Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Happiness Realized

I've been thinking a lot lately about happiness and why it's so important. In fact it's the most important thing we can do in life. But so many reasons, habits and "shoulds" have blocked us from pursuing our own happiness.

We've been told that it's a selfish endeavor and we should think of others first. Having an Italian, Catholic background this not only sounded right to me, but it felt right. It was genetically accurate as far as I was concerned. Being a martyr was the calling of my DNA as I watched my grandmother sweat in the kitchen, suffer for her family and say with regularity, "you'll be sorry when I'm gone." It's no wonder her last name was Martorella! I kid you not. Clearly, I was born to suffer for the good of others - but without donning the black veil. That would be a bit over the top.  But without question, coming from the Puritanical path that built this Country and being indoctrinated in the great American work ethic, we've been taught that we must work hard for the good of others. But when we forget ourselves in the process, being the good Christian, Jew, Catholic or what have you, we become like the starving man trying to feed others.

I think I talked before about what my wish for the world would be, if I were given one wish - and it couldn't be to have an infinite number of wishes. (I thought I had that one figured out as a kid.) But if I truly had only one wish, it would be that everyone would constantly feel like they were in love. Think about how wonderful the world looked from that perspective; how kind and compassionate you were to everyone because it naturally came from your joy. I seriously doubt that hunger, war or hatred could survive if the dominant emotion on this planet was love. It wasn't until I was older that I realized that that feeling is the feeling of true happiness that we were born to have.

Since it's true that there is no one out there but ourselves and that we are the playwright of our own reality, then our own happiness is a significant barometer in what we create. Psychologists call it projection. We simply project our internal awareness, whether good or bad, onto people and onto the world and thus create our lives. It is no surprise that our thoughts create. What we think and what we believe becomes our lives. However, more potent still are the feelings that drive those thoughts. When beliefs, which are just thoughts we keep on thinking, are fueled by strong emotion, our power of creation is exponentially packed. When there is anger and hatred behind a belief, our world is full of judgment, bigotry and war. When happiness and joy feed our beliefs, our lives and the world become a very different place.  The book, Ask and It Is Given, by my good friends Esther and Jerry Hicks, gives great insight to how powerfully our emotions attract circumstances into our lives. (The link is in "My Library.")

There is no doubt that we create our world, and if happiness is cultivated, it becomes the back-drop of our creation. It is the most important thing we can do for our lives and for this world. It is our own internal joy that will propel vast goodwill, which will foster the healing of pain. The beauty of this happiness and joy is that is exists inside ourselves. We look for it in so many other places first - our education, career, family, financial standing - when in fact it resides within us and has all along. It will never be found outside of ourselves, even if we attain everything that we "think" will make us happy. It brings to mind something Terry Cole-Whittaker, author of What You Think of Me is None of My Business, among other books, would say. "The thing you're waiting to have happen before you make the commitment happens after you make the commitment." In other words, a commitment to yourself is necessary in order to realize your desires. It's opposite of how the world has taught us. Go to the good school, get the grades, the job, the family and then you will be happy and successful. We all know people with all these things who are fundamentally unhappy wondering, "Is this all there is?"

When you are happy, irrespective of external circumstances, life is sweet and you feel good. This vibration that causes good things to come our way. They are the feelings that foster our desire to help one another, to be kind to one another. Contrast that against trying to help others when we ourselves are unhappy. It only causes more unhappiness.

No matter how much we might think otherwise, we are all one. You cannot do something to another person without doing it to yourself. Spiritually we are told that we are all part of the same source - God, love, the universe - by whatever name you call it. Quantum physicists tell us that we are all connected by an intelligent field. We affect ourselves by our actions to another. That is why, as my Science of Mind teachers used to tell me, "You cannot out give God." When you are happy and do something kind to another, you feel great. The better you feel the more you raise your vibration, the higher your vibration, the more attractive it is to the things you desire. It is good followed by more good - you cannot out give God. Christians call it the Golden Rule - do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Buddhists call it Cause and Effect - what you do comes back to you.

So, what is it that stands in the way of us being happy? Our past? Our beliefs about ourselves? Our judgments about ourselves as we compare ourselves to the rest of the world? All of it, I believe, which is why we must begin with our own thoughts and feelings. In this coming new year, try to look at yourself through the eyes of that "being in love" place. We would never treat a person who we were in love with the way we treat ourselves. Begin to focus on the perfection of who you are - we are innocent and we are love. Daisaku Ikeda, Buddhist philosopher and author, tells us that, "There is an expansive life-state of profound, secure happiness that transcends any material or social advantage. It is called faith, it is called the life-state of Buddhahood." 

As you stand-up for the truth of who you are, things unlike it may surface. Be quick to forgive yourself or another realizing that everything happens for a reason. Mostly, that reason is to learn compassion and to uncover the truth about ourselves and others. A Course In Miracles says that, "The miracle does nothing. All it does is to undo. And thus it cancels out the interference to what has been done. It does not add, but merely takes away." Let the miracle in your life be the undoing of all that has covered your innate happiness. When you do, your joy will automatically rise to the top like a cork that was being held under water. It naturally wants to spring to the surface and when you let go, it will. When you pop that cork on New Year's think of all the joy and happiness that will naturally come forth out of your very being. Begin to feel the joy and happiness in your life and it will expand. War will never end with weapons. It will only cease when we find the place of peace and joy within our own lives and then extend it to another. Let's bombard one another with the kindness in 2010 -  that kindness that will naturally be born from our happiness. It's easy to be joyful when happiness is your dominant vibration. Let's lead with joy in 2010 and see how profoundly we'll change the world simply by becoming happy.

I leave you this week with another gift from my friend, Jacob. It's his New Year's Booklet and I highly recommend it. It will set you on the right track for 2010.

I also leave you with a quote from Helen Keller who encouraged us to keep our thoughts high when she said, "No pessimist ever discouvered the secrets of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new doorway for the human spirit."

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Simply Wonderful

I've been thinking a lot lately about a very deep and very wise admonition A Course In Miracles gives to "Avoid the temptation to perceive yourself as unfairly treated."

This is a big one for me because given the opportunity, I could easily dwell in feeling sorry for myself. But the minute I do, I have just set into motion opportunities for circumstances to enter my life that help me feel like a victim. I've opened the door for those types of possibilities to be let in. Remember, we create what we focus on, wanted or unwanted. We live in a compliant universe. It always agrees with what we think and gives us more of that - I'm stupid. Yes you are. I'm happy. Yes you are. I'm rich, pretty, successful, attractive; whatever it may be the universe is quick to provide agreement and give of us evidence that our thoughts are right.

It is increasingly easy in today's world to perceive ourselves as unfairly treated, as victims of circumstances, when things like the economy seem to upset our apple cart. It becomes easy to point to a specific person or thing and deem them responsible for our unhappiness. It is clearly outside of ourselves, right? When we perceive the world this way we slide into the vicious cycle of blame, anger and separation. It keeps the position of victim strong and we all know what that attracts - more circumstances that allow us to feel sorry for ourselves. That is not a happy life. None of it serves our lives. We are first cause of everything - plain and simple.

No one seems to be going through these times unscathed. People everywhere are being pressured to let go of patterns and give up thoughts that have not served them. Like the rock that endures tremendous heat and pressure, we are given the opportunity to become diamonds. But it requires us to let go of the patterns of our past. We must wake up and become conscious of the thoughts we keep on thinking that keep sustaining the life that we keep on getting. Dr. Ernest Holmes said it best, "We create with monotonous regularity the patterns of our past." ...Until we seek to change our minds.

Along with these difficult times we are being given tremendous opportunity for change. Old ways of being are dying and giving birth to new beginnings. We are being asked to give up patterns and thoughts that have held us back so we can have everything we've ever dreamed of. It easy for us to be convinced that things are bad. It's time to make the switch and be convinced of how good things can be. As Marianne Williamson would say, "Ask for what wonderful looks like." Let's not hold on to being "sufferers" who perceive ourselves as unfairly treated. Let's take responsibility for what we create in our lives so that we can create anew.

How best do we begin to shed this old skin? Awareness is the first step. Once you become conscious of your patterns you automatically begin to diffuse them. Also, there is nothing more potent or positively attractive than gratitude and appreciation. It is fitting in this time we set aside for Thanksgiving that I ask you to become an avid appreciator. Begin to notice everything that is good in your life and everything that is going right. There is so much. Instead of looking in the mirror and seeing flaws, notice the perfection there is to behold. When I would look at a photograph of myself that I didn't like, my wise Italian mother would say to me, "You're going to love it in 10 years!" She was right. But let's not wait. Let's love and appreciate ourselves now and be grateful for the wonderful lives we have been given. Remember, we get what we focus on, whether wanted or unwanted. Let's focus on wonderful this week.

Finally, take a look at my friend Jacob's Daily Pages post. His 30 day suggestion is exactly what's called for here. I strongly suggest you try it for the next 30 days - I am going to. Let's take this journey together and watch wonderful unfold in ways we've never dreamed of.

I leave you this week, with a quote from Meister Eckhart who said, "If the only prayer you say in your life is thank you, that would be enough.”

Monday, November 9, 2009

Joy Rising

I've been thinking a lot lately about something a guest on The Oprah Show said. Oprah was talking about the Flash Mob Dance that opened her season this year, which was a big and delightful surprise for her. When she questioned one of the participants about his experience in the process, he remarked that it felt like "joy rising." Well put, I thought. It reminded me of one of my favorite quotes from Abraham, "Let your joy rise to the top." It's a powerful edict, but so often ignored for more "important" issues.

It seems, especially in times that are economically stressful, we tend to sublimate our joy and happiness in lieu of areas that we think are more important. We work hard on those things that we think will deliver us the and joy and happiness that we seek - the perfect relationship, kids, career, money and home. We're working from the outside in trying to get all our ducks in a row and it's hard. It's especially hard in times like these when worry is rampant and fear dominates our news cycle and then our lives. When everyone is afraid and talks about how bad things are, it becomes easier to believe that it is true. Then our lives manifest those beliefs - form follows thought - and before you know it we've attracted the things we fear. Wars are raging, people are losing their jobs and their homes, and things are in a very unsettling flux. Then we wonder, 'how can I be happy when I can't even pay my rent? Perhaps we should consider adopting happiness so we CAN pay our rent.

I think this is the most important thing we can do for ourselves and for our world. To seek our happiness first is the vital first step. Joy and happiness are powerful magnets in this universe. If any of you have children, you know that they barely listen to what you say but they mimic with startling accuracy everything you do. If you seek your own internal happiness barometer first, they will learn from you how to do it for themselves. What an invaluable gift we would be giving the next generation on this planet. We only want for them happiness anyway, right? We must teach it through our actions. It's important to ban the thoughts that we're just being selfish. A starving man can't offer anyone food. Or as our stewardesses tell us, "Put your oxygen mask on first." We must begin to sustain ourselves with the powerful element of joy. It will change our lives and change the world. Imagine if everyone did it.  

By now, we all know that what we focus on becomes our point of attraction. The more we focus on something, the more we see it clearly around us and the more we get to experience it. Try thinking of something, anything - white Prius', blue crystal vases - anything. Then just notice how many times a day those things will cross your path. It's the same thing with our thoughts. When we throw emotions into the mix, we've created exponential attraction. Joy begets more joy, which is an attractive element for more joyful opportunities to be drawn to us.

Let's make a conscious effort to end the thoughts that make us feel bad. I'm not saying to ignore issues in your life that cause you pain. I'm not negating your pain. I am asking you to once again exercise positive denial. Change the story you tell yourself about your painful situation. Haven't you suffered enough?

I finally set myself free when I changed the story around my father's death. He died when I was barely 2 years old - so much pain, so many false stories built around it. I lived years as a victim as a result. The only thing you get from the belief that you are a victim is more opportunities to be one - what we concentrate on becomes our point of attraction. I was right about the situation, but I was not happy. It wasn't until I changed my story around his death that I changed my life. Again, positive denial. I changed my mind about what it meant. I changed my story. I even changed the way I told the story and it changed my life. Positive denial does not say that the facts did not happen, that's negative denial. We cannot pretend something didn't happen. We deal it with the pain and then we tell ourselves a different story. The story that was meant to bring us those invaluable lessons. The Buddhist philosopher and author, Daisaku Ikeda, tells us that, "You are the playwright of your own victory."

Positive denial neutralizes the power the facts have over our lives by stripping them of their fear. All that's left are the lessons and the gifts they bring. All that's left is the love. Once we've created the new scenario it's important to follow-up by affirming a deeper truth. In the case of my father, I changed the painful story of abandonment into the gifts that were meant to enrich my life. I began to list them. It was a startling and empowering eye-opener. Why hadn't I been concentrating on these things all along? I began to feel the strong presence of my father after that. There is no distance in the heart. He would always be with me and his exit from this physical world was exactly what I needed, on a soul level. I became, "the playwright of my own victory," instead of the wounded actor.

Joy, happiness, peace and love are the most important things we can mine in our lives. Not only does it make us happy right here, right now, it also sets the stage for future happiness. It becomes the attraction for better things to come. We teach by example. Everyone will begin to take notice and want it for themselves. Joy is contagious Things will begin to change in this world. They already have. I believe all the difficulty we are experiencing is the apple cart of fear being turned over because of all the compassion and love that is being proliferated. It's not unusual to hear stories of hope, spirituality, forgiveness and gratitude in the media. This wasn't the case even ten years ago. We've begun the change and the old paradigm is crumbling. We're telling a better story, and it's replacing much of the fear in this world with hope. We are beginning to release the fears that grip our own hearts. They are not true. It's time to let go of their affect.

Happiness, joy and fun are not frivolous. They are some of the most important elements that we need to change our lives and to change the world.

I would encourage you this week to "Let your joy rise to the top." Pay attention to the things that make you happy. Watch Flash Mob videos or participate in one! Spend time with a good friend, a family member that you love; lend a hand to someone. Pick-up Dr. Christiane Northrup's CD The Power of Joy. It will make you smile while it imparts wonderful information for your head and heart. It doesn't have to be anything big. There are so many small things that happen throughout the day that elicit joy. My friend Jacob and I celebrate "Red Cup Days" at Starbucks - their official launch of the holidays. My husband finds happiness and joy in beautiful music and our house sings as a result. Keb' Mo's new CD Live & Mo' greets me when I walk through the door after a long day. My fatigue disappears because joy has replaced it. It changes the entire atmosphere of the evening. Simple. Powerful. Very important. Small moments hooked together become our entire lives. Why not make those moments joyful?

Find your joy this week, whatever that might be for you. If a situation or problem arises, in contrast, it will be your opportunity to join me in practicing positive denial. Most worry persists because we believe in a scary story that we tell ourselves about our future. The future never has to come to pass that way if you change your thoughts in the moment. Stay in the present, change the story and mine for fun this week. It will show up where you least expect it.

I often think of the words, attributed to "anonymous," which leads me to believe that it is the combined sentiment of many - another inspiring and uplifting thought that I like to have - they are,  “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away."

I leave you with a touching video that reminds me of the overwhelming good in people, and that...makes me very happy.

Watch CBS News Videos Online

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Our Inner Lizard

I've been thinking a lot lately about something a Practitioner teacher of mine used to say, "Left to our own devices we tend to make things up on the downside." In other words, we tend to believe the worse case scenario in a given situation, especially when we don't have all the information. Perhaps someone makes a casual comment or remark and we think to ourselves, 'what's that supposed to mean?' Before you know it we've made up some horrible story around a few simple words only to find that it was not the case at all. We've made it up on the downside. We've tapped into a false belief about ourselves that has us convinced that we've done something wrong that merits punishment. Talk about a happiness buster!

Why do we make things up on the downside? Left to its own devices, we have an inner dialogue constantly running amok in our heads that tries to convince us that we are not good enough and never will be. It is that critical voice of our parent, a teacher or that perfectionist that holds up a stick that we could never measure up to. We also live in a world that continues to reinforce our feelings of inadequacy The Ralph Lauren model who made headline news this week is a perfect example. The ad department for Ralph Lauren Photoshopped so much weight off of a model's body, it made her head look freakishly large. If you click on the link above, scroll down the page and see what she really looks like. We are being fed the message that her looks are just not good enough. No wonder young girls develop eating disorders and the diet industry is a multi-billion dollar industry.

These and other industries are dedicated to feeding our inner critic and it bombards us with fodder for our discontent. It keeps alive an inner dialogue that stops us from getting the things we want out of life. Remember, we create what we focus on - wanted or unwanted. When that inner negative rumble feeds our insecurities it gets reinforced by strong emotion and then it becomes our dominant point of attraction. We wonder why life isn't working out the way we want it to, completely oblivious to the voice that runs in the background - we've grown used to it. It's almost as if we're running on autopilot. The tail is wagging the dog. And then we wonder why we aren't living our dreams.

That's all about to change.

 It's time to blow the cover on that inner critic, expose it to the light and remind ourselves that I'm onto to you! Once you become aware of something, by virtue of your attention to it, it must change. Marianne Williamson used to say that conscious awareness is the first act of healing. We heal by noticing - it's as simple as that. A Course In Miracles calls that inner voice our ego self; Buddhism calls it the small ego; and Martha Beck calls this voice our inner lizard. We do not want to judge that part of ourselves or call it wrong, we simply acknowledge it in order to discharge its power. Martha Beck appeases her lizard with a peanut, while Abraham suggests that we thank it for sharing and then send it to its room.

I suggest you forge a strong connection with your source by whatever name you call it - God, The Universe, Your Higher Self, your Buddha Nature or Love. This is the truth of who we are. It is not something outside ourselves that we have to besiege in order to have good things in life - that's Santa Clause. I'm talking about highlighting the truth and making it dominant in your life by whatever means you deem effective - chanting, meditating, affirmations, gratitude lists - they are all effective. By practicing those things more throughout our day we affect those inner voices. Our default then begins to switch away from the knee jerk reaction of negativity - making things up on the down side - toward our more enlightened self, which bends over backwards to give us our heart's desire. When we begin to shift our point of attraction to a positive one, our lives change, our circumstances change and it becomes easier to focus on what's good and what's going right. The inner dialogue shifts.

This is profoundly different than just "thinking positively." That often comes across as void of compassion and an arrogant way of correcting another without dealing with our own lives. That would be negative denial - or as my friend Jacob would say, "putting pink icing on a shit cake." What we are doing is addressing the facts head on while refuting that they have any power over us. By all means deal with any negative voice that consistently reinforces pain by talking to someone - a therapist, minister, counselor, Rabbi or Practitioner. Find a way to appropriately vent your pain as you seek to let it go. Stop letting it leak out by complaining or calling something chronic or constant talk about how "that's just my luck." It does not serve our lives, it just perpetuates circumstances that we do not want. I'm talking about subscribing to a force that holds the galaxies in place. The Universe is so compliant that it seeks to give us what we want. Let's stop feeding it with our negative voices. Begin to recognize and acknowledge when you attract good things in your life, things that go right. Talk about those things more than you talk about what's wrong.

It is time to get a very strong vision for our lives - what it's about and what we are going to focus on. It begins by becoming conscious of our thoughts, our negative tapes. Just notice. We heal by noticing. Let's begin to notice what's going right, not what's going wrong as our training and our world has taught us. These are important times and we will change our lives by reaching deep within for a lasting and eternal truth that resides there, not by trying to get things from without.

I leave you this week with the very wise words from a dominant voice in forging peace in the world today, Daisaku Ikeda. A philosopher, educator, author and third president of the Soka Gakkai lay Buddhist organization. His yearly peace proposals submitted to the United Nations have made a profound impact on world leaders. Take heed to his words when he says, "Such things as money, fame and material possessions offer a fleeting satisfaction, something that can be called relative happiness. However, when we transform our lives internally, when we develop within ourselves a brilliant inner palace, then we can said to have established absolute happiness. If we develop a state of mind as vast and resplendent as a magnificent palace, then nothing - no matter where we go or what we may encounter in life - can undermine or destroy our happiness."

I also leave you with a video of someone who embodies positive denial - recognizing the facts but refuting the power they have over her. She refused to listen to the negative voices and made it up on the "upside!"

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Divided We Fall

I've been thinking a lot lately about how we perpetuate separation. It's that look out for number one, get what you can, greed mentality that got us into this economic mess in the first place. It's easy to look at Wall Street and the banking system and blame it on their greed and lack of regulation, but make no mistake, we contribute to that pot every time we blame, criticize or demean ourselves or another. We must begin to look at our actions as directly contributing to the whole - good or bad. We do not live in a vacuum. Quite the contrary.

Spiritual teachers tell us that we are all expressions emanating from the mind of God or the Universe. Scientists tell us that, as energetic beings living in an energetic world, we don't stop at our skin. Physicists tell us that the quantum particles that we are made up of are always in constant communication with each other whether they are in our body or in another's. Metaphysical teachers tell us that there is one Spirit individualized in each of us. Whatever you choose to believe, I think we can all agree that there is more to us than meets the eye. Even the most pragmatic amongst us understands that our presence impacts our environment.

I was so disappointed this last week as I saw some people take such great delight in President Obama's failure to secure the Olympics for Chicago. And, when a Congressman screamed out "You lie!" in the middle of a joint Congressional address to the country, I was taken aback by how divisive we've become. Us and them, a camp divided - so much anger. Whichever way you lean politically, it is important to understand that we are not singling ourselves out when fostering that kind of separation. In the ego's undying attempt to make us right, better and special we have just projected every one of our fears and shortcomings onto another. We think we've just set ourselves head and shoulders above the pack, when in fact we've just called ourselves a liar and a failure.

We are so busy trying to prove our own superiority that we have suffered the whole as a result. Is our country any better? Are we working together to solve the world's problems or are we just posturing for personal gain? It's easy to point a finger at politics, but it just represents our individual consciousnesses. Neville Goddard, author of The Power of Awareness puts it beautifully when he says, "Man's chief delusion is his conviction that there are causes other than his own state of consciousness."

We all contribute to our world and we make a choice at each moment what that contribution will be. When we demean, embarrass or belittle another, we merely exacerbate separation on all levels. Because we are such powerful creators, together we set the stage for either peace or war. I had a teacher who used to say that the only thing you should do behind someone's back is pat it. Let's "man up," "grow a backbone" and step out on the side of each other. Nothing feels better than contributing to the good of another - and because we are all one, it becomes a self-serving act. Let's feed that lovely "quantum incubator of all possibilities" that Gregg Braden talks about, with more love and less fear. Aren't you tired of hearing the battle rage when you turn on talk shows or the news? Aren't you tired of all the anger and the fear it instills?

Let's take our cue from the Counsel of Elders, a group of world leaders selected by Nelson Mandela who are committed to contributing their wisdom, leadership and integrity to tackle the key challenges facing the world today.

I would encourage you this week to get to the bottom of any anger that you have in your own life that continues to be projected out into the world as attack. This is deep and this is powerful. When you are willing to be changed on the level of cause and take ultimate responsibility for your life and how it contributes to the whole, you have just waged the most profound kind of peace there is. When we give up our attack thoughts, the ones that rage within us, we will begin to see our adversaries differently...we will begin to see our brothers.

I leave you this week with a quote by Rossabelle Believe who said, "Let there be such oneness between us, that when one cries, the other tastes salt."

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Don't Should On Yourself!

I've been thinking a lot lately about how self critical we have become. We berate ourselves for falling short of some imaginary goal that we set for ourselves. Worse yet, we have a habit of replaying scenarios over and over again in our heads of how we should have handled a situation differently - things we should have said, ways we should have acted. We degrade ourselves and judge ourselves as inferior. We are often far more critical of ourselves than we are of others. We are judge and jury and pronounce a sentence that is extreme and leaves us feeling guilty and shameful. We punish ourselves and then we do the next inevitable thing; we begin to attack others to make ourselves feel better. "Well if she hadn't been so stubborn, I would have never..." It starts a vicious cycle of attack. It's time to let ourselves off the hook. It's time to promote inner peace in a way we've never done before. These times are calling for a radical change. We must forge the waters of inner peace in ways we've never done before by changing the inner landscape of our minds.

When we attack ourselves it is no different than attacking someone else. Since we live in an energetic world where thoughts and feelings relay messages that affect the whole, when we attack ourselves we send a message of fear that is felt by everyone. The response to fear is often attack, blame or defensiveness. Katie Byron, founder of The Work tells us that defense is the first act of war. A Course In Miracles tells us that "In my defenselessness, my safety lies." Having remorse for treating yourself or another person badly is normal. The action called for is forgiveness. Forgiveness of someone else, forgiveness of yourself. As my friend Jacob wisely tells us, "Mistakes call for correction, not punishment." We need to learn from them and then move on. More often than not we punish ourselves significantly more than the alleged crime warrants. How can we learn compassion for others if we lack it for ourselves? "I should be this way, I should have done this, I shouldn't be so..." I had a teacher who used to say, "Don't should on yourself!" If we, for just one week, wrote down all the "shoulds" we impose upon ourselves, it would shock us at the impossible task masters we have become. Who could live by all those rules? Who could live up to that kind of perfection? And yet, this template becomes the one by which we set our standards. We don't even question where these rules come from. And the disappointment of not measuring up to these preconceived standards resides in the background of our lives and adds to our mild or even perhaps extreme discontent.

I'm asking you to give yourself a break. Let yourself off the hook this week. Ease up on all those strict standards and relax in the knowledge that you're doing the best you can. We make life so much more difficult than it has to be. If we ease up a little on our impossible rules, we will begin to feel a natural release from guilt - guilt that we tend to project onto others and then judge them by. We will then begin to see others differently because we will break the chain of defensiveness and blame. We are always first cause. It always starts with us and that's the good news. It gives us the power to change it.

We think all hell will break loose if we relax our standards, but once again it's the opposite; all peace would break loose. We are living by man made, self imposed, seemingly impossible rules; by which we then judge the rest of the world. If we are trying to become happy then that is faulty problem solving at its best. The solution here is inner peace. That may sound like a lofty ideal but it is, in fact, the best contribution we can make toward a more peaceful world. Berate and judge or soothe, forgive and relax the inner critic? Which one are you willing to project today? Inner peace is the beginning of the kind of life that we seek - a life of incredible joy, love and overwhelming good.

I would encourage you to relax this week. Take a vacation from all the "shoulds" you've been burdening yourself with. Check in with Byron Katie whose soul purpose is to teach people how to end their own suffering. Remind yourself of how often you get things right. If you're mind is being insufferable, make a list of them. If you still can't find peace in a given situation, pretend it's your best friends' problem and they are coming to you for advice. Extend to yourself the compassion that you would give your friend. Be easy on yourself this week. You're doing the best you can. Relax in the knowledge that you are loved and all is well.

I leave you this week with a quote from PM Forni, M.D. who said, “We are all the trustees of one another’s happiness and well being in life.”

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Bitch, Bitch, Bitch!

I've been thinking a lot lately about the insidiousness of complaining and how it undermines our happiness. It is cunning and deceiving because we have learned to live with it as normal. It is pervasive and infiltrates every manner of life; it exists in the background of our lives as a constant hum that we don't even realize is there. It often feels good to gripe or complain about something or someone else - it becomes habitual and it will corrupt our every effort toward happiness, peace and joy. It seems harmless, a passing flip comment, a criticism of ourselves and others, a quiet, breeding dissatisfaction about the general nature of things, and yet the damage it wreaks is severe. It is the antithesis of appreciation and while it seems innocent, observational and perhaps even constructive, in its very nature it sets up a chain of effects that suffers our happiness as a consequence.

When we complain, we also give away a great deal of our power to incite change of the very things, in fact, that we are complaining about. I know it sounds like a trite metaphysical tenet, but it's important to understand it because we do it so unconsciously that we don't even realize how much we tolerate. It's a gentle dissatisfaction with which we've become used to. It becomes the tail that is wagging the dog. When asked the simple question, "How are you?" We often answer with a tepid, "Fine." Our knee-jerk dissatisfaction response has kicked in and our brains are running through thoughts of complaints by the nanosecond - we judge our jobs, mates, friends, financial situation, political maelstrom, our neighbors, their dogs and even lament the fact that we don't have enough closet space! It is built into our nature and accepted as status quo within out culture - if we don't criticize it how can we make it better? Again, there's an example of how we live in "opposite world" - you can't get to the solution of a situation from the level of the problem. Remember Einstein's quote? Complaining is even at times considered a personal social grace in our society. We denigrate ourselves lest we come off as arrogant or egotistical.

We must become aware of the underlying hum of dissatisfaction that consistently runs through our lives and surfaces as complaints. Usually, it comes out against another because 'they're always doing it wrong.' Or for the more "spiritually evolved" amongst us, we take full responsibility for creating our lives and turn the fire hose of self-criticism all over ourselves. We've learned to get used to it feeling dissatisfied - we consider it normal - but we must bring it to the forefront of our awareness. Once we become aware of something, we can no longer tolerate it in the same way. Awareness is the first level of healing. Once we become aware of how much room it occupies in our thoughts and consciousness it can never be the same. It has to change one way or the other. When we become aware of the underlying thought patterns that are steering our lives in directions we don't want to go, two things happen. We can no longer perceive ourselves as victims of circumstances, which empowers us to create our lives purposefully; and second, we become aware of our MO and how we operate - it can no longer unconsciously run the show. You can then look in the mirror and say "Ha! I'm on to you!"

I would encourage you this week to focus on how much is going right in your life. Make a list - post it somewhere and read it often. Add to it. There is so much good that happens naturally without our effort from the way the planet runs to the way our bodies work. My heart, circulatory, respiratory, digestive systems all do remarkable and amazing things to create a healthy body. The sun comes up every day and the tides go in and out on our behalf. So much works naturally for our good. If you're reading this and thinking, 'yeah, this is like when my mom used to tell me to finish my dinner because children in Africa are starving.' Just acknowledge that part of your brain, and then give it the day off. Its function is no longer vital to our survival. Martha Beck, author, lecturer and life coach, calls it our "inner lizard." It's that part of the deepest layer of our neural structure that evolved in early vertebrates, like reptiles, that is responsible for survival. It broadcasts the most basic of our survival fears: lack and attack. 'I don't have enough and I am going to die if I don't attack first.' Since we are not threatened on a daily basis by animals that might eat us, we don't need that part of our brain to such a severe extent anymore. It's still there, however, but it is more subtle. It has evolved to become that critical voice that grinds at us telling us we are never good enough. It compares us to everything and everybody and it always leaves us feeling worse. Whether we come out looking better or worse than the person, thing or circumstance we are comparing ourselves to, the result is always separation; separation from others, and separation from our truth. As a teacher of mine used to say, "Compare and despair."

So many of us live with an underlying feeling of anxiety and we can't really put our finger on what's wrong. We just know that we're not happy. I would postulate that it is the thought system of dissatisfaction that we've been taught since birth - a thought system that our society also supports and nourishes. Let's become aware of the subtle and not so subtle ways we criticize ourselves and other people. Let's not give it the space in our lives to create the malaise and unhappiness that we've learned to accept as normal. We deserve more. We deserve to be happy.

This week I would encourage you to become more "onto yourself" and catch yourself when your thoughts run amok in obvious and even in subtle, cunning ways. Remember, that critical voice, that tendency to bitch and complain, is insidious. Let's make our knee-jerk response to the question, "How are you?" be "Never better!" - And then let's mean it because it is true. You'll be amazed at how things and circumstances around you will change. I believe the effects of changing our complaining minds are wide in scope. You will be happy to see how so little effort can make such a big difference in our overall well being. Let's be willing to see things differently today. Add grace and appreciation to the recipe and let yourself be delighted by the outcome.

This week I leave you with a quote from Abraham Lincoln who said, "Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be."

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

You Gotta Give a Little

I've been thinking a lot lately about the power of contribution and how much it does to foster goodwill, and what an enormous gift it is to our own personal happiness. It was Gretta Brooker Palmer who said, "Happiness is a by-product of an effort to make someone else happy." Mark Twain remarked that, "The best way to cheer yourself is to try to cheer somebody else up." And of course there is the famous biblical adage that admonishes us to, "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you." And yet, in a world focused on how much we can get, it is not the first item that tops our list of 25 things to do to get ahead. Ironically, it's the one thing that brings the most joy, satisfaction and happiness.

Many of us today live under such a heavy financial burden that the last thing on our minds is giving. Survival and fear seem to be more the order of the day. Yet because our economic calamity has been brought upon us, in a very large part by greed, the very antidote that is called for is a spirit of giving - financially, emotionally, spiritually.

We have to remember, lest we perceive ourselves as victims of any circumstance, that everything we have done, thought and acted upon has contributed to the world as it is today. Our physicists and scientists from Einstein to Hawking, Newton to Braden have all contributed to the continued revelation of a subatomic culture that responds and literally rearranges itself according to our thoughts. They are learning more and more about how we interconnect with a field of energy, a superhighway or underpinning of our universe. Some scientists have called it the Mind of God and the Divine Matrix, by whatever name you call it, I think we can all agree that it is a creative framework for creation. It becomes easier to see how we are all connected; how every thought, word and deed of each individual contributes to our world - good and bad. All our thoughts of selfishness and greed have contributed to an unstable economy. While it's easy to look at the economy and point to one thing or another as obvious blame, we all have to take responsibility for how we contribute to the pot. Once we take responsibility and understand how we are creating circumstances, we are then powerful where we stand to affect change.

This is where giving, service, contribution and generosity play such an important role. There are so many stories of people helping one another in this economy that even our "serious" media outlets - if it bleeds it leads - are featuring good news stories. They are heartwarming, inspiring and encouraging. Nothing feels better than making a difference in someone's life. Oprah Winfrey herself claims that nothing has made her happier than her philanthropic outreach, especially her school for girls in Africa. Greg Mortenson, author of Three Cups of Tea, risks life and limb in Afghanistan and Pakistan to forge his tireless effort to champion education, especially for girls. He has gained the trust of Islamic leaders, military commanders, government officials and tribal chiefs simply because of his generous acts of kindness. He has done more for detente in that region than the billions of dollars we spend on war.

Nothing feels better than contributing positively to another person's life. If it is true that we live in a vibrational, responsive universe then every loving thought, kind word, smile and attempt to make someone laugh is an investment. No good act is ever wasted. It contributes to our momentary happiness and to the whole web of creation. It stands to reason that if bad feelings contribute to greed and war, good feelings contribute to peace, harmony and happiness. My mother used to tell me it was better to give than to receive, which was an awfully bitter pill at 6 years old to swallow. Now that I'm a tad older, I know that it is impossible to do one without inciting the other. As a teacher of mine used to say, "You can't out-give God." I believe the ripple effect of generosity and kindness has such far reaching effects that it would blow our minds.

This week I would encourage you to practice the balance of giving and receiving in your life - they are two sides of the same coin. As my friend Jacob says, "You can't just exhale." If you find yourself in a bad mood, take the advice of our wise friend Mark Twain and smile at someone, extend a kind word or compliment, make any small gesture of kindness. You will be amazed at how it will instantly change your mood. If you have more financially, give. If you don't, open yourself up to receive and give in other areas that you are abundant in. Check out my Joyous Contribution area on this blog and act on one that inspires you. Muhammed Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh won the Nobel Peace prize for his contribution to eradicate poverty and the inception of micro finance. And it all started with a kind act - he gave a woman a quarter one day to help her start a business. There is enormous potential in each generous act that we initiate. Let's open our hearts, extend our hands and unleash our power. We face an unparalleled moment of possibility.

This week I leave you with an inspiring video - a story of contribution. I also leave you with a quote by Arthur Ashe who said, “From what we get in life we make a living, from what we give we make a life.”

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Monday, September 7, 2009

A New Attitude

I've been thinking a lot lately about how we affect our own happiness and well-being, health and prosperity. We've talked at length about how happiness is an inside job and how we hold the power, in the moment, to change everything. But how does that translate into the real world? - What does that mean to us on a daily basis?

I think a lot of it has to do with attending to our internal well being. In this society, we constantly seek to change external circumstances in order to create the life we want without addressing our internal minds. That's a lot of work. It makes me think of my sister-in-law's father - a funny, warm and brilliant man, who would always make us all laugh. An avid lover of puzzles of all kinds, he would be working on a jigsaw puzzle and if a piece didn't fit he would take off his shoe and pound it into place. He didn't care if there was a fish in the sky, he made the piece fit! While being funny, I couldn't help but think that he was driving home a point. It's the way many of us approach problem areas in our lives - we try to force them to work from the outside - which of course in the end never does. We want something so badly we are willing to "make" it happen with our sheer will, frequently fighting against spiritual, emotional, and in the case of the puzzle piece, physical laws. It's exhausting.

I believe that the alignment of our internal selves, our minds and our thoughts coupled with feelings, is the only thing that will create the life that we seek. We tend to value the outside world much more than the inside - we call it reality. In fact, one is not any more real than the other, quite the opposite, one creates the other. I was taught, in my early spiritual training, that the universe constantly conspires for our good. I loved believing in a conspiracy for my good, but we can't take ourselves out of the equation. We must set our internal world, our minds and hearts in accordance with this conspiracy theory. Ernest Holmes, founder of Religious Science calls it a "mental equivalent." He said, "The limit of our ability to demonstrate depends upon our ability to provide a mental equivalent of our desires, for the law of correspondence works from the belief to the thing. But it is within our power to provide a greater mental equivalent through the unfolding of consciousness; and this growth from within will finally lead to freedom." 

Rollin McCraty, Ph.D, Vice President and Director of research for the Institute of HeartMath, tells us that, "The heart generates, by far, the largest rhythmic electromagnetic signal in the body. If you look at this magnetic field as a carrier wave, it's being modulated with information." It is this information that is communicating our beliefs, expectations and desires. If we align our internal perception with love instead of fear, something shifts in our minds and we begin to see things differently. A new perspective is born and the insights we bring to a problem will change. It helps us to see possibility where perhaps none had existed before. It brings a clarity and a different objectivity to the table because we are fundamentally different. In Buddhism, it is called a high life condition.

Since all minds are joined, by the energetic field that we have spoken of before, when our life condition is high we don't even have to necessarily do anything - the phone will ring, an email will come, a solution appears. If action is necessary, it will be inspired and not forced by fear. Here again is where the beauty of the moment can powerfully intervene. At any moment, we can stop and create a life condition that will affect a situation positively, instead of trying to "power" through it. Stop. Relax. Breathe. Bring a state of well being to the equation - gratitude, forgiveness, appreciation, a revised story - they will be more likely deliver the results you desire.

We must stop the internal chatter that replays stories from our past that do not serve us. Katie Byron, creator of The Work, is brilliant at teaching us to let go of our stories. We hold on to stories that bring pain and we create evidence to prove those stories true and draw circumstances into our lives that we do not want. We say things like, 'I never get what I want in my life because (fill in the blank here) my mother was abusive, my father was an alcoholic, I was ignored, I had too little, I had too much...' Whatever your story might be, I encourage you to drop it. Instead of arguing for our limitations, let's begin to argue for possibilities. As my friend Jacob says in his 365 Miracles, The Miracle Workers' Handbook, "We are not trying to get rid of something or push against it. We are suggesting that you invoke something Greater." He goes on to talk about invoking positive denial."Positive denial is looking right at the situation and negating the frightening story you've told about it. Positive denial neutralizes the fear by stripping it of its power over you. Always follow up positive denial with affirming a deeper truth."

This week I would encourage you to rewrite any story that you continue to tell others about yourself (a good clue to your inside beliefs) in order to end their cycle of attracting unwanted circumstances. All it takes is your willingness to change; you will receive help when you become willing. Begin your day by aligning your internal self to your higher self. In your quiet moments reflect on gratitude and appreciation and then really feel it. By backing your thoughts with emotions you will create a positively charged, powerfully attractive state - a high life condition. If there is a situation that is causing you worry or fear, give thanks for all the help you are receiving for its resolution. See it as resolved and without having to know the details of the resolution, feel the relief. Feel the relief. Feel the relief. Answers abound if we move away from the thoughts that created them. Albert Einstein said it the best when he said, “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it." It requires a new perspective. A true miracle occurs when we shift our perceptions from fear (greed, jealousy, hostility, hatred, etc.) to love (gratitude, appreciation, honesty, integrity, generosity, etc.). When that perceptual shift is made, we attain inner peace and well being; and that will change our outer circumstances without the need of a shoe.

Again, I'd like to reiterate that this is not hard to do, it is just different. It is a shift in consciousness, which is the most important thing we can do to create peace, happiness and joy in our lives and usher in a new paradigm. Here lies the hope and change that we can really believe in.

I leave you this week with a quote by Maya Angelou who said, "We cannot change the past, but we can change our attitude toward it. Uproot guilt and plant forgiveness. Tear out arrogance and seed humility. Exchange love for hate - thereby making the present comfortable and the future promising."

Monday, August 31, 2009

Science and Sages

I've been thinking a lot lately about forgiveness. No matter which religion you were raised in there's a good chance that forgiveness was figured prominently. We also run across it countless times in quotes from famous thinkers and our literature is strewn with themes of forgiveness. It makes you wonder...what really gives?

Once again, we find science and spirituality coming together in a powerful and profound way to teach us that by changing our own lives we impact the world in which we live. Author and lecturer, Marianne Williamson calls it the evolution of the consciousness of the species by way of the evolution and maturity of our own thinking. Quantum physics tells us that on a subatomic level atoms and particles constantly communicate through a field of energy. We constantly affect that field by our thoughts, which more importantly affect our emotions, which send a waive of chemicals into our bodies and beyond. Quantum physics, the study of subatomic elements, builds upon Newtonian physics by teaching us that there is so much more that happens when that apple falls from that tree. Spirituality chimes in to remind us that we are all one, that we don't stop at our skin. We're all made from the same stuff, that essence of life from which we came - call it God, or love or the universe - it is creative, responsive and ubiquitous. A Course In Miracles tells us that, "Ideas never leave their source." We constantly create our lives through our thoughts, feelings and beliefs.

Great, but what does it all mean? It makes me think about author Malachy McCourt, who said, "Resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die." When we hold anger and resentment in our hearts, we not only hurt ourselves, we impact our environment and how it responds back to us. We might feel good in the short run by letting off steam and bitching about another person; we might even feel justified in our complaints (it's that right vs. happy thing) but we are never served by it. In the long run it is more devastating to our lives than we even know - as those quantum physicists are learning. Of course, our spiritual masters have known these truths all along. They just didn't need scientists to corroborate it for them. They got their information from a higher, more trusted source. But now our minds are getting the evidence that we so often seek beyond faith.

I had the opportunity this week to bring two old friends together again. They had left each other, years ago, on bad terms. When we sat down together, it became instantly clear that one person didn't even remember the circumstances that the other person had held as a source of their pain for so long. When all was said and done, it was evident that all that was left, the most important thing, was the love that still remained between them. Think of how many years of pain could have been avoided. While we are holding on to that grudge, the other person has forgotten the whole episode. They've moved on in their lives, but we haven't. We've drunk the poison with no ill effect on the other person and we stand holding the heavy burden. And when we hold on to that pain, our thoughts about it create feelings, which produce chemicals that adversely affect our physical bodies. Take that one step further - thanks to our wise philosophers, spiritual teachers and quantum physicists - and now we know that those chemicals impact particles that change our world and quality of life. We cause illness in our bodies when we hold on to pain, anger and resentment. Those emotions incite stress hormones and other deleterious chemicals and those chemicals don't stop at our skin. They begin a ripple effect in our world that bring more pain and upset. In an ever expanding circle of interconnectedness, we even contribute to that pool of hatred and war. That's a lot to sacrifice for not forgiving someone.

On the upside, we are always at choice and can, at any given moment, change everything. Let's be inspired by the example of Immacule Ilabegeza who forgave the brutal murder of her family in the Rwandan genocide. We're always at choice. And remember, forgiveness does not invalidate your pain. You are not condoning what they did to you. This is not about them. This is about you. You are setting yourself free. As A Course In Miracles says, "We are spiritually generous out of self interest." It is our world and our lives we are seeking to change for the better, and yet we can't help but do it for another since science and sages tell us that we are all connected. As the Talmud so brilliantly states it, “A light for one is light for a hundred.”

If we are really taking full responsibility for everything that happens in our lives, good and bad, then we understand that people and situations are brought to us by our own making in order to learn something. Usually the lesson involves learning how to have more compassion and more love;  not only for the person that hurt us but for ourselves, as well. Forgiveness then becomes another mental habit in our arsenal for happiness. It is not difficult, it is just different. This world teaches us to blame the cause for our unhappiness on someone else - on something outside of ourselves. But we're learning a new way of being that gives us all the power in the world to create happy, peaceful lives.

I would encourage you this week to bring to mind people who have hurt you; people who you have not yet forgiven. Those who you might quickly push out of your mind as quickly as you think of them because it is too painful. Begin to make peace with them in your mind. Write a list of their positive aspects so that you can remember a better side of them. Begin to forgive them and forgive yourself for your own complicity. Then pray, in whichever way you choose, for their highest good and happiness. You don't have to do anything more than that for miracles to occur. You don't have to call, write or see  them unless you want to. Chances are, like my friend, they might not even remember the incident. Besides, that divine field will elegantly carry your message. Remember, this exercise of forgiveness is for you. It will ease your burden and set you free. By virtue of that, your world will change. You will get proof in ways that you can't even imagine - that quantum field and spiritual truth will delight you in subtle ways. Keep an eye out for them. I commend you. This is not an easy exercise, but it is one of the most important contributions that we can make for inner peace, which will in turn beautifully contribute to the world's peace.

I leave you this week with some wise words from Marianne Williamson when she was expounding on a lesson from A Course In Miracles that states 'Forgiveness Offers Everything I Want.' "When I say forgiveness offers you everything you want, I meant everything, because forgiveness means you will then return to your most loving self. Your most loving self is your Christ self, your Buddha self, your true self...When you are that, when you become that, then you will attract to yourself everything that reflects that. Give love, get love. Simple as that."

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Inside Out

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about happiness, which is a good thing since I’m blogging on the subject. We all know that happiness is an inside job. Real happiness has nothing to do with external circumstances. We know that on some level, but we forget so quickly. We still run around trying to choreograph (which is a kinder word for control) every aspect of our lives in order to conform to our pictures of what we think will constitute happiness. Our relationships must look a certain way, our careers, our homes, communities, our 2.5 children. We try to get all these ducks in a row so that we can then settle down, relax and be happy. But that never works. It hurls us into that illusive future that never comes; it postpones our good. We find ourselves waiting until it’s just so, or until we’ve earned it. It is an endless chore that leaves us frustrated, tired and multi-tasking to that point where we wish we had never heard that word. When we rely on external circumstances to make us happy and bring us the joy that we seek, we lose one hundred percent of the time. I’m here to encourage you to relax. Stop the incessant drive toward futility and choose to focus on the happiness that already exists within. As best selling author and cofounder of the Omega Institute, Elizabeth Lesser so soothingly puts it, “There is no one to impress, nothing to get, nowhere to rush to, nothing to miss out on. The truth is always there, plain and simple, hiding somewhere near you.”

The truth is that the happiness we seek is already within us. It then becomes a deliberate choice of how we will proceed. I think we often fear that if we go within we will have to forfeit the “stuff” that we want. I have two things to say about that. First of all, “stuff” is highly overrated. Take a look at the brilliant perspective by Annie Leonard who produced The Story of Stuff. Secondly, when we act from the inside out, prompted and directed by our intuition and divine guidance we attract our hearts desire in a way we could have never dreamed. A Course In Miracles puts it so well when it says, “Fear of the Will of God is one of the strangest beliefs the human mind has ever made.” By whatever words you name it – God, The Universe, your Buddha nature, Allah, Christ consciousness, your higher self, love or that quantum force that connects us all – I think we agree that we are all part of a divine essence. It connects us all and it responds to our conscious thoughts. Why would we fear it? Perhaps this strong yearning for happiness is the very impetus we need to go within and discover the truth of who we are. It is only then that we are truly happy.

As a society, we have learned to go for happiness from the outside. It’s the way we were taught. There is a recipe for success and if we follow it we will be happy, right? Not so much. I know a lot of people who are wildly successful and rich with all the trappings that define happiness to a tee and they are the furthest thing from it. They are left with a void and a strong case of, “is that all there is?” The high of the new last thing has worn off and it leaves them wanting for more. That line that we thought would surely signify happiness when we crossed it begins to move every time we approach it. This was the role model for happiness that we were given. Unfortunately, it has built a world of insatiable greed and avarice. Fortunately, we are at choice and we are beginning to change things from a place of stability and power – from the inside where all creation exists. We stand poised on an exciting stage of possibility.

Dr. Robert Holden, psychologist and founder of the Happiness Project in England, tells us that, “Those looking for happiness often don't realize they already have it…you don't chase happiness out there. You learn that you're happy inside you…. Then you go into the world.” One of his big prescriptions for happiness is to be present, live in the moment. He says, “Living in the ‘not now’ is a chief cause of unhappiness. The strain of being not present in your own life is simply too great. When you miss out on the present, you miss out on so much. No now; no life. In the English language, the word ‘present’ has three distinct meanings: ‘here’, ‘now’ and ‘a gift.’"

It’s not as hard as we think to change our external quest for happiness to an internal one. It’s a simple shift of consciousness and it takes practice. The more we practice, the more it will become natural. The more natural it becomes the happier we are inclined to be. This begins to shift in the way our world responds back to us. The mirror changes so the reflection has to as well. Buddhism has a beautiful concept know as esho-funi, oneness of life and its environment. The two are not separate but one. When one changes the other has no choice, they are two integral phases of a single reality. Discover your happiness within and it will be reflected without. Your life will change and you will find the happiness that you desire without all the stuff.

This week I would encourage, as always, to be mindful of your thoughts. Change your mind about those things that make you feel bad. For the most part, it’s just a story that we keep telling ourselves. This week let’s mine our inner storehouse for happiness. Make a list of 25 things, people, places or activities that make you happy. Maybe it’s something that you haven’t done or thought of in a long time. Then go do that. Tap into that place inside you where there is a wellspring of joy. You may find that it will bring a new relationship, home or career direction. There are countless numbers of people who have stumbled upon a new career path by virtue of doing something that made them happy in the moment. Greg Mortensen comes to mind. A man who has established over 90 schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan as a result of climbing the second-highest mountain on Earth, K2, to honor his sister’s memory. I think of the prominent attorney whose casual, polite greeting of a homeless man in the park turned into an idea of Book Club for the Homeless – the idea is now catching on globally. One man with a kind gesture – nothing makes him happier – take a good look at his face as you watch this video I leave you with this week. I leave you also with a quote by Henry Miller who said, "If we have not found heaven within, it is a certainty we will not find it without."

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Suze Speaks

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about something Suze Orman said on Oprah. The woman, deemed a “one-woman financial advice powerhouse” by USA Today, for the most part scares the living crap out of me. I fall short on so many levels according to her financial rules. But even some of her best laid plans and strategies for people have buckled under the strain of this economy and she has found it necessary go deeper in her counsel. Remember, she mostly deals with the symptoms of our lives and not with the causes; and yet it’s the causes, the thoughts and the beliefs that speak the loudest and dictate the most. It was to them she spoke when she said, “We must be grateful for what we have, not for what we had.” Brilliant. Simple.

Suze was talking about mourning less over the loss of “stuff” and being more grateful for what we still have. She was advising a minister and his wife, who had lost their life savings, to concentrate on the positive aspects of their lives. She was trying to shift their focus. But like most of us the “yeah but” came into play so quickly, with all of its reasons and justifications, that it pushed her wise counsel right out the window. ‘You make a good point, Suze, but what about my 401k, my retirement, my future? How am I supposed to be happy when I have lost so much?’ When we win in the argument of “yeah buts,” we have all but lost the possibility for providence to move in to create the miracle that was supposed to be born out of the situation. We have just argued for our limitations. We might have been right and justified in our anger but we are certainly not happy.

Suze sure said a mouthful in that succinct admonition. Our lives are hijacked when we mourn our past – whether it be for material things or physical things – thinner, firmer, younger. We become so mired in the thoughts of the past that we miss the happiness that is ours in the moment and surrender the power to change it. As A Course In Miracles so aptly puts it, “You do not ask too much of life, but far too little. When you let your mind be drawn to bodily concerns, to things you buy, to eminence as valued by the world, you ask for sorrow, not for happiness.”

When our thoughts dwell in the past or leap to an illusive future, we have just sacrificed joy in our present moment. The moment is where our power lies; it is where we live our lives. When we choose joy it not only makes us feel good in the moment, it also sets a precedent for joy in the next moment, which begins a chain reaction for our good.

Suze also emphasized gratitude, which is such an important stance. It moves us out of the realm of feeling sorry for ourselves or of being a victim, which only serves to make us miserable in the short run and attracts more of the same in the long run. That is not the spiral I wish to descend. Gratitude points us in a more positive direction, but I would go one step further than Suze’s recommendation, I would encourage appreciation. Gratitude is a wonderful emotion, but it implies overcoming some difficult situation, a struggle; while appreciation carries a vibrational essence that is not contingent upon conditions. It aligns us with the source within. I will not call it God since that word is charged with so much meaning. I will simply refer back to the field that we talked about last week. The vibration that the ancients, sages, prophets and teachers have known forever. The field which quantum physicists and scientists are just beginning to define. It is that intelligent field, that “Divine Matrix,” that connects us all. It is responsive to our thoughts and our feelings and it is instrumental in creation. When you are joyful, happy and full of appreciation, you align yourself with a Force that holds galaxies in place.

I would encourage you this week to let go of the past as best you can by focusing on all the beauty that still exists in your life. If you are sad, cry. If you are angry, go beat a pillow senseless until you can release the pain that the anger is masking and then have a good cry. Do anything you need to do to let it go. Do not dwell on the pain. Let go of the story of your past so you can begin to write a new one that will make you happy, that will bring you your hearts desire. Write a gratitude list born out of the situation, and then write an appreciation list about yourself and your life. Assume the best this very moment so that you can give birth to possibilities. As my friend Jacob would say, “lots can happen.”

I leave you this week with a quote by Henry David Thoreau who said, “You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in every moment.”

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Blame Game

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the extent to which we take responsibility for our lives. We seem to do a lot of blaming, which only serves to exacerbate feelings of powerlessness. There’s certainly a lot of blaming, criticizing and complaining going around today, especially in light of the economic climate. Nothing is more debilitating; and nothing makes us feel worse. Remember we talked about the four emotional cancers: comparing, competing, criticizing and complaining? Nothing tears down our resolve to create a happy, successful life more. It also gnaws at the very fabric of our culture. As learned scholar, peace proponent and Buddhist leader, Daisaku Ikeda states, “The power to change even the environment exists in the heart.”

It has become clear that forging peace and happiness in this world is an inside job. It starts with us, one person at a time, and then it spreads from there – talk about viral marketing!

When I was studying to be a practitioner in the Church of Religious Science, I had a teacher who used to say, “There is one common denominator in all the bad things that happen in your life…you!” We create our lives with our thoughts, words and feelings – essentially with the energy or vibration we are emanating. Those may sound like “woo-woo” concepts in this age of metaphysics but they are actually facts that are being proven every day by some of our greatest scientific minds.

We all know that we are comprised of energy and matter. Now scientists have proven that there is a field, an energy, force or framework that is the underpinning of our universe, but what does it mean to us? Dr. John Wheeler, prominent physicist and colleague of Albert Einstein, the man who coined the term “black hole;” also acknowledged this field and studied its impact on people. Stephen Hawking, theoretical physicist, called this force, “the Mind of God.” He borrowed the term from Albert Einstein who began studying physics because he wanted to understand this phenomenon. Gregg Braden, scientist and author tells us that the power of our belief literally rearranges the stuff, the atoms and the molecules that our world is made of, to create the conditions of our lives – our romances, abundance, peace and even the healing of our bodies. He found that this intelligent field, The Divine Matrix as he has coined it, is not only responsive to us but it connects us all. It is clear that scientists and quantum physicists are beginning to corroborate and find evidence of the truth that the ancient traditions, mystics and spiritual masters have known for eons. It’s just taken science a little longer to catch-up. However, many scientists, including the ones we talked about here, have been driven to address big, overarching questions in physics; subjects which merged with philosophical questions about the origin of matter, information and the universe. It is becoming more clear that we are part of a vast interconnected highway of creation and we are free to use it as we choose.

It is up to us to direct our energy. Dr. Christiane Northrup tells us that we have one of the greatest chemistry sets in the world between our ears. Our brains are capable of making every chemical that our bodies need to grow, combat disease and thrive and it’s our thoughts that steer it. The question remains that if we have the ability to rearrange matter why would we want to impact it negatively for a less than a desired outcome? Of course we don’t do it on purpose yet that’s what happens every time we blame others for circumstances in our lives. Our power lies in the awareness that we are creative beings by virtue of our thoughts, which impact our own atoms and molecules, which in turn affects this quantum essence of life.

I encourage you this week take a stance of responsibility for every circumstance in your life, good and bad. Let’s avoid blaming, criticizing or complaining about anyone else. If someone flips you off in traffic, consider where you might be holding anger or rage for another; if someone hurts your feelings or is talking about you unkindly, look to see where you might be doing the same thing. Once we begin to see things differently and understand that we are first cause, we incite the power to create the lives we want. It’s time to start cleaning up our thoughts, our feelings, our actions and reactions and then watch the changes that occur. They will seem nothing short of miraculous.

I leave you this week with a quote by William James who says, “The greatest revolution in our generation is the discovery that human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives.”

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Limitations or Possibilities?

I’ve been thinking lately about something Ernest Holmes said. One of the most influential figures in metaphysical science and founder of Religious Science (not to be confused with Scientology), Ernest Holmes was a profound proponent of Universal Intelligence and said something that has stuck with me lately. He said,
“You cannot spend five minutes in the morning affirming that all is well and spend the rest of the day proving that it is not.“

Our minds have such a unique way of wanting to prove our beliefs right no matter what – even though it might not make us happy. A Course in Miracles puts it so succinctly when it asks,
“Would you rather be right or happy?”

Many might think, “can’t I be both?” Not if it brings situations into your life that make you unhappy. We must stop arguing for our limitations in order to attract the happiness and fulfillment that we so desperately crave.

Our beliefs – and remember they are just thoughts that we keep thinking – will be proven in our physical world by the circumstances that they attract, wanted or unwanted. My mother used to say to me, “You’re so lucky; jobs just fall into your lap.” Not only did that piss me off - I felt like I worked hard for everything that came my way and somehow she was negating my effort - but it also set into motion circumstances that began to prove my limited thoughts. In truth I did have an uncanny way of attracting opportunity, but I was so addicted to struggle that I could not accept the ease with which I could create. I thought it had to be harder than that. I began to argue for my limitations. I began to make life harder than it had to be. I was proving my position right because jobs that came easily before stopped cold, and I was anything but happy.

Again, the world in which we live supports hard work, struggle, pain and fear and we just buy into those beliefs as truth. Our addiction to pain and struggle makes us believe that it is necessary to suffer and work hard in order to succeed, “no pain, no gain,” and the belief in "The Great American Dream" and sweat equity. But the paradigm is shifting. Even the lexicon is changing. Think about how prevalent words like universe, spirituality, affirmations, karma, etc. are in our society today. This was not true even a decade ago.

Let’s stop arguing for our limitations. Let’s adopt the new beliefs that are conspiring to change the world. Begin today to pay attention to your thoughts, and to certain words that you use with regularity that might be attracting things that you do not want. Set your course in the morning by setting aside some time, before your busy day begins, to settle your mind – pray, meditate, chant – do whatever you do to put appreciation, happiness and love at the top of your list for the day. But then, as Ernest Holmes reminds us, don’t let it stop there. Don’t let your thoughts run amok in directions that don’t serve you. Ask to become more aware of those thoughts. They will begin to jump out at you like crazy by virtue of your attention to them. Remember, it’s not hard. It is a matter of awareness. We are waking up to the notion that the facts that we so strongly believe in, might not be facts at all.

This week take a few minutes in the morning to set the course for your day; then, throughout the day, focus on happier things, brighter moments, appreciation and all the beauty that surrounds you. Your limiting thoughts will come up, but as you notice them they will not hold the power that they used to. With practice it will become easier. It will become more natural. I can’t think of a better way to learn than by marinating ourselves in positive, life affirming happy thoughts and circumstances - they abound.

I leave you this week with another video, a good news story of a woman who never let a limiting thought stop her determination; she argued for possibilities and possibilities came. Oh yes, and I will leave you with a wonderful quote (I cannot resist) from Louise Hay who says,
“What you think and what you believe is what will come true for you. Your thoughts create your life; it’s that simple, and when we get that, we can make enormous changes.”

Monday, July 27, 2009

Our Brains on Joy

I’ve been thinking lately about mind training and the notion of brain washing our minds for positive and happy changes in our lives. The thought of brain washing has had a bad rap in our culture but the truth of the matter is that our thinking is constantly being manipulated through advertising, films, television and the news. We get it whether we want it or not. Unfortunately, it is mostly negative input, which often leaves us feeling tired, depressed or unhappy and then we wonder why our lives are not better. Let’s face it; our world is skewed toward negativity. We take it in as a matter of fact because it is disguised as relevant, important and sensationalistic. Let’s begin to feed our brains a better diet to see what happens to our physical world.

I was challenged this week with an old, habitual thought pattern (and who knows where it came from). A circumstance arose that elicited a dormant thought stream of fear and paralysis. I became determined not to let it dictate the patterns of my life. I wasn’t interested in its origin; I just wanted to change it. Going back to the source to figure out where thoughts began can frequently make matters worse causing a downward spiral of cause and effect. Another teacher of mine, Terry Cole Whitaker, used to say – and I paraphrase here – “Once I throw out my trash, I’m not inclined to go through it again.” Lecturer and author on “A Course In Miracles,” Jacob Glass, drives home the point by using an example of a car's GPS system. He explains that if your GPS goes offline for some reason and you become lost, when it comes back online the first thing it wants to do is help you find your destination. It does not say, “How in the world did you get here? This must be your mother’s fault.” Years of analysis may not always be the answer. As Byron Katie says, “I’m a woman in a hurry.” Let’s be in a hurry for good to come our way and make a conscious effort to judiciously select thoughts that we take on as fact, and question the ones that are habitual but not true. It requires vigilance. And like any habit, the more you practice the easier and more ingrained it becomes.

I would encourage you this week not to focus and replay thoughts that make you feel bad. These thoughts will not create the future that you want. Remember, we have 60,000 thoughts per day; 87% of those thoughts are negative and repetitive. 99% of all those negative thoughts are a gross misrepresentation of reality; they are simply not true and they are unreliable. Why would we want to continue to think or believe them? Talk about a happiness downer. As author, Anne Lamott warns, “My mind is a bad neighborhood and I shouldn’t go there alone.”

I would encourage you to simply begin to focus on the positive aspects of your life. Let’s leave the morbid statistics, warnings and fear to the advertisers trying to sell us something. If you look for more beauty you will begin to notice it everywhere. Let’s make an effort to stay away from the four emotional cancers: comparing, competing, criticizing and complaining. Continue to appreciate and write lists of things that are going right in your life; compliment yourself and others more often. Seek out activities that make you feel good – funny movies, intimate moments with friends and family and materials that inspire you (books, articles, blogs, YouTube videos, etc.). Remember, this is your life. It’s time to begin ignoring negativity and disturbing, repetitive thoughts and leave them behind for the lies that they are. Let’s begin a new regime of happiness and let’s do it with confidence.

Here are some new suds for your brain:

1. Happiness is vital. It isn’t some airy-fairy, vapid stance that we assume just to be nice. It is a choice – a powerful choice that changes everything. It provides essential hormones and chemicals for health, youth and vitality; it is contagious on every level: spiritually, emotionally and cellularly; it changes the way we begin to think about ourselves. As a result, things begin to shift because the circumstance we attract are vastly different. Money may not bring happiness, but happiness may bring money – think about that one for minute.

2. Thought creates. When we change our thoughts, which are the first act of creation, we change our lives. Napoleon Hill, author of Think and Grow Rich, writes, “Thoughts have the peculiar quality of becoming their physical equivalence.”

3. Thoughts are attractive – they invite similar vibratory thoughts. The more depressed or morbid our thoughts, the worse we feel. Conversely, the better our thoughts, the better thoughts we attract and the better we feel, which causes a cascade of universal, chemical and relational support for better circumstances in our lives. It is an upward spiral.

4. Habits are just thoughts we keep on thinking. They are not set in stone and they can change with heightened consciousness, awareness and vigilance. Remember what my teacher, Dr. Vetura Papke used to say, “Put a gatekeeper up at the portal of your mind.”

Let’s begin the process of positive brain washing by exposing our brains to more joy, appreciation and happiness; then we will begin a powerful transformation of our lives.

I leave you this week with a prayer, by Macrina Wiederkehr, author of Seasons of Your Heart: Prayers and Reflections. “Oh God, Help me to believe the truth about myself no matter how beautiful it is.”

Monday, July 20, 2009

Vacation Time

I’ve been thinking lately about appreciation and what an incredibly powerful tool we have at our disposal. Frequently, however, we set it apart from our daily lives and compartmentalize in with kind acts, good deeds and churchy things when, in fact, it’s one of the most potent acts in our arsenal for happiness.

If you’re facing a challenge in your life right now I would encourage you to drop all your strategizing and planning and adopt a stance of appreciation. We seem to think that the only way to achieve a goal or solve a problem is to be proactive and assertive, get out there, “brain storm” and get the job done. I can’t think of anything more unsettling than a storm in my brain. That kind of “strategery,” as our previous President so aptly put it, has the effect of that proverbial bull in a china shop. It often makes things worse. We don’t immediately think of appreciation as a jumping off point in solving problems in our lives, but it is. Appreciation is not passive. Again, in our backwards world, we put the cart before the horse, set our minds on overload and try to manipulate our way out a dilemma – doesn’t that make for an exhausting day! I have a friend who says, “you cannot think your way out of situation that you’ve acted your way into.” We must engage our hearts and the wisdom of our infinite higher selves to create anew. One of the best ways I know how to do that is through appreciation.

This week I was consoling a friend who suffered a loss – of material things – and I was trying to get him to focus on all the other amazing things he has in life and he has many. He said to me, “I know I should be more appreciative, but…” As if to say, “I know I should floss, but…” It’s that qualifying “but” that keeps us in a state of suffering and just ruins our ability to recreate any situation.

I would encourage you this week to make an appreciation list. I know I’ve said it before but let’s ramp it up – write down the things you appreciate in your life; qualities that you appreciate in the people you know and love and in the people with whom you might be having trouble. This is one of the most powerful things you can do to transform a relationship. Even if there is only one tiny thing you can find to appreciate about a person, write it down and ride it for all its worth this week. You will begin to notice a change. Write down things that you appreciate about a situation that you might be going through – especially those that seem troubling or problematic – mine it for its value. You’ve heard it said that we only have control of how we “react” in any given moment, but I would postulate that if we appreciate and change our minds about a situation, the reaction phase of counting to 10 before we pull out all of our hair, will never come. It’s a new way of thinking and again, we’re here to retrain and transform our minds. Make a list, add to it every day and read it every evening.

It’s summer! Give your brain a vacation from all its strategy and “best” thinking and let your heart and intuitive higher self sweetly and powerfully engage in appreciation. Rest in the knowledge that all is well and getting better.

I leave you this week with a quote by Meister Eckhart who said, "If the only prayer you say in your life is thank you, that would be enough.”