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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.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Fear and Control Exercise

If there is one easily identifiable and often irrational emotion it is fear. If an ego fears something, it will try to control it. If the ego fails, often it becomes irritable, frustrated, or angry.

With almost 100% certainty, think of the last time you were irritable, frustrated, or angry. Did you have a fear that you were unable to calm, reassure, or control? Just how important was that in retrospect? Would acceptance be irrational?

The fear and control exercise is a fun one to observe. Take a few days, perhaps even a week or two, and observe those people who surround you. Pay attention to what they say and do. Watch as they exert their fears and thus control over the people around you and yourself.

Try to identify the source of what they do. A common denominator will begin to emerge. If you are in a number of particularly crazy, conflict and ego driven relationships, this fear and control
theme will simply become overwhelming and undeniable. Laughable in many instances.

I used to love to watch talk shows. They are a veritable minefield of egos lost in preoccupation with the self, fear and control, and ego. After awhile, they became too embarrassing for me to watch. But they are an excellent reference source for the fear and control exercise.

Once I was mediating a dispute between two lovers as they wrestled for control of their relationship. Both participants were completely unconscious and absorbed in self-trying to assuage their fears. She wanted complete devotion and the "house with a picket fence" (a faulty belief system) and he wanted a more casual and uncommitted relationship. The two participants in this relationship refused to budge, held hostage to their fears and thus control of how they wanted this thing to turn out. It eventually boiled over as she manipulated him into a psychological corner. His fears and thus inability to control her manifested themselves into an angry, hostile, and near violent conclusion complete with name calling, labeling, and the usual host of negative judgments.

All of the things we have talked about thus far were evident. Faulty beliefs, fear and control, and to a larger degree, un-communicated expectations.

So take a few days or a week to focus on fear and control. The extent and the clarity of this will emerge. In fact, it may overwhelm you. Do this exercise at home or work, or while talking to your siblings, parents, co-workers, or boss.

One last caveat. Keep the results to yourself. Unconscious egos will launch counterattacks as soon as they feel threatened or fearful. This exercise is intended to just make you aware of all of the insanity around you. Pointing it out serves no useful purpose.

Essay 11. Recap and Summary

Perhaps you've arrived here and are now asking yourself, "Who is this maniac?" or "What's in it for him?"

Both of those are fair questions. You won't find anyone teaching unconditional love because quite frankly, nobody believes in it. You won't find a Harvard degree or a course of study at state college. So if you are looking for credentials, good luck. The answer to the 2nd question is far simpler. Unconditional love and emotional freedom is a gift. It was given to me for free. I couldn't care less if I made one thin dime returning the gift to others. Hard to believe in a cynical and jaded world where everyone is in it for themselves. We are conditioned to believe that. Like all of the illusory beliefs we acquire, that is simply one more example.

This is a recap designed to acquire recognition. At the end of this, we are about to develop an action plan that will change your life. So let's recap where we've been.

We understand that we know very little about others. We think we know but we do not. What we see in others is just a reflection of our own beliefs which are merely opinions. That is the basis for a faulty belief system.

We acquire beliefs which are faulty or true only for ourselves. As we add more and more beliefs, an ego begins to emerge. A false sense of self that tells us we are less than or more than others. We've agreed to accept as true the opinions of our teachers, or our experiences which very often are isolated and limiting or untrue.

Our ego then begins to rule our thought processes. It takes over. It fights for survival as it imposes faulty beliefs on others and struggles for survival. It causes conflict and convinces us that it is right. It refuses to allow us to examine it. The ego is fear based. It doesn't want to let go of the faulty beliefs and judgments it has acquired. Our ego runs rampant, it runs us.

Accepting responsibility for the ego is our first attempt at rigorous honesty. We begin to unmask it and realize the damage our ego has inflicted on others and ourselves. We expose it, we recognize it. We examine our role in conflicts and realize just how silly they are.

We accept that we have acted poorly and we seek to improve our lives by taking action and wrestling control of our ego.

We see how negative judgments, (and some good ones) adversely affect us. We see the insanity of labeling others or assuming on minimal information that we know anything about the people around us. We simply do not understand people well enough to arrive at any conclusion.

We have examined fear and control and the huge role those emotions play in virtually everything we do and virtually everything others do. Fear and control are the triggers that call our ego into action.

We realize that allowing ourselves to become victims and to wallow in self pity is a useless exercise. We realize that adversity strikes us all and how we deal with adversity either leaves us in a tar pit of emotions or allows us to take action and escape with a minimum of damage.

Uncommunicated expectations are another manifestation of our ego. They too have their roots sunk deep into our unconscious ego. The insane idea that others will behave just as we want or expect is patently ridiculous. That our beliefs should be theirs. We will try to be better communicators and expose ourselves to the ones we love.

At this stage, we have begun to recognize all of this insanity caused by the human ego. We are going to accept that often at times we have acted fearfully and selfishly and that we were given these beliefs or acquired them.

At the point of recognition, we can no longer continue to repeat this insanity. There would be no point in finding a leak in the dam and then refusing to fix it. We want to improve our lives and get as well as we can. We are going to embrace this idea and take the steps necessary to improve our lives and our relationships. You are about to embark on a mission of real emotional freedom. What some may refer to as, "spirituality." We are going to examine some essential tools and ultimately develop a plan.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Recognition Recap

Up until this point, we have been trying to raise a simple awareness. A recognition that while the world has changed dramatically in 2000 years, human beings have simply stood still. There has been no emotional evolution among human beings and as some have pointed out, perhaps a de-evolution. We have remained hostage to faulty belief systems and we really are no better off than the people crucifying Christ. In fact, we adhere to the same faulty belief systems that we always have. Ego, fear, and thus control-justifies our actions. Clearly we believe that which in turn has us doing the same old garbage hoping for different results. Einstein's definition of insanity.

So we are willing to try something different. Change the experiment-thus the results.

Putting It All Together

You may have noticed a resounding theme throughout this blog as we've identified some of the insane behavior that humans engage in. Whether it's labeling or judging people, getting angry and diminishing others, fear and control, constantly comparing ourselves or coveting the possessions of others, or feeling the guilt or shame of our bad behavior. There is one miracle cure that causes every character defect we have ever had to simply vanish.

That cure is unconditional love. Make no mistake about it. It is real and it works.

To acquire and to possess unconditional love, we have to recognize and unlearn faulty beliefs. I have met no exceptions to this rule. Perhaps Echart Tolle. Of all of the countless Fathers, Ministers, non-profit workers, psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists, and counselors I have known and met, I have yet to meet just one of them that can look a patient in the eye and say, "Unconditional love will cure you." Or, "we know how to do it." They simply are unaware.

Why is that? Because they have accepted a belief system passed onto them. They have never met anyone that possesses such a thing. Therefore they believe, unconditional love is impossible.

I challenge you to find a degree program, anywhere in the United States, that teaches unconditional love. It is unheard of. And I will be the first person to tell you, that I didn't believe it either. A very funny thing happened. At first people were reluctant to hear what I said. They thought I might be insane. Some people I have talked to are actually beginning to understand that unconditional love is actually a choice you can make. You don't have to hate, really. Can we learn how to love instead? Do we have a choice? Of course we do. That's what this is all about.

Conceptually unconditional love is a very difficult concept to grasp. Most folks don't even know where to start. They don't know, "Whats in it for me?"

That is precisely where I was two years ago. Confused, bewildered, and laden with 46 years of ego and faulty belief systems I had no idea where to start or where it would lead me.

Let me offer one last illustration as an example. It is such a perfect illustration that it bears repeating. It is one of unconditional hate and the collective power of ego and unconditional haters. Imagine back in the 90's when Osama Bin Laden was forming his hatred for his "perceived" enemies. Searching for a way to destroy those Trade Center Towers. His creative problem solving skills and intelligence allowed him to find a way. With complete slavery to his false sense of self he was able to conceive a way, convince others through the clever manipulation of that ego and religion, to plan and carry out a mission that destroyed the lives of thousands. That act caused a ripple effect that sent a wake of additional grief and suffering among the survivors.

Are we required to hate Bin Laden for this? No. But you can if you want. Millions do. Thus we too, have a collective ego that says killing him is perfectly sane. A belief.

Clearly that act represented utter insanity yet Bin Laden has great intelligence and might very well do fine on any given IQ test or psychiatric test. Is he evil? Or is that a label we use?

Bin Laden is completely and utterly self absorbed by a false sense of self, an ego, that feels completely justified in killing human beings. Timothy McVeigh is another example. It is the type of insanity described by Tolle.

Thus if you can be captivated by this false belief system to perform acts of unconditional hate, can you rid yourself of that ego and perform acts of unconditional love?

Sure. You just have to change your belief system. Change it from one of hate to one of love. That's why we're here. If you can dream it, it's possible.

We are in the stage of recognition. Let's try to put this all together.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Your Dog is Trying to Tell You Something

The whole concept of unconditional love is difficult for most people to grasp. It is difficult for some people to define love and harder yet to understand unconditional love. Unconditional love is not a difficult concept, really. It is pure acceptance and the willingness to accept someone for all of their fears, faults, and resultant ego. And love them anyway.

In short it is a choice you make. Just like that choice you made to dislike your neighbor, your co-worker, your boss. You were unwilling to accept someone elses's flaws and judged them. Your ego was in control. It told you that judging someone else was acceptable.

On several occasions, I have brought the concept of unconditional love up with other people. They squirm, make some half-hearted attempt to explain it, and none believe it is possible. The closest thing most will say is that unconditional love is perhaps only possible between a mother and a child. Or that of a dog. Now I haven't seen any mother actually practice unconditional love in the purest form of acceptance. But I understand those that think that the love of a mother for her child might be close.

But this dog thing, that is intriguing.

In my neck of the woods, people absolutely love their dogs. Dogs are simple creatures. You feed them and take care of them and in return they shower us with unconditional love. Dogs don't care whether you had a bad day or not, whether your checking account is overdrawn, or that you just got fired. They shower us with affection when we get home, wagging their tails and licking us. Genuinely happy that their best friend is home.

Indeed, I've heard more than one dog owner say that they would like to become the person their dog thinks they are.

You see dogs don't care about your bad day. They care about you. They practice unconditional love. Why? Why can an animal with an allegedly smaller I.Q. practice something that humans can't? How can a dog practice unconditional love yet human beings think they can't?

The dog has an incredibly huge advantage. Dogs don't possess fear and thus they have no ego.
Oh, don't get me wrong-dogs possess fear to the extent that they sometimes are outmatched and flee but that is simply survival extinct. What they don't do is sit around judging us, fearing us, arguing with us, or giving us the silent treatment in some juvenile way of reconciling differences.

They don't have egos. They are simply dogs. Devoid of ego, they have the capacity to love us even when we have been pretty crappy friends or when we ignore them. They remain loyal and available to us.

This capacity to love unconditionally is found in a creature that can't build cars, or sell real estate, and they don't covet anything other than a treat or a bone. They don't care whether your truck is a 1969 or 2009 model. In fact, they could probably care less that we have a vehicle at all. They simply love us despite our flawed beliefs and faults. Unconditional acceptance and trust. Love.

Devoid of ego, dogs practice unconditional love. Think about that. Your dog may be trying to tell you something.

Essay 10. Uncommunicated Expectations

Of all the irrational and insane conduct on this planet, nothing makes me laugh more than this subject.

Really. As you were growing up and acquiring all of your belief systems-good and bad-how in the world would you expect that the people that you interact with would inherently know what your beliefs and expectations are? Is that remotely possible? Of course not.

One of the greatest sources of conflict on this planet occurs in the workplace. Most of us have worked for people that we liked and people that we didn't like. Managers, because they are human, come with all sorts of beliefs, fears, and resultant controlling behaviors. They have an internal set of instructions that results in ego. Most, if not all, of those fears and needs go uncommunicated as they go about working and living their lives. Your success and happiness in the workplace will to a large degree, depend on your ability to learn what those belief systems are and your willingness to agree to those terms. Some folks, completely absorbed by ego, cannot work for anyone. Often they become business owners and tyrants, holding employees hostage to their non negotiable belief systems. Thus, their uncommunicated expectations.

You won't find those expectations in a job description or a policy manual. Co-workers may tell you more than a boss ever will. You can make some logical assumptions about what may be expected of you. Thus employees acquire a collective belief system of their managers and bosses. Millions of workers understand this and for many, this becomes key to their survival and whether or not they get promoted.

Uncommunicated expectations are simply future resentments. They occur everywhere. We believe that people should behave the way we want or expect. When they don't, we get angry, hostile, frustrated. When a driver rolls through a stop sign, we get angry. When your wife buys her 115th pair of shoes, you are miffed. When a co-worker screws off on the cellphone, your workload increases. When you leave wet towels on the bed, or perhaps even the toilet seat up, your wife gets angry.

As we fail to uncover uncommunicated expectations we suffer the consequences and frustrations of others. We get further mired in the tar pit as we discuss those problems with third parties.

We all have uncommunicated expectations. Expectations in and of themselves are not necessarily bad. They become bad when we don't talk about them with those involved and some negative energy ensues.

We are terrible communicators. Human beings absolutely suck at this. Forgive me, there is simply no better way of putting this. That is my belief which you do not have to agree with.

Years ago, in college, I had a roommate who ate my groceries all the time. He never offered money or replacements. I tried to communicate my expectations and each time I did, he agreed to buy his own and quit eating mine. He never did this. I got tired of talking to him. Eventually, I simply jettisoned the situation by leaving. I did not pay the last month's rent, figuring very nearly that he had consumed an amount of groceries that equaled my half of the rent that month. He was livid. We almost came to blows over the situation. He was entrenched in his belief that the rent was an entirely separate situation than his filching my groceries. I was entrenched in my belief that I was justified in stiffing him. We both handled the situation poorly because we both had belief systems that said the other person was wrong. In examining my role in that situation I understand where I went wrong and it probably began in my selection of roommates. I could have locked my groceries up. I could have paid the rent or communicated that I was prepared not to pay in advance. My ego told me that I was right and I wanted revenge. My roommate, well he'll have to take responsibility for his actions.

This insane idea that our beliefs are the only valid beliefs is key. Our inability to communicate effectively causes this insanity to occur and fester as we get hostile and bitter over the failings of our co-workers, friends, families, and loved ones.

The only way to work through this insanity is by establishing communication and ratcheting down our expectations. We must be willing to communicate about everything with close loved ones. And we cannot ever diminish their expectations. Their beliefs and expectations are very real to them.

It is ok to make goals, just refuse to attach an outcome to them. It works.

Uncommunicated expectations contain a slice of everything we have talked about thus far. Ego, beliefs, acceptance and negative judgments, fear and control, victimology and self pity. Sometimes, this conflict results in actual hatred and revenge. Depression, crimes of passion, suicide.

The cure for all of this? Unconditional love and acceptance. You are not required to engage in any of this insanity. It is always a choice and we want to make better choices, to be happy. Perhaps you enjoy life in that emotional tar pit, if so- by all means you are free to continue living your life and getting angry when uncommunicated expectations of yours go unmet or you ignore those of the people around you.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Essay 9. Victimology and Self Pity

Let's take a candid look at victimology and self pity. Victimology and self pity represent major obstacles in our quest for emotional freedom. First we will see where we acquire those beliefs, how to examine them, and how to free ourselves from their grasp.

Adversity is guaranteed to strike. It is how we handle adversity that truly matters.

Clearly, we can become victims. We are victims of bad belief systems instilled in us by our parents. Many of those beliefs are well intentioned. Some are not. Sometimes, those beliefs prevent us from obtaining the proper emotional tools to deal with our problems. Sometimes we acquire bad beliefs through relatives, friends, and experiences. We may be victimized by criminal behavior or in some instances, just bad luck.

If you believe you are a victim, then in essence you are and it is true. It becomes a belief system. You can indulge in all of the self pity you want and you can certainly enlist your sympathetic friends, families, and even attorneys to commiserate with you. They will enable you to do this.

The problem is, is that accepting that you are a victim or indulging in self pity will prevent you from ever getting well or emotionally free. It is a self fulfilling and damning emotional tar pit that quite honestly-I have seen many people get mired in and die without ever recognizing the escape route.

You will fall in that tar pit. We know this. We want you to recognize it and escape when it happens.

Our first step is resolution. We apply rigorous honesty to our failings and shortcomings. To our existing thoughts that we are victims. To each and every resentment. We examine our role in every situation in which we "think" we were victimized. We accept our role and responsibility with unflinching honesty. And we take ACTION to not repeat our mistakes. This is key.

Perhaps you discover that your wife or girlfriend is sleeping with another man. You feel angry, betrayed, hostile. You see yourself as a victim. You tell your friends and relatives. They shower you with sympathy and they further entrench you in the belief that you are right, you are a victim. Your ego entrenches, it is hurt. Your ego demands apologies, vindication, and unconditional surrender from your unfaithful partner which of course it doesn't get. You fail to examine your role. You fail to see your selection of a mate, or you fail to see your own selfish actions prior to the affair, and all the while that ego of yours exerts fear and control. It says you were right. That false sense of self and those enabling and sympathetic friends have helped you lie to yourself. You are stuck in the tar pit and if you want, you can wallow there for years. Build hostilities, resentments, see counselors. Stay angry, hostile, depressed. Or get well.

Acceptance. Your cheating partner was simply living her life. The relationship was over long before the symptom showed up. She was just trying to live her life and made a bad choice in how to do that. Really. It had nothing to do with you. In fact, it never does. We'll take about this later on. So the quicker we accept this, the less emotional damage we cause ourselves.

That is how emotionally free people let go and let go fast. Believing that you are a victim and a hostage prolongs all those negative emotions, anger, animosity, fear, loss of control, self esteem, depression.

So we accept that our partner is free to live her life. We refuse to be a victim or beat ourselves to death emotionally worrying about what we did wrong. We apply the rigorous honesty rule and we accept where we screwed up. We resolve our failings and forgive ourselves. We are thus arming ourselves to recover quickly. We realize suddenly, that by CHOOSING to be victims, we victimize ourselves and prolong our time in the tar pit.

Self pity works much the same way. By whining, justifying, and rationalizing our actions we simply struggle in the tar pit. Talk shows are absolutely filled with unconscious, ego driven, and the faulty belief systems of the host, guest, and audience. The other day in a restaurant, I heard the waitresses whining about the cooks, an attractive gal whining about her roommates to a couple of male friends, and my own guest talking about her problems. To say that we are a nation of victims and people fully engaged in self pity may be an understatement.

Emotionally free and conscious people understand the ill effects of enmeshing our friends or ourselves in faulty belief systems and lying to ourselves. We don't like the tar pit much and to stay out of it, we don't allow our false sense of self to run us. We REFUSE to be victims even when we are. We reject self pity.

We do our best, we accept adversity, we identify and resolve ill feelings and commit to improvements to modify our behavior. We apply rigorous honesty. We refuse to be victims or engage in self pity. Why? When we fail to examine our role, we really engage in dishonest behavior with ourselves, don't we? And in the end, we only hurt ourselves. Emotionally free people understand this. It is actually quite simple.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Was Jesus Real?

This is not a religious piece. Please don't misinterpret it. This is a historical piece. You will not read this anywhere else. At least I haven't. This is my belief. You are free to accept it or reject it. I offer it only as a belief system that I have recently acquired based on new information and how that came to be.

For years, I have struggled with religion. As a kid it bored me and the subjectivity of religion is confusing. As a young adult, I began to question the existence of God. I simply couldn't escape the concept that God was conveniently fear based and most likely invented by man in some desperate need to come to terms with our greatest fear and try to control it, death.

So as I wandered through the evidence for evolution, I became agnostic. I accepted the belief that we had just made it all up. Try as I might, I read many books available on the subject-both for and against-the existence of God. My beliefs were unresolved. I then turned my attention to tangible evidence to try to prove the existence of God. Why didn't that evidence exist? Where was this Arc of the Covenant, the Ten Commandments, the Holy Grail, the Shroud of Turin? I talked to Catholic Priests and Christian ministers. Devoutly religious people. They didn't help. I was always amazed at the intuitive belief systems of devoutly religious people. How had they acquired their beliefs and why had I been left behind?

So all of my life I have spent searching for the answer to the greatest mystery of all. A few days ago, I found it.

It had always been there. That tangible piece of evidence I could never find, I found. It came as the result of a rational concept or belief I had been exploring.

I have never spoken to anyone that believed unconditional love was possible. This is where it all began. I realized that unconditional love conquers everything. I also realized that whether you believe in unconditional love or not, is simply an opinion. Opinions and thus beliefs are fallible. That is what we have been discussing on this blog. Unconditional love conquers fear and control, it conquers anger, hate, and war. Unconditional love, a respect for all human life, is possible because I can conceive it and dream it. Can I achieve it? I don't know but a few humans have come mighty close.

We practice unconditional hate. That is certainly possible. Think about those planes on 09/11/2001 flying into buildings. So if unconditional hate is possible, why then is unconditional love not possible?

In Eckhart Tolle's book, "A New Earth", Tolle makes an astounding statement. He stated that Jesus, as he was dying on the cross uttered, "Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do." I had heard and been taught this as a child. But as Tolle described it, he said that only a man who was completely aware of the false beliefs and the false sense of self that humans possess could have uttered such a thing.

Tolle does not elaborate on Jesus' statement other than to say that from his perspective, Jesus' statement was entirely correct. It was uttered by a man that was completely aware-who understood that human beings were held hostage to fear and control, a false sense of self and ego, and that they simply did not recognize this. Indeed the Jews themselves did not believe in Christ. Completely held captive to their opinions that Jesus would come and rid the earth of their enemies. Their collective and false belief system.

I remember a statement that the great Albert Einstein made once. He believed that one day science and religion would converge and one day tend to prove each other rather than be at odds with each other.

Was Tolle's science, the science of the human mind and ego, that false sense of self driven by fear and thus control, the science Einstein spoke of?

Here then is the undeniable evidence. If Jesus' was conscious and aware of this, he understood his presence on earth made men fearful particularly the rulers of the day; he understood that they would exercise control to rid themselves of that of which they feared. A Christ that had no title, was no annointed King, who threatened to disrupt their well established power, control, and credibility. He was thus sentenced to death.

And as he lay dying on that cross, he uttered a statement that Tolle accepted as true. A statement of unconditional love and understanding, "Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do."

No human being could have uttered such a thing. A statement of unconditional love for the men that had put him to death. A statement from a man who had committed no crime. A statement from a man that was completely aware of the false sense of self and ego, of fear, that rules the inevitable failings of men. Thus he understood that he could not control the outcome and he accepted his fate. Most importantly, he did not fear that fate like men.

That single statement was completely rational and truthful according to Tolle. For me it was inescapable and undeniable. In a world ruled by fear and ego, here was a statement uttered 2000 years ago by a man, the Son of God, that no mortal could have recognized or uttered. It had to be uttered by the only thing that could have uttered it. God in the form of Jesus.

What proliferated thereafter, in the form of writing and books and religion is irrelevant. It is all conceived and manipulated by fearful and unconscious, mistake prone, human beings. Translated incorrectly and manipulated by man to promote his brand of fear and control.

I made this discovery a few days ago. It was without question for me-proof positive-that Jesus was real and clearly the son of God. God understands unconditional love while no man, although a few have come close, does understand this. I don't need a tangible piece of evidence in the form of the Arc of the Covenant, a Holy Grail, or divine intervention although that may have been what happened here.

I always had the evidence, I learned it years ago. Tolle revealed a statement and then interpreted it for me. Einstein may have corroborated it. A completely truthful and tangible statement of unconditional love uttered by the only being capable of doing so. A man that understood this at a time when nobody else understood it.

Perhaps the real point that day was unconditional love for all of mankind. That was the word of God.

Essay 8. Fear and Control

We cannot understate the role of fear and control. It is at the heart of virtually everything done on this planet. It is so prevalent that individuals will be subjected to it several times each day directly and many more times indirectly. Fear strikes at the very heart of everything we do. It is unrelenting and stifling. It becomes part of each individuals ego and they form collective egos or beliefs. They impose them on each other.

There is good news. There is a cure.

Let's return to Plato's cave for a moment. We accept that individuals are "domesticated" and taught differing beliefs by their instructors. It simply stands to reason that people would acquire differing fears which are planted and firmly rooted in them. Individuals do not make a habit of disclosing fear because they actually fear that their fears are unfounded and they will be criticized! People do not wander about proclaiming from the rooftops that "Here I am-a fearful human being!" Nor do they go out on dates and say, "sweet heart, I am absolutely afraid of abandonment and if we fall in love and then break up, I am going to stalk you and torture you for years."

Often, I gave this piece of advice. If a daughter dislikes or hates her father, "run for the hills." Why? Because I had a belief system, very often true but not infallible, that if a daughter disliked her father she would be fearful of men. Because she fears men, very often that daughter would be controlling and when you did not meet her expectations, all hell would break loose.

How often was that correct? More than I care to mention. However, that blanket rule was not infallible and sometimes wrong. The blanket application of the belief was illusory.

The point is, is that in Plato's cave, as prisoners we all learned and acquired beliefs and thus fears. They are uniquely individual and manifest themselves as things we vow to ourselves we will never repeat or disclose. We then impose them on others.

We simply cannot identify the vast array of the fears in someone else. The vast majority of people aren't even conscious enough to recognize them nor do they communicate them. They just run around trying to impose their fears and thus control on everybody around them. Refusing to submit to demands for control lands you with the consequences. Whether that's getting your ass chewed, getting fired, or landing in jail.

This occurs daily. At work, their is always someone who is fearful. Of not being smart enough. Of failing to do the right thing. Some fear an inability to scale a ladder of success. Some fear that if they do not separate themselves, distinguish themselves, they will not be promotable or they will be denied the earnings to buy that new house or BMW. Completely hostage to these fears, they make others look bad, diminish them, "hurt" them, engage in gossip, tattling, or any number of insane manifestations.

Every law and every commandment is rooted in fear and control. Think about it. I don't care whether you are talking about the death penalty, arson, drug laws, or the speed limit. The ten commandments are also rooted in fear. Whether it is lying or coveting your neighbors wife. If we fear it, we will try to control it. Our brand of control.

On a personal level, fear and control are at the heart of all of your relationships. If you or a loved one fear something, you will try to control it.

We should pause and reflect on this. Many laws and perhaps the ten commandments may be designed to protect us and provide a frame work for living good lives. Some fears have enabled us to survive. Fear has a very real and positive role in our lives. In some instances, fear is very useful.

As we recognize fears, we begin to separate useful fears from completely irrational fear. Irrational fear and thus control has lead to lynch mobs, workplace violence, and war. Some fears like walking through a bad neighborhood with warring gangs, may be well founded and useful.

The goal of this essay is simply to make you aware of all of the fear around you. Once you recognize that you are fearful and controlling-and that others are too-you can begin to analyze what is rational and what is not.

There is simply no way of understanding every human being well enough to get their list of fears. The good news is-is that we don't have to.

We recognize that people are ruled by fear. We accept some of their fears and we reject some. But we always understand them as true for those that believe them to be. Our loved ones have acquired belief systems which we respect for no other reason than we simply love them unconditionally. We agree to those terms.

Unconditional love is the cure I spoke of. In my introduction, I speak of this.

If you can dream it, you can do it. If fear kills us, unconditional love saves us. You are about to read the most profound discovery that I have ever made. It occurred only a few days ago.

It set all of my irrational fear on it's ear and the story you are about to read encapsulates fear and control, unconditional love, and it inherently proves (for me) the existence of a higher power. By all my measures, it is the greatest truth ever told.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

A Father's Pain

The story I'm about to tell you is true. It took 20 years to live and about ten or fifteen minutes to retell. It was one of the most gut wrenching and agonizing things I have ever listened to. I am going to try to explain it here and tell you in advance that it has a happy ending. For me, it was like God himself whacked me over the head with a two by four. If that in fact happened, my thanks go out to him or her, whatever the case might be.

In late 2007, I was undergoing a vast paradigm shift and just beginning to question my own flawed belief systems. I was sober, rational, and aware. Present and available in every possible sense of those two words. I had been a police officer all of my life. I had met a man that had been a "criminal" all of his life. I remember him well, his identity is not important but his story is too important to be forgotten. Our paths crossed in New Orleans.

Allen had grown up in a terribly dysfunctional and alcoholic home. He had watched his parents drink, drug, cheat on each other, argue, and fight. As a child he was hostage to this madness and powerless to intervene or stop it. He acquired belief systems that allowed him to survive. Merely survive. By his late teens he was fully engaged in all of the madness that he had watched his parents engage in. That was his reality. He accepted that as true. As he grew into a young man like most drug addicts, he began to sell dope and sleep with women who also used alcohol and dope to escape their realities. He was an alcoholic. To that end one of those women Allen saw became pregnant. It does not take much to bring a life into the world and so it was.

Allen continued to drink and drug with the mother of his child, to sleep with other women, and she in turn slept with other men. They argued and fought verbally and physically. They dealt and used dope in front of their son-enmeshing him in all of the dysfunction that was their lives. They abandoned that son emotionally, physically, and spiritually while engaged in the beliefs that this was simply how you lived. Justifying their existence as normal, plagued with issues of self esteem, this then was their belief systems. They were never able to recognize that collective ego nor did they have the tools or capacity to stop.

Allen's son became a drug addict and alcoholic as well. That is what he learned. Allen at some point, had enough and he found a bottom or he picked one. He got sober and aware. He became conscious and rational. He began sifting through the wreckage of his life. He began to accept the bad beliefs he received as a child and he forgave his parents as ill equipped. He began to accept responsibility for his own life and what he had done to his son. He had been sober a few years when his son landed in jail.

Allen's son, in a drug and alcohol crazed robbery, had entered the business he had just been fired from. Armed with a gun he had attempted to rob his previous employer, shooting up the place but thankfully not injuring or killing anyone. Clearly it was the only small victory for a staff of people traumatized by the whole episode. Allen's son was arrested the following day and had been sitting in jail for nearly a year. His sentencing in that neighboring state would occur in a couple of weeks. The prosecution had recommended 25 years.

As Allen told this story he began to cry. Sober now, he fully realized what he had done to his son during all of those years of drinking and drugging and I cannot fully capture the agony and despair in his voice. It was absolutely gut wrenching.

There was one old cop listening that night. A cop that had rigorously enforced the law and sought to put every "criminal" behind bars. A cop that aligned his belief system only for the sake of victims. A cop that believed criminals should be shown no mercy, a cop that didn't really understand why people behaved the way they did. Nor did he ever bother thinking about it. It would have been a tremendous loss had that cop never heard that story. Because in that instant, I realized that Allen's son was also a victim. An alcoholic and drug addict completely self absorbed by a belief system and ego laced with booze and drugs that said that this is acceptable behavior and he robbed that store. I realized in that moment there was no such thing as a "criminal." These were real people rather than some nameless and faceless booking number. There were simply millions of people that we label and judge as such. As I pondered all of this, I acquired a belief that virtually nobody is born with a bad heart. That these people are all created as a result of fear, bad belief systems, and a warped ego that really didn't know right from wrong.

In the days that followed I couldn't get Allen or his son out of my mind. I couldn't escape the truth that I had never really bothered to understand people like Allen's son. Perhaps it was a defense mechanism that allowed me to perform my job without involving me emotionally. Perhaps that allowed me to be more effective. I couldn't help but replay all of the "criminals" I had arrested and think about them. The more I did this, the more the truth became inescapable. It was as though I had been robbed of my innocence and I suddenly realized that I would never see people the same way again. I am grateful for that.

Perhaps we don't really understand people like Allen's son and we don't really want to. All we have seen is shadows. All we see is some drug crazed kid shooting up a joint and we focus all of our attention on that brief act. But inside that kid was a 20 year old piece of videotape we would never have wanted to see. To see it might cause empathy or distraction. We would become fully exposed, lose our innocence, perhaps our sense of justice. See a little boy, by himself, watching his parents fight. Scared and alone. People would call us weak or liberal-label us. We fear for ourselves. It is simpler not to know any of that and there is always someone to tell us it's not relevant to the criminal act and so we hide from it rather than get judged as sympathetic or insensitive to the victims we represent.

About a week later, I saw Allen. He was going to his son's sentencing. I asked him what he was going to do. He said that he was going to get on that witness stand and tell the world what a horrible drug dealing and miserable father he had been. How he had imprinted his child with the belief systems he had employed and what he had done to his son. That he had poorly equipped his son. He did that. He told his whole story.

The truth set Allen free. After 20 years, he finally stood up for his son. And you know what, that Judge set his son free. Gave him probation and released him to the custody of his father. I don't know if there were any angry robbery victims in the court room that day. Instead of taking 25 years of his life, that judge gave a wounded kid back his life. The judge gave a wounded father back his life also. Man, what a happy beginning. I hope they write a happy ending.

Essay 7. Rendering Negative Judgments

I absolutely love this topic. Of the thousands of people I have met and of the thousands of books and articles, opinions, editorials, and blogs I have consumed, I came to believe that this is an absolute epidemic. Of all those thousands of people and authored writings, I have only seen a handful-perhaps, five or six, who absolutely refused to judge others. Many others, nearly all authors, did not render enough information to assess. Those shadows again.

And as I listened to people and read those things what was I doing? Correct! Judging them.

We can have fun with this topic. In my essay, "Confessions of a Recovering Ego Maniac" I identified groups of people, clinging to their beliefs and egos, in such a way that it was humorous. It is only humorous because we have a collective belief that those stereotypes exist and we accept that. That essay was generated and placed on a competitive writing site wherein people are asked to judge it's value. It has remained at the top of it's category since I first penciled it out.

People are constantly judging and evaluating everything they collect through their five senses and rendering judgments. Good judgment is the litmus test for survival, common sense, and growth. Because good judgment is very valuable we accept it as rational although it is clearly subjective and belief system driven. Good judgment does not fit our criteria of a bad belief system and in fact we are here trying to improve our own.

Let me give you an example of a belief system or perhaps just an insight into a belief system. I once knew a man who habitually carried large amounts of cash in excess of five thousand dollars. He was an older gentleman and we became good friends. One day, I asked him why it was that he carried all that money, all the time. His explanation made perfect sense to me but only because he offered it to me. He said that he had grown up in the great depression. He had lost money as a result of bank failures. The economy thereafter rendered him poor and at the mercy of strangers. He said that he vowed if he ever were to obtain money again, that he would not trust all of his wealth to the safekeeping of banks. In fact he carried large amounts of cash and had some stowed away in safekeeping in the event that a similar situation ever occurred. Thus he developed a belief system as a result of real loss and insecurity. Clearly it was fear driven but that fear was very real to him and in fact he had lived through it. I had not.

His carrying all that dough was a shadow to me, I did not understand it until I did.

What we should focus on here is the very real and negative consequences of uttering negative judgments. Remember that "sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me" cliche'? That old saw is both absolutely correct and absolutely incorrect simultaneously.

It is correct in that the judgments and opinions of others is none of our business. It is incorrect in that words do in fact, hurt us. Sometimes we accept the harsh judgments of our parents and siblings as true. Sometimes we build entire and inaccurate belief systems including lack of self esteem and self worth because of them. Perhaps teachers say things that corroborate those fearful feelings that we have. Sometimes words anger us or cause us to lash out in a never ending game of "one ups man ship" that leaves both parties diminished and hurt.

Characterizing people as arrogant, self absorbed, jaded, cynical, or any of the thousands of ways that we have invented to negatively characterize someone else instantly becomes part of our bad belief system. If we say that Joe is a pussy or a coward, we have instantly uttered an opinion and a belief that we most likely will adhere to. We may have acquired a bad belief which is very often limited to an isolated incident or very incomplete information. We simply do not know whether Joe is a coward or not, because we don't know the history of Joe. The person uttering that statement by implication, believes that by identifying Joe as a coward based on a singular incident, he somehow feels better about himself-perhaps even courageous. In fact that person may even be a coward himself, fearful, and making accusations to bolster his own fragile ego. He is simply living his life directed by that fearful ego that must utter such judgments.

Judging others negatively is insane. We do so ever so freely and with incredibly limited information. By and large rendering harsh judgments gets us nowhere close to emotional freedom. Most people do not respond well to judgment or criticism and they will visit us with their own brand of judgment.

There is one noteworthy exception. If you have established a position of love and understanding, trust, with your target audience it is possible to render a negative judgment that they may see as true, helpful, and well intended. Some people really do have a capacity to listen and change. My belief system says that they are the minority and that I must exercise great caution and timing when passing a negative judgment and I generally have a viable solution when I do. I choose my words ever so carefully. Words are in fact everything-this cannot be overstated.

To attain emotional freedom, I am simply going to refuse to negatively judge people. This is the safest course. If you choose this same path and make a commitment to stop judging people negatively, you should be aware of one other thing. Your past judgments do not clear up over night. People will hold deep seated animosity and resentments if you have left them scarred and they are not going to suddenly see a halo over your head. It takes time and commitment and you will undoubtedly fall back into rendering negative judgments from time to time as situations arise. But at least you will be aware of the impacts and you can always make immediate amends.
You now have recognition and awareness. Once that occurs, it becomes your responsibility to take action if your goal is emotional freedom.

Will we as individuals or as a culture ever recognize just how damaging this is? Can we escape Plato's cave by understanding that negative judgments are simply shadows that we don't fully understand and that we may never have the capacity to understand? I'm not sure. I am desperately trying to escape that shadow filled cave and it's simply too early to render a judgment. So to speak.

Refusing to negatively judge others becomes part of our new operating system. If that system requires new beliefs, the dissolving of our old ego, acceptance, courageous responsibility, and refusing to negatively judge others, we cannot ignore the role of fear and control. Fear and control as we are about to see, represent a big virus that is bogging down our new computer. Recognizing and eliminating that virus is going to bring us operating efficiencies that we never dreamed possible.

Essay 6. Acceptance

Thus far we have discussed our faulty belief systems, our false sense of self or ego, and it's ability to rationalize and justify our own poor performance and inadequacies. Specifically an ego that constantly keeps an individual in denial of the very real possibility that our belief systems are flawed and that somehow anything we do, even if it is patently false, is justifiable and right given a set of circumstances that our ego demands for survival.

Acceptance is just the willingness to embrace the possibility that we have acted poorly. That is ok. However, at the point when we first realize or begin to examine this we must take action to change this. If we do not-we are doomed to repeat the same emotional mistakes over and over again, expecting different results. Einstein's definition of insanity.

Willingness and the ability to change require rigorous honesty. We cannot apply this to anyone other than ourselves. We don't need to fall on a sword, shout from the rooftops that we have acted insanely, or blame anyone. No bolt of lightening will come from the sky and incinerate us. We are simply going to accept that we have some faulty beliefs and that we are going to work on becoming better human beings and becoming emotionally free. Your ego won't like this, it will fight and resist. It will try to remain in denial. But slowly we are gaining the upper hand.

Part of acceptance is that we must accept that we cannot change anyone other than ourselves. We are going to accept that others will make mistakes, judge us, attack us, and engage in all of the same insanity that we used to engage in. We cannot control anyone other than ourselves. Other people are simply trying to live their lives based on the belief systems installed in them. What others do has nothing to do with us, ever. In fact, what others think of you is simply none of your business. For some, that is a difficult concept to understand.

So as we accept our failures, our ego gets diminished. This is a good thing. The ego can no longer perpetuate that fraud upon us that says, "we are right" or "we must control this" or "we are under attack, launch a counterattack!" because we accept that in fact, we may be wrong because of our faulty beliefs and that to engage in this one up argument diminishes our perceived adversaries and they in turn diminish us. All of that negative behavior is completely avoidable, unnecessary, and insane. We will just let others live their lives. If they attack us, we will not launch a counter attack. It is the insanity of the planet. Inwardly, we may chuckle when we watch others engage in this attack-counterattack useless and diminishing behavior. We won't laugh long because we will remember that we once participated in that negative behavior.

Acceptance that we are all fragile human beings, mistake prone, and stuck on this rock together becomes understandable. We are going to accept our flaws and work on them, the only way that is possible. With undeterred honesty and a willingness and acceptance to become better human beings.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Essay 5. Accepting Emotional Responsibility For Your Actions

Thus far, we have singled out flawed belief systems and our false sense of self or ego as the two greatest barriers to emotional freedom. We recognize them.

Think of faulty beliefs and the ego as ancient operating systems in a computer that have accumulated viruses over time and now are rendering the computer and memory capacity incapable of performing optimally like it once did. We can't see the problem but we know that one exists because of our poor emotional state. We have a virus, faulty beliefs and our ego, and we accept this. We want to eradicate those things from our hard drive and reduce the ill effects. Having determined the problem, it is time to get out the tools and go to work.

Failing to take responsibility for our actions is actually quite understandable. As children we were punished when we failed to do as we were asked or for bad behavior. We sought the rewards for good conduct and avoided punishment at all costs. We learned that we could minimize, lie, or blame others for our bad behavior and we were successful at that sometimes. We continued to evade responsibility for our behavior as we grew into adults and eventually we passed this belief system onto our children. Parents do this primarily through actions but also verbally. Responsibility avoidance thus becomes one of those flawed belief systems.

In many people it becomes so normal and acceptable that it is second nature. It becomes part of their ego.

While responsibility avoidance certainly allows people to avoid near term consequences when it is accepted or tolerated, it has much larger downstream consequences. It has a cumulative effect on the emotional health of the deceiving party. The deceiver becomes the deceived. The deceiver never gets better because the conduct goes unchecked. Deceptive conduct manifests itself as drinking, drugging, job loss, conflict, marital and family disputes, infidelity, broken friendships. As those things unwind the deceiver rationalizes and justifies his conduct further with the aid of a fear driven ego that does not want to accept the punishment for poor conduct. The ego continues to engage in whining, blaming, justifying, and bad mouthing perceived adversaries whoever they might be.

Failing to take responsibility at the behest of a fear driven ego is insane. Continuing to practice that behavior won't yield different results. There is only one solution.

We must take responsibility for everything that happens to us. If we walk into a crosswalk without looking and get hit by a bus, we take responsibility. If we feel cheated out of a promotion we accept that we could have done better and prepared better and we vow to improve. We don't blame the boss. If our wife cheats on us, we accept our role in helping to damage the relationship in such a way that it came to that. Our role is inescapable and we scrutinize and accept our actions. At every turn.

We refuse to deceive, rationalize, or justify our own failings or to behave like victims. We are going to try and accept the blame for all of our wrongs and we are going to refuse to engage in future behavior that tempts us to avoid responsibility.

We are going to quit deceiving ourselves. We will become role models for our kids and break this national pandemic of responsibility avoidance and enabling. By applying this to all of our dealings we will arm our children with the gift of accepting responsibility for their actions. We are going to feel better about ourselves and we are going to quit feeling guilty.

We are going to chip away at our bad beliefs and fragile egos that cling to the idea that this is acceptable conduct and we will not pass this bad belief system on. Accepting responsibility becomes a key ingredient in establishing emotional freedom.

Confessions of a Recovering Ego Maniac

Well, if you've made it this far without falling asleep on your keyboard or lapsing into complete and utter confusion, let me offer up a piece of satire I wrote a few months back. I hope you will enjoy it.

I am convinced that the planet is inhabited by ego maniacs. An absolutely insane number of people running around believing that they are smarter, prettier, faster, and tougher than anyone else. They are consumed with the idea they must "succeed", whatever that is. I know because I came from that world. I am a recovering ego maniac. There are benefits.

This is how it works. Once it dawns on you that every belief system you have ever acquired is based on an opinion and that quite possibly those beliefs are flawed or wrong, the awakening starts. Little by little, whatever potentially false sense of self that you cling to gets shattered. You may be left with the possibility that you aren't the smartest, prettiest, fastest, or toughest human being and that in fact you never will be. It is possible that you are just a dumbass. When you reach this level of acceptance and humility, it no longer becomes necessary to try and prove anything. You have stripped your ego down to bare wood. Now the hardest part about accepting that you are now a tree trunk and a former ego maniac is that you are still surrounded by millions of ego maniacs in varying degrees of insanity. These people are very easy to spot and still remain hostage, clinging to their bark and that false sense of self. I will give you some examples and tips on spotting some of those types of people which will allow you to avoid conflict and enjoy life.

People that require you to address them by "title." People who habitually sign documents with a B.A., Ph.D., or some other designation on everything from stationary, notepads, or bar napkins. These folks have an inferiority complex. They are trying to prove to themselves and to the world that they are smarter or more accomplished than anyone else, that they are deserving or entitled and that they have credibility. They may mention where they went to school, without prompting, if this lends credibility to their "brainiac" image, otherwise they might not mention it. In many cases their parents told them how smart they were. Unfortunately their parents did not learn to grade on a curve that includes the six billion other people on this planet, all of whom might have told their children how smart they were. This leads to a lot of conflict even if you happen to be a genius. Avoid this trap. Get your Ph.D. and shut up about it. Or not. Act a little stupid if you are capable of that. People will like you.

The prince and the princess types. These are generally people who have to wear the very best clothes and designer labels, drive expensive foreign sports cars, and if female-take four hours to put makeup on just to walk outside and grab the paper. They absolutely fear not fitting in. This class of ego maniacs include celebrities and movie star types. Men and women completely enamored with their looks. In all likelihood, this brand of narcissism was evident in their parents and passed down. Fathers who told their daughters how beautiful they were and of course those daughters believed it. The problem here is that a billion or so other women bought into the same rhetoric from their loving fathers. Instead of starting wars and killing each other, we have beauty pageants to try and prove which daughter is the most beautiful. All of this egomania leads to a lot of conflict. Mostly among women. Avoid it. Even if you are a goddess just think of yourself as dressed in a potato sack or some ugly duckling. Act a little ugly once in awhile. People will like you and appreciate your humble nature. So will a lot of men.

The "He-Man" type, athletes, body builders, cage fighters, men with big trucks. These are men clinging to the belief that that they are stronger or tougher than anyone else. Their false sense of security is bolstered by their appearance and their willingness to intimidate you. Often they are somewhat narcissistic particularly about their bodies. Sometimes they pick fights with strangers. They come from families where fathers, brothers, and uncles told them how tough they were and that this is family tradition. They bought into this belief and think strongly that it has some useful purpose. All of that conflict causes conflict. Some of these men grow old, infirm, and die. Or get shot by scared skinny men who are easily intimidated. Avoid the potential adverse impacts. Lift a lot of weights, stay healthy, and wear baggy clothes. Tell people you are a lover, not a fighter. Chicks will dig you. Everyone else will like you.

Pretentious people. These are the most populous group. Everything they possess has to be the biggest and best. They drive the most expensive cars, they have monstrously sized homes and parties so that they can show off their castles. They live in exclusive places, often secluded or on mountain tops, they have yachts and jets. Too much is never enough. They want you to envy them. They are completely self absorbed and forever wanting more. They are constantly keeping score and telling you how bright, savvy, and sophisticated they are in that subliminal message that they continuously convey. This leads to a lot of conflict. To avoid this trap, go ahead and earn a lot of dough and live in a small house in Omaha, Nebraska like Warren Buffett. Keep your mouth shut about how bright you are and how you have managed to exploit everyone else for your own greed and ego. Leave your money to charity. People will still think you have a humongous ego, but at least you will confuse them a little bit. Maybe they will say nice things at your wake.

So what's in all this for a recovering ego maniac? A man who is potentially stupid, ugly, easily intimidated, and weak? Freedom and happiness. It's no longer important for me to be hostage to all of that insanity and a set of false beliefs that cause conflict. It's ok to just be happy without keeping score and let other people indulge in that insanity if they want. You are not required to mention any of this by the way. It causes conflict. Keep quiet, people will like you.