Last Sunday, Margie, my mother and myself attended an ownership meeting for a food co-op that we belong to. One of the themes that was stressed over and over again was a sense of community. There was mention that co-op owners made up a community of concerned citizens doing their best to help small business. That owners of that owners of that particular co-op represented a community of people concerned about access to healthy and sustainable food. It made me think how many different communities each of us belong to. There are so many.
We belong to religious communities. We belong to political communities. We belong to cultural communities. When we are at the grocery store, we belong to a community that shops at that store. In my 23 years of bartending, I noticed that was the main reason people went to corner bars. It wasn’t the delicious and healthy food served there. It wasn’t even the charming and handsome bartender, despite my attempt at believing otherwise. It was a sense of community. For many of them it was a makeshift family.
Many of our communities try to divide us and become exclusive. The first two examples on my list are really good at that. Instead of falling for that, I ask you to take a different approach. Focus on all of the communities you are a part of. As I write this, I am sitting in a coffee shop. I am part of the community of people that chose to come to this coffee shop today. In this community there are many different races, ages and genders. I would guess there are many different political beliefs as well, You know what though? We are all in this community. After this, I plan to go to the gym. Another community there. Focus on what groups you are part of. Be inclusive instead of exclusive. It would be fun for you to list some of your favorite communities you are a part of.
On this site, we never push a particular faith. I feel what faith you follow is your business. We have drawn inspiration from many different beliefs through the years. It is my belief there is good in almost every faith. I think they all have great wisdom that applies to all of us. Take the quote attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi above. There is some debate as to whether he actually said this or not, but that is not important for our message today. This site is about the secrets to an amazing life. One of those secrets is living a life of integrity. There is nothing that would trip us up more than knowing we are not practicing what we preach. It will not only make us look like a hypocrite to others, but make us feel like one to ourselves.
I think it is important to ‘preach’ and share your message. In my own life, that has been one of encouragement and self-empowerment. I routinely share a message of living a positive and fulfilling life. How do you think that would resonate if I went around telling people the value, physically and mentally, of living a positive life, while I was always angry and belittling people? What do you think people would say? My guess is something like “Bugger off!” as my British friends say. Yes, it is important to walk your walk, but it is more than that. If you do not live what you preach, is it even worth the words you speak?
This applies to so many areas, but one that comes to mind often is that of a parent. You can tell your children what is right and wrong a million times, but they will learn more by watching what you do. If your words and actions do not match, they may stop listening all together. As a example of the faith you follow, make sure your actions match the moral directive put forth by that belief. For example, if your faith preaches love and acceptance of all (most do) yet, you find yourself telling racist or sexist jokes at the office, or judging people according to their beliefs, you are not preaching your gospel with your actions. As a parent, if you tell your kids it is important to manage their money, but you are sneaking in their piggy bank for the house payment, you are not preaching your gospel as a parent.
This week, take a second to think of the beliefs you share with others. Then, ask yourself, “How can I demonstrate these beliefs with my actions?” This can be your spiritual beliefs, your parental beliefs, your beliefs about being a good friend, or any other belief you may have. Think of the quote above as you make your way through the week. Preach your gospel through your actions, and when necessary, use words.
Running in packs sure can have its advantages. Just ask wolves. Their cooperative hunting strategies have allowed them to flourish and be more successful. They same can be said for those of us working on team projects. It certainly can come in handy in our spiritual faith. When we feel that faith faltering, it can be our ‘pack’ that can lift us up. How about our friends and family? That can be an amazing pack! They can check on us and have us feeling loved and cared about. They can also be a great source to lean on when we are down.
Where packs can turn from an asset to a detriment, is when we allow the pack to do our thinking for us. This seems especially true in both politics and faith. As we described earlier, the latter can help us a great deal. I am not sure about the former, but I digress. I have seen, in my own family, people leave their own family behind for no other reason than their faith was different. It is important to be able to step back from the pack, on occasion, and think for ourselves. If your pack is asking you to believe, and act in a certain way, it is ok to question that way. It does not make you a ‘bad’ member of the pack. In fact, you could be the one to lead the pack in an entirely different direction. You can still make good use of the pack, and be able to think and act on your own.
It can certainly be tempting to allow our thoughts and actions to be influenced by the pack. It is something we must stand guard against. If your pack infers, or outright says, that people of a certain group should be avoided, or worse looked down upon, because they are different, ask yourself if that is what you truly believe. In a word that seems to be growing more divided by the day, it is our pack of humanity that must learn to work together. Just like the wolves, we will survive and be more successful if we do.
Daily we are greeted with messages of division. Some days they seem to be downright violent in their nature. It is messages of extremes delivered by one side or another. It gives us three very false impressions. The first is that you have to choose “One side or the other” You can’t be a little of this, or a little of that. With just a few seconds of logical thought, we can realize this is not true. In today’s world, which thanks to technology is growing more mixed and smaller than ever, people are a mix of a whole bunch of different things.
That brings us to the second false claim these stories and groups are putting out there. That most people belong to one of these “2 sides”. It is if people are made to feel guilty for having feelings that can understand and see and issue from both points of view. Here is a news flash for some of you – you can agree with parts of one side of and issue and parts of another side. In fact, if you do, that is a sign of open-mindedness and critical thinking. Seldom, if ever, is an issue black and white. Despite what you hear, you do not have to be on one side of an issue or another. You can choose the space in between and not only understand, but give respect to both sides.
That brings us to the last bit of misinformation those in certain circles would like us to believe – that if you disagree with someone you have to hate them or at the very least view them as if they were the enemy. This is not only obviously untrue, but ask yourself what we stand to gain by thinking this way. By making enemies of those who could have been friends with just a little bit of compassion and understanding. Ask yourself another important question, who stands to benefit by us being divided and working against each other? It brings more stress into our lives and reduces the amount of people we can share with. So, who does benefit from us being divided?
From now on I challenge you to stop being a sheep and believing that we must remain divided. We are far more powerful when we work together. How can we accomplish this? I will give you a few examples and I would love to hear more from you. In something as simple as sports we can try this. If you meet up with friends who cheer for a different team than you do (yes this is actually allowed in life) If your team wins, be gracious enough to say “Your team played a good game.” Maybe even mention a few things that they did well and wish them better luck next time. This works a lot better than mocking them and gloating about how good your team is. If your team loses, remember it is just a game. Congratulate them on their teams victory. In that contest, they were obviously the better team. Keep in mind this is just a game. It should be a chance to gather together and not say mean or hurtful things. Once again, nobody wins in that scenario.
Politics is an area that people are really getting after each other lately. To me, this is one of the most foolish. Do you know who benefits when we label each other as “Crazy” or “Evil” because our politics differ? Those politicians that seek to push their agendas by dividing us. The problem is not that neighbor Bill voted for someone different than you and has a different view of the world. The problem is that instead of seeking a middle ground and a solution that will benefit all people, we are told we have to be divided and only one side can win. When we do this we lose. We lose friends, we lose a good amount of peace and joy in our lives. We may even have families torn apart. As a parent or teacher we would never tell children that they should call the other kids they disagree with nasty names, but that is exactly what grown adults in the political arena are doing. What do we teach children? That is ok to be different and that we all have to find ways to play nice together, This is a message that we should deliver to those in power.
Lastly, there is religion and faith. This is so important in the lives of many. Our faith can be what gets us through the toughest times. Yet, just like politicians, certain religious leaders would prefer we view those who differ in their form of worship as “The enemy” or “Sinners”. Turning people we love, or those that we see do a lot of compassionate and loving things for the world as ‘the bad guys’. In mind mind, this is nothing short of stupid. When I hear of someone who enjoys a ritual that is different than what I may do, this is what I say. “Oh, that’s cool.” It doesn’t mean my beliefs are wrong or that theirs are better or worse than mine. It is just that they have found a different way to deepen their faith which will ultimately make them a better person.
Don’t be a sheep and follow what certain members of the media and those in power are telling you. We do not have to be divided. Those who are different than us can still be right and so can we. Be a lion. Show what love and compassion can do. Show what working together we can make the world a far better place than working against each other. Realize that in your own life, love and compassion for those who differ than you can bring you more peace and less stress. Awaken the lion within you.
This site does not often touch on different spiritual beliefs. I believe that living an amazing life includes a spiritual aspect, but that aspect is a personal decision. As long as your path does not involve bringing harm to anyone else and includes becoming the best version of yourself it should not matter to me or to anyone else what that path is. Here is a great secret – the same holds true for the beliefs of others. There are some of us who feel that anyone who does not adhere to the exact same spiritual beliefs that we do is someone who is wrong or in the worst cases, an enemy. This creates not only undo stress, both in the party receiving the angst, but in the life of the people who carry these beliefs. Imagine going through life thinking everyone is wrong or your enemy? Very stressful. It also limits the opportunities for growth and collaboration. When you think someone is wrong on any level, it can be hard to include them as much, even in another level.
Today’s post is to remind you that people can be different without being wrong. Judgement drains a lot of energy and focus from our lives. On the contrary, acceptance and understanding can free up energy and create new and exciting opportunities for growth and collaboration. Accepting someone does not mean we agree with them or that we are even going to join them in their endeavors. If we focus on how we are alike instead of how we are different, we can do great things. It may be hard to both understand and accept someone who is different, but if we focus on the things we have in common it can do a lot to both bring us closer and to learn from each other. When I go out with my friends who are different faiths, they may dress different, eat different things and have different views, but they have many things in common.
The other day, I had lunch with two friends. One is Christian and one is Muslim. At one point, the topic turned to faith. I was interested to see how this might play out. They discussed their different ways of offering prayers and why they do what they do. They also came to the conclusion that they both do it for the same reason, to become more spiritually enlightened and to become closer to the God they follow. One said to the other, “Funny how a conversation can bring us so much understanding when according to the outside world we are supposed to hate each other.” They chuckled, as they had been friends for years. I thought of the sad truth of that statement. The media, politicians and even some religious leaders, keep our differences as talking points and what is most important. I think we can learn a great deal from each other if we only open our hearts and our minds.
One of the things that all spiritual paths have in common, that we can focus on today and share with each other, is the power of gratitude. All spiritual paths focus a great deal on being grateful. There are prayers of thanksgiving in any faith. I think beginning a practice of including one of those before we retire for the evening can work miracles in our lives. If we can also add being grateful for those who may be different than us, it can go a long way to opening our hearts and minds when we are awake. What is right for us, does not necessarily have to be right for everyone else. Last night, my mom, Margie and I were discussing our dream cars. Guess what? they were all different. None of us argued that the others should switch their car to ours. They liked their car for their reasons as we did for ours, and that was ok. We could listen unattached to why someone might like the car they did and even appreciate why without feeling as though they should change their minds and agree with us. Why can’t this be done with more personal things such as politics and religion? I do understand that there has been, and in some cases remains, persecution of individuals based on these categories. This is completely unacceptable. The truth is, this can only be changed by learning to accept, understand and love each other with open hearts and open minds.
Learning to accept and enjoy those who are different than us will not only create a more amazing life on the outside for all of us, it will create a more amazing life inside of our hearts. We will live life with a far greater peace of heart and mind than if we viewed everyone who is different as wrong or as our enemy. Let us all work on opening our hearts and minds and let us all end our day with a grateful heart. Not only for all that we have in our life, but for those who are different than us who can teach us so much and bring color and contrast to our world.
Prayer. No matter what your spiritual beliefs, prayer is usually a very important part of it. I recall as a little fellow I was taught to pray to God for what you wanted and needed. Almost as if the almighty were some kind of Santa Claus in the sky. As I grew a little older and found myself in high school, prayer showed up a little less regularly. It was usually the day before a big exam. One of those, “Please God let me pass English class so I can graduate.” sort of things.
It always seemed a little odd to me to approach the supreme being in such a begging type fashion. It wasn’t until I pursued my quest of spirituality outside the walls of the building of organized religion that I really came to understand prayer. One book I recall reading at a young age was The Power of Your Subconscious Mind by Dr. Joseph Murphy. I was always a student of science and often struggled with melding both science and religion. This book went a long way to helping that process. Inner dialogue, of which prayer is even though it is directed at a supreme power, utilizes the subconscious mind. If you are a spiritual sort, you must ask yourself why did the power that be give us such a mind?
Another thing that I have learned by being exposed to many different spiritual beliefs is that you should not pray to change others or the outside world. One, this is trying to project your will and beliefs on others, and that is just not nice. Instead, I focus on the one person I can change – me. Instead of praying others were more polite and considerate, I focus on becoming more compassionate and understanding myself. Instead of asking the Great Spirit to give me an easier life, I pray that I may have a stronger soul. When life becomes overwhelming I focus on finding the beauty and learning the lessons. A little divine intervention is often needed, and I feel is a fair thing to request in suplication.
This may sound odd to many of you, but one of the areas in which this pays the biggest dividends is in my romantic relationship. First of all, it is my opinion that the divine placed in my life a woman who is beautiful, creative and easy to love. In order to never lose that ‘honeymoon phase’ and let little annoyances grow over time, I pray to see the beauty in those too. If there is any area of our live that serves as a merciless mirror to see the parts of ourselves we may not be the most proud of, it is our intimate relationships. The person closest to us sees all sides of us at all different times. That is why I pray daily to be the best man I can be for the woman I love. There are also thoughts and prayers that I may never miss the beauty in all that she does. Whether that is her love of family and friends, her silly sense of humor or her spontaneity, I never want to miss the beauty she shows.
There are so many things partners can do that may be cute at first, but grow to really grind on us and begin to tear away at our love and passion. You may get annoyed at the many loud sounds arising from the person slumbering next to you, but that means you have them in your life. You may become frustrated when they fall asleep as soon as their head hits the pillow and you lay awake counting more sheep than exist in all of Ireland. That means they feel safe and comfortable enough around you. Your partner asks you to run to the store after a grueling day at work? They rely on you and you have a chance to do something to make their life easier.
Now we come to the most powerful prayer of all, that of thanksgiving. In this blog I have had countless posts on the power of gratitude. It can change your entire life quicker that anything else I know. There are many ways to develop an attitude of gratitude. You could start a gratitude journal, you can write what you are grateful for each day and why. You could create a vision board with pictures of everything you are grateful for. I like and personally recommend all of these items. That being said, one of the most powerful daily practices is to spend time each day offering up a prayer of thanksgiving for all that you have. This does not have to be anything overly religious or formal. Just make sure it is heartfelt. When you thank the divine power you believe in for what you have in life, magic happens. When you can become grateful and thankful for everything in life, or better yet for life itself, you will know peace.
This is a more spiritual post than I normally have, but I think realizing the power of prayer is important aspect of self-improvement. Do not treat the Divine as a Santa Claus in the sky. Instead use prayer to become the best version of yourself. Pray to develop an attitude of gratitude and be thankful for all that you have. Doing this will not only add to whatever faith you follow, but will bring you a great deal of inner peace.
Welcome to day 3 of our happiness journey! As a quick reminder we are starting from the bottom of staircase and climbing our way to a happier and more amazing life. A quick review of day 2. Watch less, do more was our guide. As we discussed, watching can have a great deal of benefits but nothing compares to being out in the arena taking action!
Now let us get to today, day 3! This day may be one of the hardest days for a lot of people. Judge less, accept more. It can be hard for many of us to accept those who live their lives in a different manner than we feel is right. The one fact we must keep in the front of our mind is that it is their life to live. We may disagree with how they are spending their days, but it is their time they are spending. Often, some of our most passionate beliefs such as spiritual, sexual and political can be the hardest to accept someone that is different than us. One of my main goals as a writer is to help the world be more unified and accepting.
One fact that people often confuse is they feel one way can only exist in humanity. I have friends who have different sexual preferences than I do. Never, have I felt that either one of us would have to change how we are in order to be friends. Never have I thought less of them because they do. I have friends of many different spiritual beliefs. I feel their differences often show me ways to enhance and deepen my own beliefs. Politics…I seldom see the benefit to judging or trying to change anyone in this arena. As long as there exists love, I feel any other difference can be overcome. Which leads me to conclude that to limit our judgement, we do not need to work on increasing our acceptance, but on increasing our love.
One area in which I struggle with is watching others live a life that is far less than I know they are capable of. I see people act and speak in ways that often bring chaos and unhappiness into their lives. All I see is the beautiful person inside that has so much to offer the world. It can be tempting to relieve some of this frustration by offering to help them by sharing things I have learned that allowed me to turn my own life around. I must remember that this path is not for everyone and that some people are more content to live their lives in the manner in which they do. As an odd twist of fate, I found that loving and accepting those people can help them even more than the words and ideas I can share. Like I said, it is something I am working on.
If you feel comfortable sharing some of your struggles in turning judgement into acceptance in your own life, I think we all would love to hear them. Sometimes that might give others the strength and inspiration to do the same.
Just as 3+6=9, so does 5+4=9. This is a perfect point to represent the fact that there is more than one way to do things. In a world where debates on politics, religion and even sports can turn violent, this is a very good point to remember.
When you engage in spiritual worship, remember that someone may be seeking to develop their own spiritual nature but doing so in a completely different manner. This does not make their way of doing so wrong, and more than it makes your way wrong. It is two completely different paths to spiritual enlightenment.
In the political climate, there are always a multitude of different opinions. There are different ways to approach the economy, social issues and even conflict. In the event that you encounter someone with a different view on these issues, (highly likely since we live on a planet of 7 billion people) learn to be content expressing your view and understanding they may hold a different view. I really don’t think I have to go into why violence should not happen due to a difference in opinions on sports, do I?
My point is this, what may work for one does not always work for another. If I am stressed, for example, I work out. It is as if I am literally sweating out the stress. Margie, on the other hand, can feel stressed just thinking about working out. She prefers to shop when stressed. The thought of fighting crowds in stores brings me to a stressed state. Both my 3+6 and her 5+4 equal 9. For me to say “Shopping doesn’t help you to not be stressed. It makes you more stressed!” Would be trying to impose my truth on her.
We can have our own opinions and still respect those that differ from us. I encourage you to explore this thinking in the next few days. It will not only reduce the stress in your own life, it is sure to improve your relationships with those around you.
Here we are in the middle of the week. A time I like to pause and ponder. The quote in the picture above is great to meditate on. In all of our relationships it is important to understand the different perspectives. This can be extremely hard to do, especially when that perspective contains a strong emotional attachment. That is why topics such as money, sex, politics and religion are best avoided being discussed by those of differing opinions. Sometimes it is not only helpful but necessary to have these discussions. Maybe your occupation is in one of the fields mentioned above? The same holds true if you are a parent talking to a child. It is especially important in intimate relationships where the more you understand your partner, the better your chances for success are. When I speak of these issues at some of my seminars or during coaching sessions one of the first questions I am asked is “How can I get my partner to agree with me?” or for the more enlightened, “How can I come to an agreement with my partner?” The answer to both of these questions is you do not have to. What the goal of such conversations should be is to come to a mutually understanding of each others perspectives and beliefs without judgment. When you do so, you can then consider the best way to proceed that includes actions that both accept and respect both sides. I cannot begin to convey the healthy growth that will happen in any relationship when you realize, “This person views the world differently than me and that’s ok.” You will be able to better predict how a person may act or react to a certain situation. It will help you with knowledge in many areas including, but not limited to, what makes them happy, what motivates them, what will upset them and what will make them feel loved and appreciated. You can see the importance of becoming someone who does not waste their time with disagreeing with a different perspective, but instead one who seeks to understand. When we happen to cross paths with someone who is not so enlightened (and why do these people seem to be some of the loudest and most opinionated?) we can either direct them to this blog or just calmly thank them for their opinion and move on. It will not serve them to explain that we have a different perspective and it certainly will not serve us. Be open to different perspectives. Just because you do not agree with them, do not let that stop you from using them to help you better understand and relate to others.
This post comes courtesy of a conversation I had with a friend I had not seen in a long time. After exchanging the usual “Hello how are you?” I informed the gentleman he looked healthy and good. It was an honest assertation. There seemed to be more of a content look about him. It was his response that inspired this post. “I’m good.” the young man replied. “I’m going through some stuff and when you change spiritually, you change physically.” That quote is what we are going to discuss today. If you look at the picture above it will give you a good analogy as to what spiritual growth is like. When a snake reaches a point of growth that its current skin can no longer contain, that skin is shed. For a while during this process the snake looks as if it is literally falling apart. As it is making its transition bits of skin will cling to its body until they are rubbed off revealing a shining ‘new’ snake. After sometime the snake’s skin becomes dull and the process is repeated. Another interesting fact I discovered while doing research for this post is that this process occurs six or seven times the first year and then can slow down to once a year or less. This process is not much different than human spiritual development. When we are beginning to grow spiritually, or shed the skin of our old beliefs, we can appear as if we are coming undone. Often, there is a lack of sleep, a look of uncertainty and a general physical dishevelment. Until, at last, you achieve a look of inner peace and balance such as this man had. That is not to say everything is perfect in your life, but that you have come to peace with who you are and how that impacts your life. There are many who may not appreciate the look of the shiny new snake, especially those who have not grown to the same state you are at, or those who consider your growth a threat to themselves or your relationship with them. Sometimes it is necessary to leave them behind much like the skin the snake sheds. Another interesting parallel was the rate of change. Much like the snakes who shed several times in the beginning of life and then do so at a reduced rate as their life progresses, we humans grow the same spiritually. As young children we absorb knowledge like a sponge. learning and taking in new ideas and beliefs at a rate that is surprising. As we grow older our learning is balanced with responsibilities and our attachment to our beliefs. Our willingness to change them slows. This is not always a bad thing, but that means our spiritual growth can take a lot longer, but it is also a lot more dramatic. It would be great if all of us as adults could take a few weeks off of work, travel to India and meditate and study with the Dalai Lama, or whatever other spiritual adventure calls us. We could spend a few weeks shedding the skin of our outdated beliefs and emerge with a fresh and healthy new perspective. Instead, most of us have to balance spiritual growth with work, social and family obligations and a general lack of time to pursue them. This can lead us looking like we, and our lives, are totally falling apart as we feel that everything inside is beginning to fall in place. Remember this snake analogy when you are either witnessing someone going through their spiritual rebirth, and especially when you are going through your own. As you develop new and empowering beliefs they may not fit into your current modalities. This can seem like your life is forever trying to put a round peg in a square hole. This is not only because you have changed, but because there may be things in your life that no longer serve who you are as a person. This is also life’s way of initially testing your commitment to your new beliefs. Hang in there as soon you will too reveal the shiny new more empowered you underneath the skin of the beliefs you have outgrown.