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The Negativity Bias

Back in the day, way, way, way back in the day. Joe, let’s call him Joe, or Susan (because it could have been a woman), was taking a power walk through the jungle when he (or she) heard rustling in the bushes. Now these being dangerous times (as they always are) he (or she) had a decision to make: run – because there is a tiger in the bushes; or, run – because there might be a tiger in the bushes. A mistake at this juncture could mean one less Joe or Susan on the planet. So, Joe (or Susan) decided that for the sake of all Joes (or Susans) on the planet that it would be far safer to make the mistake of thinking that there is a tiger in the bushes (when there possible isn’t) than making the mistake of thinking there isn’t a tiger in the bushes (when there actually is). In other words, Joe (or Susan) quite happily made the first mistake over and over and over to avoid making the second mistake (and thereby becoming lunch, after all, you are only lunch once). We have been following in Joe’s (or Susan’s) footsteps ever since. It is called the negativity bias.

Say I handed you a list call “5 Things about You”, and it read as follows:

  1. I like your generous nature
  2. I think you are very tolerant
  3. Your sense of humour needs some work
  4. You are an excellent cook
  5. You have great taste in clothes

What would you take away from that? If you are like most people you would be thinking, “So what is your problem with my sense of humour anyway?” If you thought you were pretty amazing after reading that, you can stop reading this now. See most people would gloss over the glowing compliments and focus on the one negative thing that was said about them. No, there is nothing fundamentally wrong with you if you do that so you can relax, remember the tiger in the bush? We are programmed to focus on the potential (if non-existent) threat. We are Teflon to the good things and Velcro to the bad.

Think about it, you are driving to work and for just about the entire trip everything goes a-ok, but then some #$@! cuts you off and for the rest of the day, you are thinking about how well the trip went, NOT! You are fuming and steaming about that idiot, what you should have said or done, and gosh darn it, your day is ruined! A bad event gets a lot more screen time in your mind than good events. Let me rephrase that, a helluva lot more. So basically, you go through your day glossing over the good things, obsessing over the bad, and anticipating the other shoe dropping. It’s not to say that you don’t enjoy the good times, but one bad event is equal in emotional power to about ten good events.

Ok so we have a predominantly negative focus, we tend to major on the minors, but surely this serves to keep us safe? Perhaps, but if you think of all the missed opportunities and shipwrecked relationships that we have left in our wake because we only think there is a tiger in the bushes it is in our best interests to face this bad habit head on. The truth is that there is very little in life that is really life threatening, and all the negative things that you tend to obsess over are really inconsequential. There is much in life that is not worthy of the f***ks you give them.

So how do we break this habit? Bad news folks, you don’t. It is a deeply ingrained evolutionary quirk (you can thank Joe for that). There is something you can do to shift the balance somewhat though. Firstly, you can let yourself off the hook for it, instead of thinking that you are just a pessimistic and hopeless case, realise that you just simply a regular Joe (or Susan). Secondly, when the good things come (and there are so many if you look) like the cup of coffee, the blue sky, the flowers, the birds, the smile of your child, the hug of your spouse etcetera, then allow yourself to wallow in the moment. Start training that brain to prefer the good things, to seek them out. Lastly, you can pursue inner peace like a cat chasing a laser pointer. If it doesn’t bring you peace (be it an experience, or if you can’t avoid the experience, then your thoughts about that experience) avoid it like the plague, and choose something that does bring you peace.

Choosing love over fear in this way can have untold positive effects on your life. Who knows what it will bring to you. If nothing else you will certainly feel a lot better about life, and when you feel better about life then you start making better choices.

http://www.imaginelifecoaching.co.za

The Free Will Myth

1135097_49004906webLast week in Johannesburg, South Africa, just up the road from where I live, there was a road rage incident. A driver and a motorcyclist lost their cool and had a shoot out, leaving one in hospital and one dead. It amazes the calm people that angry people don’t ask “What am I expecting when I pull this trigger?” It made me realise that free will does not exist. All of your choices, behaviours, beliefs, and values are not yours to choose. Every decision, from who you vote for, what you wear, who you are friends with, to who you marry, is not yours. I know what you are thinking, you are pretty convinced that you have the freedom to choose, and indeed you do, but you still aren’t the one making the choice. The bad choices you made weren’t yours, but neither were the good. You should feel no shame and take no credit.

How can I make such a ridiculous sounding statement? Because, like the two men who had the shootout, and certainly would never have “chosen” to do what they did, everything happens within a context. The truth is that nothing happens in a vacuum, and you are inseparable from your environment. Still to say that your choices are not really your own is to suggest that you are a puppet, a glorified robot.

Let’s take a closer look, a simple (for some) decision, what to wear today. You stand at your wardrobe and think about it. The choice is yours, so you think, but when you consider all the influencing factors you realise that it really isn’t. What are the influencers? What you are going to do that day, what you personally prefer (which has the entire history of your life behind it), who will be seeing you, who you will be seeing, what has been said to you, what you have worn before that got attention, and so the list goes on. Change any one of those influences and you will make a different choice.

Consider that red shirt that you love to wear because it suits you, what if someone said it looked ugly on you, would you make a different choice? Probably. So it goes for all the choices you make, your ego based fears are possibly the biggest influencer. That person you marry – is he just like your father? Does she feel like a safe choice? Does she have your tastes? Is he accepted by your friends and family? There are boxes that must get ticked, but change a box and the choice changes.

The entire history of the world happened the way it did so that you would make the choices you make. This is what makes religion (not spirituality) such a strange thing, your religion is chosen for you, if you consider what your parents do, what you have been taught, what your friends do, what will get you the most acceptance, you realise that there really wasn’t much of a choice at all. This is the thing though, our choices are usually those that we think will give us the most shine, get us the most acceptance, or on the other hand, the ones that will keep us safe, another way of putting this is that we do what we do to either get pleasure or to avoid pain. Even these motivations are wholly dependant on history – our experience and what we have been taught.

Think of each decision and behaviour as the outcome of complex theorems, or the result of a computer program, then you realise that your decision making process is not as free as you once thought. The chances are that if the variables stay the same, then you will make the same choice. So you are where you are by design, as a result of your history and programming, but you are far from helpless to do anything about it.

This is why prisons fail though, why drug addicts relapse, why children stay unruly, and why your own attempts at behaviour modification always fail. So many personal development things fail because they are an attempt to fix the result and not the programming or environment that causes the result.

So how do you fix things? Well here is where your free will comes into play, forget trying to change decisions or behaviour right now,if you try to do that I will guarantee that you will hear yourself saying, “I never meant to say/do that!” You need to realise that your decisions and behaviour are a response to, and a result of environment and influence. so in order to change things you need to focus on feeling good. By feeling good I am referring to that, “all is right with world, I am at peace” feeling. I am not talking about a hedonistic “If it feels good then do it” way of living, but a way of living that seeks for balance. Eating to support life, exercising to support life, pursuing spirituality to support life, relating to others in a life supporting way.

The way you feel when you make life affirming choices results in the kind of “good feeling” that I am talking about here. Hedonism (the pursuit of pleasure for pleasure’s sake) ironically is not life affirming, but rather seeks to avoid that which is life affirming. Hedonism is a direct response to the pain of life itself, an attempt to distract oneself or an attempt to just rip the tops of the weeds off leaving the roots intact.

When you make life affirming choices in all you do (choices that build and don’t destroy), you face the cause of the pain head on, you tackle the roots.  In other words choices that increase health in all aspects of life, this will lead to a feeling of wellbeing, when this is your context, the content must follow. Surely one of the most life affirming choices you can make will be to surrender that which is cause you so much “death”?

You cannot fix the self, as the one doing the fixing is the very self that needs fixing, but what you can do is surrender the obstacles to this wellbeing. I will teach more about raising consciousness in posts to come, raising consciousness is about changing the context which will change the content, so forget about behaviour modification and the like, it might work in the very short term but not in the long term. You will be amazed at how quickly your behaviour and decisions change as you change the context (internal and external context).

Here’s to raising consciousness,

Anthony.

Lifting Ships

1306682_86475666It is safe to assume that if you are reading this, and by virtue of the fact that you subscribed in the first place, you are interested in personal development. Perhaps for some of you that is putting it lightly, for some of you is it more like “Stop the bus! I want to get off!” Allow me to shed some light as to why most of you are feeling the urge to evolve.

Most of you, as I calibrated (if you want to know what that means then I encourage you to buy Dr David Hawkins amazing book – Power vs Force), are on consciousness level 125 – desire. What this basically means is that you will tend to view God as the one who has it all but is denying it from you. In other words, pray all you want, it ain’t gonna happen! Your view of life is that is it mostly disappointing, if there is a good life then it is avoiding you. The primary emotion that you are experiencing is anxiety, and the life process you will be experiencing is enslavement. In other words, you feel like you are missing out, stressed out, and trapped.

Your reality is how it is because of the consciousness level you are on, as your life will reflect your consciousness level. It is really good news, as it means that there is hope and change is a reality. SO how do you change your life? There is the way you have been trying to do it, and there is the way you don’t want to do it.

Most of the work you have been doing to change your life has been that of the ego, and as you will have discovered, it hasn’t brought any lasting sense of happiness or fulfilment. The ego has this crazy idea that inner happiness comes from the outside, so it sets you off on a mission to try and achieve this happiness by rearranging the pieces, like arranging the deckchairs on the Titanic.You may feel a bit better but you are still sinking.

So it seems that happiness will come when you fix yourself, but fixing yourself is very hard work and largely unsuccessful. Even most life coaching fails over time because it focusses on making the ego more comfortable within you, and when you challenge the ego it strikes back and you find yourself right back where you started.

Trying to fix yourself and circumstances is like trying to lift yourself by your shoelaces, and I know so many of you have tried to fix things, perhaps seen counselors, a psychologist, or even a life coach, and none of them have helped. I know lots of you have read books that promised so much, and tried the “law of attraction”, perhaps made dream boards, used affirmations, and so many other things. I bet you saw some progress but over time found yourself back where you were.  Is this you?

What you have been trying to do is the equivalent of “lifting ships”. If everyone who read this blog got together and we all went to the harbour and tried to lift a ship we still couldn’t do it. Trying to fix our lives by working with the content just can’t be done, because if the context of your life stays the same the content will too. You will find yourself constantly putting out fires.

Since it is the content that causes so much trouble people rarely think that the context is where the problem lies. Think about it, plant a seed and try to force it to grow on your terms, it won’t happen, but provide an environment where growth can happen and it does. Think of your consciousness level as the container and the “stuff” of your life as the content, as it says in the Bible, “you can’t put new wine in an old wineskin,” so trying to get better content in the same old container just won’t happen. Einstein put it this way, “You can’t solve a problem with the same level of thinking that caused it,” so in order to change your life, you need to change the environment it is happening in.

No, you can lift a ship (fix the content), but you can raise the level of the ocean and then lift all the ships. So the key to changing your life is in raising your consciousness. As your consciousness level rises, so does your experience, or rather, perception, of reality.

So how do you raise your consciousness level? There are two simple ways, and you need to do both: Sacrifice and love. People think sacrifice means giving up what they like –  living a painful life in order to experience spiritual good, but this is not so. Sacrifice in this case means consistently surrendering everything to the Higher Power, knowing that you don’t know it all, that you need outside help, and that you are not smart enough to know what is best. You surrender what is causing you pain so that you might know peace, and you surrender that which is making you happy so that you can experience what is even better. It is unconditional, and it means leaving things up to the Higher Power. The job here is not to try to fix yourself, but to surrender yourself. You surrender it by intending to do so, “I surrender this to….” and then you quit worrying about it, or wrestling with it.

Then there is love, you love everyone and everything as though it was yourself. You quit judging and criticising and you start loving. You accept that everyone is doing the best they can even if you don’t like it, and you treat everyone like royalty. You will be amazed at the result. I practice this myself, and I get the best service and so many free gifts wherever I go. You don’t do it for that reason though, you do it because it is who you really are.

Essentially it means allowing the rain to fall where it will and seeing everyone as divine beings and not in terms of their standing in society or behaviour.

When you consider how you have been programmed to live, it is not hard to understand why we struggle in life in terms of consciousness levels. Most people judge, criticise, and blame other people, and they allow their reality to dictate who they are instead of the other way around. It is the difference between living from the inside out or from the outside in. It’s the difference between embracing the world, or pushing it away.

Tuning In

1400144_98970976aWhat do you believe about life? I mean, what is it to you? How does it work, in your opinion? I think there would be as many answers as there are people, as your belief would be a mix of what you have been taught and what you have experienced (as a result of what you have been taught). If life has somehow been working out for you, you won’t question your beliefs, but if, like most people, it has been rather hard then you will be one of those looking around and saying “What happened?”

So what is life to you? Is it just an endless stream of bad luck and disasters (that you have no control over) that merciless pummel you daily? Is it just a boring humdrum of mundane events peppered with the occasional bright day or bad time? Or do things seem to go your way and you think of yourself as “lucky”? Isn’t it interesting how we are all on the same planet, we all breathe the same air, we all have the same opportunities (whether you believe that or not), yet we all have different experiences of life? What gives?

If you are not happy with the way things are, and this has been going on for some time, then perhaps you have embarked on a journey to discover “how” to really change things. If you have gotten lost in the sea of information that is out there then you won’t be the first, or the last. What a lot of people end up with is a bunch of stuff that they have tried, but with little or no results and a feeling that nothing seems to work. It does work, and has worked for somebody in some way, but why not for you?

Do you have a radio? Of course you do, you tune it to the station you want. If you have the right frequency you get satisfaction, if not, you get static or some other station playing music that makes your ears bleed. The Toltec Indians of North America have a belief that technology is an exterior representation of what we are capable of, so you are the radio, your thoughts are the tuner, your unconscious expectation is the frequency, and your reality is the sound you get from the radio.

You might have heard this analogy before, it is frequently used as a “Law of Attraction” teaching, but I believe the “Law of Attraction” is a misnomer. “Law of Vibration” is more accurate.  You don’t attract anything to you, just like a radio, you tune into a reality where what you want exists. The process can test you though, and most people give up long before they achieve what they are focussed on.  Why is it so easy to lose hope and give in though? Because people don’t understand that it is their “unconscious expectation” that does the creating. How many times have you consciously expected something and gotten a different result? Quite often I would wager, but were you aware that you were unconsciously expecting a different result? This is my point: An unconscious expectation is an expectation that you do not know that you have, an expectation that you are not consciously aware of. It sounds a bit nuts, but this is how you are protected from yourself. Imagine if everything you consciously expected happened to you, it would be a disaster.

It is only those beliefs that are tested and found to be “true” over time that become unconscious expectations, and this makes conscious creation a tough job. It means that you need to “rehearse” the new belief, the thing you want to create in your life, until it becomes an unconscious expectation.  You do this by entering into a meditative state and experiencing it as though it was already done. How long does it take? I don’t think anyone can answer this, only that when it becomes a natural thing to you and the next logical step is that thing manifesting – in other words, when it becomes an unconscious expectation. It will take as long as it takes, and this is where most people trip up.

Everything you currently believe without question is something you have rehearsed in this way, it was easy because you had the support of your environment, and the people around you believed the same thing and drilled it into you. When you begin the work of conscious creation you often don’t have the same support structure. It is easy to lose hope and give up. You have to find a way to keep yourself in the game, and that could mean changing who you hang out with, and starting some good habits. Of course life coaching is great for this; you get support from a trained supporter, but even then it is still up to you.

The goal is to keep feeling good, and this will take a lot of self awareness. Your emotions are your guidance system when it comes to the “law of attraction”, they tell you what you are focussed on. Remember it is your consistent focus that becomes your unconscious expectation and if you are feeling “bad” most of the time, it means that you are focussed on what you don’t want most of the time. Is it any wonder your life is the way it is?

This not to say that you will have to focus on what you want for a long time, your life is a mirror to your unconscious expectations, so as you start to change, so does your life. It doesn’t wait until you have arrived, it mirrors your journey.

It takes 17 seconds for a thought to start attracting like thoughts, and 68 seconds for those thoughts to start the creation process. Most people can’t hold a thought for 17 seconds, it takes real work, but this should give you a clue as to where to start. Getting good support helps tremendously, we all benefit from encouragement and the occasional kick up the behind.

Before you start on any of those goals or resolutions for 2014, get your focus right.

Here is to an amazing year,

Anthony.

http://www.imagineif.co.za

Spirit Man

1097072_26168205aThe discussion went like this: “Imagine if we all live as if we were God, wouldn’t that make the world a much better place?” to which the well-meaning religious zealot replied, “That’s the most ridiculous question I have ever heard. Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin all thought they were God and look at the damage they did.” Now, putting the judgment aside, I would say that both people are right in this discussion, but for different reasons.

There is a huge difference between the statements “I am God!” and “I am, God”. Now on paper it is just a simple case of comma placement, but the difference between these two statements is that one proclaims “I am superior to everyone else so I will set myself above all men,” and the other proclaims, “I am one with my creator, therefore I have the power to love and serve all men who are my equals, brothers, sisters, and one with the creator too.” The religious man’s concerns are valid, when the ego sets itself up as God then disaster follows. Why? Because the ego’s sole motivation is fear, and what it does it never does for the benefit of mankind but for self-preservation alone. A dictator might start out with good intentions, but in the end he does what he does not to make his people’s world a better place, but his own.

Why is the other person right though? Because what he is talking about is living a spirit-based life. The spirit knows no fear and is not corrupted in any way at all. The spirit is that part of us that is God, so living as if we were God would be to live from a place that is pure and loving. It all sounds wonderful though, but it does sound like it is something that only has a place in religious practice, but to believe that would be a mistake. The lie of the ego is that living from the spirit has no place in a secular society, nor does it have a place in our work sphere. As a result of this very little is taught about what living from the spirit would look like, or even how you would go about doing it, and it has been relegated to the ranks of the “warm fuzzy” and “mystical”.

There is nothing particularly cosy about living from the spirit, but there is also nothing that is as rewarding. We do so much in an attempt to find fulfillment, and nothing seems to really work. The only key that fits this lock is living from the spirit, since it is at the core of your purpose as a human being you are not going to live your purpose unless you learn to live from the spirit. Many have tried the opposite and failed.

The myth is that living from the spirit means taking a vow of poverty, wearing sackcloth, and meditating on a mountain for hours a day. Yes, that is one way to do it, but there are many, many, many other ways. As a wise guru once said, “Some people choose the easy way to reach enlightenment, they sit on a mountain and meditate. Others choose the more difficult path, they get married and have kids.” The truth is that you need to pick the spirit centered live that is going to work for you. I can however give you some practical tips on how you can start doing it right now in the place you are in.

I have decided to focus my coaching on helping people rediscover and live from their spirits, but so many people reject the idea outright. Why? Because they have been burned by religion, which is sad because religion has little to with spirituality. Religion can introduce you to spirituality, but it isn’t spirituality itself. Man made rules with the fear of punishment as a lurking threat is not the true face of spirituality. Spirituality, in essence, is a personal journey of discovery where one progressively sheds the ego and rediscovers the forgotten divinity that exists in us all. You can only ever be given guidelines to follow, but your personal spirituality will be yours alone. Your own brand.  You are a unique individual, why should your spirituality be any different?

Are you really happy? Truly content? Absolutely at peace? Or are these things something that you are still pursuing? The world of ego is a place of fear, and is wanting of these things. They cannot be found in that world. Even if you get a taste of them, there is still a sense of quiet desperation that lurks underneath. The world of spirit is your true home, and that is the place of all fulfillment and abundance. Now this is not a call to religion, to become a this or a that. It is a call to acknowledge that there is much more to this universe than your physical senses can experience, and that you are indeed a part of something great and are not separate from it.

Your greatest teachers on the spiritual path are going to be everyone around you. You can learn to love the hard to love and forgive the unforgivable, be kind to those who least deserve it and patient with the infuriating. To say that the spiritual way has no place in the workplace is to miss the greatest place of learning and the best place to practice it. So where do you start? Right where you are. It is a journey of rediscovery, of returning to the wonder of childhood, and finding out that the universe is about play, not work.

I think one of the most powerful pieces of advice if you want to discover the power of spirituality and move away from the awful grip of ego comes from that amazing poet Rumi, “Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment.” The path to spirituality begins here.

You can be religious without being spiritual, and you can be spiritual without being religious. It is about living an authentic life that embraces the true wonder of what it means to be alive. How easy it is to forget that in this difficult world though.

Shall we begin?

What’s Love Got To Do With It?

heart_1289Love has been given a bad name, it’s not love’s fault as love didn’t do any of what love has been accused of doing. It’s more a case of mistaken identity. If it looks like love, sounds like love, feels like love, and smells like love, then it must be love right? Trouble is, it still isn’t love. We have confused love with neuropeptides, and put the cart before the horse.

Remember that I mentioned last week that the “Law of Attraction” is a group of laws working together to produce a result? I also said that knowing the laws is one thing, how to work with them is another. Love is the thing that makes it all work, so if you don’t understand love, then you have a problem.  Before I tell you what love is, lets look at what love isn’t.

How do you know you love someone or something? The answer would seem simple, because of how you feel. We have even coined the phrases “to fall in or out of love”, and we can declare that the spark is gone, we don’t feel the same way anymore, or we get tingles, feel light headed or as some doomed lover once declared we feel like “the king of the world”. Euphoric and goose bumpy equals in love, miserable or indifferent equals out of love. You will hear songs about how he still gets goosebumps ten years later when he sees her, or how he is like a pill that makes her ill. Some guys will scale mountains or swim oceans, some girls get restraining orders. Mostly its starts out warm and fuzzy and ends up with complaints that the romance has died. Sounds like I am talking about the rise and fall of love, but I am not. None of this is describing love anymore than the feeling of contentment describes the pizza I just ate. Love is not a feeling. Love sometimes results in a feeling, and often it doesn’t.

Still think that the feeling is love? I don’t blame you. TV says it is, the radio says it is, the magazine says it is, the gift shops makes a fortune on Valentines Day saying that it is. Feelings are powerful things, they can start wars and unite nations, but here is why love isn’t a feeling: It can so easily go away. Look closer at what a feeling really is and you will wonder how we could reduce love to such a basic biological response. First of all let’s refine our definition. When we are talking about feeling love, we are really talking about an emotion. The feeling is how the emotion makes itself known to you. Let’s take happiness for example, the emotion you call love and the emotion of happiness both have their source in the Limbic System, without going into too much detail, happiness is nothing more than neuropeptides that get released in response to a thought and connect to the trillions of cells in your body, resulting in the feeling. That feeling you call love is essentially the same thing, except that it is a cocktail of hormones and peptides that converge to produce a powerful effect. What you call love is nothing more than a naturally occurring and highly addictive cocktail the works within the body to elevate mood and inspire irrational behaviour. It is nature’s way to fool you into procreating. The love between a parent and child is nothing more than a supremely powerful instinct, some parents don’t have it.

It might take a little while for the shock to wear off, the truth is you have been crowning an impostor. You have based the health of your relationships on the presence or absence of a feeling that ironically is not designed to last, certainly not in the way you experience it at the start of a relationship. You have also allowed yourself to base your sense of self worth on the presence or absence of this feeling.

So what is love then? God is love. Ok, that might not fly with you, so let me explain. If you want to know what love is, then you will need to buy a plane ticket and fly to South America, trek deep into the Amazon Jungle and find a place that has not been interfered with and just watch for a season or two. If you can’t do this, here is what you will notice: Effortless abundance. This is achieved by an unseen force that manages the balance of the ecosystem: Something dies, something is born, something hunts, something flies, something is poisonous, something is edible, sometimes the rain falls, sometimes it doesn’t. All of these seemingly random acts occur so that there might be balance – so that there might be abundance. Love is the force that works to maintain the balance that results in abundance.

Understanding this is crucial to repairing the mess we make in our lives. When we choose fear instead of love we start interfering in our own lives. We do this by forcing things. We rush into relationships, we take out bank loans, we drive too fast, we push our kids too hard, we strive for the things we think we want, we look for distractions instead of engaging with our world. Fear leads us to believe that relationships must always feel good, that there must always be plenty, that our kids must do as we say, and that working hard is the right way to get what we want.  Fear makes us want to be in control.

Love doesn’t work that way. To choose love instead of fear is to let go of control and accept that everything that happens in your life, whether you like it or not, is designed to restore or manage the balance of your life, and that is the only natural way to a life of abundance. Wow is that ever easier said than done though? To the ego, letting go of control is tantamount to suicide. Have you ever tried just allowing the pieces to fall where they will and accepting it? It means that sometimes you will feel bad, and that’s ok. Love moves us through the feelings, this is why we have things like forgiveness – feelings are not designed to be lived in, but moved through.

As I have said before, you can only grow when you are balanced. If your life is spent catching up, you will never get ahead. So if you are always pushing yourself off balance, then how do you expect to enjoy the abundance that comes from balance? But then how do you achieve balance? You stop interfering and controlling, you take a deep breath and a step back, and you accept life as it is. I might as well be saying, “Put a gun to your head and pull the trigger”, it’s really that hard. So you have to make it easy, start small, do it in scenarios that aren’t too painful, and build from there. You have had a lifetime of interfering and controlling, it’s all you know and you certainly are encouraged to continue doing this by society.

So living a life of love will really be going against the flow for you, but enjoying the fruit of it is worth it. Compassion, joy, peace, generosity, beauty, kindness, all these and more are the results of living a life of love. Examples abound: Jesus Christ, the Dalai Lama, Mother Teresa, Ghandi, Richard Branson, the list goes on. These are all people who in their own way “Let go and let God”. I know you may be thinking, “No thanks, it’s not for me!” So how is your way working for you?

Remember, it’s ALL in your mind! www.imagineif.co.za

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The Only Guaranteed Thing

1426637_85746838a There is only one thing you can count on for sure and that is change. Everything else might have a good track record but also might let you down. One thing is for sure, you are either coming out of a change, in a change, or facing change. It seems random, yes, it does seem to just smack you upside the head but what if I told you that every change had a message and that you were the author of change in your life. Hmmm. Some things have happened in my world (not to me personally) that were quite big and I just know that the people involved never saw them coming. We rarely do, ask the Romans. What brings change? It is like a complex cake with many strange ingredients.

There are three kinds of changes that I want to address here, the first is what I call “the great balancing act”. I believe that there is an auto-correction feature built into the universe; some spiritual traditions call it karma. I am sure you have seen the Ying/Yang symbol that comes from China – the circle in two halves, one white, one black. Each half of the circle represents the sides of a mountain with the white half being the sunny side and the black half being the side in shade. This symbol shows that there are two types of energy – passive (the black half) and active (the white half), and that these energies must be in perfect balance. This is where karma comes in, or the auto-correction feature I mentioned earlier. If the balance is shifted in any way then nature steps and restores it. This is done in one of two ways – either by taking something away or by adding something. When we add something to our lives (without allowing it to naturally flow into our lives) then nature takes it away. When we remove or deny something in our lives (that nature has not removed or has not vanished due to decay) then nature moves in and adds something. There must be balance. Desperate acts always result in this change. The relationship we rushed into, the rash purchase, the love we deny ourselves, the job we take without thought, these acts of interference bring the turbulence we call change into our lives. The more we force things the more turbulence we experience. The best way to deal with this is to simply relax and allow life to unfold as it will, acting when we need to act and resting when we need to rest. In other words, we need to actively pursue balance in our lives so that nature won’t need to do it for us. The less you interfere the more peaceful life will be.

The second type of change has to do with what is popularly known as “The Law of Attraction” or “The Law of Vibration”. You know, like attracts like. The basic belief is that if we think about money, money, money, then that is what we will attract. If only it were so. Upwards of 90% of the people who attempt to “use” this law to improve their lives fail to do so. It does work, so why do so many people fail? Because they simply do not really understand the law.  The Law of Attraction works in perfect harmony with the principle of balance stated above and you cannot “attract” something that will unbalance you, nature simply won’t allow it. Why is it that you “feel” unbalanced when something “bad” happens then? Feeling sad is does not necessarily mean that you are off balance. I have heard many people say that “I did not attract this so how did it come?” meaning that they weren’t consciously thinking about it. Here is the truth, and listen closely, this may be the thing that changes your life! How do you feel when that “bad” thing happens? That’s what caused it! But wait a minute, I feel that way now, how could I have caused this thing? Can feelings travel back in time? Glad you asked, and it may be that they can (quantum physics suggests as much) but what you are feeling is what has been triggered by the event, in other words, emotional residue that has yet to be processed, in more other words, symptoms of an existing imbalance. What you have been given is some valuable information, deal with (process) that stuck feeling (and coaching will certainly do it) and you will never experience that event again. You won’t need to. You see, the auto-correction feature of the universe reveals our imbalances to us so that we can sort them out, and it will keep revealing them to us until we do. Instead of wallowing in misery, use the information and make some positive changes in your life. The universe cannot reveal imbalances that are not there, so the “cleaner” you are, the less change of this nature you will experience.

The third type of change I want to discuss is one that you cannot do anything about ever! Here in South Africa we are on the verge of Spring (sorry if you are in the North), what I always notice about this time of year (as we face the changing of the seasons) is that the warmth seems to come in waves….warms up…cold front…warms up….cold front. Yesterday it was warm, today it is cold and rainy. It seems that change on a major scale does not come all at once, it comes in gradually increasing waves. This seems to be a pattern in nature as well, the tide doesn’t come in all at once, and since we are a part of nature the same thing happens in our lives. The trick is to see the pattern and not treat the waves as signs of you moving backwards but moving forwards. Drug rehabilitation rarely works all in one go, there are relapses in the forward movement, as there is in any forward movement. Remember this, relapsing is not relapsing, it is nothing more than what a cold front is to the coming spring. Its not that you are returning to old behaviour but that you are layering the new behaviour and adapting to the change. What you find is that the “new reality” starts to last longer than the periods of “old reality” until “new reality” is all there is. Fighting the old or the new will not help you here, it will only make the inevitable uncomfortable. Nature has shown us that there must always be change, constant movement, without it things die. Embrace it, accept it, welcome it. You might not understand this change as it happens, but in time, and with the benefit of hindsight, you will see that you were moving forward and growing, and becoming who you are meant to be.

One thing that is certain about change in its various forms is that perspective on what is happening is difficult to get when the change is happening to you. Sometimes emotional judgements are all we are capable of, so it helps to begin a practice of meditation as this will train you to create space and be able to observe what is happening more objectively and then respond rather than react. Of course, I would always recommend the help of a good coach to enable you to develop inner “technology” that will make you a change wizard.

The only guaranteed thing is change, what isn’t guaranteed however, is that you will handle it in the best way.

Yours, in this ever changing world,

Anthony.

 

Me, myself, and I, and I, and I

383193_9453I have long suspected that I have multiple personality disorder. Put me in a room full of people and I get shy, put me on a stage and I perform. I am calm in traffic, but impatient when my PC drags. Call it what you will, I am a different person in different contexts. Wierd. I am wrong about one thing though, it isn’t a disorder.

The fact is that we all have multiple personalities. We flow effortlessly from personality to personality as the situation requires, the only time it becomes a disorder is when that flow gets disrupted and we get our personalities confused. You would not be the person you are at work when you are with your kids right? You would be the person you are with your girlfriend/boyfriend when you are with your parents right? Surely this is just the same person choosing different behaviours? Perhaps, but when you understand personality you will see that a rose is not a rose when it is a daffodil.

Personality is nothing more than the unique product of a number of beliefs and values working together. Like the ingredients of a cake they produce the yummy end result, but change an ingredient and you no longer have the same cake. The reason why you are a different person in different circumstances is because you are accessing a different set of beliefs and values to match that environment, you pick the beliefs and values that will produce the kind of behaviour that you think will be the most appropriate. The fact that you sometimes produce the wrong behaviour is not a symptom of a disorder, but rather a sign that you need to keep learning.

Personality, in other words, is nothing more than what happens as a result of learning to cope. It always has a goal, personality is designed to get you something. Think about, you crack a joke, why? You pass an opinion, why? You hold your tongue, why? Personality is a strategy designed with a specific outcome in mind. Think of you computer, it has many programs that are all different, you wouldn’t say that any of them are the same program, yet all a program is is code arranged in a certain way to produce a certain result.

There is a lot of freedom in accepting that your personalities are nothing more than programming designed to get a certain result. It means that if you can learn to design a personality then you can pick one that will get you the results you want. This raises an interesting question, if you are not your personality, then who are you?  For now it is suffice to say that “you” are the one who can observe all your personalities. Try this, take a step back (mentally) and watch the stream of thoughts flowing through your mind, now you are getting closer to the real you. So personality is actually nothing more than a coat you wear, and you can change it at will (although it is mostly done unconsciously). Try something else now, pretend to be happy for a second, go on, try it. Smile, stretch, throw your head back. Now pretend to be cross, knit your eyebrows, fold your arms, growl. You just changed clothes and it was that easy.

Ok, so I know that you simply react in a circumstance, it’s not like you consciously choose to behave a certain way. What starts out as a reaction, if repeated enough times, becomes unconscious behaviour. The same also applies if you choose to respond in a certain way in a circumstance, if you repeat that response a few times, it will become unconscious behaviour. Reacting is basically a fear response, it is fight or flight in action. A life of reaction results in undesirable behaviours. Responding on the other hand, is stopping and thinking and choosing your behaviour – and choosing means choosing the best possible ones. If a certain behaviour doesn’t work, you choose another, and another, until you find one that does. This is how a brilliant personality is formed.

A documentary came out recently that nicely demonstrated this point. “Kumare” is about a young man who decides to grow a beard and pretend to be a Guru, and then film the journey. He “pretends” to be the best possible version of himself (actually not really a version, a whole different personality). The results was that he gained followers, he changed lives, and most of all, he changed himself in the process. It makes a powerful statement about the choices you make and stick with (behaviour wise). I dare you to try it, think of the best possible version of yourself and pretend to be that person. Every time you look in the mirror, decide to be someone you really like and admire. It’s not easy, so just try it a little here and little there. You will be astounded with the results. Actually you probably won’t even notice them, real change is like that, it happens quietly over time.

It’s all in your mind! http://www.imagineif.co.za

 

Hide and Seek

910278_47990856aI am working through a book by a spiritual teacher called Gangaji, in this book she tells of how she went to India to study under a guru as she was desperate to find peace. She asked the guru what she should do and he asked her if she was ready to do nothing, this perplexed her and she again asked what she should do, again he said “nothing”. She was to let go of all of her strategies and plans and just face herself in the rawest way possible. I must admit, this stumped me for a while, and like so many spiritual lessons it was something I just had to catch for myself. What strategies? What plans? And then it occurred to, how much do I do in order to hide from naked reality and raw emotion, and how much time do I spend doing it? The answer to both questions is “A lot.”

Let me define what I mean by “hiding”, in this context it means anything you do to numb or distract yourself from the present moment. Why would you want to hide from the present moment? Well here is where it gets a bit crazy, it is when you have nothing to do that you start to think about all the things that scare you silly; bills that need to be paid, conflict that is looming, kids that need new shoes, etc. So you get busy doing something, anything you can do that will get your mind off these things. Hiding. What you have yet to realise is that it is only when you do nothing and simply face reality as it is, and accept it as it is, that it starts to change. Another way to look at it is that your reality is nothing more than a mirror image of what is going on inside of you, so if you ignore reality then reality will ignore you and remain unchanged. To continue with this mirror analogy, does it feel like your circumstances are your enemy? That is because you treat them so by hiding from them, what would happen if you accepted your circumstances with a feeling of love and gratitude? You would experience love and gratitude in your reality.

I will be the first to admit that all of this seems incredibly counter-intuitive. If there is a bear in my garden my instinct is to run like mad, not to put on a pot of tea and ask it about its day, so it is understandable that you want to just get busy hiding from all the pain in your life. Until you realise that the bear is in your garden because you put it there! I think of it as being like going to a restaurant, if the waiter asked you what you wanted and you said “anything”, then there would be an excellent chance that you would be upset with what he brings and the next time you would simply ignore him and then simply go hungry. Until you learn to smile at the waiter and find new and better ways to find out what you really want and then ask for it, you will go hungry.

It is pain than causes you to hide, as the saying goes, “Once bitten, twice shy”. So if reality bites you find increasingly more effective ways to hide, after all, if it bites once it can bite again. When reality bites though, it uses your teeth.

So what does hiding look like? What are some of the things people do to hide? Is it a coincidence that hiding behaviours are also “addictive” behaviours? Lets see: TV, internet (social media), pornography, drinking, drugs, work (that’s right, I said work), shopping, sleeping, charity work – and that’s just to name a few. What can you add to this list? You will note that seemingly “good” deeds can be used to help you hide, and that makes it all the more easier, after all, you are doing a good deed.

Thinking about it, it occurred to me that I couldn’t name one successful and happy person who got there by spending all of his/her time hiding from reality. They all seemed to be fully present in their lives and faced up to their realities, but with an almost insane optimism. This is not to say that they didn’t face challenges, I am sure they did, but they faced them, they didn’t hide from them.

Stress is what we call the fear response that makes us want to run and hide, but accepting reality as it is and allowing it to simply unfold as it will is a tremendously peaceful thing to do. As Peter O’Toole said in the classic “Lawrence of Arabia”, “The trick is not minding that it hurts.” So learning to be fully present in the moment, accepting reality as it is, and not minding that it sometimes hurts, is the key to life transformation. The question is, will you come out of hiding long enough to realise that? Do you even realise that you are in fact hiding? While it may feel better to be in hiding, and downright terrifying to face reality, you need to realise that hiding only serves to perpetuate the circumstances you are running from. Standing in the sun beats freezing in the shadows any day, so recognize your hiding strategies and start making the shift today!!!

For some pretty life changing stuff, tune into Zeronaughts Radio

www.blogtalkradio.com/zeronaughts

 

The Real You

1401872_76470167aDid you know that the part of you that causes all the trouble is not the real you? The majority of the western population is having an identity crisis. All those bad behaviours, that troubling personality, those habits and those things you wished you could change are not the real you.

Would you like to meet the real you? It’s easy, take a deep breath and let it out slowly. Do it again, and focus on the feeling of the air flowing in and out of your nose. Do it a few more times and this time also notice the rising and falling of your chest and belly while you breathe. Carry on like this for a few more breaths and this time also notice what is going on in the rest of your body. Very soon you will reach a place of “no thought” (which is actually the meaning of the word “meditate”), in this silence you meet the real you. The real you IS the silence.

You are the flame, not the candle or the glass behind which it sits, but the flame. People will judge the flame by the glass through which they view it, but if the glass is scratched or dirty, or even the “wrong” colour, it still isn’t the flame.  So you get judged from the outside by people who don’t like the glass, and then you judge yourself from the inside for the same reason. A flame’s purpose is to glow, to illuminate and give warmth; the glass’s purpose is to let the flame do just that. When you live as the glass and not the flame, you block its fire.

So what is the flame and what is the glass? The flame is the eternal energy that is the real you, your higher self, your divine spark, your “I am”ness. The glass is that part of you that experiences “reality” (the reality you have created for yourself) – in other words, your body and your ego. In truth, even though we have made it all that matters, it doesn’t matter what you look like, if you are big or small, if you are perfect or flawed, or if you are a certain colour – your body is merely a container. The real you is none of these things, but when you are living from fear and judgement (afraid of what people think of you and in turn judging others), then you are living as the container and not the flame within. You can never be happy living as the container, the container will never be perfect, and more than this, it is impermanent – it will grow old and eventually reach the end of its usefulness. Entire industries have grown to trillion dollar status by getting us to be obsessed with containers, but the grand irony is that containers are best served by living as the flame and not the container. As one client put it, “I forgot about losing weight, and discovered one day that it had gone.”

Then there is the ego. It’s quite something to find out one day that you are indeed NOT your ego. Ego shifts and changes, and you are not the person you were when you were five, nor are you the person you will be when you are ninety. The ego is no more “you” than the operating system is the computer. Your current ego is just the latest version of Windows, the glass that either allows or blocks the real you. In truth, your personality is just a complex mix of judgements and prejudices and just like the body, it is impermanent. When the body dies, the ego goes with it.

People who live from their egos need a lot of coping skills if they are to survive. The ego is always fighting for survival, and as long as you are afraid and feeling bad, then it is alive and well. If you live as your ego then yours will be a world where you fight for acceptance and deal with self image issues. The ego is always trying to fix things, but the flame just lets things unfold as they will. The ego wants to be right, the flame is peace. The ego sees everything as a potential threat and drives you to be on the defensive, the flame just sees the natural flow of things.

You can choose to let your doing flow from your ego or your flame, and that will be the difference between reacting in fear and responding in love. The amazing thing is that the more you live from the flame, the easier it becomes to do so. The trick is to find out what will work for you – the goal is “no thought” but the route is up to you.  There are a myriad of tools and techniques out there – one of which is my very own meditation program (which I will give you access to if you ask). A simple pointer – if it is fear then it is the ego, if it is love (and peace) then it is the flame.

Tune in to Zeronaughts Radio for some life changing advice – http://www.blogtalkradio.com/zeronaughts