"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

Monday, January 31, 2011

Can You Decide to Make the Best of a Job You Hate?

Not a fun question.

I mean, if you hate your job, you probably don't want to think about the topic. And if you love your job (or however you spend the time that you allot to money-making endeavours), you probably don't need to read this.

So what can you do about a job you hate?

I have coffee many mornings at a small café near my home here in southern Spain because I love their home. Over time, the employees have come to know me, and so we chat for a few moments while I peruse the not tremendously sophisticated local paper. (Although the BBC, Al Jazeera, France 24, CNN, etc. keep me informed about the world at large, the local paper is the best way to keep up with what is going on directly around me).

The other day, one of the girls who works there looked grim. I ventured the obvious question, and she told me that that the sales staff was just being impossible to the waitresses (a portion of the café is dedicated to the sale of goods). She mentioned that it made her life impossible. She was clearly very unhappy. She could not wait to stop working there, but - and the look in her eyes as she shared this last part was hopeless - she needed the job and could not see a way out into her dream job of website designer for the near future, as she is only able to attend night classes.

I wanted to give her something to take home. Something that would make her reconsider her position as hapless victim, disadvantaged and hopelessly outnumbered by the sales staff.

First of all, I told her, you need to protect yourself emotionally - internally - against the behavior of the sales staff. To do that, here are some of the steps to take:

  • watch for the thoughts that crop up when they behave the way they do
  • concentrate on telling yourself that you will not allow them to mess with your day
  • the only way that will work, is if you decide - by becoming aware of this - that you always have a choice about how you react to given situations
  • part of this has to do with your awareness of the fact that you are totally responsible for your own inner well-being and state of happiness
  • if you accept that, it means that you will never again depend on anything external to make you feel good
  • it also means that you will never again allow anything external to you to make you feel bad because you will have accepted the responsibity of making yourself feel ok no matter what is going on
  • if they are crossing boundaries, make sure you have healthy ways of dealing with that
  • further, you may need to speak to management about the situation
  • also remember that the more you dwell on the way you feel when others in your work situation behave the way they do, and the more you then take that home with you - because of how awful it makes you feel, to load it onto the shoulders of your family, the more you will actually be suffering, simply because you are spending hours and hours of your day concentrating on this
I also suggested she try to figure out how to make the best of this particular job until she could give it up.
  • Figuring out if there was anything in her job that would allow her to feel proud of herself, even if it was only her own private satisfaction of a job well done
  • Further, was there anything in the job she could take home with her? Something that would be of use to her in the future. In her situatin I suggested she use her constant contact with clients - mainly English-speaking foreigners - to perfect her language skills, as she would be able to put the language to good use later on
A final point of course is to figure out how long it would take her to complete her studies in order to be able to start looking for a totally new line of work. But I reminded her: once she was actually in that new place and working at something that was much closer to her heart, she might actually at some point in her professional life find herself in a similar situation again. The same principles would apply.

Awareness and choice can bring much inner freedom...

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Tending Your Inner Garden

Clients have often told me that they fear being by themselves. That they fear their own company. That they will do anything to avoid an evening on their own. Other clients tell me that while they may not fear being alone, they find it a most boring proposition, and can’t quite imagine how to fill the time, other than with TV or a novel. Others refer to being uncomfortable in their own company, and hence, avoid it. (See also my February 2006 Newsletter: Making Choices: Taking Responsibility For Our Lives).

All three alternatives lead us to the same conclusion: if this is how you feel about being alone with yourself, somehow you are not connected to yourself – and - more importantly, you have no real relationship with yourself, and therefore, probably don’t know yourself.

Why is this important?

Marrying Someone You Fear

Imagine marrying someone whom you fear being alone with, someone whom you avoid spending an evening with on your own. Imagine marrying someone you find so boring, that you would not want to spend time alone with them. Or imagine marrying someone in whose company you feel uncomfortable, and therefore, you avoid this person.

Sounds like a bad joke, doesn’t it? You’d run ten miles before marrying such a person. You’d do anything not to have to spend time with such a person. Nevertheless, that’s the situation we have with ourselves when we don’t recognize the value and importance of establishing a relationship with ourselves that makes us enjoy our own company, find ourselves interesting companions about whom we can always learn something new, and who can always lead us to deeper and deeper levels of understanding, and who is fun and exciting to be with…on our own.

Conjunctio…Are You Interested in Yourself?

Really? Is such a relationship with the self really possible? It basically comes down to what Jung termed the conjunctio, in other words the meeting of two separate parts of the self (generally unconscious) in the process of becoming a whole, or of uniting, and in so doing, of transforming.

But that actually sounds like a lot of psycho-babble. Who can contemplate overcoming what sounds like such a difficult hurdle? Anyway, who has the time and money to go into therapy in order to learn about all these things, and explore the deep dark past of one’s childhood? In actual fact, it is not so hard, and it certainly doesn’t depend on whether or not you go into therapy. It has a lot to do with becoming conscious and aware of the self, with a desire for knowledge of the self, and with the acceptance of responsibility for the self. So basically it has a lot to do with how interested you are in yourself.

Individuation and Becoming What You Can Truly Be

Jung, who brought us the idea of the integral, or holistic human being, said that becoming what we can truly be, growing into that which is inherently in us when we are born, is what the process of individuation is all about.

Maslow, who brought us the hierarchy of needs said that in order to self-actualize, we need to become everything that we are capable of becoming.

Joseph Campbell said we should follow our bliss.

Being Bored with the Self

All of these concepts refer in some way to self-knowledge, but also to meaning. (See my June 2006 Newsletter Finding a Meaning in Your Life).One can only be bored in one’s own company, if there is no meaning in the life; if the individual has not yet bothered to think about what meaning he or she could give to his or her life. I won’t delve more deeply into that subject, as it has been dealt with in some detail in the afore-mentioned article, but I do encourage you to explore it in order to begin to understand how to find the meaning in your life.

Fear of Being Alone with the Self

If you fear being alone with yourself, perhaps you feel there is so much in you that you hate, or despise, or judge, or criticize, that it is simply a very dangerous proposition to spend time there…together with yourself. In other words, it is scary to be with someone towards whom you have these very negative feelings. So doesn’t it make sense to get to know this person that you are inside and out, and to clean out, if necessary, all those parts that are reprehensible, or, even better, to come to realize that there are actually no really truly reprehensible parts, and that you are, in fact, a rather enjoyable person to be with? But this is only possible if you take the journey inside in order to begin to get to know yourself…more importantly, in order to begin to love yourself.

Many of the difficult feelings you may have about yourself can be addressed by using the “energy barometer” I refer to in the article Your Energy Barometer: Make Your Mind Body Connection Work for You. Shifting your energetic vibration, in other words deliberately making yourself feel better will automatically take you to other levels where your thoughts and feeling about yourself will change. On those other, higher levels, it is so much harder for negative or low energy thoughts to find a breeding ground. When you are feeling good, how often do you dwell on downward-spiralling thoughts? When you are feeling good, you don’t want to cry. So shifting your energetic vibration to a higher level, is something I encourage you to start practicing every single day, each and every time you recognize that you are spiraling downward.

Being Uncomfortable with the Self

If you are uncomfortable with yourself, it may have much to do with the fact that you have simply not much knowledge of yourself, and so feeling uncomfortable is similar to how you feel with a comparative stranger, about whom you know little, and who therefore does not create the sensation of ease and comfort a good friend does. Doesn’t it make sense to try to become your own best friend? Again, in so doing, you will begin to not only appreciate yourself, but also like and love yourself. Even admire yourself. Imagine spending all your time with a friend about whom you feel this way…and this friend is you!

Tending the Inner Garden

I wrote earlier that this process need not be difficult, tedious, and certainly does not require the services of a therapist. It does, however, entail something akin to gardening. When you plant a seed in the garden of your house, or in a pot on your terrace, you know very well, that in order for it to grow into a strong oak tree, an elegant palm that sways in the wind, a rose, a geranium, sweet-smelling rosemary, or a flowering perfumed hibiscus, it first needs soil (preferably rich), water, sunlight, care, and constancy. The inner garden is no different.

Enriching the Soil

Possibly the soil in which you are beginning your process of growth is not particularly fertile at this time. You know that out there, in the external world, you can create a compost heap in order to enrich the soil you use for your plants. In the internal world you can begin to feed your soil (your mind, heart, and soul), with reading and viewing material that will convert into great compost, rather than trashing your garden with leftover junk food and plastic waste (which on the inner level might be likened to the mass media shows and books or magazines that many people like to read and view as a steady diet, and which has no hope of ever converting into rich soil).

For more concrete pointers on these ideas, have a look at my blog, specifically at the April 2, 2007 post Keep Energy High! Watch How You Feed Your Brain, Heart & Spirit in order to better understand this concept of maintaining rich soil in the inner garden. Read also the last few paragraphs of the April 29, 2007 post Baelo Claudia: Roman Ruins and the "Now" in the same blog. Tend your garden well and watch the lush process of your own inner growth that will take place. Only you can do this for yourself, and only you can make the decision to begin it now…

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Have You Chosen Your Attitude?

Have you chosen your attitude? Or has it appeared blindly in your life in response to a given situation? If you want to choose your attitudes, you have to be aware. Aware not only of the situation that just occurred, but also of what could be your blind reaction to that occurrence, and then - and this is the important part - be aware of the fact that you have a choice. You can choose the attitude you will have in the face of anything at all.

Viktor Frankl (psychiatrist, founder of logosynthesis, survivor of the Holocaust in Auschwitz, and author of Man's Search For Meaning) said: The last of one's freedoms is to choose one's attitude in any given circumstance. 

Photo Credit: Maggie Smith

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

New Dreams

One of the talks I frequently used to give locally was titled Life Begins At Retirement, and while this article is not about aging or retirement, there are parallels. When you dream of a different life than the one you are living, you should not brush those dreams aside as ludicrous or impossible, because they are showing you other possibilities that - because you yearn for them - indicate that your current life is not all it could be.

Dreams and goals show us parts of ourselves that have not yet been fulfilled. Dreaming of possessing a mansion or a Ferrari, or being a celebrity, is not the same as dreaming of finishing a painting or becoming an expert in Chinese stamps from the 19th Century, or writing a novel, or training to be a certified PADI instructor. In the latter set of dreams it is something inside of you that seeks expression. In the former set of dreams it is something you desire that is outside of you and that has nothing to do with achieving a greater expression of your inner self.

Dreams you have - at any age - as C.S. Lewis, the author of The Narnia Cronicles stated: "You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream", can give you life, vibrancy, depth, and meaning. Pay attention to your new dreams because they offer you pathways that can help you enrich your inner expression.

Photo Credit: Simon Howden

Monday, January 24, 2011

Containing the Pain

Pain is one of the biggest motivators for people to come and see someone like myself. Pain can be, as most of us know, devastating. Pain can not be "thought" away. Pain has a time, and, just like grief, which is a version of pain, it can have stages and a process that you have to live through before you can get to the other side.

So this article is not about talking yourself out of the pain. Or about pretending it's not there by distracting yourself. Or about minimizing it. Or about making you think you should be stalwart and strong, and grin and bear it, and get out to the other end as quickly and staunchly as possible.

Rather, this article is about coming to an understanding that precisely when you are suffering and in pain, is when you need to be able to care for yourself enough, and love yourself enough, to keep your inner energetic frequency in the best place possible, in order to be able to survive this descent into pain as healthily as possible.

Most of us, when pain comes knocking, tend to lose whatever grasp we have on awareness and fall into the trap of allowing our thoughts to take over. And so we re-visit the place of the pain over and over again. See also Tolle's writing about the pain body and Chris Griscom's work on the emotional body, as I have written about elsewhere:
But if we somehow manage to stay aware, we are in a position to be able to observe our thoughts, as opposed to being tortured by them about whatever it is that is causing the pain in our life. And when we are able to observe our thoughts, we are at the beginning of the place where we can choose our thoughts. And if we can choose our thoughts, we can choose to focus elsewhere. Not to distract ourselves from the pain, but to take good care of ourselves. As we would if we had a fever. Or a cut. We would take aspirin, or bandage the cut, or wash it with an antiseptic. We would not carry on with the fever, syaing to ourselves that we did not have a choice. And we would not leave the cut infected, telling ourselves that there was no way to do anything about it. We would take care of it. And so we need to begin to learn to take care of ourselves when we are in pain, by recognizing that it is a choice.

The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts. Marcus Aurelius

It's not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters. Epictetus

Life is 10% what happens to you, and 90% how you respond to it. Unknown

Must you continue to be your own cross? No matter which way God leads you, you change everything into bitterness by constantly brooding over everything. For the love of God, replace all this self-scrutiny with a pure and simple glance at God's goodness. Saint Jeanne Chantal

Pain is never permanent. Teresa of Avila

Love does not cause suffering: what causes it is the sense of ownership, which is love's opposite. Antoine de Saint-Exupery

To become a spectator of one's own life is to escape the suffering of life. Oscar Wilde

A wise man, recognizing that the world is but an illusion, does not act as if it is real, so he escapes the suffering. Buddha

Pain in life is inevitable but suffering is not. Pain is what the world does to you, suffering is what you do to yourself. Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional. First Noble Truth (Buddhism)


Friday, January 21, 2011

Choosing Habits

Consider with how much care we choose our clothes, our cars, our hairstylist, the cologne we use, the watch we wear, our mobile phone, and yes, the restaurants or clubs we frequent. Consider also - if it applies - the care with which you choose your wine, the paintings or rugs that adorn your home, and the destinations at which you vacation.

And why wouldn't you? Choosing with care shows that you enjoy living in aesthetically pleasing surroundings, or dressing yourself as well as your pocketbook will allow you.

So what do we do with our habits? Certainly we only rarely choose them with care. Generally speaking, our habits are formed long before we think about them consciously (if ever) and so we continue with them without considering whether they embellish us or not.

What do I mean by habits that embellish? Simply that by having and maintaining such habits, they serve us well, as opposed to blindly leading us to places we might not wish to frequent. Here are some examples:
  • a habit of having bread with every meal may cause the pounds to creep up on you and before you know it, you find yourelf in a place where it is very difficult to stop the habit, and yet if you continue with it, you will need a new wardrobe (to say the least)
  • a habit of not listening when others speak to you because you are busy thinking about your answer, may cause you to do less well than you would like in your professional environment and in your personal sphere may eventually cause you to lose your partner or spouse
  • a habit of watching 3 hours of TV every evening may have numerous results including unwanted unwanted weight piling up due to being such a couch potato, and brain cells losing their strength due to not being used, other than in this passive way
  • a habit of judging others (even if only in your mind), may cause you to never see the real person behind whatever it is that you are judging
  • a habit of blaming others for whatever you are unable to do perfectly yourself may cause you to never learn to take responsibility for yourself
  • a habit of giving in to others' manipulations may cause you to lead a life filled with bitterness and resentment due to never learning to say no
  • a habit of demanding perfection from yourself may cause you to live a deeply unhappy life because you will find it nearly impossible to live up to those impossible standards, that you have set for yourself because you do not love yourself
Your habits determine - to a large degree - the quality of your life. Choose them well, and if - when they were formed - you were not yet aware enough to choose, now, that you are more aware, take them under a microscope, examine them, and begin to discard those that do not serve your highest good.

Photo Credit: Simon Howden

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Are You Applying What You Know?

You've been to so many workshops, retreats and seminars. You've read many of the books. Each time you attend another seminar, especially those that last a whole weekend, or even a week, they get you all pumped up, and you know that now finally things are going to change in your life ... but nothing changes. Same old, same old.

You know so much, when you read that new book, or listen to another seminar, you find that they are telling you fewer and fewer new things. But nothing has changed in your life. Things are not getting much better.

So what's going on?

If you don't apply what you know on a daily basis, 24/7, nothing will change. The excitement and stimulation and hope and yearning that you feel when you read that new book or go to that new workshop, is only going to last as long as the book or workshop lasts unless you begin to apply the knowledge. And that will depend exclusively on you. On your choices. On all that you think, feel, say and do 24/7.

Read also yesterday's post:

Photo Credit: Carlos Porto

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Want Your Future To Be Different?

If you want your future to be different, it follows that you want it to be different from whatever your present circumstances are. So what do you have to change in order to ensure that different future?

Here's a very simple answer: You have to change as many of your current now moments as possible.

Here are some examples:
  • when you wake up and see a grey sky and think oh, no, not another grey day ... I hate grey weather, you need to be aware of those thoughts and what they do to your energy, and then change that and think other thoughts that bring about another kind of inner feeling than the oh no one.
  • when you drive to work and get impatient at traffic and clumsy or careless drivers around you, you need to be aware of what that impatience does to your inner energy and change that and work on becoming more patient, and perhaps simultaneously work on not focusing on the traffic and its frustration, but use your down time in the car in order to listen to inspiring or motivational CD's
  • when you put off doing something today, telling yourself that you can do it tomorrow, you may wish to reconsider, and decide not to put it off, in order to not only feel better about yourself due to having set procrastination to one side, but also, in order to have a clearer, less cluttered day tomorrow
  • when you decide what to put into your mouth, you may wish to change some of that, once you give a second of thought to the effect of that food on your body and mind
  • when you decide what to put into your mind via books, magazines, movies, music, conversations, people you socialize with, etc., you may wish to change some of that
  • when you react to your spouse / parent / child / sibling / business partner, etc. in a blind way, not thinking about how you are reacting, but simply reacting from the gut, reactively, blindly, you may wish to reconsider and really start practising becoming more aware in order to have conscious, as opposed to blind reactions. This will set off a chain reaction, the consequences of which you can only imagine
  • when you feel stressed or pained about something, and it goes on and on in your mind, and you just know that there is nothing you can do about it, or you know that it is continually in your mind because of what was done to you, how could you not think otherwise about such pain?, you may wish to reconsider and start using awareness to do something about the direction in which your thoughts go
Any or all of these examples will serve to make your future different. It truly is as simple as that. And just think: if you do this, how many other elements of your now moment will you be able to change to bring about an even greater future!

Photo Credit: nuttakit

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Are You Absolutely Certain It's Right?

You've just had a great idea. You are beginning to put it into practice, or having some initial conversations about getting it going. And the doubts assail you. Will you ever get it right?

You've been offered a new position. It involves a lot of money and prestige. Also a great deal of work. So far so good. All of that is to your liking and you have no fear of it whatsoever. And then the doubts assail you. Will you ever be able to take so much responsibility over so many matters and get it all right?

You've been painting for some time. You desperately want some recognition. The owner of a fairly well-known local art gallery proposes that you do a show there nine months hence. You know you will need at least another 15 pieces to do it properly and are filled with joy at the prospect of finally having an exhibition. And then the doubts assail you. Will you ever be able to get all those pictures done in time and done right?

You get the picture. Because you are uncertain about getting the finished product - or the demands of the job - or the idea - just right - you stop in your tracks and don't continue what you started. You become immobilized and paralyzed at the thought of not getting it right. Thoughts can be assassins, and these thoughts of doubt and something not being just right can kill an idea, an opportunity, or a new life long before you even give yourself a chance. Be aware of those thoughts and their power to annihilate. Beware of not doing that which you will regret in the winter of your life when you are sitting on your terrace in your rocking chair remembering it all. Recognize that none of the world's great accomplishments and discoveries and works of art would ever have been completed, if the people involved had allowed the thought of doubting the just rightness of the end product to deter their progress.

Photo Credit: Luigi Diamanti

Monday, January 17, 2011

Not Knowing What Can't Be Done

If you don't know what can't be done, you set no limits. Roger Bannister is a great example. No one believed the mile could be run in as little as 4 minutes. And yet, Bannister accomplished precisely that back in the 50's. Once he had done it, no one ever again considered it impossible, and many people world-wide were able to replicate and even inprove on his effort.

No one believed there was anything smaller than the eye could see, and yet, when the modern microscope was invented, those who had not believed, realized they had been short-sighted.

When Jules Verne wrote his fantasy novels about traveling under the sea or flying to the moon, people dismissed them as novelistic imaginative creations of an over-active mind, and yet we all know now that there was nothing imaginary about it. If the Wright brothers or the inventors of the submarine had known that it was impossible to fly or if they had known that it was impossible to build a craft that could carry men below the sea, we would not even have seen the advent of flying and eventually space travel, nor of subacuatic maneuvers.

When Columbus convinced Isabella and Ferdinand of Spain to finance his ventures, despite the nay-sayers' conviction that he would merely fall off the edge of the world, when the medical world believe heart transplants would never work, and when people scoffed at Alexander Graham Bell's insistence that the voice could be carried over wires to another house, another city, another country, they did not realize that an element within the hearts and psyche of some members of the human family made them believe when all others did not, that it was better to not know what can't be done than to know what can't be done.

Todays' post was inspired by Henry Ford: I am looking for a lot of men who have an infinite capacity to not know what can't be done. That's how Ford invented the car (horse-less carriage) and went on to improve on the original design over and over again.

In which area of your life can you be adventurous enough to not know what can't be done?

A final point: when you are scoffing at that which has not yet been invented or found to be possible (think scanners à la Star Trek that immediately heal the body, think Demi Moore dancing with Patrick Swayze in Ghost, think Jodie Foster making contact in Contact, think parallel universes in Fringe, and the list could go on and on), so when you are getting ready to scoff at it all, remember all of the above ... all of it was scoffed at and yet all of it now exists.

Photo Credit: Full scale replicas of Columbus' three tiny boats moored below the Convent of Rabida in Andalucia

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Quality of Every Moment

Whether men or women, many of us take great care of our appearance, our hair, skin, teeth, hands, nails, clothing, and so on. We spend this amount of time on outer aspects for a multitude of reasons, but underlying most of those reasons is the fact that in so doing, we feel good about ourselves.

So it makes sense that we take equally good care of the quality of each and every moment of our lives, but I'm willing to wager a great deal on the probability that most of us simply don't do that. Oh, we'll take great care to ensure that those special moments: a birthday, a weekend holiday, an anniversary dinner, will be filled with quality, but we don't tend to pay that kind of attention to our everyday, regular, ordinary moments.

And yet they too, should be embued with quality.

One of the easiest and quickest ways that I know of to ensure that all of our moments are filled with quality, is to practice gratitude at all times. Wake up and be grateful for the morning, or the pleasure of still being in bed, or the warmth of your down-filled comforter, or the coolness of the cotton sheets, be grateful for the clean feeling in your mouth after you brush your teeth, be grateful for the calico cat that greets you on your daily jog, be grateful for the sweetness of the orange juice as it flows down your throat. You get the idea ... the gratitude being extolled here is not for anything special, it is simply for all those ordinary and yet wonderful things in our daily lives that make them - potentially - wonderful. It's up to you to see precisely that, by practicing this kind of gratitude.

Because - and this is the best part of it: as you make that effort, which needs to be quite concerted at the beginning, to behold and embue those ordinary elements of your daily life with gratitude, this begins to become something akin to a habit, something you do almost automatically, and hence it forms part of the background of your daily life, your very existence, subtly and marvelously influencing, therefore, the quality of every moment.

Photo Credit: Tina Phillips

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Loving Words and Praise ... Given in Time

Friendships and relationships and even family connections often pass through many cycles of stagnation, change and growth, and while frequently they then may rise to a new level, often they do not, and may wither and die. And sometimes they end because the other person has literally died.

When I was 21 my paternal grandfather - a rather pedantic and serious Prussian whom the war had misplaced into Germany, and at this point was already in his 90's - fell sick, and I heard of it from my father. No one thought he was very ill, and so no one thought much of it, but something made me write him a letter, which I then gave to my father who was on his way to visit him.

In the letter I told him of some of my favorite childhood memories of him, of some of the reasons I admired him, and I also told him what he really meant to me. My father later told me my grandfather had thoroughly enjoyed reading the letter. That same day he died.

My loving words and praise had been given in time. This has happened to me with another very important person in my life, with whom I had a telephone conversation as she lay dying, although I did not know it at the time, and the fact that I said the words that I did, made such a difference to me later on, in the way I was able to accept her death, in the knowledge that my words had come in time.

But those are extreme examples because they involve death ... what I wanted to address in this article was much more the fact that we are often too late with our loving words and words of praise in those relationships that leave our lives, but not due to death. Why are we so swift to say something negative, to criticize, judge, nag, and in general express our lack of approval of the other, and so slow, so agonizingly slow to say kind words, words of love, and words of praise?

This applies to any of our relationships, not only those with emotional ties. Why does it cost us so much to say something that is so simple, and can mean so much to the other? We can change lives with our kindness, our praise, our love.

Think of how you feel when you are praised, dealt with kindly and spoken to lovingly ... that's what you can do for others. Be kinder, more loving, praise more often ... make a point - from this moment right now - to behave this way on a daily basis with at least one person.

Photo Credit: Idea Go

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Anger Is a Hot Coal

A well-known quotation attributed to Buddha goes like this: Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else: you are the one who gets burned.

The first time I read that many years ago, I had to laugh. It just makes so much sense. And so I treid to make myself think of that quote whenever I got angry ... an emotion I used to be very attuned to ... and of course, just thinking about it as the anger threaened to surge over me, a part of me had to laugh again. And obviously not only at the idea, but particularly at the image of me, desperately tossing the hot coal from one burning hand to another and constantly intending to throw it at someone, but never letting go.

That is amazingly stupid, don't you think?

So - why do we do it? Give it some thought. And then ... let go of it. Let go of the hot coal. Let go of the anger. So you can be free.

Photo Credit: Idea Go

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Confrontation and the Peacemaker

I read an article recently about people who knowingly hurt others by evasion, lies, subterfuge, etc., and how hard it is for the other to confront the "perpetrator". This subject is very important, I believe, because it brings a subject to the table that few seem to fully understand.

In my private practice as an integral pyschotherapist, clients will often tell me that they do not like confrontations because they consider themselve "peacemakers", and yet, when they behave in this "peace-loving" way, they do not feel good about themselves. In this small observation, lies, I believe, the core of the problem.

Simply stated: if you do not show yourself that you love and care for yourself when others do or say the unacceptable, i.e, when they cross boundaries in unhealty ways, your inner core suffers, the way your child would suffer if you did not care for it when attacked in some fashion. It comes down to a question of self-love. People find it hard to confront others because doing so creates great fear on an inner level, generally because of something that happened when they were a child and were dependent on the love and care of others - even if the "something" that happened was only in their perception, or relatively minor (i.e, not major abuse). So they learned to accept what was not necessarily good, and did so in order (on some subconscious level of thinking) to ensure that they would continue to be cared for. As adults, the confrontation brings up that childhood fear of disapproval and rejection.

To make a long story short, the “cure” for this dislike or fear of confrontation is to first understand the connection between it and lack of self-love (because it was never properly learned to love the self), and then to begin to practice “confronting” in situations that are not as stressful as others. For example, a haughty maître d’ at a restaurant that has served you unacceptably cooked food, might be a good place to start by returning the dish. Once a small practice of confronting has begun, the individual notices how much better he/she feels each time it is done, and then notices much more clearly how “bad” he/she feels (particularly in the solar plexus, where a clenching may take place each time a confrontation is avoided), and recognizes that by avoiding the confrontation (which often is just a question of saying to the other person: “this is not acceptable”), they are continually giving themselves the subliminal message that they do not love themselves enough to do this. (Also see my articles on boundaries and love of the self).

Photo Credit: Idea go

Monday, January 10, 2011

Enjoy Today

It seems counter-intuitive: enjoy today. Of course, you say, I enjoy today. And yet, think about it. You wake up and think about what you will be doing later that day. When you finally get to the point of doing that, you think about what you will be doing tomorrow or on the weekend, or when you will be on holidays. And when it's tomorrow, or the weekend, or even when you are on holidays, lying on the beach, skiing, or visiting a museum, you are thinking about what you'll need to do when you get back to your "regular" life ... at least part of the time.

So when are you enjoying today? Now?

We seem to sabotage ourselves over and over in the process of not enjoying this moment now. And yet, all it takes is a bit of practice. And awareness. And desire to live our lives in a better way.

For more information, also see my January 2011 Newsletter, wth a three-week program to achieve greater awareness of the now, and in the process, achieve inner peace, joy, and freedom. (If you are not already on the mailing list, you can subscribe here.)

Photo: Chinchon (Spain)