"All humans seek the illusive touch of another's Soul, which opens us to the sense of belonging to something bigger than the self. Dr. Kortsch has given us the true "tao" of relationship in this brilliant exploration of emotional tapestry. We will be grateful for this illumination of spiritual partnership for generations to come." Chris Griscom, Spiritual Leader, Author

"Eloquent and comprehensive, showing how your primary love relationship may be a sacred vessel that transports you and your partner to a place of mutual healing and expansion." Robert Schwartz, Author: Your Soul's Gift: The Healing Power of the Life You Planned Before You Were Born

"The Tao of Spiritual Partnership is a unique blend of wit and wisdom; Dr. Kortsch encourages us to take responsibility for our relationships, while recognizing and seizing the opportunities for our own personal spiritual growth." William Buhlman, Author of Adventures Beyond the Body

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Create a New Life: One Intention at a Time or Thoughts Create Molecules

Wonderful things are happening. Global consciousness of the power of thought is growing person by person, minute by minute in an ever-widening fashion. So it stands to reason that the more people who think peace rather than war, or compassion rather than revenge, the more the world as a whole has a chance of moving in those directions.

How Can I Apply These Concepts?

Having said that, many of those who have read the books, heard the audios, seen the movies, have also said that although they grasp the concepts, they still don’t really see how to apply all of this to their immediate life. How can the power of thought make a difference on the individual level? How can it improve the life of a person who is grappling with relationship issues, with financial stress, with professional set-backs, or with health concerns?

Empirical Proof

Einstein said: “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change”. Candace Pert´s research spanning almost a quarter of a century as a molecular biologist shows that every thought creates a molecule. Bruce Lipton’s decades-long research as a cellular biologist indicates that our beliefs and thoughts create (and change) not only our cells, but also our DNA, and that our bodies depend much more on environment and what we make of our environment and how we react to it than genetics, hence taking research far beyond the classical nature-nurture controversy. Max Planck, quantum physicist, said in his Nobel Prize for Physics acceptance speech in 1927 that beyond sub-atomic particles there is a field. That field connects us all (see The Field by Lynne McTaggart). Merely observing such sub-atomic particles, causes changes in them. If we are all connected in the field, as drops of water are connected in the ocean, then what one does creates effects on others, and what others do, creates an effect on one.

We Are All Connected

Bearing all of this in mind, should we not begin to concern ourselves with understanding the inter-connectedness of the tapestry within which we are all woven? I can hear you saying: ”But that is all very complicated. I can’t possibly begin how to understand all of that.” Perhaps you can’t, but what you most definitely can do, is to begin some work on yourself on the individual level in order to improve not only your own life, and how you feel about yourself, but also how you feel about life in general all day, every day for the rest of your life. If you begin today, your life will begin to change today.

Kinesiology, or muscle testing, shows one aspect that the power of thought (and lying or truth saying) has on our bodies (see also the work by David Hawkins).

Emerson said, it, Thoreau said it, Christ said it, James Allen said it (you may request your copy of his As A Man Thinketh in e-book format from me)…they all said that your thoughts become your reality, but now, in the 21st century, it is not only philosophers, metaphysicians, religious figures and other esoteric thinkers who say this, but also quantum physicists, biologists, and a host of other empirical thinkers and researchers. So there can no longer be any doubt…check out the many resources mentioned in this article. And then, if you still don’t believe it, you might consider that perhaps you belong to the same group of people who wanted Copernicus arrested and jailed for proclaiming that the earth revolves around the sun instead of the other way around!

Some Simple Suggestions

Ok, so now for those of you still reading this, let me say this: understanding the concept behind the very simple words that thoughts have power, can change the very foundations of your life. Let’s look at an everyday example. Suppose you and your partner or spouse are continually bickering. When you met, fell in love, and got married, you were ecstatically in love, and couldn’t wait to be with one another. Now…well, let’s just say that things are different.

Remember: our goal is to understand the power of thoughts. So now I’d like you to try an exercise for the next week. Make a list of about 10 qualities or aspects or characteristics about your partner that your really enjoy and appreciate (even if lately they seem to have gotten lost in the shuffle). Look at that list on a daily basis. Think about the items on the list, remember some of the times when they were in evidence on a regular basis. Whenever you find yourself thinking about the unpleasant aspects of your partner, or what he or she said or did (or didn’t say or do) last week, the other day, or this morning, deliberately change your thoughts towards your list, and think about the good things about your partner, rather than about the negative ones. Focus on the good traits. Refuse to think about the negative ones. Just for one week.

Practice Makes Perfect

I would love to hear some of the results of this little experiment, but my guess is that a good number of those who try it, will be somewhat surprised to realize that things went better than usual. They may even say that it was just one of those weeks that was less difficult that others. Hmm. Could it be possible that it had something to do with the thoughts that were being focused on; the positive aspects of the partner rather than the negative? Could it be possible that the more you think about something … anything … the more precisely that will appear in your life? This is, after all, what all the afore-mentioned thinkers and researchers have said. Focus on the negative aspects of your partner, and your life will be filled with them. Focus on the positive ones and note the difference in what happens.

I invite you to try similar experiments about whatever it is that plagues you. Do I hear someone saying that this is impossible? A pipe dream, because thoughts creep unbidden into the mind and one can’t control them? Did I say this is easy? How did you learn how to use your computer? How did you grow nearly non-existent bicep muscles into a hard, firm, well-toned upper arm? How did you learn that foreign language? How did you learn how to play tennis? Was it not with some practice and discipline? Of course. And so it is with this.

Realize that in order to grapple with your thoughts; in order to find some measure of control over your thoughts in such a way that they speak the language that most approximates whatever it is that you wish to see or realize in your life, you must practice changing the thoughts that do not lead you in that direction into other thoughts.

And this is only possible with practice. Just because we are talking about your thoughts and not muscles or the grammatical structure of a new language, does not mean you do not have to be disciplined about it. For a time, particularly at the beginning of your journey down this wonderful pathway, you will need to spend a good portion of your leisure time practicing this endeavour. Reminding yourself of it. Recognizing over and over again, that once again you forgot, and then, just like a child who is learning how to walk, and falls, and gets up, and falls again, and gets up again, and again, and again, and again, you also, will get up as often as is necessary, in order to come to a point, where this new way of thinking becomes a well-ingrained habit.

Choose Your Thoughts, Choose Your Conversations, Your Reading & Viewing Material: Make Good Choices at Every Moment of Every Day

Although there are times in life when thoughts are necessarily dark, when people one loves have died, when difficulties visit one in unexpected ways, there are, nevertheless, ways of dealing with these times that continue to be positive. You might ask: what can be learned from this? How can I use this experience to become a better, more all-rounded person? Read books such as those written by Victor Frankl, Nelson Mandela, or Alexander Solzhenitsyn in order to better understand this philosophy, as evinced by individuals who survived despite horrendous pain and suffering – and who survived without bitterness and hatred in their hearts.

And during less difficult times choose to think only those thoughts that lead you in your desired direction.  Think only those thoughts that raise your energy. Think only those thoughts that cause you to feel even better. This is not easy. At least not at the beginning. Keep reminding yourself. Remember the little child that continues to get up even after falling down twenty times. Read books (see the complimentary e-books I offer with most of my newsletters; some are about these topics) from authors such as those mentioned in this article, listen to CD’s about the topic (many are available by those same authors), see movies with related topics, scatter reminders to yourself about thinking this way about your house and office, and remember, this is just as easy or just as hard as it was to build the muscle or learn the vocabulary of a new language. The difference is that this doesn't just give you a better looking body or a way of communicating in another country, but a way to change your entire life. Go for it!

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Symbols In Your Life

The symbolism of a lifetime can be filled with riches, but if you are incapable of seeing it, or if you don't understand what the symbols might be, or what they could mean, not only will your life be that much poorer, but it will lack a meaning and significance it might otherwise weave and stitch together gradually over the years, the same way ancient carpet and tapestry weavers spent a lifetime creating one or two masterpieces.

Symbols in an individual's life speak to a part that goes far beyond the ego. Symbols commune with the eternal self. Symbols are the language of the soul and can show the individual who is open to them and their significance, a richness of purpose and meaning, where another individual, blind to symbolic implications, would only see hardship, pain, and suffering.

While symbols are not only related to hardship and suffering, it is nevertheless true that it is precisely in those sectors where symbols can make the greatest difference to the way an individual is able to perceive the events of a lifetime ... not only in hindsight, but also at the time those events are occurring.

Symbolism is not only an arcane and obscure field of knowledge that went out of fashion in our instant everything world and that is found in fairy tales, fables, religion, and mythology, but symbolism is also the richness and core essence of an inner life well lived that concerns itself with meaning and purpose rather than with actual events.

The tools we can use for this are easily found in a multitude of sources. Joseph Campbell, the renowned mythologist, who was steeped in Jungian symbolism as well, was once asked why there are so many stories of the hero in mythology. He replied: Because that's what's worth writing about. Even in popular novels, the main character is a hero or heroine who has found or done something beyond the normal range of achievement and experience. A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.

Evidently since this applies to anyone's life, not just to Parsifal in The Holy Grail, or other mythic and epic heroes, this tool of knowledge of the symbolism of the hero's journey is useful to the individual interested in understanding what the events of his or her lifetime might symbolize. In that sense, a classic education is highly useful, as it prepares one -should one be so inclined - to this manner of symbolic introspection.

However, education is not necessarily a prerequisite for understanding and recognizing the symbols in one's life. No matter how well educated a person is, if the heart and the inner eye have not been opened to the life that lies beyond the ego, and to the personality that is not the ego, then there will be great difficulty in recognizing any manner of symbolic events taking place in the lifetime. Therefore, an important tool is the opening of that inner eye, or the willingness to listen to the inner voice - intuition - that is so often quelled, or rejected, scorned, or ignored.

Without understanding the symbols of a lifetime, so much is lost. One must even ask the question: in that case, what was the point?

Moving beyond the ego, into that inner space, into the field Rumi refers to is not the easiest thing to do as long as one has not actually experienced the richness it brings:

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I'll meet you there.

Because of that inherent - human - difficulty to move beyond the ego, to detach in the Buddhist sense of the word, albeit with the caveat that life in the world must continue, and full participation in the world must continue. Else, what was the point?

You see the dilemma. There must be the inner connection to the core, to the eternal self, to the soul. For this to occur, the ego must be seen as a mere vestment. And yet, there must be the outer connection as well. But the outer connection must not call the shots. It is the tool by which all else is honed, and in order for that to happen, the inner connection must remain in control, or at least, the personality must remember to visit it frequently, in order to use its intuitive understanding of symbols to comprehend the events that take place on the outer level.

If you have not been recognizing the symbols in your life, or if you have glimpsed them occasionally and decided not to take a closer look, I encourage you to do so now. To become more acquainted with them, to begin to comprehend the richness with which they can clothe your life, and the depths of understanding they can lend even the smallest, most ordinary quotidian occurrences, in order that your inner core be allowed the opportunity to travel - in knowledge, growth, and evolution - to the place it had always intended.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Finding it Hard to Love Yourself? Check Out Your Boundaries

Judging by much of the self-help literature available today, by the clients that walk through my door, and by typical current events in the news about people and their relationships and their pain, loving oneself appears to be one of the hardest things for most of us to do.

Not a High Priority

Loving oneself is generally just not very high on our list of priorities, nor is it always instilled in us as we grow up. Only once we begin to realize that it just might be one of those things that is actually holding us back, and we begin to try to work on it, do we realize how potentially difficult it is to achieve. There are many reasons why we don’t love ourselves, most of which are absolute myths, but which we often firmly believe. What follows represents only a few of these reasons:
  • there's nothing lovable about me

  • I’m a bad person

  • It’s a sin to love oneself

  • It’s selfish to love oneself

  • The Bible says love thy neighbour

  • I’ve spent so much time not loving me, that I don’t know how to begin

  • I’m so ashamed of myself

  • How can I love myself if I don’t like myself?

  • I’m so afraid to love myself

  • It hurts so much to love myself

  • I’m not good enough to love myself

  • My mother/father/partner told me I’m useless/worthless/stupid/clumsy/fill in the blank

  • I’m not worth it

  • I’ll love myself when I get a promotion, lose 20 pounds, make a million dollars, get him/her to love me, etc.
How Did You Get Here?

Let’s backtrack a moment. How did you get to this place where you find yourself unlovable, or afraid to love yourself, and so on? Were you born like this? Look at a baby. It may scream when it wants food or is uncomfortable, but wouldn't you say that when it does that, it is manifesting its supreme belief in its right to be fed or comforted? And who does that? Only someone who instinctively (we’re not even talking about being rational here, merely instinctual) believes he or she is lovable (for more information on our instincts and the broad neurological base they derive from, see also my May 2006 Newsletter: Introducing Our Second and Third Brains: We Do Think With Our Heart and Instinct). When a toddler comes up to your knee, sticky fingers on your clothes, and looks trustingly into your eyes, he or she believes he has a right to be there and hence believes he or she is lovable.

Healthy Boundaries…What’s That?

But – what happens when the baby is not fed or comforted, and just ignored until it cries itself to sleep? Or the toddler gets yelled at, pushed away, and told in no uncertain terms that he is not wanted there because he is dirty, or disgusting, or bad. You get the picture. I won’t go into the hundreds of scenarios – more or less dysfunctional, because many of them happen in great homes - I could describe, because you’re probably aware of your own, or at least, you’ve heard lots of the scenarios that bring about a lack of self-esteem, a fear of being you, a lack of self-respect and self-confidence, and so on.

Fast forward a few years. You now have a child – youngster – teen – young adult – who finds it hard to say what he or she wants. Or prefers. Or what opinion she has about a particular subject. Or what she’s feeling. And because this person finds it hard to say things of this nature, he allows others to say or do things that are not right, that are unacceptable, maybe just not quite right, but nevertheless, something not right is being allowed. All of that describes behavior by a person with poor boundaries as opposed to healthy boundaries. And before you jump at me, I’m not necessarily talking about hard-core abuse here, it can be much less, it can even just be something the first person perceives. Partially this behavior stems from this person’s assumption that by saying what he wants or prefers, etc. (as opposed to what the other person is saying), he/she will not get what he most wants: love and appreciation…that commodity that somehow was missing part of the time when he was little, so it is better to say nothing, because then he just might get some love…some few crumbs of love…

So we now have a person with low self-esteem, or a lack of self-love, or respect, and hence we have a person with poor boundaries. And this of course perpetuates into adult life as long as it is not recognized and dealt with as an unresolved issue. And it can do untold damage to the unfolding of the life of the person involved. His or her lack of belief or love in the self is forever perpetuated by the people chosen to participate in the life, because these are precisely the sort of people who are able to enact the kind of behavior that persons with poor boundaries should object to, or speak up about, and yet they do not.

Wounds, Pain, and the Pain Body

Most of us have childhood wounds. Even if we had terrific parents. Something almost always happened. And whatever the wounds were (I could do a whole series of articles just on wounds), they cause pain. Often this is not conscious pain. We only feel it when it is triggered again by a person in our adult life. A person who has nothing to do on the surface with the original person who engendered the wound, but this person in our current life somehow triggers the pain, because this person is a good hook for whatever it is that our wound-causing person from childhood did. In other words, the person from the current life situation brings out reactions in us that are similar in nature to how we might have reacted earlier in life when faced with pain. So perhaps we put up with something just to be accepted or loved or approved of, even if putting up with the behavior in question makes us feel awful. It becomes a vicious circle.

And because there is that similarity in the feeling, we are familiar with it. We know it. It pulls us in the direction of the pain, and so we re-live it over and over and over again. Basically what is happening is that our psyche is trying to guide us towards a resolution of the wound, but unless we become aware of what is happening, our chances of resolving it are slim. And so we get pulled by the familiarity of pain we know. Eckhart Tolle calls this the pain body. Chris Griscom calls it the emotional body. Both say similar things about it: we wallow in the pain because it seduces us, it sticks to us, we go in its direction, rather than running away from it, because we know it, it’s familiar. Its pull on us is very strong, and so when someone behaves in a way that triggers a childhood reaction due to a wound received then, we tend to go in the direction of the pain, we maintain those unhealthy and dysfunctional boundaries, almost in the way a child cries itself to sleep at night, in pain, but finding some strange measure of comfort in the act of crying.

Note, however, that although I am pointing towards the past in order that you understand where the poor boundaries originated, I am not suggesting that you spend any time whatsoever on determining exactly what happened then. That is not nearly as important – if at all – as it is to change your present behavior in favor of yourself so that you may begin to love and respect yourself.

“Feeling” Your Way to Healthy Boundaries

Clearly, boundaries are an important issue and everyone who has poor ones needs to learn how to establish healthy ones.

But there is also another variation on the same theme. Start by gauging how you feel when certain things are said or done to you. You know when you are feeling good and when you are not. The times that you do not feel good pursuant to someone’s behavior or words, are the times that something needs to be done. Use your feelings as a barometer in order to correct as needed. I’m not talking about correcting the other person’s behavior. Hopefully that will happen. But what I really mean, is for you to correct you own behavior. In other words, begin by speaking up. Begin by indicating that what has just been said or done is not acceptable. Begin by indicating in no uncertain terms (this can be done courteously and calmly), that when you are treated in such a way, or spoken to in that way, you feel hurt, or denigrated, or angry, or sad, or whatever. State clearly that you wish not to be treated that way again, nor spoken to that way again. And decide on a consequence if the behavior is repeated, i.e., if your expressed desire is ignored. It is very important that you choose a consequence that you are capable of carrying out (don’t say you will leave the relationship, if you feel you will not be able to do that), and that will bother you less, or cause less of an upset in your life, than it will bother the other person. This is not a punishment, it is a consequence of someone not respecting your boundaries.

What you are attempting to do by all of this is not only to get the other person to understand that you will no longer tolerate or accept this behavior, but more importantly, you are showing yourself – perhaps for the first time in your life – that you are worth speaking up about. That your respect for you is more important than being accepted, or loved, or approved of, by another – no matter who the other is. I don’t mean to pretend that this is easy. I also don’t mean to pretend that it can happen all at once, or that, even if you manage it once, you will manage it again each time thereafter. It’s a learning curve, like so much else in life. But I promise you this: if you begin to make a practice of this – using your feelings as a barometer – you will begin to feel better about yourself. You will begin to empower yourself. And you will begin to love yourself. And that is worth gold and this takes you another step down the road to inner freedom.

Note: there are many other manifestations of not loving oneself…having poor boundaries is simply one of them. A future article may deal with further ways in which this appears in an individual’s life.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Focusing Beyond the Horizon

Keep your eye beyond the horizon? Why beyond the horizon? That's where your goals are. So why is it necessary to keep your eye beyond that?

Because if your eye is merely on the horizon, when you get there, there will be nothing left to strive for. You will have lost momentum. Call it an anti-climax. But if your eye is beyond the horizon, you will continue moving full speed, with all enthusiasm, even after you have reached your current goal because the next goal, the one that is beyond the horizon, will spur you on.

Posted in Ledbury, Herefordshire, UK

Monday, September 17, 2012

Compassion: Only For the Hungry, or Also for Those Who Hurt You?

Most people have no problem in understanding how to feel compassion for the poor and hungry from third-world countries, or even those in similar positions in our own wealthier nations. And certainly, most people understand why we would even begin to entertain the idea of feeling compassion for people in such a predicament. It seems the normal, human, charitable thing to feel, doesn’t it? This may even lead a good portion of the people feeling such compassion to actually undertaking something tangible that might ease the burden of those who suffer from poverty, hunger, homelessness, persecution, etc.

Partners Who Hurt, Cheat, Lie

Often when clients walk into my office for the first time, they will expend an inordinate amount of energy telling me, during that first session, how much their partner, companion, or spouse has hurt them, cheated them, lied to them, deceived them, manipulated them, changed on them, or abandoned them, to name only a few. And, of course, I am expected to empathize with their position, and essentially see that the other party is someone who can only be defined in unspeakable terms.

It Takes Two to Tango…

At this point I frequently intervene and offer the opinion that it does take two to tango (so, for example, if he/she did such-and-such to you, why did you let it go on for so long?), and further, that no matter what “relationship crime” the other party has actually “committed”, he/she also deserves some compassion because who knows what has happened in their life up to that point (and particularly in their early life) in order to bring them to behave in such a despicable way.

This will occasionally merit me a baleful glare from my client. But often I also see a glimmer of understanding, or even of agreement. Sometimes I think it’s their way of assuaging their own angry thoughts at themselves for having fallen in love with the other person at all, of justifying to themselves that there was something wonderful there for them at the beginning, and that therefore it is not necessary to view themselves as total relationship failures for having chosen so badly. Indeed. But there is more to be looked at.

The Why and the How of it All

Why we might feel compassion for someone who has hurt us seems to be easy to understand. They may have become the way they now are; this awful way they are behaving with us, in other words, because of, as mentioned earlier, difficult traumas in their childhood, perhaps painful relationship patterns prior to meeting us, or a myriad number of other plausible reasons that might allow us to get a glimpse into the inner makings of this other person.

But how do we go about feeling this compassion, when what we really would like to do is wring their necks, or never let them see the children again, or take them for what they’re worth and leave them without a penny, or make them pay in some other way that will truly make them realize just how much they have hurt us?

How do we find it in ourselves to bring up any measure of compassion when they obviously are such absolutely awful people? People who have perhaps hurt us more than anyone else. Deliberately. Hatefully. Viciously. A betrayal of this nature, where once there was love, and now there is only blackness, is perhaps more difficult to deal with than any other kind of betrayal because we see it from the position of deliberateness on the part of the other person. They wanted to hurt us. They did so knowingly.

Finding the Way to Compassion in the Mirror of our Self-Image

While major religions spend a great deal of time preaching compassion, religion is by no means the only method to find your way to compassion. Rather, I would venture to say, the first step might be by taking a look at yourself. By seeing what is inside of you. By getting to know yourself, your intentions, your desires, your needs, your fears, your vanities, your pride, your ego, your priorities, your patience, and your degree of self-awareness.

Self Awareness and Responsibility

Self-awareness is such a tricky thing. If you don’t have it, you generally don’t know that you don’t have it, and when you begin to acquire it, you keep forgetting about it until you make a discipline of it, of forcing yourself to be self-aware at as many moments as possible in your life. Only then does it have a chance of becoming second nature, and thus of you being self aware at almost all times. This implies that you begin to take responsibility for everything you feel, think, and do, and as you take on responsibility for all that, you begin to understand that what another person has done to you is his/her responsibility, his/her problem, his/her issue to be resolved, and that no matter how much you may rant and rave or crave revenge, you will never be able to change the other. You can only change yourself. As we absorb the truth of this statement, we begin to understand that what others do unto us is truly only interesting and important from the point of view of how we react to their words or acts.

And how we react depends in large measure on our degree of self-awareness. It is at this point that the possibility for compassion enters the picture. The more self-aware you are, the more you know you have choices and alternatives at every turn of the road. Therefore you begin to understand that someone who has hurt you (hurting others generally implies, among other things, fear in the one who hurts; fear of feeling insecure, fear of chaos, fear of loss of control, etc., but that is a topic for another article) has done so from a position of blindness, of a lack of self awareness.

Careful now, I am not suggesting we simply excuse all these people and say, “oh, they didn’t know what they were doing, so it’s ok”. Of course it’s not ok. But because you are now capable of understanding where they are coming from; in other words, from blindness, you are now able to feel compassion. How they resolve their own issues that cause this behavior on their part, is their problem. Perhaps you will want to be supportive in helping them shed light on it, perhaps not. But in the meantime, you have resolved an enormous issue of your own, by looking at yourself, by resolving to become self-aware, and by choosing the path of compassion rather than the path of hatred, anger, self-pity, or revenge.

Compassion for others does have a ripple effect. Try it and observe what happens…not only with others, but most particularly, inside of you.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Entering the Now Moment by Leaving Unawareness Behind

If you could enter a state of instant peace whenever you feel anxious, worried, angry, or afraid, would you not want to go there? Would you not want someone to tell you how to get there? And what the procedure to walk down that road would be?

Body - Mind - Spirit

The process of getting there is always based on the same premise – whether you are worried about your finances, a life-threatening illness, the impending demise of an important relationship, or about your teenaged daughter who is on drugs, whether you fear you will never get the promotion at work, or you fear standing up to face the Board of Directors for the first time in order to present the annual budget, or whether you fear telling your partner that you will no longer accept his or her emotional abuse. This process of getting to a state of instant peace moves you from your body to your mind and emotions, and finally to your spirit.

You Always Have a Choice

As you contemplate the dilemma or fear that is plaguing you, bring this thought into your mind, and surround yourself with all of its latent possibilities: You always have a choice. (See my February 2006 Newsletter: Making Choices: Taking Responsibility for your Life”). So this means, of course, that if you are steadfastly convinced that you will bungle the presentation because of your fear of speaking in public, you begin to realize that your belief about this is a choice you have made. And in the same way you made one choice, you can make another, such as choosing to believe that you will be able to speak well, and make a successful presentation.

What if you believe that you will not be able to live if your partner deserts you, or because your partner is having an affair with someone else? Again…the belief you hold is your choice. (See also my article “I Need You…I Need You Not”). So you could potentially choose to believe that you will get on with your life, and that this difficult emotional situation will make you stronger. Or you could choose to believe that if someone wishes to desert you, or has been unfaithful to you, it means that you are better off without that person in your life. Or you could choose to believe that a frustration of such proportions is in your life in order for you to learn something about yourself (see also my article “Committed Relationships: Use Them to Grow Towards Self-Understanding and Real Love”).


Now breathe gently to relax. Even if the thought or worry or fear continues to make you hyperventilate or break out in a sweat, just breathe gently to relax. Watch your breath for a moment or two, and continue breathing gently. Now observe your body for a few moments. Is your stomach clenched? Your breathing shallow? Your heart pounding? Your temples throbbing? Continue to breathe gently and slowly, and just for a few moments observe your breath. In and out. In and out. Gently. Continue observing your body in order to notice how it gently slows down and begins to release its frantic hold on your nerves. Breathe gently. In and out. In and out. Gently.

Mind & Emotions

Now allow yourself to become aware of your self-talk and your emotions related to the thought, worry, or fear. Self-talk is often sabotaging and harmful bringing about further negative emotions, and sometimes, conversely, negative emotions bring about sabotaging self-talk. It’s a two-way street whose provenance neuroscientists, biologists, and psychologists have not yet determined. Do emotions cause thoughts or vice versa? Antonio Damasio (The Feeling of What Happens) and Candace Pert (Your Body is Your Sub-conscious Mind), among others, have researched this subject extensively.

So now you are breathing gently, aware of your body, and immersed in your self-talk. Grounding yourself is a wonderful way to cut the vicious cycle of sabotaging self-talk. If you just tell yourself that thinking that way is of no use, it’s my bet that your thoughts will continue to course about the hated or dreaded subject. So ground yourself. An easy exercise while you are driving is this: look at the license plate on the car in front of you. Sum its digits. If you come up with a two-digit number as a result, sum up those numbers as well. So GRZ 9482 adds up to 23, which adds up to 5. Do this with several cars until you notice that the thoughts have gone. You notice this because you are actually thinking about something totally different or nothing at all. Another exercise, should this one not have worked for you due to its ease, or because you are not driving, is this: think of any two or three-digit number and multiply it by another two or three-digit number in your head. This will be certain to ground you and get your thoughts away from your self-talk, because it is so difficult – for most – to do, and requires much concentration.

In this new state of mind you now find yourself, with no – at least just now – negative emotions or thoughts spilling over – create substitutes for your previous self-talk and infuse these with positive emotion. So for example, you might think of yourself as speaking with ease at the Board Meeting and giving a successful presentation, at the same time as you imagine how good you would feel afterwards. This positive feeling about the intended results is very important. Any type of new self-talk or imagining should always contain within it strong positive feelings about the intended result. This intentional focusing (also see my March 2006 Newsletter: “Intentional Focus: Your Happiness, Your Success, & the Law of Attractioni”) on what it is you would like to create or bring about in your life, is an important ingredient in getting to the state of instant peace referred to at the beginning of this article.

Pain Body – Emotional Body

So at this point you have focused – with feeling and intentionality – on positive substitutes for your previous negative self-talk, and you now need to become aware of another hugely important ingredient of the process. Eckhart Tolle (The Power of Now) refers to this as the pain body and Chris Griscom (The Healing of Emotions and Ecstasy is a New Frequency) refers to it as the emotional body.

Essentially both refer to that part of us that likes to wallow in our pain. What, you say? Why on earth would I want to wallow in something painful? The answer becomes obvious. Because it is a place you know. Because you feel at home there. In other words, we have been there so often before, in this place of pain, that when faced with a choice of doing something new and unknown, or wallowing, it is much easier to fall back to the well-trodden path and wallow. We don’t really even think about it. We just go there, because it is familiar. And then we feel comfort in the familiarity of the pain. Recognize this? Have you been there? And are you tempted right now, despite what you have read to this point, to go back to your painful thoughts? Does that just feel so much easier?

The Observer – The Witness

So as you become aware of your attachment to pain, also observe your compulsion to talk and think about it. Observe how you automatically go to this place of pain. And in so observing, begin to realize that you can make conscious choices in your thoughts, actions, reactions, and feelings, in order to leave this well-known place where you have been keeping yourself prisoner.

As you observe yourself automatically wanting to go to this place of pain, you notice that there is a difference between the “you” that observes and the “you” that wants to go to the place of pain. The observer, or the witness to your thoughts and feelings is separate from the one who wants to go to the place of pain. Tolle says: “Be at least as interested in your reactions [thoughts and feelings] as in the situation or person that causes you to react”. And he adds: “Whenever you are able to observe your mind, you are no longer trapped in it”. As you do this, as you become the watcher, the observer, the witness of your own mind, you bring yourself to the present moment. You are no longer in that fitful, needy, hurtful, distressing past or future, because your observation of the part of you that is in those places, has brought you to the present in order to be able to observe, watch and witness.


In doing this, you also become aware of your eternal self - the part of you that watches is not the part that will wither and die - the part that watches is eternal, and will forever exist. From the vantage point of your eternal self (imagine looking at your eternal existence from a high mountain, overlooking valleys too numerous to count, where your “current you” is one of those valleys), your “current you” and its pressing problems loses some of this urgency. As you access that part of you, as you recognize your eternal essence, you enter the Now moment, and you gift yourself with peace.

This entire process takes much longer to describe than to put into practice, and once you begin practicing it, you will find it easier and easier to access each time you do so. It gives you immeasurable relief from stress and anxiety, fear and worry, pain and distress. The more you do it, the more you become the observer of your thoughts and feelings, the more you give your awareness to your eternal self and remain in the Now, the less time you will be spending in wallowing in the pain body or the emotional body. As you eliminate your ties to those connections, your life will begin to change automatically because of the new focus you are giving it.

Remember: observe your feelings, thoughts, or reactions. Identifying with the observer brings you to consciousness. Remember that your “observer self” is eternal. As you remember, you leave the painful place in your thoughts, feelings, or reactions that causes you such anguish, because by observing, you place yourself in the Now moment in which there is no room for past or future. The Now contains only the Now. Focusing on it means you are unable to focus on pain because pain comes from elsewhere. And that brings you to the beginning of the state of peace. Always.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Controlling Ourselves, Our Lives, and the People in Them

Many of us fall into the fallacy of believing that we can control our environment and the persons who people it. Therefore, we steadfastly cling to the mistaken belief that:
  • if only we could make our spouse more emotionally available

  • if only we could make our parents less intrusive

  • if only we could make our boss more approachable

  • if only we could make our teenage offspring more manageable

  • if only we could make our neighbours less noisy

  • if only we could do any of these of any number of other things, life would be wonderful
And we spend our time working on devising ways of changing these people, driven by the conviction that this would be the solution to all or most of our problems. The truth of the matter is that the only one we actually can control is our self.

We rarely look at this other side of the coin…the fact that if we want to achieve any kind of change in our lives, it has to begin with our self. Frequently change that we bring about in our own person will motivate change in others, almost like a ripple effect that can be observed in a pond when you throw a pebble into the water, but this change in others, or in the environment should not be the stimulus to your own change. That should be sought for itself, in order that you can become more of what you really are, and are capable of being; in other words, in order that you grow into yourself.

Evidently the eternal question is: how do you change or control yourself? What is the magic formula? Is there a silver bullet? And the simple answer is choice. Knowing that no matter what you feel, think, say, or do, you always have choices and alternatives, is one of the most enriching and liberating thoughts there is. When you are reacting to a given event, brought upon by your own thoughts, a nostalgic song on the radio, another person, a difficult financial situation, or even a cataclysmic global incident, always ask yourself whether there are alternatives to your current way of reacting. Then ask yourself whether any of those alternatives are feasible, and whether they would make a positive difference as compared to the initial mode of reacting you had intended. By consciously choosing to react differently, you are not only controlling yourself by self-awareness, but you are also changing yourself because your reaction is no longer unconscious, and thus you are offering yourself one of the greatest gifts of all - freedom from that blindness.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Our Joys

Poetry can often be inspiring, and today this crossed my desk:

Our joys as winged dreams do fly; why then should sorrow last? Since grief but aggravates thy loss, grieve not for what is past.

Thomas Percy, English poet 1729-1811

Grieve not for what is past ... our joys as winged dreams do fly ... doesn't it make sense that we behave the same way with our grief as we do with our joy? As the poet - Thomas Percy - says, are joys tend to leave us very quickly. And yet we dwell on our sorrows.

This is in fact, an unusually interesting statement about the human condition. We have a much greater tendency to stay with those aspects of our lives that are not bright and clear, that do not have sunshine and warmth, and tend to bring on the clouds swollen with rain. Why do we do this? Is it just a wired into us? Wired into our hearts? Wired into our brains?

I don't think so. This may very well be due to what part Eckhart Tolle calls the pain body, and what Chris Griscom calls the emotional body. I've written about this in the past, so I'll just briefly reiterate the basic points:
  • the pain body is seductive
  • the emotional body has an emotionally sticky quality that we find hard to pull away from
  • both pain body and emotional body are familiar to us because they represent pain, difficulties, and hardships that we have been subject to in the past
  • this very familiarity based on the amount of time we have spent revisiting those difficult moments, is what causes us to field the seductive pull
  • once we give in to the seductive pull into the pain or the negative emotions via our memory needs, we tend to wallow in the pain, much as pigs wallow in mud
  • why?
  • Because we prefer the familiarity
  • if we spent as much time revisiting our joyful moments as we do our painful ones, we might find - ironically - that we experience greater familiarity with our joy than with our pain - and wouldn't that be a wonderful state of mind to be in...
Have you ever considered why the sum total of your life very possibly seems to have an uneven tipping of the scale in favor of the negative? Could it not be simply because of where you spend much of your mental time? And don't you agree that where you spend much of your mental time is a matter of choice? And if it is a matter of choice, why not spend more time with your memories of the joyful moments, as opposed to memories of the painful ones? It really is that easy.

Friday, September 7, 2012

When Love Walks Out the Door: Six Tips For Intelligent Survival

When you are in love - or believe yourself to be in love - and love walks out the door, you are not only justifiably devastated, but you may be devastated to the point of paralysis, palpitations, pain that can associate with physical nausea, and above all, a sensation of not being able to continue with this deep, bottomless pit that has formed at the center of your being. The yawning Hades, whose blackness spreads before you, is only known by those who have been there.

Just one day before Valentine's Day, this subject seems slightly off-kilter. Valentine's Day (if it's something that is important to you) is about love, not love gone awry. It's for the joyful celebration of two lovers who revel in their love for each other ... well, I guess we shouldn't forget that sometimes it's just about the sex ... so what am I doing writing about unhappy love just hours before the day like the one whose (occasionally nauseous) ads have been beleaguering us for the past fortnight?

The fact that this day of the celebration of love is nearly upon is, is, in actual fact, the reason for this post. On such a day, those whose lives have recently been ripped asunder in the fashion described, those whose love has walked out the door, are particularly vulnerable.

Ideas of some of the things you can do to help yourself back to the road of equanimity, if not inner peace and contentment, or even happiness, follow:
  1. As you examine the relationship that has just ended - as most people tend to do ad nauseam, to the point of sorely trying their friends' patience, because of the desire to understand why it ended, or what you did that was wrong, or what you could have done differently - ask yourself what truly positive thing you could learn from this most painful experience. This questioning process that almost always takes place on an inner level can lead you to the beginning of the road to recovery. Perhaps you could learn that this is not the way to allow yourself to be treated. Perhaps the learning has to do with always telling the truth, or always being transparent with your own beliefs, likes, and dislikes, and not hiding them in order to be liked or loved. Perhaps you could learn that simply loving another human being does not guarantee love in return - or at least not everlasting love.

  2. Ask yourself if the love you felt for this person who has just abandoned you, was a love that made you feel free, or a love that made you feel anxious and dependent. If it was the latter, ask yourself if you truly think it is a positive thing to feel that way, when you are supposed to be in love and therefore in the best place any of us can be. Is it possible that something so good can make you feel so miserable? I refer to how you felt while the other person was still your partner, was still with you, not how you feel now, that the other person has left. And if you agree that this is not the way one should - ideally - feel when one is in love, then ask yourself what is wrong with your scenario. In other words, why did you feel so anxious and dependent? The answer is quite simple: anxious and dependent love has its roots in neediness, and we are needy when we have not yet begun to love the self. So we love others in the hope (unconscious) of being able to love ourselves as we see the reflection of their love for us in their eyes. I have explained this in greater length in the first of the Related Articles below). Understanding this inner neediness takes you another big step on the road not only to recovery from the painful loss of the relationship, but also to finding yourself.

  3. Ask yourself if there is anything in your life that truly gives it meaning. In other words, do you feel a passion for something? Does something that you do, give you a sense of purpose, or mission, or fill you with excitement. If so, a big part of your problem is already solved, because by dedicating yourself to that, you will be able to get over the worst of your feeling of being bereft. Such a sense of purpose and meaning in life is as fundamentally important as breathing. Therefore, if you have no such sense, or if you would like to have it, but don't know what it might be, please read the second article below in order to learn how to implement something like this into your life. Having a sense of purpose and meaning in life canot be stressed highly enough. If you resolve this one, you will have come a long way.

  4. Ask yourself how well you know yourself. How comfortable you are with yourself. Because if you do not know yourself, or if you are not comfortable with yourself, you will find great difficulty maintaining a viable and healthy relationship, and you will tend to attract to you partners who are on the same wave-length of not being very aware of themselves. Make an effort to walk down this road a little bit every day, in order to change - to broaden - this aspect of yourself, so that future relationships can be very different. Also read the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth articles below.

  5. Ask yourself how much of what is going through your head right now is blame. If you are blaming the other person for how terrible or awful he/she is for doing this to you, after all you did for him/her, please know that this blaming will take you no where. It may very well be true that you have been treated badly, but what must be learned from this is that for some reason you have allowed it. The other person is not in your control, but you are. To begin to walk down this road, read articles 7, 8, and 9 below.

  6. Ask yourself what choices you have today. That's right. What can you choose today to make things better for yourself? Understand that everything you do and think, and that how you act and react is your choice. This is a long topic, there are many things to be said about it, and so I simply want to leave you with this thought: you always have a choice. Even when you are in pain. You can choose how you think about your pain, you can choose to remain immobilized, or you can choose to do something about it, such as, for example, right now, read some of the related articles below, to begin the process of bringing yourself to another level. Not of suppressing the pain, but of beginning to understand how you don't really have to be here, and of implementing some of the tools that will help you leave this place inside of you, to one where the sun shines every day. I encourage you to look at articles 10 - 14 below.

Related Articles:
  1. I Need You...I Need You Not. Does Love Imply Needing?

  2. Finding a Meaning For Your Life

  3. Tending Your Inner Garden

  4. Do You Like The Person You Are Alone With?

  5. The Unexamined Life

  6. Giving Birth To Yourself

  7. Choosing To Wallow in Relationship Pain?

  8. Anonymous Reader and Relationship Woes

  9. Relationship Pain

  10. Book Review 2 - Happiness Is A Choice

  11. The Greatest Quality in Life

  12. All You Have Is Now

  13. No One Can Control Your Emotions

  14. Taking the State of Your Energy into Your Own Hands

  15. Losing the Connection: You Still Love Each Other, But No Longer Connect

  16. Your Parents, Your Children, and the Marital Bed

  17. The Mirror of Relationships

  18. Transparency in Relationships

  19. Are You in Love or Do You Love?

  20. Emotional Unavailability: An Introduction

  21. Committed Relationships: Use Them to Grow Towards Understanding and Real Love

  22. Marriage in the 21st Century: Could Cutting-Edge Spiritual Psychology Make it Viable Again?

  23. Finding it Hard to Love Yourself? Check Out Your Boundaries

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Where Are You Now?

Asking yourself where am I now at intervals throughout your day in order to discover not so much where you are physically, but where you have gone in your mind will begin to show you how frequently you are not present here and now.

This is a problem of phenomenal proportions when we pause to consider what happens when we are not in this now moment:
  • we are concentrating on a problem or worry that is not part of what we are actually doing now, and that therefore keeps us from being present in what we are doing now

  • we are reliving past pain and hurts that keep us from being present in what we are doing now

  • we are reliving past moments of joy that keep us from being present in what we are doing now

  • we are concentrating on future possibilities - good or bad - the thought of which keeps us from being present in what we are doing now
All of these examples indicate that we have left the only place where we live, where we are, which is now.
Take a moment to recall your childhood. Especially the parts in your childhood when you were aware of time passing. Perhaps someone went on a trip and it seemed to you that they had been gone forever. My father had traveled to Europe on business when I was about seven and living in Canada. A friend of my parents came to pick me up in order that I could play with his young daughter. On the way to their house he asked me if I had heard from my father. I told him how much I missed him and that he had already been gone for about a year. The friend looked at me and said It's only been three weeks.

Of course at that age it meant little to me, but I always remembered the incident insomuch as it demonstrated to me as an adult, how malleable time is. As a child a mere three weeks seemed endless to me.

Other examples you might resonate with are summer vacations. When they started, they seemed to stretch into delicious infinity. Sometimes just one single, solitary day seemed so long, so full of possibilities.

So fast forward to now. 2008. How long does a day seem? A week? A month? Even a year? Isn't it true that now they seem to pass in a flash? Monday comes, and as much as the work week may seem onerous, before you know it, it's Friday evening. January begins, and before you know it, it's Easter, then summer, Hallowe'en, and Christmas is on us again.

What really causes this apparent speeding up of time?

Without going into any kind of scientific or quantum explanation, I'd like to offer this: as children we live totally in the now. We pay attention to what we are doing while we are doing it. When we are on a swing, that is what we are involved with, with all our being. When we are building a sand castle on the beach and collecting shells, and pebbles, seaweed, and sticks to decorate it, we are involved with this creation with all our being. When we watch a movie or read a book, we are involved with this activity with all our being.

However, as adults we tend not to be involved with what we are doing, because we are off - in our minds - elsewhere. As illustrated earlier, we are worrying about something that may never take place, or reminiscing about something that already took place, or looking forward to something that will take place once such and such happens. All of these modes of thinking mean that we are not here and now. We are escaping the now moment, either because we don't like it, or because not being in the now moment has become such a habit, that we barely know how to remain there anymore.

This is huge. If we are not in the now moment, I ask you, when do we live our life? Now is all we have, as Eckhart Tolle so aptly pointed out in his The Power of Now. And if now is all we have, does it not make sense that we learn - remember - how to remain present?

Hence the question at the beginning of this article. Get into the habit of querying yourself about where you are at this particular moment. And once you pull yourself back into it - even if it is while you are involved in an activity that gives you little stimulation or joy - attempt to remain present, to do whatever it is you are doing with a sense of awareness, and in order to determine whether you could - if you really put your mind to it - derive satisfaction even from this (whatever it is).

More importantly, when you are involved in a pleasant activity, perhaps spending time with your partner or children, or out on the golf course, or bicycling through the neighbourhood, and you ask yourself the question, if you then also find that you are elsewhere inside, you will realize how monumentally important it is that you begin to be here now. Jon Kabat-Zinn's book about mindfulness Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life is excellent for further pointers, as is Charlotte Joko Beck's Everyday Zen: Love and Work, and also Tara Bennett-Goleman's Emotional Alchemy: How the Mind Can Heal the Heart.

I encourage you to explore your now. With some patience not only will you find unaccustomed joy, but you will add years to your life, simply because you will be so much more aware at so many more now moments.

Related Articles:

Monday, September 3, 2012

What Do You Do When You Hit a Patch of Ice?

Normally when we hit a patch of ice while driving, we correct, adjust, and after bringing the car back under our control, we cautiously continue on our way, driving, perhaps, somewhat more slowly than before, but nevertheless driving with confidence, secure in our ability to handle the newly difficult driving hazard.

Life is no different.

But how you react to those patches of ice in life not only says a lot about you, but also helps determine whether you will - or will not - reach your eventual goal.

So let's look at some possible reactions to those patches of ice:
  • abandon the quest ipso facto

  • decide it's too dangerous

  • it's too risky

  • it leaves me open to failure

  • it leave me open to rejection

  • it leaves youme open to possible ridicule, so I might as well not continue

  • it frightens me

  • I don't believe I can go on

  • I don't believe I can find a way around, or over, this patch

  • I can't see how big the patch is, therefore it must be too big to surmount

  • I haven't got the right tires to cross the patch

  • I don't know what's on the other side of the patch

  • the patch of ice might actually be hiding a big pot hole, and if I go on, I might fall into it

  • it's too dark to see what is involved here
What are all of these? Excuses. And also a way of giving yourself permission to give up. Yes. Give up.
(see also my August 2007 Newsletter: Making Fear of the Unknown Work For You). And I have always insisted that most of those who hit the big times, who succeeded, first hit plenty of ice patches, failed, and looked as though they might never make it. As examples I've given Lincoln, Edison, Mandela, to name only a few. When they were at the bottom of their deepest pits, or on their greatest and most overwhelming or frightening or apparently insurmountable ice patch, they essentially told themselves to carry on. They reminded themselves how much they believed in their quest. They straightened their shoulders, lifted their chin and took the next step, even when they didn't know whether that next step would get them to the other side of the ice patch, or would merely land them in more deep water.

This is called persistence. This is called having a mission. This is called having a meaning in your life (see also my June 2006 Newsletter: Finding A Meaning For Your Life). And as we sit back and think about those attitudes and mid-sets, let's not forget that just about every single success story you have ever heard of follows a series of set-backs, rejections, failures, and other difficulties. When we hear about the successful person, he has just jumped out of nowhere and become a household word, so we tend to assume they were an overnight success story. Not so.

They had to work for it. They had to put into practice that business about believing in their quest, their purpose, their mission, their meaning. And they had to believe in themselves. Sometimes, as in the case of Lincoln and Edison, they just ran into failure after failure (the former simply could not get elected to the different posts he wanted, at least not the first time, and the latter kept inventing light bulbs that did not work), and other times, as in the case of Nelson Mandela and his vision of an apartheid-free South Africa, his plans got put on the back burner while he spent decades in jail.

Ok, you say, but what about people who just live regular lives? I'll tell you a story about a woman who lived a regular life. A bunch of kids, no money, divorced, out of work, but she kept doing what she believed in, and wrote stuff on café tables. Nobody wanted it either, when she shopped it around, she just kept running into brick walls: personal, emotional, financial, and then literary. Until finally one publisher did believe in her story. And the rest of the Harry Potter saga is history.

Can you believe in yourself? And in what you are doing? This will help get you across the patch of ice. I promise.