"Everything you do is based on the choices you make. It's not your parents, your past relationships, your job, the economy, the weather, and argument or your age that is to blame. You and only you are responsible for every decision and choice you make. Period."
Every so often this statement appears in my newsfeed on Facebook. On the surface it seems direct enough. You are responsible for your choices therefore you are responsible for your life.
Here's the caveat. Your choices and decisions are based are your experiences which include how your parents treated you, your past relationships, your work situation, your current living and financial situation and so much more.
Based on your past you may not be able to decide and choose in a manner that you feel fits who you are today or leads to the outcome you desire. You may not have the physical, emotional, mental or financial tools to get from here to there.
When a person is presented with a moment in which an important decision is to be made, they draw upon past experiences to determine how to move forward. Events of the past influence decisions in the present. It is not always evident what drives a decision, makes someone respond in a way they wouldn't choose to if they weren't influenced by little whispers of the past.
Yes, you make the choices you make. And you are responsible for them. But you don't control the mechanisms operating within you. You never know when some random memory or event from the past will creep into your decision-making process and guide you in a direction you don't recognize. You won't know if an old belief system is causing you to overreact to others. Unless you make an effort to do so.
This is why it's so important to do your personal work. To uncover the tentacles of past, expose them, hear them, notice when you behave in a way you do not like and re-form yourself. Building your personal tool box is no small feat. It is a constant practice.
"Thirty seconds after you're born you have a past and sixty seconds later you start to lie about it."
Constructing a balanced, fun life from a present day blueprint requires a serious hunger for wisdom, a commitment to using yourself as a research project and the ability to withstand the discomfort of growth and change, which truthfully is no worse than withstanding the discomfort of life in general. The difference is, the payoff is an asset. And that payoff is not being run by outmoded meanings and triggers. Being gripped with your past is akin to holding onto $40 and watching a $100 bill float by down the river. The only to get the $100 is to let go of the $40, no matter how scary it is to lose it. From the moment you let go you are uncomfortable, uncertain if you made the right move, until you safely have that $100 in your hand.
The above scenario is brilliant for demonstrating what I consider to be the most precarious and least talked about phenomenon of consciously choosing to change, the period in-between living from your old and adopting your new paradigm. The metaphor of 40 days in the desert keeps popping in my head, and I know when I go through it myself I often feel as if I am walking on shaky ground, almost not knowing where to reach into myself to muster up responses. The past's siren song offers an uncomfortable comfort, after all, familiar ways are familiar, and your new modus operandi offers pure unmitigated discomfort, but it is discomfort laced with possibility.
Balance doesn't happen overnight. You must explore and dismantle your sacred cows. You must ask yourself the tough questions and search for the answers you don't want to hear. And remember, you can't get to Z without going from A through Y. You must get to the source of your issues and relieve the tensions from there. You may need to address your overgrowth of candida in order to handle your rash, or your anger at your mother, father or God in order to understand your dysfunctional patterns with women, men and/or the world. You must be patient with yourself. Your body adjusts slower than your mind. And your body is your vehicle for action. When you commit to living fully from what is actually happening, not the meaning you're applying to it, be patient with your body and give it all the rest, nourishment and respect it needs.
When you call in the carpenters and rebuild, taking a look at the things you have control over and the things you don't is a useful framing tool. In my life, I've found the areas I have control over are:
And when it comes to framing your life, there are Universal Laws to contend with. These laws are in place and work for everyone*. They are unwavering and relevant to your growth. Universal Laws are invisible, but their influence is undeniable. Here are some of the laws I contemplate and work with:
I am not going to give you my explanations for these laws unless you ask in the comments. It is up to you to contemplate them and see how they operate in your life. Using your life as a laboratory, you will find other immutable laws. I'd love to hear your thoughts.
* It is difficult to consider Universal Laws in Action while witnessing children starving in the world, people being killed by war and corporations placing profits before people and the environment. These are man-made issues which have thrown off the balance of the planet. Those of us with the tools, resources and abilities have an obligation to become the best that we can we be in order restore sanity.
"Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." Philip K. Dick
When I was in my early 30's I took a trip to Greece. I went by myself with a very carefully thought out plan to wing it. I ended up spending the majority of the time on Crete so I visited the Palace of Knossos, home of the Labyrinth and the mythical beast called the Minotaur. Dated from 2000-1350 B.C., it's the largest preserved Minoan palatial center. And it is spectacular. In its heyday the compound had four wings arranged around a central courtyard containing the royal quarters, workshops, shrines, storeroom, repositories, the throne room and banquet halls. Much of the foundation remains.
At the beginning of the tour, during the overview, our guide said something I have remembered ever since. "Considering the massiveness of the palace," she commented, "it's remarkable how much of the foundation remains. Much planning must have taken place to build this palace. You don't build something this big without plans."
Her statement got me thinking about life. I contemplated how long life is and how, with no say on our part, our personal foundations are poured seemingly in concrete at such an early age. I wondered how my life would look if I consciously poured a new foundation for the future rather than keep living out of reaction to an outdated past?
The foundation of every structure is a key factor in determining its strength and longevity. The more I contemplated, the more I realized if wanted to have a life of my own design I had to call in the carpenters and rebuild.
Humans are born into a pre-existing structure called family. By the time we get there family already has its agreements, disagreements, morals, habits, patterns, functions, dysfunctions, strengths and weaknesses. We have no choice but to join the dynamic.
When we are born our parents are our world. We cannot get our needs met without them. We establish a dance with them from the moment we meet. We learn behaviors to get what we need from them at the same time assigning meaning to other people's actions. This is when we develop our understand of love, shame and the whole range of human emotions.
One theory, posed by cellular biologist Dr. Bruce Lipton, states our programming begins the moment we are conceived. That our DNA responds to our environment by turning on and off according to the survival mechanisms we will need for the situation we are being born into.
I do not know if Dr. Lipton's theories are correct or not. What I do know is familial programming runs you until you decide to intentionally shift it.
Consider this...using the same responses as an adult that protected you as a child will diminish you into someone YOU don't even like. It is easy to get angry, especially with yourself, for not responding to situations in the manner you truly want. It is even easier to project that anger onto a person or event, without considering yourself as the source. You do not have to be a reactive jerk. You do not have to be at the effect of your programming. Unraveling automatic reactions is not as difficult as you might think. To begin, you just have to start recognizing your patterns and the criteria you use for making choices.
In Daily Dose, wisdom from the Rebbe, it says, "Real choices are when there are two paths and both appear attractive. Only by choosing to look deeper can you determine which path leads to life."
You have to look deeper. It is only by getting to the source of your beliefs that you can stop living at the affect of them. You have a choice in every moment.
Next: Call In The Carpenters, aka "We've Only Just Begun."
"All serious daring comes from within."
Many of you reading this blog are seekers and have been your whole life. You know there is a deeper meaning to existence on this planet than the bill of goods you've been sold and you're not stopping until you are a vehicle for its expression.
It's easy to run from coach to healer to guru to voodoo priestess to a guy who blows on your head or your favorite astrologer hoping for enlightenment, clarity and insight, but unless you actually incorporate different actions and allow your thinking and belief systems to change, you will remain bound up within yourself.
Any of you who have truly made lasting change knows the unfamiliar ground one must walk through. Changing requires doing things differently. It requires listening to a different, unfamiliar voice. It requires acting out of now, the present moment, not some long past memory.
By now you have some idea of what you want in your life, be it great relationships, a loving family, money, or maybe you've determined peace of mind, helping others or taking on a cause is your mission.
It's time to look at life through your inner architect. Everyone has an inner guide that will help when called upon.
Consider this series of blog posts a guide for giving your inner architect the tools it needs to lay out the blueprint for the future you want instead of the future you're heading for if you keep acting and reacting in the present from experiences in your past.
Refinement never stops, you'll uncover layer after layer, each bringing with it chaos dripping with insight. Get ready to love the chaos rather than get flustered by it, when you understand its purpose you can use it as the tool it is intended to be.
Architecting your life is a fun approach to your time on the planet. Approaching life from a place of 'I can' rather than 'poor me' is a powerful stance. And, it's easy to have your enthusiasm deflated, considering from the moment you are born your put on a trajectory toward success in society or measured by your lack drive for it. We are shuttled through schools for the first 18 years of our lives and then encouraged on through 'higher education' so we can achieve a successful career, support a family, pay our taxes and live in the suburbs. This life is presented as your only option. Many of us live with an underlying feeling that humans are being co-opted into working for the man rather than collaborating and living with each other and savoring the bounty of this planet in the spirit in was designed to be enjoyed in.
It is the responsibility of those of us who have traveled a different path, those who understand and embrace the bigger picture, to unlock the possibility of each moment for those never exposed to alternative thinking. We have to wake people up! We've all been indoctrinated to think a particular way, a way we needed to be taught (if we are going to live it) because it is so against our original nature. We were taught to honor others opinions and truths over our own. We were taught to give doctors authority over our bodies, politicians and the legal system authority to dictate our moves and any expert who hangs up a shingle to know more about what we need than we do. We live separated from each other and are kept so busy most of us don't have the time or energy to think about what we want let alone make any attempt to get it. We have to shift our thinking to understanding that there is enough to go around for everyone. We can all take care of each other, we just have to get present to the way it is. You have to understand where you are in order to see what you need to do. You have to know what you have in order to know what you need. In the next post we will review your beliefs and check into the structure and grids that guide your daily life, the habits that make up who you are.
Next post: Consider Your Foundation
Navigating the Cutting Edge Without Bleeding to Death Chapter One - Changing Your Life is All the Rage
Several years ago I began writing a book called, 'Navigating the Cutting Edge Without Bleeding to Death.' I’m going to blog some of the chapters. I hope you enjoy.
Chapter One - Changing Your Life is All the Rage
Every place you go these days people are offering you pills, therapies, systems, exercises, eating plans, brain scans and trips to the moon to help you change your life. In a recent internet search for change your life 1,800,000,000 came up. Just three hours later 2,300,000,000, just 5 hours later 2,600,000,000. Needless to say the field is rapidly growing.
There’s “Change Your Life in 20 Minutes with Self-Hypnosis,” “Change Your Brain—Change Your Life,” and “The 70 Day Life Makeover.” Websites galore boast being able to help you “have more abundance in your life” or to “Live a Results Driven Life” or to “Stop Dreaming, Start Living.’ Everybody’s got a secret and trust me, most of them should be kept secret.
Seems you can’t throw a rock without hitting a personal coach. Understandably. Natural human nature is overridden everyday as we scurry through our lives solving problems we created in the first place. We’ve been taught the definition of freedom is the ability to buy anything we want, travel anywhere we want, drive anything we want, run up as much debt as we want and we feel deprived if we don’t get to.
Most of us have been raised in schools designed to curb our creativity rather than celebrate it. Our natural instincts have been dulled and we don’t even know it because we are so focused on making the next buck, if only to survive. No wonder we need help zooming out.
Every person who runs from self-help class to self-help class in an effort to change their life would benefit from understanding this... Making real changes, building new muscles, and polishing the jewel of your being is not for the faint of heart. It requires vigilance, commitment, and most importantly taking different actions. You must use your life as a laboratory and be willing to square off, head on, with your inner negotiator— deflating its influence. You must acknowledge your part in every interaction and unravel more and more of yourself with every opportunity.
It’s easy to begin. All you have to do is start paying attention to who is directing the show of your life. Is it your inner negotiator, whose job is to fight for your rights instead of your commitments? Your inner 15-year-old, who didn’t get what she wants today so she’s wreaking havoc? Do you hear your mother, father or ex-lover’s voice egging you on or is it your inner elder tapping on your shoulder and offering you guidance?
Watch yourself when your buttons get pushed. Watch when you feel you overreacted to a situation. What was triggered inside of you that caused your response? Contemplate and allow yourself to fully feel what comes up. Accept the feeling instead of resisting it. It’s a muscle and like any muscle you have to work it to build it up and keep it strong. When you have set a new reference point and are truly no longer gripped by the trigger you will notice a cascade of changes. Everything is connected.
Changing any area of your life requires interrupting the negotiator, throwing the 15-year-old a bone (buy it a Yoo-Hoo or something), kicking the family out and choosing your inner acquired wisdom as your guide over any other voice. You have to do it again and again and again. And again. It will be uncomfortable for a while. It takes a bit of time and during the process you’ll be walking through the chaos and disruption of change. The amount of road between reacting in your old ways to responding in your new ways will depend on how readily you accept where you are, allow and let go.
As uncomfortable as responding from this new place is, gradually you will see that you don’t die from doing it differently. You’ll feel better and better as a crisp clarity unfolds. Gradually these new responses will be your default responses, replacing your old shaky framework with new beams of strength.
Be particularly kind to yourself during the period of time between clearing out an outmoded response mechanism and developing your new found way. There’s not enough attention given to navigating these waters. It’s akin to growing your hair long after having it short. During the period of in-between, the unruly weeks, your hair is in chaos. It’s going every which way and all you want to do is cover it up. After a while your hair is beautiful again. You cannot get from short hair to long hair without going through the uncomfortable unruly hair stage. And everything turns out fine.
During the times in-between important life changes, your newly acquired tools reach out to you with a faint voice as your old familiar ways use a bull horn, trying to get you to hang on, taunting you and teasing you into following their lead. The ground below you feels so shaky, you don’t know how to act. It’s like walking through quicksand. The quicksand being your old ways trying to lure you with their siren song. All you want to do is crawl under a rock where it’s dark and safe and you don’t have to choose. But this is your path so you carry on. And you choose. And you choose again. And pretty soon you no longer have to choose...you’ve successfully woven your new ways into the fabric of you. Congratulations.
P.S. I am here to assist you on this journey. You don’t have to walk this path alone.
One more note - today while I was re-typing this chapter I went outside to talk to my neighbor Ralph about not parking his car in two spaces on street cleaning day among other things including getting my car ticketed for blocking a 1/4 inch of the apron of his driveway, which wasn't impeding access at all. Cost me $68.
I live in a guest house behind my landlord who has hated the guy since before I moved in and constantly calls him things like fat pig, etc. etc. I used to engage with him in complaining about Ralph, not as derogatory as him, but complaining about his actions and disrespect for anyone else. I very much want to not allow Ralph's actions to affect me.
My landlord texted me after I came in the house and asked me, "What did the pig-headed asshole say?" In the past I would have told him and we would have a nice go-around about how bad Ralph is. Instead I texted him back, "It doesn't matter. I really want to disengage from all this vitriol so I am not going to feed the fire."
My stomach is a bit knotted, my whole body a bit shaky. I have just set a new reference point and I can feel it. It is uncomfortable and part of me wants to engage in the old behavior, simply not to rock the boat. Consider the boat rocked.
I say this to let you know that what I am talking about in this post is not conjecture. It's from experience.
Next post: Architect Your Life
When an event, person, or situation shows up in your field as a problem, it is simply potential wanting to unfold. If you are the one being presented with the problem, you are the one being invited to unfold the potential.
Understanding and deeply embodying the truth that everything is made up of information in motion is imperative for skillfully being able to increase your menu of options, expand your ability to respond, (also known as your response~ability) and unfold the potential of any given moment.
Why? Because as is the case with everything in motion, one addition or subtraction to the field alters the field, affecting the shape, dimension and impact of the form, therefore changing the pattern. When a pattern changes, the giving and receiving of information from that pattern changes. When the giving and receiving of information from a pattern changes, a new information field is born.
What you choose to add to or subtract from the information coming at you effects the emergent pattern and the new resulting information field. I invite you to play with this and pay attention. What happens when you add love, what happens when you add blame, what happens when you add compassion? What happens to you when someone adds love to your field? What happens when they add indifference? In My Big TOE, Thomas Campbell says, "The quality of your being expresses the correctness of your understanding. What does the quality of YOUR being say about the correctness of YOUR understanding?" Your choices and being ripples out into the world around you. You are information in motion. You are response able. Be responsible for the effect you have on others, both positively and negatively.
In the words of Bette Riese, "If you think you're too small to make a difference, you have never been in bed with a mosquito."
When my cat Einstein died I was devastated. He was a 20 pound, lovable, ornery beast who knew what he wanted and when he wanted it. He may have been a cat but he was no pussy (sorry!). I once saw him being chased by a dog; it was as if all of the sudden he remembered he had claws. He slid to a grinding halt, turned around and chased the dog who ran yelping scared in the other direction. Friends felt honored when Einstein sat on their laps, gracing them with his presence. He was really something.
Six weeks after he died, which in my estimation was too soon to get another cat, I was at a friend’s house who happened to be looking for a home for a kitten she found. This small grey ball of absolute cuteness climbed all the way up my leg to my shoulders, laid across the back of my neck, licked my cheek and rested her head next to mine as if to say, “I’ll take this one.”
Who could resist? She came home with me and I dubbed her ‘Olivia’. As Olivia and I were getting accustomed to each other a neighbor came over to invite me to dinner. “You got a new kitten,” he said. Still reeling from losing my boy I replied, “Yes, she’s adorable but she’s no Einstein.” He laughed and said, “You’re in the marvelous stages of discovery” and went on his way, not realizing the gift he gave me.
I looked at Olivia and realized that as long as I was comparing her Einstein, we had no chance. So I consciously stopped and met the unique creature before me. I discovered her special qualities, got to know her quirks and fell in love with my new girl.
My eyes were opened. In every aspect of my life, my mantra became “discovery vs. comparison”. What if I could discover the beauty and uniqueness of the present instead of comparing it to the past or an idealized future? What if I could see what was standing before me instead of trying to squeeze it into a predetermined box of how it I wanted it to show up? This distinction allows me see what is working and what is not working much quicker... and to act accordingly with accurate information. My life has never been the same. And Olivia turned out to be a stellar bodacious girl in her own delightful right. Quite the personality. Discovery vs. comparison ~ how could it change your life?