31 August, 2009

Truth and Transformation Only Exist In Agreement

In my blog of July 31, 2009 (“Our Worlds Are Created By Our Words – Part II”) I explained that our worlds only exist in language.   If you haven’t had a chance to read it yet, please do so as it will provide the needed background for this blog’s topic.

And, once you understand that everything that exists, exists in language, you can get to the understanding that everything exists as simply a series of conversations.   We ourselves are simply a network of conversations.   Our doubts, our fears, our desires, our abilities, our memories, and our inadequacies all exist in language as conversations.   And while some conversations are never spoken out loud to others (they’re really just monologues or memories of conversations that are in our heads), in order to produce lasting transformations in our lives, we must first transform the conversations we have about those things that need to be transformed.

You see, living inside of our heads never produces anything.   It is only in communication that we accomplish anything.   Why?   Because all of life is simply a series of conversations.   Money is a conversation.   Sex is a conversation.   Work is a conversation.   These conversations do not always have to be words communicated between two people.   A “conversation” (in its simplest form) can simply take place in your head.   However, for us to influence anyone else, or, for anyone to influence us, the conversation must live outside of ourselves; outside of our heads.   In other words, the conversation must live in words spoken.   Ralph Waldo Emerson said it this way, “Conversation is a game of circles.”   If we don’t like the way our life is in the area of finances, we should look at the conversation we have concerning money.   How are we related to it?   What would be a more empowering context to choose so that we can shift the conversation from one of lack to one of abundance?

For a conversation to become transformed into a reality (or a belief-set), it must have agreement.   For example, the U.S. monetary system is simply a conversation that has agreement.   A one dollar bill, in and of itself, has no intrinsic value with the exception of the paper that it is printed on.   However, because we agree that it has value, and we have built a system of trading and bartering around our monetary system, the one dollar bill has implied value.   (Yes, Fort Knox exists and still holds gold that’s in place to “protect” the value of our dollar but the value of that gold was long ago exceeded by the amount of money printed and owed by the U.S. Federal Government.)   In that same vein, a one hundred dollar bill has no more value than a one dollar bill.   Yet, because we agree that it has a value that is one hundred times the value of a one dollar bill, it has greater value to us.   This is how we create our mutual reality – through agreement (also called “agreement reality”). 

If you offered someone on the street a choice between receiving a one dollar bill or a one hundred dollar bill, he would undoubtedly choose the one hundred dollar bill.   Again, if the value of the bill were only the true value of the paper that it is printed on, the person wouldn’t care which bill he received.   But, because he agrees that the one hundred dollar bill has more value than that of the one dollar bill, he will choose the bill of greater value (the one hundred dollar bill).  

This same concept is used for everything that we believe – regardless of whether that belief is in a material thing or a metaphysical thing.   On an atomic level, protons and neutrons didn’t exist until the scientific community “discovered” them and there was agreement that they are real things.   (That isn’t to say that they weren’t real prior to discovery or that they really didn’t exist.   However, we had no knowledge of them; and, consequently no agreement within conversation about the realness of them.   Therefore, to us, they did not exist.) 

An atom only exists because we say that it exists and we have agreement.   On a subatomic level, a quark only exists because of agreement.   Few people have ever seen a quark – we everyday laymen of science certainly don’t see them.  We can’t hear or touch a quark.   It is not something that can be believed in through our five senses.   Yet, there is agreement that a quark is a “real” thing; that it has certain characteristics, and that it is one of the smallest particles of an atom, making up protons and neutrons.

It’s much easier to understand this principle with metaphysical things than it is with material things.   Stay with me now.   A tree on a hill only exists because of agreement reality.   If others agree with me that there is a tree on a certain hill, then it is/becomes “real” and it exists.   If no one agrees with me that there is a tree on a certain hill, then that tree does not exist.   For dog to exist there must be agreement between me and others that dog exists.   That does not mean that there aren’t truths that exist without agreement.   They’re just not commonly agreed upon truths and therefore they are not part of our shared agreement reality.

So, why does agreement reality make a difference to you and me?   Because of the conversations we have about our lives.   If I’m stuck in a conversation about my finances that isn’t working for me; in other words, it leaves me disempowered, then I need to disrupt my conversation(s) about money and get into agreement with others about what my finances look like.   This is more important for you than for the others that are involved.   While the power of 2 or 3 people believing something the same as you is greater than that of just you thinking it, the benefit is really in your putting your conversation “out there” rather than just keeping it “in here” (in your head).   Getting agreement from others involves your speaking your word, out loud, and getting others to buy in to it.   In order to do this, you have to have a greater belief in what it is that you believe.

Notice that if you’re timid about your belief or you’re unsure of something, you have a lot of difficulty speaking it out loud to others.   You would much rather hold on to those thoughts until you’re sure of them before you commit them to being spoken to another.   But, if you truly want to transform an area of your life, you’re going to be in a much more powerful position to do so if you commit your transformation to the spoken word and share it with as many people as possible.   The more people that you share it with, the more real your transformation becomes for you.   Just as the more the number of people believing in anything causes, through agreement reality, that thing to become more real in people’s lives.

Sharing your new possibility for transformation in any area, is key to developing agreement reality with others, and to cementing your own transformation, not only in your beliefs, but in reality.

28 August, 2009

Sympathy and Pity

Before going into my thoughts about sympathy, I’d like for you to take a look at the definition of sympathy.  The Merriam-Webster online dictionary provides one definition for sympathy as: “3a : the act or capacity of entering into or sharing the feelings or interests of another b : the feeling or mental state brought about by such sensitivity <have sympathy for the poor>.

Feeling sorry for someone is a completely disempowering conversation.  It not only disempowers you, but it also disempowers the person for whom you feel sorry.  When we are disempowered around someone, we have no place from which to stand in order to be of help to them or others.  Possibly, our only thoughts are of comforting that person by holding them, stroking them, or simply offering words of understanding or care.

[Please understand this in the light from which I’m speaking.  I’m not saying that there isn’t a time when holding someone isn’t the appropriate action to take.  Possibly after getting really bad news, learning that a loved one has passed away, or receiving a life-threatening diagnosis, people need to grieve.  They need to be with the hurt, the pain, the sadness, and the possibility of losing someone, something, or the possibility that they might die.  (A person must first accept his circumstances as they are before he can powerfully take action to transform those circumstances.)  These are times when a person appropriately needs to be comforted.]

However, leaving someone in that state or condition for any length of time serves no purpose for us or them.  If we really are living to serve others, we know that there is a need for us to help an individual who is in despair to see that there is hope available and provide him with a place to stand in order that he may make a difference in his life or the life of another.

Maybe you’ve had the same experience that I have when seeing a homeless person who has physical problems and limitations; or, someone who is sleeping on the streets, begging for money, and possibly doesn’t seem capable of caring for him or herself.  Maybe you, like me, have turned away so that you didn’t have to look at him or her.  Or maybe you stole glances when you thought it wouldn’t be too obvious to them.  In that experience, how did you make a difference for that person?  (I’m not putting anyone down here or trying to make you feel bad.  I’m just pointing to something powerful that I want you to see.)

Consider this [and please, again, understand this in the light in which I write this]:  we’ve seen millions of dollars poured into third-world countries in order to fight or eradicate hunger, pestilence, disease, and lack of shelter.  In that outpouring of money, have we [the world] made a difference for those countries?  Aren’t they in pretty much the same condition as when we first knew of their condition(s)?  Is it possible that throwing money at a problem is not the solution?  Could it be possible that changing our way of thinking about these issues and taking different actions might make a difference for these peoples and these countries?  (Albert Einstein said that the definition of insanity is: “Doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results.”)

Simply put, sympathy provides us with no place to stand powerfully for others or for their transformation.  When we are operating out of sympathy, are we not simply disempowered persons trying to comfort other disempowered persons?  What will the result of this always be – two persons left disempowered!  How is that going to help the other person?  How is that being of service to him or her?

Instead of taking on the disempowering context of sympathy, our minds should be set on thinking about things that would make a difference in the lives of others.  Consider what would happen if we changed from being a sympathetic people to a people of compassion.  The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines compassion as: “sympathetic consciousness of others' distress together with a desire to alleviate it” [underline added].  So, we see that compassion is needed instead of sympathy.  And with compassion comes a desire to alleviate the state of affairs with which we are concerned.

Going back to our past way of being; as a nation it’s become habitual to simply throw money at situations of need which require transformation.  Money, to my knowledge, has never transformed anything.  If anything, consider that money is a magnifier - actually magnifying the issue(s) that it’s intended to “fix.”

I can’t help but look at the countries into which we’ve poured millions of dollars through government aid and countless charitable organizations in an effort to alleviate poverty, starvation, disease, etc. and I still see the same issues continue on with no signs of a slow-down of growth in sight.  One simply needs to look at the nation of Africa and its AIDS pandemic.  Money has been thrown at the problem, funneled in from many varied sources, and has provided AIDS related drugs to prolong the life-expectancy of those living with AIDS.  Did the money stop the spread of AIDS, or lessen the death-toll of AIDS related deaths?  Absolutely not!

There’s an old saying; a very wise Chinese proverb that reads, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day.  Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”  Looking at this paradigm, I’m suggesting that giving money for the purpose of food, medicine, shelter, clothing, etc., doesn’t solve the problem – it only creates more need in those areas.

What does make a difference is education.  Provide sex-education to the nation of Africa and school them on sexually transmitted diseases and AIDS prevention.  Provide education to impoverished countries teaching their people to fish, farm, make clothing, and make crafts and other things that can be sold.  Teach them of the services they can provide for others in order to make money.  What works – and I state this by observation of things I’ve seen in this country – is to provide people with a vision of a state of wealth, a state of health, a state of self-sufficiency.  Our focus on the need has created an endless reliance of others on our welfare.

In a nutshell, I’m saying that we have been responsible for creating and maintaining welfare states throughout the world by the acts of our charities.  We’ve focused on giving – but we’ve been giving the wrong thing.  Remember that seeing things through an eye of compassion seeks to alleviate the need – not create a dependency upon the hand that feeds.

27 August, 2009


That which we fear will most definitely come upon us. 

When we live in fear, we are exhibiting a form of resistance - - resistance to love, resistance to God.  But we are also resisting the fear of the thing that we fear.

Remember, the universal law that resistance causes persistence?  That is precisely what is in effect here.  Rather than resisting fear, or resisting the fear of a thing, notice your feelings and notice your thoughts when you are feeling fear.  The thing you fear is simply a pattern of thoughts being replayed from the past.  Notice that you have fear.  Notice everything that comes up for you around this fear. 

Another thing to notice about fear is that it is at the root of everything that stops us.  When you feel you can’t ask someone for help, fear is at the root.  Maybe you fear looking bad in that person’s eyes.  Or, maybe you have a fear of not looking good.  Maybe your fear is of someone saying “no.”  Is “no” so harmful?  When you get a “no” from someone, don’t you have exactly what you had before you asked?  Look closely and you will see that nothing has changed for you except now you are left with whatever meaning that you assign to that “no.”  If “no” means rejection to you, then you aren’t simply letting “no” mean “no.”  Fear is at the root.

Getting past fear isn’t always easy.  You first must accept what is so about the situation.  You need to look closely to understand where your fear is coming from.  You need to determine if there is more than one source of fear and get real with yourself rather than making up stories or justifications about why the fear is present.  You must stop hiding your true feelings from yourself if you’re going to get out of fear and into a place that empowers you!

There are two types of fear – authentic and inauthentic.  Authentic fear is in play when you are being faced with real danger.  As an example, you’re out walking by yourself and you have ended up in an unknown area of the city.  It’s dark and you see a stranger approaching you with a gun in his hand.  The type of fear you will be feeling is authentic fear.  You are authentically in danger.  There is something that is happening right now that is placing your life in danger.

Inauthentic fear doesn’t feel any differently to the body.  The feelings you experience may be the same.  But when inauthentic fear is present, you are in no real danger.  For example, you are at work and you have been feeling pressured by your boss to perform at a higher rate.  You have been fired from jobs before.  The economy is rough, jobs are scarce, and you are feeling the fear of losing your job, the fear of not being able to feed your family, and the fear of not looking good in the eyes of your fellow employees, your friends, and your family.  This fear is real.  But it’s inauthentic.  It’s all based on something you believe might happen in your future – not something that is happening right now.

Do you see the difference?

In order to get past the fear and into a place of power, you must get real with yourself about why the fear is present.  Determine if the fear is authentic or inauthentic.  If the fear is inauthentic, just distinguish it for what it is – the fear of something that you’ve determined could happen in your future.  Then, make the conscious choice to replace the fear with love, with trust, and with peace.  You can allow yourself to love and trust that everything will be alright just as easily as you allow yourself to have fear.  It’s simply a matter of choosing to believe different thoughts.

Don’t be fooled by your bodily sensations.  The same feelings you feel when you first fall in love are the same bodily sensations you have when you are afraid of something; butterflies in the stomach, lack of appetite, nervousness, sweaty palms.  The bodily sensations are the same but the value, or assignment of meaning that we give to them differ greatly.  Don’t be swayed by what you feel in your body.  Choose love and faith over fear and you will be able to walk successfully in peace.

26 August, 2009

Listening Powerfully To Others

Firstly, I want to apologize for not writing the last two days and reaffirm my commitment of writing everyday (M-F). I had exhausted my body through the course of last week and ended up with a well-being issue for which I choose to rest rather than push my body any further. Thanks to each of you for your prayers, thoughts, and concern.

Most of us probably believe that we are pretty good listeners. And, yet, when we examine our actions, we could probably all see some room for improvement. And though the subject of today’s blog is on listening, I’m going to write about listening differently than how you may have thought of it before.

Most of you are probably familiar with active listening – wherein you continuously give up any thoughts, ideas, or decisions you are making about the other person or his situation while listening to him speak. Rather than formulating your next response based on something he communicated early on in his last communication, you take a step back, and choose your communication after he has completely finished his speaking. This allows you, as the listener, to be fully present to everything that is being communicated rather than allowing your own thoughts to interrupt your ability to hear everything the other person is communicating in the moment.

In today’s blog, though, I want to write about the art of listening to the other from the context of who you know that person to be. To better frame this statement, let’s look at the definition of context. The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines context as: “1: the parts of a discourse that surround a word or passage and can throw light on its meaning 2: the interrelated conditions in which something exists or occurs : environment, setting.” I prefer to use the second definition of “the conditions in which something exists or occurs.” In other words, it is a framework through which (or, for how) we view others / other things.

Choosing our context is extremely important because it, in essence, colors how we view something. In listening to others, I find it a very powerful place to stand if I always choose the context of listening to others for who I know them to be. [Now here I must provide explanation because I’ve repeated asked you to “give up” who you know others to be so that you can fully experience them. I’m not going back on that request so much as I am asking that you choose a very powerful point-of-view, or context, in which to listen to others.]

If we were to collectively name all of the great traits that we’ve personally witnessed in others, we might come up with a list like: powerful, compassionate, enduring, kind, strong, vulnerable, loving, peaceful, understanding, wise, joyful, grateful, playful, etc. What I’m suggesting, is that even if we don’t always portray all of these traits, they are available for each of us to manifest and they are hidden within each of us - - even though some of us haven’t yet learned to tap into them.

So, as an example: If my friend, Mark, tells me that he wants to talk to me and he goes on to tell me a story of how he was wronged and how badly mistreated he was by another, my predisposition is to give him my ear and sympathize with him. But that doesn’t call on him to be powerfully in action. My sympathy only solidifies his stance that he has been wronged and should not be to blame for the outcome. Rather, as a friend, I want Mark to live up to his full potential, taking responsibility for the matter, accepting how things are, and powerfully taking the actions he needs to take.

So, in order for me to listen to him powerfully, I have to choose a context in which to listen to him. Since he is coming from a place of no-power, I might choose a context of the opposite – power – in order to listen to what’s so but then provide him with grounded support that would move him powerfully into action. My response to him, might then be, “Listen, Mark. I know that you feel you were wrongfully accused and it sounds to me like you just want this to go away. But, the fact of the matter is that it’s not going to go away on its on. You must accept that this is what is happening now. Fortunately, I know you to be a powerful person. And because of your strength and power, you have the ability to face this situation head-on and take the action that is necessary for you to take in order to prevent it from causing further harm.”

When we get stuck, we don’t need friends around us who are going to sympathize with our “stuckness!” We need friends who will help us pull our heads out of the sand to see what’s really there and to motivate us to be all that we can be in the situation.

I challenge you this week to give up listening to other as their cares and concerns. And instead, listen to others as you know them to be.

21 August, 2009

Are You Living Your Life or Just Trying to Understand It?

I’m going to make a very bold statement at the beginning of this blog and I hope that I won’t lose you immediately. In fact, I’m going to be making several bold assertions – many of which you may want to disagree with immediately. My request of you is that you stick with me and finish reading the entire blog before weighing in with your judgment and agreement/disagreement.

In our humanity, our predisposition is to immediately judge each thing said, or written, to determine if we agree with it or not. I’m requesting that you set aside that predisposed way of being and take on considering that the possibility of what I’m saying is the truth – not so much as “really, the truth”, but more so just a valid point of view as a powerful place from which to look at something. Just be willing to consider that anything written here could be true and suspend judgment until after you have read the complete blog.

In life, understanding is the booby prize.

Both “understanding” and “beliefs” are barriers to our freedom. The problem is, we can be going along living our lives, but as soon as we switch over into an analytical mode concerning our lives, in that instant, we are failing to live. You see, living is an experiential thing. Living requires interaction, feeling, movement, and always, always being present. That’s the part that gets us every time – that “always being present” thing!

Those of you who have had supernatural experiences will be able to get this concept rather quickly. You had an experience. And, work as best you can, you can try to relay that experience to someone else. But, in all of your explanation, the person to whom you’re relaying your experience will never experience that same experience in your sharing it. At best, that person may have had a previous similar experience and be able to comprehend what you are sharing due to likening his experience to yours.

The subject of Life doesn’t lend itself well to academia. We try to make it fit. We can come very close with the sciences of biology, physiology, anatomy, chemistry, quantum physics, etc. But, each of these only draw parts of a picture – one that must be completed by adding each of the other parts and then you’re still absent some things. No matter how hard we try, we can explain life but only in terms of providing relational understanding to another – never experience.

We could use the analogy of a road map. I can draw for you (or at least make a good attempt at doing so) a map of the city in which I live. I can show you on the map where it is that my house is located. I can show you where on the map you could go to find particular places of interest. I can show you on the map where you will run into the ocean or the bay and I can show you where you will find mountains and beaches and parks. But in all of my demonstrations, you can’t actually get anywhere by sitting behind the wheel of your car and driving onto my map! My map, is only that; it’s just a map, a blueprint. It’s a representation of what exists but it isn’t a collection of the actual things that exist. You can’t actually visit me at my home by standing on a particular location on the map! We can agree that would be ludicrous. And, yet, that’s much of how we attempt to “live” our lives.

You see, a man may have a belief about the type of job he should have, how he should act once he has the job, where his job should be located, what will be expected of him, etc. But his belief will actually prevent him from experiencing that job once he gets it. Instead, he will be living his “belief” and dealing with how things are as compared to how they should be based on his belief. His belief about the job will totally destroy his ability to experience the job unless he chooses to abandon his beliefs about his job and simply experience his job exactly for what it is and exactly for what it isn’t!

So, in a nutshell, I’m asserting that having a belief in God, kills God. You might argue that one must believe that there is a God in order to experience God. I’m asserting that you must not have beliefs about God if you are to ever experience Him. [Please note the difference. It’s not the believing in God that causes the problem. It’s your beliefs about God that can interfere with your actual experience(s) of Him.] Do you believe in human beings? (I’m assuming that you answered that question affirmatively.) The thing is, you’ve experienced human beings directly – you know them and you know that they exist. Therefore, your beliefs about human beings are totally unnecessary.

You can have a belief about God. But, then if you were to experience God; I mean really, really experience Him, you’d probably find it difficult to come up with a single, worthwhile belief about what you’ve experienced. I’m asserting that what you would experience as God would far surpass anything that you could every come up with simply as a belief. Just like a route on a map, a belief may provide you direction to get to somewhere or something, but to actually experience that thing, you must not be tied to the belief – you must only allow it as a pointer.

The greatest roadblock to having the experience of something in our lives is the acquisition of knowledge about that thing.

As an example, the more that you know about God, the less you will be able to experience him. The more insight you have into me, the lesser your experience of me will be – if at all.

I realize that sounds like a bold statement but here’s the thing. As human beings, we want to put things in a box; label things if you will. The more we know about something, the more confined the box gets. We narrow the walls, the ceiling, the width, all in an effort to categorize that thing. In all our work to define and distinguish that thing, what we’re really doing is diminishing it.

As human beings, we listen to others and we view their actions through filters. The filters we listen through are those we put in place based on the information we have acquired about others. For example: if I know from past experience, that my mom has never ventured out into water – whether to swim or boat – I might make that mean that my mother has a fear of water. This could be the case or it might not be. If I don’t ask her, or she doesn’t specifically tell me the reason, all that I know is nothing. What I think I know is simply made up. Yet, because I’ve made up this meaning or story, I listen to my mom through the filter, “my mom doesn’t like water” OR “my mom has a fear of water. Therefore, when my mom & dad come to visit me on the West Coast, I never schedule any activities around water since I “know” that my mom has a fear of water.

What is true here is that my mom watched her father and brother-in-law both die in a double-drowning in a river where her family was swimming. My mother was four years old at the time. While she never learned to swim, my mom loves to be in and on the water. Does she have some fear around water? Probably. Does it stop her? Definitely not!

What’s in play here is that if I don’t allow people to be who they are, without listening to them through the filters I’ve put in place (or, in other words, without giving up my knowledge and understands and beliefs of them), I will never have the full experience of who they are. Also, my filters won’t allow for people to have room to change or grow. Therefore, I could never experience my mom as someone who enjoys being on the water. In fact, I wouldn’t experience her at all in that capacity. I would only “know” her as the story I invented in my head. My “knowing” will always diminish her and it will entirely prevent me from experiencing her for who she truly is.

20 August, 2009

What Did You Expect?

We’ve all experienced the disappointment of a failed expectation – where something we expected to happen didn’t. Maybe we expected someone to act a certain way and they didn’t, or maybe we expected praise from a boss or a spouse and we didn’t get it. As a child, you probably had a few Christmases or birthdays where you can recall expecting a certain present that you didn’t receive.

We’ve grown up to believe that life should contain disappointments – failed expectations. We use the phrase with one another, “well, what did you expect?” as if to imply that the other person was foolish to expect anything more than he or she got. Sometimes it seems that we can’t win for losing in these types of situations. It’s almost as if we shoot ourselves in the foot because, on the one hand, if you don’t expect more of others, how will they ever be called up to operate at a higher place, and, on the other hand, if we set our expectations above what they normally give, we’re bound to be disappointed.

I have a theory that I’ve been testing for some time now. It’s really a way of being that I’ve taken on and it has worked miracles for me and for the relationships I have with those in my life. Understand that I am not asserting that this will work for everyone or even for every situation. However, for where I am in my growth process and in my life, it’s a theory that has proven itself valid over and over again.

Consider that if you expect the most that a person is able to give, and accept what he offers as if it were his very best that he could give at that time, you have created a win-win situation – both for you and for the other person. You’ve set the expectation for the people with whom you choose to engage, that you expect those who engage with you to always give 100%. This calls others to action. It makes them accountable. And, it provides them with a knowing that you have the faith in them that they can perform at this level.

At the same time, you accept whatever is given to you as if it were perfect. It may not have met your expectations but it might be that it was all the individual could give at the time. Look at it this way: do you ever perform at an optimum 100% all of the time? I suspect that you don’t. Illness may sometimes slow you down. Lack of sleep due to other commitments can get in your way. Lack of exercise or improper eating habits may make you feel sluggish or make your brain feel “foggy.”

There are many reasons that someone might not meet your expectations. But rather than think about the situation from the other person’s point-of-view, we typically just get caught up in how our unfulfilled expectations affect us, and how they leave us feeling. More than likely, the other person wasn’t “out to get you” (although that may sometimes be the case), but was rather plagued by his or her own concerns and issues.

Just in line with my blogs on acceptance, this is yet another opportunity to accept another exactly as he is and exactly as he isn’t. It doesn’t mean that there may not be a time when you want to have a conversation with an individual about what is working and what isn’t working in your communications and with your expectations, but consider that we’re all in our own timing of learning the lessons of this life. We’re not all at the same place nor will we ever be. Having compassion on those who may not have learned a lesson that you already have, is a great lesson to learn and to put into daily practice.

19 August, 2009

What Do Guilt and Shame Achieve?

At one time or another, we’ve all had to deal with feelings of guilt over something that we said, did, or maybe just felt. We’ve possibly even added a good-sized, self-serving of shame to our guilty feelings for our transgression(s).

If you think back to the last time that you felt guilty about something, you would probably agree with me that your feelings of guilt and shame ran so deep that you didn’t want to confess to anyone what you had done. You couldn’t imagine that anyone would understand and you lived in the fear of being judged by others. We are quick to judge ourselves and we live in fear of being judged by others.

Guilt and shame make up the hat tree upon which we hang our righteousness. I believe that we partly make ourselves feel guilty and shameful in order to prove that we are righteous. If we weren’t righteous, we reason, we wouldn’t feel any guilt or shame for wrong-doing. By feeling guilty, we prove to ourselves, and sometimes, we believe, to others, that we are good and righteous people. We feel bad when we should and that’s how we’re supposed to be.

In our humanity, we are predisposed to making ourselves feel good or feel bad. We constantly sit in judgment mode – even of ourselves. But, the first thing that we need to recognize about guilt and shame is that they are not what make us holy. Our goodness is evidenced by having a voice of conscience. And it is our conscience that is our voice of reason; letting us know when we have done something wrong. Guilt and shame are what we apply in our humanity, based upon the voice of our conscience. However, neither of these feelings are the voice of conscience. They are both just side-effects that we apply because we think (as good people) we ought to.

But look at the difference between your conscience and guilt and shame. Your voice of conscience lets you know when you’ve done something that you should not have done; something that would cause hurt or suffering to yourself or another. Guilt and shame serve only to condemn you into hiding your actions, or thoughts, from others. Your conscience moves you to seek forgiveness from another while guilt and shame cause you to want to hide your actions. Your conscience seeks to move you to a higher plane of being while guilt and shame seek only to lower your morale into the lowest of places.

Guilt and shame are both self-absorbed, self-obsessed ways of thinking. If you feel guilty about something, you tend to punish, rather than forgive, yourself because you believe that you deserve it. Living in guilt provides no platform for you to be in a powerful position to drive your life forward. In fact, guilt and shame are killers of potential, killers of possibility, and killers of power. They provide no avenue for change; no jumping off point. They only allow for one to be stuck in his or her low feelings of self-esteem. Another difference is that guilt and shame always serve to separate you from others and from God while the voice of your conscience seeks always to draw you closer to others.

A person with whom I sought counsel years ago, told me that “people love to talk about what brings other people shame.” What a golden bit of wisdom that was for me. It brought light to a lot of places in my life where I had been hiding who I was from the people whom I loved and with whom I co-existed. I realized for the first time in my life that when I no longer lived in shame, and was open about my life with others, the conversations and whispering that had previously gone on behind my back all of a sudden stopped. My life was no longer fodder about which others cared to gossip.

The next time you want to feel guilty or ashamed, I hope that you will remember this blog. Refer to it as often as necessary to realize that guilt and shame are self-absorbed ways of being. No good thing comes from either of these feelings. Yet we choose them because we believe that we should, or because we believe we should be punished. If your conscience convicts you about something, seek forgiveness and make the necessary change. But, whatever you do, do not allow yourself to get into condemnation. That’s just a last-ditch effort at proving your righteousness to yourself.

18 August, 2009

Acceptance – Part II

In my blog of Friday, August 7th, I wrote about acceptance in relation to people and defined acceptance as “the act of accepting.” I wrote that acceptance was simply accepting another exactly as they are and exactly as they are not and that acceptance should not be confused with agreeing with or condoning the actions or speech of another. Rather, we should look at acceptance as the beginning of love.

But, acceptance is also hugely important in our lives when we look at the situations in which we find ourselves. Many of us believe that justice will always prevail. We believe that only good things will come our way because of the lives we live. And we fail to believe that an outcome of injustice could possibly befall us. While those beliefs are good ones to have, they are not always realistic. And, in fact, those beliefs can render us impotent in being effective should we find ourselves in a less than optimal situation.

Have you ever heard someone exclaim, “I can’t believe this!” or, “This can’t be happening to me!”? Maybe you or someone you know has proclaimed their disbelief of a situation by saying, “This can’t be right” or, “It just isn’t fair.” Getting hung up with the rightness of a situation or your deservedness to be in a situation is a trap! It’s a trap that will continue to pull you under so that you eventually will be unable to keep your head above water and the enormity of the situation will swallow you whole.

But that doesn’t have to be the way things come to closure. What happens in these situations is that we must be fully aware of what is happening. We must be profoundly related to every detail of what is happening and be fully present to it. Getting caught up in the trap of “unfairness” is simply a form of resistance. When we resist the situation, it will persist.

This principle, to my knowledge, was first presented by Carl Jung (1875 – 1961), noted Swiss psychiatrist and founder of analytical psychology known as Jungian psychology, when he wrote: “what you resist, persists.” This is a hard concept for many of us to grasp. Our predisposed way of being has us resist everything that we are against, everything that we don’t believe should be, and anything that is a hindrance to us. But, let me provide an example and see if that makes this an easier concept to comprehend.

Let’s say that I’m driving down a gravel road in the country. It’s pitch black out and there are no street lamps. It begins to rain which only helps to obscure my vision. All of a sudden, a deer runs out into the road in front of me. Knowing the damage that’s possible upon impact, I swerve to avoid hitting the deer. My car skids on the gravel and the next thing you know I’m off the road, in a field, where the tires on my car seem to be buried half way down into the mud.

At any given point in the above illustration, if I didn’t have a profound relation to the reality of what was happening and accept what was happening, I could have found myself in a much bigger mess. When the rain began I could have been caught up in that and been stuck with the “fact” that I didn’t deserve to be in this situation. If I were really stuck there, I might avoid turning on my wipers because my belief that I didn’t deserve what was happening would come with a corresponding belief that the situation would change because it wasn’t deserved!

When the deer ran out in front of me, I could have been stuck in my belief that this was really unfair. The belief that something is unfair also comes with a corresponding belief – the belief that the situation will change because only things that are fair and right should come my way. I could avoid swerving to miss the animal believing that it would move out of the way of my vehicle because it had unfairly run into my path. But not swerving could have caused irreparable damage to my vehicle and could have even cost me my life.

Finally, being stuck in the muddy field I could have muttered about how unjust this situation was. I was now stuck in a muddy field in the pouring rain in the middle of the night with no one around to help me. I could say to myself, “this isn’t happening to me. I can’t believe this. This isn’t fair and it can’t be happening.” But the only thing that my resistance would provide me is to keep me stuck in the very same place. I would be taking no action to change my situation – only steaming over the unfairness of it all.

But, once I get related to the reality of the situation, I can put aside whether or not something is fair. It doesn’t even matter what judgment I make about the situation. The fact is, what is happening, is happening. And if I don’t do something about it, I will do nothing but persist the situation because of my resistance. Once I get related to my reality, I can decide to use my cell phone to make a phone call, get out of my car and walk to try and find help, or choose another course of action. Resistance, besides causing the situation to persist, also paralyzes us to the point of inaction.

There are many forms of resistance but a few are: tuning someone out, refusing to believe that something is true or even possible, inactivity, complaining, back-biting, undermining another, and complacency. You may find other ways in which you resist others or you resist the reality of events in your life. Start seeking them out to see where it is that you are in need of a reality tune-up.

So where does that leave us? We need to look at accepting what is happening in the world and in our lives. I’m not speaking of acceptance as the result of favorable judgment, but acceptance that what is happening, is happening. World hunger is happening. We must accept it. Fighting against it is just another form of resistance. If you want to change what is, work on feeding the world – not on fighting world hunger! If your finances are not where you believe they should be, you must start by being profoundly related to the reality of your finances and accept that they are where they are. Then, you will be in a place to take action; not an in-action of resistance, but an action of creating a budget and a plan that will work to bring you to where it is you want to be.

17 August, 2009

Perceptions – Part II

For the past couple of days I’ve been blogging about how we, as humans, have a propensity to make up explanatory stories about ourselves and others. So, along that vein, I wanted to write a second part to my previous blog on “Perceptions.”

As a quick refresher for those who have already read that blog, I’ve posted bits and pieces from my previous blog below:

We all have powers of perception when it comes to “reading” others. We perceive people to be upset, to be dangerous, to be lighthearted and fun to be around, and to be serious and void of humor.

While perception is a valuable tool for us to use in our communications with others, there is a particular trap we often fall into when it comes to perception. This trap, of “preconceived notions” isn’t reserved for people we’ve just met. It also interferes with people we’ve known for a long time.

If we only relate to others as we “know” them to be, we never leave room for them to change, grow, or transform. They can only “be” who we perceived them to be. And, in our worlds, once they do change, we don’t see it because we’re never looking for it. We’re only looking for the evidence of what we “know” to be true about them. And, we will always find the evidence we are looking for to support our assumptions / perceptions about others.

So, today’s blog is really a simple exercise that will move you into a place of letting go of what you “know” about another. If you’re anything like me, when you see an exercise, you’re probably tempted to just read it and see what you glean from it. But, I promise you, that the value of this exercise is in actually doing it.

So, please grab a clean piece of paper and write down the name of the individual you want to use for this exercise. I would recommend using a spouse or partner or a family member – someone to whom you are very close and have daily interaction.

Now, take as much time as you need and write down the answers to the following questions as related to the person whose name you wrote down:

What is it that I already know about this person?

What opinions do I have about this person?

What judgments do I have about this person?

What are his or her strongest attributes?

What’s wrong with him or her?

What decisions have you made about this person?

What true about this person?

What does this person think about me?

What is this person's relationship to money?

What is this person's relationship to sex?

What is this person's relationship to communication?

What is this person's relationship to intimacy?

What is this person's relationship with me?

Whew! You’re finished with that part; now for the fun part:

Look over your lists of the things you think about this person and the things you believe that he or she thinks about you. Where did all of those ideas come from?

I’m guessing that you didn’t write down how you see this person in the future.

And, the present is happening now, and now, and now, and now. So, you couldn’t have gotten your notions from the present because each present moment quickly becomes the past moment.

So, I believe that you’ll agree with me that everything you believe to be true about this person came from your past experiences of this person. Could this person have changed and you have not recognized it?

I wrote in my previous blog that “In order to compensate for this ‘trap of perception’, we must give up, anew, our previous perceptions about a person each time that we interact with him or her. Only then, do we allow another the space s/he needs to be fully self-expressed as who s/he is, in the present.”

Consider that your intimacy with a person is directly related to your ability to be with who he or she is in the moment. We’ve always looked at intimacy as something that we feel, based on the happenings or events of our past. But, really, intimacy is being able to share exactly who you are at any given moment and the person with whom you are sharing being able to understand that and not let past interactions interfere with his or her perceptions of you in the present moment……and, vice-versa.

Now, look at the list of things you wrote down once more and ask your self these questions:

What would be possible with this person if I could give up knowing all of this stuff, and could discover him or her newly?

What would be possible if I engaged with him or her as if each time we met it was new and I would look for what’s present instead of what’s missing?

What would be possible in our relationship if she or he listened to me newly each time? Would he or she discover things about me that he or she didn’t already know?

Task yourself this week with discovering the people around you, newly, as if you were meeting them for the first time and see what a difference in makes in your affinity for them.

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