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"A revelation of insight into the foundations of human suffering & transcendence. It not only lays out essential steps for inner freedom and joy but illuminates the way to true human potential." Paul Rademacher, author: A Spiritual Hitchhiker's Guide to the Universe

"The masterwork of a profoundly gifted healer of the soul. Dazzling, challenging, wondrously useful." Peggy Rubin, author: To Be and How To Be, Transforming Your Life Through Sacred Theatre

"Rewiring the Soul is one the best introductions to the spiritual life I've ever read. Not esoteric but real-world and practical. The implications are profound." Peter Shepherd, author: Daring To Be Yourself

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Book Review 2 - Happiness Is A Choice

Venice
In the second of my weekly book posts, I’m introducing you to Barry Neil Kaufman, therapist, author, motivational speaker, and founder of the Option Institute. He has written a number of books, and this one: Happiness Is A Choice specifically deals with the issue of happiness. He contends that if you change a belief or attitude you can change your life. A decision to pursue happiness, he claims, can improve relations with others: "We can engineer our own responses, choosing love over hate, peace over conflict and happiness over depression." The first five sections relate Kaufman's philosophy and offer stories of clients' successful changes while in therapy. Section six has short chapters detailing shortcuts to happiness. (Source: Amazon.com) (See also my Oct. 2006 Newsletter: Happiness: Has it Become a Science or is it a Question of Luck?)

Kaufman has observed that despite disappointment, illnesses, and physical and emotional problems, people who are most successful in finding happiness share certain traits. In Happiness Is A Choice, Kaufman shows you how to use these traits to change your life quickly, easily, and without pain. His shortcuts to happiness include:
  • Make happiness the priority

  • Accept your personal authenticity, the freedom to be yourself

  • Let go of judgments and embrace people and situations

  • Be present by learning to discard regrets about the past and worries about the future

  • Be grateful by appreciating specific people and events, even during hard times

  • Decide to be happy by recognizing your capacity to choose your beliefs and feelings and taking responsibility for your responses to people and situations (Source: back book cover)
This is the book to read if you have come to the point where you are indeed willing to become aware of yourself, your thoughts, your feelings, your actions, and reactions, and to take responsibility for them. All of that implies that you are also willing to take responsibility for your own happiness, rather than waiting for it to come to you in the guise of a lover, spouse, job, child, money, sex, prestige, fame, honor, or any other thing that is external to you. (See also my Feb. 2006 Newsletter: Making Choices: Taking Responsibility For Our Lives).

In an interview with In Context (read the entire interview by clicking on the link), Kaufman says: When I use the word "happiness," I'm thinking of something that other people might use different words to express. They might say "peace of mind" or "inner ease." Some might say "communion with God." Some might say "a sense of self-fulfillment." Whatever the wording, we know what it feels like inside of ourselves when we have a sense of comfort, peacefulness, centeredness, solidity. I call that happiness.

Crossing Thresholds

Southern Spain
Just a few words today about change, newness, and the unknown. We tend to fear it. We tend to think that because we are changing to something different (job, challenge, city, country, relationship, environment of any kind), or doing something new, or going to some type of unknown element in our lives as opposed to what we have done to this point, we will have difficulty with it or even fail. The new aspect can even be something such as changing a behavior, exchanging one way of doing something for another, because we have come to recognize that it is better (for example, when people learn to set boundaries (see also Do Your Relationship Boundaries Contribute to Your Well-Being?). So when they do this, people are generally fearful at the beginning of putting this new behavior into practice, because even though they see its great value for their own psychological health (and that of any of their relationships), actually doing what it takes to have healthy boundaries can be daunting when one has not been doing it.

But the real point of today’s post is to discuss the fear.

Fear of the unknown. Fear of the untried. Fear of stepping outside of our comfort zone (see also Leaving Your Comfort Zone: Fear of Emotional Expression.

What exactly does this fear tell us?

First of all, welcome it. Recognize that it is the hallmark of growth to come. Fear of this type signals that as you cross a new threshold into a new arena, you will be learning something that will move your process of growth up a notch.

Secondly, recognize that you have been in this place many times before, with all the other things you have done or lived through for the first time in your life in the past, and now you are totally at ease and comfortable with them. You passed over the threshold when you did whatever it was for the first time, and now you are in a totally new place. But since you are already comfortable with whatever it was that once caused your fear, you no longer view it as something threatening and fearful. Use that "success" experience (the Germans call it Erfolgserlebniss) to help you cross the new threshold. Use the knowledge that what was once so far outside your comfort zone, has now become your new comfort zone. Recognize that the fear you feel indicates that you are in the process of expanding this comfort zone once again, and that this will bring about new growth.
In other words: fear that is felt before starting something new could in fact be a good sign, because it means you are on the road of growth again. Your life and your world are expanding, and you are vital and vibrant and alive in this process. In such a case, fear could be defined as your friend.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Dream Symbols 2: Death

28.5.2007
Continuing with the series on dreams, today’s symbol is that of death.

When you dream of your own death and see your dead body lying, for example in a sarcophagus or a coffin, or you see your dead body in a hospital bed, or lying mangled on the roadside after a particularly bad car accident, you may think that it is a portent of things to come. You may become fearful and apprehensive wondering what the next few days, weeks, or months of your life will bring.

And yet such a dream is not speaking to you of your physical death, but of the death of some aspect of yourself that brings about transformation.

You may find some clues to what it is about you that has died by the manner of death. For example, if your death in the dream was due to a sudden and violent road accident, it could be that something in you has died in a sudden and violent manner, such as may happen when we suddenly discover that something no longer has validity in our lives.

If you see your dead body in a hospital death, it may indicate that the dying process was long and drawn-out, if you were murdered, again, the death of whatever aspect of yourself is being symbolized, came about unexpectedly and violently.

Death is a major symbol of transformation. Death implies that something is gone, but the very nature of death also implies something else that is coming to life. As an element of the personality dies, room is made for something else to take seed and grow, and hence for a transformative process to begin. This is occasionally also symbolized by that which one is doing in the outer, waking life (see also an earlier post: Feng Shui Order, Replanted Ficus Trees, & Bees), which reinforces the dream images.

However, that which is coming to life in this type of dream differs from the pregnancy and birth dreams described in last week’s dream symbol post, as in the case of the death dream the new image is not yet visible. It may well be that the dreamer does not yet have a viable image in his or her waking and conscious life of what the new aspect of life is to be.

An excellent book about this subject (and other transformative dream symbols) is Symbols of Transformation in Dreams by Jean Dalby Clift and Wallace B. Clift, which is out of print, but can still be found as a used book via Amazon.com.

Truth Must Come Before All Else

Blue Grotto, Bisevo Island , Croatia
I am reminded as I write this of July 2004 when friends had houseguests from Turkey, because it coincides with the moment in which I realized that in relationships – of any kind - truth must indeed come before all else. And that truth is the backbone and prana - life breath and life blood - of any relationship, call it friendship, marriage, or inter-family relationship.

Without truth – or transparency, if you will – and an emphasis in relationships, on the vital importance of truth, very little flourishes, at least over time. (See also my article: Transparency in Relationships).

Truth is essential for trust, truth is essential for growth (although growth can also take place in the absence of truth when people recognize its absence and take measures of one kind or another), and truth is essential for joy. Relationships without a good measure of trust, growth, and joy may be a lot less than what you really want present in your life.

Truth is not limited to not lying. An excellent book on this topic is Tell Me No Lies: How To Stop Lying To Your Partner – and Yourself – in the 4 Stages of Marriage. The authors mention that:
  • People may refuse to acknowledge any problems

  • People may fight and brutalize each other with exaggerated truths

  • Independence may outweigh togetherness, causing marital (or relationship) anarchy to ensue

Basically what this boils down to, is that when talking about truth it's also important to take into consideration its lack by omission, as well as when one is pretending things are different from what they are – both to oneself, and to the other person (or people) involved in the relationship.

You might liken truth to the first bud that appears in the spring and the last red leaf that falls from the tree in the late fall. Truth must be present at the beginning and at the end. Truth towards oneself, and truth towards others.

If truth is not present, little else can thrive.

With truth, transformation, growth, and ultimately inner freedom have a chance. Truth. Think of it as your greatest challenge and your greatest friend.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

The Risks We Don't Take

On the Kasbah Route (Ouarzazate to Marrakech), Morocco


(Dedicated to ECMK for the risks he has always freely chosen to take.)

"Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly". Robert F. Kennedy

What is so frightening about taking a risk? What do risks imply? What happens if we risk something and then fail? What happens if we risk nothing?

Risk taking is about the fear of failure and/or rejection. (See also my article Rejection: The Devastating and Paralyzing Effect it Can Have on Us). The thought of failure can be so devastating to some individuals, that it may totally hinder them from ever even attempting something they have their heart set on, or that has been a dream for a long time.

  • The policy of being too cautious is the greatest risk of all. Jawaharlal Nehru
  • I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it. Pablo Picasso
  • Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go. T.S. Eliot

The left brain (logical and rational thinking) takes over, the individual tells him or herself that whatever is being contemplated is too risky, implies too much potential for failure or rejection, and that therefore there is no point in even giving it a try. Obviously there is a world of difference between being foolish with risks (i.e. spending the family’s food budget on sports betting), and being pro-active, entrepreneurial, and following one’s bliss, as Joseph Campbell would have put it. (See also my June 2006 Newsletter: Finding a Meaning for Your Life).

  • The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing, is nothing, and becomes nothing. He may avoid suffering and sorrow, but he simply cannot learn and feel and change and grow and love and live. Leo Buscaglia
  • Nothing will ever be attempted, if all possible objections must be first overcome. Samuel Johnson
  • It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare, it is because we do not dare that they are difficult. Seneca

Risking something is generally implied when a person is going after a dream. Many of the world’s most successful ventures began as dreams in someone’s mind, basement (Bill Gates and Microsoft, Larry Page and Sergey Brin and Google, Ray Kroc and MacDonald’s, America and Christopher Columbus, to name only a few of the more obvious ones), or drawing board. Had they not gone after this dream, had they not dared to risk whatever was involved in it – sometimes risking money, sometimes time, sometimes their name and prestige – they would never have achieved the success they found. (See also a recent post: Inauthentic Lives).

  • One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time. André Gide
  • To dare is to lose one's footing momentarily. To not dare is to lose oneself. Soren Kierkegaard
  • You'll always miss 100% of the shots you don't take. Wayne Gretzky

The worst part of taking risks however, is not failing, and is not being rejected. If you fail, you can figure out a new way of starting over and trying again. Or if you don’t achieve all the success you had hoped for, you may need to refine your methods. But if you don’t take a risk, if you never risk anything, you know that this is what you will most regret as your life comes to a close. You will remember all that you could have done, all the people you could have loved, all that you could have attempted, all the dreams you could have followed, and you will know that you did not. This will be a deep regret. Don’t go to that place. Follow your dreams, take the risks, find a bridge across your fears and discover how much you can really do!

  • Progress always involves risks. You can't steal second base and keep your foot on first. Frederick B. Wilcox
  • Living at risk is jumping off the cliff and building your wings on the way down. Ray Bradbury
  • He who risks and fails can be forgiven. He who never risks and never fails is a failure in his whole being. Paul Tillich

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Book Review 1 - The Language of the Goddess


Venus of Willendorf 30,000 - 25,000 BCE

Today I initiate a series of regular posts about books - today's post is about one of a number of books by author Marija Gimbutas (1921-1994), Professor of European Archeology at the University of California, Los Angeles, and Curator of Old World Archeology at the UCLA Museum of Cultural History (now the Fowler Museum of Cultural History).

Gimbutas' writing is of great interest, in particular to those of us who grew up asking ourselves in so many classes of our early schooling : where were the women? We heard and read about so much history that involved men, so many exploits that involved men, so much that was exciting that involved men, but when women were mentioned, it was basically about having babies, cooking, and so on.

Marija Gimbutas is the author of:
  • Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe, 7000-3500 BCE
  • The Living Goddesses
  • The Language of the Goddess (co-author with Joseph Campbell)
  • The Civilization of the Goddess

"Marija Gimbutas found that Europe’s origins lay in a cooperative, peaceful, neolithic Goddess culture. Her theories challenge conventional archaeology, spirituality, theology, and religious studies, while inspiring artists, feminists, environmentalists and activists." Source

"Marija Gimbutas is largely responsible for the resurgence of interest in Goddess-oriented religions. Her discoveries were the foundation for Riane Eisler 's highly influential book, The Chalice and the Blade. For fifteen years, Marija was involved with excavations in southeastern Europe and the Mediterranean, which revealed the existence of a prehistoric Goddess-oriented culture. For at least 25, 000 years this peaceful civilization seemingly practiced complete equal rights between the sexes--socially, politically, and spiritually. As Riane Eisler pointed out, the full implications of this discovery have yet to be fully realized by the scientific community, or by society at large." Source

"The Goddess is the most potent and persistent feature in the archaeological records of the ancient world. She was a symbol of the unity of life in nature, and the personification of all that was sacred and mysterious on Earth. Here, in this pioneering and provocative volume, Marija Gimbutas resurrects the world of Goddess-worshipping, earth-centered cultures, bringing ancient matriarchal society vividly to life. She interweaves comparative mythology, early historical sources, linguistics, ethnography and folklore to demonstrate conclusively that Goddess-worship is at the rool of Western civilization." From the back cover of The Language of the Goddess.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Violence, Disconnection, and Emptiness

Istanbul
We read a lot of press about the dangers of violence in movies, video games, and other mass media that children and young people have access to. We are basically told that one of the reasons that there is so much real violence in the world nowadays is because these same children and young people see too much violence and have come to accept it as normal. Much of this type of opinion was ubiquitous in its expression when such frighteningly wide-spread school violence started coming to the foreground in the mid to late 90’s.

It might be necessary to distinguish between the kind of violence that is stimulated and heightened by religious fervor and conviction, or the kind of violence that has political overtones, as opposed to the kind of violence that almost seems mindless: school murder, drive-by shooting, mugging, rape, etc.

In this latter case, especially if the numbers that so often flash on our TV screens are correct in that they indicate that the incidence of violence among young people is up as compared to previous decades, then I’d like to venture the opinion that there is in actual fact something much more important than watching violent TV movies, or playing violent video games that may be at the root of this.

Not only are our families no longer geographically connected in the way that they used to be, when generations of the same family would live together in one town or city, and interact in meaningful ways, but even that part of our families that continues to live together – perhaps only the parents and the children, or one of the parents and the children – is frequently not very connected for a myriad number of possible reasons. Job-related lack of time is often a big factor, lack of quality time together, is another very important one, as is lack of real communication among the members of this nuclear family, where everyone actually spends time with the other members in such a way that the real self is given a chance to shine clearly.

In our fast-paced world, we are so caught up in our 180-mile-an-hour lives, our multiple activities, our lack of slower time (why do you think so many people are seduced by slower-paced countries for their retirement years?), and our amazingly naïve, even almost cavalier attitude towards not paying attention to spending this quality time together, communicating on levels that we normally don’t even consider, mainly because there just isn’t time, and because we don't stop to consider how very, very important this is.

So what does this have to do with violence? Everything. Lack of connection (see also my April 2007 Newsletter: Losing the Connection: You Still Love Each Other But No Longer Connect) to one another in ways that make us feel alone because we don’t communicate, leads to a frightening sense of emptiness, purposelessness - especially in young people - and that indeed can be the precursor to violence, even if it takes place just to feel something.

What am I suggesting? Simply that we must recognize that the less we are in connection with ourselves, the less we will be in connection with others in our immediate circle, and if these others are members of our family, our spouse, partner, children and grandchildren, then we give those of the next generation little to use to model themselves on; little to focus on for their own inner growth and development, little to learn about the wonderful ways of the world where there does not need to be any violence. For that to happen, however, the inter-connectedness of us all needs to be recognized. You are no different from him, or her, or me. We are all connected (see also an earlier post: Europe and Africa: Quantum Physics and Intertwined Molecules), and if you believe that to be so, then we can not tolerate violence and will not participate in it ourselves.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Dream Symbols 1: Pregnancy and Birth

Photo: Gimp Savvy

Starting today, and about once a week for the foreseeable future, I’ll be publishing a post about dream symbols. If you are interested in good dream books, please visit my website and go to Recommended Books. Once there, click on Dream Books or Symbolism Books, in order to see a good reference list. If you have any questions about the books, email me. You may also listen to a number of audio files from my weekly radio program about dream interpretation and dream symbolism.

Pregnancy or gestation in a dream tends to symbolize the process of something coming into being in the dreamer. The pregnancy could potentially happen to a dreaming male, or a dreaming female, because the symbolism is not that of a biological fetus, but that of something that the dreamer is gestating on another level.

So if the dreamer is pregnant in the dream, potentially whatever it is that is coming into being, is not yet “ready to be born”, i.e. it still needs some work. Thanks to this kind of dream, the dreamer may recognize that some project that he or she is working on might still need some fine-tuning before launching it.

Conversely, the dreamer may only come to realize, thanks to the dream that something is indeed gestating. Sometimes we are so busy “doing”, that we don’t see the big picture, and this kind of dream may help us become aware of that, and consequently we can continue the project in a much more conscious fashion until it is ready to be launched (born).

If the dreamer has an abortion in the dream, or goes to the clinic where the abortion is about to take place, and the dream ends just before the actual abortion, it may signify that the dreamer is on the verge of destroying the project, or whatever it is that he or she is bringing into being. Hence it may be of importance for the dreamer (in real life) to consider what it is that is threatening to come to an end in his or her life, in order to decide whether it is perhaps worth keeping.

If the dreamer gives birth in the dream the symbolism points to something that is actually just coming to life in his or her reality. Perhaps the new born baby in the dream is frail and weak – clearly the project needs careful tending for it to prosper. Perhaps the new born baby cries a great deal, or is robust and joyous…in both instances the symbolism translated to that which has just come into being in the dreamer’s life is clear.

Sometimes the dreamer has adopted a child in the dream that is already some months or even years old. Here the symbolism deals more with a project that the dreamer has taken on once it was already launched, rather than one that he or she actually gestated. It may require another kind of care than one that was gestated by the dreamer.

Dreams of pregnancy and birth are often transformative dreams, in the sense that something of importance is happening in the life of the dreamer, and that this needs to be paid careful attention to. Dreams of this nature may signify moments in the life of the dreamer that offer great hope for the future precisely because of what is gestating or being born.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Expressing All Your Emotions

If you’ve been keeping up with my posts, it may sound as though I am suggesting that you focus only on feeling good, on keeping your energetic vibration or frequency high, and that you ignore or forget about your other, less agreeable emotions.

In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.

Your emotions need careful looking at, careful calibration, and certainly, should not be ignored. If you are angry, this needs to be expressed. If you are sad, or grieving, again, this needs to be expressed. If you are feeling any kind of emotion, an avenue for its expression needs to be found.

But…the expression of your emotion needs to be a healthy one.

So if you are angry, yelling, fighting, or insulting won’t cut it. A healthy expression might be something along the lines of maintaining healthy boundaries (see my article: Do Your Relationship Boundaries Contribute to your Well-Being?), where you could choose to say to the person who has angered you: that is not acceptable to me. Or: your lack of respect (or consideration) for me is not acceptable. Or: I feel that you have not listened to me, not understood me, and I feel that you are totally ignoring my opinions about this matter. This makes me feel insulted (or hurt, or angry, or sad, etc.).

The point being, that as you express your emotions in this way, rather than by fighting, or arguing, or playing the one-upmanship game, you are showing yourself respect for yourself, and thus gain a sense of empowerment.

If the emotions you are feeling are grief or sadness, these must also be expressed. If someone you love is ill, or if you have lost someone you love, or if you have had a loss of another kind, you clearly can not gloss over this, and try to make yourself feel good. You must go through the process of the loss, or the pain. Nevertheless, the healthy personality will find – even in a situation of this nature – something positive to take from it, something to learn from it, something with which inner growth can take place, leading to ever greater inner freedom.

Here is where renowned thinkers or world leaders such as Viktor Frankl (Man's Search For Meaning), or Nelson Mandela (his autobiography), or Alexandr Solzhenitsyn (One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich) can help open your eyes a great deal.

One caveat: if you feel a need to express your negative emotions in such a way so that you can blame another for your feelings or for whatever it is that is happening to you, there is probably something else at work, than “just” your difficult emotions. In all likelihood there is an underlying issue…just the fact that you want to blame can clue you in on that…because no matter what the other has done, you are the one who chooses how to act and react, and you are the one who is responsible for how you feel (yes, you are!) and therein lies your choice for bondage or freedom.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Inauthentic Lives

Karoo National Park, Beaufort West, South Africa
Many well-known and respected speakers refer to people who live inauthentic lives. The sense I get from them, is not that they are criticizing these people, but that they are suggesting that living an inauthentic life may lie at the root of much unhappiness and desperation that is often covered up with sex, eating, drinking, drugs, shopping, non-stop deadening of the senses with television and mass media, an incessant social life, and so on.

Inauthentic is defined as "false, not genuine", and what is false and not genuine about an inauthentic life, is the fact that the person living it is not in connection with his or her true self.

That is to say, this individual is generally living a life that he or she feels should be lived, a life perhaps that the parents expected, or a life that the partner or spouse expects, or simply that this individual feels should be the life to be lived in order to live up to someone else’s expectations. It’s often also a life in which much greater importance and value are given to the outer search for material abundance and social and professional prestige (all of which are very worthwhile aims), than to the inner search for purpose and meaning and for connection to the self and others. (See also my April and May 2006 Newsletters: Losing the Connection and Tending Your Inner Garden).

In an authentic life both the inner and the outer quest are given importance, a balance is sought, and the person soon recognizes that what most motivates him or her, and what most gives satisfying meaning and significance to the lifetime, is something that literally comes from within; something that emanates from the deepest inner self, and which creates a true connection to the self.

Enthusiasm and Depression Can't Live in the Same Place

Photo Credit
Logical, right?

You really didn’t need me to tell you that, right? You already knew that, right?

OK, so then put your knowledge into action. In other words, recognize the importance of your inner vibration or frequency, and recognize that it determines whether blackness, negativity, low moods, and depression enter your space.

What is your vibration or frequency? Isn’t it the energy you have inside of you? Not the energy you need to run a marathon or chop wood, but the energy that determines how good you are feeling. The better you are feeling, the less of a chance there is that you will go down the scale into a grey mood.

Yes, you say, I know that. What I don’t know is how to keep the energy high. (See also an earlier post Keep Energy High! Watch How You Feed Your Brain, Heart, and Spirit.) You keep your energy high, by being vigilant. You know that when you feel you are getting a temperature, you check with a thermometer, and then, if you measure over the norm, you take aspirin, or go to bed, or do something in an attempt to regulate the temperature of your body.

This is exactly the same! You observe yourself at all times, from the point of view of how you are feeling. As soon as you notice you are drifting downwards energetically (your temperature is changing), you make changes in order to keep your energy as high as possible. See also my October 2006 Newsletter: Happiness: Has it Become a Science or is it a Question of Luck?

The changes that you make, will depend on different factors, such as how much experience you have in doing this, where you actually are (physically) when you recognize that you need to regulate your energy (i.e., if you are at work, you probably can’t go out for a run), and what you have at hand.

Here are three small, but very effective methods you can use, think of them as baby steps in your learning process to keep your energy on healthy, high levels:
  • Realize that right here, where you are right now, recognizing that you are on the way down, energetically speaking, and thinking about what is written here, you have a choice. You can choose to continue to go down into what Eckhart Tolle calls the pain body, or you can do something to change that downward spiral.

  • Do some aerobic activity that will raise your endorphins (even 15-20 minutes can work wonders)

  • Make a Happy CD of music containing only songs that fill you with joy (no nostalgia, please)

  • Make a new list of five things (or conditions) you are grateful for in your life.

There is much, much more to be said about this subject. But this is a start.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Motivate Yourself!

Table Mountain, Cape Town, as seen from Robben Island
What drives you? How do you get yourself revved up? How do you start a task that may seem daunting and long, that almost defeats you just by thinking about it? Where do you find the inner energy to get going on something in order to accomplish something else that hinges on you doing the first thing?

The true answer to all of the above lies in the middle of the last sentence – accomplish something else - is the key to motivation. In other words, when there is something to be done it typically is being done for something else to be accomplished. There is a bigger picture that needs to be kept in mind at all times! Here are some common examples:

  • Sitting down to write a daily number of pages, in order to have a complete manuscript after the course of a year, in order to sell it to a publisher in order to have a book out on the market
  • Going to the gym every morning in order to have a toned body
  • Sketching something every day in order to perfect your skills as an artist, in order to have the chance to have an art exhibition
  • Regularly writing vocabulary of a foreign language that you do not yet fully understand into a notebook, along with the definitions, as you read a book or magazine in that language, in order to be able to speak it in due time
  • Practicing the piano every day in order to be able to become a concert pianist
  • Cooking a healthy meal (as opposed to ordering out for fast food) in order to have a healthy body, in order to have a slim body
  • Practicing tennis twice a week in order to become a good player
  • Taking photographs on a regular basis, along with reading about techniques, in order to become an excellent photographer
  • Building a website bit by bit, day by day, in order to have a comprehensive website to suit your particular requirements in order to attract clients towards your products or services in order to have a successful business
  • Organizing clutter in a closet in order to have a “peaceful” room and home
  • Mopping the floor in order to have a clean kitchen

You will have noticed that the first part of each of the examples above has to do with the more onerous aspect of something, and the latter part of each of the examples has to do with the accomplishment of some challenge, dream, or goal.

The goal is where you find the motivation, but in order for that to work, the thought of that goal already being a reality in your life must create some excitement in you. Obviously the kind of excitement a clean kitchen or organized room or house can generate is quite different in quality from the kind of excitement having your book published will generate, or the kind of excitement you may find in thinking about having a toned body, or a successful business. However, each of these goals has it in them – if you are interested in achieving them – to generate a strong sense of motivation in you.

Imagine how it would be if you had already accomplished whatever it is you are after – no matter how small and insignificant it may seem – or how huge and impossible it may seem. Simply imagine the results as if they had already been attained, and how you would feel if that were the case. Generate the feelings you would have if that were so. Connect to the part of you that wants this, and hence, that feels excitement about this. Generally this will bring a sensation of excitement into your solar plexus, or your heart will pound more rapidly. Again, some goals will create much more excitement than others, but in order to find the motivation, you need to find the excitement related to that goal.

Because this is so important, it is in fact better to begin with larger, major goals, that truly generate excitement in you (read also my June 2006 Newsletter Finding a Meaning for Your Life) in order to better understand the process of how to find these goals. Once you have connected to the type of excitement I am referring to (which literally means connecting to yourself), you will find it much easier to connect to the same excitement for smaller, less apparently important goals. And there you can find motivation. Go for it.

On the State of Being a Woman

Gothic Cathedral, Barcelona. Photo Credit
Having recently read a novel (yes, I read those too) about medieval Barcelona in the midst of the Inquisition (a Spanish book called La Catedral del Mar), I was struck by my horror about the plight of women (even noble women, and women of wealthy familes) and feudal subjects. Obviously none of it was new to me, but I rarely read books about that particular historical period…I find it repugnant…more so because I assume I would most certainly have been burned at the stake in those years…and it also makes me hugely impatient with the terrifyingly closed and loathsome mentality of the Europe of that era.

When we compare the sordid squalor and dirt of a frighteningly narrrow-minded medieval Europe to the pristine baths and saunas of pre-Christian Roman towns, such as Baelo Claudia mentioned in my April 29, 2007 post or life in Greece and Macedonia, Egypt, and Arabian cultures, one can not help but ask how it was possible for medieval Europe as such to have slid into a downward spiral of such magnitude…and I refer not only to hygiene, of course, but also to discourse, investigation, and parameters of intelligent thought.

At any rate, the book describes in vivid detail many dreadful aspects of the absolute dependence and subservience of the female of the species to men, as well as the absolute dependence and subservience of the feudal subject to his lord and liege. Unless such a woman (especially those that had no access via their families to any of the ill-distributed wealth) or feudal subject had a very strong and what we would now call proactive character, which would have helped them possibly find some small ways of better dealing with their plight, their lives would have consisted of utter poverty, misery, and submissiveness. I am almost tempted to compare their lives with those of the modern Chinese women I discussed in the May 17 post Freedom, Chinese Women, and Suicide who in their desperation to leave untenable lifestyles, choose suicide.

How far we have come in our First World countries of the West! Not just women and equality, not just freedom for all rather than feudalism and forced allegiance to a feudal lord, not just produce and merchandise-laden stores, rather than eking out a miserable existence on barren land, not just education and job possibilities for all, not just freedom of religious thought, not just the pill to prevent unwanted pregnancies, and sexual freedom for those who wish it, not just modern medicine rather than the butchery we’ve all witnessed often enough via the imagination of modern movie producers – more than all of this, where we may have taken the greatest strides, is in the possibility for us to gain - to achieve - our inner freedom and growth as individuals and human beings, rather than to be products of mass thought and action…here is where we most differ from our medieval cousins. Our possibilities are endless, the sky truly is the limit, and only we ourselves stand in our own way of however far we wish to go.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Love is Love

Sundance
The death of a pet can be as devastating as the death of a beloved human being. I know that for many to express such a sentiment can sound sacrilegious. How can we compare a human being…a parent, a child, a partner or spouse, a sibling with a mere animal?

You know how?

Because love is love. The quality of the feeling is the same.

That doesn’t mean that if you had to choose between a human being and the animal…you are in the middle of a hurricane and can only save one…well, let’s assume you would choose the human being. But the feelings that one has inside for the pet are composed of loving feelings.

And love is love.

How does this love vary from other types of love? In what way is it different? Here’s one: we tend to be less critical, less judgmental, more accepting, more unconditional with our pets. And look how they love us: it matters not if we just woke up with our hair wild in our face, unshaven, no make up, and bleary-eyed, or whether we have just come home after spending hours out; they are ok with any TV program we decide on, and they love us whether we earn a pittance or have a yacht berthed at the marina.

Love is love. When we lose them, we miss them, our pain is immeasurable. And when we love them, our joy is also immeasurable.

Love is love. Cherish it…in whatever form it shows up in your life.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Freedom, Chinese Women and Suicide

The Great Wall of China. Photo Credit

The press and the major network news have been carrying stories recently about the high index of suicide in Chinese women, particularly rural Chinese women.
According to an article in the Washington Post on May 15, 2007, “the suicide rate for women in China is 25 percent higher than for men, and the rural rate is three times the urban rate. In Western countries, men are at least twice as likely and sometimes four times as likely as women to commit suicide, studies show. But in China, being young, from the countryside and female is an especially lethal combination.

Because the women who commit suicide are almost exclusively poor, their desperation is a reminder of the social inequalities that plague China and the difficulties hindering government efforts to raise rural standards of living. Despite the fast-paced modernization of cities, women in the countryside have been left to face what they consider insurmountable obstacles, often stemming from the traditional view that wives play a subservient role in the household.

"They're unprepared for the great shock of the life, such as family conflict and the fast-changing social environment," said Xiao Jing, a researcher with a group in Hunan province that works to prevent suicide among young rural women. "Most women who commit suicide have a poor education, earn very little and are strongly influenced by traditional thoughts of the old China."

Overall, the suicide rate in China is comparatively high. An estimated 287,000 Chinese kill themselves each year, a rate of 23 people per 100,000, more than double the U.S. rate, according to a study by the Beijing Suicide Research and Prevention Center, part of Huilongguan Hospital in the capital. The rate has remained relatively stable for years, but researchers say they are now seeing more impulsive cases, like Zhao's, as well as cases in which increasingly younger women are attempting suicide.

In its 2002 study, the suicide prevention center found that young women who had attempted to kill themselves had on average only five years of schooling and lived in households with a median per-capita income of only $13 a month, lower than the national average. Most reported being unhappily married, more than 42 percent mentioned financial problems, and more than 38 percent said their husbands had beaten them. "The most outstanding factor is the predominance of family conflict as a cause of attempted suicide," the study said.

"Before, it was 30- to 50-year-olds. Now it's 15 to 34," said Xu Rong, project officer with a Beijing nonprofit group that assists rural women. "Whenever their dreams and reality don't match, if they can't solve their problems, they attempt suicide."

How easy for us to think that the disparity between China and the West with regard to suicide rates boils down to contrasting conditions, to academic and socio-economic factors, all quantifiable, all understandable, all reassuring. Thank God it's not like that here...

But let's look at it more closely. Is it not true that democracy allows those of us privileged to have been born in the west, in first world economies, in particular after WWII, to have freedom of thought? To have lived all our lives in countries that allow us access to psychological and academic and professional mechanisms to walk in new directions, and to think out of the box, when "dreams and reality don't match". To have the freedom, not only societal, but also practical, to follow our bliss, as Joseph Campbell would have put it.

How much is that worth? How rich are we? How lucky are we? Let us not become complacent. Let us not forget.

Conscious Healing

Xcaret (Cancun), Mexico. Photo by IAC
The diagnosis of a potentially life-threatening illness is possibly one of the scariest things that can happen to a human being. When you first hear (or read) it, you may feel yourself suffused with panic. Conversely, logic and reason may take over, you remove yourself from your feelings and look at the whole thing logically, analyzing the best steps to take, educating yourself about the chances this or that treatment will give you, and thus deal with it that way.

Let’s look more closely at the panic feelings: if you let them take you over, you are evidently not helping yourself. You may give in to them for a period of time, but at some point, something else happens. Depending on other factors, on decisions you and your doctors take regarding treatment, your social support network, possibly even aspects such as your financial situation and the extent of your health coverage, you may now take one of several paths. You may become more and more depressed or despondent. You may lean heavily on your social support network for courage. You may spend major portions of your time discussing your condition with anyone who listens, essentially increasing the negative feelings you have about your situation, frequently creating a greater level of fear in yourself, despite well-meaning comments from family and friends. You may work alongside your medical team to do the utmost to get better. You may become very proactive about your process.

So here’s where conscious healing comes into the process. Conscious healing speaks to the fact that you decide to take your healing into your own hands. Obviously if you need surgery or other forms of treatment, you can’t do that yourself, but taking your healing into your own hands means that in many ways you recognize that your self-awareness of your states of mind and above all, your feelings, at all times during the process of your illness will make a potentially immeasurable difference to the outcome.

And so you take measures to bring yourself to an inner place – whether by meditation, prayer, visualization, yoga, relaxation techniques, support groups, bodywork, putting attention on how you feed – not only your body, but also your heart and spirit (see also my April 2007 post about this topic), among many others too numerous to mention. You put energy into keeping your energetic vibration high, because you realize – in this state of self-awareness – that the higher your energetic vibration is, the harder it is for negativity to find a place in you. And so you become conscious of yourself in the healing process, conscious of your own highly important role in it, and conscious of the fact that your energy – on all levels – dictates so much else in you.

See also Getting Well Again, a bestselling classic about healing.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Never Let Love Walk Past You

Photo Credit
This post is dedicated to all those people who have seen love walk into their life and who are considering letting it walk by them. All those people who have had the good fortune to know love, but who are contemplating not getting properly acquainted. All those people who don’t realize that love may happen more than once in a lifetime, but it is not a commodity that should be squandered or blithely thrown away.

Grab the brass ring when it appears. Love simply is not something you can count on happening at any particular time. It will happen, when it happens, and how it happens, quite out of your control. It may happen only once in a lifetime or it may happen a dozen times. When it appears, don't let it pass you by.

Some of the reasons we give ourselves for allowing love to escape us when it shows up in our lives, have to do with our left brain, with our rational, logical self, that cautions us, that reminds us that perhaps this person is not quite what we had thought would be right for us, or that it makes little sense because of the difference in backgrounds, or because we both live in different countries, or because one of the two already has children from a previous marriage, and so on.

But love is so precious. You may believe you will easily fall in love with another person, and you might, but perhaps the other person will not fall in love with you. Or vice versa, someone else may love you, but you don’t feel love for that person. And in the meantime, you have allowed love to pass you by because your rational, objective, logical mind has led you to take that decision.

In this blog I’ve written about the second and third brain and on my website the May 2006 Newsletter also refers to it: Introducing Our Second and Third Brains: We Do Think With Our Heart and Instinct.

This second and third brain have to do with those billions of neural cells that scientists have now discovered to also be located in our heart and gut (feelings and instincts), and that have been shown to contribute to our intelligence-gathering process in at least as great a measure, as those neural cells located in our brain, if not more. So it stands to reason that in questions of love, we should also allow these parts of our being come into play when we take decisions.

Let me repeat: love is so precious. Don’t let it walk past you. When it appears in your life, grab on to it. Hold it. Treasure it. You don’t have any guarantees that it will last forever. That is the terrain of fairy tales and religious institutionalized words until death do you part. The reality is that it may be short-lived or last an entire lifetime. The only guarantee we have is that it is one of the most wonderful things that can happen to a human being. And it happens for many reasons. My next newsletter (June 2007: The Mirror of Relationships) will discuss this topic at length.

Butterflies & Symbolism

Photo Credit
Such ethereal creatures…I think it was Wayne Dyer who said in one of his CD collections that when a butterfly alights on you, it is because you have connected with the energetic world in a special way.

Taking it a step further, when you dream of a butterfly, or when one appears in your life in a serendipitous fashion, it may actually be synchronistic, as Jung called it, meaning by synchronicity not coincidence, but the coming together of two separate events that together have a meaning.

Hence, if a butter fly were to appear in front of you on a day on which you begin therapy, and furthermore, if it were to appear in a place where you would normally not expect such a creature to be, then you might safely assume that it was indeed a serendipitous event to which we might give all manner of symbolic meaning.

It is a magnificent symbol, found in many cultures and mythologies, and often referred to in analytical psychology.

Symbolically, and traditionally, the butterfly – due to its origin as a caterpillar, evolution to a cocoon, and final transfiguration into a butterfly - speaks to us of transformation; of the very process of evolution, and of course, when we associate it with therapy or dreams, art, literature, etc. it is speaking of your growth as an individual, of your growth as a being-in-relationship with other beings, and of the evolution of your soul.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Scars

Photo Credit

Our scars have the power to remind us of who we were. Re-watching a brief section of Red Dragon, the original Hannibal Lecter movie (yes, I like those movies too), Anthony Hopkins pronounced that sentence, and I was reminded of the symbolic meaning of scars.
Who doesn’t have scars? Whose body – other than a baby’s - is unblemished? Who can say they’ve lived a life that left no scars on the psyche, the heart, the soul? Although Lecter/Hopkins was referring to the scars Edward Norton's character had accumulated - on many different levels - by the end of the movie, the sentence obviously applies to the Joseph Fiennes character as well, so brutally scarred by his horrendous childhood experiences.

But what, in actual fact, is a scar? It’s a mark left somewhere after a wound has been inflicted. So scarring implies wounding, and wounding implies pain. And when we look at our physical scars, we are reminded of an event that took place at some point in the past that caused the scar to form. But many physical scars neither continue to cause us pain, nor do they cause us to engage in painful memories just by looking at them. There is one thing however. The skin where the scar is visible is no longer unblemished. Something has changed in its appearance. Hence the scar.

Our emotional, psychological, or spiritual scars are somewhat different. We can’t see them just by looking for them. Sometimes the only way we know they are there is by the absence of something. For instance, people who have little contact to their emotions, are deeply scarred. We can’t see puckered skin. But we can see the consequences of the wounding…the dysfunction in the emotional expression. Such a scar might be likened to the scar an amputation of a limb leaves. A prosthesis can be purchased. The body can learn how to use it, and a nearly normal range of movement can once again be established. With emotional scarring this is also possible…as long as the person who becomes aware of his or her scarring by the absence of something else, is willing to learn to use the prosthesis in order to regain a normal range of movement…in this case…is willing to learn how to connect to the emotions again, in order to regain a normal range of feeling.

Is this frightening? Not a doubt! Does it require courage to embark upon such an undertaking? Not a doubt! Is it easy? Absolutely not! Does it require practice and constancy? Unquestionably! Is awareness of the self a pre-requisite? Yes! Will it offer inner freedom and growth? Absolutely yes!

Is life without it possible? Of course. But the range of movement will be so limited that the person so scarred will appear to be a cripple.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Remember To Laugh!

Photo Credits
So much serious stuff all the time. Find a meaning in your life..seek inner growth...watch for your inner freedom...don't wallow in relationship pain...and on and on.

But all the time what is truly so very important is that we remember to laugh. And that doesn't just mean laugh as in hearing a funny joke, or as in watching a comedy, or laugh as in seeing a funny video of your relatives at a party, but laugh as in find the laughter inside of you, even when on the outside it doesn't look so great.

You've probably heard all the same stories the rest of us have, about Patch Adams (played by Robin Williams in the movie by the same name), the doctor who invented laughter therapy, and about Norman Cousins, the man who realized that he was able to temporarily alleviate his pain by watching comedies. These people have shown the world that illness and pain, depression and other ailments can be ameliorated by laughter.

Laugh therapy has begun to become quite prevalent the world over...private practices such as mine, group sessions, weekend retreats, etc., have sprung up ubiquitously in order to show people the benefits of laughter.

Blood flow, immune response, blood sugar levels, all appear to improve with laughter. While the jury is still out on a definitive answer, it does appear that we should not ignore the potential of laughter in our lives, not to mention how good it makes you feel to have a belly laugh.

So back to the inner laughter. The laughter that we should work on finding despite outer worries, concerns, and pain or disappointment. Use your emotions as a barometer (see my article about this subject) in order to raise your energy. Use your emotions to help you realize when you need to find your inner laughter. Begin to practice this on a daily basis in order to bring your life to other levels of joy and satisfaction. Your inner laughter is not only capable of keeping you healthy, but also capable of keeping you in a place of much greater and more constant joy than the way you possibly live now.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Europe and Africa: Quantum Physics and Intertwined Molecules

Morocco (Africa) as seen from Tarifa in Spain. Photos by WD
Hard to imagine that we are so close to one another. Look closely at these photographs. They were taken from the town of Tarifa in southern Spain, looking across towards Tangiers in Africa, on the other shore.

Take in the Atlas mountains on the African side and realize just how close such two enormous continents lie to one another.

We in the Northern Hemisphere, like to think of ourselves as the developed, First World, and often refer to many countries in Africa as being members of the Third World, or as part of the underdeveloped countries.

And of course, it's true that our GNP and the level of our economy in this so-called First World is much higher than many of those African nations.

We don't think of ourselves as neighbours in the true sense of the word, despite our geographical proximity, because of the enormous disparity in our earning power.

Does the Wall Street executive in his Armani suit and shiny John Lobb's, really think that the guy who's selling pretzels out of the cart could be his neighbour in the metaphysical sense of the word?

Does the Parisian hostess driving her Mercedes to the Rue du Faubourg St. Honoré for some light shopping at Louis Vuitton consider that the nanny taking her young charges to the park could be her neighbour in the metaphysical sense of the word?

And just because they do not, does this make them villains? Of course not.

But today, and the vision of these two vast continents in photos taken during my visit there yesterday, cause me to consider these questions, and ask myself: should we not always consider this proximity of ours with all our neighbours? With all those people who surround us? Is it not true that we are all one - as unimaginable (and unappetizing) as this may - at first glance - appear to many of us? Mother Theresa certainly had no problem with this.

And you know, recent findings in quantum physics give us the answer to this dilemma once again. We (human beings) are all physically connected. The molecules in each of our bodies are intertwined with the molecules of the bodies of all the rest of us. Energy is all inter-related. Armani suit and pretzel vendor; Parisian hostess and lowly nanny; Europe and Africa...check out Lynne McTaggart's The Intention Experiment: Using Your Thoughts to Change Your Life and the World, or Gregg Braden's The Divine Matrix: Bridging Time, Space, Miracles, and Belief.

So what's it all boil down to?

So simple really...we are all neighbours. Truly.