31 August, 2009
28 August, 2009
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
26 August, 2009
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
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
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
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
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
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
What opinions do I have about
What judgments do I have about
What are his or her strongest attributes?
What’s wrong with him or her?
What decisions have you made about
What true about
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.
Transformational Thinking Blog by Brian Keith Eaker is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.