How much would you pay for something you don’t want?

money-planeSome people say: “Worrying is like praying for what you don’t want.”

To put it in more earthly terms, we could say, “Worrying is like PAYING for what you don’t want.”

Think of it like this: Imagine that every word you say, write, or even think is worth $100. And every time you say, write, or think a word, you’re spending that $100.

So, how do you want to spend your “word-money”?

Would you buy what you don’t want — spending hundreds and hundreds of dollars on junk that will clutter your life with worry, stress, or unhappiness?

You’d probably say, “Of course not! What a waste of money! I’d never do that!”

But this is essentially what you’re doing every time you say, write, or mentally dwell on negative words. Every time you put yourself down, put others down, complain about what you don’t like, or think about what you don’t want, it’s like you’re buying more of this!

“But my words are true!” you might say. “I’m not making this stuff up — it actually exists!”

And I don’t doubt it. I know that junk exists. But just because you notice a bright, shiny box marked “Junk” (or “Worry” or “What’s Wrong” or “Unhappiness”) in a shop window doesn’t mean that you have to run into the store and BUY it!

Speaking or writing unhappy words is like BUYING unhappiness!

But there’s good news — VERY good news: the process works the other way, too! If worrying (or complaining or criticizing) is like paying for what you don’t want, then positive words are like buying what you DO want!

  • Every time you talk about, write about, or think about what you love and want to expand in your life, it’s like you’re paying for those things to stick around, grow, and multiply!
  • Every time you compliment yourself or others, you’re buying more of those compliment-worthy qualities!
  • Every time you share happy words (verbally or in writing), it’s like you’re “buying a round” of happiness for everyone who reads or hears those words!

Your positive words are great “investments” that pay compound interest! And the best part is: you’ll never run out of word-money! You have an infinite supply!

And because you’re so “word-rich,” you don’t have to worry if you accidentally blow a few bucks on unworthy words now and then. You don’t have to be perfect (or constantly guard your word-money through self-censorship).

But you also don’t want to blow your fortune on anything that’s not worthy of you — your highest self, the YOU who you want your life to embody.

Here’s the bottom line: You’re constantly spending this word-money anyway, so the real questions are:

  • How do you want to spend this money?
  • What do you want to buy?
  • Are your words good investments in your future (and your present)?

If your words reflect positive expectancy, your highest self, and a world you’d love to live in, then I’d say that this is “money well spent”! Wouldn’t you?

How do you spend your word-money? Are there any “bad investments” that you’d like to stop making? What are some of the best investments you currently make…or would like to start making?

Thank you so much for investing your time, your thoughts, and your heart by being here and sharing these words today! It’s a privilege for me to share them with you! :)

(Photo by Oleksandr Slyvka.)

Balance vs. Immersion

swimmerWhen I was a senior in high school, I spent a month in Spain as part of an exchange program. Aside from having fun, making new friends, and being exposed to an amazing culture, I can honestly say that my Spanish improved more during those 4 weeks than it had during the previous 4 years of taking classes.

I went from barely being able to squeak through a basic vocab quiz to the point where I could carry on a decent conversation in Spanish. Within a few weeks in the country I even began to dream primarily in Spanish!

What was the reason for my rapid improvement?

Was it because I got a better teacher? No, I was traveling with the same teacher I’d had all year back in the States.

Was it because I finally buckled down and got serious about my studies? Hardly! I was, after all, 17 years old — and far more interested in going to night clubs with my motorcycle-riding friends than spending my nights poring over Spanish-grammar textbooks.

Was it because I utilized some cutting-edge brainwave technology? No, this was 1989 — years before I got internet…and started seeing those near-ubiquitous pop-up ads about super fast language-learning programs (which, according to the ads, teachers invariably HATE!).

So how come it took me only a few weeks to transform from so-so student to almost-fluent conversationalist? What was my “secret”? As you’ve probably guessed, it’s no secret at all — something super basic that I can summarize in a single word:

Immersion.

During that month, I went from dabbling in the language to surrounding myself with it. Everything I read was in Spanish — from school books to menus and traffic signs. Everything I heard was in Spanish — from my host family, on the TV and radio, and in every class (not just period-3 Intermediate Spanish for 39 minutes).

(Well, not quite everything was in Spanish, since I was still traveling with my fellow American students who, much to our teacher’s chagrin, still spoke primarily in English to one another. Granted, we probably would have improved even faster if we’d spent 100% of the time with native Spanish speakers — but, after all, we were 17, and time with friends was given higher priority than Spanish fluency.)

But what about the rest of life?

OK, so the immersion approach seemed to work for learning Spanish, but what about the rest of life?

Yes, I’ve been able to learn other things very quickly when I’ve immersed myself in them. (For instance, I once learned one side of a two-person t’ai chi form [san shou] at a weekend retreat; learning the other side of the same form took me almost 6 months of weekly classes!)

But immersion isn’t just about becoming hyper-efficient or developing new skills at record-breaking speed. I’ve always been more of a “slow-and-steady” kind of guy, so this wouldn’t appeal to me anyway.

The area where immersion does appeal to me, however, is LIFESTYLE.

I want (and make a conscious effort) to immerse myself as much as possible in a life that nourishes me — to live in an environment that supports me, surround myself with people who value and respect me, and immerse myself in activities that feed my soul.

It’s almost like dipping myself in a yummy “sauce” — I want to “marinate” in goodness!

But what about BALANCE?

Perhaps the idea (and practice) of immersion appeals to you, but maybe it seems at odds with one of the most highly touted ideals of personal growth and spirituality: balance.

After all, isn’t that what we’re all supposed to be striving for — balance of work/life, yin/yang, mind/body/spirit? (It’s certainly one of the guiding principles of t’ai chi — including the form I learned at that weekend workshop!)

Well, yes and no. On the one hand, balance can be essential to your health — getting enough…but not too much: food, sleep, physical activity, etc. In many areas, moderation is the key to health and happiness — but, as the saying goes, “Everything in moderation…including moderation!”

In the area of emotions, for instance, I don’t believe that if you’re feeling exceptionally happy that you should intentionally focus on something negative…just to balance out your emotions. I don’t believe that you need to intentionally invite mean people into your life…just to balance out all the nice ones. And I don’t believe that if you’ve been immersed in your favorite soul-nourishing activities that you should do something you hate…just to restore some balance to your life!

Immersing in Joy

Just like learning Spanish or t’ai chi, one of the best ways to soak up positive emotions is to immerse yourself as much as possible in a positive environment!

This is one of the reasons why I’m super excited to be part of the Soulful Life Sanctuary (which just opened — more on that in a minute) — because I get to IMMERSE myself in joy!

As the Soul Guide of the Gratitude & Joy group, I get to spend as much time as I want basking in the writing, videos, activities, people, conversations, ideas, and practices that bring me joy. And I get to share that joy with others — to feed off of one another’s joy and gratitude, nurturing that positivity in all of us.

My job, quite literally, is to be joyful — and to share that joy! (How amazing is that?)

But even if it’s not literally YOUR job, you can still consciously immerse yourself as much as possible in the areas that you want to soak up — the activities that feed you, the skills that you want to learn and master, the places that inspire you, and the people who love you.

Yes, balance is an important part of life — but life generally creates it for you. (For instance, even if you’re immersed in work that you love, eventually you’re going to get hungry — which means you’ll have to eat, which means you’ll have to cook, clean, shop, interact with others, and do other non-work activities, which naturally creates a work/life balance!)

But as you’re creating (or striving to create) a balanced life, don’t be afraid to let some areas get out of balance — especially if they’re the areas that are so wonderful that you simply can’t get enough of them: such as joy, happiness, gratitude, fun, and love!

What parts of life would you like to immerse yourself in more fully? Is there an activity that you’d like to dive into — or an emotion that you’d like to fill yourself with? How can you immerse yourself more in what brings you joy?

P.S. As I mentioned above, the doors have just opened to the Soulful Life Sanctuary — a brand new community created by my wife, Jodi Chapman, to provide a loving space to go to relax, recharge, rejuvenate, and plug back into our connection with ourselves, others, and this beautiful universe that we are a part of. It’s a supportive community, a virtual classroom/retreat center, and a set of tools/resources to help you live your most radiant, authentic, soulful life!

I would love for you to check it out and join us there! Click here to learn more about it — including the earlybird discount and bonus gifts available this month only!

Come Join the Soulful Life Sanctuary!(swimmer photo by Irena Belousa)

Are You Expressing It…or Feeding It?

expressing or feeding?Feeding Joy (Revisited)

In my previous post (“Feeding Joy”), I wrote about the importance of “feeding” the parts of our lives and ourselves that we want to flourish — presumably, the parts that bring us joy, gratitude, and happiness.

But I also said that it’s natural (and probably even healthy) to express yourself, even when your thoughts and emotions aren’t joyful — rather than repressing, denying, or letting negativity fester within you.

So, is this a contradiction? By expressing negativity and giving it “air-time,” aren’t we just “feeding” it? How can we tell if we’re fanning the flames of negativity or releasing it in a healthy way?

What’s the difference between “expressing” and “feeding”?

I’ve been pondering this question a lot recently, and this is what I’ve come up with:

  • Expressing is when we take something within us and let it out. It’s like opening a pressure valve, releasing potentially harmful energy. It dissipates the energy; it gets it out of us, allowing us to move on with our lives, free from its influence.
  • Feeding is when we not only keep that energy trapped inside us, but we add to it by giving it our focused attention and energy. It increases rather than decreases the negativity we experience.

The direction of the energy’s movement is exactly the opposite in these two processes: Expressing negative thoughts or emotions gets them out of us — moving them out into the world where they can (hopefully) dissipate. Feeding negative thoughts puts them into us, where they can multiply and fester.

(In my previous post, I suggested a “five-minute rule” — allowing yourself approximately five minutes to express/release any negative thoughts or emotions. This can also be a good test to help distinguish expressing from feeding: If you’re done with the process in less than five minutes, you’ve probably simply expressed the negativity. If you’re still dwelling on it long after that, you’ve probably fed it.)

In short: Expressing makes us feel better, while feeding makes us feel worse.

And ultimately, that’s the real test: how do you FEEL after an expression (or feeding) session? Do you feel lighter, freer, unburdened, relieved, and open to joy? Or do you feel even more embroiled in anger or negativity than you did before you started expressing/feeding it? Do you feel ready to move on with your life in a positive way, or do you feel even more tethered and trapped by the negative experience?

Short-Term Vent vs. Long-Term Solution

It’s helpful to ask yourself the questions above not only moments after expressing negativity, but also in the hours, days, and weeks to come. Sometimes you might feel better and lighter immediately afterward, only to have the negative feelings re-enter your life after the initial cathartic rush has worn off. If this is the case, you may have merely vented your feelings without actually dealing with them.

Yes, venting can provide a short-term release and a temporary respite from negativity, but it doesn’t deal with the negativity’s underyling causes. And even if you feel lighter after venting, you may have simply dumped your negative feelings onto someone else!

But what’s the alternative?

Are we supposed to ignore or repress our negative emotions? Or do we have to spend months or even years focusing on them, trying to get to their root and “fix” them?

I believe that there’s a middle ground, which can be summarized in a single sentence (that Jodi and I put on the cover of the “Vent Books” we used to make): Let it out, and let it go.

Here are a few steps that might help with this process:

  1. Acknowledge – Notice your thoughts and emotions without judgment. It’s perfectly natural to have a full spectrum of experiences, including positive, negative, and everything in between. Becoming aware of negativity doesn’t mean that there’s something wrong with you; it simply means that you’re living consciously — and that you’re a human being!
  2. Express – Although you don’t have to rant and rave about every minor blip on your emotional radar, it can be helpful to address the larger or more long-lasting troubling thoughts, emotions, and experiences — perhaps by journaling about them, discussing them with a counselor or friend, or even just “talking” them through with yourself. (Again, however, I recommend that you don’t dwell on the negativity for much longer than five minutes, or chances are you’ll end up feeding it.)
  3. Redirect – Shift your focus to something positive — something that you’re grateful for, something that brings you joy, something that’s worthy of your attention!

This last step is the most empowering part of the process, because while we can’t necessarily control every thought and emotion that passes through our consciousness, we CAN choose what we pay attention to. And we always have millions of options in this regard, so why not choose something that reflects and nourishes your highest self?

In other words (to return to our starting point): something that feeds your joy!

P.S. If you’d like to feed the gratitude and joy in your life — and connect with others who are doing the same — I hope you’ll join me in the “Gratitude and Joy” group of the Soulful Life Sanctuary! Registration just opened, and right now you can sign up at a $100 earlybird discount!

The sanctuary (created by my wonderful wife, Jodi Chapman) is a beautiful online community that helps you reconnect with your soul while connecting with like-minded friends. It’s also an all-encompassing collection of tools and resources to help you live your most soulful life — including ecourses, live and archived classes, plus Sacred Spaces and Soul Guides in more than a dozen areas, such as Wellness, Creativity, Spirituality, Soulful Parenting, Self-Care, and Gratitude and Joy (which I’m the Soul Guide for).

I’d love to connect with you in this Sacred Space and continue this joyous journey together! :)

Please click here to learn more about the Soulful Life Sanctuary.

Come Join the Soulful Life Sanctuary!
P.P.S. Affiliate program available! You can also earn money (50% commission on each referral) while helping us spread the word about this beautiful community!

Feeding Joy + Sanctuary Registration is Open (at 40% Off)!

gratitude-and-joyI’m thrilled to share that my wife, Jodi, and I have just realized a long-term dream: opening registration for the Soulful Life Sanctuary!

The sanctuary is a beautiful online community that helps you reconnect with your soul while connecting with like-minded friends. It’s also an all-encompassing collection of tools and resources to help you live your most soulful life — including ecourses, live and archived classes, plus Sacred Spaces and Soul Guides in more than a dozen areas, such as Wellness, Creativity, Soulful Parenting, Self-Care, and Spirituality.

I’m excited to share more about the sanctuary (as well as how you can get a $100 earlybird discount + over $800 in bonus gifts), but first I want to talk about the Sacred Space that I’ll be the guide for — Gratitude & Joy — and why it’s so important to nourish this part of our lives!

Feeding Joy

You may already know the Cherokee story of the two wolves, but here’s the super-short, Q&A version:

Q: Two wolves are fighting within you — which one will win?
A: The one you feed.

As much as I generally shy away from using violent metaphors (I tend to modify expressions, such as “two birds on one perch” or “more than one way to play with a cat”), I do love this story — for a number of reasons:

For one thing, it doesn’t deny aspects of life that may feel negative or unpleasant — such as anger, envy, greed, or arrogance — which are represented by one of the wolves. Yes, these and other less desirable qualities live within us. But that doesn’t mean that they have to control or consume us!

We may not always have a choice about what thoughts or emotions flit through our minds and hearts, but we do have a choice about which ones we “feed.” And that’s the main part of this story that I love: the reminder that we always have a choice!

  • A choice about what we focus on.
  • A choice about what we dwell on.
  • A choice about what we talk about.
  • A choice about what we we give our time, energy, and attention.
  • A choice about which thoughts, emotions, and impulses we act on — and which ones we merely acknowledge before quickly moving on.

In other words, we have a choice about which “wolf” we feed — and we can always choose to feed the one that represents peace, love, compassion, and Gratitude and Joy!

And that’s what my Sacred Space in the Soulful Life Sanctuary is all about: feeding gratitude and joy — nurturing it, giving it attention, talking about it, acting on it, having fun with it, nourishing it with your love and energy, and hanging out with others who are doing the same.

(You probably know the principle of how your attitudes tend to reflect the people you spend the most time around — so why not consciously choose to spend more time with those whose focus reflects what you want for your life…such as more joy?)

This “two-wolf” approach doesn’t mean that we ignore or resist the difficult aspects of our lives. In fact, sometimes resisting things can be a way of feeding them — just as much as embracing them. To find a happy medium between resisting negativity and totally giving in to it, I give myself a “five-minute vent” rule: if something negative arises, I give myself permission to vent (or internally stew) for five minutes (slightly longer for more troubling situations, slightly less for minor ones). And then I’ll consciously shift my focus to what I’d rather feed: gratitude, joy, and love.

Because that’s the wolf that I want to be victorious in my life.

As I mentioned, I warmly invite you to check out the Soulful Life Sanctuary, where we offer lots of ways to feed your joy and your soul — while connecting with like-minded friends who are sharing this journey.

Sanctuary doors officially open on July 1, but if you register before then, you’ll get a $100 earlybird discount (that’s more than 40% off the normal price of $247!) + if you sign up before July 31, you’ll get instant access to over $800 in bonus gifts: including one-on-one coaching sessions, ecourses, ebooks, and other wonderful tools to help you connect with your soul and feed your joy! :)

Please click here to learn more about the Soulful Life Sanctuary.

Come Join the Soulful Life Sanctuary!

P.S. Affiliate program also available — so you can earn money (50% commission on each referral) while helping us spread the word about this beautiful community!

Enough!

lion-roaringLast week a friend of mine finally put her foot down.

After years of being mistreated and taken advantage of, she finally said one of the most empowering and important words in the English language:

ENOUGH!

After we exchanged several congratulatory emails and virtual high-fives, I had some time to reflect on her situation, and I was reminded of other times when I or other people I know finally said, “Enough!” — whether it was by leaving an abusive relationship, quitting a soul-crushing job, or setting healthy boundaries in any other way.

I was also reminded of Nietzsche’s parable of the three metamorphoses, which (in very paraphrased/summarized form) goes something like this:

A camel obligingly carries a heavy load into the desert. There, the camel turns into a lion, asserting its will and its freedom, shaking off the burdens that have weighed it down. Only then does the lion become a child — a being of innocence and playful creativity.

In short: the camel says yes, the lion says no, and the child also says yes. But the child’s yes is a “holy yes” — far different from the beast of burden’s submission.

Nietzsche uses this parable to represent the transformation of the spirit, but we can also look at it in terms of everyday personal growth:

Oftentimes (perhaps with the aim of people-pleasing or simply not rocking the boat), we put up with whatever others impose upon us. We allow unscrupulous bosses, selfish so-called “friends,” or inconsiderate strangers to pile their burdens (and issues and unreasonable demands) on us. But at a certain point, like the transforming camel, we’ve had enough. At some point, someone tries to load us up with the proverbial last straw that breaks the camel’s back.

And at that point, we roar! We say, “No! Enough!” We find our leonine strength. We set boundaries.

This stage doesn’t always go over so well with everyone. Not everyone will enjoy your newfound strength, power, and self-assertion. Some people may wonder what happened to sweet little old you — the submissive one.  They might long for the good old days when you uncomplainingly went along with their agenda rather than asserting your own will. They may be threatened — as people often are by roaring lions! They might even call you names that I don’t care to dignify in print.

Claiming your power and setting personal boundaries may not always look so pretty from the outside, but it’s a healthy, critical part of our development. However, it’s not the final stage of development. Only after asserting the leonine No! can we return to a childlike Yes! — a yes that welcomes, wonders, laughs, and creates.

So, getting back to my self-assertive friend: I am so excited for this new development in her life. But I think that, ultimately, the most exciting part of this stage won’t be her “roar” (however empowering and called-for it was), but what comes next — in other words, what she’ll do with all of this newfound energy — all of the energy that she’d previously expended in bearing the burdens placed on her by others, the energy that she recently expressed in saying, “Enough!”, the energy that is now available to her to create, dream, and live with childlike innocence.

Yes, this is the stage I am most excited to witness — to see her approach life with open arms and an open heart — to embrace life with a joyful, resounding YES!

In what area(s) of your life do you feel called to set healthier boundaries — to say, “Enough!”? What burdens have you been carrying that you’d like to shake off? How good and empowering would that feel? What might you be able to do or create with all that freed-up energy? When will you take your next step in this process?

Photo by Martin Pannier.

Be the Tree

be-the-tree“Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.”
~ Martin Luther

Maybe it’s because spring is finally hitting its stride here in southern Oregon, or maybe it’s because I was just talking with a gardener, but recently I’ve been thinking in terms of gardening metaphors: seeds, plants, and trees, which offer so many great lessons.

For instance, consider some of the qualities of an apple tree that can also apply to our lives:

  • It starts as a tiny seed…just like each one of us! And it’s not just our body that starts off small. World-changing inventions and artistic masterpieces start with a tiny kernel of an idea. Epic journeys begin with a single step. Lifelong friendships and romantic relationships begin with that first split-second encounter. In all areas of life, magnificence arises from humble — and often tiny — origins.
  • There’s far more to it than meets the eye. In order to grow tall and stand firm, a tree requires a vast structure of roots below the ground. The essential growth processes (photosynthesis, nutrient absorption, etc.) take place largely out of sight. The visible part of a tree (or an iceberg or a business or a creative project or a person) is just a small part of the whole.
  • It gains strength as it grows. A tiny sapling can easily be injured or destroyed by a person, an animal, or a storm. So it might require a little extra nurturing and protection in the early stages of growth. The same is true for a newly budding idea, relationship, or project, which is why I often advise people not to share their personal “saplings” prematurely (except with those who will also nurture them).

The lessons from a single tree are seemingly endless, but the one that’s been coming up the most recently for me is this:

You give the world an abundance of gifts just by being yourself and expressing your true nature!

Again, let’s think of an apple tree: Simply by being an apple tree, it provides shelter for birds and other animals, beauty for humans (especially this time of year, when the spring blossoms start to bloom), and apples for everyone — year after year!

And in order to provide these lavish gifts to others, all the apple tree needs to “do” is to simply BE itself!

And that’s really all it can do! At the risk of becoming absurd (or anthropomorphic), an apple tree couldn’t turn turn itself into a pear tree or a rose bush or a tomato plant…no matter how hard it “tried”! Nor does it need to put forth supernatural effort to create apples (or buds or leaves or branches).

Again, it simply needs to be itself.

Yes, an apple tree provides many gifts, such as nourishment, oxygen, and beauty. But it’s not trying to be giving or altruistic or even good. It’s simply expressing the fullness of its nature. It’s just being itself. And by doing this, its natural beauty and gifts overflow — abundantly, naturally, and continuously. It shares its greatest gifts simply by being who it already is!

Just like you.

(Photo by Denis Kadackii.)

soul-connection-kit-specialP.S. I’m excited to introduce our  Soul Connection Kit!

It includes Soulful Journals, Soul Clarity Cards, and other fun ways to get in touch with your higher self, listen to your inner voice, and connect with your soul.

Right now we’re having a huge special on the whole kit — over 55% off all month! Click here to learn more.

Don’t Wait for a Tragedy

crying-woman

How many times have you heard this story?

Someone is living a more-or-less “normal” life…

Maybe things are going fairly well, or maybe they’re not going so great. But basically, they’re just going. Things are just kind of chugging along. Time is passing. And while their life isn’t necessarily terrible (although it might be), they’re certainly not living up to their potential. They’re not fulfilling their life purpose. They’re not living each moment with passion, joie de vivre, and personal/spiritual fulfillment.

But then…

The “unthinkable” happens. Everything changes in a heartbeat. Tragedy strikes.

It could take many different forms:

  • They get into a car accident.
  • They’re diagnosed with cancer.
  • They lose a loved one.
  • They develop an addiction…and hit rock bottom.
  • Their partner leaves them.
  • They have a near-death experience.

In one form or another, they feel like the rug is pulled out from under them. And there’s no going back to the way things were.

And while these tragedies are indeed tragedies, there’s often an upside:

  • They start to turn their life around.
  • They stop taking life for granted.
  • They go after their dreams and live the life they know they’re meant to live.
  • They realize and experience the holiness of life.
  • They appreciate each moment for the gift it is.
  • They’re completely transformed.
  • And, perhaps for the first time ever, they start to truly live.

Yes, these stories are beautiful, amazing, awe-inspiring, moving, and motivational. (Or at least the endings are!)

And while no one would ever wish for a tragedy, the outcome is often so beautiful that they might not take back the experience even if they could.

But what if you didn’t have to choose? What if you could have a happy ending without the tragic turning point? What if you didn’t need a brush with death in order to fully live? What if you could transform from home…rather than from the hospital? What if you could wake up without the wake-up call?

Maybe it’s because I just finished the Rewrite Your Story ecourse, but lately I’ve been thinking of life in terms of a story — not just writing but also editing your story! So when I hear a tale of triumph-from-tragedy, I can’t help but think of how the story could be “edited” — how someone might be able to soar to great heights without first hitting rock bottom.

I think that it comes down to two things:

  1. Conscious Living - Most of the stories boil down to this: Someone was living semi-consciously, but a tragedy caught their attention and made them live with heightened awareness…and passion, purpose, and zest for life.
  2. Choice – Oftentimes, a traumatic experience (such as a near-death experience) doesn’t seem to leave us much choice — it pretty much forces us to change the way we live! But perhaps voluntarily making this choice and this change could preempt the need for a tragic wake-up call.

It’s almost as if the Universe says to us:

“I’m going to teach you some important lessons. We can either do this the easy way or the hard way.”

And we often take the hard way — learning from the proverbial “brick in the head” rather than the soft whispers and gentle nudges. And while learning from the “brick” is better than not learning at all, I’d personally opt for the gentle nudge — heeding the “still, small voice” rather than waiting for a violent yell.

Now, just to clarify, none of this is meant to detract in any way from the dramatic, life-altering experiences that so many people have undergone. To be certain, they are powerful and profound. Nor do I mean to suggest that they brought tragedy upon themselves or were somehow “less than” in terms of consciousness or in any other way. Also, I fully acknowledge that lessons often come to us in exactly the form that will have the greatest impact on our lives — which may sometimes involve tragic circumstances.

So, rather than diminish the powerful experiences of those who have gone through life-altering tragedies, I hope to honor them — in part by learning from their hard-earned lessons and, hopefully, helping others avoid the suffering that they went through to gain those lessons!

So, how can we preempt tragedy…and still gain valuable life lessons?

One way is to learn from others. Take their stories to heart. Give thanks that they lived to tell of their experiences…and to share what they learned from them.

Another way is to imagine yourself at the end of a transformational story (the inspiring part, after the tragedy)! Imagine how your life might be different because of your experiences. Imagine what lessons you would have learned, how you see life differently, and how you live differently. You paid a heavy price, but you gained an invaluable lesson.

Then imagine that life gives you a reprieve: you get to choose to gain the lesson without paying the tragic price. And that’s what you decide to do…right now! You decide to use this moment as a gentle wake-up call. You decide to learn from others’ painful experiences in order to preempt unnecessary pain, suffering, or the regret that can come from a life not fully lived.

By doing this you’re not just preempting tragedy, you’re preempting regret! And you’re beginning to live a fuller, richer, and more rewarding life than ever before! You’re stepping into your purpose and living your dreams! And, perhaps best of all, you’re doing this without a tragedy!

No, it might not make for such a dramatic story; but, hopefully, it will make for an incredibly fulfilling life!

How can you incorporate the lessons from transformational stories WITHOUT waiting for a tragedy? What can you do STARTING TODAY to live more fully, consciously, and appreciatively?

Thank you for taking the time to stop by and read this. I hope that it touched or inspired you in some way! If you enjoyed the post, feel free to share it — by clicking on the share buttons…or in any other way. Thanks! :)

Photo by frugo.

What Will You Water?

what-will-you-waterImagine that you’re walking through an enormous garden. It overflows with roses, tulips, lilies, and dozens of other flowers. There’s also a huge section dedicated to vegetables: lettuce, tomatoes, squash, and almost every other veggie you can imagine — an entire salad bar in the making!

And you stroll through this amazing, abundant, richly varied garden, holding a watering can, trying to decide which of these plants you’d like to water.

Unfortunately, you can’t water them all. After all, you’ve only got a limited amount of water in your can, so you’d like to choose something you really want to nurture. Something you really care about. Something you want to help grow. Something you really love.

So you walk up and down the rows of flowers and veggies, trying to decide what to water…and then you see it! Growing in a far corner of the garden is the plant you want to water! So you walk over to the plant, tip your watering can over, and pour all your water on…the poison ivy!

Sounds ridiculous, right?

But how often have you seen someone do basically the same thing? In other words, how often have you seen them spend their limited time, energy, and attention on something negative — essentially “watering” something that you wouldn’t think they (or anyone else) would want to grow?

We’ve probably all fallen into this trap at one point or another. I know I’ve been guilty of it (and may even be doing it right now to an extent — so I’ll make a shift as quickly as possible!). It might take the form of repeating something negative that you heard about — and getting worked up about it all over again! Or jumping into the fray of a mud-slinging discussion board. Or sharing (or even just clicking the “Like” button for) a cynical or mean-spirited poster making the rounds on Facebook.

This is totally understandable. In this day and age, it’s so easy to have your attention sucked into something that isn’t really worthy of your time.

But it’s even easier to find things that ARE worthy of your time – people, stories, pictures, and ideas that you care about deeply, that want to nurture, that you LOVE!

Anyway, getting back to the garden… It’s like you’re walking past all those beautiful plants and deciding which ones you’d like to water. And the truth is, you can’t water them all. Yes, you have an unlimited supply of some things (such as love and spirit and goodness), but on a practical level, your resources are limited:

  • You only have so many hours in the day.
  • You only have so much attention that you can give.
  • You only have so much energy.
  • You only have so much “water in your can.”

So the question becomes: How are you going to use it?

  • If you only have about 20 minutes per day for commenting on blogs or interacting on social media, do you want to spend it complaining, tearing others down, or uplifting everyone who reads your words (and senses your spirit)?
  • If you only click the “Like” button a few times a day, wouldn’t you rather voice your support for something that raises you up?
  • If you only have enough energy to devote to a few projects per day, don’t you want to make sure that they’re worthy of your energy?

This gardening metaphor reminds me of a quote that a life coach once told me:

“Thoughts are like seeds; do you want flowers or weeds?”

She was making the point that habitually negative thoughts lead to negative results, while positive thoughts lead to beautiful results. It’s just a matter of which thoughts we “plant” and nurture.

And the same could certainly be said for externals — for other people’s thoughts, words, and actions. Unlike our own thoughts, we can’t necessarily control what other people think, say, and do; but we can choose whether or not to lend our energy to these words and deeds. We can choose to nurture them with our attention, or walk on by to something that nurtures US as well!

Yes, some people will spend their time trying to remove (or at least contain) the “poison ivy.” And that may be quite noble, but you have to be careful not to infect yourself in the process! Also, there’s a fine line between giving something energy in opposition and giving it energy in support. In either case, you’re giving it your energy — which can be like an infusion of fertilizer!

And wouldn’t you rather give your energy to something/someone you love? Wouldn’t you rather water the yummy vegetables or the colorful flowers? Wouldn’t you rather see those bloom and fill your life with health and beauty?

Clearly, the watering can is just an analogy. In most cases, you’re not literally pouring water on things you want to nurture — you’re pouring something much more valuable: every time you give your time, energy, and attention to something, you’re pouring YOURSELF into it!

And you deserve to have your energy go into the most life-affirming, soul-affirming, YOU-affirming places possible. You deserve to nurture your own highest self. You deserve the best!

What do you want to “water” with your time, energy, and attention? What “plants” are so important to you that you’d like to nurture them and help them grow? What do you feel is worth pouring your heart, your soul, and yourself into?

Thank you so much for being here and “watering” me and my blog with your attention. I realize that you only have a certain amount of time each day for reading, so I especially appreciate you spending some of that time with me. I’ll always do my best to make it worth your while — to plant “seeds” that I feel are worth your time and attention — to offer words, ideas, and perspectives that I feel are worth nourishing…and will hopefully nourish you in turn. :)

Photo by Viktor Gmyria.

Change Your Story, Change Your Life

rewrite-story-3dFor the last 25 years, I’ve been leading a double life.

By day, I’m a mild-mannered personal-growth blogger, Law of Attraction practitioner, and Life-Optimization coach. But I also have an alter-ego as a novelist and screenwriter with a particular fondness for absurd humor.

For years, I never thought that these two sides would meet. They seemed like completely unrelated parts of me, dwelling in unconnected worlds: personal growth in the “real world” and stories in the world of fiction.

Recently, however, I’ve started to realize that  telling stories isn’t just reserved for fiction writers. In fact, we all tell stories — every day of our lives!

Sometimes we tell our stories to others. Sometimes we just tell them to ourselves. Stories like…

  • I’m too old for this.
  • I always sabotage myself.
  • I’m no good with technology.
  • I have the worst luck!
  • I catch a cold every winter.
  • I always put things off until the last minute.

…and dozens of other “truisms” that we just accept as part of our lives.

Most importantly, I’ve realized just how much the stories we tell direct the course of our lives — and how we can change our lives simply by changing our stories!

For instance, for many years I told stories about how badly I procrastinated: term papers, taxes, Christmas shopping,…you name it, I put it off until the last minute!

These stories seemed harmless enough (even comical, in retrospect)…until I noticed that they were seeping into many areas of my life:

  • Emotions – Feeling frazzled, nervous, and stressed-out became the norm.
  • Health – After years of stressful deadlines, my adrenals were pretty much shot!
  • Relationship – How could I spend enough quality time with Jodi when I was always rushing from one deadline to another?
  • Self-Esteem – Perhaps most importantly (and disturbingly), I started seeing myself as someone who could just barely get by, but never really get on top of things — not a complete failure, but certainly a far cry from the inspiring figure I was striving to be!

I pondered what would happen if I let this procrastination story continue indefinitely — and was forced to confront the prospect of a lifetime of stress and struggle.

This was NOT the story I wanted to tell…or live!

Fortunately, I realized that I could rewrite this story. (After all, I’d spent years in training as an author — why not apply these skills to my own life?) I could tell a different story — one about how I learned from the past, made a conscious decision to get on top of my life, and started completing my work in a timely, relaxed manner…while feeling great about myself!

This new story-in-the-making may not have any more literary merit than “The Procrastinator” (and I don’t expect to sell the film rights any time soon!), but it sure is a lot more fun (and relaxing) to live! The old story left me feeling stressed, trapped, and disempowered. The new one leaves me feeling lighter, stronger, more confident, and a whole lot happier…which is exactly the kind of life I want — for myself and for you!

If this sounds like the kind of shift you’d like to make in your own life, then there’s good news: YOU CAN REWRITE YOUR STORY!

And you can get started immediately by taking these four steps:

  • Identify Your Story – Recognize which stories you keep retelling and reliving — how they’ve shown up in your life, how they’re controlling you, how they’re keeping you stuck, and why you want to break free of them!
  • Release Your Story – Let go of old stories, labels, worldviews, and patterns that aren’t serving you — so that you can make room for those that do help you live your best life!
  • Rewrite Your Story – Create a story that empowers you and reflects your highest self!
  • Live Your Story – Reinforce the new story and make it a living, breathing part of your everyday life.

I hope you’ll join me in going through this process and creating a more empowering story — one that feels great to write and even better to live. One that has the happy ending (and middle and present) that I know you want and deserve!

What story of yours would you like to rewrite? What would the new, more empowered story look and feel like? How can you start writing and living this story today?

Thank you so much for being here, and I look forward to hearing all about your wonderful, empowering new stories! :)

Having a Human Experience

man-in-convertible

We are not human beings having a spiritual experience;
we are spiritual beings having a human experience.
~ Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

A lot of people see this famous quote as a reminder of our inherent spirituality. And yes, I agree — we are innately spiritual. It’s who we are.

(Or, at least, half of who we are.)

But I also think that the last part of the sentence is just as important (if not more so): we’re having a human experience.

That means that we laugh, we cry, we sing, we dance, we make mistakes, we fall in love, we fall out of love, we eat, we drink, we play games, we make more mistakes, we laugh some more,…in short, we LIVE!

It also means that we FEEL: we feel joy, we feel pain, we feel at peace, we feel worried, we feel bored, we feel excited, we feel nervous, we feel confident, we feel cool, we feel insecure, we feel good, we feel bad, we feel grief, we feel gratitude,…and sometimes we feel a bunch of these at the same time!

Because we’re human. Because we’re having human experiences. Because that’s what we do on Earth.

Imagine for a moment that there’s a purely spiritual plane — a place where our souls originate and to which they return after our time on Earth. And, in this place, imagine that one soul says to another soul:

“I want to go to Earth — to have a human experience. I want to find out what it’s like to feel joy and pain, to fall in love and to have my heart broken, to listen to The Beatles and go to a Shakespeare play and go to The Rocky Horror Picture Show and play badminton and get a speeding ticket. I want to swim in the ocean and climb a mountain and read a book and eat an avocado and make a friend and lose a friend and make another friend. I want to be human.”

And so that soul goes to Earth, lives a long life, and then returns to the purely spiritual realm. And the second soul asks, “So, what did you do on Earth? ” And the first one says, “I spent most of my time trying to achieve a state of pure spirituality.” And the second soul says, “WHY on Earth [pun intended] would you do that?! You have all of eternity to be in a state of pure spirituality, but you had less than a century to be human! Why didn’t you experience being human while you had the chance?! After all, that was the whole point of going to Earth in the first place, right? If you’d only wanted a spiritual experience, you could’ve just stayed here!”

Of course, it’s not either/or. We ARE spiritual, and we’re also human. To forget either half is to deny half of ourselves. To embrace BOTH sides is to become whole.

So if you’re ever feeling particularly human — for instance, worrying, grieving, or feeling any sort of emotional pain or distress, that doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you. It doesn’t mean that you’re not sufficiently evolved — that if you could only see things from a higher perspective, you would never feel pain or grief. It means that you’re a living, breathing human, having a human experience. And that’s what we humans are here on Earth to experience.

(Or, at least, half of what we’re here to experience.)

Personally, I’m very wary of people who claim to have transcended human experiences such as pain or grief (or desire or confusion or any of the million other things we mortals experience on a daily basis). Yes, maybe they’re highly evolved beings. Or maybe they’re simply denying their humanity. Or maybe they’re not in touch with their true feelings. Or maybe they’re pushing away human experience because, on some level, they think that it’s not spiritual. Or maybe they see a divide (to my mind, a false divide) between human and spiritual experiences.

But if we truly are spiritual beings, then how can anything we experience not be spiritual? And if we truly are human beings, then how can anything we experience not be human?

So, what if we drop the sense of hierarchy — thinking that spiritual experiences are “better” or “more evolved” than human experiences (or maybe even drop the sense that they’re different at all)? What if we fully embrace the spiritual aspects of our lives and also fully embrace the human aspects of our lives?

Let’s be the spiritual beings we truly are, and let’s have the human experience that we’re here to have!

And let’s celebrate it all.

(Photo by Frugo)