like being born again, only instead of a one time event, I am born again every day, every moment. When I look back at my “old” life, I just can’t believe I managed to live that way for so long.
My gratitude and excitement about my “new” life led me to develop a program to grow and maintain a joyful spirit. As I reflected on my life transformation, I recognized that I had, in essence, changed my “homepage” by changing my habitual thought patterns. Identifying 10 focus habits gave structure to my thinking and became the foundation for the program.
Blogging about and teaching this program at retreats and in discussion groups strengthen habits that ground me joyfully in the present moment. My interaction with others through writing and teaching enriches my life and reinforces my own practice.
My life still has challenges, to be sure. But what I’ve learned helps me deal with challenges in a more positive way. I know now that I can’t control things beyond my own thoughts, words, and actions. I know that my suffering is often self-inflicted by judging events as good or bad, when much of that judging is based on imagined future scenarios that may never happen. And even then, events are often neither good nor bad. They simply are. And I know now that I really don’t know very much. And that’s okay. In fact, it’s a bit of a relief!
Einstein said that we have only two choices about how we view the world – as if nothing is a miracle or as if everything is a miracle. I choose to see everything as a miracle. I am blessed beyond belief.
My Next Steps as an Evolving Being
I have just retired from a job I have loved, because it was time to move on. I hope to spend more time devoted to spiritual practice – prayer, meditation, qigong, martial arts. A book is in the works based on my 10 Steps program—10 Steps To Finding Your Happy Place and Staying There. I will continue teaching the program in various settings.
As for goals, I have only one, the same one I’ve always had, the same one we all, at some level, have – to say, as Buddha said when asked “What are you?” by someone who saw something different about him, “I am awake.”
My Advice to Others
I’m not a prophet or a guru. I have no special spiritual credentials. There are many people out there more “evolved” than I, but like all of us, I am “evolving.” We all start where we are, and we are all going home. And when we get home, we will look at each other, laughing with surprise and delight, realizing that we never really left.