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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Helen Prejean in Nampa at NNU

I faced an odd choice this week. Sister Helen Prejean (Dead Man Walking) was in town tonight, speaking at 7PM. President Obama was giving the State of the Union Address at the same time.

It was never really much of a choice. I could read the speech later.

I saw the movie, "Dead Man Walking" about 15 years ago. I wished I could tell you that the movie changed my thought process. It did not. At that time- I was fully immersed in this idea of justice. As a cop, I saw the execution of murderers as just and fair. I worked on behalf of victims. And because I was so resolute in my belief system, I doubt I would have wavered even under the most persuasive argument. That was the party line for people involved in law enforcement. I was also spiritually challenged- although in 1995- I didn't have a clue what that was.

That all changed for me. It changed in 2008.

My opinion changed as a result of two experiences. One of those experiences was an intensely personal and tragic moment that occurred to me while I was in New Orleans. (Sister Helen's town) That experience led to another experience- the idea of spirituality. That is the item I want to focus on here.

What I am going to say here is my opinion. No agreement is necessary. I simply don't believe that you can be spiritually correct and believe in killing people. This is not political opinion. Or religious opinion. Spirituality and those beliefs are mutually exclusive. Please allow me to explain.

First let me pose a question. Why would you hurt someone else to make yourself feel better? A rational, sane, and spiritually correct person does not do that. A rational, sane, and spiritually correct person would not stoop to the level of killing someone else to make themselves feel better.

So what is it about the human ego, that ego that fears, that thinks it's justifiable to kill someone? I am not talking about killing in defense of human life. I am talking about the cold and calculated, state sanctioned, and premeditated murder of killers. Is that supposed to make us whole? Are we supposed to feel better because we have killed someone? That perhaps killing someone is cost effective and frees the prison bed up for another murderer? Just where did that idea originate? Perhaps it originated in the beliefs of fearful and fallible human beings trying to rationalize, justify, and unify other fear driven men.

Now I have another opinion which is a belief. I believe that God, in the form of Jesus, actually lived. I do not believe he was an enlightened human or that his presence here was a myth. Like Genghis Khan, or Napoleon, I accept that Jesus Christ walked the earth. And in as much as I can verify, but admittedly never personally met, Christ, Khan, or Napoleon; I believe that all three men existed.

What kind of a man, having been sentenced to death for doing nothing wrong, accepts that fate with grace? And what man, having been nailed to a cross, lacerated and thus dying a horrible and painful death, asks his father for forgiveness for those men carrying out that unjust sentence?

A man not of earthly origin. A man completely devoid of human ego and fear. An unconditional and loving man not held captive by an angry and hate filled ego. And because he sent that message of unconditional love that day, in a way we could never understand, he is spiritually correct. He was not an ego driven and hate filled emotional hostage. He was who he said he was. The son of God. Just as those killers and conquerors, Khan and Napoleon, were who they said they were. Or do you choose to believe that they also- did not exist? Or do we pick and choose?

Killing people for no other reason than justifying and rationalizing that it is fair or just, is insane. It is the ego-driven and fear driven belief system of men, passed down through the centuries, that tells us that killing people is necessary when we deem it appropriate. Stalin and Hitler deemed killing appropriate. Timothy McVeigh deemed it appropriate. Osama Bin Laden deemed it appropriate. They all justified and persuaded others with their ideas. Are these men spiritually correct?

Man thinks that he is lord of this jungle. Devoid of spirituality, suffering no immediate or adverse consequences, we go on about this idea of picking and choosing who lives and who dies. We have the arrogance of deciding who we will spare and who we will not. Perhaps there is a nagging doubt that maybe, just maybe, we might get held accountable for our selfish actions. And so it is, that the idea of God becomes inconvenient to us. We don't like that idea of being held accountable for our actions, do we? Finding the path, the spiritual and emotionally free path, does not require us to force our opinions or beliefs on anyone else. About the best any of us can do, is question some of these archaic belief systems and jettison them if they are not spiritually correct. Old beliefs can be primitive beliefs and perhaps it's time to re-think them. To evaluate them without emotion and ego.

I hope that I never have to feel the pain of a victims' family and that if I do, I hope I can find the strength to accept that killing the offender will not make me feel any better. People like Sister Helen Prejean make me think that it's possible.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

You Will Find Peace

I have touched on some of the ways to manage your negative emotions. It is time to talk about the benefits and fruits of managing your emotions.

Kindness attracts kindness. Rarely have I seen a kind person belittled or attacked. It just doesn't happen all that often. Perhaps randomly, by a stranger. Maybe a drunk at a party. It is actually quite rare to see a kind person under attack. In fact, other people will often rally to help a kind person who finds themselves under those circumstances. Attacks come from everywhere but very often, the worst attacks come from those in our inner circles.

Kind people come in two varieties. Some tend to be shy and superficial. They simply don't like confrontations and because they fear confrontations or insensitive speech, they shy away from it. They never launch an attack or even a counterattack in open company. They might criticize another human being to their best friends in some whispered way, but they rarely risk the results of a confrontation in a public way. Their efforts at being kind then, are actually a result of the fear they feel. That's what drives their kindness. This is actually fairly common.

Emotionally free and kind people are not driven by fear. They are kind because they understand. They are consciously aware of the people around them. They understand that they will come under attack from time to time. They never launch attacks because their ego does not require it and they are intuitively kind. When attacked, they never launch a counterattack because they simply don't take any attack personally. They let people be who they are and sometimes those people will be fear driven attack minded people. They are prepared for this. They know this and accept it.

My favorite metaphor for this type of behavior is the torpedo launch. As an unconscious human being, when an attacker sent a torpedo at me, I used to send two torpedoes back at them. I never let an attack go without launching a counter attack. Even cleverly designed or contrived attacks. Emotionally free people don't launch torpedoes. When they see a torpedo coming their way, they simply watch it go by as they steer clear of it. They don't fire back because they don't need torpedoes. They let people be just as crazy as they want to be. They are in control of their egos. Crazy attack minded people are just unconscious, fearful, and ego driven. That has nothing to do with us. We are not required to engage in their brand of craziness.

Recently, I was talking to a young man who found himself in a similar situation. He was under attack from a variety of sources because he is not kind. He is drawing the fire of several people. As he engaged in that one up, counterattack philosophy of his, he simply could not find a solution. He was angry, hostile, worried about some of the things he had said, and all of this is living in his head. He feels frustration. His ego screams out that he is right and yet it is he who is not sleeping, it is he who will be out of a job soon. It is he who will pay the price.

Would you rather be happy or right?

He simply doesn't understand that the biggest problem in his life is him. And with all the love that I could muster, I told him what he needed to hear, not what he wanted to hear.

Accept your role in your situation. Quit fighting and trying to control and influence others. Let people be who they are and focus on the solution. Fix you and the way you see the world and your current adversaries and let those torpedoes slide by. Let them be who they are. Try to love those who would diminish you. They are unconscious. Try something different. And by all means, get some sleep tonight. Follow the blueprint and you will find peace.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Blueprint, Part Four Redux

I have re-written part four because I want to talk about negative emotions a little bit and how I was able to corral and minimize them. Sometimes eliminate them entirely.

This is how I changed my belief system. I accepted that life is fair. That was a huge departure from common rhetoric and conventional wisdom. Like many of you, I bought into the "life isn't fear" rhetoric- hook, line, and sinker. The problem with that line of thinking is that if you believe life is unfair, then you might want to believe that you are a victim. Victims wallow in self pity. I sought to eliminate all of that thinking and in my case, the only solution to eliminate victim thinking and self pity was to adopt a life is fair- belief system. It has been working.

Fear. I have a whole host of emotions that are fear based. They all manifest themselves as negative emotions. If I fear something, chances are I will dislike it or even hate it. I will try to control something. People who try to influence or control others are imposing their fears on others. Fear manifests itself as non acceptance. So in order to conquer fear, I have to accept things like death. I have known since the age of 5 or so, that I am going to die. It has never been a mystery. The only mystery is how and when. I accept that I must die. I also accept the crazy and fear ridden belief systems of others. I allow them to impose their beliefs on me to a great extent. If in fact their fears become overwhelming, I will simply ask myself if this is something I need to continue to subject myself to.

Managing depression. I don't believe that any two depressions are the same. Yours or mine. Therefore, I can only focus on managing mine. I do that two ways. I focus on what is good and what I am grateful for. I always start with clean socks. I work up from there. In times of great stress, I focus on NOW. I eliminate any past or future thinking. I am only present in this moment. I develop a plan on which I refuse to place any expectations. I work on the plan piece by piece. Constructively. I do not place any expectations on outcomes. Therefore if it goes well, I am happy. If it goes bad, I am happy. I did my best.

Intolerance. People are simply reflecting who they are. They say and do incredibly funny stuff and they do insane and horrific things, like suicide. Strict adherence to my belief systems means that I have to be ok with that. That doesn't mean I encourage or promote that behavior. I simply do my best to help and if that doesn't work, I'm ok with it. I accept it. I don't engage in critical self talk or self abuse. I don't impose my beliefs on others.

Anger. Anger is fear based and contrived in the mind. I let people be who they are. Sometimes they are miserable and I accept that. I do not allow them to transfer that misery, anger, or self pitying behavior to me. Sometimes angry people need to be reminded of their belief systems and roles in the behavior that caused them to be angry. Sometimes I let angry people be angry. But anger is a luxury that I do not try to engage in. I see nothing useful in it and to a large extent, I have eliminated it altogether. I have unmasked the fear component.

Jealousy. Jealousy is a fear that someone has something we want or cannot have. Like all negative emotions, it is conjured up in your head by an ego that says, I must tell the world that I am a success. I must prove to someone that I am not a failure or I am entitled to this luxury because it will make me feel better. I am entitled to this or I need this. I really do believe that advertising targets this human insanity. Sometimes we make others feel diminished because we want to be special. We brag about our accomplishments. We do not know humility. I deserve this mansion, jet, or Lamborghini. In the relationship world, it works the same way. We fear the loss of relationships. We fear loneliness. And if we fear something, we will try to control it.

Controlling people. Controlling people have a set of fears, many of them ridiculous and insane, which they believe to be true. And because they believe those fears, they will act out in some of the most fascinating ways. I have learned to accept these people because I understand now that they are simply reflecting who they are. It has nothing to do with me. And if I disagree with them, my ego is in check to the extent that I simply let them continue to believe whatever fear is manifesting itself at that moment. I try hard to agree with them. Unfortunately, I am not there to help them get better. Controlling people tend to be very resistant to any type of self scrutiny and often simply lack the capacity to identify thinking errors. They get frustrated easily at non compliance as they set about trying to change their exterior world to satisfy fear driven needs. Which leads me to the last point.

Think of yourself as a guest on this planet, like a wonderful vacation that last 75 or 80 years. You are not here to change the planet, let the planet change you. I love the metaphor of Bach's underwater organism. Underwater organisms clinging to rocks, afraid of letting go. They have acquired a belief system that says if they don't cling to those rocks-that they will surely die. They believe that. They fear death. So they doom themselves to that miserable existence, clinging to rocks. Until one day, one of the organisms lets go of the rocks. He lets the water take him on a wonderful journey. Could all of those other underwater organisms be cheating themselves of a wonderful life, driven and controlled by fear? Could they all be wrong?

I asked, answered, and found the solution to that question. Unconventional solutions require unconventional thinking. If you want real emotional freedom, you must cast conventional wisdom and thinking aside. It doesn't work. Two thousand years of anger, rage, and killing on this planet have convinced me of that. Living in a greed driven society where its ok to screw the people less knowledgeable than you and call it "business." I might have spent a lifetime hating criminals, or evil men like Osama Bin Laden. Clinging to that conventional wisdom, those belief systems- that peer pressure that says we must hate. Billions of us, clinging to rocks. Until I noticed a couple of organisms sailing by me in the water. Enjoying their lives. I wanted to try that. Rocks bore me.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Blueprint, Part Three

Managing emotions became easier and easier for me as I realized that emotions were simply thoughts. Unconscious behavior. Worse yet, people actually act on those insane thoughts.

But what was driving all those insane thought patterns? Ego. Insane people acting on irrational thoughts. I will give you a beautiful example. I can still picture that moment in my mind.

A few months ago, I was interviewing for a job helping disabled and handicapped people gain physical access to services at a variety of locations. Places where infrastructure simply wasn't in place, perhaps a wheelchair ramp at a church. This was a job that would require some finesse and negotiating skills and with some savvy, gain compliance through cooperation. I was sure that this was something that I would be good at.

During the interview, I was asked what experience I had helping people gain access to services. I made the mistake of saying that although I had directed hundreds of people to services, rarely had I "held their hand" throughout the entire process. I used that phrase a couple of times as I answered the question. One of my interviewers became visibly upset and actually scolded me during the interview for having used that phrase. She adamantly "schooled" me on the appropriate jargon with the accompanying diminishing innuendo. I understand my error now. My role in that exchange. But a larger question looms. What kind of an ego launches an attack at a job interview? What had I done to cause that type of response?

It is the insanity of the human mind and ego that demands that someone must be made to feel bad in order to make themselves feel better. A fear driven ego- out of control. This is the insanity of a fearful mind that feels victimized by an innocent remark. An ego that makes an incorrect assumption and launches a counterattack. More importantly, it points to a lack of spirituality.

I used this example for a couple of reasons. Not to point out flaws, or to determine who is right or wrong. I am no better than my interviewer. I have been guilty of similar behavior hundreds and thousands of times.

When the time comes that you pull this type of behavior, kicking and screaming out of your subconscious mind into your conscious mind, you no longer have an excuse for being a miserable human being.

For me, recognizing this insanity occurred in the spring of '08. Just weeks before I stumbled onto Eckhart Tolle's masterpiece, "A New Earth." That book presents the insanity of the human mind. It was brilliant and although it was widely acclaimed and sold, it will do very little to change the collective thought process of fear driven human beings. Why?

Because human beings don't want to change. They want to cling to their old belief systems and egos. They refuse to evolve. They don't see any reason to change. They don't see what's in it for them. They enjoy wallowing in self pity, they enjoy being victims and having something to whine about, they enjoy attacking others to make themselves feel better. And if 2000 years of evidence isn't enough to convince you that we are unwilling to evolve, I can't provide any more proof than that.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Blueprint, Part Two

As I began to practice what I had learned, I discovered new ways of behaving like an adult and managing emotions.

I practiced the "Power of Now" which conceptually- is actually quite simple. Bad thoughts can only come from two places. The past and the mistakes we have made and the anxiety or fear about things which have not occurred yet. So we simply let go of the past. I used the past as a reference point for the good and bad things which had happened to me. Beyond that-the past was not useful. If I am not thinking about the past, or worrying about the future, I am always happy. I am like a dog with my nose sticking out of the window. Smelling things, lips flapping in the wind, unconcerned with the scolding I got for peeing on the carpet, not worried about my death in a few years. Just enjoying the drive, right now.

I planned for the future. However, I never placed any EXPECTATIONS on how the future might turn out. I didn't care. My only job was to make the best plan I could now and if it crashed and burned, so be it.

Out of that future planning, and the possibility that plans can go bad, I learned acceptance. I accepted that I could not control anything beyond me.

My list grew. I added living in the NOW. I added managing expectations and I added acceptance. (Who am I to question what happens in God's world?)

I began to focus on fear. Emotional fear. Emotional fear is the result of painful belief systems we acquire. Fear always manifests itself two ways. The result is negative emotions and control. In fact, find a controlling person and I guarantee that they are fear driven. The intensity at which they try to control things corresponds directly to the intensity of their fears.

Sure, emotional fear is irrational. But while we may recognize fear, it does not mean that others will. And to a fear driven and unconscious controlling type, they might impose their fears on you. Unless of course, you simply accept them as they are. They aren't trying to hurt you-even as they order you around and possibly demean you, they are simply incapable of this type of self examination.They cater to an unconscious ego that demands that the world see things their way.

All negative emotions are fear based. Think about that. If you can name one negative emotion that is not based in emotional fear, I am unaware of it. Therefore, negative people aren't trying to hurt you, they are living in fear-that's all.

Negative emotions are all fear based. They manifest themselves as ill will and hatred.

I was seeking unconditional love. Therefore, understanding and accepting that people are simply trying to live their lives became a cornerstone for finding unconditional love. Understanding, acceptance, and love for all men was not possible until you recognize and let go of your own fears. Not taking anything personally makes that all possible.

However, I still had a host of other beliefs and emotions to work on. So lets recap our expanding list.

1. Don't take anything personally, ever.
2. Make no assumptions. By default, we will begin practicing impeccable speech and do our best.
3. Fully live in and enjoy the present moment.
4. Plan but never place expectations on any given outcome.
5. Accept people and things as they are. You cannot control anything in your exterior world.
6. Fear plays a huge role in how we live our lives. Eliminate your irrational fears to find unconditional love. Let people live their lives. Don't take it personally, it never is.

We are about halfway through. We are going to fine tune some other emotions and end with the big finish- the ego.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Blueprint for Real Emotional Freedom-Part One

It is time. It has been about a year. What I'm about to do is set up an outline or a blueprint on how to obtain emotional freedom and find harmony in your life.

They say necessity is the mother of invention. Then perhaps desperation is the grandmother. In 2007, I underwent a series of events that altered my complete conscious reality of the world. It literally changed how I saw everything. Completely and permanently. I will never be the same nor do I ever want to return to that ego driven world of insanity. As a result of what happened to me, I am going to take you on a step by step journey of what happened. The only background that I can offer that is relevant- is that I was desperate and utterly insane. And out of that desperation and insanity, I found the answer. I was the problem. And the only person on the planet that could fix that problem...was me. As I underwent profound changes in perception and thus reality, the world came into focus. I eliminated nearly all of my ego driven and faulty belief systems and installed new ones. Truthful and fair belief systems. My relationships and my attitude improved dramatically. I was able to shut the noise off. That noise that goes on in our heads...that noise we call "thinking." It is fear driven insanity. That's what it really is.

In the fall of '07, I landed in New Orleans to get sober. I was drinking far too much and I just wanted to stop drinking. I walked into Alcoholics Anonymous. Within two weeks, I was convinced that I was emotionally and spiritually sick. I realized that just quitting drinking was far too simplistic. I needed a lot of additional work- far and above what AA could provide. And so in tandem, I worked the AA program with a divinely inspired spiritual program that included a lot of people. A lot of reading. A lot of reflecting. A lot of work. But I was committed to being the absolute best person I could be. Had I known at 20 what I discovered in New Orleans 25 years later, I'd have moved mountains. I try not to think about that. I focus on the moment and I am grateful for what I subsequently discovered. And while I believe much of what I am about to say applies to virtually every one, I can't make that assumption. In fact, that's part of the program.

Here then were my emotional prerequisites.

1. I was desperate. I came to believe that everything I thought I knew was potentially wrong or misguided. Faulty belief systems. Failed relationships. I didn't have a clue how to behave like an adult.

2. I was unflinchingly honest and determined to do whatever was necessary to become a good human being. I was determined to seek unconditional love for all people. How's that for a tall order?

3. I became WILLING to take direction. Open mindedness. Real open-minded-ness. I refused to offer opinions or defend faulty beliefs. I became willing to scrap bad beliefs and install new ones.

As I was committed to the AA process, and uncovering all of the fears that had driven virtually all of my actions, I was given a book title by a complete stranger I had just met. It was the "Four Agreements" by Ruiz. The book was a quick read, about 3-4 hours, and after my first pass I simply put it down. I was in awe. Not only was it incredibly simple but I realized that it was one of the most profound things I had ever read. The application of those four principles for living seemed easy at first, but it took a great deal of practice, understanding, and application. It took commitment. The book should be given to every student in every school.

The second agreement, "Take Nothing Personally" was very difficult for me to comprehend. In fact, I read that chapter a total of nine times before it ultimately sank in. People are just living their lives. They are simply reflecting who they are and that has nothing to do with you. Even when they say that it does. Ever. The concept seems abstract and irrational at first. At least it did to me. I was the ultimate watchdog, forever vigilant and on the defensive. I believed everything was an attack on me. That's probably why I had to read that chapter so many times.

That concept became an absolute cornerstone of my program. I linked the third agreement to it, "Make No Assumptions" which like "Take Nothing Personally", I violated all the time. Daily. In fact, once I realized how bad I was in terms of violating those two principles, it kind of made me sick. My heightened awareness of these two principles allows me to see and hear that mentality everywhere, with my friends and family, co workers, virtually everyone around me. It is truly an epidemic.

The other two agreements, "Use Impeccable Speech" and "Always Do Your Best" seemed less important to me. In fact, as I focused on the other two agreements, I found myself using impeccable speech and doing my best as a result of taking nothing personally and not making assumptions.

So "Take Nothing Personally" and "Make No Assumptions" became a cornerstone of my spiritual program.

Which leads me to the commitment part. If they truly worked, I had to find a way to actually implement them in my daily life. There was only one way to do that.

Each morning I meditated. For only ten minutes. I used five minutes to clear my mind. I used the final five minutes to focus on a list of things which at first I kept very simple.

I will not drink today no matter what, I will take nothing personally, and I will make no assumptions. That's how it started. Then I would go play golf, walk on the levees, work with others.