11 April 2017      

It's another Tuesday in our lives, so we're taking advantage of the day
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 Seeing from the Essential Self
Martha Back

How We Add to Our Own Suffering
the Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler

What Can I Share Today?
tom walsh

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To have a purpose that is worthwhile, and that is steadily being accomplished, is one of the secrets of a life that is worth living.

Herbert Casson

Love is what we were born with.  fear is what we learned here.  The spiritual journey is the relinquishment, or unlearning, of fear and the acceptance of love back into our hearts.

Marianne Williamson

All people ought to begin with themselves, and make their own happiness first, from which the happiness of the whole world would at last unquestionably follow.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

  

Seeing from the Essential Self
Martha Beck

I was once lucky enough to have lunch with the mother of Chris Burke, the actor who has appeared regularly on TV shows such as Life Goes On and Touched by an Angel and who happens to have Down's syndrome.  I also have a son with Down's syndrome, and Chris's success has been a source of hope and happiness in my family for a long time.  His mom is an absolutely lovely woman, very kind and funny.  Over lunch, she told me about Chris's career:  He's booked solid for speaking and acting jobs more than two years in advance, travels constantly to keep up with his engagements, and is mobbed by well-wishers and autograph seekers wherever he goes.

Naturally, hearing this made me practically effervesce with admiration.  "At the moment the doctors came in and told you Chris has Down's syndrome," I asked Mrs. Burke, "would you ever have dreamed he was going to be a famous TV star?"  I thought this question was rhetorical; naturally, she would have been completely unable to believe that her poor retarded baby would ever make good.  But Mrs. Burke didn't bat an eye.

"Of course," she said, a bit quizzically.  "Why not?"

I could tell this wasn't revisionist history.  From the moment he was born, Chris Burke's family really had seen the truth of his talent and potential.

I have no doubt that his generalized other is based on this limitless, optimistic, and clear-eyed love.  Does this mean Chris has suffered no failures, disappointments, or humiliations?  Of course not.  Does it mean everybody, literally everybody, loves and admires him?  No again--a lot of people while away their pathetic little lives pelting people like Chris with rocks and insults.  But his benevolent Everybody does mean that Chris Burke feels, and projects, enormous faith in himself and complete acceptance of others.  It means he handles criticism thoughtfully and well.  And it means that he lives in a virtual ocean of positive feedback, coming from literally millions of people.  He firmly believes every one of the positive statements above applies to him and that Everybody can see it's true.

One reason I can see my clients the way Mrs. Burke sees Chris is that my essential self tends to come out when I'm doing life design.  As this occurs, it becomes impossible for me to see the false, social-self version of the person sitting across from me.  The more you integrate your essential self, the more you will perceive both yourself and others in this way.  When the curtain of social judgment pulls back, it reveals the most amazing beauty.

I first became aware of this phenomenon when I was a college art student.  Every few weeks, I'd join this or that group of artists, and we'd all pitch in a few bucks to rent a studio and hire a model.  Most of the people we got to pose were college students with bodies that matched the social ideal--slender, fit, perfectly proportioned.  (After all, who else would risk standing naked in a room full of strangers?)  And then, one day, we got somebody really different.

She looked well over sixty, with a deeply lined face and a body that was probably fifty pounds heavier than her doctors would have liked.  She'd had a few doctors, too, judging from her scars.  Shining purple welts from a cesarean section and knee surgery cut deep rifts in the rippled adipose fat of her lower body.  Another scar ran across one side of her chest, where her left breast had once been.  When she first limped onto the dais to pose, I felt so much pity and unease that I physically flinched.  But we were there to draw her, so I picked up a pencil.

The thing about drawing is that you can't do it well with your social self.  You have to bring out your essential self, which doesn't know anything about social stereotypes.  And so, as I began to draw this maimed old woman, the most amazing thing happened.  Within five minutes, she became a person of absolutely wondrous beauty.  She didn't look like a supermodel; she didn't have to.  Her body, in and of itself, was as beautiful as a piece of polished driftwood, or a wind-carved rock, or a waterfall.  My essential self didn't know that I was supposed to compare the woman to various movie stars, any more than it would have evaluated the Andes Mountains by judging how much they looked like an Iowa cornfield.  It simply saw her as she was:  an exquisite sculptural form.

When this perceptual shift happened, I was so surprised that I stopped drawing and simply stared.  The model seemed to notice this, and without turning her head, looked straight into my eyes.  Then I saw the ghost of a smile flicker across her face, and I realized something else:  She knew she was beautiful.  She knew it, and she knew that I'd seen it.  Maybe that's why she had consented to pose nude in the first place.  Knowing that a roomful of artists couldn't draw her without seeing her--I mean really seeing her--she may have decided to give us a gentle education about our perceptions.

If you feel a bit isolated or scared, and your faith in yourself isn't exactly earthquake-proof, you must learn to do what Chris Burke and my Mystery Model seemed to do naturally:  replace your hypercritical, limiting, lying Everybody with an Everybody who sees you as you really are.  Once again, find yourself a pencil and prepare to do a little work.  You're about to learn what it feels like to search for your own North Star with Everybody on your side.

  
  

As the creator of Life Designs, Inc., Martha Beck has helped hundreds of clients find their own North Star and figure out how to fulfill their potential and create joyful lives through her lectures, seminars, and one-on-one counseling. In her new book, she shares her step-by-step program that will guide you to fulfill your own potential. You'll start by learning how to read the internal compasses already built into your brain and body -- and why you may have spent your life ignoring their signals.

   

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How We Add to Our Own Suffering
The Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler

While some kinds of suffering are inevitable, other kinds are self-created.  We explored, for instance, how the refusal to accept suffering as a natural part of life can lead to viewing oneself as a perpetual victim and blaming others for our problems--a surefire recipe for a miserable life.

But we also add to our own suffering in other ways.  All too often we perpetuate our pain, keep it alive, by replaying our hurts over and over again in our minds, magnifying our injuries in the process.  We repeat our painful memories with the unconscious wish perhaps that somehow it will change the situation--but it never does.  Of course, sometimes this endless recounting of our woes can serve a limited purpose; it can add drama and a certain excitement to our lives or elicit attention and sympathy from others.  But this seems like a poor trade-off for the unhappiness we continue to endure.

In speaking about how we add to our own suffering, the Dalai Lama explained, "We can see that there are many ways in which we actively contribute to our own experience of mental unrest and suffering.  Although, in general, mental and emotional afflictions themselves can come naturally, often it is our own reinforcement of those negative emotions that makes them so much worse.  For instance when we have anger or hatred towards a person, there is less likelihood of its developing to a very intense degree if we leave it unattended.  However, if we think about the projected injustices done to us, the ways in which we have been unfairly treated, and we keep on thinking about them over and over, then that feeds the hatred.  It makes the hatred very powerful and intense.  Of course, the same can apply to when we have an attachment towards a particular person; we can feed that by thinking how beautiful he or she is, and as we keep thinking about the projected qualities that we see in the person, the attachment becomes more and more intense.  But this shows how through constant familiarity and thinking, we ourselves can make our emotions more intense and powerful.

"We also often add to our pain and suffering by being overly sensitive, overreacting to minor things, and sometimes taking things too personally.  We tend to take small things too seriously and blow them up out of proportion, while at the same time we often remain indifferent to the really important things, those things which have profound effects on our lives and long-term consequences and implications.

"So I think that to a large extent, whether you suffer depends on how you respond to a given situation.  For example, say that you find out that someone is speaking badly of you behind your back.  If you react to this knowledge that someone is speaking badly of you, this negativity, with a feeling of hurt or anger, then you yourself destroy your own peace of mind.  On the other hand, if you refrain from reacting in a negative way, let the slander pass you by as if it were a silent wind passing behind your ears, you protect yourself from that feeling of hurt, that feeling of agony.  So, although you may not always be able to avoid difficult situations, you can modify the extent to which you suffer by how you choose to respond to the situation."

"We also often add to our pain and suffering by being overly sensitive, overreacting to minor things, and sometimes taking things too personally. . ."  With these words, the Dalai Lama recognizes the origin of many of the day-to-day aggravations that can add up to be a major source of suffering.  Therapists sometimes call this process personalizing our pain--the tendency to narrow our psychological field of vision by interpreting or misinterpreting everything that occurs in terms of its impact on us.

  
  

This book consists mostly of material from Howard Cutler, who uses conversations, stories, and meditations from the Dalai Lama--and his responses to them--to show us how to defeat day-to-day anxiety, insecurity, anger, and discouragement. Together they explore many facets of everyday life, including relationships, loss, and the pursuit of wealth, to illustrate how to ride through life's obstacles on a deep and abiding source of inner peace.

   

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Patience and tenacity of purpose are assets of infinitely greater
value than cleverness.  There is great strength in patiently waiting. 
The sun, having set, comes up.  The tide ebbs, but always flows in again.

Fred van Amburgh

   

 
What Can I Share Today?

Today is another day full of possibility and potential.  Life is going on, and I'm going on with it.  And during the course of this day, I have many opportunities to share with other people--in fact, in a lot of cases, I'll be forced to share with others, things like space (in an elevator, for example), time, ideas, and so much more.  Sharing is one of the key elements of living a full and rewarding life, yet it's something that we don't think about all that often--if at all--until we're forced by circumstances to share things that we didn't expect to share.

But we can think about what we're going to share.  We can consciously decide to share what we have with other human beings, enriching their lives as well as our own, giving something to others that may be valuable to them.  And when we do that, we find that our own lives are enriched, too, for we discover that others are more than willing to share with us, too.

For example, I can decide to share some kind words today.  I have a lot of them inside of me, just waiting to be set free so that they can benefit someone else.  I can tell someone else that I'm impressed with the work that they've done, or I can compliment someone on their clothes or their smile or their eyes.  I can wish them a pleasant day, or I can simply thank them sincerely for something that they've done.  And they're free--it costs me nothing to share them.
   

You are forgiven for your happiness and your successes
only if you generously consent to share them.

Albert Camus

   
I could also share my knowledge today.  Now, I'm a teacher, so this is something that I do constantly as a matter of course.  But some of the most important sharing that I've ever done has been in non-teaching situations, with people who aren't my students.  I've learned a lot in my life, and much of it is different stuff than other people have learned because of our unique situations.  Sometimes, my knowledge is just what someone else needs.  That doesn't mean that I need to tell them what to do or how to do it--I can just tell what I know, and allow the other person to use that knowledge as they will.

My smile is also something that I can share.  Our smiles are possibly our most important tool of communications with others, and when we use them sincerely, they can be one of the most important things that we ever share.  A smile shows acceptance and caring in a very simple way, and my smile can be a great addition to another person's day.  I know this because I know how I feel when other people share their smiles with me--it's an act that lifts me up and makes me feel good, and I do have the power to do this for others.

    

Love only grows by sharing.  You can only have more
for yourself by giving it away to others.

Brian Tracy

    
Sharing time has become one of the most difficult things that we do in our culture these days, for we tend to be rushing from thing to thing constantly.  We reach a point at which we simply feel that "I don't have the time for that," so we avoid certain obligations or commitments.  Unfortunately, the people who lose out on our time often are those people who need it the most, such as our children or friends who are going through difficult times or spouses who wish we would spend more time with them.  Time is one of those things with which we can gauge our selfishness versus our generosity, and sharing it can be one of the greatest gifts we ever give to other human beings.  I can share my time by simply being with someone else, by reading to someone, by having a meal and a nice talk with someone, by listening to someone who's going through trials, by going for a walk, or in many, many other ways.

Today, I can share my blessings.  Perhaps I have enough money to buy more food than others are able to buy--that food can be shared in many ways.  Maybe I have more money than others do, and just a little bit of that money can make a very large difference in someone's life.  The clothes that I no longer wear can be donated to a thrift store, helping both the people who buy them cheaply and the organization that earns the money when they buy them.  It could be that I've been blessed with a pleasant singing voice or the gift of being able to play a musical instrument--sharing such a gift can make many people feel very good, indeed, and it can make me feel good when I make others feel good.
   

Sharing is sometimes more demanding than giving.

Mary Bateson

   
There are many things that we can share that require a great deal of tact and sensitivity.  For example, I can share my observations with others today, about the ways that they do things or how they might improve their performance at work or in school.  When I do so, though, I run the risk of sounding like I'm criticizing or even mocking the person.  And in all truth, my observations may be completely unwelcome, as the person may be working through something in his or her own way.  For example, at work I may see that one of my colleagues does something in a way that's inefficient.  If I share that observation, though, I run the risk of sounding more focused on criticism than on advice, and the other person may not welcome at all what I have to say.

We also run the risk of sharing too much, especially when we talk about personal information.  Such information is shared in an attempt to be closer to another person, to help them to get to know us in a more intimate way, but when we share too much, we run the risk of making people uncomfortable, put off, or even angry.  I know people who dominate conversations so much that it's unpleasant to be around them--they share everything about their lives and thoughts and experiences, yet they don't allow the other person to share anything.  As with most things in life, finding a balance is extremely important.

What do you have to share today?  It may be just a few encouraging words or a mini candy bar, but no matter what, there must be something in your life that you can give to others on this day.  And the beauty in doing so is that when we do share, we brighten both the life of someone else and our own lives, even if just for a few fleeting moments--but over time those moments can add up to hours and even days if we're consistent.  Find something to share today, and add something very pleasant to the life you're leading.
   

One of the most important elements of living life fully is awareness-- awareness of our surroundings, of other people and their motives and fears and desires, of the things that affect us most in our lives, both positively and negatively. In the twelve years of livinglifefully.com's existence, this essay series has been a mainstay of the weekly e-zine--a series that has explored not just the things that exist and that happen around us, but also our reactions to those things. The first five years of the column are now available exclusively on Kindle.

   

  

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When I'm out walking without hurry and without a destination, my mind tends to relax as I focus on so many things outside of myself, as I see the natural world around me and breathe the fresh air.  A long walk can help me to reach a state of clarity much more easily than any other practice that I've ever discovered, and walks have often helped me through difficult times in my life.

tom walsh

  

Thinking Like a Farmer
Jim Rohn

One of the difficulties we face in our industrialized age is the fact we've lost our sense of seasons.  Unlike the farmer whose priorities change with the seasons, we have become impervious to the natural rhythm of life.  As a result, we have our priorities out of balance.  Let me illustrate what I mean:

For farmers, springtime is their most active time.  It's then when they must work around the clock, getting up before the sun and still toiling at the stroke of midnight.  They must keep their equipment running at full capacity because they have but a small window of time for the planting of their crops.  Eventually winter comes when there is less for them to do to keep him busy.

There is a lesson here.  Learn to use the seasons of life.  Decide when to pour it on and when to ease back, when to take advantage and when to let things ride.  It's easy to keep going from nine to five year in and year out and lose a natural sense of priorities and cycles.  Don't let one year blend into another in a seemingly endless parade of tasks and responsibilities.  Keep your eye on your own seasons, lest you lose sight of value and substance.

   

  

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals, and
everywhere life is full of heroism.

Max Ehrmann

    

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