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Thursday, December 17, 2009

"You've Got a Bad Attitude!"

I love it when I hear those words. For three reasons.

1. It is condescending and attack speech.

2. It reminds me of me.

3. But the most important reason I love to hear those words is...absolutely nobody knows precisely how to do that. Just how do you go about changing an attitude?

I use this site as a teaching tool. That's what this site is for. This is the blueprint for changing the way you see the world, for changing your attitude...drum roll please...


So when I hear someone tell somebody to "change their attitude" it is always done in a one up and diminishing style. It is a put down. And because it is delivered in a nasty fashion, it is never meant to actually help. It is, even if true, often an insult. Almost always. And even if the statement is delivered in a genuine way, I've never heard anyone deliver the recipe for just how an attitude is actually changed. And if they try, it is usually some vague, superficial explanation that does nothing for the listener.

So I'd like to say this. This site is about changing your attitude. We teach you how to do that. It takes willingness, understanding, commitment, and time. It's worth it. It will change your life.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Is Life Fair?

How many times have you heard people say that life isn't fair? Hundreds, perhaps thousands of times? This is a commonly held belief that might very well not be true.

When I hear people say that life isn't fair, I translate this to mean, "life hasn't been fair to me." This is "victimology" thinking. Very often, those people have acquired a belief system that accepts life as unfair and thus true. In some cases, it might very well appear to be true. If you were born to drug dealing or abusive parents, life might not appear fair at all.

Until you gain conscious understanding.

So let me make a bold statement. A counter belief that might be true. At the point you recognize that all things are not created equal, life gets exceedingly fair. In fact, perfectly fair. That is my belief system. Life then is brutally fair.

As we become emotionally free, we recognize that we were all trained and raised differently. What we don't have is an understanding of how all others were raised. Rarely do we spend enough time with any one individual to get clear understanding. At best all we usually see are the symptoms of a fearful ego. And in that insane, assumptive style of ours, we label people. We call them mean spirited, or arrogant, maybe impatient. We label their symptoms. We were taught this by others. It was accepted as true. We believe that we are divinely guided and that we alone are gifted enough to see these things and judge others. Just as we were instructed.

Yet were we able to spend enough time listening to people, we might get a clear understanding of others. We begin to recognize that in actuality, we know very little about others. All we really know is what two parents taught us. If that. That's it. Hardly a consensus with which to "judge" the world and label all the people in it with little or no understanding. Yet it happens all the time.

As we become emotionally free and practice rigorous honesty, we begin to see that open and deep communication is the only way to arrive at real understanding. We accept that we often don't have a clue why others behave as they do. We seek understanding. We no longer seek to be understood. We participate and we care. We recognize that our insane egos diminish and hurt others, that we get angry at the most ridiculous provocations, and that we no longer need to launch unproductive and diminishing counter attacks when our ego tells us to.

Whenever I feel a negative emotion, I ask, "what is wrong with me?" And when I do, I generally uncover the cause. I go no further. I don't need to. The problem is always me and how I see the world. I gain acceptance and it works. Perfectly. Fairly.

As we practice real emotional freedom, we no longer seek to be victims or look for sympathy. We gain acceptance. We begin to see the world as a very fair place. In fact we increasingly find it very fair. The way we see the world begins to be reflected back upon us. As we treat others with love, compassion, and understanding those emotions get returned to us. That is fair. And when we treat others badly, at the behest of our fear driven egos, anger and rejection get returned to us. That seems very fair as well.

When we hear others complain that life isn't fair, we simply know that they have not learned the lesson that we have. They respond to adversity like victims, whining and justifying their behavior. Looking for sympathetic ears. The problem with that thinking, even if it's true, is that there is no solution or positive outcome. Nothing changes. People simply get mired in self pity as they find more and more people willing to be sympathetic-rarely telling them what they NEED to hear-simply reciting what they WANT to hear. We seek solutions.

Today we see the world as a very fair place. We are willing to examine our faulty belief systems and at the very least, extend some love, compassion, and understanding to others. We are trying something new and we are getting different results. And if we weren't after different results, then we wouldn't be here seeking emotional freedom, would we?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

A Deer Story

This is a story about assumptions, imprinting and belief systems, and the "egoic" insanity of men.

It involves love, death, anger, grief, and sorrow. The main character in this story is a deer. It is a true story.

I have a very kind and compassionate friend who we in the law enforcement biz referred to as a "fish cop." A Fish and Game officer. He lives in central Idaho. He and his wife have a lovely place built on a mountain, remote, only in that there are no neighbors close by.

A few years before his retirement, my friend happened to come upon an orphaned baby deer, a buck. Having no outlet or solution for baby deer found in such a predicament, my friend and lover of animals, decided to raise this deer. Perhaps one day they would set it free. They fed this deer from a bottle and they loved him. In return the deer loved them back. The buck grew up and eventually would walk right into their home and nuzzle them, begging for attention- to be petted or scratched. They loved this animal like a member of their own family. The deer would tease my friend's wife, eating the flowers she had planted around their home, ignoring numerous scoldings like a rebellious teenager.

Now this deer was raised by loving human beings. And in return, it loved human beings. It was a male deer which meant it had antlers. Sharp antlers.

Now at some point, my friend was forced to free this deer as a young adult. Or perhaps this deer simply responded to the DNA code that said it was time to go find female deer and wandered off.

The deer found a drainage to the north. A valley inhabited by people. So it was, that amidst doing the daily activities of deer, it would seek out human beings for petting and nuzzling. It loved human beings and human beings represented love. And because it loved, it did not fear human beings like normal deer do.

I began to read the accounts of this crazed deer in the local paper. People and tourists being "attacked" by a buck. Fearful people phoning in frantic complaints of some crazed deer that they thought must be rabid or retarded. But was most certainly "dangerous."

The best solution that Fish and Game employees could come up with was to shoot and kill this deer. These were the friends and co-workers of my retired friend. They showed no compassion or mercy for the deer, justifying that killing this deer was the best solution for a former employee who knew the rules. The rules that men like they had created. Rules like don't feed and raise wild animals. And so they did.

My friend, grief stricken and angry, took out a giant ad in the local newspaper explaining what had happened. I read that ad. It would be many years before I fully examined that event. He and his wife loved that deer like a member of their family. They wished they had been consulted, there were more humane solutions.

A deer had been imprinted with love. Love is letting go of fear. It had acquired a belief system that did not fear human beings and found humans as a source of joy. It had a belief system that made the assumption that human beings were kind and friendly.

Human beings also have a belief system. They have been imprinted with a belief system that says deer always run away from human beings. Deer must fear men. And so it was that they did not know, nor could they comprehend or understand that this deer was different. They ASSUMED it was crazy or rabid. Deer do not behave that way. And if in fact love is letting go of fear, then hate must mean clinging to fear. So it was, that they killed it. And the people who killed that deer did so believing that that was the only solution. That the act was justified and necessary. They "believed" what they did was proper and that this story is a perfect example of why we tell the general public not to feed or raise wild animals. In fact, some of the Fish and Game officers might have even felt victimized themselves.

This story illustrates perfectly our human and fallible inability to understand anything that deviates from our accepted belief systems. Rather than seek understanding or tolerance, we fear something instead and thus we kill it. We make assumptions. We then justify our actions as appropriate and blame those that "broke the rules" and our fragile egos are satisfied that we did the "right" thing. We rarely seek to understand. We always seek to be understood.

And if a man came, a man who offered unconditional love to all men, we would not understand such a deviation. We would fear such a man. Our established leaders would fear his informal leadership, his deviation from the egoic beliefs of men, his capacity to love all unconditionally. They would be jealous of all the attention, praise, and following that such a man would generate and receive. And those with power, would exercise that power, and act to eliminate such a threat.

It was true 2000 years ago and unfortunately (forgive the assumption) it would occur the very same way today. We have evolved greatly in an inventive and materialistic sense. And yet, I see very little evidence that we have evolved in any emotional way. Sometimes, you can learn a lot about yourself from something as simple as a deer.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Hostage Takers

What exactly is a hostage taker?

A hostage taker is a person that is willing to exploit others for their own selfish needs. For our purposes we will limit our discussion to emotional needs. Hostage takers employ various deceptions and strategies but their ultimate goal is to get what they want and very often, that means taking something from you. Since they know that ultimately they are using others, a key part of their strategy is never disclosing that agenda. If caught, to avoid shame and embarrassment, they will invent any number of face saving justifications and rationalizations.

Hostage takers are controlling people. Completely fear driven, they are incapable of self scrutiny. They will often cast blame or even invent some seemingly palatable excuse for their behavior. Their agenda is all that matters. Over time, that agenda slowly gets revealed. And eventually, the game must end. The hostage taker must go find another hostage. That's what hostage takers do. The hostage is freed.

The hostage taking game is the only losing game in town. The hostage taker will always lose. All that changes for them- are the hostages. The hostages lose because they have invested time in their deceptive captors until they are fully exposed. Once freed, they are no longer forced to be hostages.

In as much as some bank customer does not want to be a hostage, people willing to love and be loved back, do not want to be hostages either. Given an opportunity to escape, hostages do not rush back to their captors to get some more threatening and diminishing behavior or some more captivity.

To do that would be insane.

We cannot completely escape the dangers of hostage takers, they dwell among us. As long as we yearn to love and be loved we accept that risk. We learn and we move on. We accept our roles as unwitting victims in as much as we simply can't avoid all of the deceptive moves of the hostage takers. We have choices and to those unwitting hostages here's a piece of advice.

First of all, prefer hostages to hostage takers. And,

Next time you drive to the bank and you spot an idling car out front with a nervous guy sitting behind the wheel, take note. It might be time to use the drive up window or find another bank.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Seek First to Understand, Then Be Understood

Sometimes, it is hard to stay emotionally balanced in the workplace, particularly when those around you are emotionally unbalanced. Often for reasons not entirely known to us-which lead in turn- to situations that surprise us. Unfortunately our co-workers simply occupy the space we are desperately trying to leave behind. That space where actions are ruled by fear and ego.

Sometimes we find ourselves in inescapable situations. When this happens, it is time to pause and reflect. What did we do to find ourselves here? What is our role in this situation?

We always have a role. When someone is angry with us, they have a belief. A belief about us which is built upon fear and ego. They feel threatened. It is very real to them, therefore it is true. That emotional disturbance and thus belief that they have acquired is so real to them that they are willing to engage in a confrontation over the seemingly smallest of transgressions. They are simply reflecting who they are. And as always, that has nothing to do with us, as long as we are doing what we are supposed to do.

The answer is love.

Sometimes these insignificant incidents in and of themselves are simply catalysts- and as we roll the tape back we perceive our behavior in an "out of body" type of honest scrutiny. What did I do, prior to this catalyst or triggering event, that brought about this attack? Why did a torpedo land in the water?

So we set about examining our actions and as we do, we see that our behavior prior to the triggering event, is what really turned today's minor transgression into a big deal. Sometimes we must accept that we have done a poor job. Other times, that torpedo headed our way will completely baffle us. If you are baffled- play the tape back. You will find the answer. There is ALWAYS cause and effect. It is a useless exercise trying to egoically justify your position. In fact, it matters not whether you are right or not. It does not matter whether your co-worker is right or wrong. What matters is finding a solution. Let the torpedo go harmlessly by. That is the only useful course of action.

We want to introduce ourselves as an emotionally evolved adult when these things happen.

There is only one means to a solution and it must occur quickly. Communication, real communication, in a non threatening, non diminishing fashion. We are not seeking to "one up" those around us and satisfy our fear riddled and fragile egos. We are aware of our egos and they are in check. Unchecked, our ego would create losers. We are interested in finding a win-win for our temporary adversaries and ourselves. Win win solutions occur when real communication is employed. And every time we approach a problem with that goal and a solution in mind, we will find one. We cannot control our exterior world, nor can we make our opponents scrutinize their actions, but we can take responsibility for our role in a disagreement. With mutually honest and non diminishing communication, the solution will appear.

Sometimes, that solution will be mutually agreed upon. Sometimes it won't. But it's non acceptance cannot be our doing. We must always do our best to accept that the fears of others are very real to them. We always carry the olive branch. We are not diminished by being kind and respectful of others. And sometimes we must terminate our relationship with them because we accept and love them. That too, is a solution. That is the space we find ourselves in.

When we seek to understand others first, we examine ourselves and then we listen. What others say will have some merit, there will be some assumptions, judgments, and thus conclusions, and some of that will be completely in err or poor process. Then we seek to be understood. Often we find that we have made the same mistakes. As we employ truthful and respectful communication we learn that we all have unfounded fears and that we often make assumptions and jump to conclusions based on incomplete and inaccurate information. Fear and ego, our old enemies, remain the source of all conflict. In the end, it is so un neccessary that we find it a little embarrassing.

Like love, you must possess understanding and be willing to give it away before you can receive it. That's how it is for us. Diminishing and attack behavior with assumptions, judgments, and hastily drawn conclusions are the symptoms of fear and ego. Those behaviors represent the bondage of the human ego of those who act quickly and do not seek to understand.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Want Different Results? Try Doing Something Different

In the fall of 2007, I set about cleaning up my life and participating in it again. I didn't just settle for taking responsibility for my own actions and cleaning it up, I made a commitment to personal excellence. To becoming a loving and forgiving person.

But true love and forgiveness come from examining yourself. There is no substitute and as I grew over that two year period, I almost forgot one vital thing.


I did the deal. I hurt, I accepted who I was, and most importantly- I vowed never to hurt or diminish anyone again. I committed to the idea of becoming the best person I had ever been.

Yet the people around me did not. They continued to behave in their same old fear driven and unconscious ways. They simply refuse to take their game to the next level. It's not that they won't or that they can't, they are simply unaware, unconscious. They have acquired beliefs, their own brand of truth- which has no universal nor infallible application. And as I left the old me behind, I am forced to leave those people I knew back then behind. Not because I don't love them, but because I have to accept that they are entitled to live in whatever state of consciousness they choose.

Such are the men that crucified Jesus. Ask any one of those "conscious souls" and I'll bet they thought that carrying out that sentence was right at that moment in time. They had a belief. They feared what would happen to them if they did not carry out that sentence-perhaps they would find themselves hanging from a cross. Fast forward a couple thousand years and find 1942 Americans putting Japanese Americans- citizens- in camps. In fact, to this day, many of those folks living in the 40's adamantly defend those actions. Yet, in our latest war on terror...we didn't go harvest every Islamic Fundamentalist, Muslim, or Middle Eastern son and daughter and imprison them, did we?

So are we always right? Were we right in 1942 or were we right in 2001? Ponder the implications. Flawed and fear driven human belief systems, a collective ego, making decisions.

The people in my life- I owe them everything. Without them, I am nothing. I need only look at them to remind myself of what it used to be like. And I am humbled that I was given this gift. I want to make one thing perfectly clear. I just stumbled into a new realm.

If you want different results, you must do something drastically different. And in the fall of 2007, I wanted drastic change. I was willing to do whatever it takes. Eliminating people from your life that are diminishing or hurtful. Because loving them should not be painful. Loving yourself requires the ability to leave people behind that don't really love you. Generally through their own incapacity to see beyond their fears and wants.

You see, love is an abstract concept. It is easiest to describe what it isn't-rather than what it is. Love is not self seeking. Love is not about material possessions or wanting. It is not about pointing out flaws or belittling people. It is not about sitting with your girlfriends and throwing a pity party and behaving like victims. Talking about and hurting others. It is not about being critical, judgmental, or isolating people we think we don't like. Love is none of those things. In fact love is the opposite of all those things.

Love takes all comers. It is inclusionary rather than exclusionary. It is about patience, tolerance, and understanding. It is about ridding the chains of that subconscious ego of yours and loving anyone. Absolutely anyone and wanting the very best for them. You can't receive love until you become willing to give love. It is never about what you get- it is always about what you give and give first.

There was a time when I did not understand that. I thought it was about getting something for me. Really.

And if you find yourself at the end of a string of failed relationships, or surrounded by a bunch of people who don't really care too much for you, then it's time to examine yourself. What do you bring to the party? And if that answer is "not much" it might be time to try something different and work toward a different result.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Do You Have Relationships or Take Hostages?

Having been single, more or less, for the last couple of years I began to ponder an interesting question. Do I engage in relationships or do I take emotional hostages?

You can only ask this question of yourself after you have applied rigorous and unmerciful honesty to your life and actions. If you are unable to examine your actions, then you cannot possibly know the answer. It's a garbage in, garbage out, data retrieval system.

So what is the difference between having a relationship and taking a hostage?

I had to define that answer for myself. Since all relationships tend to have sex, power, and control as key elements it would make sense that a 50-50 balance of those three items would be evident in a healthy, committed, relationship. As I mulled over my relationships, they failed that test. I was unable in most cases to truthfully say that I had even defined those items let alone made a conscious effort to blend them fairly.

Another test I gave myself when evaluating relationships was to ask myself, "Was I fear driven, egoically challenged, and simply unconscious?" Clearly, the more fear driven an individual is, the more this will manifest itself in control. Controlling people tend to make emotional withdrawals from their partners. Deposits are slim. I faired a lot better when I asked myself this question, but I still couldn't give myself a passing grade.

The last question I asked was whether or not I had been fair. Whether I had been judgmental, indifferent, insensitive, to my partner's feelings. I still couldn't give myself a passing grade. As I mulled over my relationship history it was clear to me. In some instances, my partners were even more effective hostage takers than I was. In fact within my immediate family I could apply many of these principles.

Ugh. In the end, I had to admit that I have been a hostage taker.

There are two things you can do when examining yourself. You can ignore the results of this very personal test and continue to behave selfishly. Or you can say, "Ya know what, I have been a miserable partner. I am going to make a commitment to balance this, to communicate effectively, and find someone wiling to do the same thing." Agreeing to do this, communicating your expectations in some verbal contract, seems very rational. Yet, how many people do this?

Finding someone willing to do this has been a very difficult task. In fact, most potential partners can't even get to the first step. They are still mired in that victim philosophy that all of their failed relationships are their partner's fault. Applying rigorous honesty and self examination is just not something they do. Their fear driven egos simply won't allow it. They are just unconscious and can't hold them accountable for something they simply don't know or understand.

Healthy relationships or hostage taking incidents come in various shapes and sizes with an unlimited number of variables and manipulations. Hostage takers are completely self absorbed, selfish, and they simply don't understand why their hostages can't accede to their demands. Apply the rigorous honesty test to yourself and your relationships and I think you will find the results somewhat surprising.

Monday, November 16, 2009

"Happiness is not having what you want, it's wanting what you already have"

I snitched this quote. I liked it.

So often, the incessant wanting that is ingrained in us-is clearly the result of our culture. Advertising and marketing techniques are designed to create a need in us. It bombards us from every angle. We begin to covet what others have. A bigger house, another car or truck, maybe a boat or a camp trailer. Maybe it's braces for the kids or cosmetic surgery. A trip to France.

In fact some people are so obsessed with wanting that they are willing to run over and hurt those people they see as obstacles or threats; people standing between them and what it is they covet.

So within that quote is the idea of gratitude. Instead of creating all that emotional wanting and frustration for the things that we don't have- we become grateful for the things we do have. We learn to appreciate them and not take them for granted. And because we are grateful, we do not feel jealous or frustrated. Gratitude is serene...wanting... ah not so much.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Imprinting Fear and Imposing Punishment

I cannot overstate what I am about to write here. Aside from your all encompassing ego, fear and punishment are the greatest barriers to achieving any kind of useful communication or healthy relationships. In fact, your fears will work hard to destroy the process. It will happen if you don't recognize it. And baby, it happens all the time.

Think of it like this. We have all seen animals, dogs and horses come to mind, that behave in odd ways. The great D. Wayne Lucas (thoroughbred horse racing trainer) says that as juveniles-some horses act out or were improperly "imprinted." They rear at the starting gate, get into race trouble, or some times they find a way to lose. Very often that behavior never changes. So what does he mean by "imprinting?"

Imprinting is a reference to the psychological memory of the horse. And don't think for a second that only applies to horses.

As children, we are taught very much like animals by our parents. When we are good, we are showered with love and kindness. If we do not meet our parents' expectations we are disciplined or punished. Punishment does not feel good and it comes at varying levels. At the low range, it might be as simple as asking us to do something over or behave differently in some firm sort of way. At the other extreme, we may be subjected to actual physical abuse and unfortunately that sometimes can lead to serious injury or death.

It is the seriousness of our punishment that we receive as children that is imprinted on us.

Some 97% of all prison inmates report being abused as children. Serious and damaging abuse. And yet, we all accept that abuse is not an excuse for a life of crime, don't we?

Let's examine some common punishments. There are the soft non threatening methods, such as asking a child to do something over. There are the more serious forms of punishment. Scolding, belittling, calling children names, lazy and worthless. Comparing their behavior to the good siblings, the "successful" ones. Public shame and embarrassment in front of others. Abandonment and rejection. Isolation. Grounding. Perhaps it manifests itself in anger, and angry scoldings are coupled with physical pain. Spankings, using belts, cords, or coat hangers are meted out. Sometimes we are slapped. Sometimes we are burned or locked into closets. Sometimes this abuse is so severe that it is carried out in a regular or ritualized fashion. Some children are subjected to sexual abuse with no escape.

Punishment then becomes key to our imprinting. We are imprinted with psychological and emotional pain when we "act" badly. And we learn quickly to avoid pain and punishment. In fact we will go to tremendous lengths to avoid feeling that pain. We have been imprinted that punishment is bad. We never forget. And just like that young horse, those fears that led to our punishment get pushed into the subconscious for the rest of our lives. We are afraid that all of those nasty things that our parents or teachers taught us were true. We don't want others to see them. So we hide them. From everybody and ourselves. Yet we still act out.

So we march our imprinted selves out into the world with all of those hidden fears. We try to have relationships with others but they fail. We go to great lengths to avoid punishment. We lie, we cheat, we refuse to communicate, and we treat ourselves and others badly. We are as critical of others as our teachers were to us. We rationalize, justify, and reject responsibility. We judge and we laugh at people making them feel bad so that we can feel better. We are doing precisely what was taught to us. We fear punishment or criticism. And admitting, that we are all fear driven creatures, is fearful in itself. We don't want to expose ourselves and be condemned for that. Or be called whiners or babies.

But most often, what we never do-is get honest with ourselves. We fail to understand that all of those deep seated fears are causing us to not communicate, to withdraw. We refuse to self examine. We don't tell anyone about that stuff. But you know what? That never works, and ultimately, all that fear and frustration spill over. We get angry, hostile, and we think everyone else is behaving badly. We blame the ones we love. Very often, if not always- because of the imprinting we received. Our experience.

That is our baggage. And suppressing it or denying it's existence damages our relationships. We are doomed to keep repeating the same behavior over and over again until one day when we get conscious. We get the courage to accept that it is time to start examining ourselves instead of everyone else. If that day comes for you, it is a day of beauty and discovery.

We can begin to see how ritualized hatred and abuse can spawn somebody that commits rape or murder. We can begin to see why a child of incest or abuse does not trust men and has a series of failed relationships and divorce. We can see why a child that could never do anything right, someone that was labeled and scolded harshly, became angry and hostile. These things are not mysteries. They do not require your condemnation or hate. We don't have to hate these things together to understand them. Instead we work on repairing them.

Imprinting fear and avoiding punishment are real. They have great cause and effect in all of us- every day in our lives. Refusing to acknowledge fear will not make it better or cause it to go away. Or make your relationships better. It simply doesn't work that way.

There is only one solution. You must recognize how fear is manifesting itself in your relationships, behavior, and actions. Do you take it personally when someone cuts you off in traffic? Do you get angry when a mother refuses to take her screaming child out of an event where people are trying to listen? On an airplane? Do you get upset because your girlfriend refuses to discipline her children? Ultimately, it is your fear and thus your perceptions of those events that cause your emotional disturbance. It has nothing to do with anyone else. It never does.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Your Subconcious Mind Runs the Show

What I am about to write here is completely factual, guaranteed. Only the unconscious will think that what I write here is an opinion. They will think that what I am writing is insane. And that's ok. I am not writing this for those people.

I am writing this for those that are beginning to understand that their unconscious or subconscious minds really dictate ALL of their behavior, the behavior which is not subject to control by the exterior world. This manifests itself in the now and is transmitted by your conscious self.


Think of it this way. Your subconscious mind is the President and your mouth and actions are your Press Secretary- your conscious, visible self. The one that utters whatever responses and decisions that you are able to muster up in your daily life-that press conference that goes on all day with your wife, kids, boss, friends.

Make no mistake about it. The President is in charge of you and he has always been- ever since you began acquiring belief systems and learned what fear was. But all those fears the President has are invisible. They represent weakness and so they are not disclosed to the exterior world.

The President is at the very core of all of your conscious decision making. It tells the Press Secretary what to say. The President is driven by fear and ego. And as long as the exterior world treats the Press Secretary nicely and doesn't threaten the President's fears and ego, everyone gets along nicely.

It all goes to hell in a hand basket when people begin questioning the Press Secretary. It gets really bad for the President when the Press Secretary gets caught behaving badly or lying. At that point, the President's fear and ego are in jeopardy. The President steps in for damage control. The President steps in and rationalizes, justifies, claims it is a victim, counterattacks, or does any number of insane things to avoid taking responsibility.

Why does it do that? Why do we behave that way? We are trying to escape the pain and consequences of punishment. (unconscious folks will deny all of this)

Very simply, as children we learned that punishment meant abandonment, embarrassment, exclusion, belittlement, hostility, and even beatings. How about kids subjected to ritualized abuse, incest, or rape? There is no escape in some instances. Without a spiritual cure, or a rescuing adult, why is it so hard to fathom why addicts become addicts and alcoholics become alcoholics? Isn't that the quickest means of escaping emotional fear and pain, of escaping punishment? For many, it is.

Your subconscious self says, "Whoa-we don't like this pain stuff. Make note to self, avoid punishment at all costs." And we march that belief system into the world, sometimes carrying it to the grave. And we also make another mental note. That note goes like this. "If I suffer all this emotional and physical pain at the hands of those who purportedly love me, what am I going to get from those who don't?"

The harsher the punishment, the more we avoid it. Stands to reason, doesn't it? Increasing the severity of punishment on us and placing loftier expectations-the bigger this barrier becomes.

That is why virtually all behavior is fear driven. That is why alcoholics become alcoholics and drug addicts become drug addicts. They are escaping emotional pain with the quickest and easiest solution they can find.

When you accept the existence of your fear driven subconscious mind, you begin to realize just how silly and insane a lot of our behavior is. You can take steps to remedy it. You will begin to notice just how insane the exterior world is. People trying to impose their subconscious fears on their children, their spouses, their loved ones. Conversations at work. A lot of folks like to think that they alone have decided how the world should operate and the only fears that matter are the ones- that they alone possess.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Gratitude and the Power of Now, Emotional Penicillin

Gratitude is a fascinating and rare emotion. It's cousin, humility, is found in even shorter supply. When you blend gratitude with humility, whatever your scale in life might be, you will find yourself with a powerful emotional anecdote.

I once heard a speaker say that his short term depression was brought about by an over active mind that required one precursor-which was boredom. The other three ingredients for his short term depression were not having someone to love, having nothing useful to do, and having nothing to look forward to.

What he said stopped me dead in my tracks. I did not hear another word he said for 15 minutes. Why? Because what he said was absolutely true for me. And as I recalled every recent fit of depression, I found the boredom precursor and at least two of those three ingredients absent in my life as I fought through those fits of depression.

Over the next six months, until it became easily recognizable, the same pattern repeated itself. There were additional stressers at times, a death here and there, problems with money and my exterior world, deadlines and other events that I cannot control.

What I was able to do in those 6 months became my remedy for overcoming depression. I can truthfully admit that I very rarely feel the long episodes of depression that I use to endure. They are fleeting now, unmasked quickly by a conscious mind.

Now there are dietary cures, key nutritional deficiencies for sure. Alcohol is clearly a major obstacle that brings about depression. Having taken care of those items, I focused on and found a solution.

It was gratitude and the power of now, courtesy of Eckhart Tolle. It doesn't matter what order you apply those two things. I have used gratitude for small fits of depression. For depression accompanied by extreme stressful events, I add the POWER of now. This is how I do it.

Whenever I find myself feeling fearful, or self pitying, when I am bored and missing those key ingredients that are causing my depression, I focus on gratitude. Grateful for the things that are going well in my life. Things such as a little money, shelter, clothing, food, and transportation. I am grateful for my health and my friends. I am grateful for the simplest pleasures. A television, the neighbors cat purring along side me, and I am grateful for a loving God. I also know that my PERCEPTION and WILL create my reality- which then becomes my truth. Gratitude then becomes the basis for the ultimate power of positive thinking. Things start to turn around immediately.

If I have events in my life that are causing me a great deal of fear and anxiety, I go one step further. In addition to gratitude, I focus on right NOW.

Simply stated, my mind can only conjure up fear from two sources. One is the past-whether it was mistakes I've made or just circumstances that baffled me. The other source is the future. Fear of the future, disease, death of loved ones, or perhaps my own death. Perhaps it is a job interview or something as simple as a speaking engagement or a party that I don't want to attend but must.

If I know remorse comes from my past thoughts, and anxiety comes from my thoughts of the future- I simply eliminate those two sources. I narrow my focus to the present moment. Right now, I am writing, typing, and trying to convey how this thought process works. And because that is all that I am focused on NOW...I am not thinking about something in my past that I screwed up, nor am I worrying about some future event going awry.

This works.

Gratitude and a little humility. If the depression is significant enough, I call on the Power of Now. And sooner, rather than later, I am centered and focused on the good things in my life. My anxiety and depression are lifted. Emotional penicillin for the mind.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

When Familiarity Breeds Contempt

I have a very good friend who is extremely intuitive and emotionally aware. I like to talk to him about his perceptions on life because he is very aware of the insanity of human beings.

I ran a couple of scenarios by him that had just occurred to me. In both of these scenarios, I was simply trying to live my life and be a good human being. In both these scenarios, the people that I love the most launched counter attacks. Neither of those counter attacks had their desired effect.

In one, I simply withdrew. In the other, I told my would be attacker, that it was ok-rather than fall on a sword and act like a victim and launch a new "counter counter" attack.

And so I found myself asking my intuitive friend, just why it is that the people who profess to love us the most-treat us the worst sometimes.

And once again, I heard those familiar words from my intuitive friend. It had nothing to do with you. It never does.

The people most familiar with us, take far greater emotional liberty with us. Often they transfer their emotional state onto us over the most simple and benign things. If in fact you point out that out to them, they will will entrench themselves in a defensive posture, pleading their case and further entrenching themselves in that faulty "victim" logic. People take everything personally you see, they want and thus they believe-that somehow you have victimized them. They want you to understand that. To believe as they do.

Thus you have a situation wherein one party has assumed a victim role. You are thus feeling like a victim as they launch their "how could you do that to me?" victim attack on you. For you to respond to that in some emotional continuum is insane.

Evaluate the situation honestly. If you are in fact partially to blame, make it as right as you can without diminishing others. Bestow the love you would like to receive even as they diminish you.

That is very hard to do. Sometimes the best we can do is withdraw and not cause any further damage or refuse to participate. Sometimes, we can love those even as they are transferring all of their negative emotions toward us.

Unconditional love is a commitment to love. It requires the dissolving of old victim belief systems and an understanding that people are just trying to live their lives. It is never personal, even when it is delivered by those who are most familiar with us.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Cleaning Up Your Side of the Street

For most of my adult life as a public servant, I helped people sort out their personal lives. Solve problems as "Sully" used to say on "Third Watch." Problems like domestic violence, child abuse, runaway kids.

It's hard to do that sort of thing without witnessing a couple of common denominators over and over again in thousands of dysfunctional relationships. Here then are my observations.

The vast majority of people I know are simply unconscious. They adhere to a belief system and an ego that believes it is right and rarely do they re-think their positions, if ever. Thus they are willing to engage in judgmental and one up behavior as they try to impose those beliefs on others. I was one of those minions.

Family dysfunction can only be lessened when one of the parties in a dysfunctional relationship terminate their role. This usually occurred after some major catalyst. Outside intervention by counseling, family, or the police/legal system rarely did the trick by itself.

The degree or severity of the problem was usually always proportionate to the degree of dysfunction existing among the parties (usually adult) involved. Children of dysfunctional adults tend to cope in several ways ranging from- withdrawing (perhaps completely) and becoming submissive or lacking self esteem; to anger, rebelling, or running away; to getting involved in premature relationships (looking for replacement love) and/or failing to complete school. Many choose the one catch all solution-alcohol or drug abuse.

The children of dysfunctional adults are hostages. They are powerless to intervene and they don't know the solution. They cope somehow.

The beautiful part of policing is that you see these manifestations in all of their emotional glory or aftermath. You are not a licensed counselor espousing theory with two calm and rational adults in some controlled office environment with a few textbooks and a degree hanging on the wall.

I was one of the lucky ones. I figured all of this out. My working with dysfunctional people helped me figure out my own dysfunction. I know where it comes from and why. The problem, just like my problem on the street, was that you cannot get the unconscious participants to self examine. You have no control over your exterior world. And if by some miracle, you sort it out, all that you can do is take responsibility for your role in all of those relationships. Make amends or as some of us call it, "clean up your side of the street."

I've been putting the finishing touches on that this past month. My journey and my healing process are just about over. I am going through my most difficult relationships, and one by one, I am taking responsibility for my role in those and "putting them to sleep."

This is the most operative thing I can say here. Under no circumstances, can you attach culpability for those dysfunctional acts committed by those you are making amends with. You will run into a wall of unconscious denial. This is a lonely path. Your purpose is not to re-ignite the same old dysfunctional behavior. To do so, would be complete failure. Your purpose is to recognize that part of your behavior that was wrong, make no excuses for it or point out someone elses's role, and accept responsibility for it.

This is an undeniable part of attaining real emotional healing. It is not easy. Some of the people we hurt or damaged will not be responding with open arms. And that's ok. In fact, that is a part of the reason we had dysfunctional relationships with them to begin with.

Cleaning up your side of the street is completely selfish. It has nothing to do with healing those we damaged as much as it has everything to do with healing ourselves.

The epilogue on all of this is that we must be realistic. People can harbor and ultimately die clinging to all of those faulty beliefs. They may not have an ounce of forgiveness in them and that too, is ok. Sometimes the best we can do is try not to engage in any more dysfunctional behavior. Often I find myself simply withdrawing from a relationship when I have tried communication and it has failed. That has occurred several times. You simply can't expect conscious behavior, open communication, or instant credibility in a relationship that you have helped damage. Credibility in those situations is often beyond repair and irretrievable.

Manage your expectations and do the deal. Clean up your side of the street.

Friday, October 9, 2009

"Oh... So Very Rare"

I have heard two different versions of the story I'm about to tell. It is not original and if I could give credit where credit is due I certainly would. It is a wonderful story and it fully captures the essence of what real emotional freedom and happiness are all about. I hope I tell it in a way that does the story justice.

In fact, I thought of this story when I heard the wife of a famous hotelier and casino owner being interviewed on a television program once. She said that her husband believed in a "rich kind of freedom as opposed to a poor kind of freedom."

Unfortunately, emotional freedom, does not come in those labeled varieties. It is doubtful she would understand this. At any rate, our story...

Many years ago there was a man named Tom who stumbled onto a quaint Mexican village situated on the gulf of Mexico. He loved the village and it's friendly people. He loved the sun and he loved to fish. At night he would eat and laugh with friends, sing and dance until the wee hours of the morning. Life here was simple. It was fun. He could fish during the day and sell his catch at the market and make enough money to enjoy his life. And so this was what he chose to do.

A year or so after he settled into the village, a friend from the United States came to visit. He was a businessman. He loved to fish as well. Tom invited his old friend to accompany him fishing.

They rowed out to a secret spot about a mile off shore. There in Tom's secret spot, in only an hour or two, they caught three giant yellow fin tuna. They returned to the little village's marina and sold the catch for enough money to live and enjoy Tom's adopted lifestyle comfortably for a week. The man's friend was overwhelmed at how little time they had spent fishing and just how far the money would go.

Tom's friend had an idea. He said, "Tom, I've got an idea. Why don't you get a bigger boat, one that will hold more fish? That way you could catch more fish and make more money."

Tom replied, "Yes and then what?"

"Well, the boat would have a motor, you could get to your spot faster, catch more fish and make more money."

Tom replied, "Yes and then what?"

"Then you could buy more boats, hire employees and catch more fish, and make even more money!"

Tom replied, Wow! And then what?" His friend said,

"Then you could buy the cannery and the market, avoid the middleman, and sell all of your own fish and make even more money!"

And Tom said, "Great and then what?"

"Well, then as you got older you could retire and live happily ever after!"

And Tom said, "That sounds fantastic-what would I do once I was retired?"

His friend pondered what Tom might do then. "Well he said, after you retire, you could sing and dance and be happy with all of your friends."

Tom thought for a moment and replied, "I do not have the responsibility or the worry that comes with all of those things. My life is simple and carefree. I sing and dance and love my friends. That gives me great happiness and I enjoy my life just as it is now. Why should I work so hard to enjoy that which I have found, to try an attain a retirement goal that I have achieved already? That does not make much sense to me."

This is an excellent story that illustrates the gratitude of an emotionally free human being that has found happiness and is living his life exactly as he wants. Tom's friend is emblematic of the greed and wanting that is so much a part of our culture. Our culture covets those that forever want and seemingly acquire happiness and we are rarely satisfied even when we have plenty. Rarely do we express any gratitude as we go about our forever wanting lives. Think about that next time you are at a cocktail party or anywhere else (including work) for that matter. Listen for gratitude, I think you will find it, "oh... so very rare."

Monday, September 28, 2009

Awareness Spawns Love

Life long and/or long term and entrenched belief systems-are the most emotionally difficult belief systems to manage or make sense of. They are also the most difficult to change.

Predictably, those that we know the best, often behave in the most predictable ways. They do this because they cling to a belief system that they have accepted as true. They simply cannot see things any other way. In that sense, they are unconscious.

Belief systems are the product of an egoic need to justify ones behavior. The ego, self centered and fear driven, clings to these beliefs. In fact, fear and the self seeking symptoms that manifest themselves as resistance or control work well in many situations. You fear water damage to your house therefore you repair the roof. You fear your wife and kids stranded on a desolate highway so you buy a new family car. These fears whether real or imagined can be controlled to some extent and other than financial considerations, they may be manageable or acceptable. Their impact on others is minimal.

Where belief systems fail is in relationships. You simply cannot control how others think. And as simple as that sounds, we try and fail. So why do we try? We fear something in ourselves and so it is, we try to change or control beliefs and behaviors in someone else.

In fact, changing the way we see the world was the whole point of this blog. But I don't write here because I fear. I have already accepted that without universal consciousness and love, there can only be unconsciousness, ego, and hate. It is either/or-but it can't be both.

One only has to look at our entire history from the time of Cain and Able to the last murder or the last dead soldier. Our lack of emotional evolution is prima facia and without changing belief systems, we will continue repeating the same behavior and getting the same results. Makes sense doesn't it?

Do you like the results you are getting?

The best you can hope to accomplish is awareness in others. Even at that, raising awareness in others can be an impossible task. Even those that we love. Those bodies are already occupied by the belief systems and egoic needs of someone else. Even those with your DNA. But when you attempt to raise awareness, and fail, you must quit trying. Make that your new understanding.

Emotional freedom is only available for the willing. Those that want to improve relationships for themselves. Those willing to employ rigorous honesty and awareness for a level of love and understanding that they never knew existed.

Your capacity to love unconditionally can only be measured by your willingness to accept all people for who they are. Even those who would diminish you.

Today, we've crested a whole new level of consciousness and awareness. We have to accept the fact that the emotionally fearful will take hostages. They will continue to take emotional hostages as they try to control their exterior world and those around them. Forcing their will on others. Refusal and resistance to acceptance can only lead to negative emotional disturbances.

Willingness spawns awareness. Without awareness there is only fear. Awareness that others are free to live their lives as they see fit even as they try to impose their will on us is disengaging. We let it be and we accept it. Love is truly letting go of fear.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Zombie Nation

True consciousness did not occur until I was halfway through my 46th year. That's a fact. Tolle's book, "A New Earth" described that unconsciousness perfectly. I was completely hostage to a self centered- false sense of who I thought I was or how I wanted the world to see me.

I'd normally be ashamed to tell you that it took me 46 years-if in fact I did not know hundreds- perhaps thousands of people who are absolutely clueless. But I do know two that are not. Two out of a thousand. That will give you an idea of the size and scope of the problem.

The worst part of becoming conscious is seeing all of the unconsciousness that surrounds you. That's the bad part. You can't do a damn thing about unconsciousness for anyone else. Real emotional freedom, consciousness, is only available to those individuals who seek it and get it.

Imagine trying to tell a pig that if he had wings he could fly. The pig might look at you and think, "what an idiot, pigs don't have wings." And in fact, as he looks around the pig sty, he doesn't see one pig with wings nor has he ever. The pig is so entrenched in his belief that he dismisses you as completely insane. But in fact, this time the pig is correct. His belief is true. Pigs don't have wings.

But what if you told a human being that he was unconscious? That he had lived his entire life a complete slave to his false sense of self. An ego that had to be better, faster, smarter than everyone else. An ego that fears and hides those fears. An ego that blames everything but itself. Do you know someone like that? Of course you do. An ego that justifies and rationalizes every thing it says and does? An ego that is never wrong. We are surrounded by egos like that. It is an epidemic.

Just like the pig, this unconscious soul thinks you are insane. He rejects your claim that he is insane because as he looks around the room, he sees a bunch of people that act just as fear driven, self serving, rationalizing, and justifiable as he does. They are talking, walking about. They appear to be conscious. I am doing the same thing as everyone else. And so he simply doesn't understand. He thinks you are crazy. He dismisses you. But he in fact-is incorrect. Just as wings on a pig are ridiculous-dismissing an ego that you cannot see or that is intangible is also ridiculous. Unlike wings, egos do exist. And in fact, I have not seen a soul yet that doesn't possess one.

So let me make two bold and two very true statements. Pigs do not have wings. That's a fact. Bold statement number two. The vast majority of people I know are unconscious and do not even know what that means. Why would they? Like pigs without wings, they are incapable of comprehending their own unconsciousness because their ego says it doesn't exist. It does that to preserve itself. Your false sense of self or ego desperately wants to survive. It will do anything it can to preserve itself and so it does. It tricks you and it survives. It is very, very, real. And that ego of yours is the biggest barrier to engaging in meaningful and loving relationships.

As a police officer, I used to see the frustrated parents of uncontrollable teenagers. The teenagers were uncontrolled because they had been taught to be that way. When I saw uncontrollable teenagers, I always knew I was viewing parents that lacked the same skills. This ain't rocket science. If a kid is acting out, he learned that somewhere. My prime suspects were always the same-those parents dragging Johnny into the police station.

Child abusers raise child abusers. Drug dealers and alcoholics raise drug dealers and alcoholics. Controlling and angry parents raise out of control and angry kids. Materialistic parents raise children who measure themselves in terms of net worth or simply quit trying if they fail to measure up to some ridiculous ideal. This is not always true-but the percentage is so high-well you get the point. And yet, those parents would come into the police station all mystified. Mystified because that false sense of self and ego just couldn't lay the blame where it belonged-but instead blamed everything else. It's Johnny's friends that mislead him, its those mean teachers, or maybe its the cops. Our kids don't have anything to do. Blame anything, anybody, but us. But sadly...

It was none of those things-Mom and Pop. It was you. It was always you. Complete and utter unconsciousness and whatever skills you had or didn't have that raised those kids.

This cycle of unconsciousness is virtually unstoppable. It is self perpetuating and undoubtedly handed down. Some folks simply accept faulty beliefs and opinions as true. Others have a complete and opposite reaction and thus go to extreme measures in order to ensure that their children do not suffer the same emotional trauma.

But make no mistake about it-it is all learned behavior. Much of it unconscious beliefs.

If we are ever to evolve out of this cycle of masked egos and fear we must recognize the insanity of the human mind. A bunch of crazy beliefs and opinions that cause conflict and death over nothing. Imposing our fears and idiotic beliefs on the people around us like those opinions that we hold were divinely given and anyone that disagrees-well they must be the enemy.

That's how I see Zombie Nation. So what about those two guys out of a thousand? One was taught spiritual beliefs and one guy wasn't. Both are completely aware of their egos. They do not engage in "one ups man ship" nor do they ever launch attacks or counterattacks. They are very humble. They do hold beliefs but they do not impose those opinions on others. They do not try to control anyone other than themselves. They take nothing personally-choosing instead to let people be who they are, both good and bad. They never blame anyone but themselves for inadequacies. They never choose to see themselves as victims and thus never feel self pity. They are completely in control of their egos. They also happen to be the two most upbeat and happy people that I know. And so are their kids.

Imagine that.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Free Speech Should Be Free From Attack

Free speech may be one of the greatest gifts that this country offers. In fact, it is sacred and our very survival depends on it. Without free speech, quite frankly, our way of life will die.

Protecting free speech is a serious responsibility. I feel so strongly about this that I'd be willing to put my own life on the line to protect our right to free speech. With no reservations.

None. That includes pornography, witchcraft, racism, political opinions, bomb making, insurrection. Virtually everything "judged" bad or tainted. Why?

Because I take nothing personally. And every one of those bad things gives us an opportunity to examine the subject based on facts and merit. To seek the truth. To examine, collect facts, offer advice, discuss and teach our family members that it is ok to talk about racism or any other topic that may come up. Emotionally free people are not cowards. We are not tied in some closet somewhere, engulfed in fear, afraid to express our beliefs and ultimately the truth because we don't want to talk about pornography, racism, or some other difficult topic. This in fact was the whole intent of free speech. To form a collective belief system by exchanging facts, insight, and opinions. That is how it works. If people would just let it work. Protect the process above all else.

Free speech cannot work in an oppressive environment. It cannot work when an opinion or belief is offered and the speaker is attacked. Or the subject is attacked. The net effect of this peer review and attack is censorship. Free speech erosion. If you attack people, diminish them, they are simply going to be afraid to say anything. Would you want to work and live in that kind of environment? Surrounded by fear driven and mute fellow co-workers and hostages? Many people do.

Let me give you a perfect example. A month or so ago, I was on a nationally recognized, politically conservative blog page and the topic of Guantanomo Bay and what to do with detainees was being discussed by anonymous commenters. Guantanomo Bay represents some of the most severe nationalism I have ever witnessed. Nationalism is the unwavering belief that everything your country does is correct and justified. It is a collective belief and opinion that as you know by now, is inherently flawed-an opinion, possibly correct or incorrect. Nationalism has nothing to do with patriotism.

So in a wave of emotion that descended on us after the 9/11 attacks, we essentially kidnapped suspected terrorists, interrogated them, imprisoned them, denied them due process. Only three of hundreds were ever brought to trial in the seven years Guantanomo has existed. We denied those people every right that we as citizens take for granted. I could care less if every one of them is guilty or not. Or whether torture was warranted.

What I am concerned with, first and foremost, was the lawfulness of our actions. Just who gave us the right to violate every conceivable human right and the laws and protections of our country? We talk a great collective agenda of human rights, don't we? We tell Russia and China how to behave, don't we? But we don't really do a very good job of examining ourselves, do we? Perhaps we think our actions are justified but China's are not. That is the insanity of the planet. And as I commented to that effect, other commenters labeled me and attacked me personally. Thus I witnessed the fear and egos of collective insanity. They completely missed the point. The point was simple. Before you point the finger at everyone else, you probably ought to apply a little rigorous honesty and examination to ourselves and our country first. We aren't very good at that. It has nothing to do with politics. But you see, they think it does. Another flawed and collective belief system.

It is overwhelming. Many of us have lost the art of communicating civilly and we are reduced to launching attacks. It is a sickness. We are losing our right to free speech by censoring someone who doesn't agree with our inherently flawed and opinionated egos.

I can't change the way the world is evolving. All I can do is apply the same rigorous honesty to myself. Try to safeguard free speech. I am not required to get angry. I accept that the world is riddled with self seeking and ego driven people bent on diminishing others. It is an unconscious state that held me hostage for 46 years.

All we can do is be responsible for what we say. Set an example. Try to be civil and not damage others. If they in turn, try to damage us, we must accept that they are simply reflecting who they are. As more and more of the good folks drop out of public conversation, the implications are clear. The only ones that will have a voice are the ones who shout down everyone else. That does not bode well for the future.

I had a friend that said once, "Never argue with the unconscious or idiots. They will drag you down to their level and beat you with experience."

Amen, brother.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Real Life

I have a friend who's significant other has cancer. For the fourth time.

I need to digress a little here and offer an opinion and a belief that I have acquired over the years. One day, someone else, is going to be you. You are going to be someone else for the rest of us one day. That's how it works. We plan and envision all the good things in life. We ignore the bad things. When the bad things come we are lost in a desert of negative emotions.

Failing to plan, or ignoring the bad things will not make them go away. They will still visit you with or without a plan. Your ability to accept them, fight or no fight, and overcome them quickly will depend on your emotional preparation.

I cannot tell you how demoralizing it must be to fight cancer with radiation and surgery three times and survive it. Then get diagnosed with it a fourth time. This time around, she has selected a different kind of approach to combat it. Since the first three battles were won, her significant other believes she should stay with the method that has worked.

He is distraught and a little angry. To stay vigilant and emotionally free takes hard work and effort. This is real life and while its not always pretty, it is somewhat predictable. If we can predict emotionally difficult times-then we can plan and prepare for them. We can risk manage them as they occur. This situation is no different. It's a very serious situation with possible adverse outcomes and death.

We cannot control the exterior world. What others do is up to them. When we cannot get others to do what we want we are experiencing a lack of control. Loss of power and control is fear based. We fear the outcome if people do not behave in a way that we see fit. Loss of control thus manifests itself in many fear based emotions such as the very emotional fear my friend is experiencing. He may fear a lot of things, but he fears loss. And because he fears the loss of a loved one, and he is unable to control the course of action, he is frustrated.

He has a belief system. That's it. He believes what has worked three times must work four times. That is simply not always true. It may or may not be true in any given instance. We just don't know. We never do until its time for the last analysis.

Control is an illusion. We are never really in control of anything other than ourselves. Sure, there are times when you may feel some sense of power and control over your children, or your spouse, or your employees, or your work product. A sense of order and productivity. Teamwork. But the real devastating news, life altering and life changing, is often beyond our control. At those times, we feel guilt, sadness, inadequacy, remorse. We feel emotional pain. If only we could have done something different. If only we had control, the result would be different. It is illusory, brought on by all the little things we have control over.

What others do, has nothing to do with us. Often the best we can do is offer love and support. We accept life on life's terms. We accept the decisions of our loved ones. It does not require our agreement. But it does require understanding that it's ok for others to make good decisions and thus to make bad ones. And for us to get out of the way. We can offer some suggestions or advice along the way but we don't get personally hinged to someone elses decision, despite their standing oin our lives. There is no right or wrong way, smart or stupid way. Different ways perhaps. We make choices. It is not personal. It virtually never is.

I hope that my friend understands this. I hope that his gal wins another battle.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

When Things Go Bad, Examine Yourself First

All of us suffer setbacks. It takes a lifetime of unconscious behavior to shape and acquire your ego, recognizing it and eliminating it takes time and a daily commitment. Despite your best efforts, you may suffer an emotional setback from time to time.

Relationships with family and friends are the breeding ground for negative and hostile emotions. Those who profess to love us the most tend to be the ones that can "push our buttons" and they will test you.

I have to ask you to accept a premise here. I'd like you to pause and reflect on this statement.
"All negative emotion is grounded in fear." Do you agree or disagree with that? When I speak of fear, I am talking about the emotional and irrational fear of your ego. (Some fears are quite healthy and real, they have allowed us to survive.)

The fears that your ego conjures up are virtually all irrational. They are the result of your perceptions as they are checked against your belief system. So about the time someone says to you, "that remark you made was callous and insensitive." You have a couple of choices. Agree and disarm the speaker. Walk away. Or disagree, feel a negative emotion that leaves you irritated or angry, offer an explanation, or launch a counterattack.

Is there a fourth option? Yes of course there is. It takes practice and you prepare for it in advance. It is rehearsed, risk managed.

Anytime your ego perceives a threat, cynicism, labeling, judging, diminishing, or "one up" behavior and you feel a negative emotion, try to recognize it immediately. Once you recognize that negative emotion, you will know immediately that you fear something.

Let's suppose that someone has called you a "dumb ass" in a way that you recognize as serious rather than harmless kidding around or teasing.

Ask yourself, "what do I fear?" Do I fear the impending confrontation if I launch a counterattack? No. Do I fear this person? No. Do I fear that I really am kind of stupid and that this person knows this? Maybe. Perhaps I have bought into a belief system wherein my family and friends used to say similar things. They are no smarter than I but they subjected me to this type of verbal abuse. You have made an agreement with yourself. You have acquired a belief. You have told yourself that even if I am stupid, I am never going to let some one degrade me this way again. Your ego and belief system have you painted into a corner. Chances are good that under this set of circumstances that things are about to escalate.

Many of us call that striking a chord or a nerve. We cannot control our exterior world and some of the things that are told to us but we can control our reaction to those nasty slices of life when they happen.

Let's suppose you have a belief system, an ego, that has prepared differently. You simply have rejected the notion that you are less than or greater than anyone else in terms of intelligence. You have decided to risk manage your emotions. You have made an agreement to accept this as true. You have also made an agreement with yourself not to take anything personally. You accept that what others say is just an opinion, a reflection of their belief system. It has nothing to do with you even when it is directed at you. Your response under this belief system is entirely different. You are puzzled. No emotion comes to the surface. You think through it. You do not react. You suddenly realize the comment has nothing to do with you. It is merely a reflection of someone who is entitled to their beliefs true or not. You do not feel diminished. You do not respond in a way that escalates the situation.

You are in control. And in a very real way, you win. You will not feel ashamed or guilty for not engaging in a verbal assault contest. You will leave your hostile judgment maker in a much better frame of mind than he/she will be in and you will not have to utter an apology later on. Your recovery time is virtually non existent wherein your adversary may dwell on it for hours and days.

That is the power of self examination and emotional preparation. You are not a hostage to negative emotions. And even if you acquire some mastery over this skill, you can always expect setbacks. They will pop up. When things go to hell, apologize, examine where you went wrong and make the adjustments. Seek first to understand then be understood. Over time you will find yourself in much happier space. You will suddenly realize that being happy is far more important than being right-and unfortunately those two things are often mutually exclusive.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

D. Hey! Where's That New Operating System?

If you have arrived here, dazed and utterly confused, you are in perfect shape. You are practicing the "Four Agreements", you have identified that false sense of self- your ego-and you are aware of it and it's negative impacts. You are trying to become a better person.

Welcome. As long as you draw breath-you can improve yourself and your relationships. There is no finish line. Let's see if we can figure out who we want to be.

Let's start with just seven things. The seven deadly sins. We don't particularly care for the religious attachment but it's awfully hard to deny their existence. We witness them everyday. They are lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, pride. Of the seven, perhaps the most damaging and all pervasive is pride. Let's take a look at pride.

Pride could be described as self centered-ness, self absorption, and self love. Narcissism. It is perhaps, the greatest symptom of the ego. Self will. Pride is one of those confusing terms. It actually has a dual meaning-the other of which is steeped in virtue. Such as, "he takes great pride in his work and appearance." For the sake of emotional freedom we are going to focus on pride as self centered-ness and self will.

Pride, or love of the self, prevents us from engaging in and loving anyone else. We are preoccupied with taking care of our own needs. We are self indulgent to the extent that we rarely listen or care about others. We almost always take care of our needs to the exclusion of all else. Since proud people believe that they always come first, they may never view anything wrong with their behavior. In fact, many of them actually confuse intelligence with self will. Anything is intelligent as long as there is something in it for them. If they can achieve some benefit then they see nothing wrong with it. Conversely, they view others who do not possess the same levels of pride as weak or unintelligent. They lack respect and show disdain. In many cases, they simply can't utter an apology or admit fault. Very often, when the prideful crash and burn, there are very few people willing to help them.

The opposite of pride is humility. Have you ever heard anyone ever say, "Gosh that guy is so humble that he makes me sick?" Probably not. Humility is an increasingly scarce commodity. For some, we wonder if they have ever heard of the word.

So seeking to be humble attracts love in others but pride has the opposite effect. It's not hard to see which has value to us and which does not. A big part of your new operating system should probably include a big dose of humility unless you already have that covered.

We systematically look at those seven deadly sins. We focus on the ones that plague us and we seek to remove them through a conscientious plan that we are developing. We add those to our "Four Agreements" plan and maintain a vigilant watch over our egos. Our daily meditation and plan for the day enlarges in scope-reminding ourselves each day to recognize, adhere to, and refuse to indulge in those seven deadly sins.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

C. Lose Your Ego

If there is one common denominator, one giant and all encompassing barrier to emotional freedom, it is your false sense of self. Your ego.

It is very real and it exists. To the unconscious, they simply can't accept this. The idea is too abstract. They simply cannot understand what you are talking about. The ego becomes such a necessary component of their psychological make-up, that they simply aren't even aware of it's existence. They may look at you and think you are bona fide nuts.

Yet the evidence is overwhelming. Fear driven and controlling egos are everywhere. Whether it's a lunatic N. Korean dictator firing test missiles, a controlling boss who has to have everything done his or her way, or a couple engaged in a mission of conflict and one ups man ship, ego in an individual or collective form is utter insanity. It is everywhere.

A year ago, I found myself talking to one of these unconscious folks. In addition to a fear and control driven false sense of self, this individual had consumed about a full bottle of wine. I found myself in a social setting where good etiquette was the rule. I was listening to the conversation intently when Tolle's book, "A New Earth" became the topic of discussion. This individual had not read the book and was applying his version of "contempt prior to investigation" and calling it a bunch of hogwash and rhetoric. I was asked what I thought primarily because the people at this particular gathering were aware of my fondness for Tolle and the work I was doing. I only made a half hearted defense. The reality was that Tolle's concepts are so completely true that my belief is that they are prima facia evidence. But to say that would diminish my friend. I did not find any reason to defend Tolle's work because it requires no defense nor did my ego find it necessary to impose my beliefs on an intoxicated friend at his expense.

Therein lies the ultimate dilemma. If people are unwilling to learn-you cannot control that. You cannot teach willingness even if it's for someone you love. This man would be a poster child for an ego run riot of self will and self centered behavior.

I accept that willingness is all that separates my buzzed host from me. I was willing to examine the concept of ego, weigh it on it's merits, and jettison the material if I found it not useful. My host that night was a mechanical engineer and successful businessman, very bright, but just not ready to take this step yet. That doesn't mean he is not intelligent, articulate, or any other label or description. He is simply unwilling to take the leap of faith that is required because he sees no reason to. His ego is in control and it is unwilling to learn, accept, or comprehend what Tolle teaches.

So how do you lose your ego? It is relatively simple, actually.

You recognize it's existence. That's 75% of the battle. You remain vigilant and on guard. You don't indulge in any of that false sense of self nonsense anymore. You don't have to be the smartest, the fastest, the richest, or the prettiest. You resist every urge to impose that on others. As time rolls by, it requires less and less vigilance. You recognize that insanity. You begin to say only supportive and kind things to others. All you require of yourself-is to be happy. Indulging in that false sense of beliefs, opinions, you have about yourself will not make you happy. In fact, it will bring you conflict and pain. Guaranteed.

If you find yourself in a place of utter confusion or having an identity crisis, you have done good work. Think of that as removing your old computer's operating system. We have a blank screen. It is time to install the new operating system.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

B. Come Up With a Plan

We have made a commitment. We want to improve our lives and by default, the lives of the people around us.

We have recognized all of those faulty beliefs, we have begun to wrestle control of our egos by recognizing and admitting that our false sense of self had control of us. How then do we put this all together?

We adopt a plan. A daily plan. It will only take a few minutes each day. We will learn by repetitively installing our new belief system and going over it until it becomes second nature to us.

What I'm about to suggest worked well for me. I am also going to talk about an incident that happened to me well after I had adopted my plan. It was a failure on my part to stick to the plan and it serves as a constant reminder of just how tenuous this process is and just how easy it is to let our egos back in and wrestle control of us.

My daily plan was relatively simple. Each morning for months, I meditated for five to ten minutes. Completely wiping any thoughts out of my mind. Emotional silence.

I then used a subsequent five or ten minutes to go over my daily plan. That daily plan included adherence to the four agreements. I also added an additional ten things or so. Some of those things included refusing to control situations, refusing to engage in one up and diminishing conversations, refusing to get angry, seeking to understand, listening instead of formulating thoughts and talking so much, refusing to make judgments, (very key-for me) and I refused to attach any out come or expectations to anything. In other words, if I applied for a job and never heard from a prospective employer, I was ok with that. It was beyond my control and I was satisfied that I had done my part. What happened after the application process was beyond my control.

And ALWAYS, I sought to apply unconditional love to those human beings I just don't understand.

My plan was fluid and I changed, updated, or deleted things as needed. The plan, my plan, only applied to me. It was unique to me. Just as yours should be for you.

About a week after implementing my plan, I had a complete system failure. It happened at a Walmart store on Tchoupitoulas St. in New Orleans. I offer it to you only as an example that no plan is perfect and it's ok to have a complete and utter emotional fiasco. We learn from it.

This particular Walmart is very busy. After 3 PM, the store is awash in shoppers. About a week after adopting and committing to my plan, I stopped into the store to grab a few things on my way home. All of the lines were at least five customers deep. It was ugly. I found a line. What happened next was even beyond my wildest comprehension. I can't even embellish this.

The first shopper had two carts full of items. When the cashier finished, the shopper had acquired more items than she could pay for. Painstakingly removing the "un neccessary" items one by one, they finally reduced the total to an agreeable amount and left a small mountain of items at the end of the checkstand and piled on the floor. The second shopper did the same thing and added to the growing mountain of unpaid items. The third person in line, had his card rejected and thus he walked over to an ATM and got cash with the very same card and returned. By this time I had been in line 30 minutes. My ego was in control. I was on fire, awash in angry emotions and wondering if everyone in this line was an idiot. I wanted to flee. Just after the third shopper left, the cashier got a cell phone call and took it, yelling I suppose at her significant other and unable to concentrate on what she was doing. The gal ahead of me did precisely what the first two shoppers had done. Bought too many items. I didn't understand that all of these shoppers were using government issued assistance of some sort until the gal ahead of me tried to pay. The cashier, finally off the cellphone, stopped and began asking her what she wanted to remove. By this time I had been in line nearly 45 minutes. I was suffering a complete and total emotional breakdown and had to flee. I did the only thing I could do.

I said, "excuse me, how much does she owe?" The cashier said 48.03 cents. I then asked the shopper if I could pay for it. She said "yes." I whipped out a fifty and settled it. The shopper was very grateful and asked for my phone number. She said she would pay me back. I gave it to her. I did not ask her for her number.

When it was my turn, the cashier said, "you'll never see that money, again." I disagreed and said "if I don't, I'm ok with it." The cashier then said well if she pays you back, I want you to tell me. I said ok.

Nearly one hour after this fiasco started, I was freed from that Walmart prison. I was completely and utterly spent. I was totally disappointed at my internal emotions and my inability to accept that people were just living their lives, unconscious for sure, but that I could have left that line at any time.

Two days later, I got a call. It was the shopper. I gave her directions to my house. She gave me the 50 bucks in person. I didn't really expect that. Her kids even hugged me. I stopped by that Walmart a few days later to tell the cashier. (I did not buy anything) She seemed shocked.

After that episode, I added a few things to my daily plan. It has been working well with a few bumps along the way.

Thus, we begin to see that we are really developing a plan to emotionally risk manage ourselves and lessen the effects of dark emotions. We really do have a choice. We always do. When we get better, so does everything around us. Real emotional freedom is just around the corner.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Launch A Counter Attack!

You can be as crazy as you want to be. In fact, your ego might feel threatened or diminished as you read this. You might be saying, "who does this clown think he is?" "What credentials does he have?" That ego of mine is no different. It struggles for survival and it will deny it's own existence. It doesn't want me to examine it or uncover it. "Take your rigorous honesty out of here, I am running this show!" The ego is very real and make no mistake, I have yet to meet anyone that doesn't have one.

I love to poke fun at this insanity. My own insanity. Let me set the table for you. I grew up in a mining town. I am completely ego identified with a "labor union, working stiff" type of upbringing. I have acquired faulty beliefs and thus an ego that says the working class is oppressed, rich people are the enemy, and that hard work is all that matters. I absolutely detest dishonesty, pretentious and materialistic people. Labels as it turns out. Faulty beliefs.

I am now completely armed with the knowledge that labeling and judging people is insane. I recognize these faulty beliefs. There is an internal struggle in my mind for control between my new conscious self and my old controlling false ego and belief systems. I will not take anything personally.

Thus in early 2008, I find myself invited to a lavish party in Manhattan. It is a completely pretentious affair, a birthday party. The rich and famous are there. There are dishonest, materialistic, and rich people in attendance who have never worked a day in their lives. Some are very well educated. The party of course involves a jazz band and a free bar stocked with only the best booze.

I am mentally prepared. My attack plan is simple. Come in, keep your mouth shut, smile a lot, and let these people be who they are. None of it is personal. My ego has other ideas. It says, "we hate these types of people." "They are the enemy!" Let's beat them over the heads with our superior intelligence and cut them down to size." That is the insanity with which I took my seat that evening.

Everyone is well dressed and nice. They have been friends a long time. Some are pretty well tuned and working on their third or fourth drink as I arrive. The economy is rolling and it is college football bowl season. The current topic is Ivy League Schools, which college the kids are going to-both here and abroad, and who owns how many homes and where.

My ego says, "see I told you, these people are who we thought they were." I smile a lot. I tell my ego to shut up. I pray these Yale and Brown graduates don't ask me where I went to school. I smile a lot, I am an outsider. The table hostess tries to include me in the conversation. She is just being nice. She asks, "so Brian, do you have any kids?" My ego says, "she is prying, tell her you had two kids and that you killed them in a fit of rage and buried them in a vacant lot next to your house, that'll shut her up." I smiled weakly and replied, "no." Intent on including me in the current conversation she asks who I'm with, where I am from, and where did you go to school? My ego says, "does this woman ever stop?" I humbly answer the questions and try to elaborate a little to be friendly. When she inquires, "Idaho State, where is that?" I tell her it's in in Pocatello, Idaho. She gets this weird look on her face. My ego says, "the woman is absolutely clueless-ask her if she gets outside much!" I say, "well, we're a division two school and our football team is horrible." "Most folks haven't heard of us." There are other listeners. I smile some more. Thankfully, she is in over her head, recognizes this, and smiles back. She relents. My ego says, "I wonder if she had a boob job, ask her that!" I smile some more.

The band starts up. My ego says, "you are a crappy dancer, what are you going to do when someone asks you to dance?" Thankfully, most people are as terrified as I am. No one dances except a few who can actually dance or are so intoxicated by this time, they don't care how they look.

I smile a lot. Then it happens. One of the guys at the table starts talking about some cops who have killed someone. How cops are merciless killers and always get away with it. They shot this guy 46 times. He doesn't know who I am. He turns and shakes his head and asks my opinion. I am well aware of the case. My ego screams, "launch a counterattack!" "Defend your tribe and honor!" A veritable cavalcade of options presents itself to me. Do I say that all people are entitled to innocence until proven guilty? Do I say, all we have is a belief based on media accounts? Do I explain to him that a bunch of very scared police officers fired every round that they had in a phenomenon that has been studied since the OK Corral? Do I defend my tribe? What purpose would that serve? He would feel diminished, less than, perhaps foolish. In the two seconds it takes to process this information, I answer in the most selfless way I know how.

"You may be right, I'm anxious to see what the grand jury says about it."

My ego says, "you complete chicken shit, what has happened to you?" I say, "I am wrestling control from you. I win, you lose."

I am the only one smoking outside that evening. Of course. I am wondering how we all acquire these crazy belief systems. These folks are just trying to live their lives. They are fully aware of the judgments others cast upon them, yet they feel justified in doing the same thing. I call my friend. He is proud of me. We just might make a man out of you yet. Go take a walk, he says, go back and make sure your date enjoys herself. I walked through Soho that night, lost in all of this insanity and I cover a mile of so.

When I get back, my gal is ready to go. She asks me if I enjoyed myself, I told her "yes." My ego says, "liar." You can be as crazy as you want to be ego-but from now on, I'm calling the shots. Get used to it. Score tonight, Brian 2, Ego 0. I may get the hang of this yet.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Welcome to the Laboratory!

In a laboratory, scientists try various methods to accomplish a task or achieve a goal. Very often their first attempts fail. Thomas Watson, the famous inventor referring to his success once said, "I have found ten thousand ways that did not work."

My favorite quote of Edison's is, "Hell there are no rules here. We are trying to accomplish something!"

Those two quotes are very appropriate here. As you seek emotional freedom, the world become your laboratory. You will try ways that do not work and your ego will attempt survival. Here then are a couple examples of this. The first is personal. The second example of what we are trying to accomplish is very contemporary and comes to us courtesy of Brooke Shields and an article in ET online today regarding her mother.

As I made my commitment to emotional freedom and was ingraining the principles of the "Four Agreements" into my head and practicing them, I hit my first dilemma. It came courtesy of a man called Dennis. Dennis and I worked together in a non profit organization. He had decided that he didn't like me much. At first I let his comments bounce off me and to my credit, I did not engage him-choosing instead not to "take anything personally." But try as I might, I could not escape Dennis and his deriding comments.

So I spoke with my spiritual friend and advisor. I told him what had been happening and what Dennis had been saying. He asked how I felt about that. I told him that I felt like kicking his ass even though I had said nothing to him.

My advisor smiled at me. He said, "we have a lot of work to do." He continued, "People are free to live their lives and we accept that." Dennis he lamented, is simply as unconscious as you were only a few weeks ago. He asked me to go home and pray for Dennis. He said you know the answer, you have already told me what is is. So I prayed for and mulled this situation over with Dennis. He was simply afraid of something and trying to control my behavior. I began to understand this. It didn't matter why-what mattered was gaining acceptance and understanding. When I did, I arrived at the only spiritual conclusion. Dennis represented a shadowy belief system that I didn't understand. I didn't have to understand it. I simply returned his comments with love and acceptance. I was ok with letting him be who he wanted to be and you know what? He quit. We ended up being somewhat agreeable pals. He began to like me, as I spoke with him more, and I began to like him. Had I engaged in that "one up" and counterattack behavior, that conclusion would have been near impossible. Because I had acted appropriately, I did not feel any guilt, shame, or remorse nor did I heap any on Dennis.

It is interesting to note that my first egoic instinct was to launch a counterattack. People around me would think I was justified in doing so. They might have even encouraged it. But you see, I would have been the one in that emotional tar pit. Not them. Their enabling thoughts would have made extraction far harder and made resolution with Dennis near impossible.

In todays Entertainment Tonite comes a story of Brooke Shields. I will use this story only as an illustration of the insanity of this planet. In no way, shape, or form is this meant to diminish Ms. Shields but it is a very timely and perfect example of what we are trying to accomplish.

According to the story, Ms. Shields' mother suffers from dementia and Ms. Shields placed her into assisted living. According to Shields, and the local police chief, two reporters posing as friends talked her mother into leaving the home intent I suppose on getting a story according to the article. The elder Shields was returned unharmed. Brooke Shields has vowed revenge on the nursing home and the reporters who lured her away calling them (labeling, judging) derogatory words and vowing litigation.

We are in the lab. Let's break this down as emotionally free people would.

Two reporters had formed a collective belief that they were not violating any rules. We cannot assume that they were there to get some juicy piece of gossip although that may seem likely.

Ms. Shields was clearly angry. Since we know that fear and our inability to control situations manifest themselves as anger it is possible that this is what is at work here. Ms. Shields thus takes on a "victim" role claiming she has been violated. She vows to launch a counterattack, thinking that she has every right to do so. This is her ego, the same ego that justifies that she is right. Perhaps she will launch this counterattack and certainly there are unconscious folks that will agree and enable her to do just that.

The problem here is simple. Ms. Shields will have to live with all that anger and resentment as her ego demands it. She can wallow in self pity and be a victim. File lawsuits, look for charges, become frustrated when her attempts to gain revenge are thwarted. The world will let her do that. She can wallow in that emotional tar pit as long as she wants. That is the insanity of the planet.

Or Brooke can gain acceptance. People are just trying to live their lives, screwing up here and there. It isn't personal-and you really do have a choice. You can choose to not let it affect you emotionally. You can take steps to prevent similar conduct. You are not required to counter attack, get angry, hateful or beat each over the heads like we have done for 2000 years. If you react with love, the people that took her will have to live with themselves. In fact, they will learn far more and far faster this way. It is a choice. You always have a choice. Emotionally free people understand this.

Thus the world is our laboratory. Each of us is free to choose how we react when adversity strikes. We can continue to behave in the same old fashioned way or try something new.

A. Make a Commitment

My first pass through the book, "The Four Agreements", left me stunned. Here were four key rules that would improve my life dramatically and change the way I saw the world. Change my perception.

I had already embraced the concept that individual human beings simply don't understand one another although I have known a few who think they do, which includes myself. That includes other family members. Thus, all people simply represent shadows to me. Shadows on Plato's cave wall.

The idea that you really know nothing about anyone else is actually a very healthy one. It creates a level playing field wherein you have made no judgments, rendered no opinions. The actualization and beauty of that is that you will never have to do that again. It is simply un necessary.

As I reflected back on my life and the four agreements, I realized how often I had violated those simple rules. It was an embarrassing and humiliating moment for me. I also remember thinking how powerful it would have been to be taught those rules as a teenager. Would I have embraced those principles at 15? The answer is yes, I think so.

I read the "Four Agreements" several times. It is a quick read, about three or four hours. In the weeks that followed, I began to formulate an action plan. These are the key components to the plan I adopted.

1. A willingness to change the way I saw the world. My way simply did not work well.

2. I would wipe the emotional slate clean. I would accept that friend or foe, I simply didn't understand nor could I possibly understand, anyone else.

3. I would put the "Four Agreements" into action. "Use Impeccable Words, Take Nothing Personally, Make No Assumptions, Always Do Your Best. I made a commitment.

I had some difficulty with "Take Nothing Personally" as it applied to me. That was a very difficult concept for me to grasp and understand. I re-read that chapter a total of nine times. Eventually I found myself accepting that. Taking nothing personally meant accepting complete responsibility for every thing that happened to you, refusing to accept a victim role or wallow in self pity, and understanding that other people are simply living their lives.It is and never was-personal.

When someone judges you, they simply reflect who they are and their beliefs. It has nothing to do with you. They are making the same mistake that we have recognized in ourselves and are trying to fix. We accept that others are entitled to their beliefs and we are fine with that. What others say simply bounces off us. Because we have understanding.

That doesn't make us better or worse, we simply have recognition.

To actually acquire and practice these agreements takes commitment. It may take you a few hours to read the book but a lifetime to implement.

The "Four Agreements" became my base operating system. I found myself changing all the rules. My ego desperately wanted to cling to it's false beliefs and it struggled for survival. I began to realize how insane all that was.

I'm not suggesting that the "Four Agreements" is the only path to emotional freedom but it's not a bad place to start. I've known others who have used a "Course in Miracles" as a reference and I am stunned at how insightful they are. In fact, I see both texts as mutually beneficial and they achieve eye popping results. In fact, the written course seems a very appropriate choice because it is done in black and white and not subject to the ramblings and distractions of verbal coaching. I met one couple who used both. They coach and teach for free.

(A hint from a good friend. Read the black stuff, not the white stuff.)

Make no mistake about it, in the beginning you are about to engage in a tug of war with your ego and a belief system that doesn't want to change. It will use fear and identity loss and every other available tool to prevent you from becoming who you want to be. We must also accept that it is a two steps forward, one step back, kind of thing.

One last caveat. In a world of fast food, credit cards, and Federal Express emotional freedom is not something you get immediately upon demand. It is a slow and arduous process to recognize and unlearn bad belief systems. Then we must build new ones. We spoke briefly about expectations. It takes what it takes. If it's taken us 50 years to recognize and accept that racism is a flawed belief system, well let's hope we achieve quicker and better results for ourselves.

Making a commitment means recognizing that we want fulfilling and emotionally free lives. We want to love and see love in return. I accept that there is more than one way to get to Denver and so it is, I accept that there are other paths to obtain emotional freedom than the one I found. Whatever path you select, make a commitment. Making a commitment means that you are about to begin the process of loving yourself. You will accept your mistakes and realize that you are not doomed to repeat them. We become part of the solution when we commit to this process. You do not have to feel fear, guilt, pain, or shame ever again.

If you think of the last 2000 years as a sociology experiment, then perhaps clubbing each other over the heads, arguing, and killing each other might lead you to believe that we might be doing something wrong. In my past life, we call that prima facia evidence.