Friday, June 29, 2007

Blame - Don’t take it personally

I had to share this story with you. One day on my way into a local supermarket I frequent (Greenlife), I paused at a table out front taking signatures on a petition for something. While I’m there an employee is returning from her lunch break and pauses to relay a story to the person next to me. She was saying that her day had taken a turn for the worse when one of the customers threw money at her rather than just handing it to her. She was upset by that because she felt she had done nothing to deserve such a thing.

After I had done my shopping I ended up in her line. I jokingly forewarned her that once she told me my total I was going to throw my money at her. She smiled and thanked me for the forewarning. When it came time to pay I just handed it to her and said I couldn’t bring myself to do it. She laughed and said that she later realized that the customer’s behavior probably didn’t have anything to do with her and that she shouldn’t have taken it personally. I agreed and wished her a better day to come.

It later dawned on me that her insight into the situation was quite profound. We are so prone to take everything personally that it distorts our thinking. We then tend to blame others for any and all negative feelings or emotions we experience from being exposed to their behavior.

This brings me to a lovely little email from Daily Om I received the other day that sums up dealing with such feelings nicely.

“As we begin to truly understand that the world outside of us is a reflection of the world inside of us, we may feel confused about who is to blame for the problems in our lives. If we had a difficult childhood, we may wonder how we can take responsibility for that, and in our current relationships, the same question arises. We all know that blaming others is the opposite of taking responsibility, but we may not understand how to take responsibility for things that we don’t truly feel responsible for. We may blame our parents for our low self-esteem, and we may blame our current partner for exacerbating it with their unconscious behavior. Objectively, this seems to make sense. After all, it is not our fault if our parents were irresponsible or unkind, and we are not to blame for our partner’s bad behavior.

Perhaps the problem lies with the activity of blaming. Whether we blame others or blame ourselves, there is something aggressive and unkind about it. It sets up a situation in which it becomes difficult to move forward under the burdensome feelings of shame and guilt that arise. It also puts the resolution of our pain in the hands of someone other than us. Ultimately, we cannot insist that someone else take responsibility for their actions; only they can make that choice when they are ready. In the meantime, if we want to move forward with our lives instead of waiting around for something that may or may not happen, we begin to see the wisdom of taking the situation into our own hands.

We do this by forgiving our parents, even if they have not asked for our forgiveness, so that we can be free. We end the abusive relationship with our partner, who may never admit to any wrongdoing, because we are willing to take responsibility for how we are treated. In short, we love ourselves as we want to be loved and create the life we know we deserve. We leave the resolution of the wrongs committed against us in the hands of the universe, releasing ourselves to live a life free of blame.” -

There is another part to this that I hope to discuss in my next email to you. In the meantime I would like to wish you the best. And remember, don’t take anything personally. Or, better yet, practice not taking your thoughts too seriously. These are wonderfully liberating practices.
Best of love,

Friday, June 22, 2007

Political Reconciliation

Happy first day of summer. I trust it is off to a good start and that you are enjoying the warm weather. Below is an email I've been working on off and on for a couple of days now and finally decided just to stop messing with and send it. I suspect I have written about it before some time ago but somehow felt compelled to revisit the subject.

I’ve been trying to stay relatively uninvolved in political goings on for a long time now, but I’m still on email lists of various activist groups that I joined during my outrage over stolen elections, the war, etc.. This does not mean I have become complacent, however. I’ve learned enough to know that I am doing the one thing I can truly do to make the world a better place by increasing my level of awareness and presence. True activism must come from a place of oneness and non-ego in order for it not to continue to feed the negativity that is breeding that which is being fought.

If you “love” the green power initiative, but “hate” those contributing to contamination of the environment, then everything you do to fight for that initiative is tainted with the negative energy that is creating that which you are fighting. The same is true for any issue whether it be the war or whatever. “If you fight madness, you become mad yourself.”

Therefore, I have remained relatively quiet despite constant email calls to take action regarding this or that. I have also remained relatively informed about what is going on in the world, however, and I have been recognizing the true nature of the issues causing the pain and suffering in the world at this time. This is where reconciliation comes in.

I have mixed feelings about sharing this type of information because of the negativity it may bring, but I know that many people may feel that what I have been sharing over the last year or so does not “fit” with what’s going on in the world. Hopefully, broaching this subject will illustrate how what I have been saying applies to the world situation and serve to shed some light on what we each one of us can do to bring about positive change in the world (which I think is what we all truly want). With that in mind read on and know that I will close on a very optimistic note.

Based on an investigative report from a BBC reporter (Greg Palast), who has done a great deal of investigation on the people currently in power in the US, there is a very strong connection between the Iraq war and big oil companies. The gist of the story was that the Bush administration had planned on privatizing the oil in Iraq once Saddam was taken out of power. However, James Baker (one of Bush Sr.’s staff) was serving as Exxon Mobile’s lead attorney at the time and threatened to sue if they did that. Then proposed that the Iraq oil supply be “controlled.” The end result? Gas prices reach record highs and big oil companies reach record profits and everyone in a position to make it happen gets rich. Everyone else, whether that be the gas buying public or the people of Iraq, suffer the consequences of that decision. This might also explain the reluctance to leave Iraq for fear of the loss of control over the oil there.

At about the same time I read this report, I received an email from the mother of an Iraq war veteran whose son came back in a bad state. He suffers from severe PTSD and has had difficulty receiving the care he needs from the VA. She mentioned in her email that many of the friends her son served with in Iraq have also come home and either committed suicide, turned abusive to their wives and children, or become lost in addiction to alcohol or other drugs. As a result, this mother has been living in a state of fear that her son may too commit suicide because of his pain over what he has seen and done in the past. She has been camping out in DC in an attempt to bring an end to the war and make sure veterans receive proper care once they return.

After reading her email, I felt compelled to help, so I offered to send her son a copy of Practicing the Power of Now to help him break free of the past (the author, Eckhart Tolle, was also on the verge of suicide when his life changing event occurred). She gave me his mailing address and I mailed him a copy. I have not heard from him but I can only hope that it will help in some small way.

So, how do I reconcile all of this madness? I recognize it all for what it truly is: unconsciousness. These people in positions of power that appear to be profiting from this war are after the same thing the rest of us are after – happiness. They naively think that more money will bring them what they seek. They are still bound by ego. However, no matter how many billions of dollars they accumulate, it’s still not enough. They still have not found happiness, which creates internal conflict for them. I suspect they are not totally blind to the misery being caused by their quest, which may lead to even more internal conflict. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that some of the world’s most unhappy people are also some of the wealthiest. Their lives still feel empty despite all the worldly goods.

This may be too much for some of you to swallow since you may still be under the impression that money is a key to happiness and that if you just made a bit more everything would be alright. I too used to feel this way. But it doesn’t really matter how much money you have if you are still in an unconscious, or ego dominated, state of mind. The more you make, the more you spend and you stay in the exact same place you are in now with more “stuff” to show for it. That is until you change what’s on the inside, which is where everything on the outside is created.

My challenge to you is to not fall into the trap of resenting these government officials and oil executives for their lack of consideration for the suffering being inflicted so they can find the fulfillment that they will never find, and to remember that this resentment only breeds more negativity. If we take a more compassionate attitude toward these people, without judgement or blame, we bring much needed positive energy into the world necessary to create true change.

If you need further evidence to help you overcome your outrage, think about it like this. We, as a collective population, have been recreating the same mistakes over and over again for a long time now. This is true on a global level as well as an individual level since individuals make up larger organizations of people. So, why does history seem to be repeating itself? I think it’s because we have not learned our lesson yet and woken up to the truth, so life keeps giving us new opportunities to do just that. In fact, it could be said that life’s one true purpose is to awaken us from our unconscious madness before we destroy ourselves.

However, in order for a great number of people to awaken the world situation will likely have to deteriorate more and more. Some people are easier than others to wake up, but each time a new person wakes up it creates a ripple effect that raises the energy level everywhere, increasing the likelihood that more will awaken. So, do you want to save the planet? Start by having compassion for those who are still destroying it and do not view yourself to be superior to anyone else. We are all one inseparable energetic organism and you are just looking at different forms of yourself in human form, all of whom you need to see for who they truly are in order to awaken.
May peace be with you,
PS - Please read the quote below as well (it is posted as a reply to the blog as well). It’s a quote from the end (page 138) of the book “Practicing the Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle, which I trust you have all read or listened to by now. If not, let me know if you want a copy.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Preconceived Notions

If you’re like me you have a large stock pile of preconceived notions about things. These are the ideas and standards we have for judging people, events, places, etc. For example, we have preconceived notions about what makes a person a good person, which is broken down into countless categories depending on a person’s role such as what makes a parent a good parent, what makes a friend a good friend, what makes a teacher a good teacher, what makes a leader a good leader, etc. We have these preconceived notions about everything from what foods taste good (or would taste good if we have not tasted them yet) to what careers are worthwhile to pursue. These notions (conceived in the past) are influenced by our upbringing, social and cultural environment, as well as our own egoic drive to have an opinion or view point about everything (i.e. our own identity).

We feel that these preconceived notions are our survival tools that keep us safe and happy, and we can rationalize hundreds of ways in which our lives have been made better by having them. The truth is that we are clinging to them out of fear, the fear of losing ourselves without them. They make up our ego, our perceived identity, which is a mind made self that separates and differentiates us from the world around us. But this perceived separation is actually what leads to various levels of suffering or discontent in our lives.

These preconceived notions control how we see the world around us. Since they are the yardstick by which we judge other people and situations, they keep us stuck in the past and cloud our judgement of the present (in effect they have become our judgement). The past then perpetuates itself through this dense filter made up of past experiences (our mind) into the future. This is why we continue to manifest repetitive patterns in our lives or still feel the same after something in our life situation changes (i.e. a new job, a new home, etc.). In effect, our judgments and preconceived notions are creating our future to be just as it was in the past.

Judging others based on our preconceived notions is one of the major obstacles we have to obtaining happiness, but it is what we have relied on our whole lives to bring about just that. So how do we overcome this habitual practice of judging everyone and everything that comes into our lives and break free of the past? Well, it doesn’t happen overnight, at least not for most, but there are some basic practices you can start right now that make it happen.

First, start becoming aware of your own judgements when they occur. Realize that they are based on preconceived notions that you still hold to be the truth. Then, realize that not everyone sees the world the same way you do. In fact, there is no limit to the level of differentiation among people. We are all as unique as our fingerprints. And no two life situations (past or present) are the same even if you are brought up in the same household as another. However, if you look deeper than the outer layer you will see that we are all exactly alike. We have all created our way in the world with the hope that we will find true happiness. That’s all anyone wants. And we do what we do, say what we say, act the way we act because our preconceived notions (and ego) tell us that is the best way to bring about happiness. Therefore, the judgement you place on someone else could just as accurately be placed on yourself (i.e. “Look at that fool, he/she thinks what they are doing will make them happy.”).

This practice will help you eliminate judgement and unlock the door to true happiness. However, there are a few other pointers that might help here. It all starts with this: practice being the watcher, or listener, of the thoughts in your head. Pay attention as often as you can to the thoughts in your head. At first you can use key events as reminders to pay attention to your thoughts. For example, when you find yourself judging a person or event, or you find yourself formulating an opinion on a subject, or when you find yourself defending an opinion or getting upset, just pay attention to the thoughts. Don’t judge yourself for having the thoughts, just listen impartially. If you find yourself just having internal conversations about random things (as I find myself doing a lot) just bring your awareness to the thoughts and don’t beat yourself up for having such trivial thoughts. They are not trivial when you are shed the light of your awareness on them.

You can also do this when engaged in conversations with other people. Instead of constantly thinking of what they are saying has to do with you and how you are going to respond, just listen to them with your full attention. All of this can be called practicing presence or mindfulness and is the first step in awakening, which releases you from the control the past has over you. I think you will like the results, but I’d love to hear how it goes.
All the best,

PS - If you are interested in space photos, this link has some great pictures taken from the Hubble telescope. These images are truly humbling and magnificent. Once you realize how tiny our galaxy is compared to the size of the universe (full of 100s of billions of galaxies, each with billions of solar systems like ours), it might make your mind made problems seem pretty insignificant after all.