Stop competing against yourself

Here’s a newsflash you may not want to hear, all of those challenges you won and all of those opponents you bested were not real. You were never really competing against anyone else you were really only competing against yourself.

Your urge to win and the competitive spirit you have always been so proud of were never about beating everyone else, your need to win was always about filling an empty space within yourself.

If you really want to find a place of calm then the real question you should ask is not how many people you have to beat until you are satisfied, but how big is the hole within you and where did it come from?

No matter how many trophies you line up you will still have that itch to step up to another challenge. The empty hole within you will still need to be filled, and after you are finished with the last opponent what will you do then?

No matter how many people you beat your need to win will still be there. Even the applause that once excited you will begin to ring like the empty clapping of people you don’t know because that is what it has always been, and that will never fill the empiness within you.

The only way to overcome your need to win is to recognize it for what it is, to come to terms with it, to accept it as a part of who you are, and then to work on filling the empty space with the love and empathy that you truly yearn for.

Whether your need comes from a parent who never gave you the attention you deserved or whether it stems from being the poor kid at school who you thought never measured up; those are the real issues you need to resolve if you are to findthe calm within you. Winning is your stigma to carry around until you are ready to address the root issue that it stems from – and that my friend is far easier said than done. Growing up is easy, maturing is not.

You see, society places a constant pressure that forever pushes you to fit in. Your parents and siblings push you to be the person they wanted to be, never realizing that person is the person they never were.

Nobody ever tells you that their idea of who you shoud be is simply the person they were never able to become. Each is a delusion that you think you have to accept as you struggle to find yourself and fit in. The shoes they want you to fill come from a long line of failed lives.

Just as you are trying to fill the expectations of your family and friends, each of them is trying to fill the expectations of those around them. Everyone turns to “winning” as a way to do this never realizing they are just perpetuating an endless cycle of trustration and dstriving to measure up.

If you follow this cycle as you grow and mature you will forget about who you are as you try to satisfy the people around you. In the end you will lose yourself to the crowd of empty admirers trying to fit in to their own cycle of frustration. Their failed dreams become your reality. Their lost lives become your actuality and that empty need to win will trap you within yourself.

It is why so many stars of the entertainment and sports world have very empty and lonely lives in the end. The positive thing is that it doesn’t have to be this way.

You know the saying about loving yourself before you can love anyone else? The same is true for knowing yourself before you know anything else. If you don’t know yourself then everything you think you know may not be as real as you think it is. More than likely it is just a series of delusions that you created to protect yourself as you grew up in the world as it really is.

Knowing yourself is not as easy as you may hope but it is essential to your well-being. 

As you mature you change. The way you speak changes, your mannerisms change, your tastes change, your needs and desires change. Just look at yourself, you wear different clothes than you used to, you think different thoughts, you want different things, and all of this is good. I pray it never stops as long as it leads you to find your authentic self. It is far too easy to follow someone else’s ideas of who you should be without question. The problem with doing that is that sooner or later you wake up and discover that you are not who you want to be. You are who they want you to be and that you have strayed from your path without knowing why.

Finding yourself is a lifelong process. Every time you learn something about yourself it changes who you are. But at some point in time you lost your true self to those changes. Was it a slow slide down a slippery slope as you adopted someone else’ identity? Or was it a sudden shift like when you started your first job and realized your clothes and your mannerisms were no longer right for where you wanted to go?

The answer is different for everyone. It is not easy to figure out. It takes a life time to find the answer if you ever do. But what did you expect? It took a lifetime to get to where you are, and yes, it will probably take the rest of your lifetime to get to where you want to go.

Don’t worry, you don’t have to give away everything you worked so hard for or run off to a monastery to live the life of a monk. You can still go about your work and your family life just like always. It will be a gradual shift as you slowly learn to recognize the delusions you thought were real as you begin to live in the real world right here and right now.

Ask yourself some very straightforward questions.

Just take out a slip of paper and respond to these questions as honestly as you can. Make a note of which ones make you slightly or even fully uncomfortable.

  1. What does your ideal day look like?
  2. What did you want to be when you were younger?
  3. Who are you most inspired by? Why?
  4. Who would you love to meet? What would you ask?
  5. What habit would you most like to break? What habit would you most like to start?
  6. Think of a person you truly admire. What qualities do you like about that person?
  7. How do you like to relax?
  8. When was the last time you did something you were afraid of?
  9. What are you most proud of?
  10. What are you most afraid of?
  11. If life stopped today, what would you regret not doing?
  12. Who would you like to connect (or reconnect) with? Why?
  13. What qualities do you admire in others?
  14. What practical skills do you wish you had?
  15. Imagine you’re in your 90s. What memories would you like to have? What stories do you want to tell?
  16. What is your favorite book/movie/song? Why?
  17. If you could make one change in the world, what would it be?
  18. What do you love to do for, or give to others (not an object – something from you personally)?
  19. What excites you?
  20. What do you wish you did more of?
  21. Pretend money is no object. What would you do?
  22. What area of your life, right now, makes you feel the best? Which area makes you feel the worst? Why?
  23. Let’s jump forward a year. What would you like to have achieved in the past year?
  24. What piece of advice would you give to five year old you? Sixteen year old you? Twenty-one year old you? Right now?
  25. How do you want to be remembered in life?

Want to learn more? Reach out and let us guide you through the process of a Strategy for Happiness

 

The Covert Aggressives In Your Life

You probably know a few Passive Aggressive people, but do you know what a Covert Aggressive is?

Somewhere between a passive aggressive and an outright aggressive person are countless layers of aggressive behavior. You will interact with each at some point in your life, possibly some at the same time. But if you don’t know how to respond to each in the right way you will be forever caught in and endless cycle without ever being able to live your life in the way you want to live it.

You’ve probably met a Covert Aggressive person at work. You may even have a few in your family without even knowing it. You may have thought they were being passive aggressive, only a bit more active in their actions, leaving you to think you were the crazy one or just being paranoid. Well, you’re not crazy and you’re not paranoid. You probably just ran into a Covert Aggressive.

Covert Aggression is a relatively new term coined by Dr. George Simon. Dr Ssimon was the Supervising Psychologist for the Arkansas Department of Corrections. He just published a book titled In Sheeps Clothing: Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People, and it’s a must read if you want to find out more about what a CA is and what to do about them.

While working in the Arkansas prison system he noticed a pattern with some prisoners. He noticed the same pattern in the business world as well. He calls it Covert Aggression. A Covert Aggressive is similar to a passive aggressive in that they do not directly confront the target of their aggression, but they actively work behind the scenes to undermine those they think are undermining their power base. They may not consciously act out in this way, but this is how they instinctively deal with those who threaten them whether real or imagined.

They know how to push the buttons we all inherently have, and if you are the target of their ire they will do so until they find the one that you respond to. Sometimes they will even go so far to create a situation that involves the unwitting help of those around you just to see you suffer.

While a Passive Aggressive person hems and haws or uses delay tactics to interrupt activities they don’t want to be a part of, Covert Aggressive people play mind games to get their way. They reach out to your family and friends, getting them to take actions that undermine your efforts while always having an excuse for what they did leaving you to wonder what just happened or if you’re the paranoid crazy one.

I wrote about Covert Aggressives in my 2010 book The Simple Truth. At that time there was no name for that they were doing so I referred to them as someone who learned to work the loopholes of our social conventions in order to get what they wanted. They know that the majority of people are too polite to call them on their cutting comments and actions as long as they didn’t go too far. In the end they got what they wanted without ever crossing the line of the social norm.

They are the people who make a cutting comment followed by an “I’m just kidding,” or take an action followed by an “I thought I was doing you a favor.” They may enlist an unwitting friend to do a task, convincing that person that it is a good thing only to discover it is anything but. The CA knows most people will never challenge them directly because their aggression is so hard to pin down, leaving their tactics to fall somewhere between passive aggression and out and out aggression.

The CA often gets others to do little things that allow them to stay in their comfort zone out of the conflict while undermining your efforts. Even the unwitting perpetrator may wonder why you reacted the way you did, after all, they were doing you a favor, and aren’t favors what good people do? And there-in lies the beauty beneath the CA’s approach. They know we all want to be good people and that we all want to do good things. They have developed their tactics over time, learning what works and what doesn’t, so all a CA really has to do is convince those around you that what they are doing is a good thing. By the time you catch on and bring attention to the actions of a CA they look around in innocence as if you are the bad one while they remain untouched.

Their manipulations and anglings get them what they want while you look like the bad, unappreciative one, reeling confused and in self-doubt. You know what you experienced yet nobody else seems to understand why you are so upset.

If you are like many of my clients you may think you are dealing with a passive-aggressive person with a difference, their aggression is anything but passive. It’s a subtle difference but it’s an important one, because you can’t resolve an issue if you can’t see the issue for what it is.

In his book Dr Simon defines Passive-Aggression as a “pervasive pattern of negativistic attitudes and resistance to demands for adequate performance without confronting that person directly.”

True Passive-Aggression can take the form of noncompliance, such as getting “sidetracked” when asked to leave, never quite making it to the door. Covert Aggression, on the other hand, often takes the form of “lying or manipulation of someone through tactics unseen by others.”

The CA knows enough about human nature to make someone feel like they’re a part of the team when they’re really undermining the team for their own gain. Unlike “passive-aggression” a Covert Aggressive takes a very active role in your life without ever crossing the socially acceptable line.

Keep in mind that people use covert aggressive tactics from time to time. That does not always mean they are a Covert Aggressive, but it does mean you need to be aware of them if you are to maintain your life on your terms with as little effort as possible.

In general, an aggressive person sees life as a competition that they can’t stand to lose. When they feel their powerbase threatened they fall back on the tactics that have always worked for them, whether that means passive, covert or all out physical aggression. Some people cycle through them until they find which works best for their situation with you. The bottom line to their response is to get you to play on their field and with their rules. The moment you respond is the moment you step onto their field and begin to lose losing yourself to their ends.

What follows is paraphrased from Dr. George K. Simon’s new book called In Sheep’s Clothing: Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People. If you’d like to learn more about covert aggressive people and how to manage them in your life I highly recommend buying a copy.

A covert aggressive person manipulates the world to fit their needs without ever compromising their status. On the light side, they may ask you to decide where to go for dinner. When you pick a place, they will complain that they don’t want to go there. When you suggest another place, they will at best be lukewarm to your suggestion. Recognizing this you may invite them to pick a place at which point they will complain that they’re tired and asked you to decide. It will continue like this leaving you frustrated and unsure of where it’s all going.

A covert aggressive person may not even realize what they are doing. In their mind they are merely responding to the world around them to get what they want. When they feel threatened they respond automatically in the only way they know how – by keeping you off balance and seeking solid ground, which they are only more than happy to provide as long as you ask them nicely.

This example is a tactic many people use without even thinking about it because it makes them feel secure, but regardless of what tactic someone uses the key to stopping them is to not respond and to not follow them into their maze. Instead pull back and ground yourself right where you are. Be honest and call them on their words and actions in a straight-forward manner. Be prepared for them to cajole, plead their innocence, or become angry, this is what they do because these reactions have worked for them in the past.

When they stomped their feet as a child, their parents did whatever it took to calm them. As a teen this same pattern grabbed hold when they wanted a new car or a new freedom. When you see these patterns of manipulation arise, think through your interaction with the person employing them and ask them what’s going on. If they respond in one of the following ways you may be dealing with someone using a Covert Aggressive tactic.

 

Know The Signs

Playing Dumb

When someone who is sharp suddenly plays dumb, acts confused or conveniently forgets, it may just be a tactic designed to make you question your judgment. Don’t question your sanity, question theirs.

Diversion and Distraction

When someone refuses to give a straight answer to a straight question or changes the subject chances are they are trying to manipulate you. Attempts to Distract or Divert your attention are just their efforts to redirect your focus from their behavior to promote their agenda. You may confront your manipulator on a very important issue only to find yourself wondering how you got on the topic you’re talking about. Keep bringing them back to your topic and remind yourself to not get side-tracked again.

Lying by Omission

A covert aggressive does not straight-out lie. They omit or distort key facts. They may become vague or leave out key details that make all the difference. You may think you have all the information only to find yourself wondering how you missed the full picture later on.

Charm and Anger

When cornered a Covert Aggressive may respond with flattery or erupt in anger as if surprised by your accusations. It is an involuntary response from them, emotions they switch on and off without good reason. It’s a stall tactic they use to intimidate and put you on the defensive. Don’t feel the need to respond to either. Instead, smile, raise an eyebrow and just keep quiet as you observe what they do next.

Playing the Victim

Covert Aggressive people often make themselves out to be the victim to gain sympathy and compassion. They know that everyone wants to be a good person, they know that when phrases like “good people”, “sympathy” and “compassion” are properly used they can position themselves as the victim and create allies out of otherwise neutral people.

Good People Rationalization & Minimization

We all want to believe people are “good” and “decent”. We all look for a way to excuse someone’s behavior. This is what it is to be human. It is also how a CA manipulates those around them. The CA uses someone’s natural desire to confirm their goodness to act against you.

This rationalization is the excuse an otherwise neutral person is given for engaging in what they know is inappropriate behavior. The sad part is it works, especially when a CA’s explanation makes just enough sense for any reasonably conscientious person to go along with it.

Minimizing an action is insisting that it’s “not that big a deal” or afterwards that “you’re blowing this out of proportion”, in order to maintain their powerbase. Listen for these critical phrases.  If you hear them, pause and look at the actions beyond the words to find their true intentions.

Guilting and Shaming

To the manipulator direct or indirect shaming is a way to put you down to make you feel inadequate so they can maintain their dominance. The more you feel bad about yourself, the more likely you are to defer to them.

They don’t feel bad, but they know if they send you on a guilt trip, you’ll most likely back away from your accusations, which will return the status quo that they have always enjoyed.

Cutting Jokes

Manipulators relax and feel better when you play their game by their rules. They may create a joke about you which they spread. Perhaps they imply that you will think it’s funny or tell others that it’s not “that big of a deal”.

People may think they’re in on a personal joke when they are actually supporting your aggressor who knows you will never speak out against them or their go-between but will enjoy the suffering it causes you all the same.

Cycling

The Covert Aggressor will often cycle from one tactic to the next, waiting to see which one gets a reaction. No matter which they choose the most effective response is to simply not respond. Not responding is not always realistic but minimizing your contact with that person however you can is better than enduring their actions.

 

What To Do

Now that you have a better idea of what you are up against, here’s what can you do about a CA once they have targeted you as a threat to their dominance.

Know Your Vulnerabilities

When you know your vulnerabilities, you can recognize when they try to push your buttons and stuff your need to respond back into its box. If you need to feel good about yourself, as we all do, if you are easily guilted or shamed into doing something you may not want to do then you need to be aware of that and be ready when someone wants to use that against you. A CA rarely knows what is personal and specific to you. They know that everyone has some kind of guilt and a need to belong, they know everyone wants to be a good person, so they can be general at first as they probe around for you to react to one of their tactics until they sense your weakness before they pounce. It’s how they recruit go-betweens who are unaware of the damage they are doing. It’s just what they do. So be prepared and ready to ignore their probing and prying while smiling and being kind in return.

Prepare

Prepare yourself by knowing what you want from your interaction with them and be prepared for consequences. If CA feels like they’re losing they’ll do almost anything to regain their sense of dominance. You need ask yourself what are you willing to give up and what you are not willing to? Tun through a few basic scenarios without killing yourself over them. Simply try to anticipate their first tier responses to your actions without getting lost in your own head games and know what to expect.

Set Boundaries

First thing you need is some boundaries. What will you no longer tolerate? And what will you do if they violate those boundaries? Go no further until you have concrete answers to those two questions.

Don’t Play Nice

Thinking if you playing nice they will do the same is a misconception. It will not. As Dr. Simon puts it “treating a Bengal tiger like a kitty cat is a good way to get mauled.” Simply put, be polite and don’t respond to their actions. You will want to get even but put that thought of your mind. You never will. You will only get their inner aggressive nature to feed ever more deeply on your emotions.

Stay Open

A CA, like anyone, wants to be loved. Somewhere inside them is a child that feels very alone and needing a hug. You don’t have to give them a physical hug, but don’t shy away from giving them an emotional one.

Support Network

Now is a good time to use your support network. Reach out to those around you so that you have someone to help give you a reality check and some emotional support when your CA senses you’re no longer playing their head games. If you don’t have one now is the time to create one with honesty and authenticity. Don’t play games, just tell your trusted friends what’s going on.

Your Behavior

Understand they will never change. This is who they are and who they will always be. They know you will want to change them and they will use that in their favor. Focus on changing the only thing you have power over – your behavior toward them.

Don’t be afraid of stepping away from them completely. You will may feel screwed. You may want to make them pay or just to say they’re sorry. I doubt either will happen because they do not feel as if they have done anything wrong. They simply felt threatened and responded as they always have in the past. Just understand you cannot make them do anything, least of all apologize. What you can do is to control how your respond to them. Instead now may be the time to update your portfolio of responses:

Accept no excuses

If you are willing to accept an excuse, then they’ll just start throwing excuses at you until one sticks. Don’t respond to verbal rationalizations, instead judge them by their actions, not their intentions.

Make direct requests, only accept direct responses.

Be as matter-of-fact as you can about what you want them to do. Do not give them the wiggle room that they love.

Be specific about what it is you expect or want from the person across from you. Use phrases like: “I want you to xxx ” or “I don’t want you to xxx anymore.” If xxx is specific it will give your manipulator little room to distort or “misunderstand” what you want or expect from them.

A yes-or-no question should be answered with a yes or a no response. If they won’t give it, then they’re already leading you into their next maze. Don’t follow them.

Focus on win-win

Covert Aggressive people will often step up if you have something they want. If they have something to lose, they will make sure you do as well. This is why you will want to propose as many win-win solutions as possible.

Concede

Don’t let your ego get in the way of your life. At times it is okay to step back and concede a minor point that may be what your aggressor sees as a major victory. You might be surprised at how important something you don’t care about may be to the person across from you.

Don’t dive too deep

It’s not your job to cure a Covert Aggressive person. Keep everything light and breezy, stay up in the clouds without threatening them. See if you can work around their roadblocks so that you can eventually avoid interacting with them all together.

 

Phrases to Learn:

What you are attempting to do with each of these phrases is not to confront the person who has become fixated with you as someone to defeat, but to define the borders of their maze so that you can exit it as quickly as possible and get on with your life.

Always smile as you use the following phrases when confronting someone who ha it out for you:

  • Address the big picture: “I’m a little confused, but where do you see this going?” or “What do you hope to gain from this?”
  • Accept no excuses: “I’m less concerned with why you did what you did than that you did it in the first place.”
  • Make direct requests, accept only direct responses with a smile: “That’s alright, I’m fine with a simple yes or no.”
  • Focus on win-win: “It’s okay, why don’t we just jump to what you want out of this so we can both get on the same page.” If they can’t get on the same page then what they want is not something you can deliver or want to. Either way, welcome to their maze.

Today’s failure is tomorrow’s success

What seemed impossible yesterday is most likely possible today and will be even more so tomorrow. It’s about technology, advancement and the experience you gain by having been wrong in the past.

From failure you learn how not to do something, and that is often the most difficult lesson to learn. The second most difficult is to sit back and reflect on what you just did so that you can apply your learning in your next attempt. There will always be a next attempt as long as you are willing to move past your ego and try again. The lessons you learn may not apply to your current project but your experiences and your failures will help you get through whatever you are doing in the next here and now.

You just have to ask yourself if you are willing to move beyond the fear of your primordial brain to create a new success.

As a human you will never do it right the first time. There is no shame in that fact. The important thing to keep in mind is that you will get it right if you set your ego aside and approach your tasks in the right way; through a) the process of Action Reflection Action and b) by sharing your errors with, and learning from the community of trusted people around you.

It is how we have evolved and grown past our limitations. We attempted something in the past (Action), we made a mistake and shared our mistake with the community around us (Reflection). We adjusted our efforts and tried again (Action). If we made another mistake we adjusted our efforts again, and we continued this process of Action/Reflection/Action until we got it right. Notice the one key word throughout all of this – we.

The coffee mug didn’t just appear looking like it does now. It took centuries to get it right. At first our ancestors used their hands in a cold stream to take a sip. It was good, until someone discovered fire and eventually that water could be heated to warm us, someone else discovered that when flavored with herbs and crushed beans it would give them a boost. It wasn’t until those seemingly different ideas were brought together that someone else created ways to hold that concoction. Each refined their separate ideas until we have what we now take for granted in every McDonalds or Starbucks we drive or walk into.

Our ancestors never imagined what their individual projects would turn into, but the end result is something they were could never even dream of. At first they used hollowed out logs but perhaps the wood gave their brew a bad taste. Perhaps someone saw someone else heating clay in a fire and thought it a good idea to hold water. By talking around a fire two early sapiens put the idea of a crude bowl into action.

It did not happen in an instant, but after many tries and many generations maybe the idea of adding a handle to the bowl to create a crude mug came up. They may not have gotten that handle right but they brought themselves one step closer to creating what we now call a mug. Perhaps in modern times someone else thought wouldn’t it be great if we could take that drinking concept on the road, and so it goes and will go well into the future.

Our ancestors didn’t get it right the first time, neither do we. Life is a never-ending process of Action/ Reflection/Action. Everything takes centuries to get to the point where their crude shelters kept advancing to the point where they did more than just hold out the rain or kept them safe, warm or shaded. Each time they learned how to create what was needed through the process of Action/Reflection/Action.

Each of the impossibilities we face is actually made possible by sharing knowledge and by expanding our web of experience beyond what each individual failure teaches us as we sped down the path together to where we are today.

Nobody ever gets it right the first time. First somebody comes up with a need. They discover that others share that same need. Someone chimes in with a  possible solution. We try to build that solution. Maybe it works or maybe it doesn’t. Someone else comes along with another idea, and so it goes until a sort-of solution is created. It sticks for a while until someone else adds a new idea, each improving upon the initial idea. So it goes until the mug, the tablet, the book, the library, and eventually the internet is created.

All you have to do is follow that same basic process. Find a problem to solve, ask someone for their help. Learn from those around you if they can apply their thinking to your issue. Build your knowledge base so that you can tackle bigger and more complicated issues – be they physical, psychological or spiritual. This is how yesterday’s impossibilities becomes today’s possibility and tomorrow’s reality.

Speaking became writing, writing became books, books became libraries, libraries became the internet, and the internet brought us back to speaking again.

Many of our advancements have not been so positive. Some have been turned into destructive, sliding us backwards which is perhaps the most difficult lesson for us to learn, that of self-restraint. Sometimes we are not ready for our own creations and we have to rein ourselves in. In that moment an internal war is waged between our ego that urges us onward and our reason that wants to pull us back.

Yes a gun can be used to hunt and get us food. It can also be used to kill many innocent and unsuspecting people in one simple pull of the trigger. It is why now is the time for us to realize what is the good way to use the tool we created so many centuries ago and which is the bad way.

In time our children’s children will know to manage themselves, which will perhaps be our greatest lesson of all, giving us the self-restraint we never had, which will be a leap forward if we take it. The moment we take that step we will unleash the realization of our greatest accomplishment of all – the advancement of the human spirit.

It will be yesterday’s greatest impossibility that our children’s children’s children will make – the peace we have all been looking for – possible. So why is it so difficult  for us to open our hearts and allow them to do so?

They have the opportunity to make the world a kinder place, if we can just get out of their way. We had our chance to do this for so long. It is now our time to step our of their way so that they can have theirs.

Want to learn more? Click here at Simple-Truth.com 

Be well, and in the end, it is your life. It’s time to live it your way.

I hope this helps

Meditating Cairn

Cairns have been around since humans first walked the earth.  They range from simple piles of stones to elaborate monoliths. They were first created as a way to tell those that followed that the path you are on is safe, that others have walked this way before, to carry on and continue your journey.

The Simple Truth Project chose the meditative cairn as our logo for the same reason. We are not a traditional Buddhist school. We are a collective of people who are on a similar journey. We are bound in kinship as a Sangha that is bound by our paths, to support, to share and to discover which thread that binds us is the right one to follow.

The meditative cairn we created is our way to give you comfort,  just as they do across the world, from mountains and highlands, to deserted beaches and inland waterways.

Join us at the Simple Truth Project so that we may walk beside you and guide you.

The more you become aware of the cairns that are all around you, the more you will see them throughout your day.  You will see that some were made by your ancestors and predate your birth, others were made during your lifetime to mark the path before you.

Some edifices are in the shape of buildings or people.  Ours is in the shape of a Buddha sitting in meditation.  Ours shows both the way, and the method.  We hope this will remind you that you are not alone on your journey,  that someone else has asked the same questions and has sought the same answers.

Our cairn is why we give students symbolic stones when they complete a step in their personal journey.  So that in time you can build your own cairn and show others that the journey they are on is a good one and to stay on their path wherever it may lead.

Where is your practice headed?

5 Comments To Never Say

No Judgment

At one point in time this was authentic. It had meaning and credence. But now I hear it so many times every day, it rings of insincerity. It’s on television commercials, online ads pushing laundry detergent. What it really means is “boy, did I just judge you, and it was not good. In fact, it was so awful it made me feel guilty just thinking of it, so I need to say something to lower my own guilt over having thought it.” Let’s be honest, we all judge others. That is human nature. There is no getting away from it. The key is not to not judge, but to use our judgements as an invitation to ask yourself, “what is it about them that made me so judgmental? Why was I so quick to judge?” The answer actually has nothing to do with them, but with yourself. Don’t apologize to them, apologize to yourself, for within you is the key to your judgments, not with them.

learn to be happy

No Shame

As with the No Judgment rationale, when you shame someone, you are really just expressing the shame you carry within you. Some past memory, guilt, or apology you never said. As with the “no judgment” comment, we all shame others for self-gain, we do it to pull them into line. As one highly regarded Zen master once told me, “shame is the fastest way to teach.”

That does not make it right by any stretch of the imagination. By telling someone “no shame” you are giving the a Get Out Of Jail Free card. Your comment is just piling on more shame to whatever it was you just witnessed. Why, because they did not do it your way?

The shame is not theirs to carry, it is yours. Simply stop judging and stop shaming. It is not your place to call others out on some trumped-up idea of how they should act, and idea that you created out of the shame you carry around. Let the live their life in their way, and you can live your life in yours.

Learn to be authentic 

With All Due Respect

This is a classic setup. All it means is that you are about to pull the rug out from underneath them and slam them with some very disrespectful words. Why say it? Once again, you’re just giving yourself permission to be nasty. Don’t say “with all due respect,” just say what you’re going to say and then enjoy the regret you’re going to have to carry around with you for saying it.

If you are a true friend, then there is no need to give yourself an out. If not, then you shouldn’t make the comment. It’s not going to soften the blow of whatever you feel you have to say to them, because it really is for you. Instead of saying with all due respect just hold your tongue. The world will be a better place for it.

Learn to be you

I was Just Thinking

Does that mean you usually don’t think? This comment does not make you look or sound smart. It usually prefaces what you think is a brilliant idea, but you’re just not convinced it is. You’re trying to hedge your bets in case your brilliant idea falls flat. Perhaps you think adding a casual tone to whatever comes next will give you and out, or perhaps the idea of downplaying your brilliance will make your idea all the more palpable.

Next time just say what your idea is and let your audience judge its merits on their own?

Learn to be mindful

I’m Being Honest With You

This is on par with I was just thinking. It implies that you have not been honest with your audience up until now. As with most of these comments, it does just the opposite of what was intended, it raises their attention level to assess what you have just said, and are about to say, with a new level of wariness.

If you have something to say, then just say it. Good thoughts and comments need no introduction. They will find their way to the intended listener’s ears all on their own.

If you are ever in doubt, good conversation, like good meditation or a well-made martini, comes from the school of less is more. You don’t have to embellish. All that ever does is put a garish tone to what could have been a wonderful diversion.

Learn to meditate.

 

Be well and I hope this helps.

 

Sexuality

There is no homosexuality. There is no heterosexuality. There is only human sexuality.

Every one of you has a range of traits buried within you that expresses itself differently. For some there is a recognition that you prefer men or women over women or men. For others there is a recognition that you see beyond labels and see only the Love within, regardless of gender, race, religion or creed. Neither is right nor wrong, neither is good nor bad, better or worse, as long as it comes from a place of Love.

The bible wrote about homosexuals in the time of Abraham, and in the story of David and Jonathan, the animal kingdom is rife with examples. You see, sexuality is not a human thing, but a think of the spirit. It is like a color wheel that you can scroll around, selecting just the right mix of reds and greens and blues, that lies deep within hues and tints that make every color an entire color wheel in and of itself.

The combinations are endless just like the mixture of possible expressions of sexuality that lie within each of you. Whether that expression is nature or nurture, genetics or learned, does not matter. How comfortable you are with yours is all that does. How you express you sexuality is an endless display that is as human as the mix of features on your face.

For a man or woman to look at another person of the same sex and say they are not able to tell if they are beautiful is the greatest lie of denial I know. For a man to stand before Michelangelo’s David and deny he can find the beauty in it is to deny that he can find the beauty within himself. The same goes for a woman. If they cannot find beauty within others, what they are really saying is that they cannot find the beauty within themselves, and that is a shame. To them the world is a dark and ugly place that is led by fear, not worthy of their rejoicing in who they are. It means they cannot find or appreciate the Love within themselves.

The label of LGBT or Q is just that, a label and nothing more. It is a reflection of the very human need to label define everything around us. Those labels are arbitrary and meaningless, important only to those people who are so insecure in their own skins that they hide their weakness behind the neat little boxes they proudly display on their shelves, all lined up and sealed with a bow, never to be pulled out and examined until they come across it at some future point while looking inward in self examination with a “wow” or an “aha!”, as if in sudden recognition of the thing that has been with them all along.

Sexuality is a funny thing, because it exists in denial, just as Love exists in denial for so many. It is not a convenience to be pulled out and paraded around when it is time. Human sexuality is something to be proud of every minute of every day of every one’s life. No matter what you consider yourself – gay, straight, lesbian, bi, trans or queer – you are all of those things, each expressed at different levels at different times.

Coming to terms with your sexuality is like saying I am coming to terms with my need to drink water or to eat food. When you are hungry you will eat, when you are thirsty you will drink. It is less about if, as it is about when. When you are comfortable admitting your own sexuality to yourself and to those around you – family, friends, associates, the world.

When you come to terms with your sexuality and grow comfortable with the sexuality of others, what you are really doing is coming to terms with the Love that flows all around us and through us, connecting each of us and protecting us as the global family we truly are. That Love is the true community we are all a part of, regardless of race, religion, gender or sexuality.

So welcome to the contemporary world and to contemporary thinking – Love is Love. It is what it is to be human.

Love expresses itself in many ways and on many levels of intimacy. Sometimes is the friendship you feel with someone. It can be expressed as kinship, a sexual bonding or even as an all consuming relationship. Within each of these your sexuality plays a part. So be comfortable with your sexuality or your ability to Love on any level will be unable to move past that age old and stodgy handshake of yesteryear.

If you consider yourself asexual or sapiosexual, that is still a statement of sexuality.

It is why the idea of trying to out someone for their sexuality is absurd. It only matters to those who are dealing with their own fears of being banished from the tribe that has not existed in modern society for centuries except in our own minds. Like all things we will evolve past the notion eventually. The only question is, when…

The story of David and Jonathan or of Abraham and his head servant were written into the bible thousands of years ago. Yet people still fail to embrace them.

In this day and age to label people as this or that, black or white, suntanned or untanned is not just a mark of ignorance, it is the mark of living in another time and another era – one that humanity outgrew ages ago.

Within each of us is a conscious, sentient being. And your consciousness is not a binary element that is turned on or off with the flip of a switch. It is more like the dial on a stove that allows you to turn the heat up or down, from 0 to 10. Sexuality is about finding the right number for you, and that number will probably change throughout your life. So learn to be comfortable with your sexuality no matter where it leads you.

Remember, no matter how hard we try to classify each other, there will always be someone who will surprise you, who will remain – unclassifiable, and that is what being truly beautiful is all about. Surprising each other with discovery and being comfortable with that discovery.

Just remember the more you ridicule somebody, the more you show your own fear for what you know is inside you. The greater your hate or anger, or need to act out in violence, the more you show your own true desires that live deep down inside of you, beyond the wall you built that you hope no one else will see over.

But that is for an entirely different post.

Be well

Price of Perfection

I have often said that all the answers are out there in nature. You simply have to look deep enough. I hold to this way of thinking on every level.

It was just announced that it is impossible to reach a temperature of absolute zero.  It is the same for the speed of light. The closer you get to each, the costlier it becomes to attain that perfect state, eventually becoming physically impossible to do so.

What does this have to do with your life? The same applies when you try to attain absolute perfection in yourself or your work. It is a simple value proposition that just does not add up no matter how much you spend or how hard you work.

Getting to 80% of perfect is relatively inexpensive, in terms of time, money and resources. That last 20% though? The closer you strive to get to 100% the more expensive each step becomes and the less value your receive. The cost of reaching perfection simply becomes too great to justify the value it adds to your life.

The Navajo believe that only the gods can create perfection. It is why you will always find an imperfection in the rugs they weave. It is to acknowledge that to be human is to err. That no one but the gods are perfect.

This does not mean you should settle for less than perfect. It simply means to be aware of the cost of trying to do so. Do not struggle for something that is unattainable or it will be the source of greater suffering. Realize it is okay to reset your ideals for something that is less than absolute perfection. Take those resources and apply them to something with greater meaning in your life. Besides with the realities of the 21st Century world we live in, what is perfect today will be imperfect tomorrow and even less so the day after.

Stop thinking of this as settling for less and start thinking of this as a moment of enlightenment in terms of remeasuring where you want to spend what little time you have every day. Do you want to spend it running after details that last only for a moment before they disappear? Or do you want to step back and spend your time enjoying the larger view of things. A larger view that places your happiness above the perfection that will never be found in that “perfect” flower arrangement, the “perfect” job, the “perfect” cocktail party, the “perfect” weekend away, the “perfect” spa, the “perfect” mani/pedi, the “perfect” … well, you get the idea.

Stop thinking of it as settling and start thinking of it as LIVING!!!

It is your life. It’s time to start living it your way.

Be well, I hope this helps,

 

 

Jeff

 

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Unconditional Love

Unconditional Love, as versus conditional love, is so rare. Conditional Love is easy. I give you Love when you do something for me that I want you to do. You do the dishes, I kiss your cheek. I hold the door for you and you smile at me. You do something in the bedroom I enjoy. I return the favor. It is a give and take. At times I give more than I take. At others I receive more than I give.

But it is not give freely. There is a cost, a condition, to this kind of Love. Compliance. You will do what is expected of you if you are to receive the Love and attention you desire.

With unconditional Love there is no compliance. It is the act of simply giving. It is so rare, simply giving again and again and again. Not expecting anything in return, not asking for anything with one’s eyes or hands or heart – simply giving.

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Can you imagine what this world would be like if everyone simply gave without expecting anything in return? It would be a world filled with Jesus’, Buddhas, Mohammads and Abrahams.

I have experienced unconditional Love on occasion. At my bedside, when my mother fed me ice chips when I could not sip from a cup. When my wife lifted me up when I toppled over in rehab, neither asking if I wanted it, each simply offering, helping and assisting without expecting anything in return. On the rare occasion that I turned it down, they simply accepted that without a word, and smiled with more Love for me.

It is the Love a mother gives to her child when going through labor or when nursing. It is Loving through the pain. It is the Love a father gives to his child when explaining why the world is the way it is, free from feeling his own pain or regret, or acknowledging if his own needs are being met. Simply being present to the needs of the growing consciousness that is before them.

Unconditional Love is about caring for someone else’s happiness without a thought to the needs of the self. It is about being fully awake and aware, being fully present to the world around you, the person in front of you, to yourself.

It is not an excuse to stay in a bad marriage or relationship. It is saying I love you no matter what happens to us, not I love you no matter what you do to me.

I will love you when the sun is shining or the skies are grey.

I will love you even when I have a horrible day.

I will love you even if you do not return my love.

I will not look for love elsewhere even if you do.

For richer or poorer. In sickness and in health.

No matter what happens to us, I will Love you.

Because when I love you, I also love me.

I Love you no matter what conditions occur around us is unconditional Love.

Do not bother looking for it.

It will find you when you are ready to accept it.

If you want to feel unconditional Love simply open yourself up to it. It is all around you. It is within you.

Give it to yourself first. Hold yourself in your own heart unconditionally. Respect yourself, Love yourself, free yourself from those undermining comments you allow to fester within you. Free yourself from the self-loathing, the self-bashing you waste so much time on. All of that does nothing but distract you from the Love that is within you.

Once you see the Love within, you will begin to see the same unconditional Love within those around you. When you can feel the Love pass through you as you send it out unconditionally.

Try it.

You will be amazed at what will transpire.

Not just with others, but within yourself.

Unconditionally.

Meditation on Sex & Intimacy

Sex and Intimacy – separate threads that are often woven together. Sex without intimacy quickly becomes a meaningless act of copulation. But intimacy, with or without sex, is never dull, let alone disappointing.

I know the two words are used interchangeably, but they are really quite different. It is like the brain and the mind, one is physical, the other emotional, bordering on spiritual. One is brief, ending quickly in an explosive flash, the other a flowing tide without start or finish.

Intimacy is a tapestry woven with the threads of trust and understanding. It takes time and effort to nurture, it needs only two people who are willing to be truly present with each other as they join paths in a deep relationship, rich on so many levels that it can leave you exhausted by the sheer enormity of the tapestry you have woven together.

When intimacy overflows the boundaries of friendship it can lead to sex and even better, to Love. Depending on which route you decide to take sex can be nurturing, even transcendent. It can also be very destructive, when confused with, or takes the place of, Love.

In many ways a river is a wonderful metaphor for intimacy. The journey from friendship to Love is like the melting snow of a spring thaw. What starts a a trickle of water in spring joins with other trickles as they merge and break apart, but always moving downward.

As it continues to flow, from trickle to spring to river, it runs faster and faster. It sometimes joins with other streams along its journey, sometimes overflowing its banks or reshaping the course of the river itself.

It can cause catastrophe or bring water to what was once parched earth; all depending on how the waters flow.

When two people’s friendship reaches a level of trust and honesty their friendship becomes more intimate. It can become Love. Or not.

If it flows on the course toward Love it can continue to grow and expand, it can also become something quite different. Sometimes it can be a wonderful event as the waters of intimacy flow toward the sea.

The old riverbed can also turn too quickly, throwing old twists and turns for the new waters to flow in. Life can become erratic. It is as if past experiences are out to disrupt the flow two people created. It can disrupt the Love that in a more secluded moment would continue on in a pure and good and quieting way.

We have all seen two people whose Love has overflowed their boundaries. Family pressure, societal pressures, ill-health, even the stress of work can create unexpected twists and turns in the course of the river that force their intimacy to overflow. It can cause two people to doubt themselves and each other. And if their relationship relies on sex, rather than intimacy, they will find themselves lost, fighting a current that is stronger than they can survive.

This is when divorce, separation, or breakups threaten to break them apart. When the intimacy of a relationship is no longer enough to keep it going, this is the outcome.

Sex is an experience, on the other hand, is an experience. It can augment intimacy or not. It can heighten a loving experience and bring two people together in an act of transcendence. It can also rend them apart.

When sex replaces intimacy, it can become an outlet for the pain and confusion each person feels. When this happens what was once pleasurable becomes abusive. What was once transcendent becomes a trap.

When the sexual side of a relationship no longer satisfies the feelings of loss from the intimacy that was, it begins to hurt more than it helps, and that become a loss that is harder and harder to repair.

I hope this helps.

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Meditation on Tea & Intentions

This morning has been one of meditation, tea and intentions in my New York apartment studio. I woke to the warmth of this late spring day.  A comfortable reminder that we still have June, July and August to get through before feeling the cooling breeze of summer’s end.

My wife was up early for her flight.  I helped her with her bags and returned to bed, only to wake and have some tea at nine.  There was a time when I would have started to work, losing my focus and my steam as the day passed by me by.  But today I sat in a calm meditation. I closed my eyes, to spend a mindful moment in calm. Thirty minutes later I sipped my tea as the intentions I set came to realization within the tasks of the day ahead.

I knew my day would fill quickly enough, as most days do, with writing and clients, calls and naps of various lengths. I have found balancing my day between work and rest laid out a productive path for me.

There would be moments of meditation and moments of re-calibration as long as I chose to take them.  This moment I was in was one such moment.  Rather than share this morning with clients or friends I chose to be greedy and use it all myself.

I breathed into my tea and enjoyed the rich smoky scent of my Lapsang. The aroma my cup returned to me was deep.  I enjoyed the flavors with every sip. I admired the brownish color and smiled at the quiet calm that settled in. Sight, sound and smell were all focused on just one point.  A point of calm.

“This is what I will do with my day,” I announced to no one in particular.  “I will live it mindfully, and get all of my tasks done with a calm smile and calm pace.  Not hurriedly  or frenetically, but with the balanced calm of accomplishment.”

I checked off my first task and smiled at the progress I had already made.

Why not join me and do the same?