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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

To Thine Ownself Be True

One of the hardest things I've had to learn was the simple act of emotional de-investment. Moving to acceptance and learning to do that with a minimum of emotional distress.

That does not mean you "un-love" somebody.

Learning how to de-invest in someone is brought about by understanding. This is a situation where you have "done your best." If you can say that you have done your best, that is all that you can do. If you have not been met half way by your relationship partner, you are fast approaching that time when withdrawal is imminent. You cannot make someone else- do "your" best.

Some people are simply incapable of having meaningful and committed relationships. They simply do not understand what that is. I understand that now. This is a good point to define contextually what a meaningful relationship is.

It is a commitment to support another human being. To love and accept them. To be available when they need you most. To involve each other intimately. To make your partner a priority. To fight for them and never against them.

I have missed this unity of two people.

If you find yourself in a situation where those things are missing, that they were never there or they have since dwindled away- this is a relationship that is drawing to a close.

As I reflect back upon my life, I see those things clearly now. I have been in committed relationships and I have been in fractured types of relationships. I thank God that I have had both because that has given me the perspective to tell one from the other.

Tonight I was grocery shopping when I spotted a couple leaning on each other and asking what they should buy this week. They actually had a conversation where each one participated in the conversation and giggled back and forth. They had two young children with them. They had a gleam in their eyes. I saw them throughout my travels in the store and behind me in the check out line. They had a commitment. You just knew this couple was tight. I could see that and I smiled. I paused just a moment before I left. I remember how that felt. I hope I can feel that way just once more.

Over the past year I've had to emotionally de-invest in a number of relationships. They were emotionally unhealthy for me. The pieces, as I define them, were simply not there any longer- if they ever were. To do your best and accept that sometimes your best is not good enough is mature. You simply cannot make someone love you when they lack the perspective of ever having a committed relationship. They don't know what that is- or are missing- and you can't help them find that.

I've had to de-invest in family situations as well. That's not to say I have withdrawn completely. I simply have to accept that people are free to live their lives. I place no expectations on their success or failures. I've seen the best and the worst outcomes. I agree to accept either. I am not the conductor and I have to trust that everyone has a purpose here. Ultimately we all make decisions based on our standing within relationships. When it is clear that you are missing most of the pieces, or you feel significantly diminished, it may be time for a tactical withdrawal. This does not require any anger, or even an explanation. You do not have to feel ashamed nor do you have to blame others. You simply have to be true to yourself.

Monday, December 13, 2010

How To Manage Extreme Self-Centeredness

We are all born with the instinct for survival. We are exposed to punishment themes. We seek the love and support of others, not harsh words and unkind acts. We seek recognition, success, and material wealth. To that end, we want what we want.

Wanting and self centered behavior are kind of joined at the hip. Most often we cannot have one without the other. In fact, those people that value material wealth or recognition above all other things tend to also be the most self centered. Over time, we might refer to them as "spoiled." That's just been my experience. It is only my opinion. It may not be true for you.

It is our job to become aware of our own selfish behavior. To at least attempt some moderation. That's the first step. Recognize and become aware of your own self serving behavior. How does it effect others?

It is also my belief that the vast majority of people who place their needs above all else do so unconsciously. They do not do this with malice or intent. They don't even have a conscious thought regarding it. Some folks become so self serving that they convince themselves and others that they are not self serving at all. I call this heightened unconsciousness.

So we accept that some self centered behavior is a fact of life. It is when that degree of self seeking behavior becomes so intolerable or so extreme that it adversely effects us. That we consistently have to avail ourselves of our own self worth and in some instances, abandon our own values to simply accommodate and tolerate the self-centeredness of those around us. When self seeking behavior becomes consistent and extreme, when it causes us to abandon our core values, then it has become a problem. How do we know when enough is enough?

This is what I have learned. In the workplace, extreme self-centeredness is the leading cause of job loss and conflict. I am convinced of that. Selfish people, people who hurt and diminish others in the workplace, are virtually unstoppable. They will go to extreme levels in an attempt to get what they want. Generally speaking, eventually that extreme level of self seeking reaches such an obvious level, that action (long over due) must be taken. Many times these people must be confronted and disciplined. Very often it ends in job or career loss, perhaps in civil or criminal action. Occasionally, the extremely self centered person can be reasoned with. I was able to get through to a couple of folks like that. I consider those among my most valued successes. If you are on a level or subordinate role with these types of co-working hostage takers, you will find yourself practicing not taking what they say or do personally, internal discipline and restraint, and acceptance. Sometimes a lot of acceptance. Sometimes we have to wait out a chaotic person like that, but more often than not, they will "fire" themselves. They just never seem to do it as quickly as most of us would like. Sometimes we must throw in the towel.

In personal relationships, this becomes a little easier. Extreme self seeking in personal relationships is also unconscious. Sometimes the people we love simply want what they want. We make concessions and allowances for them. Often they consistently display an unwillingness to make any effort, concession, or allowance for us. We find ourselves in a situation where the self seeking partner has displayed absolute indifference. They simply lack any capacity, whether conscious or unconscious, to meet us halfway. What happens next occurs- as a direct result of the capacity you have for allowing that situation to continue. Intuitively, like the work place hostage taker, many of us stay in relationships well beyond that point. When you begin to feel diminished, when you find your core values being manipulated and ignored (and perhaps you are even abandoning them) it is time to consider ending the relationship. In this instance, you will not have to wait for a boss to intervene- you can take action yourself. You may simply reject the relationship and extract yourself from it. Because you understand it is never personal, you simply look for the exit.

As a younger man, I often practiced extreme self-centeredness. I am not proud of that achievement. In fact, in some instances, it has been the source of humiliation and shame. Somewhere, somehow, I found the divine inspiration and courage it takes to recognize that part of my life. At first my ego was highly resistant. It simply didn't want to accept that I was selfish, perhaps extremely so. My ego wanted to deny and rationalize. To justify my conduct. It even sought out others who would agree and support my selfish behavior.

Today, I am still self-centered. I have not been able to eliminate selfish behavior nor do I think it is possible. But I do not practice self-centeredness in the extreme. I try to include others, often thinking about their needs ahead of my own. I am fully aware of the wanting and damage that all of that selfish and spoiled behavior in me causes. I still make mistakes, wanting selfish people to be a little less selfish and a little more willing to meet me halfway. I get frustrated at their denials and their unwillingness to work on themselves. Today, I have been able to identify those people who are willing to understand this basic concept. I am also removing myself from those situations of extreme self-centeredness which have caused me to question my worth and my values. I can't take their actions personally. I have to practice tolerance along with a great deal of acceptance. I have decisions to make and that's how I find myself managing these things.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Managing and Eliminating Anger

One of the biggest hurdles in my life was overcoming anger.

The root cause of anger, like all negative emotions, is fear. Often our fears are entirely based on the belief systems we have acquired coupled with our false sense of self. Ego.

I had always been an angry person. I know how that came about. Most of the time, I was able to repress or suppress my anger. I have met people who actually believed they have "cured" themselves of anger issues when in fact- all they have managed to do is bottle it up inside. Some can't manage to even bottle it up or repress it. Still others think they are entitled to anger. They don't even try to hide it. They simply run around terrorizing the people they think are demonizing them.

Have you ever heard someone say, "I can't control my anger?" That is as ridiculous as saying I can't eat anything except potato chips. Completely false. More accurately, they may not believe they can control their anger. Or perhaps they simply do not know how to eliminate anger. Or they truly have acquired a belief system that enjoys being angry. They choose anger.

People without anger issues are no better at resolving anger for others than a piano teacher that can't play a piano but tries to teach people to play. Perhaps the best credibility- comes from us angry souls that have scaled that mountain. That's not to say we didn't learn a lot from the examples of people that don't have anger issues. Sometimes those calm people were my role models. Sometimes, we looked at those people quizzically. Sometimes those calm and serene souls looked back at us the same way.

One of the goals in my life was to eliminate anger. While I haven't achieved 100% success, I have come pretty close. As I look back over this past year, I can honestly say I have only been genuinely angry twice. Was I justified? Nope. In fact, both instances were avoidable. You see, I chose to be angry.

The absolute cornerstone to eliminating anger is an absolute refusal to take other peoples' actions and words personally. That must be coupled with the same absolute refusal to make assumptions. Those two things, when committed and practiced rigorously, will eliminate (in my case) about 90% of anger causing situations.

It is fine tuning that other 10% that takes a little extra work. Those tend to be long term situations where people have uncovered your "buttons" and enjoy pushing them once in awhile. I risk manage those situations by preparing and risk managing those contacts well in advance. It might be as simple as dinner at someone's home or a glance at caller ID to let me know who is calling. Other situations arise, traffic incidents or the neighbors' dog, or perhaps his rude owner. My other neighbor throws loud parties that last all night. In many of those situations, because those situations tend to rise suddenly, I use a circuit breaker. As soon as I feel a negative emotion or threat, I no longer act. I pause and reflect.

I will give you a real life example. Last week, my friend's truck was parked on the street in front of my house. He is in Hawaii and I parked the truck there while he is out of town. Although it was directly in front of my house, it's positioning causes my neighbor to have to parallel park. The neighbor cannot just swoop in the spot in front of his house because the vacant space normally in front of my home- is no longer available for swooping. So he has to back in. The next morning I found my friend's truck had been egged. No other cars were egged. Although common sense indicates my neighbor was mostly likely responsible, I chose not to make that assumption. Confronting the neighbor would have just gotten a denial, perhaps facilitating some future feud. Revenge or calling the cops would have the same result.

I took the truck and washed it before freezing weather set in. I parked it across the street and out of his way. I let him "win." He can now swoop in again. My neighbor has no idea who I am. Not bad for a 6'4", 260 lb. "girly" man who wrestled drunks and maniacs for 25 years. Hey, I didn't say this would be easy.

I am committed to the process. I meditate. I refuse to take any thing personally and I don't make assumptions. I prepare for and manage "high risk" emotional situations before they occur. I "circuit break" any time I feel threatened, attacked, or a negative emotion. I process it and remember- it's never personal. I can let people bonk my car with eggs, that doesn't have anything to do with me. I can't assume it was the neighbor. I can't control the thought processes of people that think doing things like that is a good idea. The only thing I can do is control how I perceive the world, accept it, and not spend my evening trying to figure out some way to extract revenge. It's a lot better way to live- this sleeping at night with a clear conscience.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

If We "Don't Take Anything Personally" Can We Still Have Emotionally Invested Relationships?

An excellent question, posed by a friend of mine. In fact, a young man in my life just posed the same question to me. Why do you love me when I consistently fail? What's in it for you?

Please remember that real love is the unconditional kind. Not obsessive, not infatuation, not superficial. That when we make decisions to love somebody, it should not involve any selfish intent. It does not require "something in return." This is not a business arrangement. Nor should you be thinking that I am going to control and change you to suit my needs. That includes, most importantly here, any idea that I can influence or induce somebody into loving me back.

Whether the people we us back is really not that important to a point. We are invested in what we can control. We love unconditionally and selflessly. We let people be who they are. And love is generally returned to us. If it is not, if we feel as though we have become doormats or are being taken advantage of (this is victim thinking but it exists) then we must ask ourselves a simple question. How much of this will I endure? My capacity for endurance is great. But there comes a point when love crosses the line. That point when we recognize that the people in our lives are simply incapable of returning our love. I have no expectations on return capacity- I know intuitively when the effort is returned. Sometimes return capacity is greatly diminished.

This might involve poor family imprinting. A simple inability to grasp what love is. It may mean that we are simply growing weary of each other- that we are actually falling out of love. It may mean the person has a mental illness, a drug, or alcohol problem.

Love is not co-dependence. It is not self driven fear. It is not pain and suffering. In fact, sometimes love means we have no other choice than to let someone go. That our presence in their lives is preventing or stunting them from development or a greater capacity to love.

I find that in my life, if I know 100 people, that each of them has a different definition for love. But that rarely can any of them practice unconditional love. They practice conditional love almost always. Ok, I agree to love if you do this, this, and this. If you will just quit doing this, this, and this. If you don't comply with these demands, I shall withdraw my love for you. That is what we really practice. That isn't love. That's fear. Hostage taking. Putting lipstick on fear and calling it love- well we just don't have that alchemy. They are mutually exclusive. They cannot exist in the same place at the same time- like fire and water. When love turns into emotional hostage taking- then it is no longer love.

So to answer the question. It is possible for us to invest emotionally in our relationships? Nearly 100% so. It is impossible to think that we can make someone love us back in that same capacity. In fact, it doesn't really matter whether they do or they don't. We do our best. If they are able to return the favor we are enormously happy. If they cannot, we are still happy. If we have done our best, and our loved ones can't reflect our love back- we are simply left with a choice. Am I engaged in this relationship for reasons other than love? Am I fearful? Am I happy? Do I feel sorry for this person? Am I trying to perform a rescue here? There is a life cycle to love, like all things on this planet, and ultimately you are left with a choice that only you can answer. Sometimes that choice must be to detach. We have done our best. We have thrown the kitchen sink at this thing and there is simply nothing else we can do. Often when we detach, we are showing the ultimate love. Love for those that still need to progress and love for ourselves. Perhaps it is we- who will progress.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Applying "Don't Take Anything Personally" to the Extreme

In Ruiz's simple little masterpiece, " The Four Agreements" he makes an outlandish claim. Within the chapter, "Don't Take Anything Personally", Ruiz makes the claim that this includes somebody sticking a gun to your head and pulling the trigger. This was a polarizing statement for me at first pass and clearly extreme. Or so I thought. What is the logic behind such a claim? Is it true?

Ruiz makes a very clear point in the book. That people are simply living their lives. That they are living with the unconscious belief systems that were installed in them. That we simply don't know what those beliefs are. That others will see the world differently than ourselves. That they have pre-existing opinions and beliefs, just as we all do, which they believe to be true. Other people will act on those opinions and beliefs and that...never has anything to do with us.

That conditioning, those opinions and beliefs, are what allow prostitutes to be prostitutes while many of us could not do that. At the other end, material wealth may equate as success to a wall street banker. He may think nothing of stripping the public of their wealth as long as it is legal- perhaps illegal- as long as he doesn't get caught. A driver speeding through traffic may have decided that it is necessary that he speeds because being late may have a very detrimental impact on him.

We simply don't know what motivates others to do what they do. It's not particularly important either. We cannot possibly know all of those things. But what we can do- and the point of the whole chapter- is to recognize and accept that people are free to live their lives as they see fit.
But where Ruiz stops short, and to expand this just a bit, is that when we take things personally- we make the assumption that we are victims. Agreement three, "Don't Make Assumptions" applies here as well.

If we think our erratic driver's behavior endangered us, aren't we entitled to be victims? If our spouse cheats on us, aren't we victims? Surely we can find people to agree that we have been victimized, can't we? Of course we can. But that won't make us well. In fact, it is likely to emotionally mire us in even further.

Therefore our answer has to be no. That driver and that cheating spouse were making decisions based on beliefs that the behavior they were engaged in was necessary, rational, or justifiable. Those decisions do not have a thing to do with us. And if we allow ourselves to be feel victimized, we wallow in an emotional tar pit that consumes us. We cannot move emotionally forward. Our day is ruined because a driver was late for an appointment. Or in the case of a cheating spouse, I have seen "victim" spouses consumed with decades of hatred. Incapable of moving on. They cannot accept that their cheating spouse was simply living his or her life. That the decision to cheat had absolutely nothing to do with them.

If you find yourself wallowing in self pity, looking for people to agree with you that you were a "victim", you will find them. The time you spend languishing as a victim will be additional lost time. You will be mired in that tar pit of negative emotions, consumed with pity, anger, perhaps hatred while all the time...the other party will just continue living their lives. Oblivious, perhaps angering you even more at the apathy you suppose they display. Perhaps they will even generate a second round of "victimization" within you or perhaps you might ponder or conduct a revengeful counter attack.

This insanity is completely avoidable. We simply cannot achieve any level of spirituality until we can take "Don't Take Anything Personally" to the extreme. That people are simply living their lives and that never has anything to do with us. We also can't let the actions of others turn us into self pitying or angry souls. There is simply no upside, absolutely nothing to gain, when we can't practice acceptance of this simple agreement.

Does the logic make sense? Yes, of course it does. Is it true? It doesn't really matter. When we adopt this agreement, the logic becomes so powerful that we no longer feel animosity, anger, or hatred. We let people be just as sane or insane as they want to be. The actions of others have little or no negative impact on us. We practice acceptance and we get over it quickly. No need for decades of anger and frustration- no ruined days simply because someone roared up along side of us and cut us off as they weaved in and out of traffic to some undisclosed location. It works.

"Don't Take Anything Personally" is the virtual cornerstone of emotional freedom. It is essential and it is essential that it be practiced to the extreme. In fact, it is when those extreme things happen- when we feel desperate and alone- that we need this principle the most. It allows us to endure, heal quickly, and thrive.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

To Be Re-born, You Have to Die First

First a brilliant quote.

I have often wished I had time to cultivate modesty... But I am too busy thinking about myself.

Edith Sitwell, As quoted in The Observer (30 April 1950)
A few years ago, I found myself actively murdering my ego. This situation was brought about by the awakening and understanding that my false sense of self or ego, was preventing me from being happy and free. It had taken control of my life and had isolated me from the love of others. Being angry, depressed, and miserable is no way to live your life. And so I found myself at a crossroads. I could remain isolated and depressed. Or I could free myself. It was time to kill the hostage taker.

The good news is that I didn't leave a body behind. There was no crime to solve, no warrants of arrest, no burial.

I evaluated every belief system, every facet of my emotional life, and I put the pieces together and resolved them. As the dust settled on that part of the project, I took an inventory of the things that caused me the greatest distress. The first order of business was to eliminate alcohol or any mood altering drug from the solution list. I added mindless distractions. I did not watch 5 hours of TV that year.

I then compiled a list of things that I focused on each day. I meditated on them. At the top of that list was, "I will not take anything that is said or done in my presence, personally." At the bottom of that list was, "I will listen to everything that is said to me before thinking or talking."
(If anyone would care to know the full list, I still have it.)

This was my new blueprint for living. From the very start, miracles began happening in my life. I cannot begin to tell you the value of meditating and how my life dramatically changed. It was the best 5-10 minutes that I have ever spent. Soon, I was able to memorize that list and meditate on those things in the shower. After a year or so, and perhaps it is my nature, I became complacent. I quit meditating. I quickly forgot that fundamental part of my daily ritual.

We think nothing of showering or shaving each morning. Of drinking coffee. Perhaps even jogging or exercising as part of an exercise regimen. This is part of our daily preparation. Why then would we skip the most important preparation of all? A daily plan for how we were going to perceive and conduct ourselves all day long. A plan that focuses on our flaws and enhances the lives of the people we come in contact with- our family, friends, and co-workers.

I made a number of observations this past week. Reminders of what it used to be like. I don't want to return there. I have no intention of letting a zombie hostage taker in the back door.

That I had forgotten the most important step of my sanity is evidence that I am complacent, lazy, and terminally human. I am grateful that I have the experience to know what works. I am fully aware of the damage that thinking about myself causes, just as that old poet Edith Sitwell pointed out. That's bad news for any would be hostage taker. Good news for the people in my life.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Fallacy of Diminishing Behavior

A few years ago, I was introduced to the topic of diminishing behavior. Contextually speaking, I was astounded. Astounded not because I know that people love to cast blame on others and wallow in self pity but that some folks clearly believe that to be true. That others diminish them accidentally or deliberately.

Let me make something perfectly clear. No person, other than yourself, can make you feel diminished. In spiritually correct people, it is impossible to perceive any external behavior and accept that as diminishing. Regardless of the source. For a couple of reasons.

Is it possible for spiritually correct people to diminish others? Of course. We have no control over the thoughts, actions, and behaviors of others.

Therein lies the dilemma. In a way, it is preposterous.

Imagine if you will, Jesus Christ or the Dalai Lama, teaching others spirituality. Some of the students, as they listen and comprehend what the Dalai Lama teaches, become offended. They internally realize that they have acted selfishly or contrary to the Dalai Lama's teachings. They feel victimized or less than. They feel diminished.

Does the Dalai Lama have any control over that even if he chooses his words wisely? No.

Should he simply not talk of anything, or vaguely or imprecisely, for fear that he might diminish someone?

This idea that someone can diminish us is insane. In order for that to occur, at least four ideas in varying degrees must exist inside our belief systems and ego.

1. We have taken an inferior position. We have granted intellectual power or superiority to another.
2. We have accepted a victim role.
3. We are unwilling to accept the message because we are incapable of internal rigorous honesty.
4. We have made an assumption about the speakers intent and believing that assumption to be true, we have taken it personally. We feel diminished.

An example might go something like this. A neighbor greets you on the street and you stop to chat. During the course of your conversation, the neighbor begins to tell you about her recent trip to Europe. She describes all of the places she went to, the things she did, the great food and wine she had, and even all the money she spent. As she does this a thought creeps into your mind. It dawns on you that you would like to do all of these things yourself. But you simply lack the time and money. You begin to feel jealous, you feel inferior. You may even feel that she thinks of herself as better than you. You are incapable of being honest about these misplaced feelings. You begin to assume that the only reason she is telling you this, is to diminish you. Perhaps you even tell a friend and she agrees with you.

You have chosen to believe her conversation was diminishing when it all likelihood- it was not. In fact, the "diminished" party can actually become the aggressor or accuser.

For spiritually correct people, such an encounter is not possible. We don't take an inferior or superior role to another person. Therefore, there is no need for unbalanced power. We reject victim roles because we do not blame others nor wallow in self pity. If we feel negative thoughts we apply rigorous honesty to our emotions and expose the reasons for that. Spiritually sound people cannot make assumptions nor take anything personally. We simply let people be who they are. In that way, whether it is the Dalai Lama, or an excited Mrs. Jones from up the street, we learn from, we love them, and we enjoy them.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Eppur Si Muove

I'd like to introduce this piece as an add-on to my prior piece, Intuitive Truth. First lets start with a phrase attributed to Galileo although there is no factual evidence that he uttered it.

The Italian phrase "Eppur si muove" means And yet it moves (Nonetheless, it moves). It is pronounced [epˈpur si ˈmwɔːve].

Legend has it that the Italian mathematician, physicist and philosopher Galileo Galilei muttered this phrase after being forced to recant in 1633, before the Inquisition, his belief that the Earth moves around the Sun.

It is occasionally used in modern speech to indicate that although publicly someone who is in a knowledgeable position may discount or deny something, that does not stop it from being true.

Galileo had become the target of the Catholic Church. He believed the earth revolved around the sun rather than the other way around. His views were seen as heresy by the church. Had he not recanted his view, Galileo would have been sentenced to prison. When he did recant, he was spared prison and sentenced to house arrest until his death 12 years later.

All of that insanity did not change one thing. Years later, Galileo was proven correct. The Church never uttered an apology nor would an apology have made a bit of difference. No matter how hard the church tried, they simply could not make the sun revolve around the earth.

Truth has power. It can't be bent. In the end, it is always self evident. That Galileo found the truth earlier than his peers, left him in the precarious position of one against many. Isolated.

What do we do when we find ourselves in the precarious position of knowing something, yet to utter it, will certainly wreak accusations and hostility?

I had a wise old guy tell me once, "Son just because you know something, doesn't mean you are required to tell anyone." So what do we do when we intuitively know something is wrong or people we know are untruthful? It depends on what is at stake. Very often, I just let people tell me things that I know to be untruthful. The stakes are simply not high enough nor do I want to embarrass people.

Yet, as the stakes increase, we may find ourselves in a position where the truth becomes overwhelming. We simply can no longer accept untruths because it is robbing ourselves of the opportunity to make informed decisions. When someone deceives us, we unconsciously feel victimized. We feel diminished. Our sense of fair play has been violated.

And very often the selfish needs of others impact us. When they impact us to the point of feeling helpless- perhaps diminished or of little value, we must practice acceptance and limit our losses. This is what Galileo did.

He accepted that the church was too formidable of an adversary. He recognized the inherent power that the church had and it's willingness to punish him. Lacking the facts to defend himself, Galileo did the only thing that made sense. He limited his losses. He capitulated and thus enriched our lives although under house arrest. In the end, he did the only thing that made any sense. And the planets cared not who was right.

And yet it moves.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Intuitive Truth

Many years ago, I read a parable. In fact that parable, or metaphor, became the focus of my life. I'd heard it before. Perhaps, I wasn't ready when I first read or heard it. Perhaps I believed in that artificial and superficial definition of wanting- that some of us think is happiness. Maybe I just didn't realize the context or the circumstances with which you judge happiness. Maybe I thought happiness wasn't even a priority. It is simple. You must do what makes you happy.

Perhaps at 24 or 34, I didn't realize that. Maybe I was too busy, or too insane. Perhaps I bought into some belief system that we must endure a certain amount of emotional pain in the workplace or in relationships. Somewhere, around 44, I read something that put it all into context.

That each of us is our own Messiah. That we are free to live our lives doing that which makes us happy. That at any time, if we ask ourselves that intuitive question "am I happy?", then we will know the answer. And if you hesitate or balk at that question, you already have your answer.

To become happy again, often means conquering fear. You can't wait for a Messiah to rescue you. And you can't let fear imprison you. And you can't let the fear of failure, or the responsibility you may leave behind, stop you. So it was- that my Messiah, who had healed thousands and grew weary of the throngs of sick and scared people that followed him, found his God and asked him. God told the Messiah, "do what makes you happy." "Even if that means never helping another sick person, that people will perish?", asked the Messiah. God replied, "Do what makes you happy."

I practice very hard at doing the right thing. Trying to act ethically, morally, and spiritually correct. To behave responsibly in those situations that I am a part of. If I have satisfied those things without hurting others, then I am able to ask the question. "Am I happy?"

That was the context I sought. I found that context to be quite empowering. That no level of responsibility made it necessary to be miserable. That the people we touch are all potentially Messiahs. Perhaps you enter their lives, or they enter ours to teach us that. That people are free to find their own happiness. That reliance on others, or their reliance on you for happiness- is an illusion.

Perhaps it is that self pitying part of us that enables us to think that we must endure some crappy job, or that we must stay in a relationship which no longer makes us happy. That somehow we can fix those things when clearly, we can't. We accept what is and avoid the conflict of trying to change things. Things become "fixable" when we decide that happiness is not an option- but misery always is.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

We Judge Others on Their Actions, We Judge Ourselves On Our Intentions

Do we judge others by their actions, and ourselves, by our intentions?

Sure. How could it possibly be any other way? We alone know our own intentions and rarely if ever, do we know the intentions of others.

We compound this mistake when we make assumptions or judgments. We compound it further, often whether we are in err or not, when we act on those assumptions and judgments. Sometimes this can set off a very nasty chain of events. Sometimes feuds. Sometimes wars.

I want to return to Plato's, "Allegory of the Cave" here. We are seeing shadows on a cave wall. We truly don't know what motivates others, do we? We simply don't have the time, all the time, to explore it. Sometimes we are dealing with people acting on unconscious fears (almost always) and it is doubtful that they actually know what motivated them. If they do, and they find it embarrassing, they might not even tell you the truthful reason.

Sometimes, if a statement or action puzzles me, I do ask. Almost always, I find that my initial assumption was indeed, wrong. As time has worn on, I find myself asking less and less. Why? I simply don't need to.

The solution is simple. We accept that people are simply living their lives. That they are making all of those unconscious mistakes that we are trying to free ourselves from. That what they say and do, has absolutely nothing to do with us. If that is too difficult, I have a default setting.

I make a positive assumption. I assume that they have a valid intention that I am unaware of. That I am simply unaware of that motivation and lacking an explanation- I give them the same break that I give myself. And I turn that saying around.

Wouldn't it be great if we could know and thus judge all others on their intentions- rather than make all of our fear driven assumptions and conclusions? This is made even better when we judge ourselves on our actions.

This simple process has allowed me to avoid conflict. In the three years that I have practiced this simple concept, I have found no need to engage in confrontation. That even in those instances when somebody makes a caustic remark or assault, I simply don't swallow the poison. I assume that they have what they believe to be a valid reason for leveling some diminishing remark. By not reacting to it, or reacting to it in a positive way, I keep the door open for some future moment. A moment which will be far less emotionally charged- a moment where we can have a far more productive exchange. It takes a little vigilance, a lot of acceptance, and the ability to interrupt your ego which may be screaming, "defend yourself!" It takes commitment.

Try it. It works.

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Greatest Gift of All

A few years ago, I was introduced to a concept that was completely foreign to me. A concept that I had never practiced and virtually none of the people I associated with had practiced either.

We were fighters. Competitors. We had fought our way all through life. In as much as we survived, I suppose we thought it had worked. So when I was first introduced to the concept of acceptance, I made a mental note of it. That's about it. Over the past few years, I have practiced it much more rigorously. I have implemented acceptance in many areas of my life. It wasn't until this past week that I fully grasped the enormity of and most importantly, the power and strength of acceptance.

Quite honestly, I don't think I can overstate this.

Imagine being given the solution to every problem in your life. A spiritual solution with no side effects. Complete and utter acceptance of all things. Of all situations. Is that possible?

I had occasion this past week to speak with a number of people that had suffered through every calamity imaginable, deaths, deaths of loved ones, deaths of pets, marriage, and job loss. The usual vehicle failures, car wrecks, lack of money, and lesser events. The speakers could not reconcile these things. They felt guilt and shame. But the one common denominator, it was absolutely striking, was that none of these speakers had gained any level of acceptance. They were fighting, wishing things had not gone the way that they did. Still trying to control the outcome of an event that had passed.

A power greater than myself. A power greater than any of us or all of us. Life itself. There is no stopping it. You can struggle, fight, runaway, but all of those things won't change anything.
Chances are, they will make things worse. In fact, they almost always do.

As I evaluated what I had heard, I realized that there was a whole new level of acceptance I had not considered. I began to realize that any problem we have, real or imagined, is a matter of acceptance...and always a matter of acceptance. That in fact, includes the possibility of our loved ones dying and even our own deaths.

All that struggling, fighting, condemning, anger, self pity, complaining... are all manifestations of our inability to accept whatever life deals us and move on. That all of the struggling and fighting we do is really unnecessary. We glorify struggling and fighting. We attach it to victory, indeed to the human spirit. We believe fighting and struggle is necessary. Is it? Or is it just one of those faulty belief systems that we have bought into?

I think acceptance may be the key to all of life's problems. It might have always been that simple.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Never...Put All of Your Emotional Eggs in Another Person's Basket

This is an excellent follow up piece to my happiness piece.

You are responsible for your own happiness. Nobody else. Never make the mistake of thinking your happiness relies or depends on someone else. For as surely as you do, you will feel the emotional pain of loss. Or negative emotions and disappointment.

Why do I say that? Can't we "trust" others?

The short answer is no. Trust is also the wrong word. Relying on people other than yourself for your happiness creates a potential victim situation for you. Failed expectations. It also creates complacency.

All of this is quite un necessary, avoidable, and insane. It is a belief system of ours, a long held one, that somehow we will meet someone and that they will deliver all of these emotional goodies. Perhaps it is remotely possible. But more likely, and my experience is, that people can't meet my insane expectations.

Therefore the problem is me. It is always me.

Do you remember one of my first blogs? Plato's cave and the illusions created on the walls? We have the same problem when we date, co-habitate, or choose to marry. The truth is, we simply don't know the fears and belief systems of the people we fall in love with. They are unconscious fears and beliefs and it is doubtful that the people who have them (all of us) even recognize them nor could we communicate them if we did. That's deep seated stuff.

I can say at 50, that in a 20 year marriage, I may have known the fears and motivations of my ex-wife perhaps to the extent of 40%. I place no better percentage than that- on the relationship that I have now-maybe slightly better. I had even far less understanding of my own emotions. Why is that?

Because it is virtually impossible to uncover them. Or to know what priority any individual places on fear, or control, or subconscious belief systems. Or what solutions they employ when confronted by negative possibilities. Some folks even kill themselves.

There is a solution. It is the same solution I have stated over and over. You simply can't take anything personally. Ever. You simply can't afford to rely on someone else for your emotional well being or happiness. And you shouldn't have to! Really. No guilt is required.

It is quite possible to enjoy your life and let others enjoy theirs. Will they lie, cheat, and steal? Of course. Will they fail to meet our crazy expectations? Of course. All of those things will happen to you...guaranteed...but the key is how will you respond? Will you get all angry and mad? Act like a lunatic and make it worse? Or will you simply accept that people are free to live their lives. All that you are required to do is to make a decision. Guilt free. You don't need to call every girlfriend that you have and build some insane consensus or lynch party. You simply decide whether or not you can accept a given behavior, talk about it and resolve it, and failing that- decide what to do for your own happiness. Make a choice.

I don't like to mention God on this blog, only because I am not a preacher nor do I tell people what to do along those lines. But, my success is heavily dependent on God. Very often, I ask.."what would God have me do?" That usually answers the question and I then do that. That message was well defined for me in "The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah." Do what makes you happy. Be impeccable as you can. Make decisions that are spiritually sound- decisions that make you happy. Just as you are responsible for your own happiness- it is not your job to furnish someone else with their happiness, either.

People fail, God never does.

Try to do the right thing even when your ego doesn't want you to. You are in charge. Not your ego, not your partner. Don't put all of your emotional beliefs in someone elses basket. Accept that people will fail. But that your happiness is not contingent on that. Loving ourselves and someone else does not involve controlling, manipulating, changing, or relying on someone else.

That's your job.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Happiness is Always...An Inside Job

Many years ago, in my second year of college, I remember the first love of my life talking about her grandmother. She said that in the old days, marriages were arranged. That people actually learned to love each other.

It was my belief back then- that this was nonsense. That from my highly evolved 21 year old brain.

A few days ago, I was talking to a gal who was whining about the guy she lives with. In addition to complaining about him, she complained about the last one. She said her "picker" was screwed up.

You get the same idea when you go to one of these dating sites. People trying to find someone in the insane idea that there is someone out there, "who will make them happy." Make no mistake about what I am about to say. Absolutely nobody, other than you, is responsible for your happiness.

In an extension of the unconscious belief system that plagues many of us, we believe that there is nothing wrong with us. I even hear people say, mostly gals, that they refuse to "settle." In other words, they want someone who they think will complete them or live up to some imagined set of standards that only they have swimming around in their heads. The people who settle they say, are the people who lack self esteem.

So what is it these people want? Money, good looks, adoration, control, great sex? Mutual interests? Good DNA? Do they want honesty, loyalty, trustworthiness? Of course. Well after they complete their secret laundry list of 40 things they think they must have, they have now eliminated virtually everyone.

What does that mean for them? Well, it means of course...that they can live alone for ever, or they will be forced to "settle." Or date 500 people in some sort of marathon event while critically judging everything they have to say and eliminating potential partners as quickly as possible. It is insanity.

Happiness is an inside job. You don't need anyone to make you happy. That's your job. When you are happy with who you are, you will no longer worry about that nonsense. When you are happy in your own skin, when you quit judging everyone critically, you no longer say things like I refuse to "settle." You don't fear relationships. You simply realize that you are a good person, and good people are tolerant and forgiving. Good people do not run around critically judging others and condemning them, driven by fear simply because someone refuses to notice your haircut. That was the big transgression that brought on my friend's rant. Apparently she forgot to add, "makes compliments and notices everything" on her laundry list. Maybe she will kick him out.

Some 29 years later, I have changed my belief system. I think it is entirely possible for an arranged marriage to work. Especially if the two people involved grasped this concept. In fact, I honestly believe I could learn to love anyone. How's that for rotation? I can say that because I am happy. My happiness no longer depends on some artificial notion or something from the exterior world. I no longer rely on anybody other than myself to do a job that was always mine to do in the first place.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Fear of Isolation

Throughout this blog, I have spoken at great lengths about fear. That unconscious fear is the single greatest motivator of all human behavior. Today, I'd like to focus on the fear of isolation or social exclusion. I have a target audience in mind.

Imagine if you will, a young set of parents. Children raising children. Parents determined to raise their children using standard reward and punishment themes. These parents, armed with nothing other than the very limited skill set given to them by their parents are going to set about the task of raising a child. They have no real experience other than their own childhood perspective. They have no formal training as parents. Yet they are about to embark on a mission of the greatest importance. They are going to do this with virtually no knowledge of what they are doing.

Would we hire a person with no education, no credentials, and no job experience? Probably not. But then again, we don't get to perform job interviews and select our parents. That there is a tremendous element of luck involved in the parent lottery is self evident.

Armed with the brimming confidence of ego that they alone have been given the inherent knowledge of how to raise children, and the DNA urge at the ripe old age of 22 or so to procreate, they launch the greatest responsibility of their lives.

Do you see some flaws in this design?

One of the symptoms of the antiquated reward and punishment themes that our wise parents are about to instill in us is the fear of abandonment and isolation. Clearly that is a punishment theme.

It occurs in many different ways. It occurs physically when kids are given "time outs." Or they are left at the sitters or sometimes left behind on trips. They can be beaten, scolded, embarrassed in front of siblings or relatives. Compared to others in a diminishing capacity. Or ignored continually either on purpose or by parents too busy working. Parents checked out on alcohol or drugs. Distracted for other reasons. Or they can be ridiculed or scorned. Shamed and made to feel guilt. Told they are not good enough.

Make no mistake about this. There will be consequences to this. In fact, some of the people I love the most have been subjected to these things. Their fear of isolation, that nagging feeling that they don't measure up, may never leave them. In fact, subjected to enough of this isolating and abandoning type treatment, may create a significant problem in their lives. They may be gripped with the fear of isolation to such an extent that they will go to any lengths to avoid it.

My target audience is gaining awareness.

So who is to blame? Those incredibly mature, well trained, and educated parents? Their parents? Some kid who is supposed to shrug it all off at some point in the future? Are we going to hope that the men in black arrive and give our children a taste of that flashy thing memory eraser?

I have a flashy thing. It works like this.

Your parents screwed up. They didn't know what they were doing. It was never personal. They simply thought they were doing the right thing within whatever formal education and experience they thought they had. Requiring a confession or apology from them may make you feel better for a second but it will not fix you. Nor may they give you an apology at all. They might even make the situation worse by defending themselves. They may be egoic hostages. The good news is that we don't really need them anyway. We accept the situation as it is- we don't create any more damage.

The solution is in realizing that we are the resultant problem. There is something wrong with us and that's ok. We fear isolation to such an extent that we become compliant "brown nosers." Or that we are constantly paranoid that someone is plotting against us. We intrude into situations believing that someone is out to get us or is talking about us. We seek virtually any kind of approval to such an extent that we actually ask people to shower us with compliments. Indeed, some of us actually hold resentments because we think a boss is with holding praise that we deserve. We get crushed when not invited or somebody turns us down for a date. We fear any kind of rejection or social exclusion. We seek rewards.

The fear of isolation is real and we all feel it. We are social creatures. We want to be part of something- not made to feel isolated and alone.

This fear is irrational. The key to fixing the problem is to recognize that we have it. It exists and we accept that we have it. The basis for fixing it comes in understanding and accepting it. Once we are past denial...then we can move to the concept of agreement 2. Take nothing personally ever. We are going to let people live their lives and be who they are. If they choose to exclude us socially, we accept that they are free to live their lives and make that decision. We know that has nothing to do with us. And we are not resentful, nor are we diminished, by conduct we can't control anyway.

The principle of "never taking anything personally" is the key to solving problems of isolation and the fear that we all have. This concept is difficult to grasp and it requires commitment once you do grasp it. Complete success occurs when socially excluding problems no longer bother us. We receive the gold medal when we can look at our parents, those folks who were trying to do the best that they could, and we realize it was not personal. They simply screwed up believing all the while- that their forms of isolating or abandoning behavior were acceptable. I mean, after all, they were just kids raising kids.

It wasn't like they let you interview them.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Gift You Cannot Give

Throughout the various stages of my life, I had always known there was something wrong with me. It was an intuitive belief- a feeling. It was always hard for me to identify precisely what it was or when I was going to sense it.

It went something like this.

I'd see my peers having completely normal relationships. They would exchange "I love yous" having sincere exchanges with their families and friends. Many of them had mapped some actual course for their life, had a plan and goals, and seemed very happy. When life intervened and threw a wrench in their plans, they had acceptance and changed course with a minimum of frustration or disruption.

I could never do that. I would dwell, lament, and get angry when things didn't go my way. I had no acceptance. I blamed the exterior world. My perceived enemies. And yet I'd see peers having the same type of problems. They had emotional tools for dealing with those things. Nothing illustrates that point better than a funeral I attended once. The death of a young police officer in a firefight. His name was Mark S.

As a police officer, I had always attended police officer funerals. They are always large affairs. Bagpipes, memorial services, giant parades of police cars lights whirling as we followed the hearse to the graveyard. Military burials, honor guards, 3 shot salutes, American flags. So it was on this particular day, I attended the largest funeral I had ever attended. A young police officer in Boise. It was held in a gymnasium. The crowd was very large. There on the stage stood his family. Parents, widow, young children. All of them dare I say, almost beaming. I will stop short of saying they almost appeared happy. No crying, no stuttering voices at the microphone, no sobbing. The entire family was that way.

I was in awe. I had been to a number of these funerals. This was not how people acted. So I listened intently to what they had to say. I can sum it up this way. They were very Christian, they had complete acceptance, and they had a 100% intuitive belief that Mark was a devout Christian and that he was in heaven which is where he had spent his life on earth preparing to go.

I would learn all of this at an awards ceremony- seated with Mark's parents and family- several months later.

There was no way on earth I could have managed the strength that they displayed yet the term strength is a misnomer. They had emotional tools and an absolute belief. It was unshakable. They had something that not only did I not possess but I didn't even know how to acquire it. I have never forgotten that day.

They had truth, preparation, love, and an intuitive belief or tool with which to handle the worst event life throws at any of us. They handled that incident bravely and with forgiveness. Not once did they utter a harsh word or direct an attack on their sons' killers. I could not have handled that situation in a similar way. Not even close. Yet, I knew they had something I just didn't get and it was clear that whatever that was, their way of dealing with that trauma was a hell of a lot healthier than anything I could muster.

They had received the gift of desperation and responded with spirituality. A spirituality born of their beliefs and the ability to respond with love, tolerance, and forgiveness.

You see, there is no question that life is going to deal you the desperation card. It is inevitable. Sooner or later, adversity is going to come your way. By knowing that, preparing for that, and when it happens...responding correctly is a lifelong commitment and process. When it does, you have the emotional tools to respond, to accept, and to recover quickly.

It doesn't take the death of a loved one to call on those tools. It might be something as disappointing as a bad grade, a conflict, losing a game because you fumbled the ball. Recognizing that I simply didn't possess those tools happened long before I was given the gift of desperation myself. I had to retrofit my life and find those tools. Had I not been given the gift of desperation myself- I doubt that I would have ever sought the answers or the tools. It has been an arduous task for me. A lot of retrofitting has had to take place. Hard work and commitment.

Of all of the gifts I'd like to give someone, anyone, it is the gift of complete desperation that may matter most and the ability to respond to desperation in the appropriate fashion. With love, tolerance, understanding, and acceptance. The elimination of ego and self- that part of me that wants to whine, complain, blame, defend, and act like a victim. To respond inappropriately, to deny, and thus prolong the depression of an event that I've always known that I was unprepared for anyway. An event I cannot escape. It is coming whether I want to deny it or lie to myself and say, "I will deal with it when it happens." That intuitive feeling that you get when you see someone deal with adversity in a way you cannot conceive.

Just recognizing that is a gift. Finding a way to achieve complete acceptance has been difficult but not impossible. Unfortunately, it is a gift you must give yourself.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

You Really Don't Have to Let it Get This Bad

The human ego is a fascinating thing. It is intangible yet you know it exists. It's existence manifests itself in the crazy things people say and do.

An ego is a false sense of self. The manifestations are all around you. It is why people who view themselves as good looking must buy good looking cars. It is why the affluent must buy Mercedes and Porsche convertibles. It is why people with low self esteem and self worth often fail to achieve "success" in our materialistic way of evaluating success. Sometimes it leads to self examination. That point when we finally get conscious and say, "what the hell was I thinking?"

All of that insanity makes the planet colorful. Today, I read the story of that Jet Blue flight attendant, Steven Slater. He had been sentenced in court for having quit his job, grabbing a beer and pulling the emergency exit chute on a Jet Blue plane while still loaded with passengers. Apparently his disruptive departure caused 25,000 dollars in repairs and caused flight delays.

I secretly cheered for that guy and thought the initial reporting was hilarious. Who hasn't worked a job, got completely fed up, and wanted to quit with similar flourish? Grabbing that beer on his way down the chute was an interesting piece of that story. It hints at something else.

As unconscious as we are when we are sober, drugs and alcohol only make things worse. For millions of Americans, drugs and booze are the immediate escape hatch, the chute. They allow us to quit "feeling", to quit dealing with our emotions. To runaway, just like this dude on the plane.

In a society that searches for an instant cure for everything, from insomnia to depression, many of us think we can just runaway from our problems. Take a hit, a few pills, a couple of beers. In fact, that idea has been marketed to us and absolutely instilled in us.

What we are really trying to do- is to quit thinking and feeling. And so we have a very successful legal drug industry that markets and sells what we want. Instant relief. A hundred bucks for the doctor, maybe a hundred or so for the prescription. Can't get a prescription? Plenty of liquor store and drug dealers.

Need someone to talk to? Psychiatrists sell their time for a couple of hundred bucks an hour.
Why is it that we are the only living beings that need that stuff? Ever see a dog looking for a shrink or some tranquilizers?

And so a large number of us runaway emotionally. We become addicted. And we find similarly situated people and we commiserate with them. We marry those like minded souls, have kids, get divorced. And because we can't deal rationally with our emotions, we teach those kids the same skills. How to runaway, how to avoid depression and conflict, by altering our states of consciousness. All of those drug companies, the beer, wine, and liquor producers and distributors, bars, cater to those unconscious and ego driven beliefs. They whisper in our ears, "we have the solution." "We will make your pain, your depression, go away." Unfortunately, it works for just a brief time. In the long run, that solution will damn you to a life of enhanced unconsciousness, misery, and death. Just as surely as tobacco kills, alcohol and drugs are responsible for a huge amount of hospital admissions and they account for upwards of 75% of every prison population.

There of course is a real solution. A long term, healthy solution. One that is simple, doesn't require any money. It does however require willingness, honesty, commitment, education, a new skill set, and work. Had Steven Slater been aware of it, I doubt we'd have heard his name.

It works. I was able to define what really matters and how to achieve that and still sleep at night.

I am able to quit a job today without fanfare or flourish. Without demeaning an oppressive and controlling boss. Without all of those war plans swimming in my head. Without going home and killing a six pack of beer. No escape chute. I evaluate all of my jobs and relationships based on two simple pieces of criteria. No drugs, alcohol, or psychiatrists needed.

Have I been as impeccable as possible? If so, is this situation making me happy? That's it. If I am not happy, I simply quit or remove myself from the situation. No one up and diminishing wars, no resignation letter calling people names, no chute onto the tarmac. No need for hope or reliance that things "will change." I accept the crazy and ego driven behavior of the world around me without diminishing it. I let absolutely nothing stand in the way of my happiness. And I am still able to get a chuckle from people like the Jet Blue guy.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Realizing Something is Critically Wrong/Awareness

I stumbled onto this you tube video clip. There is a little profanity in it but I don't see it as particularly gratuitous.

Three years ago, I felt just like Joe Rogan of Fear Factor fame. The reason I am posting this here is that Mr. Rogan is describing myself and the world I was mired in. He knows there is something wrong. He just can't describe it precisely and he doesn't know how to fix it. Mr. Rogan- welcome. You have just discovered the insanity of the planet. Our inability to evolve. You have described many of the things I have written about here. I'm sorry, I couldn't get the video completely centered...

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Do Some People Simply Enjoy Being Negative? The Shame and Guilt Cycle

A lot of us have met negative people or in some cases- are negative people. Often, we rush to judge these folks thinking that we are somehow more knowledgeable or capable than others and so we judge them quickly.

Sometimes we "assume" that there are people who enjoy being negative. They seem superficially, to actually thrive in negativity. The question then is, "do some people enjoy negativity?"

While often it may appear so, I think that making that assumption is incorrect. Let me explain.

When I started this blog I wrote a piece about Plato's, "Allegory of the Cave." A place where inhabitants of the cave, bound and fixed, viewed shadows on the cave wall. Thus the cave inhabitants believed those shapes were true representations of creatures in the cave. They assumed various projections and shadows were true only to find out upon their release- that in fact their captors were projecting shapes and images onto the cave wall.

Those projections could have been true. But in this metaphor they were not.

When you meet one of these people, someone you believe to be negative, what you are really viewing is a superficial snapshot or a shadow- that they cast. And while that shadow may appear negative initially, we simply can't assume or reach a conclusion about who they are. We have no conclusive information even though we may think we do.

I have a friend who I have repeated contact with. He absolutely lights up whenever he is involved in a conversation wherein somebody else is under attack. He is the first one to wade in and criticize another person's behavior. Gossip. He seems to enjoy this. Why?

Initially, I didn't know why. I was viewing that shadow that he cast. It might have been easy to just label him as negative and avoid him, but I did not. For over a year, I have had the opportunity to listen to him many times. I have queried him a few more. The pieces began to fall into place. Instead of seeing that shadow that he casts, I began to gain true understanding about who he is and why he is. This guy is no spring chicken either- he has been walking on rare earth for nearly 8 decades. In fact, I may understand pieces of him better than he understands himself.

I'd like to introduce the guilt, shame, and criticism cycle here.

As a child, this man was subjected to a lot of guilt, shame, and criticism. This was the path that his parents chose in their misguided belief that this was how you raise children. So it was that this boy was called lazy, stubborn, stupid. He was beat on a few times, kicked out of the house. He acquired a belief system that this is how people behave. Not knowing how to cope with all the shame and guilt he felt, he turned to booze. Alcohol was his solution- his coping mechanism. He got married- had children of his own and what do you suppose happened?

He did the very same thing to his wife and children. He treated them the only way he knew how. He criticized them, shamed them, injected the same damage that he had learned as a child. His wife divorced him (he never remarried, interestingly) and his kids hate him. Most of the people I know don't like him either. He did manage to quit drinking many years ago.

This man is still unconscious to the extent that he continues to judge others. He loves to criticize others- it makes him feel better about himself. He has never uncovered that belief system or examined it- even though it is clearly damaging and useless.

I don't think he actually enjoys this- even though it appears that he does. I think that he simply doesn't know how to live any other way. And because he projects this criticism on others- he isolates himself. People refuse to speak with him. They don't want a dose of black medicine from him. Being isolated and lonely cannot be enjoyable. At the very worst my friend is just unconscious. He doesn't understand and probably can't understand why others are more sociable, have more friends.

So I cut this guy a lot of slack. I understand the shame and guilt piece. I understand unconsciousness. And because I do, I get along well with this guy. He's still unconscious and he still takes cheap shots at me once in awhile- I just don't defend myself. I don't need to. I refuse to swallow that poison or utter any retaliatory or diminishing remarks. I must bore him to death. Sometimes he looks at me like I am deaf or perhaps he thinks I am just dense or stupid- which is fine.

I am giggling as I write this. I will see him tomorrow. He doesn't mess with me too much anymore- very often I will watch as he criticizes others. They tend to swallow his poison and thus set off one of those insane "one up and diminishing" word wars. In the end it is he who suffers and truthfully, I don't believe anyone could enjoy that too much.

Just a shadow. A little reminder of what it was like. Thanks, Plato.

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Outer Purpose

Several years ago, just as I had entered my foray into public writing, I had a commenter tell me that the only reason I wrote was because of my ego. I have never forgotten that comment, I suppose because it is partially or perhaps largely true.

I love to write. And as much as I love to write, I want to help the planet. A planet that desperately thinks it doesn't need help. Or if it does- they think you are the one that needs help. Here then is a link to a pulitzer prize winning author's article about political activist, Glenn Beck.

I am certain that Kathleen Parker loves to write. The problem with Kathleen's writing is that her unconscious ego is doing it. Smearing other people to make yourself feel better, or to sell copy, is hardly writing with an aware and conscious mind. In fact, it is a perfect example of what happens when unconscious ego finds nothing wrong with attacking others. But I'm not here to beat up Kathleen Parker- she is just one of thousands of writers I have read which have created similar content. The collective insanity of the planet that thinks it's ok, perhaps even useful, to write something like this.

I want to take you back to my opening premise. I have a problem. It is the collective insanity of our society. A society driven by fear, greed, and ego. But in order to identify the root problem, I have to use my flawed ego to identify egos just as flawed as my own. How am I going to do that? Am I simply going to say, my ego is healthier or more correct than yours, Kathleen Parker? (Just take my word for it.) So the harsh reality, that piece of acceptance we must all share- is that it simply isn't possible to write anything without some form of ego involved.

So if I accept that I cannot eliminate ego from my writing, then I must do three things. I must love what I do, I must be responsible with the content that I write, and I must seek to help, teach, or perhaps even love others- rather than damage them.

Eckhardt Tolle talks about this awakening in a "New Earth." Wherein we all have an inner or primary purpose which is pure- the conscious identification of ego and that false sense of self that hurts and damages others because it thinks it needs to do so for survival. Once you have achieved an acceptable level of inner awareness, (inner purpose) then you move onto that which is your outer purpose. For Tolle, he is an author and spiritual teacher. Kathleen Parker is a writer.

This then becomes the conundrum. To point out the flawed and unconscious ego driven behavior of others, am I not in fact claiming superior ego and awareness for myself? Yes, as a matter of fact I am. I simply can't escape that. That Tolle, so masterfully wrote a "New Earth" without specifically attacking or diminishing others (and thus turning them off) is the real brains behind that writing. To expose the universal flaws in all human beings and to get some of us to pay attention and actually engage in the practice of awakening is a miracle. That book was worth its weight in gold to me.

My awareness simply won't allow me to continue to behave in a diminishing way anymore. And I have to accept the fact that the world around me will continue to behave as they always have. Kathleen Parker or Glenn Beck. Real emotional freedom means letting people be just as insane as they want to be and being ok with that- even as they would diminish me. I have to focus on being emotionally free- I just try to help those that are making the same effort that I am. It's not a perfect process and it's not like we have had millions of folks paving the way for us- but examining others' and using that same examination on ourselves helps us create a path toward more spiritually correct behavior. And as I write, with that outer purpose that is a part of me, I want to convey the possibilities of a sane and rational world. A world where you don't have to be right, or argue, or fight. Or kill each other. Or write scathing copy about your perceived adversaries.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Guys like Dan

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where an individual enters a room and based on their dress, hygiene, and appearance, you begin evaluating, judging them, and drawing conclusions?

Have you ever found yourself involved in a conversation with someone that you disagreed with, or perhaps didn't like their verbal delivery method, and thus decided that this person had no value? Or made some decision that they were superior or inferior to you intellectually?

I cannot speak for anyone reading here so let me raise my hand and say, "Yes, I have done all of that ridiculous judging and thus assuming. That I intuitively think I know who you are based on some of the slightest information, a brief snapshot or moment in time, or your appearance."

Do you know how insane that is? How incredibly stupid, childish, and ego driven that is?

I do.

Let me furnish an excellent, albeit extreme, example.

About 6 months ago, I saw Dan for the first time. He is young and kind of short. He dresses poorly because he in fact- is poor. For now. But what separated Dan from us, is that he has piercings everywhere. I am not sure how many exactly, but he has huge gauges in his ears, piercings through his cheeks, lips, nose, eyebrows...metal sticking up everywhere. All of these piercings draw attention to him. I found myself sneaking glances at him when I thought he wasn't looking.

And what do you suppose I was thinking as I viewed him initially? I was thinking how stupid that looked, how a kid like this ever thought he was going to get a job looking like that, and to be honest... he kind of scared me a little bit.

Now all of that thinking of mine was validated as I listened to others talk about him. In fact, they made a lot of cruel and disparaging remarks about Dan. They judged him on his appearance. Just as I did.

Over the intervening months I have had an opportunity to listen to Dan many times. He is reasonably smart and emotionally aware and intelligent. I was baffled. I didn't get who he was. Smart people just don't do what Dan does. That is my faulty belief system in action. Until one day, we talked for a few hours. When I say "talk" what that really means is that Dan talked and I listened intently. I wanted to understand.

I queried Dan at great length about his childhood and listened. And what do you suppose he told me? Go ahead and think about this for a minute. *play Jeopardy tune in head

In broadstrokes, Dan may have been emotionally abandoned as a child. He did not feel connected or loved. He felt marginalized and unimportant. Not worthy of attention. And as he grew and acquired those belief systems that we acquire, he began to believe he wasn't as good as other kids, he didn't measure up to the other people in his life. And the only attention he received, was negative attention. And that was better than no attention at all.

And because those are his perceptions that then becomes his truth. It is true.

And you see, those piercings give him an identity. They say "Hey, look at me!" "I exist, I am nuts, and I do things like this!" And in that way, Dan's ego has claimed an identity. A sort of fearless, crazy, middle finger to the world identity, which for now has satisfied his emotional needs.

At the surface, he celebrates what he has done to his body. Deep down, the real Dan may be scared and unsure whether or not he has value or has used the appropriate tactics. I want to hug him every time I see him. Why? Because I got a glimpse of what it is or what is was... to be Dan. Not some assumption or judgment based on a superficial view after a brief or casual glance as he entered a room. All Dan craves is to be loved, to be needed, to be listened to. The same things we all want. To have value, to be understood.

He just tries harder than most of us.

Guys like Dan have forced me to examine myself and these ridiculous belief systems that I have. This unconscious ego of mine that says that it's ok to draw assumptions about people based on scant evidence. It is ridiculous and insane.

Last year, I pierced both ears. My ego demanded that I do it. I wear Fleur de Lis earrings for my beloved rebirth and love of New Orleans and the Saints. The reviews? Not so good. For a macho guy that spent all of his life confronting, overcoming, and wrestling bad guys... this is just too inconceivable to the people that know me. They think I am stupid or just plains nuts. It doesn't fit that neo conservative hard knocker assumption they had of me. You see, they make the same assumptions that I always have. We all got raised in the same classroom. I can't wait until my father sees them. Probably carve me out of the will.

In the end, I find that Dan is not much different than all of us. That Dan fears an invisible existence based on what he has perceived so far. Dan has learned that society bases it's opinions on superficial assumptions. That's too bad. That he has learned not to do the same based on that experience, gives him a leg up on a lot of folks.

You can learn a lot about yourself courtesy of guys like dan. Or not. It's all up to you.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Drawing the Short Straw

I haven't posted on the site in awhile. Not for lack of material, but because of travel and web connectivity. Sometimes life just gets in the way of my writing.

I've wanted to write this piece for quite some time. It's about an observation that I have made. I find it absolutely fascinating. But please read it all the way through before arriving at any conclusions.

The single greatest asset, skill, that I have acquired is my ability to listen and evaluate precisely what someone is trying to say to me. While I have always had some skill in this area, listening was often only connected to my old line of work. And I must admit, I did far too much talking to be an effective listener. Effective listening occurs when you devote all of your energy to hearing, evaluating as you listen to what you have just been told and why. I have made an enormous leap in this arena. And effective listening brings about fatigue; far more so than talking.

For the past year or so, I have had the opportunity to work with several men from prison. That these men have committed various serious crimes goes without saying. That virtually all of those crimes involved alcohol and drugs is by no means- earth shattering either.

It was during the course of last year that I made a startling observation.

But please allow me to set the table appropriately. Many of these men are fairly rational and some are quite intelligent. They vary in age and some have college degrees. I cannot claim the intellectual high ground here and even if I attempted that feat, it would be flawed and of dubious value to the point I am about to make anyway.

What distinguishes me from my prison counterparts? Luck.

Huh? You see, most of these men drew the short straw. They were not born to Ward and June Cleaver. They were not born into loving households where both parents loved each other and stayed together through thick and thin. Most of these men came from all kinds of abusive situations. Single parent families. Abandonment. Mothers, fathers checked out on drugs and alcohol. Verbal abuse and shame. Some were physically abused. Others were sexually abused. And the extent of this abuse did not occur here and there during a few petty arguments. It wasn't limited to a an isolated scolding or a spanking. It was pretty much a daily fixture in their lives.

In fact, a few of the men that I work with thought that abusive and dysfunctional behavior was not only normal or perhaps marginally acceptable, but that they engaged in the same practices with their own children. They establish faulty and unconscious belief systems that they accept as true based on the only experience that they have- that which they learned as children at home.

Some of them think striking their children or shaming them is appropriate discipline. And thus they continue to pass along the same faulty belief systems.

As simple as that sounds, that is hardly rocket science either. Nor is it the revelation that I want to discuss.

Now while I am far from perfect, I must admit that the straw I drew was longer than those of the men I have been working with. I was luckier than they were.

Now you'd think that by the time these men went to prison, it might occur to them that society was sending them a message. Your conduct is unacceptable. You must change the way you live your life. That message sounds pretty simple and accompanied by a jail cell you'd think they would get that memo. In fact, you might presume they might even be a little humble.

Not so. Not by a long shot. In fact, once they exit prison they revert to the only thing they know. Many of those that I try to help actually criticize my actions or blame me for their failings. Now I understand that type of victim thinking but what I marvel at is their inability to examine and change those faulty belief systems that were installed in them.

It's not that they are stupid. They simply don't know anything else. They have never been shown love or kindness, tolerance or understanding. They distrust virtually everyone.

I don't get angry with that because I understand it. But just how do you convince someone that they have an operating system that doesn't work anymore?

I'm not sure you can.

They have cognitive change classes in prison but these guys were imprinted with some very faulty belief systems and they cling to them for survival. They may survive with those beliefs but they cannot thrive. If they cannot grasp the enormity of those faulty belief systems they cling to.. they are doomed to repeat the same mistakes that landed them in prison in the first place.

Remember that flashy thingy they used to erase peoples' memories in the movie, "Men in Black?" I need that thing desperately.

Here's the good news. Cognitive change is in fact... the answer. The faulty belief systems of the men and women in prison are the direct result of the poor parenting that they received as children. Exceptions to this rule are rare. It is as simple as that. They drew the short straw. I get it.

So how do we convince these people that they are as potentially good and useful as anyone? How do we convince them to eliminate those faulty beliefs and install a new and updated operating system and get rid of that Commodore 64 system they are using? How do we eliminate ego and do this without diminishing them or claiming that we are intellectually superior?

That is the conundrum. But I'll tell you what. If I ever figure out how to do that, I am gonna set the prison system on it's ear. I am gonna walk thru that gate with a handful of straws that are about 3 feet long and say, "It's time to redraw, boys and girls."

Sunday, July 25, 2010


They tell this story in New Orleans.

During Hurricane Katrina, the police came by a house in the 9th ward and asked the family to evacuate. They refused saying, "God will save us." As they crawled onto their rooftop to escape the 6 feet deep water, the Coast Guard came by in a boat and offered rescue to the panic stricken family. They refused, and said, "God will save us." As the house began to tremble and shake and started to move from it's foundation a helicopter rescue appeared. Once again, the family refused help by stating, "God will save us."

Eventually the house was swept away and the entire family drowned. They met St. Peter at the pearly gates to heaven. They were disappointed and angry. They told St. Peter that they trusted that God would save them, yet he did not. They had all perished.

St. Peter looked at the family and replied, "I understand. But we sent the cops, the coast guard, and an army helicopter. What more could we have done?"

Friday, July 23, 2010

Al Lee Utters His Opinion

I came across this line and I just had to snip it from an online career piece. I'd like you to examine this statement...

Our society values something practical -- that's why poetry isn't popping up on the top of the list," said Al Lee, director of quantitative analysis at PayScale. "As in the past, engineering and [similar] fields with a strong math component plus a physical world component remain on the top, with lots of money to be made in these fields."

So let's dissect this belief ridden statement which of course is an opinion and hardly a statement of fact. That Al Lee, a director of quantitative analysis, uttered it- gives it additional credibility.

Al purports to speak for all of society as he sees it. He sees engineering and similar fields as practical and useful. Does that mean that all other fields are "less than?" Perhaps. His statement certainly makes that inference. Certainly in the context of making more money.

Is making gobs of money the only thing that matters? Unfortunately in a greedy and forever wanting society, Al Lee may be right- given his audience.

Years ago I was introduced to Robert Frost's poetry. It is beautiful. I have read a lot of it. In fact, I am going to say that Robert Frost may have enriched my life far more than any feat of engineering. That his poetry is so beautiful and timeless and as yet un rivaled (certainly open to debate) tells me that people like Frost are few and far between. Oh so...rare. Extremely hard to come by...far more so than an out of work engineering graduate. We have thousands of those.

That Al Lee values his opinion is obvious. That most people value it may also be obvious. Regurgitating something everyone already knows, well that's just redundant. Ego driven and exclusionary. Heaven on earth is only available to those people who make gobs of money and do something useful and practical. Is that the operative belief here?

Since Al Lee compared his field to that of poetry and thus poets, I shall end this piece with one of many quotes by Robert Frost- not an engineer but certainly a genius in his own right. Al Lee- there's always something to learn.

Half the world is composed of people who have something to say and can't, and the other half who have nothing to say and keep on saying it.
-Robert Frost

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Summary and Solution

In the previous blog, I tried to articulate why virtually all human interaction is fear driven. (The exceptions are enlightened people doing loving and selfless acts for others, this does occur, far too infrequently- but I've seen it.)

Therefore all self centered acts, negative emotions, controlling behaviors, judging, unfulfilled expectations and resentments are a direct result of fear. Irrational fear.

Thus we can safely say that self will, selfish acts, are a direct result of fear. Self will, what we say and do, is just the symptom. The real problem is the imagined and irrational fear that we feel.

I know this to be intuitively true. Prima facia. It is the reason we argue over politics, religion, and relationships. We "feel" something, we then assume it to be true whether it is or not, and then we act on it. We say or do something based on our fear and perceptions. I will take this one step further. I am going to call it what it is. Insane.

To live emotionally free, we have to jettison this absurd thinking. Having done this, let me tell you how it is for me.

I am remarkably aware. I listen and watch this insanity daily. Let me tell you about a situation, a simple setting, where I was listening to three fear driven and insane conversations all at once. I was at the IHOP with a friend.

My friend is complaining about his relationship with his wife while we sit in our booth. He was upset with his wife who was upset with him. He had already began to mull the possibility of breaking up based on nothing more than his fear that she would leave him if he didn't do so first. He tried to minimize his role and actions because we fear honest disclosure. Our real actions make us look stupid to others and we don't want to look stupid. People will judge us harshly. At the same time that all of this fear, rationalization and justification was going on...

I overheard a conversation two booths away from me. A young, attractive lady was complaining about her two roommates with two men. She too, was seeking sympathy for her actions, running her roommates down. I am not sure what her ultimate goal was but I am positive it was fear driven. Perhaps she was getting kicked out or ganged up on. None of her statements admitted anything remotely connected to taking responsibility for her role in an ugly situation which she was very adamant about. In fact, one of her male friends asked her if she had spoken with her roommates. I giggled inwardly when she replied, "not yet." The implication being that she would. Had one of her male friends asked her, "why not?" How would she have answered? Would she have been angry?

At about the same time, two waitresses behind me were complaining about the cook. Apparently he was hung over and completing orders in less than record time. The waitresses were complaining that his slow cooking was angering customers. They "feared" this would result in complaints and reduced tips.

All of that fear, all of those assumptions, manifesting themselves in speech and actions. Absolutely none of it was rational.

What are rational fears? Rational fears are those that are not imagined. They do exist. They cause economic loss, injury or death. Our actions can bring about these events. Thinking before we act, knowing the possibilities, is the best remedy. Or when we do act act irrationally, we take responsibility and we suffer the consequences. We don't like that very much.

These irrational fears have never left me. I still deal with social exclusion and feelings of abandonment. The difference is- is that fear no longer goes un noticed by me. I am no longer a hostage to fear and I do not ignore fear. I deal with it rationally, consciously. And if I'd like a certain outcome and I cannot get it, I no longer harbor any ill feelings. I constantly examine what I say and do. I try to act appropriately and let people be who they are. It's not my job anymore to try and control anyone. Practicing acceptance, like the acceptance that my loved ones will die and that I will die in some unscripted dance of life and death brings me understanding and calm.

I also notice all the fear that others display in a panoramic display of controlling and negative feelings. It allows me to probe deeply with them when they are upset. At the root of it all, always, is fear. It's no wonder why we have become a neurotic society. Worried about others, unable to tell the truth even to ourselves, judging, fearing honest communication, unable to examine ourselves. We are hopelessly nuts and we make the people around us nuts and sometimes we even make our own pets' nuts.

Try to unmask all of the irrational fear that you feel. Live consciously once you do. Quit imposing all of your fear on the world around you. You'll find that your life is going to get far better than you had ever imagined. It's contagious.

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Big Solution ala an Emotional Evolution

The greatest day that I have ever had, ever lived, was the day I very nearly took my own life.

It was the fall of 2007. I had just returned from a trip around the United States on my motorcycle. That trip was a retirement gift to myself. Having completed the trip, I found myself at home and alone. Recently divorced, with no job, I returned to an empty house. My girlfriend had left as well.

And so for days, with nothing useful to do, with nothing to look forward to, and nobody to love- I found myself in the midst of a major depression. I was emotionally and spiritually bankrupt. My only solution it seemed was to drink myself to sleep each night. That's how I shut the noises off in my head. That's how I slept at night. Until the evening of Oct. 9.

They say that the most beautiful songs spring from the greatest emotion. I think of Clapton's "Tears in Heaven." I think of a young lady's poem that I read a few years ago about losing her father. And I know that it is true. Extreme emotion is a catalyst, if it doesn't talk you into killing yourself.

And on the night of Oct 9, 2007, armed with a bottle of Bushmill's Irish Whiskey and a half case of beer, I sat on the patio of that nearly vacant home and watched the sun set over the mature trees in the yard. I drank well into the night, alone, just as I had for the two weeks that preceded that night. I felt sorry for myself, isolated, and for the first real time in my life I contemplated suicide. I could see no other way out. I was hopeless and I had no solution.

And as a 24 year cop, I had seen plenty of suicides. People just like me. I had a rough idea of what they would find. And yet, I couldn't pull the trigger. In the end, it was a simple and intuitive belief in God that stopped me. A power greater than myself. And fear. In fact, in a moment I am going to touch on that greatest single driver of human conduct.

And as I sat there, hating on everything, I couldn't have possibly known that this night would change my life forever. In the weeks that followed, I sought a solution. A power greater than myself delivered it.

They say that Einstein's theory of relativity originated as he "daydreamed" from a window at the patent office he worked at. Anything as universally important as that theory cannot be labeled a daydream. It was a solution.

Out of that self centered, self pitying, angry depression that nearly took my life emerged the solution. It came days after Oct. 9. And that solution was unconditional love. The ability to love anything, anybody, including the enemies you helped create. Was that possible? It was a theory that nobody believed in. Not once had I heard anyone say it was possible and available to us all.

Imagine Sir Isaac Newton, or Galileo, or even Einstein. Imagine the skepticism and ridicule that they must have received as they offered up their ideas into a world that had already made up it's mind. A world full of people that practice contempt prior to investigation. Nostradamus would have been killed for his visions. He disguised them as quatrains.

There I was parked in a world that thinks unconditional love is not possible. Or if it is, that it can only be acquired by a mother for the love of her children. Yet, I knew that explanation was intuitively wrong. A mother's love for her children most closely approximates unconditional love but where does it come from? Is unconditional love then guaranteed to all children? Why then do some mothers beat and kill their children? Why do they emotionally and physically damage their own children or allow others to do so? Where is that unconditional love when you are slapping your child or calling him lazy or stupid? Or making any diminishing remark? Where is that unconditional love from fathers?

So clearly unconditional love is a choice. It is a choice we all make. It is available to us but it is an unbelievably difficult achievement.

Ask yourself this question. Are you willing to go to any lengths to achieve complete and utter sanity and serenity? To never again dislike, hate, or damage anyone? To sleep peacefully at night, to commit to this process daily, in exchange for happiness? To be loved by strangers and to love strangers back? To love criminals, killers, your perceived enemies? To reject the judgment of others as they try to pull you into that cesspool of hatred?

I had achieved complete insanity at age 46. I was willing to do anything to change my life. Divine intervention gave me the solution. It was unconditional love. It was left to me to find the path to and the promise that had once been my life. To regain sanity.

Of all people, why me? Why would a jaded, opinionated, angry, self seeking victim like me, a cop of 24 years, be given the quest to find unconditional love? Who would believe that? In the end, it's not me that is important. It's the message.

On my own, this is not of me. I think the answer quite simply, is that I had gotten so bad, so spiritually broken, that a power greater than myself took pity on the basket case that I had become. Capitulation followed by desperate determination.

Two things happened. I was willing to go to any lengths to get spiritually correct. Most of all, I made time, as we all do, for the things that are most important to us.

The events that led up to Oct. 9, 2007 are what shaped me. My life and my beliefs. There are thousands of components. It would be impossible to play that tape back here. I perceived everyone as adversaries, people to overcome. I was comfortable with the confrontation and chaos that nearly always followed. I spent a great deal of time plotting, developing tactics, anticipating counter moves, and crushing opponents in a giant chess game that never ended. That's a lot of noise in your head. That's a lot of fear. It's no way to live.

Part Two

I have come to believe one immutable and inescapable fact. This cannot be overstated. In fact, I am going to go so far as to say, irrational fear drives the vast majority of ALL human interaction. Please note the use of the term interaction. It is a very operative here.

Is unconscious emotional fear the driving force behind all human interaction? That's a pretty bold statement to make. How can that be possible? It has to do with the reward and punishment theme that most of us are taught as children. Having tasted punishment many times as a youngster, I learned to avoid punishment at all costs. I would lie, blame others, stand mute. I sought rewards. That is how I was imprinted. That's how nearly all of us are imprinted. And so we spend the rest of our lives fearing punishment and seeking only rewards and approval. Some people will go to unbelievable lengths to avoid punishment. Unconscious denial, justification, and an absolute inability to examine their actions for fear that they will be punished once they are discovered. So fear is the one common denominator that we all share.

I want to make a distinction here. There are healthy, rational fears. Fears that are quite sane. Healthy fear has allowed us to survive. Irrational and emotional fear, the kind that we feel when we are seeking to avoid punishment and detection is different. It is make believe, undiscovered, and purposefully hidden from others. These fears whether real or imagined, manifest themselves as tangible and conscious interaction with others.

I love it when people disagree with me that fear drives almost all human interaction. Why? Because a lot of folks fear even that simple truth. They fear that once discovered, they will be forced to act differently and they don't want to. They believe that as long as they can run from this that somehow it doesn't exist. Others may fear discovery. They don't want to take responsibility for their actions because if they do, they can't operate like they always have. They are very comfortable, emotionally spoiled and they resist any significant and responsible behavior change. Unfortunately, all of that is a zero sum game. Why?

Because you cannot love unconditionally until you conquer irrational fear. That is a fact. You will only cheat yourself and hurt others until you realize this. It is as mathematically correct as 2+2=4. And all of the whining, arguing, non disclosure, denial, degrees, credentials and philosophy cannot change that. It is prima facia, it is true on it's face. I could not deny my guilt or take it away, I could not take a magic pill or pretend my irrational fear and ego did not exist. It was undeniable.

How can a man being executed in the most merciless way beg forgiveness for the men torturing him? A man that had done nothing. Is that possible? Sure it is. Clearly, Jesus had conquered fear. That freed him emotionally, gave him the tools and the capacity to love anyone. That is why a bunch of fear driven folks can be saved by grace. And one little footnote, Jesus clearly understood the irrational fear of men. Jesus Christ knew his death was unstoppable. Left in the hands of fear driven and unconscious men, his only path was unconditional love and acceptance of his killers and his death. Only a completely conscious man, a man devoid of all fear, could have uttered such a thing.

To say that I was just as emotionally fearful and insane as anyone is true. I was schooled on the same planet as the rest of you. It was the schooling that did it. I bought into the belief systems already in place. I accepted the belief systems of others as true. In fact, as I grew and learned I never questioned whether those beliefs were true. I accepted them as true. I knew nothing else. That was my mistake. And in another divine moment, I realized that the entire planet might also have it all wrong.

Wow. That is an unbelievable statement to make. To realize that billions of people simply accepted fear and ignored the damage it caused. Zombies. People would see me as insane. Like some out of control ego with a God complex. I had to dance carefully here. I had stumbled onto a universal truth. The greatest truth, the whole point of Jesus' suffering and death had been ignored. Marginalized and largely seen as irrelevant as man continued to practice self will. I had to reject all of the teachings of men like that who fear and hate if I wanted to achieve the objective. And those beliefs are very old and cemented in. And I knew the whole world would reject unconditional love. They had already proven it.

Part 3

Now if all of this is too abstract for you, let me explain it in a mathematical sense.

If I know the time and distance that an object travels, then I can calculate the speed. If I know the distance and speed of an object then I can calculate the time it takes to travel...

Therefore if I know that fear drives all human conduct (a) and that the answer I seek is (c) unconditional love, then I must solve for (b). What is b??

What is keeping me from achieving the answer?

Unconscious belief systems are handed down through the ages. Erroneous and learned belief systems inherited and taken for granted as true by the unconscious and impressionable inhabitants of this planet. The beliefs of the billions of people who were here first, and once taught and accepted as true, never vetted again. Passed along as fact- over generations and centuries. This from the dawn of time when men whacked each other over the head with clubs and agreed that this was the proper way to settle things.

The missing piece was conscious discovery. The equation looked like this.

Irrational Fears - Conscious Discovery and Removal = The Capacity for Unconditional Love

Now books such as "Love is Letting Go of Fear" are excellent reads and the concept that fear plays a huge role in loving is not a new one. But books such as that one don't really tell you how to "let go of fear." It's like being told you have a bad attitude. Ok, so how do I change it? Nobody really knows because they don't have a blueprint. I was after a blueprint.

Part 4

I can't take all of the credit for what happened. I must credit the writing of Don M Ruiz in "The Four Agreements" and Eckhart Tolle in "The Power of Now" and "A New Earth." How I came to possess those books is beyond comprehension. That they were randomly selected for me and delivered to me by people I hardly knew at the precise moment in my life when I was searching for the answer to (b) defies all logic. Unexplainable.

So having identified what (b) was, I prepared for the monumental task that lay ahead of me. It was daunting and it would not come quickly or completely. How do you set about identifying all irrational fear with conscious thought?

The first order of business would be to test, vet, and jettison every unworkable belief system I had inherited or been taught and accepted. Wiping the emotional and memory slate clean.

This whole process was based on one immutable truth. Every decision is fear based and that we always have a choice. What we choose, is a direct result of the proper or improper belief system taught to us. We seek to avoid punishment at all costs. Sometimes what is right this time is wrong another time. It is situational.

I can best describe it this way. Everything in life is a choice. If your plane crashes in the Andes Mts. and you are forced to eat human flesh to survive, you can do that. Or if your belief system says I cannot eat human flesh, I would rather die- then you can make that choice as well. Your fears are what drives that decision making process. If you fear death greater than all other things, you might choose to survive by eating human flesh. If you fear cannibalism, but death not so much, you may pass. But make no mistake about it, you always have a choice. Your fear decides it.

And so we make those choices. We choose who to love, who to like, who to dislike and who to hate. All based on silly fear driven belief systems. Beliefs that may or may not be true.

I will give you an excellent example of this. As a young man in college, my father began dating and ultimately married a woman he had been seeing prior to my parent's divorce. Thus attaches all of the usual home wrecking, cheating, and accepted belief systems that we all hold so near and dear. I never gave that woman a chance. I practiced contempt prior to investigation. Why? Because that was the accepted practice. Thus when they were ultimately married, I treated her just as poorly as I could. At no time did I show her any mercy. Over the years, I realized I had been wrong. That she was just living her life. She had not victimized me. In fact, she had not victimized anyone. And by disliking her, for no other reason than family peer pressure and some antiquated and archaic belief systems I became mired in that tar pit of animosity. Looking back, I am embarrassed at how little respect I showed her. How selfish I had been. I acted out of fear. Fear that she would close my access to my father, fear that if I didn't buy into familial belief systems, that I would be isolated and castigated. I feared she wouldn't like me. All of those fears were irrational and ultimately my interactions with her would make all my fears to come to fruition. So I made a choice. A fear driven, unconscious choice which I thought at the time was correct.

Therefore if you are solving for (b) you can no longer choose to dislike or hate. You must find a way to love unconditionally. Thus in the above example, I have chosen to not give myself a choice. I must find a way to love people who would diminish me. How do you do that? (I told you this was not easy.)

The 2nd agreement as written by Don Ruiz, is "take nothing personal." In that chapter, you begin to realize that people are just living their lives. Unconsciously for sure. Fear driven for sure. But they are simply doing what they think is best for them. That never has anything to do with you. When you actually grasp the concept that people are simply reflecting who they are, you begin to realize that they are simply acting on their fears. A couple of examples.

A woman who fears uncleanliness and she controls her environment. When you disrupt her clean and orderly world, she takes that personally. She may lash out as she acts on those fears and often her behavior can be demanding, nasty, and her words diminishing. That has nothing to do with you or I. She would act that way towards anyone engaging in similar behavior. She is simply reflecting who she is. She takes potentially unclean behavior and personalizes it- believing you have disrespected her or perhaps victimized her.

People who cheat. People who cheat are simply reflecting who they are. They fear abandonment, rejection, they seek approval. Some are obsessed with sex, some are narcisstic, some use sex as a weapon or a means to gain attention or something else... but somewhere at the core of their being is an explanation for their behavior. And their behavior has nothing to do with you. It is fear driven. They would engage in that behavior with or without you. Many of them couldn't tell you why they act that way. They really don't know. It is unconscious and left that way, there is little chance to uncover it or change it.

That is not to say, people cannot change. Some do, many do not. It generally isn't until some major catalyst occurs that people begin to scrutinize and reflect. In pieces. They do not look deeper or attempt to uncover the real reason why they are obsessed with cleanliness or obsessed with cheating. They acquired a belief that it is ok to act that way. And that doesn't have anything to do with you ever, even as their anger or hostility is being directed at you.

So taking nothing personal became a huge cornerstone in my quest. And to a lesser degree, agreement three, "make no assumptions."

I began to start laying the groundwork for trying to love all people irrespective of what they did or said to me. I focused on my crazy, diminishing actions and one by one I set them on paper. Negative judgments, controlling behavior, anger, frustration, pride, envy, and one by one I recognized them and reduced them to fractions of what they once were. And oh incidentally, you'll notice that every one of those emotions is grounded in fear. I committed every day to trying to love people no matter what happened. But I was still missing one piece. It had eluded me.

Part 5

The human ego. That false sense of self that judges others, diminishes others, acts angrily at simple acts. I uncovered it. I do not have the space or time to tell you how how important Tolle's "A New Earth" was to me as I sought unconditional love. After a couple of passes including audio, I was able to unmask my ego. It has morphed and changed over the last three years. It is still very much a part of me. But what it is a controlling part of me. It is no longer intact and concealed directing my words and actions. Today, I am in control of my new shaped ego, not the other way around.

By taking responsibility for all of my actions and harnessing that false sense of self inside me that says, "You are smarter than he is. You are tougher than he is. You must win. You must out think these people, they are lesser than you." That idiot thinking whether I verbalized it or not prevented me from loving people. That type of thinking marginalizes and isolates you from the love of others.

It had to go.

At one point in this process, in the spring of '08, I reached a point where I no longer could identify myself as anything. I simply did not know who I was, or who I was supposed to be any more. I was utterly confused and ill defined.

And that's fine. In fact, it was no longer necessary for me to define myself as anything. I no longer had to argue, or be the brightest, the fastest, the richest. I grew comfortable just enjoying life. Not projecting some crazy image of what I wanted others to think that I was. No I don't have to drive a Jaguar to let you know that I am special or that I am so successful that I have money to burn. And I was no longer isolated, alone. I was in harmony with the people around me. It was infectious.

And most importantly...I never had to be right again. In a world where people choose right over happy all of the time...I let everyone else argue these days. In business meetings, I let people act out of anger and self will, sometimes crazy and I just sit back and watch. I no longer find it necessary to rescue people or quell disturbances...even when I know the solution. Because if I get involved in that ego driven insanity it is like taking the bait. Nothing good can come from that the moment that I decide to open my mouth or act.

Taking nothing personal and identifying that false sense of who I am- were the steps I used to unmask all of my irrational fear. In particular, I focused on anger, controlling behavior, and my personal interaction with others.

Part 6

A week or so ago, I stumbled onto the single greatest discovery I have ever made. In fact I am going to go so far as to call it an absolute emotional solution. Simplified. The solution to unconditional love. Remember, when I said it really is a choice? So it was...

I was mulling over every negative emotion. In every instance, there was a fear component. Grief, anger, resentment, jealousy, spite, vindictiveness, criticism. These negative emotions manifest themselves into negative conduct. Behaviors such as control, harsh or negative judgment of others, manipulating people to get what we want, uncommunicated expectations and disappointment.

All of them have a fear component. A common denominator.

Then I began mulling over all of the positive attributes and virtues that we all desire. Humility, kindness and caring, open mindedness, tolerance, forgiveness, truthfulness, honesty, compassion.

None of those attributes or virtues has a fear component. None of them. Wow!


My mind raced. Could mankind have over looked and thus complicated all human emotion to the extent it had become unconscious behavior and completely unmanageable? Of course. We are the idiots that invented a 2500 page tax code in under 75 years.

I am reluctant to label what I am about to say here as an opinion. I think we can make some highly accurate and bold inferences.

Your ability to love is directly proportionate to your irrational and unconscious fears. The more fear you have the less ability you have to love.

Since control, manipulation, and harsh judgment are symptoms of irrational fear then it stands to reason that the capacity to love others is greatly diminished in those people that practice those things. As I write here, I know that this is true. Some of the most controlling, critical, and un trusting people I know simply cannot love others. Very often, those people do not love themselves. They have no capacity. They dwell in fear.

Conversely those people that have conquered irrational fear are some of the most loving people around. They practice patience, tolerance, and understanding. They have great capacity to love and they have many of the virtues that we seek and hold in high esteem. They don't seek to control or manipulate others. They recognize irrational fear and ego. They make a choice and they become spiritual. You have to pay attention, because they draw little attention to themselves. They practice love and acceptance because those things have no fear component.

Is it possible that people enjoy living in fear? I am still mulling that over. I think it is more likely that fear is just unconscious with them. They are still trying to avoid detection and punishment. I think if they knew there was a solution that they might make a commitment to change. Having said that, it may be easier for them to just behave the way they always have.

How has it been for me? My journey to solve this riddle has taken three years. Those people that I share a historical perspective with beyond that time frame think I am insane or nuts. They cling to the idea that I am still the way they remember me. They fear change themselves and they simply can't accept that people can and do change. That's ok with me. I understand. I catered to those same fears and beliefs myself once. For me, their behavior is just karma.

Trying to love unconditionally is hard work. It is selfless. I still have an emotional relapse from time to time. I try to remember that people are just kind of living unconsciously as I once was, hostage to those irrational fears that they cling to. I often help others uncover those fears. My eyes light up when someone says they have issues with unmet expectations or controlling behaviors. It's like a giant neon sign lights up that says to me, "Get your fear here!"

My ex wife and former best friend are two of those people that think I have gone insane. They might say to me, "Have you lost your mind?" I like to think as I smile, "No actually, I think I just found it." But I don't. That's how it is for me now.