SHINE ON!

 

 

In my upcoming book Living the Dream there is a special section I have included towards the back of the book. This section is called ‘In the company of angels’ and for good reason. It includes stories of people that I know who have faced life challenges that would make most of us bitter at best, or throw in the towel and quit on life at worse. These wonderful people have not only avoided both, but have went on to be positive forces in their own right.

The stories range from having one of their parents killed in a mining accident and having to move clear across the country to being abused on several levels as both children and adults. Writing these stories was a bit of a struggle for me as I am used to writing material that uplifts and inspires. As I wrote and recalled all the situations my friends had relayed to me I felt their pain. I cannot imagine facing what some of them have.

Writing my way through them brought several positive things to me, however. First, I was grateful for all of the struggles that I didn’t have to face growing up. We were not rich and I came from a single-parent home, but we always had trips to the library, played games with other children in the neighborhood and always had enough to eat. After reading the stories I share in my book, growing up without a lot of money and only one parent seemed like paradise. I guess you could say it not only supplied me with a great deal of gratitude, but a new perspective as well.

Another thing it did for me was only serve to increase my respect for those brave individuals that shared their stories. The idea for including them in my book was to show real life examples of how people could face the worst situation and still manage to maintain a positive disposition. This was the reason I approached the people I did. What I didn’t expect was the details and amount of struggle they had went through. Learning how someone could overcome everything they did was worth its weight in gold. I am pretty sure most of us would not escape with such a healthy outlook as they had.

Knowing these people personally I can tell you that they genuine love life. That is not to say they do not have a bad day as we all do, but as a general rule they seem to appreciate the beauty of what surrounds them on a daily basis. The bravery they showed in coming forth and sharing their stories so that others may benefit from them was also not lost on me. They did so with no promise of any future reward other than the knowledge in their heart that their stories have helped others who are also struggling.

My suggestion to you is to learn the stories of your friends. Ask about their struggles. If you are blessed enough like I am to have brave friends who do not mind sharing what they have been through, do yourself a favor and listen. Understand how much courage it takes to be able to recall the pain of the past again. Admire their ability to stand strong in the face of a past that may haunt them or weigh them down. Appreciate their ability to shine even after all the storms they have been through. These to me are the true warriors.

Don’t forget to look for the book Living the Dream coming to bookstores next February.

 

 

LET US TALK ABOUT YOUR STORY

We ended last week by discussing stories. The stories we tell ourselves to prevent us from trying new ideas and concepts. I shared some of the stories from my life and how they have affected me. We even looked at stories that others tell us about ourselves. We looked at how we view stories, events and people from our past and how that can have an effect on our future. All of these examples can show how important stories are to our development and overall well-being.

Today we are going to look at your story. In the last few years I have learned so much from listening to the stories of others. Whether it is the stories from my friends Cari and Kelly who show me that even people coming from some of the most challenging circumstances can grow into some of the most loving people with wonderful souls. Listening to the stories about my lovely Margie helped me to better understand the woman I love and the people in her life that helped form her into the divine lady that she is today.

I know I could learn a lot from your story as well. That may sound like a bold claim considering the people who read this span the entire globe. You may be asking what can I learn from the individual from Tunisia who read this on Sunday? I can’t say exactly, but I can tell you for sure something. The examples may not be something I can relate to, for example I have friends who were abused, in foster care, divorced, lost children and a host of other challenges I have not faced. In them I can learn the principles of hope, faith, determination and love. I am eternally grateful to each and every person who shares their story with me.

You may think that your life does not offer any inspiration, but I am here to tell you nothing could be further from the truth. I have heard stories from a friend in Romania about listening to certain music on the way to work. I have heard stories from my friend in Australia about the way she discovers indigenous medicine by visiting local markets. My friend from Mexico shares challenges that the local economy and health care cause him to face in his country. These are but a few of the countless stories I hear each and every day. Even those who share stories about their love, good fortune or healing give me a joyous feeling in my heart.

Perhaps you still think your story is nothing special? “I am just a person who wakes up and works to pay the bills.” Let me tell you that your story, and your life may be just what someone else needs to hear. It may be the challenges or amusing stories you have to offer about your chosen line of work. It may be amusing stories and episodes you have had raising your children. Maybe it is even the way you have approached a health challenge you have. After more then 20 years in the self-improvement field, I can tell you without a doubt, one of the most common feelings people deal with is feeling alone. Knowing that there is somebody else in the world who is facing the same challenge or has even made it through that challenge, can give their heart a little peace.

Please share your story. It may not seem like much to you and you may not understand how it will help anyone else, but it will. Whether you wish to start a blog like this one, write your own book or start a YouTube channel, please get your story out there. Someone is needing to hear just what you have to say. They may be in Armenia, Brazil or Zaire but they are out there. If you need any advice or suggestions on how to get started you can ask yours truly or make good use of Google which has many helpful tutorials.

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.

DON’T LET THE DEVIL LIE TO YOU

Ah the devil… Satan… whatever you care to call him. Some refer to this as negative side of the universe. Some just call it negativity. The name we attach to this power of evil is not important to what we are going to discuss today. What we are going to discuss is the lies we have all been fed. These come from all kinds of places, the media, coworkers, history, even well-meaning friends and family. Sometimes the voice seems to come from inside our own head.

The messages may seemed varied, but they all serve the same purpose, to lower our vibration. Whether it is politicians doing their best to convince you that a certain group of people are bad because of their skin color, religion, political belief or maybe even just based on where they live. Maybe the message is coming from the media telling you the world is going downhill fast. There is more violence than ever, there is more hate than ever. Convincing you that you have to live and walk in fear. Even our friends and family telling us not to get our hopes up about that dream we are saying or not to venture away from that seemingly safe career we have because we will fail if we try to do it on our own. They mean well, they are wanting us to be safe.

It is my belief these messages all come from the same source and are intended for the same purpose; to create a world full of fear and devoid of love. When we are divided against ourselves, when we are so busy finding reasons to hate each other it is difficult if not impossible to work together to solve the real problems that exist. Two people’s ideas put together may do a great deal to end world hunger or bring a cure to a certain disease, but if they are refusing to talk because they look different or worship or vote in a different way the world will remain darker.

I propose working together and finding the reasons to come together in a spirit of love and community to solve issues. This does not mean ignoring the problems that plague us all, but working together looking towards creating a solution instead of assigning blame. Is there more violence today or is the world better connected and we can hear about each and every incident? Are guns the problem or is it the promotion of lack of respect and sanctity of life promoted in movies, television, music and video games? I don’t pretend to know those answers. What I do know is this, by focusing on how terrible things are without an accent on finding solutions and healing the hearts and minds of people everywhere, we are letting the powers of darkness win.

So next time you hear the ‘devil’ whisper in your ear about how bad the world is, how truly bad people have become and how hopeless both you and your life are, next time you hear him whisper that you cannot withstand the storm. You need to face that demon, whether it is the media, a negative coworker or even a voice in your own head and reply with conviction that you indeed are the storm! You are a storm of love and compassion that will not be defeated. Even though you are hearing how scary and bad the world is, you will do your part to bring love and brighten a stranger’s day. When you hear about anger leading to violence and death, you can use it as a reminder to respond to hurt with empathy and compassion.

No matter what you hear about the world and people around you, the fact is that the power to change that world lies in each and every one of us. Your act of kindness and of love, no matter how small will have a ripple effect that will affect far more than you will ever know. What you may not think about is so will your anger and negative actions, even your apathy. Do not let the devil lie to you. It is you who are the storm, you who have the very power to change the world and we do so through love and compassion.

DON’T BE COMFORTABLE!

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Why on earth would I not want someone to be comfortable? Trust me, I am all about comfort. When I get home it is in a warm bed with a nice electric blanket and a perfect pillow! I love sitting on the porch in the sun with a good book and some great coffee. So what on earth am I talking about here? I’ll explain in just a moment, but let me explain how this topic came to be. Last night while bartending on what turned out to be a rather busy night I had some great conversations. One in particular stood out. It was a conversation between myself and my friends Meghan and Bret. Meghan was mentioning to Bret and I how people can get comfortable with the wrong type of environment.

What did she mean by this? Let us consider people in an abusive relationship. They start to get used to the things that happen. How on earth can someone get used to being in such a relationship? It is like the story of a frog. If placed in a kettle of boiling water, the frog will quickly jump out. If, however, the frog is placed in a pot of warm water and the water is slowly brought to a boil the frog will get used to it until it is dead. That is often how we become used to things that are not good for us. If slowly people begin to treat us harshly and then that treatment increases to the state of abuse we may have become so used to it we do not see it for what it is.

Besides being obviously bad for our well-being, it does something that can be far more damaging. When one finally escapes the abusive relationship and finds the good fortune to be loved the way they should they often find it hard to accept. If you are told over and over that you are less than, or no good it may be very difficult to fully realize the beauty that is inside of you. Even when surrounded by people who are angry and emotionally abusive one may have a hard time feeling completely comfortable in a calm and healthy situation. This may sound crazy for those of us who have never went through it, but it really is not.

So what is the takeaway here? If you find yourself in a relationship with someone who used to be abused, understand they may need more time and you may need to exercise a little more patience. They may need more reassurance and it may be difficult for them to accept or believe genuine compliments. Do not get frustrated and realize you are actually working to not only love this person, but heal them as well. If you tend to be the type of person who is prone to anger and saying things you might not mean, remember these can have long-lasting effects. Sometimes taking years to heal and undo.

Lastly, if you are a person who has been in an abusive relationship. This is what you need to know. You are good enough. The actions, words and feelings you suffered through were not your fault, but the action of a person who had not matured enough as a human being. Understand that the people trying to make you feel good are doing so out of love and their care and concern for you. Accepting what they have to say will not only help heal yourself, but make their heart feel good as well.

Please like/share/comment on this post. There are sadly far too many people who need to see this message. People who fill all roles of this tragic situation. Feel free to leave and questions, comments or suggestions you have as well. Let us work together to heal the world.

DON’T BE A BULLY

This was a post that I had written earlier but I delayed due to a tragedy in a good friends family. There has been a lot of attention to bullying lately and rightfully so. With the internet childhood teasing can be spread with lightning speed to entire classes, schools even across the globe. What may seem like harmless childhood joking can have devastating effects. Recently a good friend of mine had a relative kill himself at the young age of 15. Why? In a nutshell he did not feel as though he was well liked. I am sure the other kids who made him feel that way had no intention of driving him to that point. That, however, is precisely the point here. We never know exactly how our words or actions may be interpreted by another. So parents, if you hear your child engaging in bullying activity put an end to it right away. On the flip side, never lose a moment to remind our children how loved, valuable and amazing they are.

That brings me to my next point. This may seem like a childhood issue, but sadly it is not. It just goes by a different name as adults. Gossip. What used to be water cooler gossip can now spread quickly through Facebook, twitter and even text messaging. We somehow assume adults are ‘tougher’ or better able to handle such things. The truth is jobs have been lost, people’s reputations destroyed and lives ruined by what some view as harmless gossip. The only kind of gossip that is harmless is good gossip. It never fails to amaze me how few times I hear conversations about how kind, helpful, beautiful someone is when they are not around versus how much I hear conversations about how stupid, crazy or ugly someone may be. Think of how this is in your life? How often to you hear or engage in positive gossip? How about negative gossip? Be honest with yourself here nobody is listening but us. I know I have been guilty of this myself. When you spread or engage in gossip of a negative nature you are being nothing more than an adult bully. Here is another important idea to ponder. Would you trust a person who is always speaking negatively of others? What do you think they may say about you when you are not around? As the new year approaches one of my resolutions is to do away with negative gossip in my life entirely and replace it with more quality positive gossip. As my stylist and good friend Kelly says it is as simple as “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all”

IN THE FACE OF TRAGEDY

Recent events in CT may leave us searching for ways to deal with such senseless violence. First things first, we must realize there truly is no sense to it. Trying to understand such malicious acts is not going to get us anywhere. Of course neither is saying ‘how bad the country is getting’ or ‘how terrible people are now’ Personly, I am not sure if either of those statements have truth to them or if technology has made such events more available to us. Either way, it is a heavy burden on all of our hearts. There is however, a gift to be found even in such tragedy. Instead of focusing on the evil of this situation, thus giving it more energy. I feel it is fair to point out the heros who gave their lives to protect children. Not to mention how it pulled our nation together. So while we take time so send our love and prayers to all those involved, let us not forget to be grateful. Grateful for the brave first responders. Grateful for the children who are safe. Grateful for the reminder to be more patient with our own children. Remeber to rally for peace, not against violence. Now more then ever it is more important to learn to listen to and love one another.