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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Who are you?

I am Brian. That's it, really, just Brian. Sure, I do things; I make a living, I help people, I enjoy sunsets, and even though I really don't like tomatoes, I enjoy tomato soup. But I am not any of those things by themselves. I am a beautiful combination of those, and so many other things. But what I'm not, is my reputation, my job, my possessions, my status, or my bank account. Yet for so many, their identities are so far blended with those things, who they really are gets lost. While travelling this week, someone asked me what I do for a living, and it struck me. He didn't ask me "Who are you." My answer was simple: "I help people", I responded. But when I am not helping people, I am just Brian. I am on my path, I am learning, I am growing, and sometimes, I'm all of those, and sometimes, I'm not any of those. But people, in general, believe that what they "do for a living", is actually who they are. It is their identity, and without it they would be lost.

What this means is that the Wall Street hotshot will be nothing should he lose his Wall Street job. That is who he thinks he is. And when he is at his fancy parties, with his rich friends, his ego is thriving on the idea of "Look at me! I'm somebody." His status and his "self" are one. But when he's making dinner for his wife at home, is he a Wall Street hotshot? Or is he a loving husband making his wife dinner? There's a good chance that he truly believes that his wife would not be with him if he would ever not be a Wall Street hotshot. Because he truly believes that what he does for a living is who he is. And if he is truly a Wall Street hotshot, who was he before he reached that point? Was he nobody? Did he not exist? Remember, you are not your reputation, you are not your things, your possessions, your status, or your job. You are just you. The reason this is important to realize, is that when you tie who you are to something other than your self, then you will find unhappiness when things are not going well with whatever you tie your identity to. If it is a job, then you will be lost when that job goes bad. If it's a relationship with someone, then you will be lost when that relationship hits tough times or ends. You are simply "you", nothing more, nothing less. Yes, you may have a job, a relationship, money, or even status, but that is not who you are internally. When you connect yourself with something external, you lead yourself away from your internal. And when we are not centered internally, we find pain, confusion, stress, and despair.

Do not let external forces determine your internal peace. You are you no matter where you go, what you do, or who you do it with. Get to know that person. Love that person whole heartedly. Do not connect who that person is with anything, because it's just a lie. You can only be YOU. So start finding out who you are, underneath all that external stuff you've thrown on top of yourself. Examine yourself. Find your strengths and your weaknesses, and learn to love them both. Do not look to other things for what you can fill from within yourself.

And now that I'm done writing this blog entry, I am again, just Brian

Monday, September 27, 2010

Empty your cup

Just as you must empty your teacup before you can receive your tea, you must first empty your mind before you can receive your lesson. I really like this idea, and it is a very simple idea to understand. If your teacup is cluttered with old tea, crumbs, and tea leaves, it is not prepared to receive the tea that is waiting for it. For our mind, it is getting rid of the clutter of old ideas, beliefs in what "should be", ego, and the "what ifs" that prevent us from receiving our lesson. Believe it or not, most of our lessons are in plain sight, right in front of our face. Most people simply don't want to see their lesson, because it would indicate that they would have to admit something they perceive to be wrong with themselves. This again, is the trick of ego. We cannot possibly be wrong. If we are not wrong then something is happening to us, and we can absolve ourselves of any responsibility to the event. If we can remove our ego, remove the questions of "why", and openly take in our lesson, you would instantly find a sense of peace within yourself. You realize that it is not a matter of something being "wrong" with us, but it is an amazing opportunity for ourselves to grow, and be the best person we can possibly be. We cannot do this with a mind that is cluttered with the walls that ego and society have built within us. When this is the case, we get defensive. We have to justify our actions to ourselves and others. There is no acceptance in a defensive position. When you are defensive, you cannot let anything in; it is impossible. If we then, at that moment, are able to empty our minds of our concerns, (that honestly are not real), and remain open to what the Universe is trying to show us, we can take that situation in with a peaceful heart, and we can grow.

I find that many people I work with want to get the help, but their egos won't let themselves open their minds to the ideas that will give them the help they desire to find. It is one of the most difficult things to overcome in someone. But the answer is simple, as are most answers, and it is simply to come from an empty mind, receive the lesson for what it is, then view the lesson objectively from a point of truth. When you can do that, you will watch your ego and it's walls come down, and you will start to see change in your life. The answers are all within us, piled underneath the conditioning of our egos and society. Empty the space, and allow the lessons to fill the void. Positive change will be the only outcome.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Question of the week: Creating your demeanor...

This week's question is "How do you always keep such a cool demeanor?"

Wow... good question. The honest answer is, I don't always... I try to do my best and live by my highest self the majority of the time, but I too, fall. I am still on my path, and I learn every day. But the main thing that I try to do every day is acknowledge where I falter. Again, as acceptance is the first step in overcoming your obstacles, I am aware of when I "fail my test". Being aware, and accepting your behavior leads to you being able to change your behavior. There is a lesson by the Buddhist master Langri Thangpa called the eight verses on thought training. Verse number three states: "May I examine my mind in all actions. And as soon as a negative state occurs, since it endangers myself and others, may I firmly face and avert it." Basically, this says that as soon as we create a negative intention, we must quickly acknowledge it and form the determination to not engage in such behavior again. As we accept our actions, and realize that it comes from within us, and it is not something happening TO us, we can find the resolve to not respond in that manner again, should similar situations arise.

Again, it is a spiritual "practice". The more you practice, the easier it is to respond in a positive way from within ourselves, until it finally becomes a natural process. But if you are not aware, in that you believe the ego saying that something is happening TO you, then you will continuously fail that test, and find yourself in what you would call a "stressful situation". With your thoughts, you create your world. If you look at your world with love, you shall find love. If you look at your world with turmoil and stress, then that is exactly what you will find.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Acceptance. The beginning, not the end....

I recently wrote a very small blurb on acceptance and what it means, and today I was reading an article on  Marc Buoniconti, and it moved me to write more about this important idea.  For those of you who don't know, Marc Buoniconti is the son of former NFL great Nick Buoniconti.  In 1985, Marc was playing football for The Citadel, when he went to make a tackle on the tailback.  His helmet collided with the tailbacks lower back, and in an instant, Marc was a quadriplegic.  When told he would never use his limbs again, he was told he needed to accept his situation, to which Marc replied "I've always hated that word.  It's defeatist in a way.  I think as soon as you accept something like that, you've lost."  Although Marc has overcome great odds at survival, and has gone on to accomplish great things, his views of acceptance are askew. 
Acceptance is not the end of things, it is the beginning of things.  Acceptance does not say that "This is how things are going to be forever".  It is simply "this is how things are now."  Because now is all we ever have.  There is an old saying "It is what it is", which is very true.  Many people choose not to accept their current situation, and go on dreaming of all the "what ifs" in their lives.  This will only lead to pain and suffering, because it does not exist.  All that exists is "what is".  You must first, with all your being, accept your situation for what it is at the time that it is.  Because it is your situation.  Once acceptance has happened, then you can use the questions of "wha"t and "how" to change your situation to be what you would like it to be.  "I am paralyzed.  What can I do to overcome this?  How can I live my life to the fullest?"  To deny you are paralyzed, would be "non acceptance".  It's not saying you cannot try to change your situation; all it is saying is that you have to say "Right now, I am paralyzed".  That could all change in a moment.  There is a great deal of peace that comes with the acceptance of "what is".  It is the starting point.  It is the beginning of a path to take you out of what is right now, and make it something else.  Denial will never get you started on the path to something else.  It will only keep you locked into a victim mentality.  It cannot lead to action.  You will never walk on the road to recovery if you deny the event for its truth. 
Acceptance is the first step, it is definitely not the last.


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Separation- The ego's way of saying "I'm Right"

Separation occurs on so many levels, and it is strictly the result of ego. Separation can also be called by other things, such as racism and bigotry, but also as simple as your opinion. Separation is when we decide on some level, conscious or unconscious, that what we are seeing, feeling, or experiencing, does not fit in with what we feel is "normal". We separate ourselves from the whole, and with that, figure that if it does not fit in with what I feel is acceptable, then it is not acceptable at all. Imagine if a wave in the ocean thought that he was the ocean! That all other waves did not live up to what kind of wave he was. The other waves were not as strong, not as beautiful, not as big, as he was. But the wave is only one small part of something much greater. And soon, the wave breaks onto the shore, only to be reabsorbed into the ocean, the "whole". Every one of us is part of the "whole". We are all unique, intricate parts of something much greater than ourselves. The ego created society, and society reinforces the ego. "Men act like this, women like that", it says. "You can't dress like this, you can't wear your hair like that", it says. Society separates on every level, from gender, to race, to creed, and the ego convinces us it is ok. We form an opinion, and it then separates us from one another. Even from something as simple as "I can't believe you don't like strawberries!" The mind says, this guy must be crazy! Strawberries are delicious! And with that, we are now right, and they are now wrong, and separation has occurred. I am male, but my soul essence is female. My path leads me more towards androgyny, which is very hard for others to accept. As my hair grows longer, some question why I let my hair look more "girlish". Hair has no gender. Hair is hair. The separation occurs when we form an opinion, which is essentially a judgment. What people need to realize, it that it is absolutely ok not to understand why someone does something, but to accept them for who they are. It is not for you to understand everything in the world. But if you accept "what is", then you remove separation. So how do we turn our "opinions" away from judgment and separation? It's very simple. Turn your thoughts onto yourself. Remember, just because you don't like something, doesn't mean it's wrong. So, for sake of argument, let's say I decide to wear a skirt tomorrow. There is no law against me wearing a skirt, and remember, clothes are just clothes, they have no gender. Society has put the tag of who can wear what onto people. Kilts are worn by men in other sections of the world without bias, but it is basically a skirt. A man might look at me and instantly say "look at that weirdo!". The separation is there, because that man would never wear a skirt, so he judges me, and somehow I now have a problem. I am wrong for wearing a skirt. If he turns his thoughts onto himself, the uncomfortable feeling he had when he saw me in a skirt goes away, and a peaceful conclusion is reached. He simply says "I personally wouldn't wear a skirt". His ego is not threatened, he reinforces his own belief that he would not wear a skirt, yet does not separate by making it wrong in his mind for me wearing one.

Remember, I cannot make you feel uncomfortable. It's what people know about themselves that make them feel uncomfortable, or any other feeling. Separation starts within you, and has nothing to do with anyone else. It is the trick of the ego that says "I'm right, they're wrong". Waves in the ocean do not look at other waves and make judgments about them. They all co-exist in harmony, as part of something much greater than themselves. We are supposed to be doing the same thing. And it all starts within ourselves. It's ok for you not to like something. If the thoughts stop then on yourself, and don't extend out to the other person, no separation will exist. So the next time you think a thought as simple as "This TV show is stupid", remember, the TV show is just a show, it is neither stupid or smart. And if you judge the show as being stupid, you also judge everyone who watches it as being stupid. Simply say "I personally don't care for this show". Judgment is relieved, and separation cannot occur.

Monday, September 20, 2010

"Why" is a useless question...

Most times, when something goes wrong in our lives, the very first question we ask ourselves is "Why?" Unfortunately, this is the worst question we can ask ourselves. Some people live so much in the question of why, that they never get past the event that made them say it to begin with. Why, you see, is a useless question. It never really matters why. Remember when you were a kid, and you wanted to do something, and your parents said no, and you asked them "Why?" and they answered, "Because I said so, that's why." That, in essence, is actually the best answer to your question. Because it doesn't matter why. It only matters that you can't do whatever they told you you couldn't do. "Mom, John's having a party, can I go?" Your mother responds "No." "Why?" You ask. It doesn't matter why. Maybe it's because you have to do something else. Maybe it's because your mom doesn't think much of John. Maybe it's because she knows that no one wants you at the party, or maybe it's none of those things. The fact of the matter is, you can't go. So "Why" you can't go becomes irrelevant.

"Why are we here?" "Why did this have to happen to me now?" "Why is the store always sold out of what I came for?" So many questions of why, and in each case, it doesn't matter why. It doesn't matter why you're here, because you are indeed here. It doesn't matter why something happened to you now, because it did indeed happen. And it certainly doesn't matter why the store is out of what you came for, because nothing is going to make it magically appear in their stock. So as you can see, "Why" is a useless question.

It's useless because it only leads to more questions. It never leads to action. And in this way, many people get locked into the trap of "Why". The question of "Why" also leads to all the "what if's" that take people out of the present moment, and lost in a hypothetical world of things that don't exist. And no matter how much you wish that they would, they don't. You only have NOW. Asking "What if this would have happened instead?" is just a way of mentally torturing yourself. With that in mind, the correct questions to ask yourself instead of "Why", are "What", and "How".

You must first accept the situation as it is. This is important. Acceptance is the first phase of overcoming any obstacle. Then, ask yourself the questions of "What" and "How". So, in the example above of "Why did this have to happen to me now?" The replacement for the question of "Why" is "Ok, this happened to me. What can I do to make this situation better, or how can I prevent this from either getting worse, or happening to me again?" "What" and "How" are calls to action. And when you are taking action, you have control over the situation, instead of the situation having control over you. Remember, if you feel that something has happened to you, then you are a victim. Victims never overcome their obstacle. You are only a victim in the moment that something is happening in your life. Once that moment is over, how you choose to react to that situation will define you either as a victim, or, for lack of a better word, a survivor. Some people are a victim of an event for the rest of their life. They use it as an excuse to never be able to achieve things in their lives. They'll tell you "You don't understand what happened to me". The ego is in full force. You may not have control over what happened to you at the time it happened, but you certainly have control over every single moment after that. How will you choose to react to that? From weakness, or strength?

There are so many beautiful cases in which someone has overcome so much. I recently read about a quadriplegic that swam the English Channel. He lost his limbs after being electrocuted on a ladder. But he did not remain a victim of that accident. He has been living his life, including not only swimming the English Channel in just over 14 hours, (10 hours less than even he thought it would take him), but skydiving, and things like that. He could have lived the rest of his life lost in the question of "Why". "Why did this have to happen to me". But he chose the "What" and the "How". What could he do to keep living his life? How can he make his life better? He was only a victim for the moment of the electrocution, now he is a survivor, and deals from a place of strength.

"Why" is a trap of the ego. It begs for sympathy for us from others. It wants others to do for us what we feel we cannot do for ourselves, because we are a victim. If you live your life lost in the question of "Why", it will be a very unhappy place to live. If you turn your mind into the action questions of "What" and "How", you will see amazing changes start to take place in your life.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Spiritual Dis-comfort

As with a physical injury to the body, injury to our spirit also occurs.  When you physically hurt your body, you experience dis-comfort.  It is the body's way of telling you that you need to focus on something that is not right at the moment.  It tells you that you cannot do what you've been doing.  If you continue to do what you're doing, your pain will get worse.  It may even get to the point where it is debilitating.  This is the same with the spirit.  If you are feeling dis-comfort, it is a sign that you need to pay attention to your surroundings.  What is happening?  What about you is making you feel this way?  As with a physical injury, if you continue doing what caused the dis-comfort to begin with, you will continue to cause yourself grief and sadness. 
 Many people think that something is happening to them to make them feel that way.  They look at the experience itself to find an answer.  How are you relating to that experience?  Is there anything you can do to make it better, or to achieve a different outcome?  And if the outcome cannot be changed, what can you do to make the situation better?  What do you need to learn?  What about you is making you feel the way you are?  It's simple to blame someone else, because it's ego's way of saying "This is someone else's fault"  But by making it about the other person, that is giving the other person the power over the situation, and you will continue to feel the dis-comfort.  If you then look inside of you to the source of your dis-comfort, and truly take care of the problem, your pain will start to diminish until it fades away completely.  Pay attention to your body and your spirit.  It will always lead you in the right direction.

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