1 LESSON I STILL STRUGGLE WITH.


Have you ever tried teaching someone something you know how to do rather well? It can be frustrating and take a great deal of patience. The other evening I had the great pleasure of sharing coffee and conversation with my friend Nick. As so often happens when the two of us get together the conversation turned to personal development and growth. I had to confess something to him and I am going to share it with you now in hopes it may help a lot of you.
One of the greatest struggles we can endure is maintaining a sense of compassion and understanding of our fellow humans we share this planet with. Some of us can refer to this as judging others. If you were to ask me if I were a judgemental person, for the most part I would have to say ‘no’. I have friends that I care deeply for that belong to many different races, religions and other such groups. I really understand that we never know what happens behind the scenes or what someone’s story may entail.
One of the areas that does tend to upset me is those who are not evolved emotionally and spiritually. Those who tend to judge others or carry a rather negative attitude into life. I guess that is because the information is available and it is free. Books can be had at any library. Videos are a click away on YouTube and Google can tell you anything you need to know from the Law of Attraction to enlightenment. Still, there are those who are even ignorant to these facts. Hopefully, the fact that you are reading this blog signifies that you do not fit into the afore mentioned category.
There are even those who are aware of personal development and know they, and their life, could be so much more but choose not to pursue that. I even heard someone brag once about how they avoided making more of their life. To me this is very hard to understand. It is my desire to help everyone create more joy, passion and success in their lives. When I find someone who displays an ignorance for universal laws or an obvious lack of emotional maturity it is both frustrating and a seeming cry for help. It is my struggle to understand and also respect the fact that they might not be intrested in or desire improving their lot in life.
This is a struggle I face whenever I try to reach someone who may not have had the years of experience in the field of personal development I have. It must be the same for those who have so many more when they are teaching me. We all learn at a different pace and learn different things. Share all the good you can, but do so with patience and compassion. If you become frustrated with spiritual ignorance of those around you, feel free to refer to this quote.

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NOT ALIKE BUT TOGETHER

Here is some information that will save you a lot of stress and a lot of lost time with the one you love. When it comes to any relationships, but more so in intimate relationships.

Think together and do not think alike. Sometimes differences in opinions, styles and manner of accomplishing goals can feel like obstacles just screaming to be solved. “If only I could get them to do things my way.” This can crop up in both the little and the big things. I can tell you this, the time you spend trying to ‘correct’ or change your partners behavior is wasted time.

Margie and I can go through periods where is seems like we disagree on everything from the percentage of chance there is a dead body in the dumpster to how criminal it is to use a tortilla without warming it up. If we spent all of our time trying to have the other do things the way we do them we would miss out on time that could be spent watching a movie, walking in the park or many more activities that will bring us joy.

How do you not let these little things crawl under your skin? I have found several ways. One, understand that is exactly what they are, little things. At the end of the day what difference will it make in your relationship if your spouse folds a towel different than you do? Does that change the person they are? If it does for you there may be other issues that we need to look at.

Also, this is a great opportunity to practice several things that can help with the longevity of a relationship. What things am I talking about? How about acceptance? Being able to accept that the person sitting across from you can somehow exist without the aid of a caffeinated beverage and that is ok. It is also a chance to practice patience. Do they clean things in a way you know they shouldn’t be done? Maybe it is time to focus on what you have to be grateful for, like the fact they are cleaning at all.

How about communicating? We are going to discuss this in a little more detail in an upcoming post. Does your spouse not put the same importance on body language that you do? Perhaps they are more physical and you are more verbal? This is a chance to basically learn and teach a new language. When you talk to your spouse about what means love to you it is important to understand that may be different. Here is where being a great listener comes in. By discovering how you and your partner differ when it comes to expressing and receiving love, you can open a whole new level to love. Imagine if you try to force them to express love and feel love in a different way? That would be terribly unrewarding for both parties. When you understand the differences here you can better express love to your partner and realize when they are trying to express it to you. Thus, you increase the total amount of love in the relationship.

This works fine for the little things, but what about the big things? Spiritual beliefs say? Remember differences help us expand our way of thinking. As long as the values are not radically different it is certainly ok to have different approaches in this manner. Again, it provides us an opportunity to use compromise and to seek a deeper level of understanding for our partner. Having someone who approaches the world in an entirely different manner can offer you more insights than a narrow approach of the exact same way of thinking. 

The more we understand our partner and how they differ from us, the greater we can love them. Whatever your goals in your relationship are, having two unique approaches will offer more wonderful discoveries along the way to accomplishing them. Imagine how much deeper your partner’s love for you would be if they saw you were trying to understand and appreciate the differences you share without trying to change them?

SOMETIMES THERE IS NO POINT


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.

GROWING SPIRITUALLY, CHANGING PHYSICALLY


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.

LET US NOT CONFUSE THE TWO

Much like last post, I must begin by saying in no way am I saying any religion, or religion in general is not good. Religion gives many people structure and guidelines that often help them to grow. As Haile Selassie pointed out in the statement above, it helps them grow spiritually. It is the goal of religion to help people grow and mature in a spiritual fashion.

Many of the practices include some of the same elements although they may be used in different ways. These include, but are not limited to, prayer, fasting, meditation and study. Whether you fast for Ramadan or for Lent you fast to mature and confirm your spiritual beliefs. It is your religious beliefs that are helping you to grow spiritually. Once again, this is a similarity to remember we all have in common. The same with prayer and meditation. The exact methods may differ but the reason and result is the same – to help us grow spiritually.

If you happen to observe someone engaged in a religious practice different than your own, please keep in mind they are doing what helps them grow spiritually. Just as people may use different exercise to improve their physical bodies or different types of learning to mature intellectually, we also use different practices to grow spiritually. Let us work toward and look forward to a day when everyone can become spiritually mature no matter what their belief. It will be then that we can accept each other in a spirit of love and understanding.

WHAT WAS THEIR RELIGION?


This is one of those quotes I really love. When you think about religion it is often, if not always created after the death of its most important figures. That being the case, as it is in the three examples above, it would be impossible for the individuals to be a member of a religion they inspired. That does not make these religions any less valid or take anything away from their beliefs or practices.
What it does is allow us to step back and take a good hard look at what is the common thread that was woven through all of these great leaders, and by consequence, through all great spiritual beliefs – Love. These individuals did not preach a certain religion, but rather a set of moral principles predicated on love. Love is the common thread that flows through most spiritual beliefs. It is a force that drives many of the other principles and tenets of whatever faith you may practice. It is the driving force behind a spiritual practice. Love, combined with faith and hope make up the basis for most of the world’s religions.
Which brings me to my point, if the founder of the faith you follow based their teachings on love, how can you not do the same? Interacting with those of different faiths should we not all come with a spirit of compassion, acceptance and understanding? Those are all aspects of love. The individuals mentioned above were strong in their beliefs and certainly strong in their love. When you are filled with faith, hope and love you do not judge another. You do not say evil words towards another because they are following a different path of love than you.
Let us all belong to the religion of love no matter what organized faith we may follow.

WHY I DO WHAT I DO

Early in my writing career, and every so often to this day, I ask myself the ever important question, “Why do I do what I do?” This may seem like an odd question to be asking yourself, but knowing yourself and why you do things is important to developing a strong why. Having a strong why is what will keep you doing what you are called to do long after the urge to do it has passed.

My answer is really twofold. The first part is a spiritual one. I believe this is what the creator has called me to do. I was given a gift to be able to find the light in even the darkest situation. This didn’t happen overnight and on occasion takes longer than on others, but eventually I see the positive in everything. I was also bestowed with other gifts as well. When I was a small child riding the city bus with my mom she quizzed me on vocabulary and now I have a rather large vernacular. In what can be viewed as either a blessing or a curse, I am very empathetic. I feel the pain others go through and as such, have a strong desire to make this world a better place.

On the more secular side of things, I have a very strong desire to share what I learn. Why? Why not just keep that knowledge to myself and use it to create a life I love? I certainly have done the second half of that. I do indeed love the life I live. It is not without its challenges, but I love it. My life is in a constant state of improvement. That in itself is exciting to me. I know that no matter how good or bad of a day I am having, I will learn something in the future that will allow me to reduce my stress and increase me joy even more.

Back to the question at hand, “that’s all great, but why feel compelled to share it with others?” Those of you who know my story will have some idea why. My life as a writer and seeker of light began in the darkest of situations. My job was being downsized, my health was in serious trouble and my relationship was in the dumpster. It was out of this despair that a determination to learn how to transform the life I was living to a life I would be loving was born.

As I began to learn and apply things my life began to transform. I noticed the people that were in my life had a lot of the same struggles I had faced. Wanting to see everyone experiencing the joy I was, I began to share everything I was learning. In return, some amazing things happened. First, people shared with me things they had learned and we compounded our knowledge. My friends Amelia and Sharon come to mind. Second, I found myself surrounded by people who were not only grateful, but becoming more joyful and positive, just like I was. This was not only more pleasant to be around, but helped make my journey that much easier and more enjoyable as well. Truly proof you receive that which you give away.

These are the main reasons I do what it is that I do. It is also reasons that all of you should do what it is you have been called to do as well. When we share our gifts and knowledge with each other, we not only brighten each other’s lives, but begin to create a shift in the world at large. We create a ripple effect and the gift and knowledge we share can touch the hearts and lives more people than we will ever know. I can’t think of a stronger why to share the gift of you with the world.

IT IS REALLY THAT SIMPLE

For most of us, despite our differences, would fit into these categories. Ironically, often we search until we can find something that makes a person different from us. It is almost as if saying, “That person is a lot like me.” Somehow diminishes either one of you. When we understand that we all share the same basic needs and wants, judgment and hatred become all but impossible.

If you are a person who loves others and does not want to harm them, and reading a blog like this it would be a safe assumption you are, then it would serve you well to surround yourself with other like-minded individuals. Does it really matter where on this planet they are from? By writing these posts I have met and befriended many other like-minded souls from over 100 different countries. They have brought not only a unique perspective, but a great deal of joy to my life. Does it really matter what color they are? I am blessed enough to have friends of every race. Not only does it include many great and loving people, but our pictures together are a lot more colorful. Politics? Ooh…that is a good one. Quite often we can almost be at each others throats because of different ways to address the same problem. Instead we should focus on the fact that we are both trying to solve the same problem. Maybe their solution takes into account something we overlooked? Maybe a combination of both solutions would work the best? We will never get to that point if we busy ourselves with such low level minutia such as what political party is the correct one.

Even my wonderful friend Nick who sent me this picture, and by doing so inspired this post, has different opinions than me on a wide array of different subjects. Do you know what? That is great to me. Often when we talk he will bring to my attention a way of looking at things I had not considered. Even on subjects where we just ‘agree to disagree’ we still have the same respect and admiration for each other. Not only is it ok with us that we are different in some regards, but it is quite cool that we are also the same in many ways. It is that similarity that prompted him to share the above picture with me and allowed me to share it with you.

Today, celebrate the fact we are all a little different, and when it comes down to the core of who we are, most of us are really the same. Both of those should be reasons to celebrate with your fellow humans.

ARE YOU AN ANGEL?

When I first saw this picture I thought to myself, “An angel, really?” After a few moments of contemplation, my thoughts changed. How do we view angels? As an entity that looks over us from above, guiding our actions, encouraging us and keeping us safe. How do we define a great friend? Someone who stays by our side, giving us advice, encouraging us and looking out for us. Other than the geographical location they are very similar.

It has me taking a more venerable look at several of my friends. Unlike the ethereal beings to which I am drawing a comparison, friends make mistakes. Even the best friend can have a bad day. Perhaps they take their frustrations of the day out on us because they feel safe and comfortable in our presence? They may put their needs ahead of ours. They may treat us harshly or say something hurtful either by accident or because they have succumb to their emotions.

Does this mean friends are not human angels? Not at all. Through those lessons, if we truly love our friends, they can teach us how to be forgiving, understanding and compassionate. Something angels cannot do. Maybe angels use these ‘human angels’ to help teach us these lessons? I am not sure. What I am sure of is that I am blessed to have many friends who have looked out for me, tried to keep me safe and gave me an encouraging word when I needed one. To me that is a definition of a human angel.

This week let us approach this idea in two ways. First, take a look at some of our closest friends. Do they qualify as human angels? Chances are in some form or fashion they just might. I hear a lot of voices throughout the day. My stomach tells me pizza for dinner everyday is ok. There are the things my body tells me after the gym, but I do not think they are fit to type here. The closest things to an angelic voice that I hear is from someone I deeply care about telling me they feel the same. Let us, in our own way, recognize these human angels. It doesn’t have to be anything grand. In fact, if you are shy or nervous as to what they may think you don’t have to tell them at all. In my life all of my friends know I am crazy, so I am not worried. Even just taking a moment to yourself to think, “This person is a human angel.” That will be enough to cause a shift in how you see that person.

The second part is being a human angel. Again, this does not mean trying to be perfect or walking around in a toga playing a harp, but doing our best to treat others the best we can. With love, respect and compassion. Do you think anyone would describe you as a human angel?

A LESSON I HAVE LEARNED

There are a handful of lessons I have learned in my life that really stuck with me and defined who I am to this very day. One of them I was told was that “If you hate someone or something you just do not know enough about it. If you learn about it and still hate it, that does not mean it is bad, it means you still have more to learn.” This is something I keep with me to this very day.

If we are being honest, we would have to admit there are lots of messages telling us who we should dislike, who the bad guys are and why. From politics, sports and even religion have messages telling us that there are people who are less than us. When we read about some violent episode conducted by a group of people it can be easy to say “Look this group of people are evil.” If we were to apply that same guilt by association to every terrible act that has been done I fear we would all belong to some group of evil.

How can we ever not harbor some sort of negative emotions towards people who by their very acts cause the death of hundred, or even thousands of people? It is a very difficult question to answer. Quite often we must look back in history for answers as to why things happen today. Was there an event in history where this group of people were made to suffer under the group they attacked?

Even personal history can shed some light on why people can do acts most of us would find unspeakable. Did this person suffer years of physical and emotional abuse? Did their family constantly remind them of judgmental or even hateful beliefs that hand been handed down for generations? Were they raised in a neighborhood that also promoted these beliefs? Maybe while attending school for 8 hours a day surrounded by peers their age they learned to adopt their beliefs? They might have even did so just to fit in at first, but after years of trying to fit in those beliefs became part of their spirit.

This can be even worse when an entire society is fed information that is hateful. We can use both Nazi Germany during World War two, as well as early America as examples. In the 1930’s Germany began a campaign against the Jewish people. This was not only political, but in schools, the media and in the home. An entire generation grew up being taught a terrible doctrine of hate and evil. This resulted in the death of over 6 million men, women and children of Jewish decent. In the founding years of America the same thing happened. Americans were told the native people were uncivilized and less than they were. They were told they were violent and threatened their safety. It was also said that the Native Americans stood in the way of the prosperity and freedom of the white settlers. Again, this message was delivered in the media, the government, the home and even the church pulpit. This resulted in the death of over 100 million men, women and children. What is worse is that often entire nations and cultures were lost. Medicine and knowledge we could use today are gone forever.

Does this mean we should hate the German people who did not stand up to their government? Should we hate those who acted on the beliefs they were raised on? Should we still hate the American soldiers who killed pregnant Native American women because when they were being forced to walk from North Carolina to Oklahoma they were going to slow? Sure those acts, among many others in history are hard to understand and even harder to forgive for some people.

We must not only view the history, but be careful not to view it through our own eyes. It may be easy to say “If I was in Germany back then I would have told Hitler to go to hell !” We can say that as somebody who was raised free and without judgment. If we had been told, and often given ‘proof’ as to how bad this group of people were from the time we were born, we might act differently. While there is plenty of proof of people who have overcome very challenging situations to be loving non-violent people, it is impossible to know how we would act in the same situation. In fact, we will never know as we will never have their exact life and genetic makeup.

In a world that urges us to blame and condemn, there is very little accent on compassion and understanding. Those two elements are essential if we ever hope to change the world we live in for the better. Let me be perfectly clear on one very important point. Understanding someone’s violent action does not mean Condoning it. We can certainly condemn acts that harm others, and we should, but without following that with an equal effort to understand why they happened in the first place history would be doomed to repeat itself.