Be the Change

gandhi-portraitDuring this time of deep personal (and, to a large extent, national and international) grief, I find myself looking for rays of light and glimmers of hope.

As I mentioned in my two previous posts, I often draw inspiration from spiritual quotes and the Abraham-Hicks teachings; so now I’m combining these by taking an Abe approach to one of my favorite quotes:

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.”*
– Mahatma Gandhi

I’ve been thinking about these words in relation to the Abraham teaching of contrast — namely, that when something clearly shows you what you don’t want, it helps you clarify what you do want. For instance, when I look out into the world (or into my heart) and see anger, fear, or hatred — and I notice that these things don’t feel good to me — it’s a reminder that I want the opposite of these things: peace, security, and love.

(And if you’re already pretty clear about what you want, contrasts often increase your inspiration and enthusiasm about moving in this direction — kind of like stepping on the gas when the steering wheel’s already aligned with where you want to go!)

Contemplating the state of the world at the moment has, quite honestly, felt a little depressing to me. And trying to change the world seems absolutely daunting…making me feel even more disempowered, discouraged, and all those other yucky feelings at the bottom of Abraham’s “Emotional Scale” — not where I want to hang out!

On the other hand, thinking about being the change I wish to see in the world feels a lot more doable. If I can’t stop worldwide violence this very moment, I can at least take a step toward inner peace — and that certainly feels a bit better…and a whole lot more empowering! (Just thinking about this, I can feel the knot in my stomach loosen just a little bit.)

I admit, I’m still learning to embrace contrasts — to use them as tools for learning and growth, rather than resisting or pushing against them. For better or worse, though, the past week has provided a lot of opportunity for practice. So, here are just a few of the positive qualities that recent contrasts have helped remind me about — qualities that I am committed to moving toward, embracing, and (ideally) embodying:

  • love
  • peace
  • goodness
  • kindness
  • gentleness
  • compassion
  • tolerance
  • open-mindedness
  • broad-minded, global thinking/forward thinking
  • diversity
  • equality
  • intelligence
  • thoughtfulness
  • clarity
  • truthfulness
  • beauty
  • respect
  • dignity
  • humility
  • …and basic human decency

It’s a process. I haven’t been able to snap my fingers and instantly jump from despair to joy, but I do find that this approach is helping — the idea of focusing on being the change I wish to see. And if I ever have a hard time thinking of what changes I do want, I know that the world will provide me with a steady stream of contrasting experiences to help me get clear!

I hope you’ll see this post as an invitation — now or anytime you feel negative emotions arising from contrasts — to help you get clear about what you do want, to focus more on those things/qualities, and to be that!

Because, now more than ever, that’s what the world needs.

~

* By the way (in the interest of embodying truthfulness, intelligence, and accuracy), the “quote” usually attributed to Gandhi is actually a (somewhat loose) paraphrase — here are his actual words: “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.”

(originally printed in the Indian Opinion 1913; reprinted in Gandhi, M. The Collected Works of M.K. Gandhi; The Publications Division: New Delhi, India, 1960; Volume 13, Chapter 153; p. 241. [Google Scholar] — http://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/6/2/1018/htm, note 31)

I’d love to hear your thoughts/comments — including any positive qualities (inspired by contrasts or anything else) that you’d like to BE.

My Top 7 (Non-Abe) Inspirational Quotes

inspirational-quotes

What’s your favorite inspirational quote? Do you have one (or several) that you find yourself thinking about again and again?

Although I’ve been inspired by countless quotes, there are about a dozen that I regularly reflect on — words that I find myself coming back to again and again for guidance, solace, and inspiration. In my previous post, I shared my seven favorites from the Abraham-Hicks teachings. Now, I’d like to share my seven “non-Abe” favorites, along with some thoughts about them.

You may have already seen some of these (perhaps numerous times) making the rounds on Facebook or elsewhere, while others might be new to you; but, in either case, I hope that you enjoy reading and reflecting on these words as much as I do — and that, like me, you find them to be an ongoing source of inspiration for your own life. 🙂

In no particular order, here are my top 7 (non-Abe) quotes to live by:

1. The Serenity Prayer (“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” ~ Reinhold Niebuhr)

Although I’m not Christian and have never been in a recovery program, I find myself returning to these simple-yet-powerful words almost daily. It might be for something as mundane as reminding myself not to get bent out of shape over bad weather (or negative news or countless other beyond-my-controllables) and reminding myself that I can change my reaction to the situation (and what I choose to focus on and how I choose to respond to that).

Perhaps my favorite (and most concise) take on this prayer came to me from Lisa Hutchison (in the book 365 Ways to Connect with Your Soul). She says, regarding the prayer’s first line (“…things I cannot change”), “this means other people,” and regarding the prayer’s second line (“…things I can”), “this means me.” Keeping this in mind makes it a whole lot easier “to know the difference”!

2. “The one you feed.” (from the Cherokee legend of the two wolves)

In this story, a man tells his grandson that two wolves are fighting within him. “Which one will win?” the boy asks. The grandfather tells him, “The one you feed.”

I’ve returned to this idea countless times, often summarizing the message with the two words, “focus feeds.” I think of this message when I find myself dwelling on something negative. “No,” I think. “This is not the ‘wolf’ I want to feed!” And then I make a conscious decision to “feed the other wolf” — to give my attention to positive thoughts, things I appreciate, or anything that shifts me in a better-feeling direction.

I also think of this message when I notice myself focusing on something positive — and feeling better and better as I do — and I think, “Yes! This IS the ‘wolf’ I want to feed!” And I keep on feeding it…and keep on feeling better!

3. “Now and then it is good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy.” ~ Guillaume Apollinaire

This falls into the same general category as another one of my favorites (which certainly could have made this list — or at least gotten an honorable mention): “The mystery of life isn’t a problem to solve, but a reality to experience.” ~ Frank Herbert

Both of these quotes, to me, have the same underlying message: We can spend so much time striving to reach goals, practice self-improvement, or “figure it all out” that we forget to actually LIVE — to experience the life we have!

Just as Socrates famously said, “The unexamined life is not worth living,” others have added, “The unlived life is not worth examining!”

By all means, continue to explore, to question, to learn, and to grow — but remember to enjoy the journey, not just the destination. Therein lies the joy in life.

4. Teddy Roosevelt’s “Man in the Arena” quote

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

I find this quote coming to mind more than ever these days, in the age of flippant tweets, snarky blog comments, and other ways to critique others’ performances (often anonymously and not always positively). Yes, it’s easier to hide in the “bleachers” than to get in the “arena” and give life your best shot, but there’s no glory on the sidelines. (In many ways, this echoes the central theme of The Bhagavad Gita. Or, to paraphrase another of my favorite sayings, “No kid ever dreams of growing up to become a critic.”)

To put a modern spin on Roosevelt’s words: Haters, step off!

To put a more positive spin on Roosevelt’s words: Get out there and LIVE!

5. “The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation, but your thoughts about it.”  ~ Eckhart Tolle

(Or, for a slightly more in-your-face variation: “The only thing standing between you and your goal is the [b.s.] story you keep telling yourself as to why you can’t achieve it.” ~ Jordan Belfort)

I admit, I “reverse-engineered” this one. What really comes to my mind frequently is the idea that it’s not so much the facts of our experiences that matter, but the story we tell about them — this is what determines our worldview, our beliefs, and our LIVES. (With this in mind, I went searching for quotes that sum up this idea, as Tolle’s words [and, in more of a motivational context, Belfort’s] seem to do.)

In my last post, I highlighted the Abraham-Hicks teaching question, “Is this belief serving me?” You could also substitute “story” for “belief” and see if your stories about your life and the world are serving you — i.e., leading you toward happiness. And then, if need be, you can “edit” your story to lead you to a happier ending. No, this doesn’t mean lying; it simply means viewing the facts in a way that is most uplifting and helpful to you (and, most likely, to others as well).

(This is the short version of this idea — for 4 weeks’ worth of exploration, engagement, and implementation, you can check out my ecourse, Rewrite Your Story: A Soulful Path to Becoming the Empowered Author of Your Own Life.)

6. “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” ~ Howard Thurman

(Not sure if there’s anything I can add to this one — that’s how good a quote it is!)

7. “Go back to bed.” ~ Elizabeth Gilbert

You may have heard Elizabeth Gilbert (author of Eat, Pray, Love) tell the story of the first time she spoke directly to God…and got a response! She was sobbing on her bathroom floor at 3:00 a.m. when she first heard what she describes as an omniscient interior voice conveying a critical message to her: “Go back to bed.”

What an anticlimax, right? How banal! Certainly not the spiritual thunderbolt most of us would expect (or want) from a wise, omniscient voice. But it was exactly what she needed to hear in that moment. And it’s exactly what so many of us need to hear much of the time.

Although it might not seem as profound or inspirational as the quotes mentioned above — or as deep and “spiritual” as yoga, meditation, or various mystical practices — taking care of your physical body can have a HUGE impact on every aspect of your life. Yes, this includes a healthy diet and joyful movement, but the first step is to get a good night’s sleep.

The next step is to wake up and LIVE! 🙂

What are some of YOUR favorite inspirational quotes? I’d love to hear your thoughts about the ones above or any others that have inspired you!

 

My Top 7 Abraham-Hicks Teachings

esther-hicksI love surrounding myself with inspiring words. I’ve spent countless hours reading everything from ancient scriptures to blogs and Facebook posts intended to uplift and enlighten.

While I’m glad to have been exposed to a wide range of teachings, I’ve realized that I could probably live a fairly happy, fulfilling life with just a handful of basic premises, teachings, and quotes.

With this in mind, I recently created a personal “best-of” list of about a dozen such teachings, about half of which came from Abraham-Hicks (who coined the phrase Law of Attraction and teach this concept, which has since been popularized in the movie The Secret and elsewhere). So, in fairness to everyone else, I’ve decided to create two separate lists. (I’ll feature the “Everyone Else” list in my next post.)

If this is your introduction to the Law of Attraction or the Teachings of Abraham, don’t worry if not all of it makes sense right away (especially idiosyncratic phrases such as “contrasts launch rockets of desire”) — just take in what resonates and let go of the rest. (Also, if you’re interested, you can learn more about them through their books, YouTube videos, or their website.)

This is by no means intended to be a comprehensive overview, just a snippet of the parts that resonate the most with me (a sort of “Desert-Island Abraham”) — the 7 teachings that, even if I had nothing else, could form the basis of a very satisfying, rich, joyful personal experience.

So, here they are (in semi-logical/flowing order, rather than ranked by importance):

1. “The basis of your life is freedom, the purpose of your life is joy, and the result of your life is expansion.” — First of all, if we didn’t have freedom, the rest of this post (and all teachings) would be irrelevant. If we didn’t have a choice, then there’s nothing we could do to change our lives — we’d be puppets in the hand of Fate. But we do have a choice! Freedom is at the basis of who we are; we are freedom-seeking beings! (And perhaps the greatest freedom is the freedom to decide what we focus on — what we give our attention and energy to. [More on this later.]) But what would be the point of using of freedom of choice if it just made us miserable? Why are we doing all this choosing, focusing, and freedom-seeking? For the joy of it! And what happens as we do this? Our lives expand, WE expand, and the entire universe expands! Forever.

emotional-scale2. The Emotional Guidance System/Scale — So, how do you go about choosing what to focus on and how to bring more joy into your life? You let your emotions guide you. Positive emotions give you feedback that you’re in the process of manifesting something you desire (telling you, in effect: “You’re Getting Warmer!“). Negative emotions are also helpful messages, inviting you to shift your focus before you manifest something undesirable. So, ALL emotions are useful because, as Abraham says, they’re your soul’s way of telling you whether or not you’re focusing on what your soul is focused on (or in the same way or on the same aspects). What a wonderful guide for your entire life!

Another great aspect of this teaching is the Emotional Scale (pictured at right). While you might not have access to an emotion that’s far away from your current state (e.g., trying to jump straight from depression to love), you can usually at least lean toward an emotion that feels even a little bit better (e.g., moving from pessimism to boredom and then to hopefulness). Throughout this process, the key feeling is always RELIEF — you’re looking for a thought, an activity, or a focus that brings you some degree of relief. If you feel relief, you’re pointing in a positive direction. And you can feel this by focusing on a better-feeling thought for as little as 17 seconds!

3. “Everything you want is downstream.” — This is the one that might push the most buttons, as it flies in the face of nearly every message society gives us throughout our lives. To summarize this teaching in non-Abe terms: “Life Was Never Meant to Be a Struggle” (as Stuart Wilde wrote in the title of his popular book). We are designed to go with the flow, rather than fighting the current of life. (Esther and Jerry Hicks learned this lesson firsthand during a whitewater rafting trip, when attempting to paddle upstream would have proven arduous, unpleasant, and utterly futile.) Despite the fact that the world tends to give out trophies (figuratively and sometimes literally) for bucking the current, fighting our natural inclinations, and struggling mightily, the upstream enterprise runs directly counter to our happiness, to our soul, to the universe. As my t’ai chi teacher once told me, “You can either work with the force that creates worlds, moves the tides, and sustains life…or you can fight it.” Although it might not sound as heroic as “fighting the good fight,” Abraham encourages downstream living, and so do I.

4. The 3 Steps of Manifestation — These steps are summarized by the Abraham-Hicks book title, Ask and It Is Given: Step 1 (ask) happens every time we want something. In Abraham terms, “contrasts launch rockets of desires,” meaning that when an unwanted feeling or situation arises, it makes us want something more desirable. (This is one reason not to resist a seemingly negative situation or to feel bad about feeling bad — this is what stimulates desire, which is the basis of all growth, improvement, and life itself!) Step 2 (“it is given”) happens automatically, as the universe creates this desired reality and puts it in a sort of “vibrational escrow.” All we have to do to collect this “escrow” is Step 3: ALLOW that reality to flow into our experience. And this will happen naturally, as long we are “vibrationally aligned” with this reality rather than “paddling upstream” (away from it) or “beating the drum of what-is” by thinking about, talking about, and focusing on the contrast that initially launched the rocket of desire! Once the contrast (the perceived “problem”) has served its valuable function of launching the rocket, shift your focus toward what you DO want (the “solution”). When this is consistently your dominant thought, focus, and vibration, it will flow into your reality.

Another wonderful aspect of this teaching is that it reminds us to let a “Step-1 Moment” be just that. In other words, when an unpleasant feeling/situation arises, we can simply allow it — we don’t have to fight it, deny it, or try to race to the Step-3 finish line when it’s “all better.” (After all, this is what is leading to expansion and improvement — why deny ourselves this?!) Likewise, we can allow a “Step-3 Moment” to be just that — we don’t have to immediately look for the lesson or the “fly in the ointment” (i.e., the contrast that will give rise to future expansion). Contrasts will come naturally. When you’ve allowed a desirable experience to manifest in your life, ENJOY IT! 🙂 (Also, with time, you can increasingly enjoy the entire manifestation process — including those pesky contrasts, as well as the manifestation of new desires…and the entire journey from rocket-launching to desire-fulfillment!)

5. Is this belief serving me? — As Abraham says, “A belief is just a thought you keep thinking.” If you keep thinking something (and, therefore, believe it), chances are, it’s true. (Abraham frequently says, “We know you’re not just making this stuff up!”) But here’s the rub: That belief is probably true for you because you focused on it long enough for it to manifest in your experience (and/or you focused on it in other people’s experiences, which brought it into your own). In other words, you kept “beating the drum of what-is,” even if you didn’t want more of “what-is”! (A common example is scarcity-mindset people who repeatedly say, “I don’t have enough money, I don’t have enough money, I don’t have enough money…” when they would like to have enough money!) So, the operative question to ask yourself about your belief isn’t, “Is it true?” — it’s, “Is this belief serving me?” If it is, GREAT — keep on thinking/believing it! But if it isn’t, consider thinking thoughts that will lead to a belief that you actually WANT to be true…and it will be!

6. “Feel appreciation for what-is and eagerness for what is coming.” — These words, repeated by Abraham at the end of their meditations (and elsewhere), represent the perfect vibrational stance for manifestation…and for the enjoyment of all of your life! When you’re appreciating what-is, you’re already enjoying your life. You’re focusing on the positive aspects of your life. And, thanks to Law of Attraction, you’re vibrating on a wavelength that sends this message to the universe: “More like this, please!” 🙂 But if no one ever desired anything other than what-is, expansion would cease. Life itself would cease! But when you feel eager and enthusiastic for the manifestation of newborn desires, you allow those desires to manifest. And by feeling eagerness for what is coming, you get to enjoy the entire process (rather than only being happy “in the vortex” — during those brief intervals between the manifestation of one desire and the birth of the next one). You get to experience the excitement and vitality that comes from feeling life-force coursing through you and directing it toward what you desire!

7. “Be easy about all this.” — It’s easy to get so caught up in the seriousness (or sometimes even solemnity) of spiritual teachings that we forget to enjoy them…as well as ourselves, our lives, and the world. But if we’re not doing this, then what’s the point? As it says at the end of Ask and It Is Given, “You tend to take life so seriously. Life is supposed to be fun, you know.” Yes, throughout it all, let’s remember to relax, breathe, smile, and enjoy! 🙂

FOUR-WORD SUMMARY — Although this list is already a very small selection of Abraham’s teachings in very summarized form, if I had to summarize even further, I would probably choose the four-word question: Which thought feels better? You could live a very full, rich, satisfying life if you only asked yourself this question regularly, and then chose to focus on the better-feeling thought (i.e., the one that brings more relief). As you consistently think better-feeling thoughts, they turn into beliefs, which then turn into manifested reality. When you go to the “feeling-place” of a manifested reality (imagining/feeling it as if it were already real), you’re more than halfway there. (In fact, you ARE there in the most important sense!)  Also, at the risk of being obvious and redundant, better-feeling thoughts FEEL BETTER! And (as teaching #1 suggests) feeling better/joyful is the purpose of life! It is the goal of all goals! Think about it: the only reason you want anything is because you believe it will make you feel better; but if you simply feel better, you’ve already reached that ultimate goal!

ONE-WORD SUMMARY — And lastly, if I had to choose just ONE word to summarize Abraham’s teachings and (in my opinion) the most important guidance you could receive/follow throughout your entire life, it would be this: APPRECIATION.

So, let me now follow that one-word teaching and express my deep appreciation for Abraham, for you (for being here, sharing these words/energy with me, and for all you do and all you are), and for life itself.

YOUR TURN! I’d love to hear YOUR favorite Abraham-Hicks teachings. Do any of the ones I mention resonate with you? Are there others that would make your personal “best-of” list? Please feel free to leave a comment and share your thoughts! 🙂

P.S. Please know that I am in no way trying to push these teachings on anyone. In fact, I LOVE the ever-growing variety of spiritual teachings (as Abraham says, “What a well-stocked kitchen!”) and would never want to limit them to one “correct” or “best” set of beliefs. But if any of these teachings do resonate with you and you’d like to learn more, you can do so at www.abraham-hicks.com and/or have short quotes (usually just a few sentences) sent to your inbox each morning by signing up at http://www.abraham-hicks.com/lawofattractionsource/dqsubscribe.php.

The Mundane Side of Karma

the mundane side of karma

What comes to mind when you hear the word karma?

Do you think of mystical forces such as vibration, energy, or cosmic retribution? Do you think of karma in terms of reincarnation and rebirth? Or maybe (if you share my internal jukebox) you hear an inner medley of John Lennon’s “Instant Karma,” Culture Club’s “Karma Chameleon,” and Ratt’s “Round and Round” (featuring the head-banging chorus of “What comes around goes around”).

Whatever words you use (or songs you hear) when describing karma, it’s generally considered a profound, esoteric principle. And yes, I have no doubt that mysterious forces beyond my comprehension are involved in this process.

But I also think that there’s a mundane side of karma — a side that’s utterly commonplace, simple, and straightforward. A side that’s so obvious that it can be easy to miss!

This mundane side of karma doesn’t show up when you’re deep in prayer, meditation, or a bardo between incarnations. It shows up when you post on Facebook. It shows up when you’re talking to strangers. It shows up when you comment on a blog (so, if you’re thinking about it, be nice!). 🙂

It shows up in everyday thoughts, words, and actions…and the consequences they bring.

I’ve noticed this mundane side of karma in my business, especially while making decisions about potential partnerships. In one case, my wife and I were thinking of partnering with a woman who could’ve easily made tens of thousands of dollars from a joint business venture, year after year after year. But then she sent us a snippy email…and guess who we decided NOT to partner with!

(In this case, we also noticed the person frequently complaining publicly about money problems…which didn’t surprise us one bit. Apparently, we weren’t the only ones who shied away from partnerships with her.)

Another time, we read a Facebook post of someone badmouthing a current client/employer (which only made the poster look bad). In this case, even though the post had nothing to do with us, we knew that we would NEVER consider partnering with this person. If this was the way she treated her business partners, we wanted no part of it!

(Again, it made us wonder if the complaints were the result of her problems or the cause of them!)

On the other hand, the mundane side of karma also works in positive ways. We’ve often observed expressions of gratitude, unexpected kindness, or compliments — even if they’re not directed at us — and we think, “Now THERE’S someone we really want to connect with!”

Sometimes we’ve been able to be the agents of positive karma — partnering with these good-hearted people. Other times, we’re happy to recommend them to others. And sometimes we just feel good — for ourselves and also because we know that the other person is enjoying their own positive “instant karma” through the good feelings they get from sharing good feelings!

(And in these cases, not surprisingly, we tend to notice these people enjoying good fortune in their lives.)

And it’s not just true in business. The mundane side of karma shows up in all aspects of everyday life, from romantic relationships right down to the kind of treatment you experience in the grocery store!

Just like gravity or the Law of Attraction, karma doesn’t have an off switch! It doesn’t stop working once you’ve finished meditating or saying your prayers! So be mindful of the kind of energy you’re sending out into the world through your everyday interactions, remembering that it will make its way back around!

This doesn’t mean that you always have to act like you’re in a 24/7 job interview, censoring every word in order to present yourself in a favorable light. But you might want to reconsider before you vent in an email or complain on Facebook — and think about who you’re really hurting.

On the other hand, you can be glad that the kindness you spread — online, in the grocery store, or anywhere else — not only feels good while you’re sharing it, but will also find its way back to you! A cosmic win-win! 🙂

Using this universal principle to enrich your own life — as well as those around you — is a beautiful way to turn everyday experiences into expressions of grace.

And that’s anything but mundane!

 

 

Cancel Your Insurance (Mentality)

Insurance is built on an interesting premise: the more you suffer, the more you gain.

If someone leaves a tiny scratch on your car while parallel parking, insurance might cover enough for a paint touch-up…but not a brand-new car. If a doctor accidentally scratches your finger, you probably won’t be able to sue them for as much as if they had transplanted the wrong organ.

In this way, insurance seems very fair. The compensation is (in theory) commensurate with the amount of suffering, loss, or hardship endured. Insurance also provides peace of mind that, if worse comes to worst, you can still hope to receive something to mitigate whatever misfortune may befall you. This is quite a benefit — not to mention, in many cases (e.g., auto insurance), a legal requirement!

So, no, I am not recommending that you cancel your insurance of any type…except for one: your insurance mentality.

“Insurance mentality” is the mindset that says…

  • Suffering is rewarded. (In fact, suffering is a prerequisite of reward!)
  • Only if you’ve experienced sufficient hardship do you deserve to experience joy.
  • Life is a zero-sum game in which blessings must be “paid for” by commensurate deprivation, loss, or struggle.

In short, insurance mentality says: no pain, no gain.

This approach might work while settling an insurance claim, but it’s no way to live your life. It means that every pleasure must be balanced out by an equal amount of pain. It means that you can never simply be happy. It means there’s always a catch.

Even if you consciously reject insurance mentality, it can still show up in your thoughts, words, and actions. It’s behind the compulsion you might feel to justify your blessings by citing how you’ve “earned” them (through some form of suffering). It’s behind the tendency you might feel to rationalize your joy by citing previous sorrows (almost as if they were ticket stubs you presented to an usher/bouncer in the “Theater of Joy” in order to prove that yes, you have paid for your seat — you didn’t just sneak in the back!). And it’s behind the twinge of guilt you might feel if you experience success without struggling mightily to attain it.

(It’s also, I suspect, behind talent-show contestants’ lengthy explanations of the hardships they’ve suffered — whether or not they’re related to their talent — presented as “Exhibit A, B, C, etc.” of why they now deserve to experience success.)

As absurd and illogical as insurance mentality seems to me, I’m still susceptible to it. Even within the privacy of my own mind, I’ve often noticed my thoughts acting like defense attorneys, explaining to the (imaginary) jury why I deserve the blessings I’ve received (because I’ve struggled enough). I’ll dredge up all sorts of evidence to support my case, even if it’s completely unrelated to the matter at hand. (E.g., my wife’s car accident caused her years of physical pain, so she really deserves to live by the beach and be happy.)

I’ve also noticed other well-meaning people acting like insurance-mentality lawyers defending us, explaining to others that, yes, they’re now experiencing some professional success and personal satisfaction…but they worked very hard for 10 years and struggled a lot in order to get where they are. The implication here is: …so now it’s OK for them to finally just be happy and enjoy their lives.

I’m not the only one who’s noticed this tendency. In a recent Facebook post, Elizabeth Gilbert describes how, after the publication of Eat Pray Love, she spent 10 years answering questions about her “selfishness” (e.g., getting divorced, traveling, writing, and being happy) and justifying her joy:

I’ve even tried to show how my journey from depression to joy has involved suffering, in order to make people feel better. (“Don’t worry!” I would say, “I was punished with three years of despair and anxiety for leaving that marriage, and I lost a lot of friends and all my money in the divorce, too!” Because some people can only trust joy when it has been earned through sacrifice and pain…and that’s a little weird — both that people would want evidence of suffering, or that I would feel obliged to offer it.)

Yes, it is weird that we carry around these “inner insurance-mentality lawyers” who demand evidence that we’ve earned our “settlements” of joy, success, or other positive experiences. And the greater the joy/reward, the greater the suffering these “lawyers” demand! This odd logic is on full display in my all-time favorite essay, “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again,” as David Foster Wallace overhears many of his fellow passengers’ justifications for going on a luxury cruise:

Everybody characterizes the upcoming week as either a long-put-off reward or as a last-ditch effort to salvage sanity and self from some inconceivable crockpot of pressure, or both.  A lot of the explanatory narratives are long and involved, and some are sort of lurid. Two different conversations involve people who’ve just buried a relative they’d been nursing at home for months as the relative lingered hideously. A floral wholesaler in an aqua MARLINS shirt talks about how he’s managed to drag the battered remnants of his soul through the Xmas-to-Valentine rush only by dangling in front of himself the carrot of this week of total relaxation and renewal. A trio of Newark cops all just retired and had promised themselves a Luxury Cruise if they survived their 20.

(To this observation, Wallace adds one of his trademark footnotes about “the subtle universal shame that accompanies self-indulgence, the need to explain to just about anybody why the self-indulgence isn’t in fact really self-indulgence.”)

But why is any shame, justification, or rationalization necessary at all? Why can’t they simply enjoy themselves without feeling the need to “pay in advance” through their suffering? My reply is, once again: insurance mentality. They are presenting evidence to the “jury” that they deserve compensation — that they have made an equal trade: their current/forthcoming happiness is offset by their past unhappiness; therefore, the cosmic balance of joy and sorrow remains undisturbed.

Except here’s the thing: The universe isn’t going to be any worse off if you’re simply happy (or healthy or successful or blessed in any way…or in many ways). In fact, the universe will be better off because of your joy, success, health, and other blessings!

Don’t worry — you won’t be committing insurance fraud if you enjoy blessings without suffering great pain for them! The universe is not litigious. The blessings you receive are not some cosmic settlement. They need not be commensurate with past pains.

We can simply be happy and enjoy our blessings without feeling the need to make a “co-pay” of unhappiness. We can experience success without staking out an enormous premium of struggle. And we can receive blessings without the curse of guilt.

So, by all means, let’s all keep our car insurance, our health insurance, and any other insurance that gives us peace of mind.

But let’s cancel our insurance mentality!

 

365 Moments of Grace

I’m so excited to announce the launch of 365 Moments of Grace!

This is volume 2 of the 365 Book Series, which my wife and I created in 2015 with the intention to inspire, uplift, and remind you of just how magical our world is and how connected we truly are.

This latest book contains true-life stories of grace, miracles, and transformations from beautiful souls all around the world. There’s one grace-filled story for each day of the year from over 250 authors, including Jodi Chapman, Kristine Carlson, Arielle Ford…and me! 🙂

You can learn all about the book, pick up your own copy, and receive tons of bonus gifts at www.365momentsofgrace.com.

For now, I wanted to share my piece from the book. (Below the piece, I’ll share a bit about why I wrote it and what it means to me. But I won’t say anything about it yet — that might give away the ending!) Enjoy!

In the Garden

I opened my eyes and found myself sitting in a wondrous garden. Above me shone a brilliant, golden orb – too bright to look at directly but somehow gentle even in its immense power. It warmed my face and illuminated the breathtaking scene before me: a stunning explosion of colors, arranged in a way that surpassed the work of any human artist. Fairy-like creatures flew around me, their brightly colored wings shining in the light as they communicated with one another in their flute-like language of whimsical melodies. The entire garden danced with life. The air itself felt alive – caressing my skin in a way that simultaneously warmed and cooled me.

Feeling completely at peace with where I was and also eager to explore this paradisiacal setting, I stood up and took a few steps. The mossy surface cushioned my feet, yielding to me while supporting my entire being. As I looked around, I encountered hidden treasures that I hadn’t noticed at first: tiny buds on the verge of bursting into bloom, subtle decorative touches, and near-invisible winged creatures dancing above and around me.

The most magnificent part of this garden, however, went far beyond sensory beauty: Although I was completely alone (aside from the winged creatures), I was able to communicate with others who weren’t there in physical form. I became aware of their thoughts, emotions, and most meaningful experiences – “hearing” them almost as if they were communicating telepathically or describing it all in person, or as if I were living it along with them. They shared profound truths – stories occasionally touched by pain and heartbreak but ultimately leading to higher levels of grace and glory.

Their words and experiences were still swirling inside me when I encountered someone who seemed to be part human, part angel. She spoke just a few words to me, but I felt unconditionally accepted and cherished, filled with a love that I knew would last forever. With a heart filled with gratitude, I kissed my wife on the forehead, refilled my coffee, and went back out to the patio, where I continued to edit the latest batch of pieces for 365 Moments of Grace.

The Mini-Story Behind the Story

This piece comes from the “Everyday Grace” chapter, which I hope shows that our world is full of miracles…many of which may be closer than you think!

I had planned to write something different — something more “traditionally miraculous.” As I read through the stories, however, I was so moved — and I experienced a true moment of grace sitting in my own backyard. In that moment, I realized that my experience, although very “mundane” in one sense, was every bit as amazing as many of the supernatural moments I was reading about. In many ways, it even reminded me of stories of near-death experiences in which people find themselves in a beautiful setting, surrounded by angelic beings, and imbued with feelings of peace and spiritual knowing. It reminded me that you don’t have to die to go to Heaven!

I hope that you’ll check out the entire book, that you’ll enjoy the other 364 pieces, and — most of all — that you’ll experience many moments of grace in your own life.

Learn more about the book at www.365momentsofgrace.com.

P.S. If you’d like to hear directly from some of the other contributing authors who are also writing about this book, you can check out their blogs:

(Click here to see a list of all the authors writing about their experiences with this book as part of our blog tour.)

P.P.S. LIMITED-TIME BONUS OFFER! If you order this book now, you’ll receive lots of soulful bonus gifts – all created by the contributing authors – including guided meditations, ebooks, ecourses, and much more! Check it all out at www.365momentsofgrace.com.

 

99 Pounds of Bricks

99 pounds of bricksI was recently talking with a friend who was weighed down by some pretty serious challenges with her family, her business, and her health. “I feel like I’m carrying around 100 pounds of bricks,” she told me.

My first inclination was to try to fix it — to make her feel all better. I wanted her to feel free and weightless — as if she were walking on air, bursting with joy!

So I started suggesting that she focus on joy — thinking about all the things she loved, felt grateful for, and filled her with vitality and zest for life. Approximately three seconds into this pep talk, however, her glazing-over eyes told me that this was not the right approach for her situation.

In retrospect, it’s easy to see why. Telling someone who’s buried under a mountain of difficulties that they should snap out of it and just get happy is about as helpful — and unrealistic — as telling someone who’s stuck in a ditch that they should be dancing on a mountaintop, singing “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah” at the top of their lungs. It ain’t gonna happen, and even just suggesting it is likely to make them feel worse (and might even get you smacked if you’re too pushy about it).

Fortunately, I didn’t get smacked — mainly because we were talking via Skype, but also because I quickly changed to a new approach: rather than trying to go straight from feeling buried under 100 pounds of bricks to dancing on air, I encouraged her to simply take one step in the right direction — to go from carrying 100 pounds of bricks to carrying 99 pounds.

So, how do you go from 100 pounds of bricks to 99?

You “try on” different thoughts — just as if you were in a clothing store, trying on different outfits. Some of them feel tight, some are too loose, and some just aren’t you. But if you try on enough thoughts, you’ll eventually find one that feels right.

And what does the “right” thought feel like?

One that makes you feel RELIEF. One that makes you exhale. One that makes you feel even a little bit lighter — not necessarily all the way from carrying 100 pounds to carrying nothing, but perhaps going from 100 pounds to 99.

For my friend, one thought that felt better was that she didn’t have to make any major business decisions right in that moment. She could set aside the question that was weighing on her and address it later, when she felt inspired. It would be there waiting for her when the time felt right.

Phew! One brick removed!

Regarding her health, it felt better to give herself a little bit more self-care, to not push quite so hard, and certainly not to beat herself up for not feeling 100% — while knowing that, sooner or later, her health would improve. In the meantime, she could enjoy a slightly slower pace.

Phew! Another brick removed!

(And so on.)

No, she did not remove all the “bricks” by the end of our hour-long chat. Nor was she bouncing around the room with joy. But she took a few steps in the right direction. She removed a few bricks. She felt a little bit lighter.

And she felt something else that she hadn’t felt when we started talking: hope.

How about you? Do you ever feel like you’re carrying around 100 pounds of bricks (or even just one or two)? Rather than trying to drop the whole load at once, how can you put down a “brick” or two? What thoughts could you “try on” that might help you feel even a bit of relief, a bit lighter, or a bit more hopeful?

I’ve Got Your Back

trust-fallIf you’ve already read my previous post, you know how much I’m enjoying my new house and town near the beach. It’s been an incredibly positive, life-changing move, for which I’m immensely grateful.

What I didn’t mention in that post, however, was how this dream-come-true move was almost a nightmare — and how avoiding it strengthened my faith and taught me a lesson I’ll never forget.

The dodging of the proverbial bullet came exactly one year before we actually moved: December 23, 2014. After months of fruitlessly searching for our dream house on the Oregon coast, my wife and I found one that looked perfect — a well-kept house mere blocks from the beach in a nice town (or so we thought, based on the pictures and descriptions). It seemed so appealing that we were willing to put down a deposit, sight-unseen. After all, visiting would require a multi-day trip; and the housing market was so competitive that if we didn’t act right away, someone else might snatch it away from us.

So we filled out the forms and were just about to sign off on the place, when we thought of one final question: Would they hold the house for us for just a few days? After all, the next day was Christmas Eve, and we didn’t want to be buried in moving paperwork over the holidays.

But the realtor wouldn’t budge. They told us that, of course, we had the option of waiting until after the holidays; but by then someone else might swoop in and take the house. That’s what we decided to do, and that’s exactly what happened.

At first, I was crestfallen. After a few more months of renewed fruitless searching, I felt devastated. A few months later, when a major building project turned our backyard into a construction site, I began to doubt myself, my judgment, and the universe. (Yes, I can be a bit melodramatic; but being awakened at the crack of dawn by bulldozers 20 feet from my bedroom window wasn’t exactly helping the situation.)

Anyway, with some encouragement from my wife and the Abraham-Hicks teachings, I eventually mustered up enough hopefulness to make an early Christmas wish: I wanted to spend Christmas on the beach, minutes from our beautiful, new house (wherever that might be). Again, if you’ve read my previous post (or even this post’s first-paragraph spoiler), you’ll know that my wish came true.

But that’s just half of the magic.

The other half came after we’d been living in this new house for a month — when we decided to take a day trip to the nearby town where we almost moved to and check out the house that was almost ours.

Although I’ve never tried internet dating, I’ve heard horror stories about people using decades’-old pictures in their profiles, misrepresenting themselves, or just flat-out lying to make themselves seem more attractive. Well, this house (and neighborhood and town) was the real-estate equivalent.

The house itself was an absolute dump. The paint was chipping; the lawn was covered with scraggly, overgrown weeds; and it had absolutely no privacy — being situated just a few feet from every house it bordered (a detail that was not apparent from the conveniently angled online photos.) Overall, it looked like it had been in foreclosure for years, as did most of the houses in the sketchy-looking neighborhood.

The town itself was even worse. (The Subway sandwich shop was literally the highlight.) The energy of the whole area felt so bad — so not us — that we cut short what was going to be an all-day excursion and high-tailed it out of there as fast as we could turn the car around…giving thanks all the while for having dodged this bullet of a would-be move.

It was amazing to think that we were a signature away from being stuck with this place. It was also amazing to think that the house we’d ended up in — exactly what we’d wished for in every respect (the house, the neighborhood, and the town) — cost the exact same amount!

In addition to my gratitude for a crisis (or at least a serious bummer) avoided, I also received a life-changing lesson, one which I’ll never forget. As I looked at the lemon of a house that was almost mine (no disrespect to lemons), I heard a voice from within me say four words:

I’ve got your back.

I reflected on those words and on how the universe had conspired to steer me away from this not-right-for-me situation. I thought about all the times in the past year when I’d second-guessed myself, when I’d lost faith. I thought about how the year-long delay had been such a tremendous blessing. (In retrospect, there was no WAY we could have comfortably moved earlier: my wife was hit by a severe case of adrenal fatigue, we were launching our first collaborative book, and we simply weren’t ready.) And I thought about what an absolutely ideal situation we’d ended up in…especially compared to what could have been…and almost was! And I knew I would never doubt it again: the universe really did — and does — have my back.

And it always will.

This Stuff Really Works

Jodi-word-art-your-dreams

For the past several years, my wife has regularly posted inspiring word art on Facebook. But of all the hundreds of posts she’s shared — others’ and her own — I’m most inspired by the ones she’s put up in the last two months. It’s not because her previous words weren’t inspiring (they were) or that the art wasn’t beautiful (it was); it’s because these latest posts are more than just words to me — they’re my own real-life experiences.

I’m living them.

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but an experience is worth a million!

For instance, I love the words she put with the picture above: “Your dreams are just waiting to come true. Imagine them. Feel them. Live them.” Before the past few months, I might have just thought that these were nice-sounding, uplifting words; but now I know how profound and true they really are — and that the picture is the living evidence of their truth!

You see, this is exactly what we experienced.

It all started with our dream of moving to the Oregon coast — a dream that was born over a year and a half ago, when we visited the coast for our 10th wedding anniversary. Although we spent less than 24 hours there, we liked it so much that we decided to go back. And next time, we decided, we’d stay longer — maybe for a weekend or even a full week. As we imagined spending an entire week at the beach, it felt so nice that we thought, why not spend an entire month? — and this thought felt so appealing that we started imagining how nice it would be to spend the whole summer.

And this desire grew into our dream to move to the beach…forever!

So, now that we had a dream, we had a perfect chance to try out everything we’d learned in recent years while immersed in the world of self-help and spirituality — all the stuff about “making your dreams come true” from all those self-help books, Abraham-Hicks videos, personal-growth blogs, and, yes, even the many inspiring sayings posted daily on our Facebook walls.

It was time to put it all to the test and see if this stuff really worked!

We knew that, for better or worse, we couldn’t just snap our fingers and live this dream immediately. We had business commitments, health concerns, and other obstacles that wouldn’t let us pack up and move the next day. But while we were waiting for the externals to align, we didn’t have to wait for the internal experience — we could imagine the beach and feel how good it would be to live there.

So that’s what I did: I took daily “trips” to the beach…in my mind and in my heart.

I’d visualize the sand, the waves, and Jodi sitting next to me. I’d feel relaxed and happy — just as I’d been during our anniversary trip…and just as I expected to be once we moved there. And I’d exhale and smile. 🙂

And while these inner vacations felt great immediately, they also had another benefit: they strengthened my resolve that this dream would become a reality. And, thanks to the Law of Attraction, they helped get me on a beachy “wavelength” — attracting elements that would help manifest this dream.

Christmas-at-the-beachAs time went on, my visualizations got more and more specific — including imagining us spending Christmas Day on the beach. Well, to make a long story (somewhat) short: Just after Thanksgiving, circumstances changed dramatically — and within a month, this dream that we’d nurtured for a year and a half became a reality. We moved to Florence on December 23, had our stuff delivered December 24, and spent Christmas Day on the beach! 🙂

I wanted to share this for two reasons: First of all, because it makes me incredibly happy, and I like to share my happiness with others! Even more than this, though, I wanted to share evidence that all of the feel-good words that we talk about and write about and post about are more than just words…they’re real! All of the teachings about visualization and manifestation and Law of Attraction and raising your vibration and going to the “feeling place” of a dream even before it becomes an external reality…and on and on and on — this stuff really works!

(For proof, see the pictures above and below, which wouldn’t exist if the words were merely words!)

So, while your dreams may be very different from mine (especially if you’re not a beach-lover), the same principles can make them come true. Even before you can do anything external about your dream, you can visualize it. You can go to the feeling place (as if you were already living it). And you can maintain faith that, in divine timing, you too will be living it.

And you will.

Jodi-word-art-evidence

 

The Anne Lamott Lighthouse

lighthouse-lamott_quoteDo you have a word of the year for 2016?

If you’re like me, you’ve probably experienced the power that comes from setting an intention (for a year, a day, or even the next few minutes) — whether it’s a specific goal or just a general theme. One of my favorite ways to set a general intention for the coming year is to pick a word of the year.

This year, my word is “lighthouse.”

Unlike my words for the past few years — finish, here, and flow — this one may require a bit of explanation. It’s inspired by one of my favorite quotes:

“Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining.” ~ Anne Lamott

This resonates deeply with me and serves as an important reminder in several ways:

  • It’s a reminder that, even when we have something of value to share (and all of us do!), we don’t have to live like door-to-door salesmen pushing our wares (or beliefs, lifestyles, etc.) on others.
  • It’s a reminder to simply be yourself.
  • And it’s a reminder that, simply by being yourself, you provide a valuable service to others — not necessarily because you’re trying to, but because your true essence shines, it illuminates everything around you.

The Anne Lamott lighthouse quote also encourages us to get our own “house” in order — reminding us that we serve others through our living example: by being our true self and by glowing!

Most of all, it encourages us to shine!

(The one area where the metaphor ceases to be literally true is in the area of attraction: When a lighthouse shines, it helps boats to steer away from it — whereas when you shine, you attract others to you who resonate with your gifts, your essence, and your glow!)

An interesting, personal note about this word: Less than a month ago, after deciding on “lighthouse” as my word of 2016, my wife and I moved to a new house — one that is filled with light on many levels. It also happens to be located in Florence, Oregon, a city known for its iconic lighthouse (the one I’m standing in front of in the picture below)!

This new house and the entire area really seem to embody the energy I’ve been inviting into my life. Aside from being near the literal lighthouse, it’s also near the ocean, which epitomizes the “lighthouse” principle.

Dan-at-lighthouse

Today, after spending time at the beach (admiring the lighthouse and the ocean), my wife pointed out that the ocean isn’t trying to give anything or help anyone — much less save anyone! But just by being itself, it offers so much to everyone: it gives beauty, energy, power, serenity, inspiration, and so much more (including the seashells we admire and sometimes collect)!

And, like the lighthouse, the ocean doesn’t have to run around seeking people to help (or “save”). We are drawn to it — and we draw nourishment from it simply by being in its presence.

So, in 2016 (and beyond), this is how I intend to live: I intend to shine, to glow, and to be myself, feeling confident that simply by doing so, I will provide value to those who resonate with my essence and are naturally drawn to this glow. And if living this way happens to inspire anyone to find and express their own authentic inner glow, that would also be wonderful! 🙂

May this be a year when we all allow our true selves to shine.

Upper photo by Anita Ritenour. Lower photo by Jodi Chapman.