What Is Wrong With Me?

Sometimes things seem to move along so slowly. We lack motivation to move forward. Our dreams take a back seat to the “necessary” things of every day life.  Others in our lives distract us with their issues and problems.  When we finally lay our heads down on the pillow at night, we take a deep breath and wonder “What Is Wrong With Me?

As a Life Coach I hear this often from clients.  But, truth be told, I have been in this same place myself.  In fact, lately I’ve been spending a lot of time there.  Wondering.  Searching.  Trying to figure it out.  Seeking the “magic” solution (no pun intended) to my problem that will get me out of my funk and move me forward quickly in the direction I want to go.  To realize my dreams sooner rather than later.  To have the life I’ve always wanted to have.  To “arrive” at my destination and feel success and joy.

But today it dawned on me;  I’ve missed the point.

Often when I feel something is wrong with me, it’s due to a few simple feelings:

I feel like I’m not  in control;

I feel unmotivated and spiritually tired.

As I’ve struggled with these issues, a few bits of advice from The Daily Om helped me gain some perspective.

“Trying to maintain control in this life is a bit like trying to maintain control on a roller coaster. The ride has its own logic and is going to go its own way, regardless of how tightly you grip the bar. There is a thrill and a power in simply surrendering to the ride and fully feeling the ups and downs of it, letting the curves take you rather than fighting them. When you fight the ride, resisting what’s happening at every turn, your whole being becomes tense and anxiety is your close companion. When you go with the ride, accepting what you cannot control, freedom and joy will inevitably arise.”

As someone who has experienced failures in both relationships and career I can tell you that when the illusion of control is removed, it is a very traumatic experience.  One of my favorite movie scenes is this one from Instinct with Anthony Hopkins & Cuba Gooding Jr.  When we realize that control of everything in our lives is an illusion, we take the first step to understanding the true power we have over our lives. 

While we may not be able to control everything that happens to us, we can always control how we choose to react in response.  When we increase our awareness and surrender to what is in this moment, we have much more personal power available when it is time to choose our response.

Now this is not to say that we should sit back and not take any action to make our lives become what we would like no more than we would get on a roller coaster without connecting our safety harness.  What it does mean is that we must overcome the fear and anxiety that causes us to just take any action so that we are at least doing something!  When we can relinquish control and relax into this unknown experience, we may find that the results were not exactly what we hoped would happen but were exactly what was needed for us to take the next step in our journey.  Put another way, that last hard right turn on the coaster may have been unexpected and startling, but it was all just part of the ride.

The way we remain a joyous rider of life’s roller coaster is to remain positive.  There have been times where I have seen no good outcome possible for my particular situation only to be pleasantly surprised a short time later and it was all because I remained positive and open to the possibilities.  I’ve also had times where I’ve repeated lessons and taken steps backwards for no other reason than that I believed things couldn’t possibly work out for me and that I was doomed to experience pain as punishment for my previous actions.  Energy flows where attention goes and gaining peace with situations that feel “out of control” revolve primarily around our thoughts;  the more we think we can have a great outcome, the more likely it becomes as our thoughts truly control our reality.

Motivation ties in closely with this feeling of control.  After all, if we don’t have any control, then why should we even try?  We should just sit back, let things happen and just live with the consequences, right?  This type of thinking, whether we realize it or not, is no different than expecting things to go wrong for us.  In addition, if we try to force something to happen, we are going against ourselves as the reason it has not materialized for us yet is that our higher self knows we’re not quite ready.  Perhaps we need to learn something, meet someone or have another experience before we’ll be truly ready.

In the meantime, we should just enjoy the ride and the experiences we are having.  In our fast paced society, we often feel uneasy if we are not “accomplishing” or “doing” something.  Realizing that “making progress” cannot be forced allows us to transition from human “doings” to human “beings”…and sometimes just being is all that’s required.

Spring Forward

The Winter season is a very interesting time for nature.  It is the time when nature lays dormant and hibernates in preparation for the coming spring.  The days are often dreary and cold and just as many other animals do, most people prefer to stay inside going out only when necessary.  it is a great time for internal reflection, growth, development and preparation for the rest of the coming year.

It is also the time of the year when depression and anxiety seem to become more “visible” to many of us.  While most studies have shown that the rates of depression and anxiety are no greater during this time of year than any other, we still have a perception that they are more prevalent.  This used to be called the “Holiday or Winter Blues” but now has become recognized as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

So why is it that so many of us feel “SAD” this time of year?  Well, there are many contributing factors.  One of them is the changes in the patterns of the Sun.  Around June and December 21st, the sun reaches it’s lowest point in the sky and appears to be “still” as it remains there for approximately 3 days.  These are the shortest days and longest nights of the year or the two points of Solstice (from the Latin words meaning “the sun stands still.”)  When the sun begins moving again, we have passed the midpoint of winter and are on the way towards more and more sunlight each day!

There have been many studies that have linked “poor mood” to a lack of sunlight. This decrease in sunlight may disrupt our body’s internal clock, cause a drop in serotonin and disrupt the balance of the body’s level of melatonin all of which play a role in sleep patterns and mood.  So, from September to December, is it any wonder we start feeling a little more “down?”

But the patterns of the Sun are not the only thing affecting us.  The holidays we celebrate during the winter months usually include many “stressful” events that can dampen our mood.  We spend time with family members.  We have lots and lots of activities to attend.  We rush around to the grocery store to get all the things needed for the “big dinner” and later to the mall to get the “perfect gift” for everyone on our list.

With all this activity and stress, it is easy for us to miss out on the healing time the winter provides.  As we mentioned earlier, winter is the time when nature hibernates and prepares for the coming year.  We should take advantage of this time ourselves as well.  While we may not always feel we have the time we need to do this, it is important to set aside some personal time and allow ourselves to just “be” without “doing.” 

During the holidays, many of our dragons are activated.  We may have feelings of pain that arise from interaction with relatives we rarely see.  We may experience disappointment when we’re not invited to the party we’d like to attend or discover we didn’t receive a gift we hoped to receive.  All of these “let downs” can bring back difficult feelings and emotions at a time when we don’t have the sun available in the sky to recharge us.

The plain and simple truth is that during this time of hibernation we should take care of ourselves.  We must allow ourselves to treat us well.  We should take some “me” time to get a massage, spend a day at the spa, visit a museum or read that book on the nightstand.  We should allow ourselves to indulge a bit with a food or dessert that we’ve have denied ourselves.  We should attend that seminar or take that trip we’ve been putting off for a while.

When we allow ourselves to have this “me” time something magical happens; we learn a great deal about our dragons

As we relax and calm ourselves, the  feelings of pain and fear we may have experienced in the recent months become less prominent in the present moment.  With that reduced prominence, we can examine those feelings more objectively and learn what motivates them, where they originate or, in other words, the source of the EchoTM for us.

Discovering why feelings of pain and fear arise for us is half the battle in overcoming them.  Once we acknowledge that source is in the past, we realize those feelings can no longer hurt us now unless we choose to bring them into our present moment.  All that is left then is to become Comfortable Being UncomfortableTM which means that when we experience unpleasant feelings, we don’t give into them immediately but we instead consciously recognize the dragon for what it is:  an Echo.

As we continue this practice we discover that, in no time at all, the dragon no longer even shows up or, if it does, that we can easily dismiss it and return our focus to the present moment.  This keeps us moving forward on our journey and promotes healing for not just us but for those around us as well.

Last week we moved our clocks ahead to Spring Forward and this Friday (March 20th or the “Spring Equinox”) is the first “official” day of Spring.  Let’s use the next week or so to allow ourselves the final benefits of our winter hibernation.  It will give us great momentum towards having a wondrous, empowered, beauty filled year.

 

Celebrating Our Differences

Equality.  We hear this word quite often in the media today.  Although it’s been almost 100 years since women were granted the right to vote in the United States, there is still a lot of effort by various organizations to demonstrate that women are capable of doing whatever men can do.  Just this year, the United States Navy promoted its first woman to the rank of Four Star Admiral.  There are also 54 women who hold the title of CEO for such major corporations as HP, IBM, Pepsi, and DuPont.

But, while the perspective has shifted about the role of women, so too has it shifted about men.  Popular media from morning news talk shows to Oprah and Dr. Phil have promoted the need for men to be more feeling, more caring and more sensitive.  Men are taking on more child rearing responsibility and some are choosing to be full time stay-at-home dads.  While these shifts in perspectives and roles are allowing many men and women to lead the lives they have always wanted, there has been an unforeseen side effect for many people:  tremendous gender role confusion.

It’s not surprising that this confusion exists.  With a push for equality between men and women, we have become so focused on being the same that we have neglected to understand how men and women are different.  There are of course apparent physical differences such as men being generally bigger and stronger than women. But there are also less obvious differences such as women generally being better communicators and having the ability to understand what others are saying beyond the mere words being said.

Put another way, our pursuit of equality may have caused us to miss a very important point:  the differences between most men and women originate not due to their physical attributes but more so from their differences in spiritual energy.

The Yin & Yang framework of Traditional Chinese Medicine explains this energy difference well.  Masculine or Yang energy is Active energy.  It is the feeling of doing and accomplishing.  Feminine or Yin energy is Passive energy.  It is the feeling of allowing and flowing.  We must realize the importance of each of these aspects in ourselves, our relationships and our surroundings. As an example, if we are always in our masculine/Yang energy, we would never cooperate with others to achieve something. It would be “our way or the highway.” Conversely, if we are always in our female/Yin energy, we would always go along with what others want without ever expressing our need to follow our own path. As with all things in our lives, the truth of what we should do in any given situation requires finding balance between those two extremes.

Biology teaches us that men and women have levels of both the male hormone testosterone and the female hormone estrogen in their bodies.  What distinguishes a male from a female in physical form is the level of each these hormones.  Similarly, each male and female has a different degree of the Yin & Yang energies.  A woman who works to become CEO of a corporation undoubtedly has more masculine energy than a women who desires to be a stay-at-home mom and raise her children.  In the same manner, a man who chooses to run a nursing home has more feminine energy than a man who chooses to operate a construction business.  Furthermore, there are women and men who have fairly equal amounts of masculine and feminine energy and pursue careers while simultaneously being focused on raising their children.  The emphasis on equality has helped us realize that all of these choices are valid and are a decision that should be left to each individual.  Nevertheless, that emphasis still puts a lot of societal pressure on individuals to “hold back” their uniqueness and conform to the “new rules.”

Today, few would argue that the “tom boy” female should have the opportunities to pursue the life and career that brings her joy and fulfills her purpose.  It is also now more “acceptable” for young males to show interest in what have been traditionally female oriented careers and they should receive the same encouragement.  But the pursuit of equality cannot allow us to forget that the reverse is also true.  Boys who show interest in becoming “rugged men” should not be discouraged and told that they need to be more like girls and girls who want to focus on their families and children should not be chastised for not focusing on a career for themselves.  Essentially, as children grow up, it is crucial that we identify their predominant energy type and encourage them along their individual life path and purpose.

The emphasis on equality and the resulting gender role confusion has caused many men and women today to struggle in their relationships with their partners.  Men have been instructed to become someone who is more like a women to be more appealing to women.  Women too have been told that they need to become more like men if they want to be “successful” and “worthy” of respect.  These reverse stereotypes (as compared to the traditional male and female roles) have made relationships for many men and women extremely complicated; it’s no wonder so many do not know how they are “supposed” to act or who they are “supposed” to be.  It has also caused men and women to select partners based upon who should be rather than who is best suited for a relationship with them.

While a “more” feminine woman may appreciate a man who is kind and caring, she loses interest quickly if he does not embrace his masculine energy and “lead” the relationship. So many women have been drawn to the book 50 Shades of Grey because they yearn to experience the strong attraction created when their partner leads the relationship as Christian did.  By the same token, a “more” masculine man may find a very assertive woman attractive in the beginning only to become overwhelmed later by what he sees and her nagging and lack of confidence in his ability.

We have to be careful not to try and make ourselves fit into any predefined roles that society has created.  Instead we should explore our life path while being true to ourselves so that we attract the relationship that is best suited for us.  If  we are not aware of nor acting in alignment with who we truly are, we will attract intimate relationships based upon what others (i.e. society, friends, family, religion) believe is “best” for us but which may not be in fact what we truly need or desire.

Looking around at other couples may give us some understanding of what we want, however, that should still not be our final guide.  Our true partner is someone who enhances our ability to grow along our life path journey; their energy compliments ours and the two are “more” together than apart.  This type of Spiritual Partnership (as described by Gary Zukav)  can take many forms.  We should celebrate each and every intermingling of two souls with opposite energy polarities, in a way that works for them, without judgement from our own relationship paradigms.

A good example of this is the controversy that emerged after the release of Candice Cameron’s book Balancing it All: My Story of Juggling Priorities and Purpose.  In the book, Candice mentions how she has taken a more “submissive” role to her husband in their relationship.  Even though she spent much time explaining what she meant by that, many people were still upset that she was not acting as a “stronger” woman in her relationship.  She was criticized for promoting a relationship that many felt undermined women’s equality.  However, for Candice and her husband, nothing could be further from the truth.  They have come together and developed a wonderful, happy relationship that has lasted for many years.  So why has their relationship been so successful?

Val and Candice understood this simple point:  For us to find our best romantic relationships, we must first understand and embrace our personal energy type and look to find a partner that compliments it.  If we are primarily masculine/Yang, regardless of whether we have a male or female form, we must act true to ourselves and not try to make ourselves more feminine just to “fit” into the current stereotypes of our society.  The same is true for those with primarily feminine/Yin energy.  In addition, we must recognize the dominant energy type in each of our children and find ways to help them to develop and grow with it rather than encouraging them to be someone they are not.  This is one of the single most important things we can do as parents to help our children have successful, love filled and enduring relationships.

Males and Females are different due to their anatomy; masculine and feminine are different due to their energy.  If we are celebrating our differences and the spirit of every individual with love and support, everyone can find the partner they are seeking…who undoubtedly has been seeking them just as vigorously.

Letting Go

(This article also appeared in The Charlotte Observer)

Just over 20 years ago, I was a recent college graduate and had just gotten my first job in the “real world.”  I was very excited about earning a good living and being able to pay all my own bills completely on my own.  One of the things I had dreamed about was buying my own car.

I feel fortunate that I had had a car to drive through high school and college.  As a matter of fact, I had three different cars; the first was a hand-me-down from my dad and the second two were ones I had selected, but, they had been used and mom and dad had paid for them.  So now that I was an “adult” and had my own money, I could pick out the car I wanted without any “limitations” or need to obtain someone’s “approval” of my choice.

I began looking around at the car lots.  There was a specific car that interested me but I could not afford to purchase one that was brand new.  One night, I was looking at this “special” car in the used section of the Ford dealership.  It had fairly low miles and looked like it was in pretty good condition.  But then, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted something I’d never considered; a Thunderbird.

Soon thereafter the salesman came out to greet me and we started talking.  As we discussed the two cars it struck me that this new Thunderbird was the same price as the used other car.  I remember test driving both of them and being more impressed with the way the Thunderbird “felt” when I drove it and the fact that it had more room and trunk space than the other car I had thought I wanted.  I wound up buying the Thunderbird that night; my first car I had ever bought with my own money.

What I didn’t realize at the time is that the car is somewhat rare; Ford only built 2000 of them in 1994 and only 700 of them like mine with a manual transmission.  I so loved driving that car.  None of my friends or family had anything like it.  It made me feel special and unique.

For the next 20 years, that car was very important to me.  If anything stopped working on it, I immediately fixed it no matter how small the problem.  I washed it.  I waxed it.  I put car covers on it and cleaned the interior regularly.  I loved every moment I spent driving it and taking care of it after all, it was my car.

In the first week of June this year, I decided to sell it.  I placed several ads but no one seemed to be interested.  I finally listed it on eBay and it still didn’t sell.  Just when I thought I would never sell it, someone contacted me and eventually bought the car.

Once all the paperwork was done and the new owner had driven my car away, I felt a sense of sadness.  This car had been a big part of my life for over 20 years and now, it was gone. So even thought I knew I had made the right decision because it was time to let go of the car, why was I feeling sad?

Often in our lives, we hear about the importance of learning to let go.  We are told that we need to be able to let go of bad feelings, bad relationships, bad situations; anything that makes us feel “bad.”  After all, we can’t begin to feel “good” until we let go of all the “bad” stuff right?  But letting go is not just about leaving “bad” feelings behind us; sometimes letting go is simply a passage from one phase of our journey into the next.

Consider the parents whose young adult is just graduating from school and starting his or her new life.  What type of future will that young individual have if the parents are unable to let go?  How will that young person learn how to handle themselves as a true adult?  In this example there is no “bad situation” the parents are trying to avoid by letting go, yet the difficulty remains the same.

What does this mean?  The answer is fairly simple:  our difficulty with letting go has much less to do with what we are releasing and much more do to with our fear of what might happen next – without it.  So frequently we refuse to let go of something because it is familiar and, regardless of how wrong it may be for us, that familiarity brings us comfort.  New things and experiences are often very exciting yet we avoid them simple because of our fear of the unknown; what holds us back is always fear.

There are so many things we hang onto because life is easier that way.  If we are at odds with someone else, it is much easier to remain mad at them and not talk to them than to work towards a resolution and discover some painful things about ourselves we needed to know to progress on our journey.  If we hold onto our children, we may feel more comfortable knowing they are “safe” but we deprive them of the ability to make mistakes, learn and grow.  Regardless of whether we feel “bad” or “good”, refusing to let go blocks energy flow and ultimately hinders growth.

We must have the courage to stand in our truth, see where we want to go, recognize where we are, and cheerfully release anything that no longer serves us on our journey.  What no longer serves us can take many forms;

It may be a thing.

It may be a habit.

It may be a relationship.

It may be a belief.

It may be our own resistance to the unknown.

Whatever we hold onto continues to receive our energy and limits our ability to direct our energy where it is most needed for our  journey.  We may have sad feelings or become very nostalgic about Letting Go but we must do this if we are to move forward.  When we hang on to old things or feelings from the past, we are limiting the “room” in our life for the new.  Think about a very cluttered house; how can we possibly consider new furniture or new window dressings when things are strewn about and we can hardly move?  That “stuck” feeling we have in a cluttered house is the same thing that happens to our energy when we resist letting go.

Why do we walk instead of continuing to crawl like we did when we were infants?  Because, crawling no longer serves us.  Yet we didn’t learn to walk overnight; we took gradual steps to leave the “old” behind so that we could experience the “new” which is exactly what we do when we Let Go.

When we Let Go, we acknowledge that we will be alright in our life regardless of what we have or do not have.  We realized that those we care about will be OK even if we’re not there to help them avoid mistakes.  We understand that life contains ebb and flow and holding on too tightly causes us to loose perspective on our journey.  We acknowledge that all is well and that as we remain in alignment with ourselves, we continue to grow and receive the life we seek.

Just as it is impossible to drive a car while staring in the rear view mirror, we too must look ahead on our life journey.  We must allow certain things to become smaller and eventually disappear from sight in the rear view mirror.  We will only enjoy where we are now and what lies ahead of us once we stop looking back on where we’ve been.

 

Life Balance – Part II

(This article also appeared in The Charlotte Observer)

Last month, in Part I of this article, we discussed the importance of learning how to Juggle.   The process included identifying our life priorities, adding in some time for things we enjoy and removing things from our schedule that aren’t in alignment with our individual truth.  This month we’re going to discuss how to build upon that skill set to achieve Balance.

Balancing Life ultimately means we are able to keep the various things in our life in the proper perspective.  It’s about making decisions based upon what is important to us as individuals and setting boundaries to insure everything in our life gets the appropriate amount of attention.

When most people think about “balance”, the image of a scale comes to mind.  This is the “classic” definition and corresponds to the most widely recognized meaning of the word balance: keeping things equal.  We are encouraged to learn how to get all these differing things in our life to equal each other and to not spend too much time in only one area of our lives.  While this is a wonderful concept to pursue, it can be quite challenging to achieve in real life.  We often find that the scales are rarely equally aligned and instead they are very skewed with one side much higher than the other.  For this reason, it’s much more useful to use this definition of the word balance: the ability to maintain stability.

Consider a circus performer on a tightrope.  Each performer has a unique style.  Some use chairs, some use bicycles, some stack other people on top of themselves and, yes, some juggle!  If the “wrong” things are chosen to juggle while walking the rope, balancing becomes incredibly difficult.  When good choices are made about the objects being juggled, balancing becomes easy.

That is why it is so important that we stand in our truth and be selective about what we choose to juggle in our lives.  We find harmony and happiness with each decision we make that is in alignment with that personal truth.  When we aren’t in alignment, it is extremely easy to loose our stability and be thrown of “balance” by situations that distract us from what is truly important to us.

In addition, rarely do different circus entertainers perform the exact same “balancing act.” Instead, they develop a unique “act” based upon their individual, unique talents and abilities.  And so it is with us; each of us has unique interests, talents and abilities.

When we compare ourselves to others and how they achieve balance in their lives we are being unfair to ourselves.  While we may choose to learn from the example of others, we should always measure our success by how well we juggle and balance our lives in relation to our own, individual truth.  When we use this as our guide, we usually find that we have more time available to us because we have only committed our time to the things most important to us.

Another way to think about balance is the image of a seesaw; sometimes we’re down and sometimes we’re up.  When we’re down, we’re putting in more effort to the situation than the benefit we’re receiving (after all, we’re holding someone else up in the air).  When we push off the ground and we move up, and we’re putting in much less effort than is being returned to us.  In either case, we’re still maintaining balance to remain on the seesaw.

Would any of us enjoy riding the seesaw if it just sat in place, perfectly “balanced” all the time?  Of course not because if everything was always in perfect “balance” we would be extremely bored.  Imagine having no traffic on the way to work each day, performing everything flawlessly at work and then coming home to having everything “perfect” at home.  While that might sound like exactly what we desire, everything always going “perfectly” would not allow us to grow on our journey.  It is the contrast between what we want and don’t want that drives us to improve ourselves and our lives.  Sometimes it’s hard to admit that the “fun” in life comes from experiencing both the ups and downs.

The real key to maintaining good balance in our lives is recognizing that we will be out of balance at times, allowing ourselves to feel that way, and avoiding the trap of being out of balance for too long.  Things are going to happen that upset the balance in our lives.  We will have a loved one who needs more of our attention.  We will have tragedies that occur that will distract us from our normal lives.  We will have people in our lives that do things that cause us to loose our presence.  How we react to those situations makes all the difference the how well we move forward on our own journey.

Just the other day, a situation developed with a family member that required quite a bit of my attention.  Over about 48 hours or so, I was intensely focused on the situation with her.  During that period, I noticed several times that my mind was not on what I was doing but on her and what I could do to help her.  Additionally, in that same time frame, I had another situation with another individual develop that was a further distraction to “my” life.  While I was feeling out of balance, I noticed that as I became more present and aware, I also became more calm.  This allowed me to put effort and focus into the other areas of my life which I had neglected during the “crisis” and I gradually returned to a feeling of balance.

Developing our abilities to Juggle and Balance is an important part of our life journey.  We’re not always going to feel that we’re getting it right and sometimes we will feel really challenged by our circumstances.  As we increase our presence and awareness and make right decisions in alignment with our personal truth, we discover that we are bringing our best to the situation and when we do that, we move forward on our journey.

Life Balance – Part I

(This article also appeared in The Charlotte Observer)

The other day I overheard a few folks in line at a coffee shop discussing how they were working to create more “balance” in their lives.  As their conversation progressed, it seemed they each felt very frustrated that their lives seemed to run them rather than them running their lives.  They also began discussing their admiration for another mutual friend who seemed to “have it all together” even though that person had many demands on her life including being in a committed relationship, raising children and working full time.

As they walked away, I began to think of my own life and wondered how did I achieve the “balanced life” I enjoy today?  As I thought back, I realized that it certainly wasn’t always this way.  I can certainly remember times in my life when I worked long hours, had many activities each evening and felt guilty if I sat still for more that 5 minutes to “relax.”  In fact, I once went over 2 years without more than 2 days off in a row (i.e. no week long “vacation”).  So what was so different about how I lived my life back then from my life today?  What had I done to achieve this life I was now enjoying so much?

Typing “Life Balance” into Google  returns over 161 million results.  There are programs, seminars, books, websites, gurus and etc all with a slightly different method to find life balance.  What I’ve found most important about achieving Life Balance is recognizing the difference between two important concepts: juggling life and balancing life.  In Part I of this series, we’re going to talk about juggling.

Juggling Life refers to all the different areas of our life that require our attention.  In fact, this is what most of us are discussing regularly with others when we talk about all the things we are trying to manage in  our lives.

As part of our juggling act, we each play a variety of roles throughout the day:

We’re a parent.

We’re an employee.

We’re a partner / lover.

We’re a friend / sibling.

We’re a chef / maid / CFO / repairman.

Juggling is much different from Balancing.  Juggling requires that we be able to handle multiple things, shift from one role to another with ease and give each “item” we’re juggling the appropriate amount of attention.  If we cannot juggle well, we have little chance of achieving balance.

When people have asked me what makes juggling so difficult, my first response is usually that “all the things we are attempting to keep in the air are made of glass and covered in peanut butter!”  In other words, first and foremost, we don’t want to drop any of them and allow them to “break” because each one is important to us.  Being covered in peanut butter means that any of the items we are juggling can stick to our hands, become difficult to handle and hinder our ability to juggle.

Another analogy I use includes tennis balls and bowling balls.  Often, we have several “similar sized” things we are juggling that are pretty light and easy to handle like tennis balls.  While it may be challenging, it is not terrifically difficult.  Other times the things we juggle may become difficult and make us feel like a bowling ball has been added to what we are juggling.  An example of this would be when one of our children gets sick.  In this situation, we have to provide more “effort” and attention to our child than we may normally.  This can make it difficult to keep the rest of our “balls in the air.”

In the midst of working to juggle all these things, fulfill all our various daily roles and perform them well, it is very easy to lose our individual selves and what we need.  We “run” all day long and collapse into bed exhausted only to repeat the cycle the next day.  This is when we feel frustrated; when we have no time left in our day for ourselves and what we want.  So, how do we change this?  We begin by determining what is truly important to us in our unique life journey.

When I made the changes to my life several years ago, one of the problems I noticed I had was over-committing my time.  I had a real problem saying “no” to people and, although I was always able to get everything done, living that way left very little time for me.  What helped me change that habit was identifying clearly for myself what was important in my life.  I needed to be sure what I was doing was because I chose to do it and not because someone else expected me to do it.

Now let me make this clear.  I’m saying I sat down and determined what was important to me and what was not.  I then became selective about the things I would allow into my “juggling items.”  This didn’t mean that at first I still didn’t have to do some things I didn’t want to do; there were important things that I had to do even though I didn’t want them in my juggling list.  Over time, I worked to remove these items from my list but at first, I had to continue to do them out of necessity (e.g. continue to work at a job I didn’t like because I had bills to pay).

The other thing I noticed about my “juggling list” was that I had an affinity for bowling balls!  It seemed I was always trying to manage many, many difficult things at once which always stretched my ability to “get it all done.”  I may have been keeping all the balls in the air, but my back was killing me!

Over the course of about 2 years, I gradually reduced my activity list so that what remained were the things that were really important to me.  I only volunteered for things if I knew it would not feel like a “burden” to do (when the things we do aren’t burdensome, juggling is much easier).  I also took care to recognize when I was dealing with a bowling ball or two and made sure not to accept any more “things” until I had removed some of the bowling balls.  At the end of that 2 years, I was doing much more of what I liked to do, with much less effort and with more “free” time for myself.

To summarize, becoming a successful “juggler” requires a building-block approach based upon what is important to us and what gives our life meaning.  First we must be able to juggle the things that are most important to us which usually include our spouse, children and career..  For the most part, these are the top priorities in our lives and deserve the majority of our attention.  Next, we can gradually add things we enjoy doing as an individual (e.g. spending time with dear friends, taking classes, having time alone).  Giving ourselves individual time allows us to recharge and not feel we only exist for the benefit of others.  Finally, we must learn to avoid things that consume our energy that we are doing out a misplaced sense of obligation (e.g. agreeing to do a group newsletter when we know we don’t have enough time for it).

Juggling is always easier when we are acting in alignment with our true self and what is truly important to us.  Now that we understand how to juggle, we can learn how to maintain our stability.

Connected Communications

The other day, a colleague of mine asked me to contact someone to offer them some “technical” assistance.  The “customer” had been told that someone would contact them soon to help him “solve his problem” but when I called him, things did not go as I expected.

Whenever I seek assistance from someone else, I am always very grateful for their time and effort.  After all, they are not required to help me; they have chosen to help me.  Even when I contact a call center (for something like a problem with my cell phone) and speak with someone who is a complete stranger, I am always very gracious and kind to my “helper” because I know how I treat him or her has a big affect on the type of service I receive.

I do this at the checkout in the grocery store.

I do it at the drive thru window.

I do it at the bank.

I do it when I’m in a retail store.

This approach is just part of who I am.

Most people who ask me for help take a similar approach with me.  It is nice to hear someone say “Thank you so much for all your help, I really appreciate it.”  So, when I made my phone call and the “customer” answered with a “rough” tone, I was a bit taken aback.

I explained that I had called to help him correct his problem.  He curtly replied that he knew what was wrong and wanted to know what I was going to do to fix it.  I asked him a few questions to clarify what was wrong and what, if any, testing he had done to verify the problem.  He responded curtly again that he didn’t need to do any testing because he’d been “doing this for 20 years and knew what was wrong” and wanted someone on site immediately to fix “our problem.”  I explained that I would have to get in touch with the “Service Group” to see if we could send someone to his location to correct the issue and promised to call him back later with the logistics.

I contacted the “Service Group” and they informed me they were fairly busy at the moment, would need to see what they could shuffle around to send someone out the next day, and would call me back as soon as they had more information.  Around 45 minutes later, while I was awaiting the Service Group’s call, the customer called me back.

He identified himself and I responded “hello” and there was silence on the phone.

“Do you know why I am calling?”

“No sir, I do not.  Is something else wrong?”

“You said you would call me back to let me know when someone was showing up tomorrow.”

“No sir, I told you I would contact the Service Group and I have not heard back from….”

[he then began talking over me]

“Don’t get smart with me; when is someone coming?”

“I don’t know yet and there’s no need to get upset.  As I said I’m waiting….”

“You need to get someone up here now.  I’m not happy that this is not resolved and you need to make something happen

“As I said I’m awaiting a….”

“Sir, Sir, SIR?  Can’t you hear I’m being polite”

“You are using the word ‘Sir’, but you are not being polite.”

He continued to berate me about what a horrible job I was doing.  His voice became louder and he was belligerent and I finally said:

“I have never had anyone talk to me this way.  I am working to solve the problem and I will call you back as soon as I have more information”

“You will call me back by the end of the day with details about who will be here tomorrow.  Is that clear?”

“I heard you; and I will call you back by the end of the day.”

When I got off the phone, a colleague of mine who overheard my side of the conversation said “You hung in there longer than I would have; I would have just hung up.  Are you ok?”  When he asked me if I was ok, I was stunned.  I hadn’t realized it at the time, but the entire experience had shaken me and my colleague could see it…in fact, he could feel feel it.  What had happened, which took me a bit to realize, was that I had gotten extremely angry.

For the most part, I don’t allow anger to overwhelm me.  When I feel it, I just allow it, experience it and it moves through me fairly quickly.  As I thought more about the situation, I realized this “customer” had triggered some of my EchosTM about having other people “come at me” and feelings of helplessness I’ve had in my past.  This resulted in a level of anger I had not felt in a long, long time.  In addition, I was disappointed in myself that, because of my EchosTM, I was not able to handle the situation in a better way.  I was “distracted” for the rest of the day as I replayed the situation in my mind over and over again.

Later that night, I finally realized that there may not have been anything I could have done to change the situation for one simple reason:

The customer was going to act how he was going to act because of his stuff.

It’s not our job to make people act kindly; all we can do is show them how and hope they follow.  If not, we must continue on our journey and allow them to continue on theirs regardless of how much we feel obligated to “help” them.  Some people do not want to be “reached” and that’s ok.  No matter how hard we try, we may not be able to “connect” with them and that will hinder our communication every time.

Whenever something like this happens to me, whenever I am “thrown off” by a situation or event, one of the things I do is to “tune into” the lessons that are being presented to me.  It is in times like these that I am most reminded that there are no accidents and everything happens for us not to us.

Although I did not enjoy the experience, I was reminded of some EchosTM that still require some of my attention for my continued growth along my journey.  I also realized that in spite of my anger, was able to calmly “stand in my truth” and let the other person know that he was not speaking to me politely.  Finally, I decided that the next time I feel this happening, I will not hesitate to remove myself from the situation rather than continue to take “abuse” from someone.  We all must love ourselves enough not to accept that type of behavior from others.

 

Also by no coincidence there was the video that was sent to me just today by Julian Treasure. Julian’s vision is to make the world sound beautiful through conscious awareness of it.  In the video he describes some of the key aspects of effective communication he has learned during his career which I found very worthwhile.

 

Connected Communications happen easily when we remember one simple thing: we are all connected.  What we do affects those around us whether it’s the kind way we interact with the cashier or the harsh way we respond when hurt by a loved one.  As we increase our personal awareness, we can give ourselves permission to feel our own emotions without judgement and genuinely connect with others rather than simply reacting.  And when we focus our energy in a positive way towards others, it takes much less time to get where we want to go.

Who To Trust

So often in life we find ourselves in situations that cause us disappointment.  We have wonderful expectations of how something is going to turn out and we give it our all only to fall short of what we would have liked to have accomplished.  Frequently, our greatest disappointments are created from our relationships or lack thereof with people to whom we feel close.  When things don’t work out the way we expect with others, we are hurt, we feel the pain and are overwhelmed.  In short, our disappointments lead to mistrust.

Getting caught in this downward spiral in our lives can be extremely dangerous.  When we feel pain, it brings back what I refer to as our EchoesTM which are all the emotions we have felt in the past when we have been in similar circumstances.

To explain Echoes further, let’s suppose that in our past when we were 10 or so years old we had been suddenly “dumped” by our first romantic interest.  To make matters worse, the situation was totally unexpected and happened without warning.  In our minds, everything was going fantastic and we were completely dumbfounded by the other person’s decision to abruptly end the relationship.

Many of us with kids have witnessed the devastation our children feel when this situation happens to them.  Without realizing what we are doing we think to ourselves “I don’t understand why she is so upset; it’s not that big of a deal and there are plenty of other boys that are interested in her.” 

Yet in our lives, when we have a disappointment that triggers one of our Echoes, the pain we felt from that previous event (even though it happened so long ago) reverberates through us just like an echo in a canyon.  The amount of time that the feeling resonates is directly proportional to how severe its effect was on us at the time of the original event.

However, that is not the only Echo we experience.

If we’ve been dumped, we feel the Echo from each person who has dumped us since then.

We also feel the Echo from every person who has let us down since then.

We also feel the Echo from every situation in which we felt we were not “good enough.”

We also feel the Echo from each and every experience that made us feel disappointed and unworthy.

If we are unaware of what is happening, we take our “heart balloon,” pack it away in a lock box and vow to never let anyone near it again and then….

We shut down.

We close ourselves off and place brick walls and concrete around our hearts.  We disconnect our vulnerability and allow it to grow dust in the deepest, darkest corner of our internal, “secret closet.”

When we allow ourselves to get into this state, we are no longer living our lives.  Once we allow fear in any form and for any reason to rule us we go from pursuing our dreams to protecting ourselves.  We become paranoid that just around the corner is the next “bad thing” that’s going to happen to us and the only way to avoid it is to keep our heads down, stay quiet, avoid being noticed and survive.  While some folks believe this is a successful way to deal with disappointment, there are two problems with that approach:

  • We will attract into our lives more of whatever has our attention  (energy flows where attention goes so if we’re focusing on bad things happening, that is exactly what we will experience);
  • When we believe we can’t trust other people we give up all our personal power.

 We discussed the first item in the post All Is Well…Really It Is where we discovered it is all too easy for us to get caught up in the trap of negativity and attract more negativity into our lives.  We control what happens to us much more than we realize simply based upon the thoughts we allow to enter our consciousness (and more importantly our subconscious).  If we think things are going to turn our poorly, they will.  If we think things will turn out well, they will.  We may not get exactly the results we are focused upon for a variety of reasons, however, what we think is what we attract; our thoughts truly are a self fulfilling prophecy.

The second point is something very few of us realize when others let us down.  We often get caught up in thoughts of what he or she did to us, how they violated our friendship, our relationship, and ultimately our trust.  There is one key thing to remember in the trying time we are experiencing:

We don’t have to worry if we can or cannot trust someone else so long as we can trust ourselves.

Think about that for a moment.  There are countless self help books that have been published and blogs and articles on the internet that explain how to rebuild trust when it has been broken.  They explain ways to resolve trust issues in our marriages.  They talk about how to regain trust when we have been responsible for lost trust in the relationship.  They discuss how to “test” someone who has let us down to make sure we can begin to trust them again.  The simple fact is none of that is as important as us knowing we can trust ourselves.

When we can stand in our truth and trust ourselves to make the correct decisions, there is no reason to worry about how trustworthy someone else is.  Why should we allow the behavior of someone else to close off our heart, our vulnerability and our desire for what we want in life?  If we instead stand in our truth and believe that we will only attract trustworthy people into your life, what kind of people will show up?

Exactly.

The key to having trust is the same as the key to having love; it must start within ourselves.  Just as we cannot truly love someone else if we do not love ourselves, we cannot truly trust someone else if we do not trust ourselves.

When we trust ourselves, we recognize that we have the awareness, skills and confidence to deal with whatever situations come our way.  We know how to set proper boundaries in our lives and have no time to waste with people that use us or care about no one but themselves.  We can certainly show compassion for others but we must be careful never to do that to our own detriment.  When we allow others to  walk over us, we are not being noble; we are demonstrating a lack of self love and trust.

So let’s be sure we have established a healthy level of self trust.  Each experience we have along our journey helps us learn what we need to know; there are no accidents.  If we maintain our awareness and stand in our truth, we will find it easy to trust those who are worthy and and even easier to identify those who are not.

The Next Level

I was speaking with a client of mine the other day who was struggling a bit with some stagnation in his life.  He explained how he feels great about the progress he’s made over the last year but that sometimes he still has some difficulty in a few areas.  He was concerned that he had not moved “past” these things well enough because they were still “coming up” for him.

In a previous post about The Purpose of Relationships we discussed how lessons in our lives can be repeated in different forms until we “get it” and “move on” to the next lesson.  If we remain aware as each new experience comes, even though we make mistakes we also learn, ultimately improve, and move closer to where we want to be.

The best athletic competitors in the world routinely practice to refine their technique and achieve greater performance.  So it’s important to understand that sometimes, as my client was discovering, what appears to be a repeating lesson is merely the universe helping us further refine our skills so we are better equipped to move forward on our journey.

Now, bear with me a minute while I tell you something about my past.

I remember a time many years ago when I was very into video games.  I’m not talking about the ones played at home today on a PlayStation or a cell phone; I mean going to the arcade and putting $0.25 in the slot to play the game.  Many young folks today have never seen an arcade but I spent a lot of time there when I was a kid. One game in particular that I really enjoyed was called Turbo (shown in the picture).

From the time I was 10 years old, all I wanted was to be able to drive.  I jumped at every opportunity I had to drive whether it was a tractor on my cousin’s farm, a car on rails at the local amusement park or a friend’s go cart.

The simple fact was that I loved to drive!  The game Turbo was really appealing to me because it had a gas pedal, steering wheel and gearshift and made me feel like I was really driving a car.

Again, back then, video games were mainly played in arcades.  There were decent games that you could buy for your home Atari system (for you younger folks that is the Great Grandfather of the X-Box and PlayStation) but the really good games were at the arcade.  $5.00 would get you 20 plays and so the better your skills, the longer you could play without spending more money.  If you “failed”, many of the games would not make you “start over” if you put more money in within a certain amount of time.

Almost every weekend, I was at the arcade trying to master Turbo.  Sometimes I had several hours to hone my skills and other times I would only be able to practice for a short while.  Nevertheless, I made the most of the time that I had and really enjoyed it.  I can remember the day that I got the 2nd highest score on the machine; seeing my initials on the screen made me very proud.

I was surprised when all these memories came back to me the other day when I was talking to my client.  As he described some of his concerns I said to him “You know, life can be a lot like playing video games.”  He was a bit confused by my statement but I continued and said to him:

“When you were a kid and you played video games, did you ever beat yourself up for not making it to the next level?  I’m not saying were you never disappointed; what I’m asking is were you so disappointed in yourself that you felt like giving up or never playing that game again?  Of course not; you shrugged it off and tried again most often with more determination than you had had previously.  In your current situation, that is exactly what you need to do.”

The more we talked about this video game analogy, the more sense it made.

When we play a video game, we’re not worried about how well we’re going to do; we’re in the moment doing the best we can, right then, in that circumstance.  Sometimes we make it to the next level quickly and sometimes we don’t and usually, at some point, it becomes much more difficult to reach the next level.

We may try several things but just don’t seem to be making progress.  What we may not realize is that our subconscious is taking very good notes about everything and soon, without doing anything we feel is extraordinary, we’ve learned a few “secrets” and have moved on to the next level.

Video games also allow us to save our place in the game so when we fail to make it from level 4 to 5 we’re not sent back to level one to start all over again.  It is no different in our our life experience; sometimes we have learned a particular lesson or level very well only to find ourselves in a place that seems that we are all the way back where we started.

The key thing to remember is it only appears that way. 

What appears to be the same place may in fact be a different layer within this level that needs to be brought into the light.  Many of us have heard the analogy about “peeling the onion” to describe how we do our inner work.

Mastering all aspects of a particular level of a video game is very similar; if we move forward too quickly, we may not achieve everything required to complete the current level.  Another way to see this is to realize we may need to take something with us we will need for the next level.

So why so often do we feel discouraged and dejected when our forward progress seems to be slowing?  Well the phenomenon has been identified very well by entrepreneurial coach Dan Sullivan.  He describes the difference between where we are and where we want to be as our “future gap.”

Often, we place all our happiness into that space – the future.  We believe that only when we get “there” that we will be able to be happy because that is when we will get what we desire.  However, when our focus (read our energy) is in the future, we miss out on the present moment, what we need to bring to it, what we need to learn from it and the happiness we have right now.

To make this more clear, Dan suggests that we think back 2, 5 or even 10 years in our past and recognize what he calls the “reverse gap.”  How far have we come in that time?  What obstacles or issues have we overcome?  What positive changes have taken place in our lives?  We can all identify many things to put onto this “list of accomplishments” that allowed us to arrive where we are today.

Maybe our career is moving in a better direction.

Maybe we’ve gotten out of a relationship that no longer served us or we moved into a relationship that is really allowing us to thrive.

Maybe we’ve faced some of our “dragons” and have moved from “level 3 to level 4” in our journey.

Maybe we’re just more aware of our day-to-day feelings when we used to be confused about what made us feel poorly.

Regardless of the particular circumstances, we can all find at least one area in our life where we have made progress; where we have moved forward.  When we realize this, we can’t help but feel “better” knowing how far we’ve come.

The other part of this paradox is remembering how happy we thought we would be when we arrived “here.”

Now that we are “here”, we are usually setting our sites on the next “goal” and, again, we are postponing our happiness.  Awareness of this cycle in our mindset helps us redirect our energy into “now” and allow us to gain the most possible in this moment including the depths of the current lesson we are experiencing.

We should be careful not to allow ourselves to become downtrodden when we experience “set backs” on our journey.  If we remain relaxed and enjoy “playing” in the moment, those small steps backwards to the previous “level” will not seem like such a big deal.  In fact, we may just find that one elusive thing we need to move forward and get back in the flow.

 

All Is Well – Really It Is

So many times in our life we are distracted by life itself.  We are busy running around and “getting things done” and soon, without realizing what has happened, we have allowed our attitudes and our feelings to be dictated to us by our situation.  Now, there are times when tremendous growth can happen in these circumstances. Nevertheless, if we allow ourselves to remain stuck, we hinder our progress towards the life we want to experience.  Essentially, we lose our power because we forget we have it.

There are many people each day who provide us with regular reminders of how we should be living our lives.  For most of us, family members, friends and authority figures (such as parents, bosses, teachers, and group leaders) are of course the ones that are the most frequent and vocal.  They tell us what we should do, how we should look, what we should value and a whole host of other programming that is not always in our best interest.  There is a great deal of emphasis placed upon conforming to the norms of the group (e.g. family, social group, workplace, church, community organization) or society at large (through various advertisements and media).  Limiting the pursuit of our desires and remaining in our comfort zone by conforming can leave us feeling empty, alone and unfulfilled even though our actions are completely approved by “the group”.

One of the best things we can do for our selves to “weather the storm” is to re-focus our energy and attention on what we want.
As was mentioned in the post about Spiritual Resolutions “energy flows where attention goes” yet so often our focus is in the wrong direction or on the wrong things.  If we are so overwhelmed with all that is going “wrong” in our lives, we will simply attract more of that.

If we feel like we never have enough money, we never will.

if we feel like we just can’t have the body we want we can get close but not achieve our goal.

If we feel like we’re never going to find that one person who we were meant to share our life with, we’ll have some good relationships but we’ll always feel like there is something missing.

If we are to experience the life we want to live our desire has to be more powerful than any guilt we feel about it.  It’s not difficult to understand why we might feel guilty.  So often we are taught that having individual wants and needs make us “selfish” or “self-centered.”  We are scolded for putting our needs ahead of others and not sacrificing ourselves so that others close to us can feel more comfortable or so that we are not ‘making waves’ for the group.  The conflict or contrast we feel in these situations causes us to feel that things are not right in our world when in fact it is only our perspective of the situation that has us upset; our perspective is the only thing that causes us to delay the realization of our desires.

Much of our incorrect perspective comes from our programming.  This is very similar to what we experience when using a computer or a smart phone.  Although we may see on the screen the particular thing we are doing (e.g. browsing the internet, checking email) this is only the conscious part of the electronic device.  Behind what we see on the screen, in the “background” or subconscious, are many other programs running that determine how quickly the computer responds, how our work is being saved and recorded, and how we connected through the internet to the webpage or email server that is providing the information we view on the screen.  We work in exactly the same way and our background programming (our subconscious) is doing a lot to affect our experience even if we are not aware of it.  When we become aware and adjust that background programming, our experience changes.

Something recently happened with my girlfriend and I that demonstrates this principle perfectly.  She was trying to make some flight arrangements on-line and the total bill was going to be just over $2,000 for all the tickets.  She was panicking.  We had expected the total to be around $1,500 to stay within the amount we had budgeted for that trip.  We discussed several options about ways we could reduce the other costs associated with the trip to get us back to our budget.  Every idea we had made her more uncomfortable because it was less than what she desired.  In fact, the way she was reacting would be interpreted by most people as being self-centered or selfish or even stubborn.

And then, something very cool happened; we took our focus off the details, committed our energy to getting what we wanted, and then let it go.  The next day she sent me a text message and asked me to purchase the tickets.  When I sat down to do it, I thought of a new way to arrange the flights we needed that was a bit “out of the box” but elegantly solved some logistical issues we were trying to overcome.  The final bill for the trip?  Just over $1,400.

These types of results in “stressful” situation happen in our lives all the time we just notice them If we are not aware of our surroundings.  Sometimes we see them as small victories like finding that front row parking spot in the pouring rain.  Other times we see them as big victories like recovering from a debilitating illness with no clear medical explanation.  To the universe, our desires have no magnitude; we can have anything and everything we want if our intention…our desire…is clear.

When we get to the point of “giving up” on what we want out of frustration, we sometimes have what I call the Rubber Band Effect: we snap back into a  huge surge of desire for what we think we’ve lost.  We are able to focus completely on how it feels to have what we want and not on the details of how it’s going to happen.   This is what happened for my girlfriend and I with the plane tickets and it is the true power of our co-creative ability.  Having that laser type focus on what we want without allowing doubts to cloud our vision makes our message to the universe abundantly clear and it responds in kind providing our desires sometimes in ways much better than we imagined they would manifest.

So the next time things do not go as we hoped or expected in our lives it is important that we slow down and “check in” on our awareness.  Is there a lesson we need to learn?  Do we have more work to do to clear some of our hindering beliefs or previous programming?  Are we being clear and standing in our truth about what we desire in spite of what others say?

Being aware of ourselves is the key to progressing in our journey and, every time we are aware, we realize that All Is Well.

Spiritual Resolutions

As each New Year begins, many of us identify several things that we will do differently to improve our lives for the coming year; our “New Year’s Resolutions.” These decisions commonly focus upon efforts to lose weight, get more exercise, eat more healthily, manage our money better, spend our time more wisely, and the like. While those are all good areas for us to improve, how many of us develop them in a Spiritual way?

We all have things in our life that seem to be holding us back; things we resist. Oftentimes situations seem to repeat frequently in our lives causing us much consternation and worry. It seems like we can never get where we would like to go, feel the way we want to feel or experience what we want to experience.

Yet when we least expect it, one day as if by magic the series of repetition ceases. Why does this occur? Well, the Universe knows what we need to learn, grow and develop on our unique path. Unfortunately, we’re not always aware of the messages being sent to us so we continue to have the same lessons over and over again, in slightly different forms, until we “get it” and “pass the test.”

It is important to recognize that “energy flows where attention goes.” If we want to make changes in our experience, we must remember to take correct action towards our goals in a spiritual way rather than merely establishing new “worldly” solutions to our dilemmas. In other words, it’s not enough to change our habits; we must also change our spirit.

So how do we accomplish this? We must first be aware of the things that hinder our progress on our life journey. Spending some quiet time thinking or meditating about the things we don’t like about our lives can help us identify the “list” of areas we’d like to improve. Let’s say we discover that we often feel unhappy because we are busy and overwhelmed with too much to do. We might look at ways to manage our time more effectively but our spiritual discord may relate to a feeling of being disconnected from the ones we cherish in our lives. Understanding this underlying spiritual need is crucial in making true and lasting change in our life.

We may need to do some “shadow work” and identify some of our internal “dragons” that create the barriers to our progress. Perhaps we have had this yearning to feel more connected for most of our lives but have made choices to insure we were unable to connect for a variety of reasons. We discover that we want to feel more connected and yet are terrified of the feeling at the same time.

Once we understand ourselves in this way, we can then shift our attention away from the negative aspects and toward the positive alternatives. So instead of saying or thinking “I never have any time; I’m always too busy” we focus our energy towards the positive alternative of “I easily find the extra time I need in the most amazing ways.”

Finally, it is not enough to simply speak or think in this new way; we must also feel it. Our spirit must hold the feeling that what we desire is already here. How does it feel to have more time and feel more connected to our loved ones? When we focus our spirit in this way and stand in our truth, we connect with source and unleash our true, unlimited, creative power.

So don’t forget to include Spirituality in your plans for the New Year…you’ll be amazed at what you’re able to accomplish.

This article appeared in the January 2014 edition of Natural Awakenings Magazine.

Absolute Truth

Is there such a thing as absolute truth?  This simple question has tormented mankind since he first became able to contemplate such “deep thoughts.”  Over the Christmas holiday I had a chance to watch the movieCoach Mike The Invention of Lying starring Ricky Gervais.  For those who haven’t seen the movie, here’s the gist of the plot:  the world is a place where everyone always tells the truth and no one lies.  Without lying, much of what people say to each other appears fairly harsh.  In one scene, Ricky takes the girl of his dreams out on a date and the waiter quickly acknowledges that she is “out of his league.”  As the story unfolds, Ricky’s world begins to crumble around him and he finally decides to tell a lie to get himself out of a jam.  This one decision catapults him into a world that is only limited by what he can get other people to believe.

After watching the movie, I spent a good deal of time thinking about what we consider “truth” in our society today.  There are many people who believe they have discovered the absolute truth; the truth that is unquestionably the only way things “are.”  As we watch TV, listen to the radio or read “news” from the media, we are exposed to people promoting the one, right way we should view a particular circumstance  or topic of discussion.  The recent “controversy” with GQ’s interview of Phil Robertson (from the show Duck Dynasty) is a good example of this phenomenon.  The media has bombarded us with “experts” from both sides of this “issue” who know what we should think about that particular situation and what needs to be “done” to protect the “truth.”

Most of what we believe as truth we obtained from both our family & friends and our life experiences. One such truth is our religious beliefs.  Some of us were raised in families that taught us certain beliefs about who God is, how we should worship him, what we should do to keep him “happy” and what consequences we may face upon death for failing to act according to his law.  Others were taught to revere all creation yet not believe in a single, omnipotent creator of all.  Still others were raised with no belief in any type of God whatsoever.  With all these different expressions of “faith” around the world, how can we determine who is absolutely right?  Is it all?  Is it none?

Wars have been fought and countless lives lost as one group has placed its “truth” on the pedestal as the absolute above all others.  While many think that we can arrive at absolute truth with the right amount of work and effort , I believe the answer is much simpler; truth is not absolute, rather, it is “alive” and evolves just as all living things do.  Our current truth can only grow and expand as we increase our our level of awareness and remove the limits on what we allow into our experience.

One area  we can examine to help us understand the concept of evolving truth is technology.  The changes in technology in the 500 or so years since Columbus discovered America have had a tremendous affect on humanity.  Many inventions such as indoor plumbing, air conditioning, telephones and cars have made our lives cleaner, more comfortable and allow us to easily connect with one another.  Many of these advancements evolved over a rather long period of time.  For example, although a steam version of the automobile was invented in 1769, cars were not popularized until 145 years later when the internal combustion engine and mass production techniques were developed.  Today the automobile is a very sophisticated machine that does much more than just move people from point A to point B as its great, great, grandfather did 245 years ago. And while this evolution in “truth” about the automobile took quite a long time, there are other items we use that have evolved much more quickly.

Technology Changes and Truth - Mike Duralia

Take a look at these items from our past; a day planner, a calculator and a bag phone.  Just a mere 20 years ago many of us used these devices regularly in our lives to manage our time, make calculations or keep in touch with others when we were away from home.  I can remember how cool it was to be able to make and receive phone calls in my car (and how short those conversations were since the airtime was charged at $0.10 per minute!)  I can also remember when I purchased my first Palm Pilot and was able to have all my calendar entries and address book updated with my computer on a regular basis.  At that point in our lives, that was the “truth” about what I was possible or, further, what existed.

Fast forward to today.  Many of us are using phones like the Samsung Galaxy or the iPhone that have combined all these functions into a single device.  In fact, they also have many of the features of our regular computers allowing us to send email and read or edit documents directly on the screen.  The applications we can add to these devices (now in excess of 1,000,000 for each platform) are truly amazing Technology Changes and Truth - Mike Duraliaand can provide everything from a laser level to a music tuner.  And don’t forget that we can video conference with someone anywhere in the world for free (I can remember making long distance phone calls from college and having to use a special “long distance phone card.”)

Today, we keep these phones with us all the time and expect to easily connect with anyone whenever the mood strikes us.  I remember going shopping with my parents and, when we decided to shop in different stores in the mall, we agreed upon a place and time to meet up.  Today, we don’t even think that way anymore; we just go our separate ways and call or text each other about where we will meet.  That small shift in technology has defined a new “truth” for us and our expectations about what is possible.

What has happened in this relatively short period of time in technology points out to us the problem with a singular, absolute truth; what we know to be true evolves over time.  Think about going back in time and explaining to someone from 1993 what our cell phones can do today.  Now think about explaining it to someone from 1870.  Both people we encountered would have a hard time believing our assertions of what was possible, however, the person from 1993 would have a little easier time accepting it.  Why?  Because the person in 1993 is further along the journey than the person from 1870. As we progress in our individual life journey, our ever growing and varied experiences make it easier for us to see more possibilities so long as we remain open to them.

In our individual lives and our development along our life’s journey it is our willingness to question the “perceived” truth that allows us to grow.  If we are rigid in our thinking or our beliefs we cannot evolve and we remain at our current level.  Think about the people you know who have never traveled far from where they grew up.  How are they different than those you know who have been to a foreign country?  When we allow ourselves to move outside our comfort zones we expand our understanding of life’s possibilities.

But truth is not just something we experience through external circumstances; it is also an internal force that can have a tremendous affect on us.  We must also be willing to look inside ourselves and recognize the programming we have received from our environment, our friends and family and our experiences.  We must understand what dragons we have created for ourselves that hold us back from moving forward on our journey.  Whatever we hold true in our thoughts remains in our experience.  If we have always believed we did not deserve to be financially successful it will remain difficult for us to achieve financial success until we examine the truth of that belief.  If we believe there is no partner out there perfectly suited for us their presence will continue to allude us until we have examined the truth of that belief.

What we believe to be true will continue to manifest itself in our lives.  If we want our experience to change, we have to change our thinking about what is possible for us and that is how we open ourselves to the truth.

The Reverse Fork In The Road

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
– Robert Frost

Most people have heard this famous line at some point in their life.  In his poem, Robert Frost explains how his choice to travel the “unique and different” path at this fork in the road has made all the difference in his life.  So many times in our lives we are faced with choices and our decisions about which path to take have tremendous affects on our experiences, how we feel and our overall well being.

Oftentimes in intimate relationships we are faced with these exact circumstances; whether to continue on with someone in our life or whether to choose a different path.  Much has been written in books, magazines, and internet articles as well as discussed on talk shows about how important it is to know ourselves well so we make a wise choice at this fork in the road.  We are reminded how important it is for us to have self-love and enough respect for ourselves to choose what is best for us in our life and not allow ourselves to be dependent upon others in any way.  Unfortunately, not much is mentioned about what happens after that decision to be in a relationship and what the path looks like when two people choose to walk together…which is really most important aspect of coming together.

Case in point:  As I searched the internet for an image of two paths “merging together” I A Fork in the Road found thousands of pictures like this one.  I was just simply looking for an image on the internet to show the merging of two paths and it brought me the “dominant” mindset we have about relationships being about “choosing the right path.”  And while it is definitely important to know ourselves and understand what we want for ourselves in our own life, we must also understand what happens in our life after we choose to share it with someone else; when we walk our paths of life together.

This choice to walk on a path together with someone else is what I am calling the Reverse Fork in the Road©.  While this may not seem like a very “big” thing to consider, it has been my experience that how you walk this new shared path with your partner is really what makes all the difference in life.

We’ve all been told that “opposites attract” and while that is true to an extent, paradoxically it is also very important to have much in common with your “partner.”  When I was growing up and starting to date, I can remember lots of members of my family pointing out that my partner should “compliment” me; be strong in the places where I was weak so together we would form a good team.  While it is helpful for your partner to have abilities that you lack and that together you make a strong team, those aspects alone are not enough.  I was also told that my partner and I would need to have common goals for our lives if our relationship was to be successful but adding that aspect to our “strong” team was still not enough.  I have been in relationships with others where we had the same goals and worked well as a team only to eventually decide to go our separate ways.

It has taken me much pain, failure, disappointment and dismay to realize that the true success of a relationship is based upon how well two individuals come together to construct a new, shared, combined life path that is mutually beneficial to each of them.  Gary Zukav talks about this at length in his book Spiritual Partnerships.  In the book, he explains that truly successful relationships are based upon one important shared goal: individual spiritual growth which is the responsibility of each partner individually. He points out that “these spiritual partners journey into their deepest fears – their experiences of powerlessness – with the intention to heal themselves completely” with a “commitment to their own spiritual development [and] a determination to move into the fullness of their own potential [so they can] give the gifts they were born to give.”

While you may share a lot of interests with your partner and enjoy spending time together you may not have the necessary ingredients to build a genuinely new, unique, mutually beneficial life path together.  It is very easy to be fooled into thinking you are extremely compatible due to how much in “parallel” your individual life paths appear to be.  Put another way, while you both may appear to be moving in the same direction as you walk your own individual paths next to each other, when you must walk holding hands in lock step together on the exact same path a much different experience can unfold.

So how do you know what kind of path you are building together?  First, in my experience, it generally takes approximately six months for us to remove the “masks” we wear and show our true nature to one another.  Reverse Fork In the RoadWe naturally want to make a good impression and be liked and it is very difficult to avoid this part of the process.  Some people claim to be tired of “playing games” and want to “just be themselves,” however, instead of being genuine they are putting on a different kind of show by placing barriers to intimacy between them and any potential partners.  “Take me as I am; love me or get out of my way” is a different kind of mask but a mask just the same.

What really allows the light to shine through and remove all the mystery is allowing yourself to be vulnerable.  When you are vulnerable, truly showing who you are without masks of any kind, you provide the opportunity for your partner to know and respond to you as you really are and support you in the best way possible in your unique life journey.  You also need to discover if you can provide the support and understanding your partner needs to face the dragons he or she must address to grow in his or her life journey; something you can only do if he or she is vulnerable to you.  As you learn more about each other from this deeper, more intimate place, you will understand relatively quickly whether the path you are building together is one of mutual benefit or a mirage where one or the other of you feels as though you are being “dragged along” the road.

So spend the time required to understand who you are and what you want for your life; it is crucial work that we must all do for ourselves.  And also remember to open up to share the deepest parts of yourself with your partner in the hopes you both have found the one that can support you in your unique life journey.

It’s not just about making the right individual choice at the fork in the road; it’s also about creating the best shared path for each individual from the Reverse Fork in the Road©.

 

The Purpose of Relationships

Much of our lives is spent “wrestling” with other people.  Oftentimes we allow our moods and attitudes to be “controlled” by the actions of others.  Whether they are family, friends, work colleagues or the person checking us out of the grocery store, we react to the way they speak to us, their gestures and their mannerisms with very little awareness of what is really taking place in the interaction.  When we think this way it is very easy for us to blame others for our situations, feelings and experiences, however, there is much, much more we need to explore to understand what is really happening.

When someone’s attitude or approach appears to have a “detrimental” affect on us, we should remind ourselves that what we are experiencing is “the other person’s stuff” and not our own.  It is important to have the awareness that others are walking their own independent journey and not allow any negative energy from them to reduce our own vibration which can keep us from moving forward in our journey.  I’m sure you’ve heard many people say that keeping a positive attitude can “shield” you from much of the negativity in the world. Perhaps you’ve also been told to avoid negative people and “trim” negative people from your list of friends. Relationships While this is all good advice, there is another aspect of relationships that we should also consider; what we need to learn from the interaction itself.

Remember, there really are no accidents; each and every event, situation and, yes, relationship that comes into our lives occurs because we are bringing forth into our experience the things we need to help us along in our unique journey.  The quote from Eckhart Tolle in the picture points out a very different way to look at relationships; they help us see things inside us that we need to heal.

When we quickly “absorb” someone’s energy and allow it to become our own, we are not conscious of our own, individual reaction to a situation, circumstance, event or emotion.  There is a term in psychology & sociology which describes how people are influenced by the actions of those around them and will act without independent thought or judgement; it is called the “Mob or Herd Mentality.”  What I am saying goes beyond acting on “auto pilot” for a short period of time when one is in a crowd.  When we live life unaware and do not do our own “shadow” work, we limit ourselves by not addressing the things we need to heal and, as a result, hinder our inability to grow.

As with so many things in life, the most important thing to remember is balance.  If you are in an abusive relationship, should you stay in it to “learn” something?  Of course not, but, did you learn how to walk away from a relationship like that without feeling overwhelmingly lost because you were “alone?”  Will you be able to recognize that type of relationship in the future and avoid being “sucked into” another similar situation?

Have you ever noticed that things / events / situations seem to repeat frequently in your life until one day, if by magic, that series of repetition ceases?  The Universe know what you need to learn, grow and develop and it will continue to bring you the same lessons over and over again, in slightly different forms, until you “get it” and “pass the test.”

So take a look at your relationships.  What patterns do you see?  What things do you have to learn?  What wounds do you need to heal?

You certainly will not have great relationships with friends that do not support your journey or understand the path your are choosing.  Your “friends” that still want to party will not serve you well when you have decided to take more responsibility for your life and face your fear straight on rather than “escaping” into non-functioning adult time.  You also cannot find the “person of your dreams”, your soul-mate or twin-flame until you have done a fairly significant portion of your shadow work and have clear intentions about what you want and what is important to you.

Relationships are excellent tools for our personal growth and life journey…all we have to do is be aware of the messages being sent to us through them.

What is Life Coaching?

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So often when I tell people what I do they ask me “What is life coaching?”  For many putting the label of coaching on what I do somehow causes confusion.

All of us, at some point in our life, has had a coach.  That person may not have had the official title of “coach” but they served in that role for us.

It may have been an older brother or sister who gave us some crucial advice at a point in our life when we needed to hear just those particular words.

Or perhaps it was a teacher who helped us understand something better than we had been able to achieve on our own.

Life Coach ShiningIn most parts of our lives we are frequently categorizing things and people; placing them into the little “sections” we have defined in our brain like good or bad, smart or dumb, loving or self-centered, and the list goes on.  But there’s no reason to be confused by the term “life coach” and I believe, if you look inside yourself, you probably could explain what I do very easily.

A life coach is someone who:

  • Has already passed through situations you’re just starting experience;
  • Has techniques, skills and knowledge that you may not yet have;
  • Is able to step back and see the “bigger picture” without bias, blinders, or paradigms that may hinder the individual;
  • Knows how to help each unique individual find, develop and utilize his or her innate abilities to their full potential;
  • “Pushes” the individual to do or be more than he or she thought was possible.

That is essentially what I do.  I use a variety of techniques to identify key aspects about you, who you are and where you’re trying to go in your life.  I then help you develop a plan to focus your energy and talents in the direction best suited for your unique life journey.  After all, regardless of how you define success, short and long term goal planning are key parts of achieving it.

Sound simple?  Well it can be, however, just as with any other “sport”, the “game of life” can take much practice before the “athlete” is ready to move from the bench to the playing field.  I tell clients that the minimum commitment they should be willing to make is around 6 months; it is a process and a journey and there is no shortcut to lasting results.

Interestingly though many people who receive coaching decide to continue regular coaching sessions after the 6 month period is over.  Why?  As you might expect, after experiencing successful, permanent changes in their lives in that one area where they’ve received coaching, they want to develop, grow and improve in other areas of their lives as well…and who can blame them!

One thing I did forget to mention in the earlier list:  A good coach knows his limitations.

If you have a particular issue that I know I’m not best suited to help you improve, I will tell you but I’ll try to help you find someone who can.  In other words, there’s no sense in me trying to coach you in “basketball” when my expertise is in “soccer” but I will do everything I can to get you in touch with good basketball coach.

We all have our own, unique journey and we have to follow our own path the best way we know how.  Getting some pointers along the way from folks who have already walked a similar way just makes pretty good sense.