Byron Katie asked herself a simple question as she lay in a half-way house, not sure if she would survive the next day.

“Is it true?”

It was the first time she actually challenged her own belief system, and what she found out was indeed much of what she had told herself was not true at all. She has since go on to become an international best-selling author and speaker who inspires thousands with her simple approach.

So much of what we tell ourselves is based on conditioning and filters we have placed over our eyes, shielded from the truth of ourselves and others. If we are able to build belief systems that disempower us, we are certainly capable of building truth-based ones that bring us more joy.

What good does it do the world to build broken systems that only serve to put ourselves down? What if Byron Katie, who continues to help the world, had not asked the question, is it true?

So much of our lives is ruled by our thinking. We say we don’t have time, we’re too busy, we’ll do it tomorrow. Did you know that tomorrow is a myth? We only ever have today.

It is time for us to move beyond our ears and eyes to let our hearts live too.

I’m game. Are you?

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“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” ~Aristotle

A few weeks ago I read a book by Google’s self-proclaimed Jolly Good Fellow, Chade-Meng Tan, aptly entitled Search Inside Yourself: The Unexpected Path to Achieving Success, Happiness (and World Peace).

Before you groan, “Not another self-help book whose content I’ll forget the minute I click off here…” hear me out. This book is based on an actual mindfulness training course given internally at Google. That the author has a quirky sense of humor makes it all the more enjoyable to read his work. Plus it has lots of pictures that made me laugh.

But on to mindfulness! Do you want to feel a natural high? Then read on.

The most memorable exercise for me was the Just Like Me/Loving Kindness Exercise adapted from Buddhist meditation practice. The objective is to increase your compassion and kindness, which thereby raises your own happiness level and, most likely, that of others too. It goes something like this:

Get into a comfortable position (I found sitting cross-legged to work well because lying down inevitably put me to sleep). Take two minutes to breathe deeply and quiet your mind.

Now visualize someone in your life. Say to yourself: “This person has a body just like me. This person has a mind just like me. This person has feelings, emotions and thoughts, just like me. This person has felt disappointment, fear, hurt, pain and confusion, just like me.” You could go on for some time, saying various things you know you share with this person. Then you end it with “This person wishes to be happy, just like me.”

The Loving Kindness part of the meditation involves wishing the person well. For instance, “I wish this person to be free from pain, to experience joy, to be extremely happy. Because this person is a human being, just like me.”

End the session by resting your mind for one minute.

I have only done this exercise once, but I was ready to hug the world after I did it. The book is filled with powerful exercises like this one. And it does require that you search inside yourself for your own golden nugget. You know, that lovely jewel resting deep within that wants to shine.

My jewel is blue. What color is yours?

Redemption

June 28, 2012

What would people say about you if you left the room? Are you living a life of true intention?

I know it’s a heady question, but it’s one worth asking. Luckily, Bryan Clay, Olympic hopeful for this summer’s Olympics in London, started to ask himself that question before it was too late. In his new book,  Redemption, Clay reveals his life story in great detail, such as how he had a very troubled childhood with parents who made their own share of mistakes. Throughout high school, and then later in college, he continued to ignore his highest athletic potential by drinking too much and engaging in dangerous behavior. It wasn’t until he met the woman of his dreams that he started to see a future beyond his current one.

Love can do that to a person.

Even then, however, he nearly lost his girlfriend because it took him a long time to realize the impact his partying was having on his relationship. The moment he changed his way of thinking, however, everything changed. A religious man, he began to see that he could indeed worship God through the sport instead of seeing his athletics and his spiritual practice as two separate things. He moved away from believing sports were a way to glorify himself; instead, they were a way for him to glorify God. Magically, his extreme partying dropped off.

The Big Picture can do that to a person.

“Keeping my priorities in the right order had brought me there,” he writes. He found Slow through God. Pretty darn cool.

So what do you think people would say about you if you left the room? Would they say you are kind, generous, emotionally available? Or would they consider you closed, disruptive, shut down and unreachable? As Maya Angelou says, people may not remember what you say, but they’ll always remember how you’ve made them feel.

My guess is you can make someone feel really good today. Maybe in the form of a hug or a smile. There is redemption for us all, and it only takes one baby step toward your own truth. Don’t be afraid of it because it is there to show you the way even when you are lost. Embrace that beacon of light for all it’s worth. When you do, you will be set free.

Slow can do that to a person.

 

Shades of Gray

June 17, 2012

One of the greatest lessons I have learned in my exploration of our temporal relationship is that being on time is a relative thing. When we allow our lives to be dictated by hours, we automatically engage in clock combat. We establish, in a way, rigid, mechanistic thinking. Our world becomes black and white. We are either on time or we are not. And in a black and white world, there is no room for shades of gray.

My dear friend Arielle Ford taught me a new concept of time: that of divine timing. As we drove a book project to completion, deadlines and timelines somehow became my lifeline. I breathlessly engaged in clock combat to ensure I stayed on track. That is, until she uttered the simple phrase: “It will come in divine time.” She never once pushed the creative process, but instead allowed herself to be enveloped in it. It was one of the most beautiful times of my professional life to be enshrouded with such love, trust and courage.

I am reminded of that trust as I think about how much we worry about being on time in our Western culture. Punctuality is a revered trait in Germany in particular. And I agree that it shows respect to be on time for events, appointments, etc. But some things cannot be pushed into a timeline. Nor can they be foreseen. Some experiences simply happen, such as a crazy GPS that leads you astray until you realize it might just have been your angels that averted disaster for you on the road.

Going slowly and absorbing the meaning behind the experience allow you to savor the beauty and flavor of life.

In April I had meticulously planned a conference trip to Berlin that included an early morning flight from Munich. Thinking that no one else would be up that early, I took the latest bus possible from remote parking to the airport itself. When I saw the long line at security, I could feel myself putting on my combat boots against time. In a very uncharacteristic move (those of you who know me – stop laughing!), I excused myself throughout the entire line to the front, explaining my gate was about to close. By some miracle, the security turned a blind eye to my four bags of liquid products and let me through. As I rushed to the gate, which had changed last-minute, I saw that my flight had been delayed by 45 minutes. I slipped off my invisible boots and apologized to time for my lack of trust. In the end, I made it to the conference, despite an hour’s ride through Berlin, just in time.

When we trust in divine timing, life works smoothly. Even when we think we are going down the wrong road, we are always exactly where we need to be. When you tune into that inner knowing, that inner GPS, the mystery that is your life reveals itself. Are you listening?

To Bid the Norm Adieu

May 27, 2012

“Anything worth doing is worth doing slowly” ~ Mae West

It has been three years since The Power of Slow hit the stands. It has slowly (pun intended!) infiltrated numerous cultures: from India, to South Korea, to China, to even the lovely country of France, which, with its joie de vivre and 35 average vacation days, leaves me a little breathless. One would think a place with so much good wine would not have issues about stress. But in my travels, I have learned even in one of the most beautiful places in the world such as France, people feel the crush of modern life.

It’s time to do things a little more slowly.

Slow resides within. It is a mindset, not a speed. It cannot be measured in units, but in the quality of your life. When we embrace time abundance, we no longer shoulder the weight of too much in too little. Instead, we reverse the relationship to have more resources than are needed. We then simply have more than enough.

An actor friend of mine cried into the phone that she had received an invitation to walk the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival alongside Nicole Kidman, but due to circumstances, was not able to make it in time to do so.

“So here I am on top of this villa, overlooking the Croisette at all these people…and the red carpet.”

I had her repeat her words. Did she really hear them?

“You could be sitting in front of your television set doing the same,” I smiled into the phone. She laughed. C’est vrai!

Life is abundant, if you see it that way.

A reader on my Psychology Today blog recently told me he is a European trapped in an American body. He wants four weeks off every year as most Europeans have (and live in a place where the word “vacation” is not substituted for words like “out of the office” and “on travel”), yet if he even gets one week between Christmas and New Year’s, the work piles up to staggering heights.

Something is wrong with this picture. When you cannot extrapolate yourself from work long enough to catch your breath, the quality of it suffers. We need to bid the norm adieu.

Google has learned the truth of this, at least to some extent. In his widely publicized book Search Inside Yourself, Chief Relaxation Officer Chade-Meng Tan offers up ways to unleash your fullest potential.  Google’s Corporate culture supports the notion of workplace wellness. Whether it is truly put into practice in such a competitive industry is left up to interpretation. I’ll be blogging about Chade-Meng’s book soon. In the meantime, enjoy his 54-minute talk.

Big Mama busted out of her cage this morning. A svelt glossy grey rabbit the size of a shoebox tore around the neighbor’s yard with impunity while we, Husband and I, stood in our pjs with utter helplessness. The rain pelted our faces and despite the alluring rabbit food bag that crackled in my arms, Big Mama was having none of it.

Ah! The sense of freedom beneath those paws as she clawed the neighbor’s lawn! I began to admire her for her smarts as we shooed her back into the garage. She hid under our sports car whilst we closed the doors to catch our breath.

“Maybe she’ll tire out.” Husband said flatly as he shuffled back into the dry house.

Strengthened from our breakfast, we set back outside to corner Big Mama in the garage. She slipped our grasp, scampering out into the rain. After chasing her 360 around the house, I finally nabbed her near the garbage cans. Wild-eyed and ready to box me with all her might, Big Mama seemed to give a sigh of relief when she returned to the safety of her cage.

“Freedom’s not all it’s cracked up to be,” I could almost hear her say. Sprawling out on her warm bedding, she immediately fell asleep to the licks of her grateful  brother.

Jonathan Franzen knows this. He penned a gargantuan novel aptly called Freedom that takes us to Minnesota, New Jersey and even West Virginia. A family tale of triumph, defeat and deviance, Freedom teaches us readers that while we may get what we truly desire, it’s not always what will make us happy.

Big Mama learned that lesson this morning. She taught me a great deal  in her cheeky  attempt at escape. Sometimes we need to break out of our cages to taste the other side of the grass. It is then that we realize our side of the fence is just fine too.

If you find yourself wanting to break free, do it so you know what it feels like. You may just find, however, that after all that effort, everything you were ever looking for has always been within your grasp.

Say what?

Huh?

You gotta be kidding me!?

Those are all ways of saying ‘no’. They may not be eloquent choices, but they get the job done. If you have trouble being that direct (and most of us do), there are gentler versions of ‘no’ that can be equally effective without the collatoral damage to your relationships. At any rate, one can consider the word ‘no’ as a powerful way to say ‘yes’ to yourself.

Building boundaries that empower you while encouraging others to respect you is a none too easy task, especially for the people-pleasers among us. It has been proven, however, that always saying ‘yes’ to others can lead to conditions as severe as burnout and depression.

Cyndi Dale and Andrew Wald recently penned a book called Togetherness: Creating and Deepening Sustainable Love that shows readers how to set personal boundaries that will actually strengthen personal relationships. According to the authors, saying ‘no’ helps us to figure out who we are and who we want to be in our relationships. By setting boundaries, we keep our personal identities alive — and our personal relationships honest, balanced, and intact.

To directly quote Tina Turner: What does love have to do with it? In a word, everything.

Self-love is not narcissism. It’s a life-sustaining force. The authors offer several ways to build beautiful boundaries to let love in ~both from others and from ourselves.

How you are going to say ‘yes’ to yourself today?

What Do Your Boundaries Say About You?
By Cyndi Dale and Andrew Wald
Adapted from Togetherness: Creating and Deepening Sustainable Love

In our lives — and in relationships — we create personal boundaries to define the space we call our own. We set boundaries and say “no” with our words, but even more so with our behavior and actions: we may tell white lies, come up with excuses, or throw ourselves into activities like work, working out, or volunteering — essentially creating boundaries by making ourselves unavailable.

Boundaries may sound negative, but in reality, they are very important and help to define our personal identities. For example, being the nurturer or a people-pleaser comes with boundaries that fit those roles. Being the boss or the guru comes with a different set of boundaries that keep those identities intact. In this sense, personal boundaries allow us to “locate” ourselves within relationships (or within the world) in a way that’s familiar and safe. Our boundaries help us to honor the balance between taking care of ourselves, and taking care of others.

Here are four practices that will empower you to update your personal boundaries and take ownership of your life:

Honor yourself. What parts of your life are in need of care or attention? On a daily basis, find simple ways to honor yourself. Choose three things you like doing every day, and then do them. You might pick something as simple as taking a walk, reading, or having lunch with family or friends. Whatever you choose, know that you deserve to have pleasure, so let pleasure be your guide.

Soothe yourself. Are you living the life you want to live? Or do you feel like you are stuck and don’t have a choice in what’s happening? In these moments, stop and recognize the feeling of “choiceless­ness,” check your assumptions, and acknowledge the needs and desires you’re afraid won’t get met. With practice, you will find that cultivating the awareness of choice is profoundly soothing to your soul.

Embrace choice. Every time we make a decision, we have an opportunity to determine a course of action: “Do I stay here and face the situation, or do I run out the door?” By recognizing that you have control over your own reactions, you’ll also have the opportunity to reinforce, change, or alter your boundaries.

Accept yourself and your life lessons. Shame and disappointment about our lives causes us to create false boundaries and interactions with the people we care about most. It’s important to accept who you are and what has happened in your life. When faced with a challenge or disappointment, ask yourself: “What is my lesson here? How is this challenge a way for my soul to grow?” Use your answers to create boundaries that reflect acceptance of your true self.

*****
Cyndi Dale is an internationally respected author, cross-cultural healer, and spiritual scholar with over 35,000 client sessions and trainings across Europe, Asia, and the Americas. Andrew Wald, LCSW-C, is a psychotherapist with advanced certifications in Imago Relationship Therapy, Gestalt Therapy, and Neuro-Linguistic Programming. Together, they have co-authored the new book, Togetherness: Creating and Deepening Sustainable Love (June 2012).