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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, March 31, 2011

My Wealth Does Not Embarrass Me

As spring enters the year with blossoms and brilliant sunshine and people enjoying the beach again (well, I do live in southern Spain...), I contemplate my life. A friend recently wrote to say what an awful year this has been for him, and for so many due to the recession, due to numerous other factors, both global and personal ... but mainly outer factors. The comment stopped me in my tracks, because I feel quite the opposite. It's been a year filled with infinite richness, with growth, insights, joy, happiness, excitement, successes, and fascination. Another friend wrote to say she was sorry I had not been having a good beginning to this year due to some logistical delays, but my immediate reaction was that it has been an excellent year so far, notwithstanding these delays, because of the richness of my inner life that translates itself to the outside, and more specifically, to how I view what is going on on the outside.

I am so rich. Wealthy in ways that at other times of my life might have embarrassed me. At least to talk about it.

I am rich in love. Rich in family. Rich in friends. Rich in inner choices. Rich in horizons, both near and far that keep me in a state of emotional, psychological, and intellectual stimulation. Rich in connection with my innermost self that keeps me in a state of spiritual stimulation.

It is perhaps the latter point that I find the most important one. And it is also that point that, when it is missing, when an individual is not yet paying homage to the self, to the jewel within, to the divine within, causes the greatest amount of disconnection, fear, and lack of happiness and satisfaction with life.

Photo: Giardino di Boboli, Firenze, Italia

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Nothing is Good or Ill

For years I've been collecting quotations that mean something to me, and it has always struck my fancy that great thinkers said exactly the same thing about the concept that can be resumed in these words: you are what you think.


This is so simple, it's been said throughout the millennia, and yet we seem to find it so difficult to adhere to.

Why?

At first glance, we might say that we find it difficult because it requires effort, but at second glance I would say that another reason has more to do with the fact that we tend to buy into the mindset that has us believing that our salvation lies outside ourselves, when, of course, as I so often discuss here and in my newsletter and website, our salvation, our inner peace and freedom, lie totally within ourselves.

And hence the difficulty. We look and look and search, going on life-long quests, expecting to find it out there, the god of success will save us, the god of prestige will save us, the god of physical beauty will save us, the god of consumerism will save us, the god of academia and the intellectual life will save us, the god of spirituality and om-ing will save us, the god of ecological awareness will save us, and then, sometimes, if we are lucky, we finally do realize that all those things can make a difference to our lives but since they don't save us, we have to look elsewhere, and only then do we start the inner search.

Some of those collected quotes about the topic are here:

Marcus Aurelius
If you are distressd by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself but to your own estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.

Samuel Butler
Not only is nothing good or ill but thinking makes it so, but nothing is at all, except in so far as thinking has made it so.

Joseph Campbell
That's what known as Hermetic Gnosticism - bodhi in Sanskrit. Change the perspective of your eyes, and you see the whole world before you now is radiant.


Epictetus
We are not troubled by things, but by the opinions we have of things.

Seneca
A man who suffers before it is necessary, suffers more than is necessary.

Albert Schweitzer
The greatest discovery of any generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind.

Richard Bach
Break the chains of your thinking and you will break the chains of your body.

The Buddha
All that we are is the result of what we have thought.

Deepak Chopra
The rishis said that life is built up by your participation in it. Nothing is good or bad, hard or soft, painful or pleasant, except as you live it.

Ralph Waldo Emerson
Nothing can bring you peace but yourself.

James Allen
As a man thinketh, so is he.

Elizabeth Haich"...my doubts are weakening me, paralyzing me. But doubt is a thought. So I must conquer my thoughts in order to master doubt."

Jon Kabat-Zinn
If you want the future to be different, it's the quality of this moment that needs tending and attention.

Ruby Nelson
The only person you are responsible for changing is yourself.

Louise L. Hay
It's only a thought and a thought can be changed.

Diane K. Osbon
We cannot cure the world of sorrows, but we can choose to live in joy.


Photo: Zakynthos, Greece

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

How About Changing?

We all wish the world could be a better place. We all look at the constant barrage of tragedy and horror served to us with breakfast on our television screens. We see the economic crisis swamp us with worry and stress, spiralling into a recession that has already been acknowledged by major government spokesmen as a fait accompli and no longer something that might be hovering on the horizon.

We hear about the daily global numbers of children dying of hunger, millions of people dying of AIDS, dying of malaria, and we see the constant bloodshed. Ethnic cleansing, suicide bombers - there seems to be no end to it.

We turn off the news, sickened, or disgusted, or heart-broken, and mainly horrified that we seem so helpless to make a difference.

So we turn to our daily lives, and suddenly we face the banality of keeping up with the joneses, we realize we are throwing out perfectly good food in the trash, we realize our SUV guzzles gas, we realize our children are beginning to show inordinate interest in consumerism, we realize we spend more on one meal at a good restaurant than many people have to live on for an entire month or more, we face worrying about the dictates of this season's fashions according to an outrageously expensive glossy magazine, and we recognize that we have the beginnings of a conscience that is not feeling good, a conscience that is telling us we need to do something.

And so to assuage it, to make ourselves feel better, we send a check to one of the charities, or we sponsor a child in a country where our money stretches fifty-fold, or we do some volunteer work, or donate some of our time to a soup kitchen, and then - to further assuage that guilty conscience, we check in on the lives of people outside of our own orbit, who live on a distant edge of the universe as they travel in private jets, luxury yachts, vacation more than they work, and spend $8,000 for an evening bag, or $300,000 for a car and twenty million dollars for a new home.

Let's go back to the initial premise ... a world gone awry ... a world that needs to change to become better ...

So how about this: change yourself. Begin there. That would be the example you can give to those whose lives you touch, and sooner or later some of those will also begin their own process of change, and the ripple effect will continue and snowball geometrically. Just like network marketing or pyramid schemes, except that in this case there really is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

If all of us do our part, if all of us were to work on becoming better human beings, not just by spending more on charity, or giving more at church, or re-cycling and becoming more ecologically aware, or doing more volunteer work, or helping to raise more funds for yet more sick and hungry children, but by doing more to really work on ourselves so that we, as human beings, recognize that all of us here on this planet are truly one. All the afore-mentioned work is good, but it is simply not enough, and it has never been enough in order to substantially change the order of the world. We can not let another die of hunger, or disease, or bloodshed, nor can we allow that children in countries that are off our immediate horizons are raised without education. If we are truly all one, we have to work on all the parts in ourselves that do not believe that, and that perhaps do not want it to be true.


All of us need to look deep inside ourselves. This world will only change if we all begin that change by changing ourselves.

Gandhi said: You must be the change you want to see in the world.

Photo: Chichen Itzá, Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico

Monday, March 28, 2011

Are You Living the Life You Want To Live

What choices are you making? What has your life brought you to this point? What can you do to move closer to the life you want to live?

Listen to my Youtube presentation about this topic:

Part I (9 minutes)



Part II (10 minutes)



Part III (10 minutes)



Part IV (2 minutes)



Subscribe to my YouTube Channel here

Previous Shows I have broadcast that are now available via YouTube:

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Looking For Solutions

Think about how you feel when you are looking for solutions. In other words, what you are doing is finding yourself in a process where you are focusing on moving towards a solution. You feel hopeful, you feel curious, you feel that you are in a forward moving frame of mind. You may even feel positive precisely because you are working on a solution.

Now what happens when you are looking at a problem? You may feel negative. You may feel hopeless. You find yourself in a process where you are focusing going around and around and on and on about something negative.

Essentially both scenarios arise from the same situation, but in one you are focusing on it in a way that promotes positive emotions ... seeking a solution ... and in the other you are focusing on it in a way that promotes negative emotions ... looking at a problem ...

Be aware of how you focus - not only in this, but in all else. By choosing how you focus, by having the clear intention that you will choose the path that promotes your inner well-being, you choose your energy. And the quality of your energy can totally change the landscape of your life.

Photo: Hai Island, Thailand

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Best Thing About Falling in Love

I need to warn you: I'm making a great distinction between falling in love and loving.

In the former case you fall in love with that which fills your needs. You love someone because you receive something you need from them. Not necessarily something material, as much as an inner need they are fulfilling for you because you have not yet learned how to fulfill it for yourself. You may not even be aware of the fact that that is something you should be doing. And as long as that is so, you will depend on the other person remaining the way they are just at the moment you fall in love, in order to feel good. Your well-being will depend, to a large degree, on that factor, which means, of course, that you will never be independent.

In the latter case you love whether you receive or not. You do not need. You simply love without expectation. Rather a tall order. Much of beauty has been written about this latter kind of love by Gary Zukav (The Seat of the Soul, see the chapter on Spiritual Partnership), Eckhart Tolle (The Power of Now, see Chapter 8 on relationships, or his DVD Touching the Eternal), and Neale Diamond Walsch (in particular, Conversations with God, Volume I, go to the Index and look for entries under relationships and marriage), Erich Fromm (The Art of Loving, read the whole book).

In the latter case, because you do not need, because you love without expectation, you will never be dependent, and you will always be free. And this doesn't mean, by the way, that you accept anything just because you have no expectations. On the contrary, because you are free of boundary issues, self esteem issues, and neediness issues, you find it very easy to speak up in healthy ways about anything that you find unacceptable.

So if loving is so good, and the way I am making it sound, falling in love is something of a far inferior quality, then what is the best thing about falling in love?

It's this: it takes you - if you let it - down the road towards the other kind of love. The falling in love kind of love, takes you to a place of learning and growth because of the deep frustration and pain it generally brings along with it - at least after a while.

So falling in love leads to frustration and pain and that leads you to growth. And growth, in turn, leads you - eventually - not only to inner freedom, but particularly, to the recognition that as long as you need, as long as you depend on another to fulfill your needs, you will never love in the true sense of the word.

Why should we love because we need?

Is there anything mature and adult about that kind of sentiment? Where else can it lead us other than to - eventual - frustration and pain?

So to fall in love and go through this process is excellent. Because the place we come out at the other end of the tunnel is indeed worth its weight in gold. To love without needing is the priceless gift we can receive from having fallen in love and having chosen to use the challenges it evokes to further out growth, rather than to take the simple way out and blame the other for now no longer fulfilling our needs, or no longer making us happy. To love without needing is the priceless gift we can receive from having fallen in love.

Photo: Central Park, New York City

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Introducing Our Second and Third Brains: We Do Think With Our Heart and Instinct

Neuro-scientists have finally done it! They have demonstrated that we have a brain in our heart and another in our intestines. What we have in each of these, in actual fact, is an extensive mass of neurons that behave in a fashion similar to the neurons contained in the brain, and that appear to function at mega-speeds, often much greater than those of our cerebral neurons.

The Second Brain

The second brain consists of about 100 billion nerve cells in the digestive tract – a greater number than those in the spinal cord. Professor W. Prinz of the Max Planck Institute for Psychological Research in Munich indicated to Geo Magazine that it is possible that unconscious decisions may be taken by the stomach network, which are later claimed by the main brain as conscious decisions of its own.

This second brain was brought to light by neuro-biologist Michael Gershon of New York’s Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, author of The Second Brain. When asked if the brain in our heads influences our second brain, he replied that it does, and that we get butterflies in the stomach when the brain sends a message of anxiety to the gut. This, in turn, sends messages back to the brain that it is not happy. However – and this is perhaps the most riveting part of it – the brain in the gut can also work in isolation.

The Third Brain

With his revolutionary research the University of Montreal’s pioneer neurocardiologist Dr. J. Andrew Armour first introduced the concept of a functional heart brain in the 1990’s. This brain in the heart – just as the brain in the digestive tract – may also act independently of the brain in the head. The size of this brain, according to Boulder Creek, California’s Institute of HeartMath, is as great as a number of the principle areas of the brain in the head. Studies discussed in Brain and Values, have shown that the consistency of the rhythm found in the heart brain is capable of changing – sometimes in spectacular fashion - how effectively the thinking brain functions. In theory that means that what occurs on a feeling level, has the capacity to deeply influence what occurs on a thinking level.

In The Heartmath Solution, co-authored by Doc Childre and H. Martin, an in-depth look is taken at the heart and its association with the mind and body. This contributes to the newly emerging view of the heart as a complex, self-organized system that maintains a continuous two-way dialogue with the brain and the rest of the body. Research available at the Heartmath website and published in major medical journals demonstrates that the heart has a significant influence on the function of our brains and all our bodily systems.

What This Implies

Imagine the implications of this! Those who live by “their instinct”, or who “listen” to their gut, or who make decisions based on what their heart tells them rather than their logical brain, now know that although that may not necessarily always be the right way to go, but that this clearly shows that in order to make decisions based on all of their knowledge, they should apply not only that which their logical brain tells them, but also what their feeling brain (heart), and their instinctive brain (gut) have given them to understand.

Cutting-Edge Research

Keeping up with cutting edge research is a fascinating thing because it means that you are able to discover what is happening in that intriguing world of avant-garde thought and progress long before any of this hits the main stream press. It means that you can begin to apply the information contained therein long before everyone else is talking about it…and of course the only reason that is important, is because it might make such an enormous difference to the quality of your life…sometimes just because it changes the way you think about things.

Concurrence in El Pais and Der Spiegel

A 2006 article by Alex Celma in the weekend supplement of the Spanish daily El Pais referred to the value of tenderness, not just in the sense of tenderness in relationships, but in the sense of how tenderness can be implicit in thinking actions, and make a difference in decisions taken. A few weeks later, an article in the German weekly Der Spiegel referred to the fact that more and more researchers, psychologists, neuroscientists, and even philosophers, are paying record amounts of attention to the study of intuition, some of whom have gone so far as to state that human intuition is much sharper and stronger than reason.

Aristoteles and Albert Einstein Knew

Even Albert Einstein stated that “the intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.” Clearly he recognized the priceless value of intuition over reason, while simultaneously expressing that reason evidently plays an important role, further saying: “the only really valuable thing is intuition.” Concurring with Aristoteles who said “intuition is the source of scientific knowledge”, Einstein also stated, “I believe in intuition and inspiration; at times I feel certain I am right while not knowing the reason.”

Antonio Damasio: “I Feel, Therefore I Am”

Antonio Damasio, the widely-recognized Iowa University based Portuguese neuro-scientist and author of the highly-acclaimed Looking for Spinoza: Joy, Sorrow, and the Feeling Brain, has demonstrated, based on his extensive experience and studies with neurological patients, that every decision an individual makes needs an emotional impulse, because human beings can not act based purely on reason. In his earlier book Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain, Damasio insists that the renowned philosopher’s axiom: I think, therefore I am, is a mistake, and that it should read: I feel, therefore I am, which became the motivational slogan of Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence.
Cooper and The Other 90%

Robert K. Cooper, author of The Other 90%: How To Unlock Your Vast Untapped Potential For Leadership & Life, writes that many people have learned not to pay attention to the butterflies in the stomach (gut), and what the heart is feeling because that way it is so much easier to let the head lead the way, thus trampling over possibly better choices that might put all of their different sources of intelligence to use.

Paying Attention to All Our Brains

As a society we have very much undermined and sabotaged the knowing we receive from our feelings and our intuition. Even when we are wont to give such knowing value, due to consistent and damaging connotations connected to feelings and intuition, we often hesitate to even give them any consideration at all when they arise in us. Therefore, research such as that described in this article is very encouraging, because it may persuade many who might not otherwise do so, to pay greater attention to such knowing, and to begin to use it in their daily lives.

Photo: Canadian Rockies
 
Note: this article has appeared previously in a number of publications, as well as in my monthly newsletter

Monday, March 21, 2011

Emotions: Your Road to Freedom

Using your emotions as a gauge, in the same way you would use your temperature as a gauge to decide whether you need medication or to see a doctor, can help you move a long way towards well-being and freedom in your life. All you have to learn how to do is to maintain your energetic state, i.e., you emotions, in a place of well-being by choosing to focus on that which is good for you, rather than on that which is not, on that which raises your inner energy, as opposed to that which is not. Not by pretending that the negative thing does not exist, but by deliberately choosing to focus elesewhere.

Listen to my Youtube presentation about this topic:

Part 1 (9 minutes)


Part 2 (10 minutes)


Part 3 (8 minutes)


Part 4 (2 minutes)

Friday, March 18, 2011

Attitude, Well-Being & Health

We know how important our attitude can be for the ultimate outcomes of our health and well-being, but I wanted to point out some empirical evidence.

Dr. Norm Shealy states in the excellent audio CD program he produced with Caroline Myss The Science of Medical Intuition: Self-Diagnosis and Healing with Your Body's Energy Systems that early childhood difficulties and life trauma may produce noxious attitudes and belief systems, but these can be changed.

Shealy makes reference to several physicians and psychologists who have studied the effect of mood, attitude and belief systems - whether prouced by childhood situations or adult behavior and events - upon illness, and I include a few others as well:
  • Dr. Caroline Thomas (Johns Hopkins) began a long-term study of Johns Hopkins medical students in 1946 who were regularly followed throughout their lives. Shealy points out that within 20 years she was seeing that some people came in with psychological traits that would create diseases later on in their lives. In retrospect she could see who would tend to develop heart disease, cancer, and who might tend to commit suicide or die in old age of natural causes. Thomas eventually published several books from this study, showing the influence of personality and daily habits as factors in the prediction of heart disease, suicide, cancer, and longevity. Read more here
  • Dr. David Graham (University of Wisconsin), an early trailblazer of psychophysiology (a field of study which focuses on the mind-body interface, and which was the precursor for what we now call psychoneuroimmunology or PNI) was a pioneer in the development of psychosomatic medicine whose research demonstrated a relationship between particular diseases and associated attitudes toward life events.
  • A case in point is the well-known story told by Norman Cousins in his book Anatomy of an Illness as Perceived by the Patient: Reflections on Healing and Regeneration about fighting his cancer and putting himself into a positive mood when thinking about his disease. He watched movies that would make him laugh and cured himself.
  • Hans Eysenck, an influential psychologist in the field of theories of personality, referred to persons who regarded happiness as coming from an internal source, rather than the external circumstances as autonomous.
  • Abraham Maslow, the father of humanistic psychology, referred to this same concept in terms of self-actualization. Click here for more posts on this blog about Maslow and self-actualization.
  • Candace Pert, neuroscientist, molecular biologist, and author of The Molecules of Emotion, demonstrated (in the lab) that thoughts and feelings produce molecules, hence the title of her fascinating book. Essentially what she said was that every feeling you have, and every thought you have that produces a feeling, creates a molecule. Think about that: what kind of molecules are good for your body? And what kind of thoughts and feelings do you suppose are going to produce such molecules? And finally: what kind of molecules are you producing right now? Yesterday? Tonight? And in all your tomorrows?
In a future article I'll post more information about the relative ease with which we can continually bring ourselves to a positive state of mind in order to promote our inner well-being and physical health.

Photo: Terra Nostra Park, San Miguel Island, Azores

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Who Pushes Your Buttons?

In the current climate of politics, unrest throughout the Middle East, the recession, wide-sweeping and seemingly never-ending natural disasters and global economic turmoil, I've noticed a number of people with trigger reactions to something being said to them about these, or any number of other subjects.

Admittedly, many are more stressed than they would normally be, worried as well, and perhaps even living in fear. Hence, at least at first glance, it's easy to understand why they would react so quickly - be so trigger happy - about things being said to them. It's easy to push their buttons right now ... and that's where I want to suggest you take a look at how easy it is just now for others to push your buttons.

You know, this button pushing business has a lot to do with being aware of what is happening. And if what is happening is that someone is getting a bit too close to you - on whatever level - and you are feeling hot under the collar, or pressured, or any other negative feeling, and feel as though you cannot contain your explosion, or at least, your not-so-great reaction, it is your awareness of this, as well as your thought (that you can chose to have, if you so desire): I don't want to feel this way. I do right now, but I will choose to look in another direction at something different that will help me move towards a feeling that makes my energy improve.

In other words, you acknowledge the negative feeling, you acknowledge the desire to react negatively to it (allowing your buttons to be pushed), but by virtue of the inner dialogue in which you choose to engage, you consciously move to another level of energy where it is possible for you to begin to feel better despite whatever it was that just occurred.

This is inner freedom and this goes to healthy self-love.

Photo: Itacare, Brazil

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Keep Your Eye on Your Choices

Each choice you make takes you down a specific road. As you observe where you are in life, you can look back at the choices you have made and realize how you got to where you are.

Should you not be where you want to be, please be aware that what this post is about is not blame.

Nevertheless, if you are not where you want to be, consider the choices you have made. For instance, how often have you chosen to regard your lack of good fortune or ease in gathering speed along your chosen road of life, as bad luck?

Or how often have you chosen to react with anger, with depression, with a low-energy mood to one situation or another in your life?

These are also choices you have made.

How often have you chosen to spend an extra 20 minutes in bed instead of working out or meditating or learning that new language or becoming skillful at the use of some software that might give you an advantage in your quest in life?

How often have you chosen to say to yourself this is how I am and I can't change it?

How often have you chose to begrudge another his/her good fortune, rather than rejoicing - truly rejoicing - on their behalf?

Every choice we make brings a specific energy into our lives. That energy in itself leads us to more choices that could increase that same energy. If it was not the best to begin with, it is therefore increased negatively. But at any part of the road we can choose to make other  - better - choices.

If you begin to keep your eye on your choices, to observe them, to be truly aware of them, and the intention that has brought them to life, you will be in a position to see clearly where your life would go into new directions if you changed those choices.


Photo: the walled city of Avila, Spain

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Unfinished Business You Can't Afford Not to Finish

Do you have any idea what the negative inside of you does to you?

It can affect your physical health, creating such problems as high blood pressure, unhealthy cholesterol levels, stress, accelerated heart rate, all of which can eventually lead you to diseases of many kinds.

So the negative inside of you is something you need to get a handle on. More than anything, it would be very helpful if you could begin to realize that you literally cannot afford the luxury of having any unfinished business in your life. In order to start the process of eliminating it from your life, you need to become aware of how much it pulls you into the past. By pulling you into the past, it pulls you back into the low energy associated with the negativity of whatever the unfinished business is (see also my article: Cellular Responsibility: Getting Your Power Back).

What does unfinished business look like? Unfinished business is typically one or more of the following:
  • anger
  • resentment
  • hurt
  • guilt
  • shame
  • anxiety
  • depression
What is the quickest way to deal with it? Forgiving.

Here is a three-pronged quote from the above-cited article:
  • Recognize that not forgiving holds parts of you in the past
  • Understand that forgiving does not mean you condone what was done, nor does it mean you now need to have a wonderful relationship with that person … you may need to move on, but by forgiving, the hold that the event had over you, will be gone.
  • Forgiving also does not mean forgetting – but it does mean, removing the charge from the memory
Forgive the past and it will no long own you. Forgive and you will be free.



Photo: Pachula Lake, India

Monday, March 14, 2011

Turn Away

We refer so often to what we can do about negative feelings, pain, and despair. So many techniques, so much talking, so many workshops, and so many (hundreds and hundreds) of books to help, and yet so many people continue to seek prescriptions for anti-depressants or anxiety medication, and so many people trying so hard to get themselves to a better place and they just can´t seem to do so.

Sometimes it takes a paradigm shift.

Sounds so very complicated.

And that's the paradigm shift. We seems to expect it has to be complicated. And it is not. We just have to get our heads around the idea that it is not complicated and that we can do it by a mere shifting of attention (and of believing that we can actually do so without the grinding sheer desperately hard work we expect to be confronted with).

What I am saying here is not that you will not need discipline and stick-to-it-iveness. You will need that. But it need not be complicated.

So the paradigm shift that is not complicated means that you will allow yourself to look at the possibility that all it takes is for you to turn away from your despair and your pain. Look in the other direction.

Pivot about on your inner heel 180 degrees and look in the other direction. Allow your inner self to embrace the possibility that it can be that easy. That once you look in the other direction, and allow yourself to see or imagine or think of something different than what you had been focusing on, you will begin to note a slight energetic shift. And that is the beginning.


Concentrate on that and begin to look further in that direction. You will not be forsaking your responsiblity to your pain and despair. Rather, you will be fulfilling your first and foremost duty to yourself: maintaining your energetic frequency as high as you possibly can in order to make the most of your inner and outer self.


Photo: Nepal

Friday, March 11, 2011

Rewiring Your Brain With Your Thoughts

In the past I have mentioned Dr. Norman Doidge in The Mind is Not the Brain.

Today I refer to him again, in order to explore with somewhat greater emphasis his excellent book
The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science
The main topic of the book is neuro-plasticity which refers to, in Doidge's own words: the revolutionary discovery that the human brain can change itself.

He explains that the belief that the brain could not change had three major sources:
  • the fact that brain-damaged patients could so rarely make full recoveries
  • our inability to observe the living brain's microscopic activities
  • and the idea - dating back to the beginnings of modern science . that the brain is like a glorious machine. And while machines do many extraordinary things, they don't change and grow.
Doidge has written a book filled with stories about individuals who were able to change their brains in order to accomodate a situation that no longer allowed them to live their lives the way they previously had.

A point in case is that of a woman who could not keep her balance due to an antibiotic she had been prescribed that left her balance system impaired. Many such people commit suicide because there was no cure. With the help of what Doidge calls neuroplasticians (those who work with this concept of a brain that is able to change itself) her brain has been able to make changes to such a degree that she no longer has any difficulty keeping her balance.

He writes that these neuroplasticians showed that:
  • children are not always stuck with the mental abilities they are born with
  • the damaged brain can often reorganize itself so that when one part fails, another can often substitute
  • if brain cells die, they can at times be replaced
  • many "circuits" and even basic reflexes that we think are hardwired are not
Another example Doidge cites is that we now know that we are able to change our brain anatomy simply by using our imaginations thanks to the work of Alvaro Pascual-Leone from Valencia, Spain, chief of the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center at Harvard.

Doidge writes: I met a scientist who enabled people who had been blind since birth to begin to see, another who enabled the deaf to hear; I spoke with people who had had strokes decades before and had been declared incurable, who were helped to recover with neuroplastic treatments; I met people whose learning disorders were cured and whose IQs were raised; I saw evidence that it is possible for eighty-year-olds to sharpen their memories to function the way they did when they were fifty-five. I saw people rewire their brains with their thoughts, to cure previously incurable obsessions and traumas. I spoke with Nobel laureates who were hotly debating how we must re-think our model of the brain now that we know it is ever changing.

Read this book. It will change the way you think.


Photo: Dead Sea

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Counting Your Joys

This quote - by Fyodor Dostoevsky - helps us remember to count the right (joyful) way, rather than the wrong (troubled) way.

Man is fond of counting his troubles, but he does not count his joys. If he counted them up as he ought to, he would see that every lot has enough happiness provided for it.

How often do you count your troubles - making long, terrible lists of them - but don't bother to count your joys?

Make that list of joys right now!

Photo: Striped Icebergs in the Antarctic

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Gratitude, Choice, and the “Why Did This Happen to Me?” Syndrome

An Olympic contender slips just before the finish line and loses the single most important race of his life. A youngster who has made it through countless spelling bees, makes a careless mistake in the second last competition, and so doesn’t have a chance at winning the state championship.

A woman who has spent the past six years hoping against hope that the man she is seeing will finally decide to commit to her, is painfully dumped by him in full view of their mutual friends and acquaintances.

A man’s wife cheats on him…not once, but four times! Your business partner walks off leaving half a million euros in debt. You are diagnosed with heart problems just when you thought your life was pulling together and you would be able to enjoy the retirement years in peace and joy. Cancer strikes, death strikes, tragedy strikes, and it makes most of us ask this:

Why me?

The Unfairness of Life

Somehow it seems so unfair, so unjust, destiny could have spared me this one, you mourn. Why did this have to happen to me. If only…and on and on. My life was going so well, it seemed – you say to yourself - until this happened. Because of this, everything else is no longer working, or is put on a back burner, until this is solved…if it ever gets solved.

Maybe other people don’t look after themselves, they eat junk food, and smoke and drink, so they deserve to get sick, but not me…I eat healthy food…maybe other people don’t train for a competition, so they don’t deserve to win, but I work out every day…maybe other people don’t make a budget and watch expenditures, so if they have a financial disaster, it’s their own fault, but not me…I control all of that very well…maybe other people don’t treat their spouse well, and so they deserve to be betrayed, but not me, I’m a good person…and on it goes.

In this fashion we justify to ourselves how unfair it is that calamity or tragedy stuck us, and that we absolutely do not deserve it. We rail against the event and the unforeseeable changes it has necessarily wrought in our lives. We concentrate on all the negative aspects of it…and certainly, if you have received a diagnosis of cancer, or lost your spouse, or fortune, or job, it would be hard to find something positive to say about it.

And yet…isn’t it true that we always have a choice?
It Doesn’t Have to be This Way
My practice brings me in touch with many people telling me about something terrible in their lives. Their stories are legitimately filled with pain, sorrow, desperation, anger, guilt, resentment, jealousy, loss, disillusion, and fear. My heart goes out to them…not so much because of the content of their stories, but because they don’t have to feel this way, and learning and understanding the truth of that statement is frequently one of the hardest things I ask my clients to do. But once they grasp it, life becomes infinitely easier.

So what is the alternative to feeling this way, to having this wrenching pain in your life?

How To Go About Having a Choice

When you are filled with pain or any of those other dreadful emotions referred to in the last paragraph, you are obviously feeling miserable, wishing things were different, bemoaning your fate, or trying desperately to figure the way out of the situation.

Now imagine just for an instant that you could fill your mind with other thoughts. Not because you “pretend” to yourself that the hard thoughts are no longer there, and not because you “control” the hard thoughts or difficult feelings, and not because you “suppress” the hard thoughts, or anything along those lines. Quite the contrary. You would fill your mind with other thoughts not because you would have been able to eradicate these hard thoughts, but because you choose to think other thoughts.

Choose To Think Other Thoughts

What, you say? Choose to think other thoughts? How can I choose? I have to think these thoughts if I have any of these problems, because I have to try to resolve them, or get over them. I have no choice in the matter until the problem is gone.

In order to think other thoughts, you need to make room in your mind to do so. Therefore, there is less room or no room to think the hard thoughts. If you can get your mind around that concept, you will have taken the first step.

Next, consider the fact that if you want to resolve the problem, you probably have already done all that you can to do so…at least for today. Therefore, continuing to think about it serves no purpose. It might, as a matter of fact, be considered a waste of time. A waste of valuable time that you could be using to choose to make your day good, joyous, and filled with satisfaction.

The Comfort of Wallowing in the Familiarity of Our Pain

Oh no, you say. That is impossible. I have this huge problem. I have this terrible emotional pain. I can’t be joyous…do you see how your thoughts are already diverging into the territory of I must cling to my pain? Clinging to the pain sometimes, even when 20 years have passed since the painful thing took place, define the individual, and because of that, the individual feels the need to hang on to that definition. Who would they be without this pain? Eckhard Tolle (The Power of Now) refers to this as the pain body, a place where we like to wallow, because we feel so comfortable there, because we have been there so often before. Leaving there, choosing to go elsewhere, is actually harder, at least at the beginning, because it implies stepping out of our comfort zone (see my article on the subject of the comfort zone), out of that place where we feel secure, in order to cross a threshold into new areas of living where we totally change our current status quo.
That’s crazy, you say. I would never wallow in my pain, rather than go where I can be free of it. I’m not a masochist. I don’t like pain and worry.

Chris Griscom (The Healing of Emotion: Awakening the Fearless Self) calls this the emotional body, a part of us that is so stuck in the place in which it has experienced the most difficult and painful feelings, that we have an extraordinarily difficult time cleaning it up, in other words, getting out of it.
Clearly, this pain also causes much stress. Dr. David Servan-Schreiber (Healing Without Freud or Prozac) states that “in terms of mortality, stress poses a more serious risk factor than tobacco”.

Out of the Comfort Zone and into New Territory

OK. So here you have your thoughts of pain and worry on the one hand, and the choice of going elsewhere in your thoughts on the other hand. By taking this choice, you walk into new territory. You walk into a place you have never been before, because if your reactions have sometimes been the ones I have described thus far in this article, then you have possibly never deliberately chosen to go towards more joyous thoughts. So give it a try. What do you have to lose?

Now here comes the tricky part. The new thoughts that you choose must mean something to you. Just thinking about a new car you might like to have, or a movie that you saw last night, will probably not do it. A very useful thing to turn your thoughts towards is something that has meaning in your life, or something that gives your life meaning, which is independent of other people or external circumstances for its fulfillment, i.e., essentially it depends on you. Let’s say, for example, that you are working on changing careers, and that you can imagine that your new career (that’s why you chose it) will give you enormous satisfaction. So think about that. Think about how it will feel when you have accomplished that. Imagine it in all its facets. Fill your mind with the joy and satisfaction you will feel when that is a reality. Imagine it as if it already existed.
Another new direction you might take with your thoughts, is to make a short list of everything you are grateful for…the by now famous “Gratitude Journal”, the one element, that according to multiple ivy-league happiness research, most contributes to long-lasting and higher indices of happiness in individuals. What do you have to be grateful for when you are in a “bad place” in your life? Much. You may have your health. If not, you may have your family. If not, you may have wonderful friends. Your intelligence, your inner beauty, your sense of humor, your fearlessness, your dog, your home, your sparkling eyes, etc. Choosing to think about these things is a sure-fire way of making yourself feel better.

You might also think about the fact that by learning to do this, by learning to choose your thoughts, not just now, but consistently, all throughout your day, every day, your life will begin to have a chance to be filled with joy at will, and not as a consequence of circumstances; that your life will have a chance to be structured in ways that give you meaning and fulfillment because you are working on dealing with those parts of yourself that keep you miserable by choosing thoughts that take you in other directions. Would that not be worth gold? Would that not give you a major degree of freedom from your pain? Would it not be worth your while to just give it a try? And think about this: your happiness, or your state of being content and satisfied would no longer depend on external circumstances, but on your inner decision to choose your thoughts, in order to maintain that inner balance.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Do You Dance?

When do you dance?

I'm talking about dancing in your life, not at night at a club.

Dancing in your life has to do with joy, with exuberance, with letting go, with letting your hair down, with feeling free to be you and exhilarate in the unrepressed delight of being you.

Dancing in your life has to do with knowing that life can be as good as you allow it to be, despite your outer circumstances.

Dancing in your life has to do with the thrill of knowing you have choices, as long as you choose to have choices at least on an inner level, even though externally your choices may be very limited.

Dancing in your life has to do with being conscious and aware.

Dancing in your life has to do with doing your joyful utmost to pursue your dreams because your dreams give your life meaning.

Dancing in your life has to do with surrounding yourself with joy, love, and peace, even though these are only available on an inner level.

Dancing in your life has to do with knowing that you will not die without having danced to the music that is inside of you.

Have you danced lately?

Photo: Bora Bora

Monday, March 7, 2011

Where Are Your Habits Leading You?

We all have habits. We tend to think of them as being things like biting our nails or twisting a curl of our hair around a finger while we sit and think, or swinging a leg back and forth as we speak on the phone, and so on.

But there are many other habits, and as long as you remain blind to them, you have much less of a chance of doing something about them in order to improve your life.

Some of those habits that you may not think of as habits are (and there are many others):
  • filling in a silence with unnecessary words just to fill it in
  • telling yourself you don't have time to exercise because you have so much work to do
  • smoking when you don't really want the cigarette
  • drinking a bit too much on the weekends, because that is what you do
  • not being observant as you walk down the street, with the resultant unawareness of the beauty around you
  • complaining
  • judging
  • always wanting more rather than finding joy in what you have
  • telling yourself that the reason you fly off the handle is because "I'm like that and I can't change anything about that"
All of these (and many other examples I am certain you can come up with yourself) are habits, as well as erroneous belief systems, laziness, unawareness, etc., but because we can also classify them as habits, it may mean that it will be easier for you to conceptualize changing them.

What a difference to your life if you only change the one that makes you aware of the beauty around you on a daily basis ... beauty that you are determined to find, no matter where you are, no matter what the season and no matter what the weather ... this is another step towards freedom, and you can go there simply by choosing to do so and then begin by consciously choosing to take a small step in that direction every day.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Who Needs Your Approval?

You may have noticed there are several people in your life who need your approval. Perhaps one of your children. Perhaps your spouse. Perhaps a person who works for you.

And you also know that when you withhold your approval, they go down ... maybe only slightly, but they go down on differing levels: perhaps their self esteem, their self-confidence, their courage to take on risks, their motivation, their autonomy and independence, or their energy, their sense of well-being, and so on.

The question is: knowing what effect the withholding of your approval has on them, what do you do?

The answer to this question contains much interesting information for you about you. It speaks of your character, but it also speaks of your level of self-understanding. It says much about your ethics, but it also says much about your level of enlightenment

  • do you give the approval? In this case we might say you are generous with praise, and that you care about the feelings of the other person
  • do you withhold the approval? In this case we might say you like the feeling of power it gives you to withhold it and see the reaction your behavior (or lack of it) has on the other person
  • do you give some and withhold some, depending on what you want the other person to do? In this case we might say that you are also aware of the power this gives you over the other person, but now we could add that you enjoy manipulating the other person depending on your whims. While they behave the way you want them to, you will give them your approval, and when they do not, you withhold it until they go back to the behavior you want of them
  • do you withhold some even when the other person is doing what you want them to do? In this case we might say that you not only are aware of the power this gives you over the other, and that you not only enjoy manipulating the other in order to get what you want, but that you also deny them your approval even when they have done what you want, in order to keep them on their toes in their endless efforts to gain your approval
  • are you aware of all of the above and hence decide to address the topic with the other person? Tell them what they are doing to themselves by needing your approval? In this case we might say that you desire to show this other person how to find the road to freedom because you are already well on it

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Are You Being Responsible --- About the Joy in Your Life?

We know we are meant to be responsible about all those things that a decent sense of morality and a firm Puritan work ethic would demand of us.

But what about being responsible for the joy in our lives?

How so, you ask. How can I be responsible for the joy in my life if my partner or spouse / parent / child / colleague / boss / friend, etc. does what they do and makes my life difficult / miserable / impossible / painful / exasperating, etc.?

Simple.

By deciding that you will be in charge of the joy in your life. By deciding at each moment - no matter what it contains - that you will seek joy, or at least, that you will seek the road that allows you to remain in a state of equanimity, which will - eventually - return you to joy. If you furthermore receive joyful moments thanks to some of those others who populate your life, wonderful! But if you don't, and if you decide to be in charge of the joy in your life, you will have joy whether you receive it from others or not.

Also see related articles on these topics:

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Are You Living the Life You Want to Live?

When our birthdays roll around and we take a look at the past year of our lives, we often have cause to ponder. Another year come and gone. Resolutions made? Kept? Questions asked in the process. And isn’t one of the most frequent questions that line from the old song: Is this all there is?

Is This All There Is?

Let’s look at that for a moment…”is this all there is?”…if this is all there is, then that would depend on something, right? In other words, the fact that this is all there is would have to have a reason. Maybe your family was poor and couldn’t afford to give you an Ivy League education, maybe your mother was bi-polar and your early environment set you up for failure, or maybe your father had cancer and spent five years of your early childhood dying a painful death, or maybe you married a loser, or maybe you made a bad business decision and after that everything went down the tube, or maybe your child is a drug addict, or maybe you had dreams of being a ballerina, but only made it to high school gym teacher because you broke your ankle when you were 14 in such a way that prevented you from ever becoming a first-rate dancer.

Whose Fault Is It?

So what we’re saying here is that there is always something or someone to blame. Right? Wrong. (See also my article Gratitude, Choice and the “Why Did This Happen To Me Syndrome?”). Living the life you want to live depends much more on your inner attitude to all the things that happen to you in life, than on the actual things that happen.

Let’s repeat that. If you want to live a certain way and are not living that way yet, the results you currently have are much more the product of how you constantly react to all the things that do happen, than the fault of any external event that may influence your life course.

What does that mean?

Attitude

It literally means that you have the power to influence outcomes in your life by your inner attitude to your life and everything that goes on in it. Hocus pocus, you say. Attitude, I say. Think of the girl who goes to the dance confident of herself, happy to be going, and convinced that she will have a good time. Even if she is not nearly the prettiest girl there, she will shine, and stand out, simply because of her inner attitude. We’ve all been in a social situation and scratched our heads mentally, asking ourselves how on earth it is that someone who really doesn’t look very special, and may not necessarily be wearing the most fashionable clothes, or driving the most luxurious car, or be the most intelligent or interesting person there, is nevertheless the most popular or sought-out person there. Now think of the girl who goes to the party thinking her dress or her hair is all wrong, and that surely no one will ask her to dance. Guess where she will be as the confident girl sails by in dance after dance? Holding up the wall, naturally. Attitude.

Let’s use another example. Job interviews. Does the person with the best curriculum and the highest grades always get the job? Not necessarily. Attitude plays a large role.

Faith

Attitude contains within itself a large grain of faith. It’s not religious faith, but it’s a kissing cousin, because it involves a kind of blind belief akin to followers of religious orientations. In this case, however, it’s faith in oneself. Faith in the rightness of what one is doing. Faith in the ultimate outcome. And it’s often blind faith because whatever it is one is seeking to do, wishing to accomplish, or trying to figure out how to manifest in one’s life, has never yet actually happened.

Obviously there are many things that an individual can do in order to move the process forward. You can get an education in a specific field, you can train for a specific activity, you can hone your character, you can attempt to meet influential people who may help you move forward, etc. However, much of the above is at best only partially useful without the right attitude. A winning attitude, you might say, of which you are convinced. Quite a bit different from the attitude some people take of trying to convince others of the fact that they have this inner positive attitude.

Getting There

All right, already, I hear you saying. Clue me in on this winning attitude, on this inner positive way of seeing life…how do I acquire it? Not only do I not have such an attitude, but I really don’t much believe in myself. Admittedly, my office attracts many clients whose self confidence and sense of self worth is not the best. But read on, it is not an impossible quest.

You did say you‘re not living the life you want to live, right? And you didn’t think it was all just a question of snapping your fingers, right? But it’s truly not very much harder. (See also my March 2006 Newsletter: Intentional Focus).

Again, the main ingredient here is attitude. Impossible, you say? The content of this article is just ridiculous? Well, there you go: attitude. Let’s give it a try, you say? Let’s read on and see what this writer has to say. Notice that if that is your decision, it also says something about your attitude.

Choosing to Decide That You Have a Choice

So how do you go from living a life you don’t want to live, to living one you do want to live? How do you begin to believe in yourself if you don’t? How do you stop having agonizing relationships or downbeat jobs? One of the books I recommended in my 2006 newsletters was William Glasser’s Choice Theory. Dr. Glasser and I concur about many of the topics I have addressed over the past years for those of you following these articles in my newsletters or here on my blog, in particular, with regards to the question of choice (see also my article Making Choices). If you begin to open yourself to the possibility that every thought, feeling, action, and reaction that you have is not only your responsibility but also your choice, you begin to understand the magnitude of the sentence that if you are not living the life you want to live, it is also your choice – no matter what the conditions of your upbringing, your circumstances, your partner, or your health are – that your life is not as you would wish it to be.

Whew. C.G. Jung put it this way: Free will is the ability to do gladly that which I must do.

Choice and Focus

So what can you do right now, today, at this very moment to begin to change your life and bring it more into alignment with that which you would like to see in your life? Focus on what you want, not on what you don’t want. Focus on where you want to go, not on where you think you might go if things don’t work out well. Focus on the best possible outcome, even if you don’t yet know how to get from here to there. Focus on what quickens your breath, focus on what makes your blood pound, focus on what sets your heart hammering when you think about it, but don’t focus on your fears about how it all might not work out. When your mind goes into the space where you find yourself thinking about how it might not work, or what terrible thing will happen if you don’t achieve this or get that by the end of the month, or in five months or ten years or by the time you’re 25, or 40, or 72, recognize where your mind is taking you, and begin to exercise a totally new muscle that allows you to choose the thoughts you have at all times. As soon as you notice that your thoughts are going in directions that vary with your purpose, focus, and attitude, choose to change the direction of those thoughts. It is absolutely your choice to focus differently. In making that choice, changes will begin to happen in your life.

Remember that whatever you focus on initially might need some adjustment. A sculptor may see a vision of his finished work of art in his mind’s eye, but as he begins to prepare the marble and work on it, due to the vein in the material, or due, perhaps, to changes that have taken place in the sculptor’s mind, as he grows and matures, the final version may vary slightly or a lot from the initial vision. There is nothing wrong with that, as long as you also learn to adjust as you go along, always remembering that the adjustment must be aligned with your purpose, positive focus, and attitude.

Your life is a reflection of your inner being, your thoughts and feelings, and above all, of the choices you make on a moment-by-moment basis. Learn this, use it, see how these choices begin making first small, and then larger differences in your life, and begin to live the life you want to live. It is never too late to start.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Disempower Pain From Your Past

There are many articles that address the issue of pain in one's past, and that it needs to be disempowered. I imagine we probably all agree on that.

Many, however, misunderstand this, and believe that it means that past pain, or, the memories of the past pain, need to be erased, forgotten, done away with, in order for the pain to be disempowered.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

No matter how much I insist that you erase those memories, or that you forget them, or that you push them somewhere very far away from your conscious attention, they continue to be there.

Do you forget something just because you want to? Erase it just because you feel your life would be better if it were no longer in your memories? It doesn't work that way, does it?

So here's what I (and others) recommend: keep the memories. They will always be there. But disempower them by taking away the energetic charge you get when you think about them. That is something you can do simply by deciding to do it.

Let's say you begin to think about something painful from the past ... your parents were emotionally abusive to you and favored your younger sibling. That is a fact. That can not be changed. What can be changed is what you think and cause yourself to feel as you remember.

So you begin to have the painful feelings as you remember, and you can take these steps:
  • remember to be aware, so that when the feelings come, you are in a position to say to yourself:
  • this is a memory
  • it hurt when it happened
  • it has hurt dozens, or even hundreds of times since then, whenever I think of it
  • since having the memory always gives me the same results (pain), I could potentially choose to do something different this time
  • I could choose to do something physical (get oxygen into my system to raise the serotonin levels in me and hence feel a bit better)
  • or I could choose (instead of going into the pain) to think of five things for which I am grateful (gratitude causes us to come to the present, to the NOW more readily and easily than any other practice. If we are in the present, we aren't thinking about the pain from the past).
  • as I begin to make new choices, and as I begin to realize that I may not feel like jumping up and down for joy, but I do feel much better than I normally do when I think about that memory, I begin to also realize that the way I feel about that memory appears to be in my hands. In other words, I can choose how to feel.
So: don't deny the memories, but begin to disempower the pain by making new choices each time by remaining aware so that you are actually in a position to be able to make those choices.

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Photo: Croatia