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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.