Eeyore – that great archetype for resignation and low expectations gets his tail nailed back on .. coping with a bad situation in the only way he knows.
Someone recently commented how much they appreciated that Five Changes helped so many people to ‘cope.’ I was taken aback until I realized that ‘coping’ may be all that many people have come to expect—that just ‘coping’ is enough. Tell me it’s not true for you!
How much does defeatism and resignation play out in your life? In what ways have you learned to accommodate disappointment? We have all felt and expressed negativity at some time or other, often without realizing it. You might even say that it is completely natural – whatever natural means.
But the truth is that we are wired to feel good, not bad, and that in feeling good we function better, help others more, are more creative, see more options and possibilities .. and live as a celebration of life, rather than as a denial of it .. benefiting the entire universe along the way—because in the end isn’t that our imperative – to celebrate, and make our celebration contagious?
It sounds pretty obvious doesn’t it? But there’s more; and I wouldn’t want you to imagine that I am suggesting we take on a Pollyannaish approach to everything.
Negative emotions are not bad, they are simply misunderstood. As Michele pointed out in another piece she wrote, they are opportunities and gifts.
What does your anger, your impatience, your fear etc. tell you about your love, your values, your desires?
What do negative (difficult) emotions tell you about being, living, responding to life in ways that are different from what you are doing in that moment when the negative emotion comes up?
What does your outrage at political hubris, for example, tell you about your love of honesty and integrity?
What does your rage at violence and injustice tell you about your love?
What does fear or frustration tell you about your own talents and creativity, and your desire to express them and put them out into the world?
Recognizing the creative power buried in the negative emotion/experience is the first step to standing in your own authentic power to impact the world .. not necessarily as a ‘leader’, but more importantly, as the leader of your own life!
How you begin to harness it is the next step ..
Click here to listen to the audio Podcast version of this blog
Every day we challenge the rational mind with our dreams. Every night we turn reason, time, and conventional meaning upside down. But dreams are more than the places we visit when we are asleep. When we speak of our dreams we speak of something more than the unconscious images and impulses that surface when we are sleeping; we also affirm the vast spaces of our hopes and aspirations.
When we hear Dr. Martin Luther King say, “I have a dream,” we respond to his words because we recognize that his inner world, and the outer world of his experience, are in complete agreement. He trusted his dream, and he made it real!
So the question arises, how can we learn when to trust our dreams? How do we know when to make them come alive, and what we should do to make them real?
Dreams show the inner truth and reality as it really is:
not as I conjecture it to be, and not as my client would like it to be, but as it is. – Carl Jung
Once I drove to Berkeley to stay with a friend. I had arrived early, and she had not yet come home. So I walked around the neighborhood near her house to pass the time. A young Brazilian woman was sitting outside a shop on the corner of College and Russell. She asked me if she could read my fortune, and I sat down in the chair next to her. She looked carefully at the palms of my hands and then looked up and said, “I think you do a lot of your spiritual work in your sleep.”
“That’s good to hear,” I said smiling, “Because I do precious little when I’m awake!”
Years later I am still thinking about what she said. Is it a metaphor, or is it a particular characteristic of mine, or perhaps of anyone’s, that she was speaking about? My reply was more than a joke to deflect her statement. I always had a vague sense that I knew a lot more than I had ever consciously learned. I assumed others felt the same. But where had it come from? Perhaps indeed, it had come from the world of my sleep and my dreams.
I am also thinking of the story of Carl Jung’s patient, a complete non-believer when it came to the power of the unconscious mind. She hardly ever remembered her dreams, but once she came to see Jung after a particularly vivid dream in which she was given a valuable golden brooch in the shape of a scarab beetle. As she was telling him about the dream there was a tapping noise at the window. Jung opened the window and a golden colored scarab beetle flew into the room. He caught it and presented it to the woman. Needless to say, her model of how the world interacts with the inner world that we call the Mind, changed completely that day.
A couple of months ago I dreamed of the traditional Marseilles Tarot, or more precisely of beautiful landscapes from another world that I instinctively knew were connected to the Tarot. Until that time the Tarot had been an obscure and meaningless jumble of random symbols. I hadn’t even though about it for over twenty years. After my dream I followed the call and eventually found a card-maker in France still producing hand colored cards as they might have looked four hundred years ago.
It was like beginning to learn a new language, that later turns out to be your mother tongue. It is surprisingly easy, as if I had known it all along. I am learning the words and the syntax, learning how to put sentences together. I am learning how, as a coherent visual language, the Tarot triggers my intuition, in ways that are deeper than anything I can figure out or explain. My partner Michele has followed me on this journey. We speak our new language together. I even find that I can use the cards with my clients, not as a substitute for what I do, but as an adjunct, a source of deep metaphors and rich analogies. It’s like having a friend and a mentor by my side. Who would have imagined? And all from a dream, just a few months ago?
I also find that sometimes my clients even come to me through dreams. I am working right now with a private client who I have known for some time, though I hadn’t seen her for years. She called me because she had a dream that she should begin working with me. It’s not the first time this has happened with a mentoring client. After all what is mentoring, if not making change on that same level where dreams arise?
Who am I to question such wisdom?
May we all dream our way to fulfillment and freedom!
In sleep, fantasy takes the form of dreams. But in waking life, too, we continue to dream beneath the threshold of consciousness. – Carl Jung
.. and a Request
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This morning I woke after a night of deep sleep. For a moment I wondered where I was. Then I remember that I am in my own bed, in my own house, in the place in the mountains of Southern California that we call home.
After days of thunderstorms and rain the air is heavy and smells rich and fresh – even more than usual. As I open the front door I startle into flight a Great Horned Owl who recently took up residence in the trees outside the house. The first strenuous beats of her wings are loud in the still air, then she glides in silence to rest in another tree.
At that moment, and for the hours since then (it is now mid-morning) I know with absolute certainty the truth of .. let’s call it The Big Picture .. that the universe is in order, that everything is perfectly balanced; regardless of our collective behavior and preoccupations, regardless of the circumstances of the world.
I remember that it’s up to me, to each one of us, to get into step with ourselves; to live our lives; to each commit, you could say, to our singular destinies – whatever we each imagine that to be. I remember that everything we do, that the actions we take, and the results that we get, come out of that – let’s call it balance, alignment, integrity. I am not talking about a sequence here; first we get in touch, then we act. I’m simply saying that taking action without a sense of ‘destiny’ is in vain, depleting, and blind.
People who know me say that I tend towards enthusiasm; some might even say that my enthusiasm can lean towards the fanatical. Perhaps it’s just my certainty (I’m smiling), or perhaps it’s foolishness. So for many years I was a committed (fanatical) exponent of the power of living in the present moment. As a meditation teacher it is what I did for a living. I shied away from ‘New Age’ versions of spirituality, finding them diluted and unappealing. I despised Affirmations! I imagined that ‘spiritual’ work, and the universe we inhabit, was much more complex, more challenging, than the simplistic mindset I associated with Affirmations.
Then cracks appeared in my internal model of the universe. I was certainly rooted in traditions, beliefs, and a spiritual practice that is inherently fluid. But institutions and human proclivities, including my own, can turn anything bitter.
I realized that unacknowledged disappointment, and my own resignation to it, had colored my world. I realized I had embraced (distorted) certain beliefs as a substitute for my own unresolved sense of sorrow. I also realized that there was nothing for me to do but heed the call, accept complete responsibility, change whatever wasn’t working, and move on.
Clumsily I began. And now, years later, speaking out loud to this morning, I say, “What an amazing and magnificent day it is! What an unlikely and surprising universe I live in! What a blessed life I lead with nothing to do except what I choose to do; and nothing to say except what to the best of my ability expresses the truth of this moment.”
And so I affirm, not a hope for the future, but a reality in the present that drives forward to help me re-imagine the future. And the movement is rooted, as it must always be, in a powerful and positive emotional state.
As we have learned, everything depends on your emotional state, and of course, only you can be responsible for that.
It doesn’t get any simpler!
Request. Can you help please?
Michele and I must hold some sort of record for never really settling on a tag line for Five Changes. If you know us, or if we’ve been on your radar, and you are a little unclear about what we do these days, we can’t blame you. If you are a recent client, or even came to a workshop, or trained with us in NLP, you may have an idea of what we actually do. If not, it’s not a complete surprise!
We’ve been brainstorming tag-lines and currently have these three, none of which quite hit the mark. Or do they? Let us know.
Which works best? Which inspires you most, or conveys best what you think we do? Any alternative suggestions are most welcome? Please let us know. We’d really appreciate your input.
Be receptive towards the heavens, and active towards the earth.
— Chinese proverb.
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The great thing about negative self-talk is that when you really pay attention it can teach you a lot about yourself. Unfortunately, if you’re swamped by negative emotions or if you’re feeling overwhelmed, you may not have the perspective necessary to learn everything you might. But if you can get some distance, your inner dialog can be a gold-mine of information. After all, your self-talk is not really ‘you’, it’s like a radio station you happen to be tuned into. The secret is to find a better station to listen to. Before you change stations however, listen well. Sometimes it may be like listening to a one-sided news broadcast. Even though you know it’s propaganda, you can still hear a lot between the lines. It’s the same with your own negative self-talk. You can find out a lot about yourself behind the drone of self-doubt, or the propagandistic stories you’ve been telling yourself. You’ll always find alternative messages when you listen well.
Like a mirror held at right-angles, negative self-talk can help you look around the corner of your conscious mind to take a peek at your hidden beliefs and negative emotional patterns. When I say negative emotional patterns I also mean those insipid states that may not be acutely negative, but which keep you constantly at half-throttle; as if you have resigned yourself to remain in perpetual discontent, unmotivated, and distracted.
This may sound like a sorry prognosis of the way we conduct the conversation we have with ourselves, but I have found, over years of working with clients and students, that many people, unless they have done serious inner work, tell themselves things that they would never say to their worst enemy. Once we had a student staying at our center who would wake people in the middle of the night with a stream of curses directed at himself. His self-talk had started coming out of his mouth.
Just noticing some of the patterns can be very helpful. Do certain events trigger certain emotions; or do you give meanings to certain events; and the meanings (the story) then triggers emotions? Are there things you tend to do or not do, based on a specific sequence? Does some kind of negative inner dialog kick in at some point? Or is it just the feelings? Sometimes the meanings we attribute to certain events are so consistent it’s hard to identify them as an actual dialog in your head. It’s like the six o’clock news on Groundhog Day, going round and round, over and over again.
You may not be able to track these patterns on your own. The good news is that you can break them, you can change them, and when you do, you can free up immense resources of energy. You gain access to clarity and creativity, and then you start to feel really good again. It’s not just a question of changing the station you are tuned into, though that’s part of it. It’s more like getting a whole new audio system.
Some years ago a friend lend us his little hut above a lagoon in the South Pacific. From the deck, even from the bed, which was just a platform above the single room of the hut, we could watch the fish in the lagoon, the islands inside the reef, and the beyond that, the ocean stretching to the horizon. You can imagine what sort of inner dialog goes on in a place like that.
How to get a new voice
1 Do what you love. At least some of the time, at least for a few minutes every day. Deliberately acknowledge it. Express your appreciation and gratitude.
2 Imagine and remember what you love. Remember the moments that gave you the most pleasure.
3 Be still. I’m not talking about meditation, because people often surround meditation with their notions and expectations. Do less than meditation, preferably in a place where you really like to be. Just stop for a few minutes and be completely still. Relax and look around. Stay alert for signs and reminders of who you truly are.
4 There are things you can repeat out loud every day, ten times or more, in front of a mirror, or in your car, or in a room which you can fill with the sound of your voice. “I like myself. I really like myself.” Ten times. Different intonations, different volumes, different facial expressions, different postures, different gestures.
Or, in the same way, “Life is a fabulous journey, and I’m travelling it in a way that’s leading me to new discoveries every day.”
Or, “I celebrate my life as a unique expression of human life on planet earth.”
Or .. make up your own. As before, play with the sound, and with your body language. Think of it as sacred performance rather than as Affirmations.
5. Engage all your senses. Stimulate your ears with music you enjoy, make your own music if possible. Stimulate your sense of smell with incense, essential oils, flowers, spices. Engage your sense of taste with food you love, slow down when you eat, so you truly taste the food. The same with touch. Feel the texture of things, touch the people in your life, hold them, hug them, caress them. Treat your eyes to what you love, and really look. Seek out what is beautiful to look at, and then really look at it. Stimulate you mind. Study what interests you. Make it challenging enough to stretch you a little.
6. Walk on the earth everyday remembering that it is round and that always you are under the huge dome of the sky, and that beyond it there are more stars and galaxies than you can even begin to imagine and that you are connected to all of it. Imagine that all of it would prefer that you were really happy within yourself, that when you engage in negative self-talk it all fades a little. Imagine the Milky Way regretting something about itself .. how would you feel? It’s absurd to even think about isn’t it. Be like the Milky Way, because that’s sort of what you are.
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Did you get the manual?
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Recently I bought some new good-quality sunglasses .. they’re really great .. I love them! Driving on the freeway just became 100% more relaxing. They even came with an instruction manual!
But lots of things come with instructions these days – candles, pens, rubber gloves. I’ve seen office chairs with manuals, headphones, mirrors, table lamps, shoe laces. If there wasn’t any manual we might start to feel anxious. No doubt, the manufacturers wants to leave us with a good impression.
But humans are different, none of us have manuals for how to live our lives. With luck, we get to gather some useful pointers as we go. Though we mostly pick up information randomly on our human journey, from people who may or may not have a clue. Then we frequently end up short-circuiting ourselves with confusing instructions and mixed messages.
I want to give you a useful little piece of the manual, so read on..
Do you sometimes feels like you’re flying a 747, with nothing but a few pages torn from an old version of the cabin crew’s instruction book?
Yet most of us imagine we have a pretty good sense of how to live our lives – sort of. After all, haven’t we survived this far, more or less?
Some people would rather not admit that there’s anything more they could usefully learn. After all, how many people take pride in not having to ever use the manual – for anything! Some people may not even realize that there is a whole universe of new ways to use all that they are and have, more options, better choices. It’s as if they are using their human neurology, the universe’s neural state-of-the-art technology, as a doorstop.
Those who come to us as clients are like us. They know that there is no end to learning and growing and evolving the way that they move through the world. Even if they are stuck, they know that being stuck is often a catalyst for finding new solutions. It’s like having a few pages of the manual, cutting them, and pasting them together at random, then realizing that all the clues are actually there. With a small amount of very precise information, almost anything is possible, when you apply it.
Confusing Values with Beliefs
Values are what you value .. what you spend your time, money, energy, and attention on. We have values about what we love in a friend or a partner; values about the things we most enjoy doing in life; values about our work; values about how to communicate; values about how to maintain good health .. or otherwise.
Values are like a set of preference filters. There are usually different sets specific to the different main elements of our life. Everyone has a unique set of values. Values also change over time. In themselves, they are neither good nor bad. Though if we have values that are in conflict with each other we can be obstructed, confused, and stuck in our life.
Beliefs are what you consider to be true. For example:
The world is round.
Rush-hour traffic is terrible.
I’ll never get the things I want.
The sky is blue.
I don’t deserve to be happy.
People who work on Wall Street are ambitious.
Broccoli tastes delicious.
Swimming is good.
All of these are beliefs. Some may limit your options, some may not. All may be equally true for the person who believes them. But if you have an idea for example, that everybody should enjoy doing the things that you value doing, that’s a belief not a value. If you imagine everybody should believe what you believe, that’s really a value, not a belief, even though you may believe it to be true. Confused? Of course. It’s confusing because our values emerge from beliefs and get confused with them. The two are interconnected. Our values are fueled by emotions, the beliefs that underlie those values get infused by the same emotions, blurring the distinctions between the two. So when someone disagrees with us on something that is close to one of our core values, instead of really listening, we get into a heated argument. Instead of learning from another’s perspective, we kick into a primitive defense mechanism, to defend our values.
Another example: if you believe that people with certain political or religious leanings are better than other people who do not share those leanings – that’s a belief. You may value being with those people. But if you confuse that value with the idea that those people are somehow better, then you are limiting your options, limiting what you might learn, limiting how you might change, and how you might effect change. You are confusing your values with your beliefs.
People often hold onto the means that allowed them to learn important lessons. For example, for many years I valued Buddhist teaching immensely, above all else, because of all that I had learned through years of practice and study. I believed it was somehow better than other system for transforming consciousness. I imagined that it was true, correct, that it trumped every other system – as a set of instructions, as a practical guide, in every respect. But that belief limited my ability to learn other things in other places and in other ways. It’s like asking someone for directions and confusing their finger with the road they are telling you to follow.
It’s why there’s no manual, or why there are so many, though incomplete, ones. New sunglasses come with a manual that tells you how to take care of them. There’s a driver’s manual in your glove compartment, and you probably have a map on your phone. But actually driving on the freeway, that’s up to you!
To hear this as audio click here
I have a friend who, like many people, feels she is a victim of the economy of the past few years. When I question her further I realize that she always felt that way. The economy was only an excuse, to deepen her sense of victimhood. I want to tell her to stop scrounging and hustling, and to start giving more away, trusting her own life. Only I’m not sure she could hear it in the spirit it would be intended.
I’ve been thinking of her because I’ve been reflecting on how I used to have similar tendencies in myself .. fear, scarcity, victimhood
These days Michele and I make a point of giving: money, attention, time, energy .. a deliberate practice. It’s part of who we want to be, what we want to embody. When someone asks for change in the street I usually give them a dollar and say thank you. I make of a point of being fully present, interacting, even doing a little piece of conversational hypnosis, a little magic. I imagine them wondering later that day why they are feeling a whole lot better than usual.
The point is, to thank them .. for the opportunity to give. For the opportunity of human interaction.There’s no need to judge, no need to wonder how they spend their money.
I’ve heard that some panhandlers can make six figure incomes. Most of those I meet look like they are lucky to just get by. Even if they were gazillionaires it wouldn’t matter. I’d give them a dollar if they asked for it and say thank you!
The Buddha even said that if we understood the power of giving, we wouldn’t let a single meal go by without sharing it. Others have said the same from Andrew Carnegie to Aretha Franklin.
Why not give something today, a little more than usual, to a cause you may not have donated to before, or to someone who can use your help – attention, energy, kindness, or even a few dollars.
Better yet, give something to yourself, some down-time, something to make you happy. And say thank you!
The first relationship is the one we have to our selves, and the first key to intimacy is to like oneself. Their is little to no foundation for loving others when we don’t have the ground of friendliness, acceptance, compassion, and gratitude that comes from the experience of liking oneself.
The second key is being able to appreciate others. When we appreciate others we can separate ourselves from the object of our love, and see them as they are, and then truly celebrate their uniqueness.
The third key is to be open to change. This applies whether you are in an established relationship or a developing one. Change is a constant in life, whether we are conscious of it or not, so rather than constantly moving away from our fears of being alone and unloved, why not move towards what is whole, nurturing and loving inside and around us. Move from change to deliberate change. Change on purpose, for the purpose of intimacy.
The fourth and most crucial key, is to be ready to grow. Intimacy is the experience of love, its nature is boundless, like our capacity for love. We will always be moving to greater levels of intimacy to ourselves, others and the world around us. As the poet Rumi once said “Bite off the head of Fear.”
In my coaching and work with clients the most common fear is that of intimacy. Relationship work is important, no matter what the relationship is.
Call me or email me to set up a free strategy session. From this we can see if we can work together towards your relationship goals.
The artwork above is mine and illustrates a line from my father’s poem titled “The other universe” in which it says, “The sky’s dress is ten thousand shades of blue” my art website is www.michelebenzaminmiki.com
Imagine a world of emotional choice, where we have more choices and emotional range. It would be like playing a musical keyboard – with the full scale of notes available to us – to inform and inspire us, instead of only playing the highest and the lowest notes, disappointment – depression, desire – excitement, back and forth and back and forth…
Imagine moving fluidly, through our emotional landscape, choosing the satisfying and appropriate emotions in order to respond to our environment, and circumstances, and eliciting those emotions that nurture and motivate us towards our goals. The good news is – it is possible to live in this world and to thrive on your terms.
Most of us grew up missing out on certain emotional experiences, and wishing we did not have those certain others, and we were taught, that there are some emotions that are taboo to feel, let alone express. Emotions govern our behavior and sense of well being, nevertheless, many people ignore the importance of their emotions, without realizing how essential they are for achieving their goals in the world. Image and presentation play an important role in how we are perceived by others, however, inner congruency and true success, comes from choosing how to respond emotionally. Your ability to choose your options is the key to your freedom.
We are all emotional beings with the capacity for intelligence, fluidity, freedom, and choice in how we experience emotions. You will be on your way to emotional choice when you appreciate that there is a wider range of emotions than you may currently experience; and when you understand that each of your emotions carries vital information, each of your emotions is communicating with you.
The work I do with my coaching clients almost always begins with helping them move from being stuck in specific negative emotions. But it’s not just a question of getting rid of bad emotions. It is important to understand how even the most painful emotions are communicating valuable information. It is in transforming limiting emotions, reinventing them, and using them creatively that the internal congruence and the achievement of desired outcomes can be attained.
The emotions that appear as obstacles, often become the key elements of your transformation. Call me for a free, no-obligation, strategy session, to see what work we can do, to transform those old stuck emotions – 310.399.3531