23 May 2017      

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Wake Up from Autopilot
Debbie Ford

Choose the Path That Makes the Best Story
John Izzo

I'm Not like That
tom walsh

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Humor is a reminder that no matter how high the throne one sits on, one sits on one's bottom.

Taki

I don't ask for the meaning of the song of a bird or the rising of the sun on a misty morning.
There they are, and they are beautiful.

Pete Hamill

Every person who knows how to read has it in their power to magnify, to multiply the ways in which they exist, to make their lives full, significant, and interesting.

Aldous Huxley

  
Wake Up from Autopilot
Debbie Ford

In order to feed our internal flames, we must wake up and make each of our choices conscious.  A conscious choice reflects our highest commitments and is in direct alignment with our vision for our lives.  When we make conscious choices, we take into consideration the effect that our actions will have on our lives as a whole.  We take the time to reflect on where our choices will lead us and the impact they will have on our future.

Every time we slip into unconsciousness and forget about our deepest desires, we fall into an automatic trance, collapsing into whatever programming and patterns exist from our past.  This trance is like going on autopilot:  it takes no effort, no thinking.  It's the trance of denial.  This trance whispers in our ears, "It doesn't matter.  Just one more time.  I'll start tomorrow.  I really don't want it anyway.  It's okay; no one will know."  The voice of this trance encourages us to take the easy way out.  "No worries!" it cries as we turn off the road of our dreams and down the circular pathway of our past.  The trance of denial takes us from one moment to the next, one day to the next, and one year to the next while our dreams and our lives turn into repetitive excuses taking us on the road to nowhere.

When we are acting on automatic, we fail to see the consequences of our behaviors.  We blindly go about our days, never considering the long-term vision for our lives.

We neither examine our motives nor try to understand what is directing our choices.  Our actions are reactions, our choices based on the way we feel in the moment, with no consideration for their impact on our failure.

In any given moment we are being guided by one of two maps:  a vision map, which is a deliberate plan for our future, or a default map, which is made up of our past.  Choices made from our default map--our repetitive, automatic programming--do not nourish our flames, nor to they move us closer to our dreams.  And even though they may feel right to us, they do so simply because they are familiar.  Let me give you an example:

Jody, a pediatrician with a thriving practice, has a goal of taking one week off per quarter, for a total of four weeks' vacation time a year.  Her assistant schedules these weeks well in advance on Jody's calendar.  Yet whenever Jody gets backed up with patients, instead of looking to her vision map for direction, her automatic response, made from her default map, is to cancel her plans and take care of those in need.  Many times she has given up her commitment to take time off for family and fun and acted unconsciously only to regret it in the end.

Before Jody could grasp the freedom to do anything different, she first had to realize that her automatic response was guiding her actions.  Her default map was directing her to say yes to the demands of her patients.  Without looking, she made choices that ultimately took her away from the life she desired.  Jody realized that when she was on autopilot she had no choice in this area of her life.  This realization enabled her to make a new, conscious choice that was in direct alignment with her goals and objectives.

When we're making unconscious choices, we can be certain that we are not present in the here and now.  When we go unconscious, we put ourselves at risk of falling prey to our lowest impulses.  Unknowingly we turn our lives over to the default map, which is made up of our past and everything in it, and in seconds we find ourselves headed in a direction directly opposite of where we want to go.  We're asleep at the wheel, letting our past and our fears dictate and limit our futures.

This point was clearly illustrated to me by an old wise man whom I met many years ago.  We spoke about life, being human, and the trials and tribulations of evolving our consciousness.  At the end of our time together he leaned over and said quite seriously, "Most of us are robots, taking orders and responding to the collective pool of our unprocessed emotions and traumas."  We're on automatic--re-creating the past, slaves to our addictions, our cravings, and our unfulfilled needs:  "I want some ice cream."  That picture would look perfect in my living room.  "I'll start my exercise program tomorrow."  "Next time I'll be more assertive."

If you make a list of some of your past choices in an area of your life where you haven't gotten the results you desired, you'll undoubtedly discover that you have been asleep at the wheel. Unknowingly, you've flicked on the switch that reads, AUTOMATIC PILOT, NO ATTENTION NEEDED.  Somehow you've forgotten that your future is determined by the choices you make today.  And instead of stopping and referring to your vision map to make sure that the choices you're making will take you where you want to go, you just do whatever seems easiest at the time. . . .

Whether you know it or not, you can always decide between conscious and unconscious choices.  Every day you have the power to look away and assign your destiny to the wind or to move your life powerfully forward in the direction of your dreams. . . . This is not a dress rehearsal;  this is your life.  Either you will milk it for all it's worth and manifest what you truly desire or you will go to your grave regretting that you didn't make different choices. . . . every time you make a choice, that choice either takes you closer to where you want to go or moves you further away.
   
   

We are where we are because of repeated unconscious choices made day after day. If we want to understand why and how we created our present day reality, all we need to do is look at the choices we made in the past. Ford cuts right through our denial with the 10 questions that immediately reveal the true motivations behind our thoughts and actions. But more than that, by rigorously and honestly asking and answering these 10 vital questions, we regain control and have the power necessary to create the life we always wanted.

   

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Choose the Path That Makes the Best Story
John Izzo

How do we keep from living a life with regret?  In the introduction to this book I mentioned a woman named Margaret who told me how she tried to live her life from the perspective of an old woman sitting in a rocking chair on the porch.  She told me that whenever she had a decision to make she asked herself this question:  "When I am an old woman sitting in my rocking chair thinking about my life, what decision will I wish I had made?"  She told me that in almost every case, the path she should take became clear to her.  Deena Metzger, well-known author and spiritual guide, put it this way:  "Choose the path that makes for the best story."

This is an interesting but simple way to live a life with ho regrets.  We continually look ahead and ask ourselves when I am old or when I come to the end of my life will I regret the step I am about to make?  Will the way I am living now lead to the path of regret or no regrets?

Earlier in my life, as a young adult, I had many opportunities to do interesting things.  As I listened to the stories of people's lives, I realized that some of my most significant regrets have to do with the opportunities I turned away, often because of fear.  One of these moments occurred while I was in seminary studying for the ministry.  On two occasions I was offered a summer chaplaincy internship in two of America's great national parks, Grand Teton and Shenandoah.  Nature had always held a special place in my heart, but I grew up in a large city and I had never had the opportunity to spend a significant amount of time in the outdoors.

The idea of working in a park was deeply appealing, and part of me knew the experience would be invaluable.  However, I was involved in a relationship at the time and worried about being separated from this person for a few months, so I turned down the opportunity both times.  To this day, I believe that if I had projected my self ahead to the old man on the porch, I might have heard myself say:  "If the relationship is strong, it will survive the absence, but you love nature and may never be offered this chance again."  The relationship did not last, and the opportunity never came again.

There is a more recent example from my life.  This past year a good friend of mine offered me the opportunity to spend a month in East Africa with 15 other mid-life men, meeting with tribal elders and camping in the wilderness.  This was a dream come true, but it was my busiest time of the year, and I would have to turn down a significant amount of work to take this trip.  This time, I paid a visit to that old man on the porch.  He told me:  "When you are my age, you won't miss the money you lost this month, but you will carry Africa in your heart."  I took the trip, explored several fascinating cultures, saw amazing wilderness that I had never seen before, and missed the presence of my family, which reminded me of how much they mean to me.  While in Tanzania, I sat with tribal elders and germinated the idea for this project.  My worry about the interference of a "busy" schedule almost got in the way of one of the most important experiences of my life.

The most important thing the conversations that led me to this book taught me about this second secret is to make sure we try for the things we want in our lives, because we are unlikely to regret trying and failing.  The second most important lesson is that if there is a relationship that must be healed, heal it now.  When I ask people about regrets in their lives, most of them spoke about people in their lives, about issues not resolved, words not spoken, broken relationships never healed.
  
  

In a society where old age is often
seen as weakness, The Five Secrets
is a refreshing reminder that our elders
have much to teach. Izzo writes, "Whenever I am going to take a trip, I choose hotels by using a website that taps into the  experiences of hundreds of other
travelers.  It occurred to me that one could apply this same method to discovering the secrets to living well and dying happy." How many pitfalls and heartaches could be avoided if we consulted with travelers who have taken the road before?

   

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You can tell more about people by what they say about others
than you can by what others say about them.

Leo Aikman

   

 
I'm Not like That

I used to look at a lot of people and wish that I could be like them.  I used to wish that I could be more outgoing, more encouraging, more friendly, more helpful, more useful to others.  I used to wish that I was a person whom others would search out when they wanted friendship, company, encouragement, or simply the presence of another person.

But even though I wished I could do some of the things that other people did, I always had a built-in excuse ready to counter those thoughts:  "I'm not like that."  Even if I did wish that I were like that, I told myself I wasn't.  And that ended my wish right then and there.

Now that I'm older, though, I react differently when I see people doing things I wish I could do and acting in ways I wish I could act.  Instead of saying that I'm not like that person, I now ask myself, "What would I need to do in order to be like that?  What fears would I have to face?  What risks would I have to take?"

For example, I know someone who very simply and easily gives hugs to other people.  I was raised in a family in which we had almost no physical contact, and hugs were rare--very, very rare.  Because of this fact, I grew up not giving hugs to others, and even feeling a bit awkward when other people wanted to hug me.  I knew that I liked hugging others, but it just wasn't the way that I was.

I had to ask myself, though, if I could be a person who gives hugs, who actually initiates hugs when I see people I care for.  And if I could be such a person, what would it mean?  What kinds of risks would I have to take?  What kinds of fears would I have to face?  First of all, the obvious one is the discomfort with physical contact that resulted from years of having little to none as a child.  Second, I'd have to face my fear of rejection and put it aside, taking the risk that I would be rejected if I tried to hug someone.

But when I faced my fears and started to hug people more often, I found that it was much easier than I had thought it would be.  I was able to do something that I had thought I wouldn't be able to do, and with no real problems at all.  I still don't hug everyone I meet, but I am much better at hugging people than I ever was before I finally rejected the "I'm Not like That" attitude and started asking myself what it would take to actually be like that.

There are plenty of traits that I admire in other people.  I admire some people's creativity, work habits, interpersonal skills, business skills, attitudes, and accomplishments.  But I don't want to be like all of them.  I'd love to be able to play the piano, but when I asked myself what it would take to be a decent player, I realized that I was neither willing nor able to devote the kind of time that would have been necessary to do so.  So when someone sits down and plays and it sounds great, I can say "I can't do that" with no trace of regret, for I've made the decision not to pursue that hobby.

But when I see someone stand up for what is right in a very assertive manner and realize that I feel that I should be doing the same thing, then it's important for me to realize that I can be that way--if I make the decision to do so and follow through on what I need to do.  It definitely is up to me completely, and it also is something that's within my reach as long as I'm willing to make the effort.
   

   
More on self.

   

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Everyone journeys through
character as well as
through time.
The person one becomes
depends on the person
one has been.

Dick Francis

  

Secret of Serenity
Wilferd A. Peterson

The ocean has many moods.  Sometimes the colors of the sunrise are painted on the ocean surface as on a huge smooth canvas.  At other times whitecapped waves thunder against the shore.

The surface of the ocean changes constantly.  Now it is smooth and quiet.  Again it becomes violent and tempestuous.  But in its depths, down under the storms that whip the surface into a fury, there is a zone of eternal calm which no storm ever reaches, no hurricane ever ruffles.

The surface of life is also in a state of constant flux, with good days and bad, victory and defeat.  To maintain, as the ocean does, a deep inner calm, while the storms of misfortune, fears and worries lash at the surface of life, is to discover the secret of serenity.

Years ago, when Thomas Edison's factory burned down, he wasted no time bemoaning his fate.  Immediately after the disaster the reporters found a calm, quiet man already at work on plans for a new building.

When Emerson's home was destroyed by fire and his precious books were being reduced to ashes, Louisa May Alcott came to console him.  The great philosopher said, "Yes, yes, Louisa, they are all gone, but let us enjoy the blaze now.  Isn't it beautiful!"

Such people are ocean personalities.  In their inner depths they are not defeated by what happens to them.

The towering waves of circumstances cannot reach us when we go deep within to seek the peace that passes all understanding.  While the surface of life is in turmoil we can find an inner calmness to see us through.

Walt Whitman must have discovered this truth, for he wrote, "Nothing external to me can have any power over me."

The stillness of the ocean depths is a symbol of perfect poise.

   

  

None of us knows what the next change is going to be, what unexpected
opportunity is just around the corner, waiting to change all the tenor of our lives.

Kathleen Norris

    

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