Why do we Label Others?
We all get taken in by false labels. At one time or another we’ve all picked up a magazine at the check-out counter based on the cover photo and headlines – Lose 10 Pounds in 10 Days! Throw a Halloween Party that will Leave Everyone Cackling with Delight! – and we’ve all been disappointed when the article didn’t live up to its headline.
Labels are quick, convenient and designed to grab attention and trigger action, bypassing critical analysis or conscious thought. Buy Now! Limited Quantities! Don’t Delay! Whether we label merchandise, groups or individuals, labels serve the same function; the ability to quickly sort information without a lot – or any – conscious thought or critical analysis.
The Benefits and Dangers of Labeling People
Police, fire, medical and military personnel all wear uniforms so we can quickly identity the roles they play. In dangerous or life threatening situations it is imperative to move quickly without having to think and analyze multiple pieces of information.
Imagine a catastrophic situation where none of the emergency personnel are dressed in uniform, and how confusing it would be not knowing who served which function. On a societal level it’s good to collectively know and honor certain labels and stereotypes. Emergency personnel are good people who help us in emergencies and it’s in our best interest to collectively defer to their authority, ensuring safety for all.
But there’s a dark side to labels as well, one that causes us to warp and twist facts in order support the label, instead of critically analyzing the facts and changing the labels when the facts no longer support the label. This behavior traps us in a world of self-created beliefs, devoid of consciousness or truth. We no longer think, analyze or reason. We become unconscious and when we are unconscious we become passive players in our own world.
The Negative Effects of Relying on Labels
Being knee-deep in an election season, I recently realized how much the labels of Republican and Democrat impacted my view of the candidates and how unconscious I had become as a result.
As a former lawyer, my method of analysis consisted of knowing the law, knowing the facts, applying the facts to the law in order to reach my conclusion.
In the political realm, this meant knowing the Republican and the Democratic Party Platforms, knowing the facts about each candidate and applying those facts to the party platforms. Of course, this presupposed that I myself fell squarely within one of the party platforms. After reading all 35,467 words of the current Republican platform and all 26,058 words of the current Democratic platform, I confirmed that I was mostly a Democrat, but not 100% so.
It became apparent to me that I was not the only one who had been unconscious and confused by the parties’ labels. The candidates and party leaders themselves didn’t consistently act within the bounds of their own party, nor did the behavior of the general public, claiming to be aligned with a certain party or candidate, reflect their own parties’ philosophy.
My attempt to critically analyzing each candidate devoid of their label made me realize that our political labels were useless at best and misleading at worst, dragging us all into a state of unconscious passivity as a result. It was so much simpler to remain unconscious, seek out information that supported my preconceived notions about the candidates, slap on labels, vote a straight party ticket and call it good.
How to Remain Conscious Despite Labels
The best way I found to neutralize the impact of labels and keep myself conscious was to assign each candidate the opposite label of what they wore. When I labeled Hillary as the Republican, I found myself characterizing her experience as binding her to the status quo. When I labeled Trump as a Democrat, I found myself excusing his comments as being done for entertainment value only, and not being quite as concerned as I had been about his temperament.
Having studied both parties’ platforms and analyzing the facts about each candidate with both a red lens as well as a blue lens, I feel like I’m politically conscious and awake for the first time in my life. I know that the candidate I’m voting for is the one who truly reflects my values, beliefs and priorities, regardless of the label or the party to which she’s been assigned.
Perhaps it’s time we all woke up, before it’s too late.
The Science of Cellular Renewal
Here are the facts: In the 1950‘s we learned that 98% of our atoms are replaced annually. We learned that these new atoms come directly from the air we breathe, the food we eat and the liquids we drink. A decade later we learned that the individual cells of our bodies are replaced every 7-10 years. Some cells, like our skin cells, turn over even more rapidly than that, and some cells, like certain brain cells, never turn over, but on average we get an entirely new body every 7-10 years. Combine this knowledge with the power of our beliefs, and suddenly we can change the way that we choose to age.
The Mental Aspects of Aging
What does your culture tell you about people “of your generation?” How much of the baby boomer’s retained youthfulness is due to their healthy lifestyle and how much of it is due to the fact that for the past 20 years they have been hearing, and believing, that their generation is not aging, and they are breaking a multitude of age-related boundaries. Are baby boomers able to stay younger longer simply because they believe they can, and because they are consciously creating “younger” cells?
Will Gen X-ers all die young, of obesity related causes because of the terrible food they’re ingesting in mass quantities, or because they have been told since age 15 that they were going to be the first generation to die younger than the previous generation? Or will they eat poorly because they believe that they are going to die anyway, so it doesn’t matter? Would they consciously take better care of their bodies if they believed that they would live for a much longer time?
What do your family and friends tell you about people “your age?” If you are being told to slow down and take it easy, that you “aren’t as young as you once were,” then you will probably age more, and suffer more age related maladies than those who are constantly being told of their youthful vitality and strength. What do you tell yourself about your own age and quality of life?
The Interplay of Biology and Belief
Of course we have DNA that does not change. We all suffer illness and injury and we will all die at some point, but the fact remains that no matter how old we get, we are still constantly being renewed. No, we cannot increase the rate of cellular turnover, or instantly change the quality of our new cells, but we can work to create the kind of healthy and strong cells that we desire.
First, and most obviously, we can create healthier cells by breathing clean air, eating real food, and drinking pure water and other liquids. Nutrition and exercise matter, and quality nutrition provides quality building blocks of our cells. There is no way to get around this. Secondly, remember the power of your beliefs and consciously decide what kind of cells to create. Your intention matters, and as long as you are creating new cells anyway, you might as well create exactly the kind of cells that you want!
Challenge yourself to come up with two or three beliefs you have about aging. Do you believe that you will get wrinkles and gray hair? Do you believe that your joints will ache and your body will get stiff and sore? Next, figure out what causes those problems and how you can counteract them. Conventional thinking is that thinning skin and flattened out cells contribute to wrinkles. Therefore, your job is to counteract this process by creating plump, round skin cells, like this:
Begin by checking into the skin’s renewal process. All day long you lose skin cells. Every night when you wash your face, you sluff off dead cells and new ones come up from the dermis to take their place. Next, consciously imagine, visualize or pretend that you “see” these new cells being created. In your mind’s eye, create round, plump, healthy cells that create smooth and healthy skin. “See” them deep within the skin’s dermis, and watch them as they slowly come to the surface and replace the old, thin and flat cells. Tune into everything that you are putting in your mouth as well. Are you ingesting things that promote the health and vitality of these new cells, or are you ingesting things that will create unhealthy, thin and flat cells? Garbage in, garbage out or are you giving your body the highest quality building materials available?
With or without your conscious effort, just about every cell in your body is in the process of being renewed. By 2023 you won’t even be you any more, as most every cell in your body will have been completely replaced. You will have a completely new body that can be almost anything that you want it to be. So, who are you going to be? What are you creating? The choice is up to you!
Posture, Pain and Personal Well-Being
I have a skeleton. Well, actually, I have two skeletons, my own personal skeleton and a big plastic skeleton that I bought at Costco at Halloween. My plastic skeleton from Costco lives in my fitness studio and he and I have developed a surprisingly important relationship. I named him Alejandro after the last scene in the Lady Gaga music video by the same name, and one look at him instantly reminds me of my own posture and how my posture directly impacts my personal pain level and well-being.
Skeletons and Load
Our skeletons are the foundation of our physical bodies and they are perfectly designed to bear the load of our bodies in motion as well as statically. Just like the foundation of a building, we need a firm and properly aligned structure before we can start adding things like walls, windows and doors. Without a skeleton we’d simply be an immobile pile of flesh. Ligaments and tendons hold the bones in place and hold the muscles to the bones. Muscles fire and cause our skeletons to move, but without a skeleton, nothing else could happen.
Our bodies are constantly put under stress. Everyday activities like walking, sitting, typing, driving and cooking all stress the body. Add things like overloaded backpacks thrown over one shoulder, beer bellies, pregnancy and carrying children on one hip and it’s amazing our poor bodies aren’t breaking down all the time!
Keeping our bodies in the best anatomical alignment possible keeps us safe and comfortable, preventing injuries and making our everyday activities more comfortable. Staying in correct anatomical alignment keeps our tendons and ligaments more comfortable, but it also helps our organs function better.
For example, look at a picture of the rib-cage. The rib-cage is a cage of bones that can bend and compress in all directions. Think of the rib cage as being like a mattress spring. When the mattress spring is healthy, it’s firmly open and able to take the compression of someone sitting on it. When the spring is worn out, it’s already compressed and it can’t take any further compression.
Every time we take a step we cause our ribs to compress a bit, just like the mattress spring. Holding our bones up, open and strong, keeps us healthy and comfortable.
Posture and Internal Organ Health
When we slouch we compress the front ribs together and stretch the back ribs apart. This over stretches the back muscles and weakens the muscles in the front that keep the chest elevated. Worse, it compromises the lungs and compromises our breathing. The lungs are like two balloons sitting in the rib cage and if the rib cage is compressed it’s impossible for the lungs to fill completely, meaning we are depriving our brains and our entire bodies of oxygen.
Same story with our digestive organs. If the rib cage is not held up off the pelvis, its entire weight rests on the stomach, liver and intestines and the functioning of those organs is compromised.
One look at Alejandro and it’s pretty obvious how I need to be standing! Knees over ankles, hips over knees, shoulders over hips and ears over shoulders, arm bones hanging straight down by my sides, keeping my collar bones straight and wide and my chest open, ribs opened evenly all the way around and not crunched together in front and handing open in back.
It’s pretty simple to make things easier on ourselves, to stay pain-free and keep our organs functioning optimally by opening our eyes to the structure and load of our bodies. Knees over ankles, hips over knees, shoulders over hips and ears over shoulders. Just ask Alejandro.
The Fiction of Facts
We have all seen images like the one above, showing how the same object looks different from different perspectives. Most of us understand and appreciate this concept to some extent, but when push comes to shove, we still believe that our own point of view is the most correct. Life constantly asks us to make judgments and decisions based on the facts at hand, but what we forget is that most of these so-called facts are relative. There is rarely anything that’s universally right or wrong and that no two points of view will ever be exactly the same.
It’s all About Perspective!
I was an attorney for an insurance company for many years. One of my areas of practice was defense litigation. My company sold insurance plans to companies wishing to provide health insurance for their employees.
One type of plan that a company could purchase was a self-funded plan. A self-funded is basically a catastrophic coverage plan. It has a lower premium because the company “self-funds” employee claims up to a certain dollar amount. Once a certain threshold is reached, full coverage kicks in and the plan becomes fully-funded.
Companies would purchase this plan and then immediately sue the insurance company for failure to pay claims. The insurance company was not wrong. It was not supposed to pay claims until the deductible was met. But the company buying the insurance was not wrong either. The company had simply “heard” the terms of the plan differently and didn’t understand what it was buying.
We Only Hear that which Supports our Beliefs
As humans, we know certain facts to be true and we judge everything according to these truths. When we believe something to be true we look for information that supports that belief.
Information that runs counter to what we already know is dismissed as an anomaly. We know the world is round. If we find evidence that the world is flat, we automatically dismiss it. We do not try to assimilate it or change our belief that the world is round.
In my insurance example, both parties automatically filtered out information that didn’t make sense with what they already knew and they looked for information that supported what they already knew.
The company buying insurance might only hear what the agent was saying regarding insurance payments after the deductibles was met and the part about paying all of its own claims up until the deductible was met wasn’t heard because didn’t fit within the schema of what an insurance plan looked like.
Similarly, the agent selling the plan only heard questions in terms of his understanding and could not really “hear” what the company was asking because both parties assigned different definitions to the same language.
The agent was not trying to conceal the terms of the plan. The company wasn’t trying to have the insurance company provide more than what was purchased. Quite simply, both parties were working from their own perspective.
The agent couldn’t see the company’s point of view and the company couldn’t see the agent’s point of view. The result was that two parties would come together and form a contact based on their own experiences and assumptions, without ever seeing things from the others perspective. Neither party was wrong. In fact, they were both right!
Relativism and Truth
Although we understand this intellectually, our world is very black and white and we are routinely called upon to make judgments and decisions based on the facts. This hit home for me this month, when my parents called me from Australia to wish me a happy birthday. They called me on my birthday, but it wasn’t my birthday!
Well, it was in Australia but in Colorado it was the day before my birthday! I could have argued with them until I was blue in the face that they called me on the wrong day and they could have argued that they called me on the right day. We both would have been firmly convinced that we were right and could have pointed to concrete facts that fully supported our arguments. We were both right and wrong, but the facts were relative.
Our challenge is to move from an intellectual understanding of this to a fully integrated practice of this in our daily life. All reality truly is relative, and letting go of our need to assert our own reality awakens us to the infinite other realities that are out there for us to enjoy.
The Subconscious Mind and Why New Year’s Resolutions Rarely Work
If making a New Year’s Resolution really worked, every year you and all your friends would be happier, healthier and in better shape. In reality, most of us always stay about the same.
When we make decisions we make them with the conscious portion of our brain. On a conscious level we fully intend what we decide, but unless the subconscious mind is on board, our resolution can only go as far as our conscious mind can take it. Because our conscious mind is only about 11% of our mind’s power, we are only successful approximately 11% of the time.
The key to making real change lies in the subconscious mind, which represents approximately 88% of the mind’s power. The subconscious mind is like a computer’s operating system, constantly running in the background and impacting all other “programs” installed over it. The subconscious mind stores and remembers everything we have seen, heard, felt or experienced, regardless of whether or not we remember it consciously.
For example, we typically don’t remember too much from our early childhood, but our childhoods influence us significantly.
How Your Past Influences the Present
Here’s how it works. On a conscious level you resolve to lose weight and get in shape. You know that there many health benefits to losing weight and getting in shape and you want to look and feel differently too. You stay on track for about two weeks then you fall off the wagon. What happened? Here’s how the subconscious mind may have derailed you.
Perhaps your parents divorced when you were little and it was extremely stressful for you, even though you don’t really remember too much about it. Because your mother had recently given birth to your baby brother her weight loss coincided with the breakup of the family.
Even though her weight loss wasn’t the cause of the divorce, you subconsciously associated “weight loss” with “losing my family.” As an adult you may not remember much about this time in your life, but subconsciously you believe that your marriage will break up if you lose weight. Therefore, the 88% of your brain that believes this will do everything in its power to prevent you from losing weight.
How to Overcome Subconscious Blocks
Just because a subconscious block exists doesn’t mean you are forever doomed to failure. Subconscious blocks can be removed with a little bit of gentle but persistent effort, like this:
Consciously state your resolution. Can you imagine or visualize yourself achieving this resolution? If not, how far can you get? Note what’s scaring you, no matter how silly it may seem. For example, if you are strapped for money, you may realize that losing weight requires you to buy new clothes. If this expense is not feasible for you at this time, your subconscious mind will make sure that you succeed by failing to drop a single pound.
Explore your personal history and family beliefs. Does your family/culture/religion have a belief that runs counter to the resolution that you are making? In your family are “good mothers” soft and plump? Is love shown through feeding, cooking and eating with each other? If you lose weight, will it change the way you relate to your family? Subconsciously you might not want this to happen.
Is there any secondary gain that you are receiving? What’s the up-side to being heavy or out of shape? Do you enjoy the way people take care of you because of your weight or lack of fitness? If you believe that nobody will come over and help you anymore if you are fit and healthy, your subconscious may block your efforts.
How will achieving your goal impact other important relationships? Is your spouse the jealous sort? Will your job as a taste tester at the candy store be threatened? What other changes will result from you achieving your goal?
Obviously some of my examples are silly, but hopefully they have helped you see just how silly and irrational the subconscious mind can be. Work through these questions in your head or in a journal. Simply identifying and exposing them gives your conscious mind the ability to find solutions. It isn’t going to happen overnight and it does require a lot of honesty but exposing our blocks to the light will always lessens their hold on us.
The Mind Controls the Body – Manifesting Thoughts Into Reality
Have you ever dreamed that you slipped, and jerked so hard you woke yourself up? Have you been so nervous that you jumped in a movie? I cried so hard reading the last chapter of Marley and Me that I was afraid I’d ruin the book! These are my favorite illustrations of the power of the mind. Just like in Star Wars, while The Force may be stronger in some, everyone has the ability to use it to change their lives.
Whether you call it “The Force,” “The Power of the Mind,” or “The Law of Attraction,” it all sounds magical, New Age-y and science fiction. Some popular book titles seem too good to be true: Think and Grow Rich, The Secret and Ask and it is Given. While the content of these books may be accurate, unless you understand the power of the mind in very simple, everyday terms, it is difficult to understand or believe how one can truly grow rich simply by thinking about it.
Practice Makes Perfect!
In learning any new skill, the skill needs to be broken down slowly and methodically, with easier steps being mastered before more difficult steps are shown. For example, we learn our numbers before we learn to add. We learn to add before we subtract and we learn to multiply before we divide. Only after these concepts have been mastered do we move into algebra. We walk before we run.
People fail at using the power of their mind because they jump in and try to manifest sports cars, beach homes and millions of dollars before they have learned the basics.
Your Basic Jedi Mind Training starts right here, today!
Remember the examples above of dreaming, watching movies and reading books? When we dream, a story takes place in our mind. The dream can be positive or negative, it doesn’t matter. What matters is the fact that our mind is so caught up in the story that our bodies and emotions react. We react to a stimulus that isn’t really there!
We jerk in an attempt to catch our balance, but we were never falling in the first place. We wake up from a nightmare legitimately scared and upset, but nothing has happened to warrant our angst. We are reacting physically and emotionally to thoughts alone. Remember crying at a movie? Or laughing? Or jumping in fright? At no time while we are watching a movie are we in danger, but our belief in the story is so strong that it causes us to cry, feel devastated, get nervous or even jump.
Don’t Try, Do
Your Jedi Mind Training begins by picking something small and positive to get worked up about it. Make up a simple, new reality and practice buying into it. Create a positive new idea or belief and let it take over to the point that you experience positive emotions or actions as a result of your belief.
It’s more than pretending and faking it, it’s believing it to the point that your emotions and body act independently of your conscious thought, in accordance with your new belief. That’s a pretty high bar, but if you’ve ever cried at a movie, been scared by a story or woken from a dream with your heart pounding, you know you are capable of it.
Start Small and Build up Slowly
Start small, practice often and don’t forget to go back to basics when you need to. If you are having trouble creating a certain emotion in your mind, watch a movie that elicits the same emotion you are trying to create. Remind yourself what the emotional and physical connections regarding that new idea feels like, and keep practicing.
No, you may never get to the point where you can feel a sports car, a mansion and a million dollars, but all that means is that deep down inside, those things aren’t that meaningful to you anyway, or you would be able to connect with them. Focus on what you can connect with for now. Feel love, joy, peace, excitement or any positive emotion that you can and go from there.
Think and create using the power of your mind on such a deep level that you react physically and emotionally to your thoughts and creations. Walk before you run, and prepare for all the wonderful changes that you are about to create.
May the Force be with you!
‘Tis The Season to Enjoy Your Food – How to Eat Less and Enjoy it More!
How to Eat Less and Enjoy it More
Ahh, December! The month where you get to eat and drink a bunch of things that are normally not available. Egg nog, Christmas cookies, latkes, peppermint everything. Eating special foods is part of the fun of the holidays, and I am here to encourage you to eat everything you want this. Why? Because you should! However, I’m going to teach you a new way of doing things. I’m going to teach you HOW to eat all of these delectable morsels so you enjoy them more, but eat far less.
Even better, as a holiday present to you, I’m proving a self-hypnosis audio file on using the Three Bite Method. Listen to this file as often as you need, but it is especially useful to listen to before attending parties where tons of yummy food will be available.
Sound too good to be true? It’s not! It’s all based on fact and it’s surprising simple.
Our taste buds are like any other sense organ in our bodies. They get desensitized by too much stimulation. This means that the first three bites of anything that you eat or drink taste the best. For those three bites you are fully able to taste your food. After those three bites, however, you begin losing your ability to truly taste your food. Sure you still taste it, but the subtleties and complexities are gone. If you are truly a foodie, why would you continue eating?
Newton’s First Law of Motion
Ever heard of Newton’s First Law of Motion-a body in motion tends to stay in motion? This applies to eating too. Once we begin eating, we simply continue eating until the thing that we are eating is gone. We literally enter a hypnotic state and we plow through, with little to no thought about how our food actually tastes or how our bodies feel.
If you truly love food, you will love using the Three Bite Rule!
Knowing all of this, your job is to tune in to the first three bites of whatever it is you are eating or drinking. Fully sense the food. Smell it, notice the texture, the sound, the feel of the food in your mouth and on your teeth. Enjoy it, knowing that you only get three bites worth of food before the experience starts to diminish. After three bites, quit eating. Have some water, take a few breaths and choose which food you want to eat next. Remember, you only get three bites to fully experience and enjoy this next food, so make sure they count.
Be sure never to waste those first three bites while you are distracted. Get off the phone, turn off the TV and really taste what you are eating.
Food is sooooo Good!
You will find that you can sample just about everything at the holiday buffet this way and never feel overly stuffed. If you are eating out, you suddenly have the privilege of taking your meal home and enjoying it all over again. If you are eating at home, feel free to go back and get seconds or even thirds of your dinner an hour or so after you have let your palate rest and clear.
From this point forward you will find yourself eating less, but enjoying it far more!
I want it All!
Abundance is kind of a thing right now. There are books, classes, videos and sermons teaching us how to increase our abundance, how to live abundantly and how to have unlimited abundance. Here’s the thing though-focusing on abundance blocks us from what we truly need or want because it unnecessarily fills up space and blocks the unlimited flow of good that is trying to come our way. This time of year it’s especially important to release thoughts of abundance and to focus on having just enough.
There is enough of everything in our world. There’s no reason anyone should ever have lack in our lives and there is abundance beyond what we can imagine, but focusing on abundance breeds lack. Here’s why.
How much is Enough?
Imagine you have a pantry in your kitchen with five shelves. Those five shelves provide you with exactly enough room to store all the food your family needs. When you get fearful that you are going to run out of tea, and you stock up by buying 12 boxes of tea, you take up valuable shelf space that is needed to store pasta.
Suddenly, by hoarding tea you have brought a lack of pasta into your life. The next day, being fearful of your lack of pasta, you head back to the grocery store (which has an unlimited supply, just like the universe) and you stock up on pasta because this sudden lack of pasta scared you. Suddenly, you have no room for canned fruit! And so on and so forth, until you are storing food in your cupboards, giving you no room for pots and pans.
Which you then need to move to the hall closet, meaning you need to move the coats to the bedroom closet… This cycle breads fear, increases lack, causes hoarding and ultimately results in unhappiness and imbalance for everyone. After all, if you hoard all the pasta, I can’t get what I need either.
How much is Too Much?
It doesn’t matter if it’s clothing, furniture, books, dishes, or DVD’s. Having too much of any one thing takes up energetic and physical space that is allotted for something else. This applies to eating as well.
Our bodies, minds and spirits know how to maintain balance, but we are in a habit of buying into advertising and the culture of materialism and of talking ourselves out of a state of balance.
I recently had an exchange student from Germany stay with me. He wanted to see Wal-Mart, because he had heard so much about US mega stores. Upon leaving, he turned to me and said, “Wow, you can’t walk through a store like that without thinking that you need something that you never wanted before!”
How right he was. And you know, had bought a bunch of things he didn’t really need, he wouldn’t have had room in his suitcase for the things he really wanted. The extreme abundance would have bred lack and brought him unhappiness.
This season, release thoughts of abundance. Focus on having exactly what you need and exactly what you want, nothing more. See where your quest for abundance breeds lack, and choose to trust that what you need will be there when you need it, but not before.
False Expectations, Mass Shootings, the Obesity Epidemic and Chronic Unhappiness
The Land of Opportunity
I recently read that false expectations were one of the reasons why we have mass shootings in the US. The article pointed out that the United States is the “The Land of Opportunity” and that the rhetoric here is that we are capable of achieving “The American Dream” if only we work hard enough.
The article cited a survey of young adults on their expectations for the future. All of them believed that they had what it took to lead successful, happy and prosperous lives. Many of them also believed that they would be famous or very well-known due to their accomplishments.
In contrast, young adults in every other industrialized country believed that they would fight poverty, become ill, face war or extreme political conflict and would not necessarily achieve career satisfaction. Very few believed that they would be famous or well-known for their accomplishments. Regardless of this dour view of life, the overall life-happiness rating of these other countries was higher than that of the US.
The article concluded that unrealistic expectations of what one’s life resulted in feelings of extreme failure and disillusionment, causing a myriad of psychological problems, including the “need” for some to commit mass murders as an outlet of their feelings of disillusionment and as a surefire path to fame.
Happily Ever After…
It reminded me of advice we were given when we were newly married. That marriage was about learning how to be miserable, so get used to it. We were told to expect good times, but to know that a lot of times our marriage was just going to be mediocre and sometimes we were going to be downright miserable.
We were warned that fights or disagreements weren’t always resolved by bedtime and that there would be weeks, months or even years where we didn’t like each other. It didn’t mean it was over, it just meant that we were living a normal life; and that the good parts would be sweeter because of our struggles.
At the time we thought “our love” was better than that, but it wasn’t. In hindsight, we probably stayed married because of that advice. We didn’t freak out during the weeks and months of being disgusted and irritated with each other because we expected it and we knew it was a normal.
What if we knew that we were supposed to spend a life time working to keep their bodies and minds fit and healthy? What if we knew that depression and frustration were normal? What if we expected to sometimes hate our job or be treated unfairly or not know what to do with our kids or aging parents? What if we knew that staying healthy and fit was a life-long commitment that we would constantly have to work at?
Realistic or Cynical?
Cynical? Maybe, but I think we’d all be happier and healthier that way. Comparing ourselves to fitness models and photo-shopped celebrities is cruel. 90% of diet and exercise videos, classes and books fill us with false expectations that set us up to fail. Wouldn’t it be easier to know what to expect? Wouldn’t it be nice to know that falling off the wagon periodically is normal and expected and the only thing that matters is climbing back on again?
I know I’d be happier and better prepared if I knew what to expect.
Tell me what I want, what I Really, Really Want!
When we really want something we take the steps necessary to achieve it. If we want a bachelor’s degree in accounting, we find schools that offer bachelor’s degrees in accounting, we figure out what the admissions process looks like, we take the ACT or the SAT, we write essays, interview and submit transcripts. Once we are in college, we take the required courses, in the correct order, and in approximately four years we have the degree that we set out to acquire.
This is exactly the same process when we decide we want to get fit, right? Wrong! Most people fail at fitness because they had no idea what they wanted to achieve in the first place.
The most difficult part of training people is not coming up with innovative and exciting workout routines or menus. The most difficult part of training is getting clients to figure out what it is they want to accomplish from training.
What does “Get in Shape” mean to YOU?
Do you know what everyone tells to me? They tell me that they want to “get in shape.” This phrase has no meaning! What kind of shape, and for what purpose? Tell me what you want, and we can make that happen. Provide me with vague ideas and I promise you equally vague results.
What exactly do you want to be fit for?
Do you want to be fit enough to walk around your house, going upstairs and downstairs with ease? Do you want to be fit enough to get in and out of the bathtub? Do you want to be fit enough to take children to the park and get on and off the floor in order to play with them? Fit enough to golf? Fit enough to run or bike? Fit enough to do a triathlon or marathon? Fit enough to win a triathlon or marathon? Fit enough to play tennis, do gymnastics or ballroom dance? What do you want to be fit for?
The definition of fit includes; suited for, appropriate, prepared or ready. “What do you want to get fit for?” Once we figure that part out, then we figure out the steps necessary to achieve that result.
Preparing to Achieve Fitness
Which leads right into the second most difficult part of training; convincing clients that they have to follow the steps necessary in order to achieve the results.
Would you argue with the college about not taking the ACT or the SAT? Would you tell them that you wanted your accounting degree without taking math classes? Would you explain patiently that really it would be far more convenient to take classes at times they weren’t being offered? No, of course you wouldn’t.
So why do we believe that we can lose weight without suffering or trying, or inconveniencing ourselves? Why do we think that we don’t have to change our diet or our portions? Why do we think that taking little walks or hikes here and there will be enough to get us in shape?
Sorry to burst any bubbles, but getting in shape is very much like getting a college degree. Expect four years of consistent, dedicated work. College changes you for the better, leaving you with lifelong growth and benefits. So does “getting in shape.”
Whatever that means.
Lessons From the Other Side
Doing a reading this morning made me decide to blog about the spiritual part of life. I figured it would be a nice counter to my last blog on the physical part of life and the importance of taking responsibility for knowing how your body works.
As I said previously, we have our body for our whole life and it behooves us to know it better than we know our houses, cars, or anything else that is transitory and easily replaced. However, at some point we will shed our physical body, leaving us with ourselves.
Religious or spiritual beliefs aside, the only thing you take with you upon death is, you. It’s said that wherever you go, there you are, and there is nothing more startling than. Here is what got me to thinking about it:
The More things Change, the More they Stay the Same
My client was a woman who wanted me to check in with her deceased mother. Her mother was an agnostic who believed that death was simply the end of the line, and that there was nothing beyond. She lived life like many of us do; facing what we have to but brushing under the rug much of what we think is going to be too hard or painful to deal with. Ignoring or putting off the difficult work of forgiveness, love, and self-actualization.
My client’s mother came through easily, sharing her message with us before we even had the chance to ask questions.
“My death was stunning.” she said, “It completely floored me. One moment I was there, in my bed and I was dying. I died, and I was still there. Nothing changed except that I was wasn’t dying anymore. I was still there and nothing had changed. What am I supposed to do with all of this now?” she demanded.
I guess there really are no free passes in life or in death. It’s like going on vacation. You may leave for a while, but when you come back, the laundry, cleaning and bad relationships are still there. We will all die, but even death can’t take us away from the work that we are avoiding. After all, no matter where you go, there you are.
Spiritual Spring Cleaning
Spring is almost here, which means it’s time for spring cleaning! We take care of what we love, so as far as I’m concerned, the words cleaning and loving are interchangeable. To keep things simple, I’m doing two brief blogs on spring cleaning; one on cleaning/loving our surroundings and one on cleaning/loving ourselves.
Why are these blogs going to be brief? Because there have already been volumes written about how to clean your surroundings and how to cleanse your body and there’s nothing new that I can provide. A Google search or a trip to the library will provide you all the information you need about how to clean out or cleanse. What I want to do is provide you with a slightly different perspective about cleaning out.
Why our Surroundings Matter
Everything around us provides us with sensory input. Everything we see, hear, feel, taste, smell and intuit provides us with information. Our brains, like any computer, have limited capacity. Quite simply, the more unnecessary information we fill our brains with, the less room we leave for important information. Having stuff around you that you don’t love distracts you from what you want to accomplish by taking up needless brain room.
No, you don’t have to be a minimalist, but you should surround yourself with stuff that is peaceful and pleasing to you. We all prefer different types of surroundings, sounds, lighting and scent, so take some time to figure out what works best for you. Go through the five senses and think about what brings you joy and makes you feel harmonious and happy.
The Five Senses
- Sight: Lighting, windows, color, piles of stuff, neat stacks, baskets, drawers, clutter, plants, etc.
- Sound: Silence, ambient sound, classical music, music with a heavy beat, lyrics, etc.
- Smell: No smell, fresh clean scent, floral, candles, incense, food, etc.
- Touch: Hand cream for dry skin, pens or pencils that feel good to the touch, temperature, hot, cold, etc.
- Taste: Water, fresh mouth, mint, gum, coffee, sugary, etc.
Discovering YOUR Personal Preference
Your personal preference is your personal preference, nothing is right or wrong. Take some time and notice what feels good to you and make changes based on that. If you feel stressed walking into a sterile room, add plants or color or pictures or something that makes you feel peaceful. If clutter stresses you out, clean out, organize or find baskets or drawers to hide away all that stresses you out.
Cleaning out doesn’t necessarily mean throwing stuff away or donating it, (although those are wonderful ideas!) but it does mean cleaning out everything in your surroundings that stresses you out and don’t bring you joy and peace.
Love it or leave it, it’s that simple!
Basic Human Anatomy
We are given one body in this lifetime. We inhabit our body from birth until death, like it or not. Even though we are all built a little differently, all of our bodies function in the same way. Everyone’s circulatory system functions the same way. Everyone’s digestive system functions the same way, everyone’s joints work in the same fashion and everyone’s body responds to the same set of circumstances in roughly the same way.
Deprived of food, water or oxygen our bodies all shut down the same way. Some may shut down more quickly than others, but there is a predictable pattern that all bodies follow, because that is how we are made. Anatomy and biology explain the predictable and simple sets of rules that govern the workings of our bodies. Learn the rules and you know what will happen to your body when…
For some reason, our society doesn’t require us to learn about our own bodies. We probably know more about the cars that we drive or the homes that we live in than we do about our own bodies. How ironic, since cars and homes are temporary and easily replaceable.
Think of it like this: You go down stairs one morning and the sewer is backing up into the basement. Do you get mad at the sewage grate? Do you cover it up? Replace the grate? Pour drain-o over it? No! Sewers do not back up because the sewage grate is faulty.
Sewers back up because there is a block in the pipe from the home to the street, there are roots that have infiltrated the lines, or because of some major structural defect. We follow the pipes, figure out the cause of the problem, fix it, and the sewer grate ceases to over flow.
Postural Alignment is the Key
But when we have back pain, we assume that there is something wrong with our back. We take medicine for the pain, we brace our back, or we grab an ice pack. While this may treat the pain, our back is no more the problem than the sewer grate. If you fall down the steps and hit your back on the steps as you fall, your back is the problem, but that’s about the only time treating your back helps the cause of your back pain.
Most back pain is caused by a misaligned pelvis. The only way to treat and prevent that pain is to realign the pelvis. I’m sure you’ve heard about bulging discs or herniated discs. Guess what? Discs don’t randomly bulge and herniate. Discs bulge and herniate due to trauma or because of misalignment.
With basic information about the bones, joints, muscles, discs, and axis of motion in our pelvis, we can prevent back pain from ever happening as well as fix it when it does. The mechanics of the pelvis are not complicated.
Nothing in our body is that complicated. It’s all a series of levers, pulleys and chemical reactions. We are amazing machines, but we are machines, not mysteries. It’s incredibly easy to find out about our bodies and the way they work. There is no excuse not to know your own body better than you know your house, your car, or your cell phone. After all, you can replace everything else!
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Spring Cleaning Part Two – Cleansing/Loving our Bodies
Cleansing our Bodies
My last post was a short and sweet post on spring cleaning with a twist. The twist was to make your surroundings pleasant to you by keeping only that which made you happy, whether that was minimalistic and bare or comfortably full. My premise was that since we take care of what we love, the words cleaning and loving ware interchangeable, and spring cleaning really meant spring loving. This post takes that concept and applies it to cleansing our bodies by doing that which shows love for our bodies.
Like I said previously, I’m not going into the specifics of why it’s important to cleanse our bodies, nor am I providing you with details of what to eat, for how long or why. Volumes have been written about cleansing and there are many different theories and directions available on-line. What I want to do is provide you with a slightly different perspective about cleansing and loving our bodies.
We are what we Eat… and Breathe… and Surround Ourselves With…
Everything we eat, drink, breathe or put on our skin is absorbed in our bodies in some way. We are truly products of our environment and everything around us and everything we interact with literally becomes part of our bodies in some way. Unfortunately, we have little control over many aspects of our environment and it’s exhausting and expensive to monitor every cleaning product, personal care item, and food and beverage item we ingest. That’s why we need spring cleansing with a twist.
Spring cleansing/loving our body means doing what feels divine and wonderful and cutting out that which feels negative, bad or unhealthy. It’s not about some program to be followed for a prescribed period of time or cutting out anything in particular. Your personal preferences are your personal preferences and nothing is right or wrong. Take some time and notice what feels good to you and make changes based on that.
Green Cleaning the Intuitive Way
Do cleaning products make you feel ill? Do they make your hands dry and cracked or your lungs and eyes burn? Then get rid of them and find an organic line that you adore. Does eating meat make your stomach feel full and heavy? Then quit eating it or reduce the amount you eat until you figure out how much sits well with you. Does alcohol or soda make your mouth and sweat sticky? See how it feels to drink sparkly water with fruit instead. Does your soap, lotion or shampoo make you itch or feel clogged up? Invest in a line that doesn’t.
It doesn’t matter if you buy a water filter and improve the quality of your water, if you cut out meat, dairy, wheat, caffeine, sugar or alcohol or if you start using organic cleaners or personal care items. What matters is that you notice what feels bad and you stop doing it. Notice what feels good, healthy or what makes you happy and start doing that.
Make changes that make you happy and that honor your body, don’t worry about somebody else’s program.
Do what makes you feel good and stop eating/drinking/using/breathing anything that doesn’t. It’s that simple!
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What is the Inner-Child Anyway?
Why is it that we hear so much about our inner-child? After all, we aren’t children anymore, so why do we care? Much of our subconscious programming develops from childhood and regardless of whether our childhood was a nightmare or a glorious dream, as adults it benefits us to be able to know where our programming comes from so we can live our lives as we’d like to live and not be encumbered by outdated childhood beliefs or trauma.
Although some inner-child work can be heavy and dark, this exercise is about focusing on the positive aspects of our childhood and reconnecting with the pure, creative joy of play. This work is begun by taking a field trip or two. An actual field trip is best but a virtual one will do in a pinch. This is a field trip to a place that you enjoyed as a child. Whether it’s a toy store, a park, the beach or a library, take an hour so reconnecting with something that you enjoyed as a child.
Adult Field Trip!
If you loved toys, plan a field trip to the most captivating toy store you can find. It can be a big chain store or a tiny boutique as long as it sparks excitement in your soul. The idea is to find a toy store that reconnects you to the feel of how you used to play.
First, go to the section with the toys that are the most familiar to you. If you loved dolls, go to the doll section. If you were into games, peruse the games. Look at the toys, pick them up and notice how they feel in your hands. Smell them, listen to the sounds they make and remember how you played with them. Can you imagine taking the boat in the bath tub with you now? Would you sail it around and create a story line in your head or would it be a struggle to remember how to play and what to do?
Once you have thoroughly played around in a section you are familiar with, move on to sections that are new to you. If you were never into sports, check out the sporting goods. See if there is anything there you are curious about trying now. With fresh eyes, wander around the whole store, imagining how you could play with these different toys and exploring all there is to explore.
Pretend you are a kid who has just been given a million dollars to spend in this store. What would you buy? Imagine that you have no other obligations and that your only job is to play with as many toys as you can. What all would you do? If you are really enjoying this, feel free to treat yourself to a doll or a Lego set so you can spend some time actually playing. No matter what you choose, connect to the joy, relaxation or creativity you felt when you played.
Playground Fitness Fun
Another way to go about this assignment is to visit a park, a playground or the beach and to play on the equipment, kick a ball around, splash in the surf or build sand castles. This is especially nice because it puts you outside in nature and it’s got the added bonus of being a physical activity. Jump rope while chanting some jump rope songs in your head, play jacks, draw with sidewalk chalk, blow bubbles or go down the slide. Anything works as long as it gets you happy and excited!
As you play, notice what comes up. Is it difficult for you to relax? Do you feel silly, bored, like you are wasting your time, or does it make you happy? Is the whole concept of play difficult for you? Why? Don’t try to change your feelings, just notice them. Notice the voices in your head as you play. Are they yours, “this is silly, I don’t understand this” or do you hear your father telling you to “grow up and do something productive with your time” or your brother telling you that “only babies play with dolls?
Many of us have unresolved feelings or judgment around play and this exercise helps get us in touch with those feelings. Playing requires us to relax and let the creativity flow, and until we can allow play back into our lives, we remain out of touch with the creative flow of the Universe.
After going on your field trip, you might remember being six and wanting to be a princess in a tower. You might remember being thirteen and wanting to be a rock star or you might remember a lifelong desire to be a mermaid. The feasibility of your dreams and desires is irrelevant. What matters is letting your heart and soul connect to the glorious flow of universal possibility and the allowing our dreams to take flight.
If you remember things that brought you joy, but you have no idea how to bring being a mermaid into your life, don’t worry! This inner-child work is about enjoying the magic and trusting that all will be taken care of. Relax, play, love, laugh and stay connected to all that makes you happy. Inner-child work doesn’t have to be dark and deep in order to be successful, sometimes we simply have to allow ourselves to play.
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What are YOU Afraid of?
Everyone has things that they are afraid of. Whether we are completely paralyzed by our fears or we’re daredevils who fear nothing, everyone has something that they are afraid of. Having fear is a normal, healthy and natural part of life because it keeps us safe, preserving our life and health.
What is not healthy however, is forgoing activities, events and experiences that we wish to have, due to our overwhelming fear. The first step in overcoming our fear is figuring out whether we are suffering from a fear or a phobia. In a nutshell, a fear is something that we are afraid of because we have had a bad experience with it and a phobia is something we are afraid of for no real reason.
A fear is something that you are afraid of because of a bad experience. For example, if you were bitten by a dog, it’s normal to be afraid of dogs. If you got into a car accident while driving at night in the rain, it’s normal to be afraid of driving at night in the rain. There’s a direct and logical connection between that which you are afraid of and your fear.
It’s OK to be afraid and to have a fear of something you have experienced. There’s no requirement in life of liking dogs or driving at night in the rain but sometimes we realize that our fear is limiting us and we sincerely wish to overcome our fear. Maybe we have always loved dogs, we realize that although animals can be unpredictable, for the most part we will be safe around our pets and the pets of our family and friends and we want to get back to acting and feeling normal around dogs. Maybe we realize that in order to continue on with life we will need to be able to competently drive at night during bad weather.
When we wish to overcome a fear of something, one way to overcome that fear is to systematically desensitize ourselves to that fear. For example, we begin by being in the same room with a leashed dog that we know well. We focus on managing our anxiety and over time we move the dog closer and closer to us. Eventually we pet the dog’s bottom while someone else holds the dog’s head. Again, managing our anxiety we begin to pet closer and closer to the dog’s head, eventually becoming comfortable with this dog.
Next, we can move to other dogs, repeating the process until we feel comfortable. Whatever the situation, the process is to desensitize against the fear by controlling the situation and managing anxiety, over time becoming less bothered by that which you are afraid of, or at least able to manage your anxiety. Phobias are a different story!
A phobia is an irrational fear of fear that has no basis in fact. You are terrified of dinosaurs, aliens and the basketball sized spiders, but you have never had personal experience with dinosaurs, aliens or basketball size spiders. A phobia is a real fear; it’s simply that you have no negative experience with whatever is causing that fear. Therefore, you really can’t desensitize yourself against whatever it is you are afraid of! Moreover, by forcing yourself to confront something that is unknown to you, you may actually increase your level of fear instead of decrease it.
The movie Nightmare on Elm Street terrified me as a teenager. I was terrified that I was going to get attacked in my dreams; but I had never experienced being attacked in my dreams and there nothing to desensitize me from. Rationally I knew that what I was afraid of couldn’t happen, but I was still terrified. Instead of desensitizing myself or telling myself I was being dumb, I had to deal with my feelings of terror on an entirely different level. I had to look deeper and see what it was about the imaginary situation that caused me terror.
In my case, it was a fear of being attacked when I was in a vulnerable state, a fear of having no control a fear of pain, a fear of growing up and not being protected by my parents, of being on my own and even a fear of dying. Now all of those are rational, real fears!
They aren’t however, things that can be desensitized from! In this case I had to build up my own confidence in other ways in order to overcome the fears that I had that were manifesting themselves into an irrational phobia about a horror movie. It was an understanding of the fears below the fears that gave me an understanding of my phobia for Freddy Krugger.
I had to come to terms with the fact that life is unpredictable and that growing up and taking care of me was something I was capable of doing. I had to develop confidence in my abilities and realize that there were indeed steps I could take to protect myself but that there were also certain things I simply had to let go of. I had to trust in the process of life and in my strength as a resilient human. Ultimately, being deathly afraid of horror movies led me to become a much stronger, wiser and accepting person.
The thing about phobias is that the root fear behind the phobia is what’s important; not the phobia itself. That root fear can manifest itself in a variety of ways. Unless you deal with those root fears they will continue to pop up in any number of ways, so you might as well get on it and start dealing with it now; you know, to save yourself some grief in the future!
Think about things that scare you. Are they rational fears or irrational phobias? What is the root fear or fears behind your phobias? What can you to build your confidence in other areas in order to compensate for these fears? What can you learn? What can you release? What can you desensitize yourself from and what do you need to accept?
There will always be things that go bump in the bump in the night. How will you deal with them, and more importantly, what are they teaching you?
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Why is Self-Care Important?
Taking good care of ourselves requires more than just an occasional mani-pedi or treating ourselves to new shoes, a massage or a girl’s night out. Taking good care of ourselves requires us to listen to ourselves and to really hear what our bodies, our minds and our spirits are asking for on a separate and intuitive level.
When we practice intuitive self-care and take care of our bodies, minds and spirits separately, we become a happier and healthier whole. There’s a lot of focus out there on integrating the body, the mind and the spirit, and while it’s true that we function best as fully integrated beings, in order to truly integrate all facets of our beings we need to begin by separating the three components of the self and learn to intuitively listen and respond to what each part needs.
Taking Care of our Bodies
The body itself is an organism. All organisms are biologically hard-wired to preserve themselves. Our bodies have a multitude of self-preserving reflexes, instincts and behaviors, and it’s completely natural and desirable for the body to preserve and protect itself.
odies can experience cravings when they are running low on various minerals, such as iron or other nutrients. Pica is the term given to pregnant women who are deficient in certain minerals and crave things such as mud, dirt, plaster, ashes or who have the compulsive need to lick the walls. Physical cravings help us eat the kind of foods that our bodies requires to sustain themselves. On the flip side, when we eat something toxic, our bodies react by vomiting and ridding themselves of the offending substance.
Our bodies also know how much and of what kind of food they can digest at a time. If we eat something that is difficult to digest, our bodies may tell us to stop by sending us an “I’m full” signal, but if we eat foods that are easy to digest, we may not feel full as quickly. Similarly, depending on our activity, hormonal, immune and stress levels, there will be times when we are more or less hungry.
The intuitive wisdom is there; it’s just that we lose touch with it. As children we may be told to “clean our plate,” or that we “don’t have to like it, we just have to eat it,” which teaches us to override our bodies intuitive wisdom. As adults, making decisions for ourselves for the first time, we waltz into life feeling like naughty little children whose parents are out-of-town. We make one bad choice after another simply because we can, and we are rarely encouraged to get back in touch with our intuitive wisdom. Add in the demands of a modern life with careers and families, where we are relegated to eating on an arbitrary schedule that had nothing to do with the needs of our body, and our body’s intuitive wisdom is quieted and ignored.
Taking Care of our Minds and Spirits
Our minds and our spirits have the same kind of intuitive wisdom that our bodies do, telling us exactly what they require in order to flourish. When we listen to and respond to these three, distinct voices, all parts or us remain healthy and fulfilled, but when we ignore our own intuitive self-care wisdom, illness, injury, depression and other problems manifest.
When we are not practiced at separating the needs of the body with the needs of the mind or the spirit, we misinterpret the signals we receive and we end up feeding the body what the mind and the spirit are asking for. The mind, just like the body, is a self-preserving organism that craves what it needs. Minds need stimulation, comfort, love, excitement, growth and development. When faced with a difficult or a sad time, the mind might crave sweetness, comfort and love.
What do we REALLY Need?
Instead of reaching out to people or situations that provide the mind with sweetness, comfort or love, we misinterpret these signals and we attempt to feed the body what the mind is asking for. We ingest sweetness, comfort and love in the form of mac and cheese and ice cream.
We don’t physically need mac and cheese or ice cream, what we need is a good dose of mothering and a time-out from adult responsibilities, but because we aren’t hearing and responding to that which our mind truly need, we attempt to fill ourselves up with as much sweetness, comfort and love as we can by ingesting mac and cheese (a symbol of comfort and love) followed by ice cream (sweetness personified).
Do we need a bit more spice or bite in our otherwise dull lives? We may crave spicy foods, salt and crunch. Feeling stifled at work, a lack of stimulation being home with toddlers or craving a project to sink our teeth into? When we don’t listen and respond to what our minds and spirits are telling us they need, we eventually start eating whatever it is our minds and spirits desire!
Are we craving those gooey cinnamon rolls because we have just run a marathon, our muscles no longer have any glycogen stores and we are on the verge of passing out, or are we craving them because we are unfulfilled in our current position at work and we want something juicy and gooey to sink our mind into? Are those licorice sticks giving us something to chew on because our mind has something to process that we are ignoring and refusing to process?
Our bodies, minds and spirits are filled with intuitive, self-care wisdom and when we are connected enough to listen and respond to what they tell us they need, will are happy and healthy on every level. But if we don’t listen, or if we misinterpret the signals, we set ourselves up for sub-par health and happiness.
This is intuitive self-care, and this is the ultimate goal. Separate the needs of the body from the needs of the mind and the needs of the spirit. Stay present in every moment and learn to listen and respond to the needs of the body, the mind and the spirit, remembering of course, that there’s always room for a mani-pedi, new shoes or a nice massage!
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Is Karma Going to Get us, or will Grace Save Us?
Karma is the Hindu and Buddhist concept of cause and effect. It’s like a giant mirror that surrounds us, our thoughts and our actions. Whatever we send out is reflected back at us, often times with more intensity than what we originally sent out. In the Bible this is known as The Golden Rule, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Luke 6: New International Version (NIV)
Grace is an unmerited pardoning, courtesy or regeneration of some negative or evil act. In J.I. Packer’s book, Knowing God, he defines Grace as follows: “In the New Testament grace means God’s love in action towards men who merited the opposite of love. Grace means God moving heaven and earth to save sinners who could not lift a finger to save themselves.”
Like two sides of a coin we have Karma and we have Grace, in beautiful harmony—or is it disharmony—with each other. Some people see only the opposing principles in these two concepts—karma’s going to bite you but grace is going to protect you— but I see these two concepts as being perfectly in balance with each other, with karma teaching us how to become better people and grace absolving us of the shame and guilt of making these necessary mistakes in the first place.
What Karma Teaches Us
Karma is there to tell us how we should act. Karma is there to get us to think. Karma helps us remember what it would be like if the shoe were on the other foot. Karma is there to move us out of a place of judgment and superiority and to put us in a place of understanding and compassion. Karma is the great teacher that shows us the natural consequences of our actions. Karma reflects back our strengths as well as our weaknesses, giving us accurate feedback about ourselves and our soul and guiding us towards better behavior.
What Grace Gives Us
And on the other side of the coin is grace. Grace kicks in and blocks this mirror from reflecting back the darkness that we have sent out into the world, protecting us from our bad behavior and mistakes. Grace is given to us regardless of how terribly we might have behaved and how miserably we might have failed. Grace wipes the slate clean and allows us to begin again and again and again, regardless of how many times or how severely we’ve errored. Grace is given freely to us all, unquestionably and without condition.
The Interaction of Karma and Grace
Without Karma’s lessons we are unable to grow. Lessons that are internalized and felt are the lessons that stick with us on a soul level and change our behavior for good. Following rules without feeling is a hollow experience devoid of passion and belief. The only way for us to grow on a deep, emotional level is to experience our lessons. We must experience joy, pain or darkness in order to grow and learn. We must feel exactly what it is we are sending out before we fully internalize the experience and knowingly choose not to create it any more. We have to error in order to grow.
Yet as we learn and grow we become increasingly more spiritually attuned, meaning that we become more shameful or guilt-ridden over our dark nature and the perceived error of our ways. Instead of drowning in the guilt or the shame of that which we have created, grace steps in as a loving balm to heal our wounds, alleviate our guilt and assuage our shame. Grace is there for us, not to let us off the hook for our bad actions, but to soothe us in the knowledge of the darkness and pain created from our bad actions, allowing us to go on as more enlightened individuals.
The number of errors and mistakes we make isn’t what’s relevant. Everyone make mistakes. What’s relevant is that we feel the full impact of our mistakes, that we fully internalize our actions and the consequences of those actions and that we grow because it. Grace is there as a gift for our learning. Our only choice is whether or not to allow grace to work in our lives.
Grace is unlimited. Grace is freely given. We are all entitled to grace. When we commit to our own progress we commit to learning, growing and feeling the guilt and shame or our mistakes. Like a beautiful, yet unopened package, isn’t it time we commit to receiving grace as well? To commit fully to the peace, happiness and pardoning that has already been given to us?
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