On the Verge of Greatness

August 21, 2012

You know when you feel like you are on the verge of something really amazing? You can feel it with every fiber of your being. You know it is there, sliding just beneath the surface of your awareness, skittering to the edges of your peripheral vision. You may have no specific reason for feeling this way, but you know in your soul that something incredible is about to happen.

I call it being in touch with your inner core. The amazing thing I am referring to doesn’t occur on the outside. It happens within. It could be that your circumstances change as a result of this awareness, but what changes first is you.

I have not always been in touch with that side of myself. When I was a kid, I used to feel as if I was being pulled into a different world. Then I grew up, became practical, started a family and completely buried that part of myself. Only now do I know it was my soul speaking. Once I started listening, my whole world started to change. For the better.

It’s neat to listen to what the soul says. It doesn’t speak words, but another kind of language altogether. It is an intuitive knowingness like a gentle guide that sees you through the darkness.

If you are feeling distracted or distressed, close your eyes and listen to your body. What is it telling you? Where does it hurt? Where does you feel good? This simple exercise puts your awareness back in real time and helps you center yourself so that you can actual listen to that still small voice within. How often do we ignore what our bodies are telling us? The body adapts to whatever you expose it to. If you stress out your body, it will respond. If you love it, it will respond too.

By listening to your body, you can access the soul that the body houses.

And that’s when the real fun begins.

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The Weight of Words

August 20, 2012

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

Wanna make a bet? I’ve never agreed with that saying. For anyone who has been bullied before, words can do more damage than a machine gun.

Words have more power in the material world than we think. Japanese researcher Dr. Masaru Emoto  revolutionized how we think about the energy of words when he published his work on how water crystals react to certain terms, photography or music.

The reaction the water had to the word peace looks like this:

The word truth had this response:

The negative term you fool gave the water crystal the following form:

I’m beginning to see a pattern here, are you?

Words in the form of fiction can also have an amazing influence on our lives. Through books, screenplays and short stories, we get to travel to far off worlds without leaving our easychair. In fact, Annie Murphy Paul reported for the New York Times about a York University study in Canada headed up by psychologist Ramyond Mar, that found “individuals who frequently read fiction seem to be better able to understand other people, empathize with them and see the world from their perspective.”

Darmouth College’s Geoff Kaufman teamed up with Lisa Libby at Ohio State University to prove that literature can truly have a profound impact on our self-understanding, attitudes and even behaviors. In the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (Vol. 103, No. 1, 1-19, 2012), they report on the phenomenon they’ve termed “experience-taking“. Essentially, you take on the fictional character’s experience as your own.

The neat thing is our brains can’t distinguish between reading about an experience and actually encountering it in real life, which is maybe why the more teary-eyed folks among us cry so easily when reading a good book or seeing a good movie (I am one of them. I admit. You know that scene in Spielberg’s 2011 flick, War Horse, where the British and the German soldiers gather together in no-man’s land to free the horse from the barbed wire fence in a momentary act of peace and purpose? Yea, I was bawling, people. Bawling I was!). If a book is good, I cry at the end too. It’s that empathy thing, like saying goodbye to a dear friend you won’t see for a long, long time.

Because in your mind, you are. Those characters are real, dammit! Who needs reality TV when you can enter a fantasy world by opening a book at any time?

If you have ever written fiction, you will know that those characters come knocking at your door at all hours of the night, wanting to be heard, formed and plopped into the storyline of your own creation. They can be pretty adament, too. I have a few slumbering in my head myself. Maybe I’ll let them out to play on the page a little more.

And when I do, you’ll get to be a part of the fantasy too.

For now, I offer you this three-minute video to illustrate the power of words. May you choose yours carefully and with all the kindness you possess.

The Pictures in Our Heads

August 11, 2012

Pictures, pictures, look at all the pretty pictures! We have so many of them swirling around in our heads that they wouldn’t fit in even the largest museum.

Murals of how our relationships should be; canvases splattered with paint, depicting our perfect job, children, life. In our minds we create so many images of how we think life should be.

Then life happens.

The source of our greatest unhappiness stems from the clash of our pretty pictures with what we see before us. Our brains try desperately to converge the two, but to no avail. The result is confusion at best. Or maybe denial. Or in some cases, depression.

So what can we do?

Start with the gallery in your mind. Change out the pictures to reflect a new reality. Look at the outside from a different height and in a different light.

In other words, get real.

You’ve got an image in your mind that isn’t coinciding with the one on the outside. It simply isn’t jiving with what you thought should be.

In that case, you have some choices. By changing what you project from the inside out (from a new set of pictures of your own creation), the outside automatically changes. But it all stems from the inside, your ultimate source of light.

In his sixty-fifth book, Spiritual Solutions, Deepak Chopra speaks of three levels of awareness.

 

  1. Contracted awareness (the state of unhappiness, fear, anxiety). At this level you experience all problems, obstacles and struggles. You feel conflict and no way out. If you stay at this level, you become exhausted. And who wants that? Pas moi! So let’s move on.
  2. Expanded awareness (where solutions reside). Obstacles are easier to surmount; struggle dissolves. Your vision moves beyond conflict to what is possible.
  3. Pure awareness (bliss). Problems don’t exist on this level. Challenges are viewed as creative opportunities. You are in complete alignment with your highest purpose, with nature, with All That Is. You recognize your true self.

I have caught a glimpse of level three on numerous occasions in my life, but the truth is we move up and down this scale as we slide back into fear, remorse and sadness, then bounce up again to a renewed understanding of what happened and why. Deepak claims level three is our natural state, the state of pure consciousness. It is Enlightenment.

I’d like to get there, turning those pretty pictures into a warm mass of loveliness. Want to join me?

And if you haven’t had enough of Deepak and his wisdom, you can view him on Oprah’s Life Class taped from Radio City Musichall in New York City is just one more reason to view this video. The pulse of NYC vibrates through the screen.

Life’s Little Surprises

September 28, 2011

You wake up an hour later than you thought.

Your job description has been turned on its head.

The weather takes a sudden turn.

Change, and the way its managed, can impact our lives more than we realize. As I recently read somewhere, long-term success is not based on what you do right, but what you do when things go wrong.

Life’s little surprises hold a nugget of wisdom we often cannot see. The day I got up a full hour later than I had intended, I managed to get to the TV studio earlier than anyone else.

How was that possible?

It’s a little secret I am about to share. If you take it on, magic will happen. Wait. Before you turn the dial (or click the mouse), hang on. It is real.

It is called time abundance, embracing time so you have more of it. I literally did what was necessary instead of fretting about what I could or could not change. And the full extra hour of sleep kept me focused as I drove down the autobahn (at the speed limit!) without any distractions. No radio. No CD. No cell phone. Nada. I simply looked at the road and assured myself that I would arrive at the exact time I needed to. And wouldn’t you know? I did!

When your job takes a new direction, see it as an opportunity to learn something new. It’s a stretch, for sure. Change is merely the cause for bringing back into our awareness that things happen just as they should. We are reminded in those moments that uncertainty lurks just beneath our consciousness at all times. We work with probabilities. This or that will probably happen. We rest in the hope that it will.

The weather is a great example of how we have tried to harness the wind with our metrics and gizmos. Can we ever really know for certain whether things will happen as we think? All we can really do is raise the likelihood that they will.

One never really knows. And that is the beauty unfolding.

Life is full of little surprises. They are treasures wrapped in mystery. When we meet them with wonder, life takes on a fullness that can mend our broken hearts and restore us to whole.

Take a moment today to reside in that wonder. I bet you’ll be surprised at what you find underneath.

Intuition, the sweet voice of our internal navigation system.Without it we bumble. With it, we grow humble. Intuition is the guide of consciousness. It’s truly a lovely thing.

Jackie Gilbert, Professor of Management in the Middle Tennessee State University College of Business, offers her wisdom about intuition in her guest blog below. Please visit her site, which is chock full of wisdom and thoroughly researched. Besides, she’s a great writer!

Take it away, Jackie!

~~

A healed mind does not plan. It carries out the plans which it receives through listening to Wisdom that is not its own (A Course in Miracles).

How often have you felt frustrated as a result of either a failure to plan, or an attempt to plan too much at one time? Our sense of timing, intuition, and content of our very plans are all impacted by our state of mind. I love the following quote from A Course in Miracles:“The mind engaged in planning for itself is occupied in setting up control of future happenings. It does not think that it will be provided for unless it makes its own provisions…The mind that plans is thus refusing to allow for change. What is has learned before becomes the basis for its future goals. Its past experience directs its choice of what will happen. And it does not see that here and now is everything it needs to guarantee a future quite unlike the past without a continuity of any old ideas and sick beliefs. Anticipation plays no part at all, for present confidence directs the way” (p. 210).      

Intuition and the resulting sense of what to do can be channeled through our deliberate focus. In his study of lucky people, Wiseman (2003) found that they were more relaxed (less anxious) than their non-lucky counterparts. His findings suggest that creating our own future is more a state of mind than of circumstance. At every juncture we have the opportunity to choose our thought, rather than to be controlled by our cognitive wanderings. Buddhists refer to this quality as “mindfulness,” or full attention on a task, absent the background fast forwarding to something else.

The Dalai Lama describes mindfulness as the recognition that a negative thought has taken root, an “early warning system of sorts,” and the subsequent desire to change course. The byproduct of relaxation is then the ability to harness our thoughts in a way that is beneficial for our purpose, which is (in large part) to nullify negative voices, and to find our inner guidance system, or intuition.

Intuition can also be nurtured through freehand writing in response to pressing questions: e.g.: What should I do next? (Canfield, 2005). The immediate dictation, followed by subsequent directed activity, will facilitate an increasing number of instinctive responses. Journaling permits repressed feelings to surface so that we can take appropriate action, and it promotes catharsis through written self-expression. Hohlbaum (2009) explains journaling as an “unloading” technique, particularly for chronic worriers. When we list every single thing we are worried about, we realize that many of our concerns are inconsequential.

Relaxation broadens our perceptual lens. Achieving inner peace is the precursor to a self-induced state of “flow” in which we can work at peak capacity with minimum effort. Flow has been defined as “…the state of consciousness in which you find joy in the simple execution of a task, often losing yourself completely in it” (Hohlbaum, 2009, p. 21). Similarly, Maltz (1960, p. 264) describes this space as “being in the zone,” and “as entering a time and place and emotional state where [individuals] are totally relaxed, totally confident of the outcome.” Presence, “being in the moment,” and the “holy instant” are when:

  • All senses are firing on five cylinders
  • The world is in high resolution
  • The little things don’t bother you
  • You experience full engagement
  • You feel enthusiasm and excitement for whatever you are doing
  • You react without worry[1]
  • You are single-minded in your determination to concentrate on the task at hand
  • You are in the moment absent the baggage of things past

Remove mental obstacles so you know what’s truly important, and can refocus on your priorities.

When the mind emanates peace employees’ work proceeds effortlessly of its own accord, and they experience the negotissimum otium, or complete leisure that is intense activity (Russell, 1991).

Carr-Ruffino (2001), in her book Creative intelligence model: Building innovative skills provides a table of emotions. The more positive emotions are associated with serendipitous occurrences, with insight, and with a “can do” attitude. Conversely, negative emotions lead to learned helplessness, to despair, and to a lack of creativity.

 Map of Emotions

Expansive emotions engender a non-combative way of expressing feedback which creates feed forward, or dialogue between two parties where communication is a tool of empowerment. Similarly, Robbins (1980) mentions that “enabling states,” or conditions in which we experience peak resourcefulness, consist of confidence, inner strength, joy, and ecstasy. Positive states are created by the mental images that we conjure forth in our minds.

Our mental schema can in fact be so programmed for success that our subsequent behaviors have no choice but to follow suit. In Towards a New World View, DiCarlo (1996, p. 149) explains the effect of love on the human spirit: “When a person allows love into their field, the field becomes very soft, very flowing, resilient. The whole field blows up like a sort of balloon. It becomes very energized and energy flows out of the field in a very healthy way.” Canfield, Hansen, and Hewitt (2000) describe the most resourceful state as “conscious and awake,” or a state of self-reliance, consisting of high self-esteem and inner validation. We can conjure forth positive emotional states by our deliberate actions. To be more positive, today engage in the following:

  1. Focus on what’s working in your life. What things are going well at this particular instant, and what actions can you take to create more of the same? Success begets more success, and a desire to work harder to produce results of the same caliber. Keep feeding your productivity engine with positive thoughts.
  2. Give gratitude. Being thankful for the many gifts that you have removes the focus from what you may think is lacking. According to Sarah Ban Breathnach (author of Simple Abundance) “all you have is all you need.” In this regard, service to someone less fortunate produces a contrast effect that forces you to focus on your blessings. See also The Minimalist’s Guide to Inner Peace
  3. Realize that our thoughts are of our own choosing, and consciously work to eliminate the unwanted. When you sense your mind wandering in a negative direction, choose to refocus. Remember that happiness is in fact a choice.

[1] The first six bullet points are from Morgenstern (2009).

References 

Canfield, J. (2005). The success principles: How to get from where you are to where you want to be. New York: Collins.

Canfield, J., Hansen, M. V., & Hewitt, L. (2000). The power of focus: What the world’s greatest achievers know about the secret of financial freedom and success. Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications Inc.

Carr-Ruffino, N. (2010). Leading Innovation (p. 127). Boston, MA: Pearson Learning Solutions.

DiCarlo, R. (1996). Towards a new worldview: Conversations at the leading edge (p. 149). Erie, PA: Epic Publishing.

Hohlbaum, C. L. (2009). The power of slow: 101 ways to save time in our 24/7 world. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

Maltz, M. (1960). Psychocybernetics: A new way to get more living out of life. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Morgenstern, J. (2009). Shed your stuff, change your life: A four step guide to getting unstuck. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Robbins, A. (1986). Unlimited power. New York; Fawcett Columbine.

Russell, J. B. (1991). A history of heaven: The singing silence. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.

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The Power of Connection

September 29, 2010

Scientists have long agreed that people in community tend to live longer. In the Middle Ages the greatest punishment was to be rejected by the community, banished for eternity outside the city walls. The word excommunication really does mean just that: no longer in communication with others (or the Church, in the Catholic tradition).

If you follow Buddhist teachings, you will know that our greatest suffering comes from being disconnected from our true selves. We are, in a sense, excommunicated from the Source of All Things. So when I am in disharmony with others, I feel a deep disconnect from that Source.

It’s a jazzy feeling to be in deep communion with others because, in truth, we all stem from the same place. And while many of us live the Great Lie of being ‘outside’ the realm of our connection, we suffer as a result of this belief.

There is a reason why pure love feels the same for everyone. We are all one.

In his keynote speech last year at the Global Alliance for Transformational Entertainment, Jim Carrey made a moving tribute to this connection. Since we all seem to believe celebrities more than even ourselves, take a look at what he has to say.

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The Last of All Days

September 16, 2009

Many warm thanks to my pal, Gary, for sharing this video with me. Take 4 minutes out of your day to watch it. You’ll be glad you did.

Lyrics: Brenda Russell

Singer: Marilyn Scott