Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Ridiculous Power of the Subconscious

About two weeks ago, I started a new job. I was motivated and excited to be invited into the company I am now working for. But I was nervous. You see, it's been nearly four years since I've worked in an office outside of my home. It's scary going back to an office environment after being your own boss for so long!

What worried me most was the need to conform to someone else's idea of how my day should look. Specifically, I was worried about getting up very early each day to be to work on time. I'm generally a morning person (much to the annoyance of many of my friends), but I'm also a bit of a perfectionist. I absolutely wanted to be certain I'd never be tardy to work.

So the night before my first day on the job, being the pseudo-over-achiever that I am, I set not one, not two, but three alarm clocks. Yes, you read that right, three. Come the next morning, and the pre-ordained sacred hour of 5 a.m., my beside table rang out, sounding something akin to a nightmarish version of a carnival carousel gone awry. Nothing, nor anyone, could have slept through the cacophony  of bells, chimes, and tunes that sent me nearly soaring out of bed. Things had gone as planned. I was up and ready to go.

That night, the alarms were reset to do their job for the next day. But this time, as I drifted off to sleep, I kept reminding myself that I had to be up by 5:00 a.m. Over and over, I kept rolling the time around in my head. The next morning, I woke at 4:57 a.m., unassisted by the demonic bells I had set up next to me. The next day? Exactly the same. Aaaaand, the next.

It seemed my subconscious had taken the suggestion of my wake time seriously and was ensuring my success.  Wow!

Of course, this wasn't the first time I had done this, and I'm sure you can relate to the experience. It's nothing unique or new. Many of us wake each morning just moments before our alarms are set off. But have you ever considered the mechanism behind the phenomenon? It's your subconscious keeping you on the path you have set for yourself. It listens to your intentions; to the self-talk chatter that rolls through your head. Even when you think no one is listening, someone very important is, in fact, listening intently. You!

Your subconscious will not disappoint you. You tell it something is so, and it believes you. It works overtime, under the hood, to ensure that your reality matches  your beliefs and intentions. This is great if you tell yourself that you need to be up early in the morning; not so great if you walk around telling yourself  you're stupid, ugly, or won't amount to much in life. See how that works?

Tell yourself you're an amazing employee, and you will become one. Tell yourself you'll never meet Mr. or Ms. Right, and you most assuredly will not. Tell yourself you're trapped in your life with no way out, and you will be. Tell yourself you are successful, and it will become so. It's not rocket science, it's just the way it works.

Test it. Try it out. See what happens. It's really not some new-age mumbo jumbo; it's how we're built and part of the way we work. We easily accept that our limbs bend and move as they do. We understand that after a certain period of time, we need sleep. We even recognize the limits of our memory. Why is it so hard to accept that our subconscious can guide our lives based upon the information we feed it? I don't feel guilty for going to sleep when I'm exhausted, and I'm not going to allow myself to feel odd for taking the time to affirm various things in my life.

Affirmations can have a massive impact upon our lives. They are just simply the things we tell ourselves; food for the subconscious. What variety of food do you feed your mind? I used to reach low on the shelf and choose the cheap, easy stuff: "You'll never become much," and "Life is too hard and gives nothing back." But these days, I'm treating myself to top-shelf brands: "You can be or do anything you want," and "You are successful and capable."

I've even gone a step further. In an effort to test the muscle of my mind, and lose a few pounds in the process, my new (at least twice daily) affirmation is, "I eat small portions of healthy foods." Sounds silly to say it out loud, but I've lost about eight pounds feeling goofy saying it each day. I'm willing to sound silly to harness the power of my subconscious, are you?

What will your new affirmations be, and how will they stretch and test the power of your subconscious? I challenge you to recognize the ways  you've programmed your mind to this point, and to make an effort to positively program it from this point forward. What you speak becomes your truth.

I'm down to two alarms to get me up for work each day now. I trust my subconscious, but prefer to have added insurance for the moment. They never actually ring. I still wake about three minutes before I need to wake and turn them off before they have a chance to shout at me. I still marvel at it. But each day, it's a reminder that I truly have the power to guide and shape my life, however I see fit. And each day, you have the same. 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Paradox of Potential

"Potential” is one of those words that most often elicits positive feelings. Potential is possibility, and hope, and a sense of looking forward all wrapped up in one happy, smiling package. But what happens when potential becomes nearly overwhelming and transforms in our hearts and minds to paralysis? What happens when we see possibilities so vast that we simply cannot choose among them? And what happens when our focus of sight is impinged upon by so many opportunities cluttering our view that we end up doing nothing in the face of not being able to do everything?

Yeah, I know; sounds like a bit of a lame problem to have, perhaps. But to those who struggle with it, it can become a problem that seems to define life. There are those among us who see shining fragments of potential refracting from the edges of nearly every experience like the rainbow beauty shining from a fine diamond; so much so that it can be blinding and intimidating to walk among the chiseled stones. And sometimes, people hide.

Dabrowsky recognized this when he formulated his theory of positive disintegration. His theory seeks to describe personality formation, but extends to descriptive characteristics of people with high talent and consciousness. He suggested that these folks often see possibility in everything; they are said to possess “overexcitabilities.” These may be of an intellectual nature, sensual nature, emotional nature or even others. These overexcitabilities can sometimes take people to the point of being paralyzed and unable to act upon anything. These are people with great potential! People regarded as smart and capable of contributing to society in unique and meaningful ways. And these are the guys being thwarted by their own abilities! What are we, as a society, missing out on by not nurturing these folks to the point of sustainable action? An even bigger question is what can we do about it?

I’m great at posing questions; not so great at offering answers. But on this topic, I have a few ideas.

When a student in school is first identified as having a learning disability, there is a great flurry of activity. Parents are notified, meetings are held, pamphlets about the disability are given out, counseling referrals are offered, and accommodating class changes are proposed. Parents and caregivers tend to regard the news seriously, and recognize that their student’s success depends in part upon their investment. They know they will have to go a bit further.

In contrast, when a student in school is identified as gifted, the situation is a bit different. Parents are certainly notified and sometimes, accommodating class and educational changes are proposed. But by and large, parents often go home pleased as punch and breathe a proud sigh of relief that gives away a certainty that their student will be successful in school and life. This is where we’re missing the boat.

Students at both ends of the spectrum require special attention. I’m not suggesting that gifted students are disabled. But I am suggesting that they too require a measure of special handling. They have unique perspectives and vulnerabilities that are not currently being widely addressed. Much as learning disabled students have global ramifications stemming from their disabilities, so too do gifted students experience widespread effects from their abilities. It sounds a bit counter-intuitive. I propose this is why we tend to ignore the peripheral byproducts of ability while we focus on nurturing the academic. We simply must teach kids how to cope with the characteristics of being gifted, much like we teach learning disabled children methods to cope with their disabilities. We cannot assume gifted children will flourish simply by virtue of their expanded aptitudes.

If gifted children can be equipped early to anticipate and cope with some of the challenges (yes, I said “challenges”) of being gifted, they become better poised for success; better able to cope with their sensitivities, better able to understand themselves in relation to their peers, better able to focus themselves, and yes, better able to walk among the diamonds of possibility and potential. I believe anticipation, preparation, and understanding can loosen the binds of paralysis that imprison many highly talented individuals.

I happen to be associated with a community of people who describe themselves as “gifted and lazy.” My association with them is more about the lazy than the gifted part, I suspect, but they are kind enough to include me in their little enclave. It’s all tongue in cheek, but I’m struck by how true it is, at some level. Each of them is bright and creative and yet, each of them regularly laments their inability to get as much done as they’d like due to an inability to focus and know where to start. They see wonder and possibility in nearly everything, and find it hard to settle to a task. Imagine if they had been coached early in life on how to appreciate their vision of potential while simultaneously focusing their resources upon something specific.

Now in THAT, I see great possibility and potential for society.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Independence Day

Today is Independence Day here in the U.S. Amidst all the hot dogs, beer, and fireworks, I hope my American friends will take a few moments to reflect on what the day really means. I hope they will think about how this country was born, and find thanks in their heart for the men and women who struggled to birth a nation, and for those who struggle each day to protect its integrity and freedom.

Independence, freedom and security. They all come at great cost.

We can be easily lulled into taking each day for granted; into digging the heels of entitlement deep into the sand and forgetting the price tag of blood and lives that has been and is being paid each day on our behalf. The birth of our nation was only the beginning.

Let's be thankful today and remember. Remember those who had the courage to stand apart and begin a new nation. Remember those who fought for ideals in the early days of our country. Remember those who went to fight when their country called and returned to an ungrateful and hostile land when they were done doing what was asked of them. Let's remember those who have fought to take the message of freedom and democracy to foreign lands. And let's remember those who struggle each day to protect our country and freedoms from those who would do us harm. Remember them all.

At the risk of offending my British friends (c'mon guys, you love me, right?), I'm posting a few fun videos here that help us to remember our early history as a nation. Hope you enjoy them as much as I did...they bring back fond childhood memories of watching them on TV as a fun way of learning history. And thanks to my cousin Michelle for reminding me about them in a Facebook post!

Happy Independence Day...and be careful with those fireworks!

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Rise of Robots; Friend or Foe?

Computer components implanted in your body to make you feel, think, and physically respond more efficiently. Nanotechnologies awash in your blood as they circulate throughout your system repairing damage on the cellular level to keep you healthy. Artificial nano-cells replacing some of your red blood cells to enhance your immune system's defensive mechanisms. According to one man, a leader in technology, all this and more is on the horizon...and likely within your lifetime.

As a technology buff, I watched with awe the documentary "Transcendent Man". It is the story of Ray Kurzweil, a bright MIT graduate with a talent for invention and technology. He's a man before his time in many ways, and some claim he's a sort of prophet, preaching the doctrine of technology. However you view him, one thing is certain; he will make you think.

Technology is an amazing thing. It absolutely fascinates me and anyone who knows me will tell you, I absolutely LOVE gadgets. I'm all about keyboards and screens and cool applications that let me access huge amounts of information for which I'll likely never have any real use. Since I was a kid, computers have entranced me, and I grin like a schoolgirl in love when I read about the next new shiny bits of silicon. I won't purport to understand how they work. Honestly, don't know...don't care. I just love what they can do. 

But I've struggled before with the boundaries of technology. I've asked myself, how far is too far? Just because we can do something doesn't mean we should. This documentary found me of two minds, and struggling with this question, as I contemplated its message. 

My eyes grew wide with excited fascination as I listened to projections of how our bodies might be made stronger and able to outlast the current limitations of life. My geeky side was titillated even more so as we were invited to envision a world in which we live, work, and play alongside humanoid AI robots so life-like that it would be difficult to distinguish human from machine. But what is too far? And more to the point, what are the consequences of crossing that threshold and ringing a bell that realistically cannot be silenced? 

I'm all for change. I'm all for growth. And well, I could be wrong about the likely negative consequences of pushing nature to the brink. But when we begin to be so arrogant that we start calling our technological advances a form of biological  "evolution," I think we tempt the very power of the nature that placed in each of us the drive to create. 

I don't know the answers and can't even articulate all the questions, but I sense they are there. As I watched the experts discuss the possibilities and their criticisms, I was glued to the screen and noticeably uncomfortable simultaneously. There is a sense of momentum that seems to be building with regard to technology. Are we destined to gallop inexorably down a silicon path to the state Kurzweil calls "singularity?" I'm not sure. What do you think?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A Personal Story about being Wrong

There's more to what I was trying to say yesterday. As I read it over today, I realized that I wasn't very elegant in what I was trying to get across. Perhaps I should forgo elegance and just tell you a story. Actually, it's a very personal story. After the story, we'll revisit the whole bit I was trying to convey yesterday about  being wrong.

Nearly four years ago, I became suddenly very ill. Just out of nowhere it hit me. It seemed like maybe it was just the ghost of vertigo come to haunt me again, as it does every now and then. And then it seemed like I had just picked up a bad virus. A trip to the emergency room landed me IV fluids and the pronouncement of a viral infection. No big deal. But then, I wasn't getting better. In fact, I was getting markedly worse by the day. In the end, they plunked me in the hospital for five days while they poked about trying to figure out what ailed me. Eventually, they named the devil and it seemed I would recover, but it would take a great deal of time. I was told  to expect about a year of trouble as my body gradually got stronger and recovered. I was not a happy camper.

So, I went home to recover. First staying with some friends who cared for me and then returning home on my own. I was in a horrible state. Getting up to get a drink of water would literally take me an hour from the time I decided to do so as I had to muster all of my strength just to walk to the kitchen and back. Friends who came to visit would sometimes find me just gazing off into space and my brain was incredibly foggy.

Sitting at home, day after day took its toll. I became angry. Very, very angry. Now understand, people who know me say that generally, I'm pretty tolerant. I'm slow to anger and prior to being ill, had not actually been angry for a very long time. But I felt it boiling up inside of me. I was angry and becoming depressed. Something had to be done.

It seemed therapy was in order. After finding a therapist very close to my home, I began weekly visits with her. Together, we talked about my illness and about the undeniable anger beginning to rage inside of me. Honestly, I didn't know what I was angry about, just that I was. Looking back, I've come to realize that the anger was about my helplessness. It was about being ill, being in the hospital, and feeling like a non-entity. Being ill and in the hospital seems to take on a life of its own. A momentum builds as medical professionals try to sort out the puzzle and very often, patients don't feel in control. Well, I didn't feel in control, anyway.

The therapist I was seeing said something very simple, but very profound, about feelings and thoughts: A feeling is borne of a thought, and you can change your thoughts. Who knew? I mean, d'oh! Really? As I began to play with that idea and work to consciously mold my thoughts, I found she was largely right! Slowly, she began to introduce me to other concepts like positive thinking and the power of intention and using affirmations for strength and growth.

I was skeptical. It all sounded a lot like a bunch of new age quackery to me. And on top of it, I was/am a Christian! I had, and to this day still have, a strong belief in God. I was supposed to keep far away from all that seemed new age. But with all that time on my hands, home recovering, I had time to think. And I did.

Slowly, I began to dissect my beliefs and those of this new way of thinking. I refused to dismiss something just because I'd been taught to do so. The therapist talked about quantum physics, and Masaru Emoto's experiment with water. She introduced me to Louise Hay and affirmations.  The more I read and learned, the more it dawned on me. Learning about the laws of the universe and the way we are designed and work doesn't necessarily exclude God. In fact, if there is a belief in God, it's yet another reason to be grateful to Him for designing such a magnificent universe.

Here's the thing though. I've said it before and will repeat it here. I'm not in any way pushing upon you my belief in God. I have a belief in and a relationship with God. Whether that is your belief system is of no consequence to me in this context. But I'm making a point here. The point is that I could have simply chosen to dismiss some of the best information of my life because someone taught me once in Sunday School to stay away from "new age."

Who decides what "new age" is anyway? Heck if I know. I actually loathe labels.  What I do know is this: I was willing to be wrong. I was not so incredibly and ignorantly tied to something that I had to cling to it in spite of what my brain was telling me. That's my point.

With the willingness to be wrong, though, comes the responsibility to be discerning and wise. In the end, I determined that I simply could not subscribe to some of the beliefs the therapist offered. But that's okay. In fact, that's the way life works. It's like a smorgasbord of information, beliefs, and experiences. We get to pick and choose what we wish from the table, largely by how it sits with us.

See where I'm going with this? Just because we've not been exposed to something before, or we don't understand how it works doesn't mean it's not valid. Be willing to be wrong. Be strong enough to say, "I once thought this was right, but turns out, I was wrong. Now, I believe *this* is right." To be willing to let go of the ego and willing to let go of old beliefs that no longer work is to be willing to grow. To cling to old beliefs in spite of new information is to stagnate. What's your choice?

Turns out, I'm okay. I recovered and got back to something that resembles my prior normal self. And actually? As miserable as it was, I'm grateful for that whole experience. I was humbled and learned so much that I don't think was accessible to me before my illness. Funny how things work out.

So there you have it. Not particularly elegant or well-written, but hopefully it passes along to you something of value; the recognition that being wrong is often an amazing gift.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

On Quantum Physics and Being Wrong

"Sometimes I sits and thinks, and sometimes, I just sits."
- Satchel Paige

A friend of mine says this to me often when I comment on his momentary silence in a conversation. Well, the same is true of me. I need time to just sit in silence sometimes, to think...or not. Lately, the topic I keep returning to when I indulge myself in unrestrained thought is that of quantum physics. To be honest, it hurts my head and yet, I keep going back for more. It draws me in with its mind-stretching explanations of the unexplainable. It lures me with tales about unending possibilities and objects being in two places at once. It beckons to me with its promise of a minute, yet vast world so different from the one I know, that I cannot sustain thought of it for more than a moment when I catch a glimpse of its truth. 

I won't pretend to you that I understand quantum physics. In fact, the only science that is a part of my life in any academic sort of way is that of psychology and the science of the human mind. But quantum physics fascinates me and, I think, is an interesting complement to psychology. For how people behave and interpret their world is in part based upon the laws that they understand govern the world they are interpreting. If it turns out that the laws of physics are more comprehensive than we currently understand (and I'm sure they are, by the way...though I could be wrong), once our understanding expands to take in the new knowledge, human perception and behavior will most certainly change. 

We are an arrogant lot. We think we know; we think we understand. I'm pretty sure we don't understand much of anything. I suspect we get about one half of one percent of what there is to know...if that. My opinion is not that we're stupid, but that the body of knowledge to be known is so vast, that it's simply outside of our grasp. But this is not a statement of hopelessness. Quite the opposite in fact! What beauty and hope lie in a universe that offers more than we can ever aspire to realize. 

The practical side to this is, we can't think we know. Our minds must constantly be open to and aware of new potentialities. When we think we know, we're sunk. Don't be the arrogant guy. Don't be the one who digs his heels in the mud during a debate and refuses to entertain the possibility of being wrong. In wrongness lies creation, potential, and growth. Our egos tether us to an opinion and belief. Let go of the ego and soar on a jet stream of possibility. 

Being wrong is a dynamic and open state. Believing you are right all the time is a closed and suffocating state. St. Augustine stated, "Fallor ergo sum," (I err, therefore I am) and defined himself partly in his ability to be wrong. It's great, isn't it? To recognize that you don't know all there is to know and have the hope and belief of possibility? 

Right, back to quantum physics. The thing is, I don't know or understand, but I'm excited about a world where all things are possible. I want to be open to learning in an appropriate and critical manner. I hope you'll share with me in that endeavor, and climb out of the restraint of ego. Enjoy the video below. I hope it tickles your brain as much as it did mine. 

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Social Media Incarnate

Imagine for a moment...FaceBook, Twitter, chat rooms, and forums, all come alive before your eyes. Imagine for a moment, trading out the flat one-dimensional plane of cyber-interaction for a three-dimensional environment, rich with a tapestry of textures, body language, cultures, and disparate voices. Imagine for a moment, interacting with people from all over the planet; dancing, chatting, taking a class, and catching up on your professional continuing education requirements for the year.

It's not all in your imagination! Virtual worlds, like Second Life, offer opportunities to engage in all the activities I described, and even more. Considering all there is on offer in Second Life can boggle the mind. Continuously, I'm amazed at the ways virtual worlds are used in efforts that enhance the quality of life for many people.

A few quick examples that come to mind are the EMT programs that use SL to train their employees in protocol for emergencies, the educational institutions that have SL replicas of their real life buildings (along with collections that may be accessed), and architects who have offices in SL for the purpose of building models that may be experienced by clients prior to real life builds. This list doesn't even begin to scratch the surface.

For those interested in artistic expression, SL has you covered. Live music concerts, a theater company, and expansive galleries showcasing RL (real life) and SL art are at the ready. You can even build your own home or other content by using the building tools provided by the program. Content builders in SL often sell their work and develop businesses. A few have even used their SL business to springboard RL businesses and now work in SL alone. That's certainly not the norm, but it does happen.

Before I begin sounding like a commercial (oops, have I already?), let me put the brakes on a bit. Second Life offers amazing opportunities, true enough. However, there are cautions. The environment functions like a self-contained world in many ways and all the cautions one would implement in RL should be implemented in SL, to a large degree. Being safe is paramount and one should take pains to protect personal information. There is good and evil in SL, just like in RL.

Another concern is that of isolation. It's interesting to me that, while we live in an age of amazing communication tools, we seem to be becoming more and more isolated. Our focus is often on our latest text message instead of the people sharing the room space with us. Because SL is a captivating, immersive environment, there are those who find it easy to trade the uncertainties of RL for the relative safety of SL. Slowly and insidiously, SL begins to function as some sort of anemic replacement for RL and the individual runs the risk of becoming insular and without the necessary RL person-to-person interactions important to sustain positive mental health. This phenomenon is to be guarded against.

My experience in SL has been amazing. I've met a diverse group of intelligent, creative, and thoughtful people who have shared their lives with me as I've shared mine with them. We've become close in RL, in many instances, as well as in SL, and I've had the good fortune to meet many of them in RL (all appropriate precautions taken). Perhaps someday, I'll share some of my adventures. :-)

But the point is, SL offers a mechanism through which we can traverse the globe from the comfort of our own homes and interact with a variety of individuals representing myriad facets of the human experience. What an amazing opportunity! Recently, I spent an evening in an SL club and enjoyed spirited conversation with people from England, The Netherlands, Germany, the US, and France...all at once! We were all talking, listening to the same music at the same time, commenting on world events, dancing, and sharing some laughs. It's a regular experience in SL.

My goal is not to talk you into getting an account, though you may choose to do that. My goal is to share a little of my experience and perhaps cause you to consider the possibilities. I believe that we only open the door for change and growth when we stretch and open ourselves to new experiences. Perhaps SL will be your next adventure!

A friend's island home in Second Life

Taking on new shape in Second Life

One of my favorite homes in Second Life

Monday, May 30, 2011

Aaaaand, We're Back

What a crazy week! Little more than a week, actually. Since my last post, I've not been able to access Blogger to write a post, check out comments, or do any administrative sorts of tasks. Truly frustrating. My plan to post three to five times a week has been soundly shot in the foot. But alas, all is not lost and soon, we'll be back on schedule.

I'm going to take this little blip in time to do a bit more housekeeping.

First off, I'd like to invite you to follow the blog on Facebook.  Click here to go to the Facebook page. Once there, you can "like" the page and become a fan. This means you'll receive any updates as they occur on Facebook.

Secondly, please consider subscribing to the blog. You may do this through various links on the sidebar including subscribing through RSS feeds and through email. You can also subscribe through Networked Blogs, an app on Facebook. Subscribing ensures that you will have immediate new posts as they are published.

Twitter is another way to follow me. I tweet with some regularity about random thoughts, daily happenings, and also use Twitter to announce new posts that have been published. It's a fun way to connect and allows for some communication.

Because of the two recent problems with Blogger, I'm considering moving the blog to WordPress. If I do so, I will publish at both addresses simultaneously for a while to get everyone moved over, but it would be a transition. I'm hesitant to do it, but also hate the frequency of issues I'm having with this platform. I'd love to hear your thoughts on the possibility of a transition. I'll keep you updated as changes occur.

Your comments have been amazing and I love reading what you have to say. Thanks for being interactive in this way and I look forward to more of the same as we move along. Your loyalty has been appreciated.

As today is Memorial Day here in the States, I'd like to take a moment to thank all those who have served, or are currently serving in our armed forces. Your dedication to our freedom and safety is appreciated beyond what words can express. Both of my fathers served in the Air Force. I have friends who served, painfully so, in Vietnam and sadly, returned to a country with no appreciation for their efforts. Even now, I have friends who are serving in the Army and have witnessed firsthand the the struggles in Iraq and Afghanistan. To each of these, I say "Thank You" a hundred times over. May we all be thankful for the men and women who keep our country safe.

Friday, May 20, 2011

My Favorite Game

There aren't many games I'm great at. I love Backgammon, and Scrabble, and a rousing game of Canasta, but I'm not really very good at any of them. There is, however, one game I'm a hands-down champion at; the game of "What If?" Now that is a game I can really sink my teeth into and get some traction at.

Generally a one-player game, the psychic rush of "What If?"  may be ramped up by the inclusion of a close friend who wordlessly adheres to the understood credo that, while it's OK to dispute a little, too much can be akin to friendship heresy. If no friends are around to take on this role, however, a drama-filled game may be played alone.

"What if I get fired from my job?"

"What if I never meet anyone and end up dying alone?"

"What if I don't make enough money this year?"

"What if I get cancer?"

"What if the bank forecloses on the house?"

"What if my daughter is killed in a car accident?"

The game of "What If?" unleashes our imaginations and projects us into a future rife with imagined problems and ills. How many of us ever really play the game with a positive spin? "What if everything goes well for me in the next two weeks?" Be honest. We never play that way.

This game, this view into the future through a distorted lens, isn't a view at all, but a horribly twisted fantasy. It robs us of energy and more importantly, it robs us of the present. So much of our time is spent reliving what has happened in the past, or considering what the future may hold, even as our present is slipping away without so much as the recognition of the gift it offers.

Think for a moment. How do you spend your time in the shower? Doing all the basic tasks of getting clean, I know. But where is your mind while you're scrubbing? Does it visit the past? Does it indulge in fantasies of the future? While processing the past is important, and reminding ourselves of what is to come in our day is equally important, the present should take center stage. I challenge you to be in the moment, to practice being in the moment, the next time you're in the shower. Close your eyes and savor the water on your body. Savor the peace, and safety, and solitude of those few moments alone. Recognize the treasure of the present.

When I feel myself ramping up to a game of "What If?" I bring myself back to the present by reminding myself of a few simple truths. Whatever the future may hold, for this moment, I am safe. For this moment, I have food to eat, shelter over my head, and I am physically safe. For this moment, I am okay.

I challenge you to be present in the present in the coming days. Be open to each moment and resist the urge to borrow unrealized troubles from the future. I'm working on it too, right alongside you.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Exceptional Gain through Loss

A little over eight months ago, I did something radical. I got rid of stuff. Doesn't sound so earth-shattering perhaps, but for me, it was more than just filling a few boxes for a garage sale.  Instead, it was renewal and a rebirth of sorts.

Clutter breeds chaos, and chaos breeds inertia. Who can think, or plan, or even just effectively function when a world of goods is virtually tumbling down around our feet? No, I'm not a hoarder. Material goods were not actually cluttering the floors of my home. But the truth is, though my life is simple in many ways, I had collected far too much.

How many cookbooks does one really need? And that stack of old magazines with all those clever suggestions for home organization? Yes, well...we see how far that went. Truth is, I had taken a hard look around my home and was disgusted by the collection of useless items I had accumulated. I mean, really, what is the point?

I suspect the point is diversion. Though we don't admit it to ourselves easily, we often try to find diversion from the empty and cloaked corners of our lives; the dark shadows we'd prefer to ignore. We cover those spaces up, preferring instead to focus on the bright, new, shiny bits we stack up in front of them. Trouble is, the shiny bits lose their luster with time and we work to replace them, faster and faster, to avoid the reality of what lies just behind.

Failing marriage? New piece of jewelry might divert our attention for a while. Eating too much? Perhaps some new drapes for the house before the gigantic T.V. is installed. Lonely? The newest tech gadget lures with the promise of connectedness.

We need things to live in this world, that's true. But we need far less than we imagine we do. The stuff of our lives can come to rule us and nearly stop us in our tracks when it comes to forward movement. Sometimes, we resort to surrounding ourselves with toys just to assure ourselves, and others, that we're okay. Diversion.

Perhaps it's time to cast a few things off and take a peek into those dark corners. When we lose "stuff," we gain focus, and often find energy. Energy to pour into personal growth, into relationships, and into the things that really matter.

It's Spring just now, right before the heat of summer sets in. Maybe it's a good time to test the theory. I challenge you to empty your life of some useless "stuff" and breathe in renewed energy as light floods all the corners once again. Let me know how it works for you!

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a closet to sort out...

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Meaning of Life

A good friend of mine keeps urging me to write a post on the meaning of life. Let me go back and rephrase that, or at least part of it...MEANING OF LIFE. Doesn't it just feel like those words should be in capital letters? I mean, when I encounter them, I immediately sense their weight and implied significance. Do we ever really feel like we have the meaning of life figured out? Are we even supposed to have it figured out?

If we are, then I suspect I'm totally behind the eight ball on that one. I am simply nowhere close to being able to profess that I know the meaning of life. I do, however, have some thoughts on the subject, as you might expect.

There is meaning to life; of that, I am certain. There is a point and purpose to human existence on this planet. Because of the sheer number of us and our social nature, I'm inclined to believe that meaning is found somewhere in the intricate web of human interaction. Aristotle said, "What is the essence of life? To serve others and to do good." Pablo Casals put a further point on it when he stated, "I feel the capacity to care is the thing which gives life its deepest significance." I think they were on to something.

We were created for meaning and purpose. Another point of which I am certain, and which is slightly different than the first. I believe in God. Higher power, supreme being, the universe; however you wish to state it is OK by me. I'm not here to force feed anyone my spiritual beliefs. But I believe in God. Inherent in that belief is the notion that we were created to be something other than robots or puppets, and that worship of the Creator is part of my meaning and purpose. We were created for meaning and purpose. There is a point to our existence. The craving for "something more" that we each recognize along the way is evidence of it.

At some point or the other, we all contemplate meaning. Some consider it for fleeting moments and then hastily work to bury it beneath the stuff of everyday living in an attempt to ease the vague feeling of uncertainty the pondering can cause. Others spend their whole lives chasing its promise of fulfillment, and in doing so, miss key moments along the way which might contribute to its understanding. There is, surely, a balance to be found.

I think contemplation on the meaning of life, the meaning of our life, can be exceptionally elucidating by spurring us on towards conscious living. That is to say, moving us toward a life lived with purpose, awake, and within the framework of a belief system. When we seek to peek below the surface of the mechanics of daily living, we open ourselves up to fulfillment and peace. We open ourselves to possibility.

I don't have it all wrapped up and I'm still seeking to understand the meaning of life. But I do know, that for me, living consciously is a piece of it. I know, that for me, I find meaning in relationship with God. I know, that for me, I find meaning in caring for my neighbor and relationship with others. My hope is that I remain open to the ever-evolving nature of the meaning of my life. How about you?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Does your Cell Phone Affect What you Think about Others?

A few posts back, I shared a couple of videos by Dr. Bruce Lipton Click Here for the Post. In those videos, he made mention of the fields that we all live in. He specifically mentioned the magnetic and radio fields and how those fields may alter our realities, experiences, and behaviors. His information is based upon his previous work cloning stem cells. Through his work, he discovered that it is the environment of the cell that determines the pattern and purpose of growth, not only the genetics of the cell. His findings disputed the central dogma of molecular biology, but have since contributed to the field of epigenetics.

Today, I'm sharing with you a video in which Rebecca Saxe shares her work at MIT. In the lab, they have learned that the application of magnetic pulses to a particular region of the brain alters the moral judgments that people make regarding the actions of others. It's a fascinating video and well worth the time it takes to watch.

My question is this: If, in fact, we know that focused application of electromagnetic energy can alter brain perception, function, or conclusion, and we know that we live in an environment increasingly flooded by electromagnetic signals, (due to the increase of technology which uses such signals) is there a link between our increasingly electromagnetized environment and our perceived increase in behaviorally manifested disorders of the brain?

Perhaps a stretch, but a question that lingered in my mind after watching both videos and another regarding further work at MIT on the application of magnetic signal to the brain. What are your thoughts?

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Power of Proaction

A dear elderly woman I knew once came to me several times, fretting that her family was making noises to the effect that she needed to move out of her home and into a care facility. Her son, and then her daughter, had made multiple visits to see her. At each visit, they had gently, but pointedly, suggested that she was too frail to live alone. They were worried that she could no longer afford to maintain her home, that she wasn't eating, that she wasn't taking her medications properly, and they feared for her safety. On face value, she was indignant that her children would make such "accusations." But she confessed to me that in her heart, she suspected they were right. Though she inwardly recognized that her situation was precarious, she felt that admitting it would somehow diminish her value in the eyes of her family.

She also began to realize that if she didn't make the decision to move, there might soon come a time that the decision would be made for her, either because of declining health or declining financial circumstances. She could see the writing on the wall and knew that at some point, she would be forced to move. Her resistance to moving into a care facility was partly an effort to save face before her children and partly natural human resistance to external control. No one likes to be forced to do anything.

Over and over, we talked about it. Slowly, she began to realize that ultimately, at that moment in time, she had the power to choose her circumstances. That though her children were concerned for her, her decision to move into an assisted living facility was her decision and that, regardless of the fact they had suggested it, making the move was not "giving in" to them. It was in fact, making an informed choice for her future. She was in control.

How often do we give our power away? How often do we see a set of circumstances coming at us like a train speeding toward us on a track, while we wait for the impact, paralyzed by fear. If only we could accept the reality of the impending train and respond on our terms, instead of passively accepting that we'll be left to pick up the pieces long after impact.

We can, in fact, do just that. We can recognize that sometimes, circumstances suggest we must take a different path. We can accept that we have a choice in how we respond. We can own the circumstances, re-frame the situation, and make it our choice. If we do so, we can be re-energized and empowered. Choosing to be proactive is choosing to reclaim our power.

My elderly friend chose it. Instead of feeling forced into new circumstances and reluctantly letting go, she chose to move and she chose where to move. Her decision to accept her new life sooner, rather than later, preserved her options. Once she owned the decision, she even admitted to being excited by the new adventure. She looked forward to meeting new friends, having new activities, and even to making her new space her own with her taste in decorating. She chose to view her choice as an adventure instead of a defeat.

Whether it's the end of a relationship, an impending foreclosure, a change in financial circumstances, or a job that seems to be slipping away from us, we have a choice. We can choose to be reactive or proactive. We can choose to spend our energy screaming, "It isn't FAIR!" or we can choose to invest our energy in our future with the promise of dividends paid in peace.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A Few of my Favorite Books

Reading is one of my very favorite things to do. It's not uncommon for me to have two or three books on the go at once. Usually it's a textbook, a work of fiction, and sometimes a piece of non-fiction. My trick is to stash them in different parts of the house; one in the living room, one in the bedroom, and one in the bath. That way, wherever I am, a book is within easy reach. It makes reading a much more organic process rather than having to find time to fit it in.

I thought I'd share with you a few books that I find interesting. Down on the lower right bar of this page, you'll see an Amazon carousel of books hand chosen by me. These are books that I have found to be both helpful and particularly thought-provoking. The book by Louise Hay, You Can Heal Your LIfe was introduced to me when I was at a particularly vulnerable time in my life and it made all the difference. The other books mentioned are interesting as well, though certainly very different from each other.

As with any reading, especially non-fiction, it's very important to read with a critical eye. The genre of personal growth is a burgeoning market with new titles and plans for better living birthed every day. The importance of being a savvy and critical consumer cannot be overstated.

When I set out to read a book that is personal-growth oriented, I use a process that really seems to work for me. First, I start by reminding myself to keep an open mind as I read. The hope in reading is to encounter new information that either confirms my choices for how I live my life, or stretches and challenges me to consider new choices and processes. I need to be open to the growth process, so I must remain open to new perspectives as I read.

After I read the book through, I go back to re-read and reconsider any passages I found particularly interesting or challenging. This helps to solidify the information in my mind. As I do this, I pay attention to how I feel as I read. Do the words bring about a sense of calm in my body or do I sense internal dissonance and discord as I process the words? The result of paying attention to how my body feels as I read is a reliable barometer for what this new information means to me and how it stacks up with my value system.

After this step is complete, I take some time to contemplate the information, apart from the book; to see how it "sits" with me. As I go through this process, I revisit how my body felt as I was reading and I particularly pay attention to those bits that caused a sense of dissonance within me. I question if the dissonance is because the information truly clashes with deeply-held values or because it simply stretches me. After a period of some time, I often notice that accepted information is integrated into my actions, thoughts, and beliefs, while information that doesn't manifest some congruency with my values is discarded. This is how I grow.

What I've described is my process. You may have a different process that works for you. My only point is that it's important to critically analyze the reading that we do. So often, I hear people touting that some self-help book is their new salvation only to find that in two months, they've hopped aboard an entirely different and new bandwagon simply because the book promoting it has just hit the bestseller list. New information is always good, because it causes us to examine ourselves, but be discerning in the process.

So there you are, a few of my favorite books. I don't subscribe to all that is within their pages, but it's certainly good food for thought. In the spirit of full disclosure, I do want you to be aware that I am part of Amazon Affiliates, and I do make a bit of a commission on what is purchased. However, I'm careful in what I recommend and opinions appearing within this blog are 100% mine.

Happy reading and please share your thoughts.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Potential of the Unknown

Several years ago, I made the very difficult decision to leave the organization I was working for. The job no longer fit me and it seemed unfair, to both myself and the organization, to continue in a position that no longer felt right. I was scared. My whole identity had become wrapped up in who I was at work and what I did. My time there was spent well, caring for people, learning, and growing in so many ways. Never did I dream that the growth I was experiencing would soon lead me away and down a path to what felt like an uncertain future.

In the end, after agonizing about it to the point of making myself sick, I took the leap. A year of extremely unsettling uncertainty followed, but I knew deep down that if I had any chance of spreading my wings, this was the only way. Starting over wasn't easy.

Starting over is never easy. We long for what we know, even when what we know is binding us. But there is promise in standing on the cusp of the unknown; the promise of possibility. The promise of potential. The opportunity to construct and create the life we want for ourselves, one brick at a time.

There are a lot of stories just now about people having to start over and begin again because of jobs lost in this economy.  What I find inspiring about some of these stories is that people are finding themselves again. Long lost dreams are resurfacing and though finances are tight, the free time is allowing opportunities that simply weren't there before. People are choosing to consciously reconstruct their lives and it's exciting!

Sometimes, we outgrow jobs and relationships, and sometimes they crumble beneath us and we have no control. Either way, potential presents itself and we must choose how we will weave the threads together to create the tapestry of our future.

The following song is one I listened to over, and over, and OVER again as I wrestled with the decision to leave my job. I wept again as I listened to it tonight. I am grateful I had the courage to leap back then, and pray I will have it when it's next needed. Perhaps this will mean something to you.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Positive Thinking, EFT, Metaphysics, Quantum Physics, or Just What Works?

The single most life-changing thing anyone ever told me was also one of the most simple things anyone ever told me. After a lifetime of struggling with self-doubt, I happened upon someone who helped me understand how to connect what I knew to be rationally true and how I felt. She said to me, "It's just a thought...and you can change your thoughts." Simple, huh? And yet, pretty profound.

After doing some reading that was recommended, I became keenly interested in this concept. But I'm a critical thinker and was careful to consider what was being suggested and whether it was congruent with the truths I had already come to believe about life, most namely, my belief in God. The journey continues for me.

Recently, I came across these two videos by Dr. Bruce Lipton, and found them fascinating. I thought I'd share them with you because the concepts he's proposing seem to make sense to me, though I'm not quite ready to say that I subscribe to all he suggests. But I'm willing to explore. I look forward to your comments.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Radical Failure

Failure is such a harsh word. Often bathed with a patina of tears, it tends to hit deep in the gut when lobbed at us by others, or even ourselves. Nobody wants to fail. We do nearly anything we can to avoid it, and even just the appearance of it. Though, ironically, we are often the first to affix its taunting label to ourselves.

But in spite of all the anguish it delivers, failure is actually a very constructive state. It doesn't feel so constructive when we're face down in the dirt, having just been thrown off the horse, but it is. Failing at something teaches us what doesn't work and forces us to face the plain truth of it. The interesting thing is, if we follow the advice handed down for generations, and "get right back up on that horse," we lose out on an important opportunity. Success may well be an unpolished gold nugget staring back at us from the dirt, but if we hop up on the horse too quickly, we may miss the shiny bit beckoning to us.

Let's be clear though, shall we? By failure, I don't mean a temporary challenge in what we set out to do. Sure, practice makes perfect and we shouldn't give up the first, second, or even hundredth time we aren't successful at something. But I'm talking about true failure, or more precisely, the failure of a situation to meet our needs. When it becomes obvious that something isn't working, perhaps it's best to take a step back and re-evaluate the environment, and ourselves. Is the universe trying to tell us something? Would it be best for us to take a step back and consider a divergent path? Having the courage to face, and even welcome, failure is the trick.

Life has a way of working out if we heed its quiet messages to us along the way. Failure, success, and crisis; all three of these are signposts that seek to guide our journey. But each takes a mindful spirit to interpret. If we are too busy fighting life and attempting to control it, we create a cacophony of confusion that causes us to  miss the messages. We end up spinning our wheels and circling back around, time and time again.

The failures in my life have not been pleasant affairs and each has left me a bit more raw than the last. Yet, they have guided me and taught me important lessons along the way and in the end, I am thankful for them all.  I don't yet throw parties to welcome them, mind you. But I do hope to develop the courage to experience radical failure, for in each lies a gift.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Thank You

Thanks to all of you, this little adventure has gotten off to an excellent start! I've so enjoyed reading your comments and hearing your thoughts, both within this forum and others such as Facebook. We are accomplishing exactly what I intended: thought-provoking conversation that causes us to consider, question, and grow. My hope is that what has begun will continue and flourish.

It seems the right time to do a little housekeeping.  Soon, you'll be able to find a Facebook page for the blog, and I will let you know as soon as that's ready. In the meantime, follow me on Twitter for up-to-date information on posts and other topics. Look for @allthatthenthis on Twitter.

My plan is to post 3 to 5 times a week from this point forward. Keep up the comments and emails so the dialog can continue even between posts. I love hearing what you have to say and will do my best to respond to each comment and email as quickly as possible.

Feel free to pass along a blog link to anyone you think may be interested. A diverse group will only provide us with more perspective as we continue.

Thank you again, and I look forward to the coming days!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Not Likely to Make Me Popular

There are some things you should probably know about me. I'm an American, and I love my country. My Dad, both of them, actually, served in the United States Air Force and they were proud and brave to do so. You should know that I hate what happened on 9/11 on so many levels. That we as a nation lost innocent lives is horrific enough. But that families lost dearly-loved ones in such a violent and heinous manner is beyond pardon. That our security, both as a country and as individual citizens, was snatched from under us as we watched helplessly is unimaginable and yet, true. We were forever changed that day.

You should know that I'm not a political sort of person. You won't find me ranting about politics, politicians, or hear me suggesting that the country is going to hell in a hand basket. My choice is to leave that to those who know more than I. I'm interested in what happens in my country. I'm interested in what happens in the world. I'm not interested in politics.

You should know that I care about people and that I believe human life is precious, regardless of age, ability, or the color of the wrapping. You should know that I believe that a kernel of the supernatural, found in each one of us, necessarily imbues the life that we carry with awe and dignity, and quietly demands reverence and respect.

You should know that I was saddened today.

I was saddened as I listened to the people of my country gleefully celebrate that a man was killed. I was saddened as I read words written by a friend. Words dripping with venom and racist hate as they mocked the fallen man's religion and wished upon him a horrible hell.

Do I believe that the death of Osama bin Laden was good or righteous or holy? It doesn't matter really. This isn't about that. I support my country and our troops 100% as they struggle to keep us safe. I believe it's possible that the families of those tragically lost to the terror that this man wrought may now find comfort and some manner of closure in his death, and I do not begrudge them that. My prayer is that they will find peace. I am in no way defending the man or his acts. Do not misunderstand me.

But I maintain that he was human. I maintain that it is never right to rejoice in a man's death, and I maintain that it is never right to rejoice in what we perceive to be a man's eternal damnation. We lower ourselves to a very base level when we chant and cheer and dance to "Party in the USA" because a man has died.

Let us rejoice that families may now find some sense of closure. Let us rejoice that our world is safer, if we believe that to be so. Let us cheer that our country is strong and successful in its defense against evil acts. Let us cheer if we believe justice has been served. But let us not mock or jeer or pray for a hotter hell. For to do so defiles the very justice that we hoped to mete out.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Stepping Outside the Known

Over the course of the last couple of years, I've had occasion to consider some pretty significant decisions, and to talk with friends who were doing the same. You know the feeling; weighing out whether or not you should do something by mentally loading the weight bars on one side and then the other of the scale in your mind's eye, secretly hoping the scale will bottom out on the side of safety. But I'm convinced that safe isn't all it's cracked up to be.

Sure, safe is what we know and on some level, knowing brings comfort. There is a certain measure of security in being able to walk the halls of "safe" blindfolded, no matter how tight those halls are. We know every twist and turn; when to zig and when to zag. But the walls of "safe" can be confining and at times, very difficult to navigate due to the distraction of "what could be."

I'm suggesting that we dare to consider what could be. That we push ourselves to step outside of the confines of safe into the open world of wide halls where we need light to find our way. Oh, it's definitely frightening and truly not easy, but neither is sitting in a rocking chair at an advanced age, reflecting on life and wondering about what could have been. I think I prefer my comfort as I smile at the memory of a long and satisfying life, void of too much second-guessing.

The truth is, it all works out. We find our way, we figure it out as we go, and in the end, it all works out. The energy that we spend wringing our hands in worry is better spent in leaping and enjoying the adventure that life offers. Yeah, I know that sounds simplistic and I'm not suggesting that we go about life in a willy-nilly uncontemplated sort of way. But I am suggesting that we stop being scared. Fear is paralyzing and prevents forward movement. Get over it. Move on. Try something different. The bottom line is, time passes anyway, no matter what we choose. We might as well have something to show for it in the end, rather than a great big bucket of "what ifs."

Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Joy of Crisis

Okay, right, so not exactly joy, but there might be something said for crisis. When I hear that word, "crisis," I see red arrows and hear loud alarms clanging, warning me to run away. But I'm learning that perhaps, crisis is to be welcomed into our lives. Not a very popular opinion perhaps, but think about it: if things stay the same and nothing ever changes, how are we incentivized to make changes in our lives or grow? Where's the fire to get us up and moving?

Oh well, yes, it's true that there's a certain level of internal motivation...perhaps. But I suspect that can fall to a negligible level once a particular threshold of comfort has been reached. We like to be comfortable. *I* like to be comfortable. And oh, don't forget secure. But there can be tragedy in that seemingly safe, warm, snug little bed we're ensconced in; the tragedy of inertia.When everything's hunky dory and life is safely rolling along, why be bothered to stretch for something more? Well, there IS a reason to be and some do it, in fact, but many don't. Sometimes, it takes a full-on crisis to smack us out of our comfy little sleep.

So for me, I'm learning to welcome the crises; to ask what will be on the other side and what that will look like for me. I'm also learning that just rolling with it and being open to the opportunities that present themselves along the way is the key. Because if I'm quiet and pay attention, and resist the urge to go into full-blown freak mode every time something doesn't work out as I think it should, amazingly, the universe opens up and offers me a path.

Just so you know, I've not mastered this yet, but I'm trying, learning, and growing in the knowledge of this little secret, and have friends who are doing the same. It's very exciting to watch in their lives as seemingly difficult circumstances magically evolve into opportunities. Perhaps you're learning this as well. So tell do you handle crisis?

Friday, April 29, 2011

Steampunk....Ever Heard of It?

One of the things that I've developed an appreciation for over the last year or two is the steampunk culture. If you're looking at the screen just now with raised eyebrows and and a confused look, well, you're in good company because that's very often the look I get when I mention steampunk. If you're searching for a definition, however, think "Victorian era meets the technological era." It's all Jules Verne and H.G. Wells sort of stuff with their fantastic and futuristic projections powered by steam and gear works with the glow of 21st century technology peeking through. As much as I am enamored with the beauty that the marriage of these two elements creates, I am even more struck by what lies beyond the mechanization; the air of a genteel civility that seems to permeate the entire culture.

I shall resist the urge to turn this into a commentary on society today, but suffice it to say that the lure of Wells' time machine is great when i consider the possibility of travel to a time when a man wouldn't be caught dead with his pants below his derriere. But alas, I am firmly rooted in the present, if not by the lack of a working time machine, then certainly by my eternal devotion to electronic gadgetry. For as much as I love looking at steampunk art and contemplating what a Victorian cell phone would have looked like, (in my imagination it's all dark wood with glorious gold embossed metals, filigrees, and shining proud rivets), there really was no such device in the era of gentlemanly duels.

And so, for kicks, I leave you with a few links.  The first will explain more of what steampunk is and offer some gorgeous examples of the art and the last two are We can do 'fun' here, right? :-))

Thursday, April 28, 2011

And So it Begins

For a long while now, I've considered a blog. Actually, what I've MORE considered is a place where people could come and meet and share ideas and thoughts and exchange those with the intention of learning, growing, and creating.  Heady stuff, I know, but I believe it's possible. Sadly, my study isn't large enough to contain all those that I dream would come to such a meeting (oh wait, I don't HAVE a study), and in fact, many I hope would attend are from far away places spread 'round the globe.  So welcome to my, blog.  Pull up a chair, hang out, contemplate, ponder, and contribute. We'll see where it takes us.  No one is more eager than I to see what happens along the journey.

By the way...a couple of articles to check out: