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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Dream Symbols 3: The Snake

Photo Credit
People often feel that a snake in a dream is something very negative, and yet this symbol is – just like the symbols of birth and death – one of the greatest symbols of transformation. Therefore, if a snake appears in your dream, you might want to investigate what is going on in your life on the inner and outer levels that might signify a process of transformation.

The symbolism of the snake – a creature that lives on the ground, in pits, under rocks, in caves, in the depths of the water – is that of the unconscious mind, and as symbolized by the snake it is something that is coming to life in the consciousness of the dreamer.


Joseph Campbell talked about the snake shedding its skin, referring to the newness that came underneath, and in that sense, a snake in a dream might signify a new beginning of some kind, after a loss of another.

For the serpent shedding its skin, to be, as it were, born again, is likened in the Orient to the reincarnating spirit that assumes and throws off bodies as a man puts on and puts off clothes.Joseph Campbell in Myths to Live By

The shedding of the skin was also considered a sign of immortality by ancient cultures. Campbell also uses the analogy to refer to the kind of rebirth that takes place with reincarnation, likening the shedding of the skin to the shedding of the current body for the next one in the next incarnation.


In Jungian dream interpretation, the snake is also referred to as the ouroboros which is an ancient symbol depicting a serpent or dragon swallowing its own tail and forming a circle. It has been used to represent many things over the ages, but it most generally symbolizes ideas of cyclicality, primordial unity, or the vicious circle. The ouroboros has been important in religious and mythological symbolism, but has also been frequently used in alchemical illustrations. (Source)

The snake can also be a phallic symbol, and whether it is interpreted in this vein, and whether this sexuality of the symbol is considered positive or negative in the dream, will depend very much on the other content of the dream, and the dreamer’s feelings during the dream.


Finally, the serpent is also a symbol of healing. Not only in medical terms do we find the coiled serpent around the staff in the medical logo, but also the element of spiritual attainment as in spiritual yogic practice when the student’s kundalini rises up the spine, allowing him or her access to a greater spiritual understanding and growth.

Two excellent sources about snake symbolism in transformational dreams are:
  • 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
  • Jungian Dream Interpretation: A Handbook of Theory and Practice by James A. Hall, M.D.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Dream Symbols 2: Death

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. Elements in a dream are symbolic of the dreamer and his life, but generally are not predictive about what will come about in the dreamer's real life.

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 and the discovery is a shock to us.

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. It can be the end of something you identify yourself with, an ideology, a project you have been working on, something you believed in with all your might and now find your belief has evanesced and disappeared.

Dream 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 an earlier dream 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 about what the new aspect of life is to be, and may need to wait for another dream about preganancy, giving birth, or having a young child in his life in order to understand what the new element is.

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.

If you would like to (anonymously or openly) post a dream (as a comment here) in which you saw your own death, please feel free to do so, and I will attempt to comment on any such posts.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Love is Always Love

                         
 




When my aunt's third Scottish terrier died (she always got exactly the very same dog from the same breeder over a period of decades, and always gave the dogs the same name, almost as if she wanted to believe each was an extension of the former...), she was, as you can imagine, beside herself. She was living in Lindau, a beautiful resort town with a medieval old town centre by the Lake of Constance at the time, and I lived in Miami, and as she did not let me know about Taika's demise, I knew nothing until the next time I called.

When it became clear to me that something was amiss and when I eventually pulled it out of her, my first question was to ask why she had not told me immediately. Her answer - much as she loved her dog - was: it was only a pet.

To that I said to her: but love is always love. It makes no difference if it's a pet or a human being, because what we feel inside is the same. If we had to choose which one to save - in a calamitous event such as an earthquake or hurricane - we would (probably) choose the human, but other than an extreme situation of that nature, love is love.

When one of my cats was hit by a car one night (she loved to spend her nights outside and our very suburban Miami neighbourhood in those years was generally quite safe and tranquil), I was also beside myself. I told my sons that my grief was so strong because my love had been so strong. The fact that she was "merely" a cat, made absolutely no difference to the quality of my love.

And precisely because of that, our furry and feathered friends can make such a difference to our lives. When we love them, and they love us back, they add immensely to the quality of our lives because of the quality of our - and their - love.

 Love is always love.


Cat Photo Credit: Willem Siers
Dog Photo Credit

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Dream Symbols 1: Pregnancy and Birth



Four years ago I wrote a number of posts about dream symbolism. While I was teaching psychology at Florida International University in Miami, I often opted to teach a very popular elective Dream Interpretation, and I chose to give it a very Jungian slant because that is where I come from - ideologically. Dream interpretation is also given some importance in my sessions with private clients - obviously depending on whether or not there have been dreams of significance prior to the session in question.

At any rate, the blog series was quite popular, so I am revisiting it here and will do so every couple of days over the next few weeks.

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 (in English) about dream interpretation and dream symbolism (at the link, scroll down to the 2003 - 2008 shows - not the later ones - and then scroll down to the DREAMS section).

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, or is instrumental in bringing about (or contemplating bringing about) the demise or death of the child/fetus (some dreamers see themselves trying to flush a fetus or young baby down the toilet) and the dream ends just before the actual abortion/murder or flushing takes place, it may signify that the dreamer is on the verge of destroying or sabotaging 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. Or the dreamer may be the biological parent of the child that is no longer a baby or young child. 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, or it may refer to a project that was gestated some time ago and that is only now coming into it own. 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, June 20, 2011

Suffering


When others suffer, it is often best to merely listen. Sometimes it helps to talk as though whatever is causing the suffering is not happening ... not because you are deliberately ignoring its existence in the life of the other person, but because by behaving normally, you give them strength. On other occasions you might wish to offer a gentle touch or hug.

But here's the thing: going over and over whatever the problem is helps no one ... not the one who is suffering, and not you, the listener or friend or family member, because by repeating the details of the event, the one it is happening to (or has happened to) suffers all over again, and you, the friend or listener, lose your energy and it is precisely your energy that the other needs right now. But in a healthy way. In a way that does not make you lose it. Because if you feel that your energy has leaked out of you, you are no longer of any positive use to the other. (see also Emotional and Energetic Vampires).

In such a case, and before it happens, you might wish to gently remind the other that going over and over the events or the feared events serves no purpose. You will be doing more good this way than allowing a continual repetition of something that will not remedy the matter. Being a good friend or helper does not imply listening endlessly to a repetition of the pain as much as gently showing the other that even if they do not yet see the way out of the dark place in which they find themselves, they can choose to momentarily concentrate on beauty or gratitude.

Related Articles:
Photo Credit: Francesco Marino

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Are You Safe?


Safe means feeling safe on the inside, even when unsafe things are happening on the outside. Unsafe things might be people shouting, people trespassing your boundaries, people trying to manipulate you, people trying to steal your energy and so on. Safe means feeling safe on the inside even when your partner is talking about leaving you or when you think you might be down-sized from your job, or when you have just found out that your partner is having an affair, or even when someone you love dies. Safe means that the place you feel safe, and the why you feel safe, and the what and who determines that you feel safe, all originates with you, inside of you as opposed to anywhere else. The fact that you feel safe has nothing to do with:
  • The state of your love relationship / marriage
  • The state of your bank account
  • The state of your health
  • The state of your job or profession
  • The state of your friendships
All of those parts of your life are undoubtedly enormously important, but they do not determine – in a healthy individual – the state of that individual’s inner feeling of safety because that – if it is real - emanates from inside, and not from anything external.

Attachment Theory

So let’s look a bit at how this inner state of safety evolves. To do that, let’s examine a basic tenet of developmental psychology: attachment theory. The attachment bond is what evolves (or not) between the child and its primary caregiver (the person who most cares for it after birth and during early childhood). This bond refers to a lasting emotional and psychological connection with another. Around 1970, researchers John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth demonstrated that there are four basic ways in which we develop attachment. Children between 12 and 18 months were observed in their homes in order to get a baseline of their interaction with their parents (or caretakers) in a familiar surrounding, and then were brought to a lab for an experiment (called the “Strange Situation”) where after arriving in a room and settling in, the child’s parent left the room for a short time. The important thing was observing how the child reacted upon being left alone and how it reacted when the parent re-entered the room.
  • Secure Attachment: these children explore happily while the parent is still in the room, they get upset when he leaves and are comforted when he returns. They also know they can count on the parent for comfort when they are upset because of the way the parent normally responds to the child. If a stranger comforts them while they are upset, they respond well, but clearly prefer the parent. This parent responds well to the child at all times.
  • Avoidant: these children explore, but not in connection with the parent. When the parent leaves, they are not upset, nor are they happy when the parent returns and if the parent picks them up they turn away, and show little reaction. If a stranger tries to connect with them they react in a similar – avoidant - fashion. This parent does not react to the distressed child, and further, has shown the child that no tears and independence are desirable.
  • Ambivalent/Resistant: distrusts strangers, becomes very upset when the parent leaves but can not be consoled when the parent returns. There may be low maternal availability in the home or the parent may be inconsistent between appropriate and neglectful behaviour.
  • Disorganized: there is a lack of clear attachment type. When the parent returns, the child may freeze or rock itself. The parent may be frightened or frightening, may be withdrawn, intrusive or abusive. Because the child feels both comforted and frightened by the parent, it becomes confused and disorganized in its attachment.
Adult Relationships

As you can imagine, these different styles of attachment lead to different ways of feeling safe and secure within the self, and this becomes particularly evident in the adult love relationship. So the securely attached adult will tend to have loving, trusting and lasting relationships, has good self esteem and has no problems sharing feelings with friends and partners, the ambivalent adult may overly worry that the partner does not love them and become very upset when a relationship ends, the avoidant adult may show difficulty with intimacy, invest little emotion in social and romantic relationships and may have problems with sharing thoughts and feelings with others, and the disorganized adult may take on – even at a very young age – a parental or caretaking role for the parent (the articles referenced throughout this article about boundaries, emotional unavailability and neediness all fit this type).

With this article my main focus has been on giving you some information you may not have been aware of. At the same time, I would like to encourage all of you, both those who have recognized themselves, as well as those who have recognized their partners, parents, or children, that cutting-edge research in neuroscience very clearly indicates that none of this is set in stone. While clinicians, therapists and others may have insisted in the past that these early developmental stages tended to leave indelible scars that were nearly impossible to eradicate, we know differently now. In other words, the brain is so flexible – hence the word neuroplasticity - that with awareness we can change much, improve much, and make the quality of our lives better. This awareness must be learned and practiced, and I certainly don’t pretend you will be able to do that from reading this brief article, but know that it can be done. The awareness I am referring to is much more than just being aware of the possibility of negative situations from your childhood having led you to current problems. More than that, it is an awareness of the self, the conscious choice to take complete responsibility for the self – taking responsibility for everything you think, feel and say, and every action and reaction you have - and in so doing, begin the path to inner peace and freedom.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Goals and Striving


Ho-hum. Another article about goals. Planning. Been there. Done that. Maybe not quite...

What if you think about your goals and striving from the point of view of inner growth while you are working on your outer goals? So this month, for example, you might work on your lack of patience. Next month you'll tackle being less judgemental. And the month after that you'll move towards being less critical of others.

Do you know what will happen if you do this? The goal you've set yourself for a given period of time will present itself to you in the form of constant challenges all month long. If you're working on being less judgmental, you will find yourself in situation after situation where your first instinct is to judge someone or something. Then you may remember your resolve. And then you may (or may not) choose to work on it by electing to think thoughts or voice words that are not judgmental. Your comfort zone will be invaded over and over again. You'll have to carry on inner dialogues and arguments that you may not always win. But if you stick with it (while you're working on your goal to become a millionaire or a doctor or concert pianist, or the best cake maker on the planet), you will have come closer to a goal of another kind, one that doesn't require a PDA or laptop or iPad or any kind of digital help at all. It only requires your determination and striving. And your awareness of yourself.



Photo Credit: Graur Codrin

Monday, June 13, 2011

Where Is Our Inner Voice?


The question about the inner voice is one that has plagued most of those of us who ask the question. What we're really asking is how do we know that what we're hearing is truly the inner voice and not the ego, or self-talk, that non-ending inner conversation that will never finish until we become aware and mindful enough to do something about it.

So here's my take on it in a nutshell:

  • first you need to become aware of the ego's voice inside of you, in other words, your self-talk
  • next, come to understand the messages your self-talk is giving you ... day in ... day out. Some of those messages may be ok, but most are probably not
  • next, become aware of your body. For example, notice how your solar plexus scrunches up when you hear a police siren behind you, and how it gradually relaxes once you realize the patrol car has passed you in hot pursuit of someone else
  • next, attempt to connect the feelings in different parts of your body (lump in throat, thumping of the heart) with messages you are giving yourself with your self-talk
  • now choose to change the self-talk when you feel the body's message (example: thought: I'll never be able to do this. feeling in the body: tightening in the tummy or chest, perhaps less oxygen intake, etc. New message to self: If I was able to do such-and-such in the past, I can also do this or If they trusted me to do this, I can do it (always assuming it's something do-able ... if you are 1.64m tall you will probably not be able to play pro basketball).
  • so now that you are beginning to recognize self-talk and its effect on you, you can begin to start paying attention to the inner voice, which is quite different. Why? Because it comes from your most inner self that loves you well, some might call it the soul.
  • it might be the part that is urging you to change jobs, even if it means taking a cut in pay, so that you can do something that you are passionate about.
  • and here's the clincher: normally the difference between self-talk and the inner voice is that the latter brings forth some wonderful emotion, closely linked to excitement and joy ... but generally not desire or longing... 
You might also enjoy listening to Self Esteem and Listening to Your Inner Voice (this is an audio file from my radio show: click on the link and once on that page scroll down to the Section titled: Awareness & Consciousness and then go to the show title indicated here)

Photo Credit: Francesco Marino

Friday, June 10, 2011

Believing In Others

Victor Frankl was a psychiatrist, Holocaust survivor, and author of Man's Search For Meaning, a magnificent book that I have often recommended over the years, and which serves to remind us - just as in the case of Nelson Mandela - that we always have a choice, in particular about the manner in which we react to potentially dreadful events that occur in our lives.

In this brief (1972) clip on TED Frankl extols the virtues of believing in others ... of overestimating others in order to promote them to what they really can be!



To watch it on TED instead of Youtube, click here - I was unable to find the embed code on TED.

Learn from this ... and do it for your children, your partner, your parents, your friends, your employees, your colleagues, all those that you know, and whose lives you touch: believe in them so that they may be more than they currently are allowing themselves to be!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Are You Tired of Your Life?


If you are tired of your life; if you would like to just walk away from it (not by doing away with yourself, but by switching to another kind of life); if your life seems faded and lacking in interest; if the main way you have of getting any adrenaline going is by going out to buy something new, or by partying, or getting another deal that fattens the balance in your bank account, or by having a few more drinks, or a few more snorts, or by getting a divorce and finding a new, more exciting partner, so that your life feels more exciting (for a time), or by moving to a new city or new country, or by having another child (or adopting one), or giving your name (but not your soul) to yet another charitable organization; if you find no real meaning in your life; in fact: if it seems to you that you really never - at any time - felt as though there was a real meaning to your life, then pay attention closely.

All of the above is giving you a big message. In a way it's a though you had a loving older sibling looking over your shoulder and tapping you on the arm saying: don't you want more than this? The message you are getting by the way you feel (and the word feel is germane to the whole significance of this article), is hugely important.

But we tend not to pay too much attention. Especially if our lives are more or less running smoothly. So we tell ourselves that the way we are feeling is nonsense. Perhaps you have a great job and a good marriage. So how could it be that you feel so tired of your life? It could be that the job, good as it is, means nothing to your intrinsic self, and you feel no real connection with your partner. So although things are good, i.e. you have a great salary, are due for a promotion, great health benefits and pension fund, every morning when you get up and go to that job, you have to force yourself to go there and not drive elsewhere instead. (Where elsewhere? We'll get to that in a bit). Or your partner is loving, and caring, and you have a couple of great kids together, you don't quarrel, and there is no obvious reason for you to feel as though the relationship isn't alive, but it isn't. You two just are not connecting.

So, as I said, we tend not to pay too much attention to the way we feel under such circumstances. But this way we feel comes directly from somewhere inside of us, as said, as though it were a loving older sibling. But it's not. It is our intuition.

In another article about the subject (Intuition is Your Connection To The Divine), I wrote: "This voice inside of you ... that so often you pretend not to hear. This knowing inside of you ... that so often you ignore. This knocking at your inner door ... that so often you turn away from. This thing that pursues you over and over again, talking to you, making you think about whatever it is that you continue to turn a deaf ear to, this thing is your intuition and your connection to the divine."

[...]

"But why is intuition our connection to the divine? What is the divine? Is it not the eternal part of each of us? Is it not the part of us that connects us not only to all others, but also to all creation? And if that is so, then isn't it logical (if I may use such a word in such a context) that somewhere inside of each of us there must be a connection to this divine part?"

So going back to the initial question of this article: are you tired of your life? - I posit that you might recognize that there is a strong connection between the feelings you are having that keep insisting that your life is not as it should be, and the desires of your soul. The desires, that if they were fulfilled, or we could say, that if you were on the way to fulfilling them (even just at the very, very, very beginning of that way), would give you much satisfaction; would give much meaning to your life, and would mean, that you would no longer be tired of your life. Quite the contrary ... you would be filled with adrenaline, excited, stimulated, and all those good things that currently you only achieve via superficialities, and whose effect never lasts long enough.

And in another article about the subject (Intuition and Healing and Dreams) I wrote this: "Our intuition, our bodies, the state of our health is often the path to greater understanding, healing and growth. Since neuroscientists have discovered that we have more than one brain, the second one being in our intestine and the third one in our heart (both of these areas contain a vast number of neural cells that feed the brain with information, which the brain then processes in order to make decisions), we can say that our “gut” feelings, or our “heart” feelings told us to behave in a specific fashion.

There is a beautiful quote by Jalal ad-Din Rumi that goes like this:

When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.

Isn't it true that when your soul is allowed to be your guide, you feel joy within? You almost don't even have to know what it is that your soul is guiding you towards, if you allow yourself to be steered by the joy you feel inside when you are moving in that direction.

Somehow you know, if you ever listen to any of this type of dialogue with yourself (and I know that many people are not used to doing this, despite the fact that it is in actual fact very simple), when you are not on the right track, because you feel a twisting inside, a lack of joy, you feel that something is not right.

We're not talking here about ethics or morals or doing charity work or anything at all in particular ... because the music of your soul - as Rumi refers to it - may let its melodies be felt in any kind of activity or thought or reaction or behaviour. What is important is that there are certain activities or modes of behaviour that make you realize that the river no longer moves within you, the joy no longer flows, just as there are other activities or behaviours that create precisely the opposite feeling.

What if there is no joy within, what if you feel as though there is no connection to the moving of that inner river?

If you are aware of it, you have already come a long way ... more than many. Even if all you are aware of is the lack of joy. So then you could start listening to your inner voice, your intuition, a small step at a time, exploring, searching, to find out what gives you joy. Perhaps you could try doing the opposite of some of the things that you do but that don't allow you to feel the river within.

When you do things from your soul, when you have that connection (see also Tending Your Inner Garden for more information about such a connection, especially if you feel that your soul connection is not intact, or you are not familiar with the context), when you pay attention to the joy inside, you are on the road to the place you meant to go to when you came here.

When you do things from your soul, your life has meaning, you feel a connection in your relationships, and you feel a river moving in you, a joy.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Why Can't We Be Happy?

Our happiness depends on so many external circumstances as long as we believe we are not responsible for it. Our happiness can never be in our hands as long as we consider that external factors have a decisive voice in how we feel,. Our happiness will always depend on the kindness or mercy of others and on the balmy winds of good fortune as long as we do not begin to take it into our own hands.

Happiness - the way we feel inside - and the messages we give ourselves with our thoughts and feelings and subsequent actions must be in our own hands. If we do not accept this, we can only be happy as long as those we love continue to love us and continue to live, and as long as our other life circumstances remain good. Once any of that fails, we have no alternative but to fall into unhappiness and misery.
But we have a choice. We can become responsible for our happiness. And once such a choice is taken, life as we knew it before will never be the same!

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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Our Craving For Stimulation - Any Stimulation

The TV was on over lunch and it was tuned to one of the international cable news channels. Another attack in another Middle Eastern country which caused yet another number of unnecessary and tragic deaths. We see this every day. But what caught my attention was the television anchor cautioning the listener that the images we were about to see would be disturbing.

Disturbing? Because they will show us what they probably would not / could not show us if the deaths had occurred in a Western nation? Disturbing because - as opposed to a violent movie - these were going to be scenes of a real death, not a movie death?

But what struck me more than everything was the fact that they placed such attention on letting the viewer know what was about to come. It was going to be disturbing.

Wouldn't it make more sense that they merely state the facts without showing the blood, gore and dead bodies? Wouldn't that be less disturbing? But they know perfectly well that they will pull the viewer in with those words. We know we will be seeing real death and destruction. And because our adrenalin - just like the Romans when they watched Christians getting chewed up by lions - still revvs up when we hear words like those pronounced by the TV anchor.

Why do you think we like horror movies? (I know, not all of us, but many). It's the adrenalin rush. It makes us feel. And why do we need to feel? Because in many instances our feelings have been numbed, by life, by drugs or prescription medication, by lack of another, healthier kind of stimulation, and by a lack of awareness of the richness of the self. That is why some crave stimulation - any stimulation ...

Click here for some previous, related posts about self-discovery
Click here for some previous, related posts about awareness

Photo: Bora Bora

Monday, June 6, 2011

Awareness Is Distinct From Mental Activity

Your thoughts may come willy-nilly. They may take you here and there, tossing and turning your emotions, depending on what these thoughts are about. You may find yourself laughing at remembering your niece walking for the first time, every so often plopping down on a padded diapered bottom when she lost her balance, and standing up again, or you may feel pain, or even cry, as you hear the lyrics: Can't live, if livin' is without you... and in the next moment you may be frozen with fear as you wonder how you will pay for your bills at the end of the month.

All of that has been mental activity. There has been little or no awareness, other than awareness of the fact that you felt like laughing, crying, or that you were afraid.

But there was no awareness that you could have had a hand in all of this.

In other words, you could choose where your thoughts were going to take you. You could, therefore, choose whether you wanted to experience the above-described emotions or not. How's that for a good idea?

But in order for that to happen, you would need to begin to bolster this state of awareness, encourage and foster it as much as possible in your daily life in order to make it become second nature. Generally speaking, we are not aware in this sense, generally speaking we do allow our thoughts to come and go willy-nilly, and hence, generally speaking, our lives are lived as though we were leaves in the wind, where we are blown here and there by whatever thoughts we may be harboring, but that we have not chosen.

One of the elements of becoming aware is that you become capable of choosing your thoughts, of choosing what you decide to focus on, and therefore, of choosing - in a much greater way than you do with mere mental activity - the manner in which your life unfolds.

My upcoming book Rewiring the Soul goes into this - and many other topics - in great depth. It will be available shortly. Check back here to keep posted.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Could Super Achievers Be Driven by Low Self-Esteem?


A super achiever with low self esteem? Counter-intuitive, isn't it? Sounds more like an oxymoron than anything else. And yet if we take a closer look at what drives the super achiever, we may find precisely a lack of appreciation and recognition of value of the self. What does a person who is driven to achieve success after success actually get in return? A sense of accomplishment you might say…the satisfaction of having arrived at a sought-after goal…the pleasure of success. All of these possibilities are indeed, correct. And many achievers achieve for those reasons. But many others do not.

Many others are driven instead by a need for recognition…a need for appreciation…a need for approval…a need for applause…a need for respect from others…a need for, in other words, an outer admiration and positive reception of the self. Being driven, in other words, by this acknowledgment of the self from others, from an external source, rather than by the intrinsic, internal, self-propelled feeling of achievement.

When the feeling comes from the inside, it is an affirmation of what the individual already knows and believes about him or herself. When, however, the need for the feeling can only be fulfilled by an outer, external source, then it is because the individual does not believe in his or her own value, merit, and worth. This can be a critical situation for the self, because under these circumstances it is forever doomed to seek what it needs by achieving more and more, greater and higher success, in order to assure itself the admiration it requires in order to simply feel good about itself.

The solution to this rather untenable predicament is not as difficult as it may appear at first glance. Often the “comfort zone” (also see Leaving Your Comfort Zone: Fear of Emotional Expression) is an important factor. Another is the realization that one seeks external approval or recognition by achieving in order to feel good. The next step is to realize that without the external approval one never feels as good about oneself as with it. Next comes the question why this might be so and the rather evident answer that it involves one’s sense of self esteem. If this sense of self esteem were on a healthy level, one would not need the external recognition, because then one would offer this sense of recognition to oneself, by oneself. And therein lies the final step to the solution: working on one’s sense of self esteem by giving to oneself all of the approval and accolades one would give to another who does or achieves as oneself does. In other words, treat, admire, and respect yourself as well as you would treat your most dearly beloved partner, friend, child, or admired associate. You deserve it and you are worth it!

Photo: "El Arco" Cabo San Lucas, Baja California

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Mirrors of My Life

 

Mirrors of my life
Reflections of my past
Course through my body in waves.
Your touch on my hand
Is electric -
Heating my blood
To molten lava,
Opening doors
I have left closed for too long.
The world you inhabit is not mine
Enchained by your thoughts,
Distant from the wellspring of life,
By your barriers, your inner guards, your far frontiers.
As I lie in the embrace of your arms
I know
That your eyes
Do not see beyond the sound of my pleasure.
Only your skin recognizes the truth –
Your soul in your fingertips
Touches mine.



Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Letting Love Guide You

This is a hard one. Letting love guide you sounds so spiritual, so good, so something that the typical reader of my newsletters might actually be interested in doing, and yet, and yet ... it is not easy.

Letting love guide you means many things, some of which are:
  • letting go of being right
  • letting go of ego (the part of you that insists so much, and so frequently, and so loudly that it knows better than you)
  • understanding that from here on you will think differently about your thoughts, feelings, and actions when something happens that is not to your liking, and therefore leaving your comfort zone
  • allowing compassion for others to fill you
  • remembering your boundaries, but remembering that to uphold them, you need not insist on being right
  • looking at yourself each time you wish to react in unkind or thoughtless ways
  • remembering the importance of what Tolle has called the pain body, i.e., the blind, unaware reaction to anything that evokes a strong feeling response in you, and then resolving to change that response
  • realizing that letting love guide you does not mean only with regards to others, but also, and very particularly, with regards to yourself
Why is is so hard for us to let love guide us? Doesn't much of it have to do with the fact that we need to be right? Or - in other terminology - we need to win? Where does kindness go in those instances ... those many, many instances?

And here's another thing: we don't practice it, so it never becomes a habit.

How can you acquire a habit if you don't practice? Have you ever tried to rid yourself of complaining? Remember the man who started the 21-day-no-complaint challenge? Well I took him up on it, and although I haven't mastered it to perfection, I now rarely find myself complaining, and because I don't, I've become so much more aware of how much time we humans tends to spend on such a useless activity, that only serves to make us feel less good than we could. Then I started working on judgement and criticism. I'm still working. But of course, in the process, I've become so much more aware of the times that I do it. So although it's still a work in progress, and may continue to be so for a long, long time, it's nevertheless continually at the forefront of my conscious mind, and so it is much easier for me to continually remind myself - if I begin to judge or complain - that I actually don't want to go down that road. So I'm practicing. And it's certainly not always easy. My ego likes to remind me, if I walk down the road of judgement, that after all, because I understand so much more about this and that than others, I am allowed to judge... and of course, that is far, far, far from the truth. So I do battle with my ego. I inform it that it is not in charge. I may strengthen my resolve by reading something that keeps me on the right road, or listen to something that does the same job. In other words, I try to support that part of me that wants to be non-judgemental, by making more and more choices that lead me there.

Letting love guide you is like that too. First you need to be convinced that this is a muscle you wish to develop. Then you keep reminding yourself that this is on your list, and when you find yourself in a position where you can make the choice, you make it. And if you make a bad choice because you forgot your good intentions, you forgive yourself (love yourself), tell yourself that at least you remembered that you forgot to make the right choice, and resolve to do better next time.

For whom are you doing this? Yes, for others, of course, but remember, you are, in fact, also doing it for yourself  because the more you allow love to guide you, the more you will be filled with love, and the more you are filled with love, the closer you are to that being that you came here to become.