Every year I pick a ‘word of the year’ to live into. My year of forgiveness was a revelation, not because of the numbers I had to forgive, but because it always devolved toward me forgiving myself. Somewhere in me, I was blaming myself for everything. Forgiveness is one of the most difficult issues to embrace, largely because it is optional. You don’t have to forgive, and, often, everything inside of us says “Why should I?” Ultimately, we are angry at ourselves for failing and we feel that we are somehow at fault. The following is an incredible example of forgiveness on a national level; a huge social experiment and an object lesson to the world.
In Rwanda in 1994, the Hutu tribe killed about 700,000 people, mostly Tutsis, as well as about 50,000 moderate Hutus. In addition to the killings, rape and other forms of physical and psychological violence and torture was committed. The perpetrators in this violence included members of the military, young men organized into paramilitary groups, and ordinary people, including neighbors and even family members in mixed families.
The government of Rwanda’s President, Paul Kagame, embarked on this social experiment, in which the entire country was urged to atone, forgive and reconcile what happened. Hutu killers who committed atrocities have apologised to the families of their victims at specially established Gacca courts. They have given details of what they did and where they buried thousands of bodies. In return for atonement they have been released from prison, returning to their homes and communities, living among their victims.
This is an extreme and national example of forgiving, but an example nonetheless. As I imagine the slights and hurts that have been visited on me, in light of Rwanda, these offences are absolutely meaningless. Think of the courage it takes to even begin to embrace the kind of forgiveness that the Rwandans are asking of themselves! Can we really claim to be injured by our little betrayals, when the Rwandans are dealing with the loss of family, lifestyle and community.
To forgive does not mean to absolve or forget. It doesn’t require you to like what was done or even that you reconcile with that person. It is a way of putting down the burden you’ve been carrying; of taking your power back from whatever you’ve given it away to. Forgiveness can lead to:
A Healthier sense of self
Peace of mind
Lower blood pressure
Being and feeling more powerful
A stronger immune system
Insight into yourself and others
More ease in the world
The Dalai Lama says that holding anger and bitterness toward another is like drinking poison and expecting them to die. Stop drinking poison, stop paying for the sins of others and start traveling light. Forgive yourself! Let this be a month of forgiveness. Even the approach to it starts to heal you and others.
“I don’t want to risk it!” How many times have you said that or thought it. So, you don’t stand up for yourself or you don’t ask for what you want; maybe you think wistfully of your life dream but never take action. And in the meantime, life goes on and our precious time ticks away…
“Fortune favors the bold!” Virgil (70-19 bc)
A risk-reward analysis is a very simple tool that can help you assess the risk and reward profile of any endeavor in your life, personal or professional.
The four categories from the diagram above are as follows:
1. Equal Low: where risk and reward are both proportional and low.
2. Equal High: where risk and reward are both proportional and high.
3. Positive: represents a positive risk-reward balance, where a higher return can be achieved with limited risk.
4. Negative: represents a negative risk-reward balance, where a low return is the reward for taking on a relatively high risk.
People generally fall into two categories: those that are risk averse and those that take risks but not in any measured way. As you see by the chart above, there are degrees of risk, advantageous risks, as well as foolish risks. Without risk we don’t feel alive, and with too much risk we live in a state of anxiety. When we seek safety we are looking to lock it down so that we don’t have to worry, but we inadvertently take the life and the thrill out of everything. We go to sleep on life...
So, how do we decide what “reasonable risk” looks like? First of all, remember the thrill of rising to a challenge, and that, no matter what the outcome, you feel better for having done so. Risk gives you a chance to explore your gifts and talents.It puts you in the game. Risk puts you in charge instead of waiting for life to come at you. When you risk, you will grow, whether you achieve what you want or not. You will learn and you will become more fearless. Everytime you take a chance, you expand your personality and your sphere of influence in the world. Invite people in to your risk. It builds bonds.
So, take a chance...tell someone you love them. Commit to a project where you’re uncertain of the outcome. Start challenging your dreams and goals instead of waiting for life to come to you.
Spring has always had the power of renewal and upheaval. One hundred years ago today, Russian composer Igor Stravinsky captured that power and debuted The Rite of Spring before a theater in Paris, with a ballet performance that would go down as one of the most violent in modern history. Imagine, violence at the ballet!
All that aside, what is the real opportunity of spring? Nature gives us pretty clear signals that it is a time of growth. Everything dormant starts to bloom, and we, as part of nature are no exception. Each season has its unique energy and appropriate choices, but the most constructive by far is this Springtime. It’s a wonderful energy to capture. We feel the quickening of energy and a real sense of motivation, but where to direct all of that energy?
Let’s start with a little “spring cleaning” for the mind. Now might be the time to cast aside useless plans and ideas, declutter and begin anew. Start by taking an inventory of what’s working and what’s not, and happily chuck the broken stuff out a window. It feels wonderful to get rid of the old and the useless and to make a new plan, start a new dream, or create a new partnership. The Yang energy of Spring will boost your energy. Winter is the season of dreaming and planning, and Spring is the time to use nature’s momentum and take action.
Take that something that you’ve been dreaming about and jump into action! There is never a better time than now!
As we approach Valentine’s Day yet again, a successful day for Hallmark and a very dubious one for the rest of us, it’s useful to understand this set of sensations that we are calling love.
When we first meet and are attracted to one another a series of neurochemical changes trigger in the brain. Attraction is driven by the hormones testosterone in men and estrogen in women. As that attraction deepens, you begin to obsess about your lover. You don’t want to eat or sleep and you fantasize about what you will do together and how exciting it will be. Three chemicals are responsible for these feelings, norepinephrine, dopamine,and serotonin.
Dopamine is about motivation and reward. It is also the chemical that makes you see your partner as unique. Norepinephrine creates that surge of energy and it suppresses appetite and even the need for sleep. It drives you to take action toward your lover. The serotonin level is lowered which contributes to the obsessiveness of these early stages.
You can’t maintain this heightened state forever and so the chemical progression continues. Assuming you have made it through these initial stages and haven’t starved to death or lost your job, the original hormones get replaced with oxytocin and vasopressin which complete the chemical mating dance by making you want to bond and cuddle and dream together.
While we would love to romanticize the progression of attraction into attachment, it really is chemical. In fact, it’s a chemistry that we love to experience and when it starts to wane we may say “I’m falling out of love”. We are unwittingly relying on our partners to provide the same chemical hit over and over again, and when they don’t, or more to the point, can’t provide the next “hit” we blame them or feel abandoned. We might even move on.
Understand this: Chemistry is critical to romance, but in truth, it only sets the table for real partnership. If we understand these stages, we can manage them toward the real goal. We seek partnership in order to create connection and meaning. Being aware of the chemistry of love can give us a huge advantage, as we use each stage to connect, to communicate and to forge real intimacy that endures beyond the chemistry.
Resolutions don't work! Inspiration as a motivator is extremely unreliable: like sex or Chinese food, it just doesn't last. When we first make a resolution we get inspired and are filled with the neurochemistry of motivation. This inspiration is maintained by our ability to sustain mental pictures that stimulate us. Depending on the ability to conjure the results and be excited by them, to "picture" the results, this motivation can last anywhere from four days to three weeks. As our pictures of the intended result lose their charm, our motivation and its chemistry fade, and ultimately we can't reignite it. We go into failure and resignation, and worse, we add to a history of failure and it starts to affect our self-esteem.
We can't rely on an effort of will to create anything; we need to learn how to manage our own minds! Stop blaming yourself for failing and stop faulting your mind for what it cannot do. You have to learn how to use the mind successfully. The only way to sustain motivation is through creating easy habits of the mind that build on success.
First rule: make it really, really easy!
Instead of saying "I will lose forty pounds!", decide to lose one pound. Instead of saying "I will lose that one pound in one day!", decide to lose one pound in a week. You can achieve that, yes? You'll be tempted to say that this is too easy, but observe. If you lose one pound in one week effortlessly, you have succeeded at losing weight. You are now on your way to building a history of success and giving yourself positive reinforcement. Every little success feels like "winning". In addition, you are not limited to losing one pound, you are simply stating that one pound is your goal. Do more if you like, but only require that you do that one easy pound. By making it achievable you build a habit of accomplishment that will be so much more inspiring and sustaining than the dramatic declarations and failures of resolutions.
A new year deserves a new approach. Instead of doing the typical "making a New Year's resolution", which is a formula for failure, why not try using a word or a phrase as a guiding principle of the year. I try to pick a word that is actionable in the moment, rather than one that is too conceptual; for instance, "awareness". This is a word that by merely saying it, I must change in some way. I could declare that "I am going to lose twenty pounds by March 1st!" or I could use the word "awareness" every time I lift a fork. I find that there is much more power in using these guiding principles than in making a hollow resolution, that defies you to fail.
Use this word as a password; keep it present for you. Meditate on it. Look it up in the dictionary and really invest in it. The more you work it the more it will reveal itself. Good examples of the Word for the Year: courage, yes, forgive, win, ease, love, power, focus. Pick your toughest issue and see what word speaks to that challenge.
Welcome to the Holiday Season,the "happiest time of the year". This season is full of expectation and hope, and one other thing: dread. In fact, the suicide rate is highest at this time of year. We are supposed to be happy and filled with yuletide joy, but somehow there looms a sense of what is wrong and who is missing, not what is right.
There are holiday chores that must be done: buying presents, making plans, etc. The stress and anxiety during the months of November and December will cause even those who are usually content to experience loneliness and a lack of fulfillment. There is the problem of getting social: Do I have a place to go? People to be with? Will it be okay? In addition, the holidays are now a constant reminder of those that I've lost and it begins a grieving cycle at a most unexpected time. We reminisce about better times, better Christmases and long for those times. Nothing is more painful than high expectations and attachments to how the holidays should be. All in all, it is a time to get through. We hope to make it through intact, but we take hits along the way.
Don't be hard on yourself. You are not alone. The joy of the holidays is an illusion and attempting to capture it will cause pain and disappointment. The good news is there is a remedy. Rather than dwell on the negatives of your situation decide to catch the real spirit of this season: the spirit of giving. There is no greater joy and satisfaction than giving others' the experience you would like to have for yourself. Make someone happy. Take care of someone else's' experience. Give personally to those you love and if the spirit moves you, volunteer. Give to those less fortunate. Be relevant in the joy of others. The key is getting out of yourself and giving from your heart. It is the secret answer that we've all forgotten in this time of crass commercialism and it is incredibly healing and restorative. Abandon your joy and instead commit to the joy of others. Selfishly speaking, it is the best way for you to take care of you through the "happiest time of the year."
This mind is a trainable instrument and you're training it every minute of the day by the choices you make. The Question is, what are you training it to do? Are you training it to avoid pain? To seek pleasure? To resolve old issues? Your mind creates every experience you have, so wouldn't it be useful to direct it to create the experiences you want? If you don't take conscious control, your mind will default to all of your negative beliefs and perceptions and create a lousy experience for you. You will always be fighting an uphill battle, always believing the terrible perceptions that your mind is creating. And it's not enough to clear out the old stuff, we have to retrain the mind to support us and our dreams and think the way we choose. We have the power to change it immediately.
Right now your mind is creating your experience of time. It is telling you that you don't have enough of it to do what you need to do. Can that really be possible. We create our experience of time and if we are rushed we are creating that too. Einstein had a great example of how we manipulate our experience of time: when you are with someone you love, an hour seems like a minute; when you're sitting on a hot stove a minute seems like an hour.Learn how to use your mind to create the experiences you want. First step: acknowledge that your mind is creating all of your experiences, even the ones you don't want.
The Facebook algorithm chooses what you are going to see and experience and blocks all other information based on what it knows about you. The view that you get is particular and selective, a virtual reality designed specifically for you. In a similar way your "personal story" is such an algorithm. It is a story that you are living into that you are unaware of, making choices and creating the experience that you find yourself in. It is a story of loss or sadness, a story of unfairness. That story is making choices for you that constantly put you at a disadvantage. It appears as though life is doing this to you, but it is your algorithm creating a virtual reality on a level that you cannot see. You have integrated this story in a way that is seamless.
Some examples of the story you may be living into: "I'll always be shamed", " I am a constant disappointment" , "Everyone makes fun of me", "people will always leave", " I'm not smart and that will be seen", "I'm not lovable".
These stories were formed from childhood through trauma, as you made all of the "adjustments" that you needed to make in your family in order to survive, and in order to get whatever love there was to get. They are the interpretations of a child. This algorithm was formed slowly, through trial and error, until it was perfected. It has become your model of behavior, your method of operation. This algorithm makes a thousand choices and micro-choices every day. It alters your perceptions and skews reality. You only see what this story wants you to see.
Ask yourself "what is my story? What do I profoundly believe that is making my choices and creating my perceptions? It is the key to you and possibly the answer to your happiness.
*An algorithm is a procedure or formula for solving a problem, or achieving an outcome based on conducting a sequence of specified actions.
You need three elements to create what you want in life: Intention, Burning Desire and Personal Power.
An intention is more than a goal, it is a trajectory that provides direction and suggests action. It is a promise and a commitment, a "stand" that you will get this done. This stand gives you accountability, which is key to maintaining your resolve. *Create an intention that matches the experience you want to have.
The second element, burning desire, organizes our will to create in relation to the amount of burning desire we have to create it. You need to be excited about your creation: talk about it, write about it, think about it, and dream about it. Let it build inside of you.
Finally, we can have all of the intention and burning desire in the world, but without enough Personal Power the elevator won't reach the top floor. You simply won't have the drive to create what you want. What does "enough" personal power look like? Your intention must be aligned in a way that you are not at cross-purposes with yourself.
This is where Cross-Intentions come in. Let's say that I intend to create wealth and abundance in my life. No problem there, however, I have been taught from the time I was a child that "money is the root of all evil". Since I want to avoid evil, I will avoid accumulating wealth. This is a cross-intention, that, until I work through it, will block me from creating what I want. I might blame life, or circumstances or my lack of skill and ability, but it is my cross-intentions that cancel out every effort to get what I want.
These sub-conscious cross-intentions must be brought to the conscious mind and deliberately resolved. The Paradox Process is an excellent way to do so and for me, the easiest, but if you are determined and practice self-examination you will succeed in resolving these conflicts.
Instead of just asking a potential partner topical questions like "What do you do for a living?" and "Where are you from?", it would be beneficial to learn as much as possible before choosing to enter into relationship. Here are some provocative and revealing questions that will tell you what you need to know in order to make a more informed decision:
1. What do you expect from me in this relationship?
2. What can I expect from you?
3. What do you value most about me?
4. What do you expect me to change in myself eventually?
5. What are your spiritual beliefs? Do you believe in God? In heaven?
6. How do you practice these beliefs?
7. What is your attitude toward race? Toward religions?
8. Do you have a workout regimen? Do you expect to stay fit?
9. How important is physical fitness to you in yourself? In others?
10. Are you very emotional? Explain.
The above is a sample of a bigger list of questions in my book, Love Games: The Hidden Rule of Relationship. Exploring your partner in this way will give you the opportunity to connect on a deeper level, and avoid time wasted with a person who you eventually discover is not a match.
Click here to purchase Love Games: The Hidden Rule of Relationship!
There is a conversation each of us are born into that has little or nothing to do with us. Accompanying that conversation is a specific set of feelings. We find ourselves in the midst of these feelings, validating them, justifying and personalizing them just because they are there. It is almost impossible not to take those feelings personally unless we are wise or have been told about them. I am going to tell you.
The feeling-conversations we are born into:
- Feeling not good enough
- Feeling unlovable
- Feeling misunderstood
- Feeling like a fake/fraud/phony
- Feeling isolated/ feeling like you don't belong
- Fearing death
These 6 core feelings are part of The Human Condition or, as we like to call it, The Feeling Backpack! We see and experienced life through the filters of each one of them. When we look for proof and evidence of the "truth" of these feelings, we have and will always find it. When we understand that every bad feeling we have about ourselves originates with this "Human Condition" we begin to be objective and start to take our freedom back from them.
If you ask most people how to create the reality they want, they will just look at you blankly. It doesn't occur to them that they have any say in it whatsoever. They might imagine that they could wish for it or hope for it, but there is no internal conversation about systematically calling forth the circumstances and experience that they want. That concept is somehow bullshit or magic...And so they never try...
What we know from working with The Paradox Process for years is that, of course you can create your reality or change the one that you are in. Reality is constructed from the inside out and made of movable and changeable parts.
To change or create reality you must change your beliefs. "I know this can happen!" You need to manage your feelings and emotions: clear your fears and attachments; eliminate your expectations. You need to change the story you are in to a story that accommodates that new reality. You need to create a new intention and build burning desire for that intention. You need to invest in it, get excited about it and generally feed it with the energy that grows a reality. You need to accrue the personal power to manifest those intentions. It needs to align with your purpose and be a win-win scenario. Do all of this and you will start to make new choices and take new actions in the world that will create this fledgling reality. As it begins to emerge you need to work on feeling worthy and deserving of it, and even clear your reactions to accommodating this new set of circumstances.
So you see, it isn't magic or voodoo to call forth the reality that you want. It is practical and organized work, using the power of your mind and the energy that you use to interact, while deliberately and consciously shaping it until it becomes what you want...Get to work!
The Fragile Self presents as frail and vulnerable; we are scarcely able to face the light of day. We lead with our sensitivity and we feel everything with a daunting intensity. The stories that we tell ourselves accommodate our perceptions and feelings, stories of loss and weakness. When we identify with this version of ourselves we are diminished and refuse to challenge life. It is the first stage of actualization, and the most difficult to navigate. It brings with it a sensitivity and sensibility that will be useful later.
The Authentic Self emerges from this Fragile Self and is a breath of fresh air. No longer do we feel helpless and weak, but rather, angry and enlivened. Our strength and our passion begin to emerge in a way that feels boundless. The Authentic Self, rather than hiding from life, runs toward it without discretion. We engage with life, but are just as likely to run into a brick wall. This stage is useful in building our passion and determination.
The Integrated Self is the combination of the sensitivity and empathy of the Fragile Self combined with the power, passion and drive of the Authentic Self, and includes the discernment to know which to apply when. It is truly the best version of ourselves, a combination of all of our strengths and colors applied with great skill. It is a joyous experience to be in this self, sensitive yet powerful, understanding, yet still determined and passionate. In the process of actualization we must wade through the trials of the fragile and the impulsiveness of the authentic to get to this self, but it is well worth it.
We come through the process of actualization as the best version of us, like forged and tested steel. This is the process of growth, the journey from crisis to transformation. It is critical we understand this process in order to move through the versions of ourselves without getting stuck or trapped in a lesser self.
There is a version of you that does not wish others well, it is addicted to drama and masterfully plays the victim. This character wants everything to go wrong because that fits the picture it lives from. This self is sad, mad and scared all of the time. It is constantly living and reliving your childhood trauma, and populating your life with the characters that fit that drama.
Welcome to the Fragile Self!
Your heart is broken, your dreams are remote or unattainable and you live in a state of isolation and despair. Moreover, you identify with this version of you and you feel a mandate to fix it and hide it at the same time.
It is not the only version of you, but it is the most dominant. It is filled with unresolved issues; it scans your life for situations where you can act these dramas out. It is quicker than you and as slippery as an eel. It changes your vision to make it appear that others are the source of trouble, not you.
This you is proactively trying to create enough drama to obscure anything good in your life, and will do so without rhyme or reason. It will revel in the upset while it consumes your time, your resources, your good will and your life.
While all of this sounds like terrible news, seeing and identifying your Fragile Self and watching it act out is the first step to taking your power back from it. In next month's newsletter, I will introduce a different version of you that exists right along side this one. For now, be an active observer of The Fragile Self and the chaos it creates in your life.
No doubt you are creating the reality you are in, but how? How do we create this situation? Here are your manifestors: Beliefs, Feelings, interpretations, perceptions, choices, and actions. That's all you have to change, Simple, yes. Easy, not so much...
Let me break it down:
Beliefs: What do you believe about what you are trying to create and how it should be? How is the situation you're in going against those beliefs?
Feelings: What feelings represent for you in the situation? Are you managing them?
Interpretations: How are you interpreting those feelings? What meaning are you assigning to them?
Perceptions: What does it look like to you through these beliefs and feelings and interpretations? What are you seeing and telling yourself? What is the story you are creating?
Choices: You are choosing constantly from these feelings and perceptions: Do you know what you're choosing?
Actions: Through the actions you take you have results that you create. When you change your actions, you change your reality. Start by changing one belief, one premise that you are operating under, and you change what you are creating in the world.
The Four Steps to Change are designed to give you a strategy within the experience that you are having. It does no good to blindly struggle without awareness. Rather than wrestling in a half-dream, gently wake yourself to reasonable action.
Step 1: OBSERVE: Don't be in a mad rush to change anything, simply observe yourself and your circumstances. In order to effectively change we must first see what needs changing.
Step 2: ACCEPT: Remember, you can't change anything until you accept what is: see it objectively, as though you are a stranger observing through a window. Don't judge, just accept.
Step 3: ALLOW: Let yourself be yourself without judgment or fear. There is always a positive reason that we are doing anything that we are doing. Try to find the positive reason instead of focusing on the negative outcome.
Step 4: RESPOND: Having re-assessed your true goal, now start to take small achievable steps toward achieving it. The moment you take one effective step toward your real goal, you immediately feel empowered and back on track. You do not have to achieve to feel better, only to be on the proper path.
The holidays are over and Valentine's Day is around the corner. This is a time of year when expectations are high. Of course, everyone's expectations are different. Ever notice that we only ever fight when our expectations don't match or aren't met?
If you are in a relationship, whether romantic, friendship or even business, you are going to fight ... that is unavoidable. The only choice you do have is HOW you fight. Will you do damage to the relationship or hurt yourself in the process? Or can you manage conflict with some dignity and style? In order to fight properly you must follow some guiding principles. This will allow you to find real resolution.
Rules of Conflict:
- Give up being right and looking good
- Give up your positions
- Attack the issue, not each other
- Empathize: try on each other's point of view
- Fight for a win-win scenario
- Teach with love, not with pain
- Look for and learn your lesson in the conflict
- Take a time-out
- Write out your points and present them at a time when you feel good
- Let it be okay
Don't try to tackle these all at once. Practice and integrate them into your communication one at a time. Master this list and it will transform your relationships!