Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Soul Garden Meditation



What exactly do you want to achieve in your life?

When I ask this question I typically get one of two reactions.  Either a person immediately tells me a dream they have, or they stumble around mentally and find it difficult to come up with an answer at all.

If you fall into the former category, and immediately know what it is you wish to achieve that is probably a very good start.  I say "probably" as quite often people are absolutely convinced that they know what they want to achieve, but what they REALLY, deep inside, want is something very different.  Maybe it really was the right dream earlier in your life, but we all evolve and our dreams change as we change.  Or sometimes, for many different reasons, our true dream morphs into something else as it passes from our unconscious to our conscious mind.  We think it is one thing, but deep inside it is something else.  So even if you believe you know exactly what you want you should still attempt the following exercise.

If you find it difficult to come up with an answer, it is very important to find out what it is.  Unless you really know what you want to achieve, how do you expect to get there?  How do you know you are moving in the right direction?

Make sure you are alone and that nobody will interrupt you, then try this exercise.  Don't worry if the first few times you try it you don't feel, see, or take in the things I am telling you to be aware of, as each time you practise this you will find it becomes easier to go deeper and get greater benefit.

Lie down and close your eyes.  Breath deeply and slowly.  Focus on your breathing.  Listen to the sound it makes.  Notice that thoughts try to come into your head to take you away from this meditation.  Notice, but don't focus on them.  Don't give them power by trying to stop them or getting irritated about them.  Just notice they are there but ignore them.  Keep focussed on your breathing.  In ... Out ... In ... Out.

Keep doing this until you feel yourself completely relaxed and at peace.

Now allow your focus to go deep inside and then straight down.  Feel yourself at one with Mother Earth.  Notice the warm, comfortable, loving feeling that comes up from the depths of the earth and fills you as you do this.  Allow this feeling to expand through your whole body.  As you do this, feel yourself expanding with it.  Your true inner spirit is now filling your body and going beyond.  It is filling the room you are in.  Allow it to keep expanding.  Now it is filling your entire home (or the building you are in).  Good!  Allow it to keep expanding beyond.  Now it is filling the town you are in.  It is growing even further.  The country.  The world.  Expanding beyond the world, to fill the solar system.  Beyond the solar system to encompass the whole of the Milky Way.  Recognize that now you are one with the Infinite Spirit.

Lie still, just basking in and accepting this new Universal Spirit "you".

Come back to yourself, your inner spirit.  Know that you are "you", but that the Universal Spirit is within you.

This is an exercise I recommend whenever you begin a meditation of any kind.  You can even do this by itself and will reap tremendous benefits if you do it regularly.

You are now ready to begin today's meditation.  Know that you are looking for the goals you have in your life.  Take that knowledge with you and then see yourself opening a gate and entering a garden, the garden of your soul.  See what this garden looks like.  Is it overgrown?  Is it the opposite - almost a desert?  Is it filled with beautiful flowers?  Is it filled with fruit and vegetables?  Remember what you first saw when you entered the garden and be ready to write this down in a notebook after your meditation.

No matter what your soul garden first looked like when you entered it, now see flowers, trees, bushes, fruit and vegetables growing there.  Even if before they were withered and sorry looking, now they are fresh, lively, and beautiful.  As you look at each plant in your garden allow it to speak to you and tell you what it is.  Again, be ready to write this down when you finish your meditation.  Be open to whatever message each plan in your soul garden gives you.  You may feel that you need to water some of the plants.  Do so if this is what you feel.  You may find some that are threatening and are clearly weeds.  If this is what you feel, pull them out.  Do whatever you feel your inner spirit is telling you to do, remaining open to the messages it is receiving.

When you have finished wandering through your soul garden, go back to the gate, open it, and walk back up the path that is taking you back into your daily life.  Focus again on your breathing.  In ... Out ... In ... Out.  Lie there relaxed and observing your breathing.  Slowly, when you feel ready to do so, open your eyes.  Smile.  Then sit up.  Your meditation is over.

Write in your meditation journal all that came to your during this meditation.  If you don't have a meditation journal, see if you have an empty notebook of any kind and make it your meditation notebook.  If not, then just write today's meditation on any blank paper you have to hand.  Later, buy a notebook, ideally one with a pretty cover, one that makes you feel good when you look at it, and that is now your meditation journal for recording what happens, what you feel, what images and ideas come to you each time you meditate.  Why didn't I tell you to do this before I took you through your meditation?  Because your mind will use any excuse it can to stop you meditating to improve yourself, and one way it may do this is by telling you that you cannot meditate yet as you don't have a meditation journal!

Look at what you have written.  Do clear goals appear?  Often, they do.  But also it often takes more than one meditation of this kind to make those goals clear.  Don't give up.  Keep doing this meditation regularly until you have identified your true inner goals.

Once you have those goals, great!  You can now take the right steps to begin achieving them.  But also keep returning and examining those goals, as they will change as you change.  Use this meditation regularly and ensure you stay on track.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Someone Is Holding You Back


If I were to tell you the biggest reason of all that you are not achieving what you want to achieve is because there is someone out there stopping you, who might that person be?

Think about it for a moment.  Is it perhaps your partner?  Maybe it is your boss - especially if what you want to achieve is an increase in your regular income!  Or could it be someone else?  Think about it for a moment.  Then list the people who come to your mind, and who you think may be holding you back.

Unless you are a very unusual person, or have not thought deeply about this, there should be several people on your list.  If there are not, take another moment out and think hard.  Add some names to that list.

The reality is most of us can identify some people out there who are holding us back.  The first step in dealing with this issue is to find out who they are.  Then you should look at the ways in which they are holding you back and what you might do to reduce or even prevent this.

If you have put your partner or spouse on the list, which will be the case for many people, you certainly have a challenge ahead of you, although it may not be as big a challenge as you think.  It is quite normal for your partner or spouse to expect you to be doing something different if you have changed what you want to achieve since you first met them - and as all of us are evolving all the time, you should expect what you want to achieve to have changed.  When you have an intimate relationship it is important to share your deep desires with your partner.  Not just your intimate desires, but also everything that makes you who you are now, which is at least a little different from who you were last month, last year, or ten years ago.  Share it and talk it through.  Be sensitive to the fact that just as it is natural for you to have changed, so it is also for your partner.  In any relationship there must be some give and take.  If there is something you are really passionate about achieving it is vital you share this with your partner and get them on board.  But don't be selfish about it.  Recognize the need for give and take.  And also use the opportunity to find out, if you don't already know, how your partner has evolved and what he or she is now passionate about that perhaps was not the case when you first got together.  It could be the case that you have both evolved so far in completely different directions that you really no longer belong together.  I really hope not.  But it is possible.  Certainly, though, do not assume that to be the case just because you have indeed both evolved in different directions.  What is important is to re-establish proper communication - because if this has happened and neither of you has spotted it then certainly there is a problem with communication and you should both look to creating more opportunities to share your innermost thoughts and feelings with each other.

If you have put friends on the list, and again this will be the case for many people if they are honest about it, the solution for each of those friends is really very similar to the one I have just shared regarding your partner.  The difference is that where you have gone in different directions, then now may be the time for you both to recognize this and go your different ways.  What is very important is that you not keep close to you anyone who keeps being negative about your goals.  They are YOUR goals, not anybody else's, so don't let anybody else draw you away from them.  You may not have to dump such a person completely as a friend, but try not to spend too much time with them if they persist in being negative.  You can choose your friends, so choose them wisely.

If you have put your boss on the list, then you may need to think again.  It is, of course, possible that your boss is negative in the same way as some of those friends you have either dropped as friends or at least are now keeping at a greater distance.  If so, then the solution is similar to the above solution, with the difference that you need to be sensitive to the power relationship.  For as long as you are relying on the income your job gives you it is not too sensible to tell your boss to leave you alone!  But if the reason you have put your boss on your list is because you believe he or she is holding you back from earning more money, then I want you to think about this more carefully.  You are responsible for the income you receive, not your boss.  Ultimately you get paid for the value you create.  If you are not being paid enough, then maybe you are not creating enough value.  If you are creating far more value than you believe you are being paid for, then you are probably working for the wrong people.  Don't just throw it all away, though.  Explore ways to get them to recognize your worth.  But ultimately, look for a good back door so you can leave when you are ready and receive a better income.  Also, recognize that you can (and indeed should) have multiple streams of income.  Your full-time job probably creates by far the biggest stream of income, but it should not be the only stream.  Work on creating those multiple streams of income so that you become less and less reliant on your job.

Now let me tell you who is the person who is most stopping you achieving what you want to achieve.  You!

Yes, that's right!  It is you!

So many people who claim to have a big "dream" simply haven't thought it through properly.  The first thing you must always do is to make sure your dream is what, deep down inside, you really want to achieve.  If it is not, or even worse if it is actually more or less the opposite of your true inner desires, it will be very difficult for you to achieve it.  In the latter case it will, in fact, be almost impossible.  You may think it ridiculous that you could have a dream that is the opposite of what you really want, but actually this is very common.  Our minds are very good at hiding desires they think are not the right thing.

Once you know for certain that you are pursuing the right dreams, the next thing you must do is stop your mind from giving you all the reasons why you cannot achieve it.  Your mind will almost certainly find lots of reasons for this, and they may sound very logical.  But the truth is that you can always be as big as your dreams, no matter how big those dreams may be.  Don't let your mind tell you otherwise.

The whole concept of the way our minds stop us from achieving our dreams is a massive topic.  There are many books and courses devoted to just this one topic.  The first step is to recognize that this is happening.  You won't correct it overnight, but recognizing the problem is the first step on the long journey to solving it.  Once you have done that, use the techniques I have given you here but also be open to reading some of those books and following some of those courses.  There is no quick fix here, but just an ongoing journey which, if you travel in the right direction, will step by step bring you closer and closer to achieving whatever it is you really want to achieve.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Mindfulness



I want you to imagine you are sat on a beautiful white sand beach that is almost deserted, there is a lovely salt water smell in the air, there is the sound of waves gently washing into the shore and behind you there are birds happily singing in the trees.  The sun is shining, so it is quite hot, but there is also a lovely, balmy breeze.  All is well with the world around you.

This is a scene I frequently use in positive meditations.  But I am not setting this scene up for a positive meditation right now.  Rather the opposite.  Because whilst you are sat on this lovely beach you are not sitting on the sand but on a chair in front of a desk.  You cannot really hear the waves and that beautiful birdsong as you are talking on your cellphone (or what we Brits call your mobile).  You are not relaxed at all, because the phonecall is a business call, and on the desk in front of you is paperwork you are dealing with while sat on that beach.

How do you feel about this scene?  Are you happy with it?  Or does it feel horribly wrong?  I hope the latter!  It certainly feels very wrong to me.

I am using this discordant image as a metaphor for what psychologists call "default-mode network".  Put simply, mind-wandering.  Which is something most of us do, without even knowing we are doing it, a large percentage of the time.  There is loveliness and beauty around us but we miss it completely because we are not paying any attention to it, just like that businessman on the beach.  We are in default mode.

Not only do we miss the beauty of what is around us when we are in default mode, but also most of the time our mind has a tendency to wander into dark, dismal, miserable areas that cause us stress and worry when we allow it to go into default mode.  It tells us all the things that are wrong or that could go wrong.  It criticizes decisions we have made.  It tells us we are silly wanting something better.  Default mode causes us a lot of unhappiness even when what is around us should make us very happy.  It focuses on "what if", with an inevitable bias to all the negative "what ifs".

The opposite of default mode is mindfulness.  Being fully engaged with the present moment.  Enjoying what is here now.  Focusing on and dealing properly with what is here now.  The "what is" rather than the "what if".

There is so much around you that you can enjoy if you cultivate mindfulness.  Don't miss what is around you, but rather make sure you take full advantage of it.  Perhaps the song of a blackbird nearby.  A beautiful sunrise or sunset.  A tasty meal.

Mindfulness is not simply about enjoyment, but also about getting things done properly, and even about staying safe.

Take driving a car as an example.  When you drive you should most certainly be mindful.  Your focus should be on the driving, on what is happening on the road, not (for example) on what is going to happen when you get wherever you are going, and certainly not on a conversation someone in the car is trying to have with you or, even worse, someone at the other end of a phone conversation!

You have probably heard it said that women multitask better than men.  Do you agree?  Well, really that is a trick question, because neither men nor women can multitask at all.  Our brains cannot deal with two things at once.  If you give your brain two tasks to perform it will perform them sequentially, not in parallel.  It may appear to multitask and deal with both at the same time, but what it is actually doing is switching between the two tasks sequentially.  Research has shown that when we are switching attention from one task to another there is up to half a second of complete oblivion when we are totally unaware of anything in either task.

Now that you are aware of the problem, let's go back to the driving example.  If you are chatting and driving at the same time your mind is switching between those two tasks, and each time it switches there is that fraction of a second when you are completely unaware of either.  Do you see the danger here?  I hope so!  What can happen in, say, half a second while you are travelling at, perhaps, 60 mph (or 96 kph for my metric friends)?  The answer is, a lot!  You will have travelled 15 yards, or 14 metres in complete oblivion.  Happy about that?  I hope not!  The reality is neither your driving nor your conversation will be anywhere near as good as it should be.  Be mindful!

In this modern technological age there are so many gadgets and "apps" around us that can interfere with mindfulness if we let them.  Alerts, instant messages, beeps on our phones to tell us someone has texted us.  Each of these will rob you of your mindfulness if you let them.  Don't let them!

How can you acquire mindfulness?

There are many techniques you can use, but the very first and easiest is simply to decide you want to be mindful!  Once you have made that decision you will become much more aware of being dragged into default mode.

As with most things, the more you practice this the easier it becomes.  It may not seem that way, as you will also become a lot more aware of the distractions trying to move you from mindfulness back to default mode, but that awareness is a good thing as it will help you develop the skill better.

Meditation is a very good way to improve mindfulness.  Especially, but certainly not exclusively, meditation techniques that focus on mindfulness.

Look for ways to increase your mindfulness.  Learn to stop and smell the roses.  Become more aware of when you are falling into default mode so you can control this.  By doing so you can increase your enjoyment of even the small pleasures of life, and you may even save your own life and/or the lives of others by being more mindful the next time you drive.

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

A couple of my daily affirmations



What affirmations do you use each day to ensure you reach your goals?

Do you use a list someone else has prepared for you, or have you created your own?

How do you use them?  Do you simply read them out, do you visualize them as you read them, really feeling them internally?  Do you include them as sub text in your own personal Mind Movie?

In asking those questions I am not suggesting that the way you currently do it is wrong, or implying from the way I have worded the question there is a best way to do it.  Some people would say there is, including many coaches.  But that is not where I am coming from.  I simply want you to ask yourself the questions and justify to yourself the way you use (or even don't use) affirmations in your efforts to evolve and improve.

Let me share with you a couple of the affirmations I use daily.  Again, I am not suggesting that you should use the same affirmations, or that you should use them in the way I do.  But perhaps by looking at what I do, and what I know works for me, you will pick up some ideas on ways you might wish to change what you say and what you do.

The exact affirmations I use depend on which aspect of my personal development I am focussing on.  I have some that I use regardless (I call these my "Mind and Motivation" affirmations) but in addition to those I add some that are much more specific to the range of goals I have made my priority.  Many people think that there is only one goal to reach, and often it is linked in some way to their wealth.  I believe this is an important goal, and I do give it more emphasis than the others simply because it can be easier to reach some of those goals if I am wealthier, but it is most certainly not my only goal.  The affirmations I am giving you today are two of my "Mind and Motivation" affirmations which I use every day regardless.

Ok, here is my number one affirmation, one I use every day regardless:

"I create my own life.  I choose the direction in which my life is going and determine how successful I am."

I strongly recommend you have something like this in your list of daily affirmations.  As I have said, I am not suggesting you add this to your list exactly as I have written it, although you are welcome to do so if you find it helpful.  But I do feel you should look through your list and see if you have something like it there.

To me, this is number one not only in terms of its position on the list, but also in terms of its importance.  We must all recognize that we are each individually responsible for what happens in our lives and our own success.  It is easy to blame your employer, the government, your circumstances, your family.  In fact, anyone and anything except yourself.  As long as you place the blame outside you are dooming yourself to failure.  You cannot control what happens outside.  You may be able to influence it to a degree, but you cannot control it.  When you realize that you are responsible for your own success this can turn things around.  Trust me, it really can.  I constantly use this affirmation and know it work.

Here is the second one I use every day:

"I know my goals and know how I am going to reach them."

This is very important too.  When I first started using this affirmation I realized I didn't really know my goals as well as I should.  I was still using goals I set myself decades ago.  In the intervening years I have moved towards those goals, so the personal development techniques I was using have certainly worked for me.  But now I no longer feel strongly about some of those goals and need to set myself new ones.  The first step in doing so was recognizing the gap, and this affirmation gave me that realization.

With both these affirmations there is both something that gives us a realization that something inside needs to change, and also by affirming we are starting that process of change.

In another blog article I will give you some further insight into my own affirmations and how I use them.  Hopefully you have found this helpful and will start putting into practice anything you may have learned from it.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

State Change


In a previous blog I emphasized that we are each in control of our own emotions.  External factors may seem to create negative or positive emotions, but this only happens because we allow it.

So how do you actually switch from a negative to a positive emotion?  What do you need to do to achieve this?

This is not an easy thing to do, especially if it is not something you do all the time (or perhaps have never done), and especially if the negative emotion you are feeling is very strong.  It is not easy, but you CAN do it.

I would suggest the way NOT to do it is to say something like "come on, perk up!", or to have someone say this to you.  You may just as well say "come on, flap your arms and fly!" for all the good that does.

In Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP) it is common to hear a lot of talk about "state change".  Really, this is just another phrase for saying the same thing - changing your emotions.

If you are in a deep funk, maybe desperately sad about something, or perhaps very angry, before you can replace this negative emotion with a positive one you need to switch out of that mood as quickly as possible.  And "as quickly as possible" can be very quick.  It can be instantaneous!

In a very recent blog article I gave you a technique you could use for this in a specific situation.  Someone has made you very angry.  How can you snap right out of that angry mood?  One method I suggested was to imagine the person who has made you angry is suddenly standing there completely naked.  Depending on the circumstances you may now wish to laugh out loud.  I say "depending on the circumstances" as if the person is standing right there it might not be appropriate for you to laugh suddenly.  In the example I gave, you are driving a car and the person who made you angry is the driver of another car who has cut you up.  In that situation you can, and SHOULD, laugh out loud as you picture them standing there stark naked.  Where the person is standing in front of you, still see him stark naked but only laugh internally.

Try this.  If you have never done something like this before you will be amazed at the result.  You should find your laughter wipes away that negative emotion, giving you time to replace it with a positive emotion of your choice.

This is only one example of a state change technique, but it is a very powerful one.

Once you have wiped away the negative emotion, recognize that what caused it was your reaction to someone or something - not that someone or something itself.  The person has not changed, and nor has the situation, but you are no longer angry (for example) but are inwardly and perhaps outwardly laughing.

The next step is to stop yourself reacting negatively again once the amusement has passed.  To a degree you have already done that - just keep that naked image there.  But there is also an inner conversation you had with yourself that generated the negative emotion in the first place, or at least perpetuated and amplified it.  You may have said something like this to yourself: "How dare he move into my lane like that, so close to me and without even signalling!".  Now that you have created a state change, don't waste this opportunity by engaging in the same negative conversation again.  Yes, the guy who cut you up did a silly thing.  It was not nice.  But don't add to the problems he may have caused you by allowing him to make you miserable.  You already know what he did was wrong and why it was wrong, so there is no need at all for you to have a conversation with yourself about it.  On the other hand, you could certainly continue a conversation resulting from your amusement about him sitting in his car stark naked!

So that is a technique you can use to stop a negative emotion in its tracks.  A very effective technique.  Try to think of others.  It is best to have a selection of such techniques in your "state change armoury".  The one I have just given you works very well when it is a person that is causing the negative emotion.  You can extend it just a little so you can use it in any situation, not just one caused by a person.  For example, you may choose to see everyone around you as naked.  This will still create the state change you need, even though they are all innocent and you have nothing against any of them.  Think of a few more like this and remember to use them next time you are suffering from a negative emotion of any kind.

After you have removed the negative emotion and stopped yourself from calling it back again, the final step is to trigger a positive emotion.

There is much you can do to trigger a positive emotion.  I find one of the best ways is to recall a time in the past when you felt that emotion really strongly.  Visualize it.  See it as though you are sat in a cinema and the scene you remember is now being played on the screen.  In colour.  This is important.  Your mind, which doesn't like anything that changes your state, will probably try to limit you by making the film black and white rather than colour.  If that happens, just remember the scene more vividly and recall it in full technicolour.  Allow the emotion to flow through you.  Then step into the scene.  Experience it again fully with all your senses.

Rather than waiting until you need to use it, you should take some time now (or when you next have a few minutes by yourself) and go through this exercise.  Take some time to find some of the best examples.  Relive them as described above.  Do this several times for each of those incidents over the next few days.  Keep doing it until you can recall each incident and feel the emotions strongly without too much effort.

Once you have two or three (or even more), the final step is to "anchor" them.  This simply means associating each with a physical action.  Many NLP practitioners will teach you to do this with a completely random action.  For example, tap your right hand with the middle finger of your left hand.  Keep repeating the incident in your mind, and each time the really powerful positive emotion flows through you, tap your hand in this way.  If you do this enough times, you should then find that if you tap your hand in this way it automatically brings back that positive emotion.  Keep practising this anchoring until that is the case.

I suggest, though, that you anchor the best example with the right body posture associated with that emotion.  For example, if you are trying to anchor your best example of being happy, then anchor it with a smile.  As above, keep going back to that incident that caused you such happiness, and each time the happiness flows through you anchor it with a smile.

Do this and you will have some very powerful tools to create the right state changes no matter what is happening around you.


Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Behind the mask



Have you ever looked behind your mask and found the real "you"?

When I ask people this question most ask "what mask?" and say they never wear masks.  They are deluding themselves.  We all wear masks.

We learn from an early age that we need to present a certain image to the world around us.  Maybe that is the image of an obedient boy or girl, who is really not quite as obedient as the mask suggests.  Maybe it is a mask that makes us less noticeable to the school bully and hopefully therefore allows us to avoid being bullied too much.  Or even the mask of a bully who doesn't want others to notice how vulnerable he or she is.

But we do not permanently wear the same mask.  Again, as a child you probably displayed a different mask to your parents than the one you displayed to your brothers and sisters if you had any.  A different mask to your teachers than to your school friends.  A different mask to your group of friends than to those in other groups.

As an adult you still have a whole series of masks.  One you show your boss at work.  Another you show your spouse.  And yet another you show your children.  You take on different personalities with those different masks.  The personality of a mother or father.  The personality of a loving spouse.  The personality of a loyal employee.  There is, in fact, a whole series of things that change in you as you assume each mask.  How an employee, spouse, or parent should behave, what they should say, how they should think, what they should believe.  Some of the beliefs associated with the mask are absolutely the right thing.  Many are not - they are patterns you have learned from others, from what you have read, what you have been told, experiences you have had.

If you want to develop and evolve properly it is important that you first look behind the masks.  You need to find the real "you".  Once you have found that true personality you can then work on improving it and moving it in the direction you wish to go.  And you can then also analyse each of your masks, identifying whether they are needed at all once your personality has evolved, and if they are still needed identifying which aspects should still be there and which should not.

This is not as easy as it sounds.  It is actually a lifetime task.  But a very rewarding task which you will find brings improvements in your life and, hopefully, greater happiness as you progress.

One reason it is not that easy is the point I made right at the beginning of this article - the challenge of even recognizing you are wearing a mask.  Knowing that even when you are sat alone, thinking about your goals, motivating yourself to reach them, and checking they are aligned with the inner purpose of your life, knowing that even then you are wearing a mask which you have to remove in order to move forward properly.

Another reason is that we all wear masks under our masks.  A bit like a matryoshka doll, the Russian nesting doll, except in the case of the matryoshka each doll inside the other normally looks identical, whereas when you peel back your masks you will find the one underneath is a little different.

Take some time each day to meditate, opening up your personal matryoshka one mask or shell at a time.  Get to the inner "you" and find out what that "you" really wants out of life.  Until you do this, you will not be satisfied with what you achieve, as it does not reflect what you really wanted to achieve.

As you progress with this, also take a look at those masks you are removing.  Try to find out why they are there.  Perhaps they are necessary, but perhaps not.  If they are needed, then try to find out how they change your personality, the way you behave, even the way you think and what you believe.  Strip out of the mask everything that is not needed, and everything that you find is a betrayal of the real "you".

What you will almost certainly discover is that the real "you" is very different, much deeper than suggested by the masks, and probably a much nicer person.  The mask of the "Democrat" or the "Republican" for example if you are in the US, "Labour", "Liberal Deomcrat", "Green", "UKIP", "SNP" or "Conservative" (and forgive me if I left out your particular mask here) if you are in the UK.  Wherever in the world you are I am sure you can replace these political masks with ones more appropriate to your situation.  I am not saying do not be a Democrat or Republican.  Just be aware that you do not need to wear the Democrat or Republican mask, that you can vote for one or other party and even strongly believe in the stance of one or other party, but do not allow that party to create a mask for you that is not the real "you".  Putting this back over 150 years ago, there were Confederates and Unionists.  If you have watched the US ABC miniseries "North & South", then you may remember the characters and beliefs of George Hazard and Orry Main.  They each believed strongly in their own cause, one being a Confederate and the other a Unionist.  They each had good reasons for those beliefs, or at least they felt there were good reasons for them.  But "Unionist" or "Confederate" was not really the true George Hazard or Orry Main.  Underneath the masks were decent human beings who loved each other despite their very different political persuasions.  And underneath your mask too there is probably a much better human being than the one you are currently displaying.  Dive beneath all those masks and find that real "you".

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Choosing Your Emotions



Did you know that you choose your emotions?  They are not caused by external events.  They are caused by your own choice, your own decision of which emotion you are now going to experience.

Most people react quite badly to what I have just said, even though it is the absolute truth.  Perhaps you are one of them?  Here is what you might say:

"Do you think I would deliberately choose to be miserable?"
"I am angry because of what just happened, not because I want to be angry!"
"How can I choose to be happy when something like this happens to me?"

The common theme here is that it is events around us that create our moods.  "I am angry because ...".  We externalize our emotion.  We are victims.  We want to be happy, but we cannot because ....

It really doesn't matter what words you put after "because ...".  It doesn't matter, because whatever you put there is NOT the reason for your negative emotion.  YOU are the reason.

It is true that external events can trigger emotional responses.  And in some cases those triggers are very strong.  I am not denying this.  But the final decision about what mood you are going to be in comes from you.  No matter what the trigger, no matter how strong it may be, it cannot force you to experience a particular emotion.  Only you can do that.

Learning to maintain positive emotions no matter what the external circumstances may be is not an easy task.  It is not even necessarily the right thing to do.  Negative emotions have a purpose.  For example, if a loved one has just died you will have a mix of negative emotions, including grief.  It is important to pass through that grief.  But the grief is not caused by the death - it is a choice we make in reaction to the death.  A choice we SHOULD make.  The same thing applies, to a lesser extent, to other negative emotions.  You mustn't bottle up your feelings and try to pretend you are happy when you are not.  Choose to experience those negative emotions at the right strength and for the right time.  Then let them go.  What do I mean by "the right strength"?  I mean they should not be so powerful that they make you do things you should not do and would not choose to do in normal circumstances.  Don't, for example, become Michael Douglas in the film "Falling Down"!  Certainly don't fire a gun in MacDonalds because they have stopped serving the breakfast menu and you want breakfast!

Begin learning to control your emotions just by choosing your emotions in every day circumstances.  Choose to be happy when you would otherwise perhaps have been in "neutral gear", when nothing particularly bad has happened but neither has anything particularly good happened.  Choose not to be angry when a driver cuts you up or does something else that is silly or perhaps rather dangerous.

How do you choose the right emotions?

If something has happened which would normally make you angry, try to see it in a different light.  For example, the driver who cut you up - maybe imagine he is completely naked!  Now think about how silly he looks and laugh.  Or in a neutral situation where you would normally be a bit unhappy for no particular reason, think back to an event that made you happy and imagine yourself there.  Feel that happiness, then bring it back with you.

There are, in fact, many techniques you can use to choose the right emotions.  Some are quite specific.  Look out for training on "state change" - in fact I will probably write a blog article about creating "state change", so keep an eye out for it.

For now, just accept that you are in control, that whatever emotion you are feeling has been chosen by you.  If you don't like that emotion it is within your gift to change it.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Questions



When you want to change your life for the better how do you begin the process?  Do you immediately start trying to fix the problem?  And do you see that problem as something outside, in your environment, or something within you?

Just by asking you those questions I have hopefully started to make you question the ways in which you do this.  I hope so.  Because asking the right questions first is a key step in creating change.

Too often we ask ourselves the wrong questions.  We may or may not get good answers, but those answers will not help move us forward in quite the right direction if the questions we asked were the wrong questions.  They may move us vaguely in the right way, if they were vaguely the right question.  But there will usually be much better answers we could have found if the question were more focussed.

For example, suppose you have decided that you need to earn more money.  So you ask yourself the question "how can I earn more money?"  Perhaps you decide the answer is to ask your boss for a pay rise.  Now don't get me wrong.  In this case the answer is pretty good.  You may or may not get that raise, but if you do, then you have certainly moved forwards in the right direction.  You will get more money.  There is also a chance that you won't get that raise though.  Should the question have been "how do I earn more money" in the first place?  I am not saying this is the wrong question, but only that you should really make sure it IS the right question before you rely completely on the answer it gives you.  Perhaps the question should have been "how do I become wealthier?"  And when you ask that question maybe the answer that comes back is "create a passive income stream".  Or maybe a series of answers come back, one of which is "ask for a raise", another is "create a passive income stream", and perhaps another is another question: "am I in the right job?"

So, when you want to create change, begin by thinking about what changes you should be trying to make, rather than rushing in and trying to make changes before you know for certain those are the changes you should be making.  The key to successfully changing things for the better is to make sure you first ask yourself the right questions.

Think deeply about the questions you should ask yourself.  Think really deeply.  Don't assume the first question that comes to mind is necessarily the right question.  In fact, don't assume there should only be one question.  Usually you will find there is more than one question, and then probably more than one good answer to each of those questions.

When you are considering the right questions to ask, focus on yourself rather than on the environment.  The changes you need to make will come from within.  They may then change things around you, but the process starts within.  You do not have absolute control over your environment, but you CAN take absolute control of yourself.  Ask yourself questions about the changes you can and should make in yourself, and you can then change everything for the better.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Astral Travel



Have you ever arrived somewhere you are sure you have never been before and then found there was something very familiar about that place?  Perhaps you then even remember that you dreamed you visited it before.  That has certainly happened to me.  It is a phenomenon generally known as déjà vu.

Most people will try to explain déjà vu away and say there is nothing "magical" about it.  One explanation commonly given is that there is a glitch in the way memories are stored in the brain.  The immediate memory of something experienced only a few seconds ago, or even a few fractions of a second ago, somehow becomes confused and associated with much older memories.

This may, in fact, be a genuine explanation of déjà vu in many cases.  But it is not always the real explanation.

The reality, I strongly believe, is that when we sleep it is possible for our mind and spirit to disassociate itself from our body and travel to places we may never have visited physically.  This is called "astral travel".

Many people use the term "astral travel" to mean only this kind of experience - travelling in your "dream body" to a physically real place.  I certainly believe this is possible, but to me it is only a small and perhaps even unimportant aspect of astral travel.  To me, astral travel is the same as what is often called "lucid dreaming".  In other words, being aware while I am dreaming that this is a dream, and then taking control of where I go and what happens in that dream.

My last blog article referred to the importance of play.  What if you could play in any way you wished?  In a lucid dream you can!  There are no limitations.  None at all.  You really can do whatever you want!

What if you could, for example, decide to launch yourself into the air, flying over the countryside, and then landing wherever you wished?  Not in a machine of any kind, but simply launching your body into the air without any mechanical aids?  Would that be fun?  It certainly is for me!  Maybe you would find it fun too!  This is something you can easily do in a dream state if you realize you are dreaming and are in control of the dream.

But lucid dreaming is not just about flying to places real and imaginary.  It is, in my view, all about play.  The best form of play.  A chance to experiment without having to worry about the consequences.

The reality is that all of us are playing that way in our dreams anyway.  It is just we are not aware we are playing and therefore cannot get full enjoyment from the play.  Scientists have discovered that all mammals dream, and it seems they use their dreams to test ways of reacting.  If you are a pet owner you have probably observed this.  For example, you may have seen your cat making involuntary movements that are apparently caused by chasing a mouse even though she is not actually awake and running and there is no mouse.  Or your dog chasing a cat.  Scientists have observed and measured these involuntary movements and confirmed what we as pet owners suspected was happening.  Nature has given us all a dream world to allow us to play and to test what strategies may work and what strategies will not.  We can test these strategies in absolute safety.  If the result is that we are almost certainly going to be killed or injured, that happens in the safety of the dream, leaving us alive and healthy to try a different strategy.

You are already playing in your dreams.  So why not take things one stage further and become aware of that play?  Learn to dream lucidly and start enjoying limitless play in the safe environment of your personal dream world.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Play is Important



How much time do you spend playing?  Really playing, not just going through the motions.  Not in a passive mode, such as watching television or going to the movies, but active, participatory play.  Probably not as much as you should.

Do you feel guilty when you do manage to find some time for play?  Unless you are rather unusual I suspect you do have some guilt feelings, even if they are hidden below the surface.  There are so many things you know you should be doing, so why are you wasting time playing instead of getting them done?  Is that a familiar question?  Even if you don't ask that question of yourself, probably someone close to you does - your partner, a parent, etc.

Most children play a lot, of course.  Why do they play?  You could answer "because they enjoy playing", which is true.  But why do they enjoy playing?  Because evolution has set them up to enjoy it.  Play has an important purpose.  It is a key element in their learning curve.  Learning not only about things in the outside world, not only about relationships and ways to nurture them, both of which are very important, but also about their own capabilities and how to stretch and grow those capabilities.  Learning how to improve their problem-solving abilities.  Learning to expand their imagination and creativity.

Think about this for a moment.  Why should you decide there is nothing more for you to learn?  Why decide that you are so perfect at creating and nurturing relationships that you don't need to learn how to do so even more powerfully and effectively?  Can you really say that you have fully explored all your own latent skills and abilities and have developed them to the point where there is nothing you can do to improve them?  Are you as creative and imaginative as you could ever be?  Unless you can really say all this, you still have the need to play!

Even if you ignore all those practical benefits of play, it has other important functions too - one of which is to give us laughter and happiness.  Do you laugh as much as you could and should?  Are you as happy as you could be?  Assuming you laugh a lot and are happy most of the time, is there a good reason you should not laugh even more and be even happier?  I cannot think of one good reason not to laugh and be happy, but know of plenty of reasons to laugh more and be happier.  One reason is that being happy and laughing is a state I enjoy far more than any alternative state.  If I have a choice between an enjoyable state and on that is less enjoyable, why would I choose the less enjoyable one?  Another reason is that people who laugh and are happy have far less stress in their lives.  As a result, they typically live longer.  A double benefit - you can have a longer life, less stress, and be happier in all that additional time the happiness and laughter has bought you.

Now that (if I have done my job properly) you recognize the value of play, you can use this to squash that little voice inside that tries to tell you that you are wasting time, being silly, reverting to childhood, or anything else it can say to make you feel guilty and stop playing or stop enjoying the play.

Decide now that you are going to spend more time playing.  Where will you find the time to do this?  Take a look at all the things you do each day that are not essential but also are not play.  I am sure you will find plenty.  Simply use some of that time to play instead, and start creating a more fulfilled, happier life more filled with laughter and enjoyment.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Use Your Gifts



When I tell members of my tribe that they should use their gifts they usually respond with "what gifts?"

We all have gifts.  We are all really good at something.  Good enough to help those around us achieve what they really want to achieve.

The first step before you can use your gifts is to identify what those gifts may be.  This is a moveable feast, so don't worry that you may not identify them properly.  We all have many gifts, some stronger than others.   You can therefore begin with anything you recognize as a gift, and sharing it will be very powerful even if it later turns out it is not your strongest gift.

The next question is often "why should I share it?"

I don't believe this is asked selfishly, or at least I hope it isn't.  If it is, if the feeling behind the question is "I want to keep this to myself" or "I can't be bothered to share it", then let me remind you what happens when you do not share.  All good things in this universe are there in abundance for each and every one of us.  But that abundance is like a flowing river, not a stagnant pond.  Allow it to flow through you and you will benefit from it enormously, as will the people with whom you share it.  Try to keep it for yourself and you will find it stagnates, is no longer of any benefit, and further abundance does not come your way.  This applies not just to wealth (and it certainly applies there) but also to your gifts.

I think sometimes the question is asked because people don't believe their gifts are valuable enough to be shared.

If that is you, step away from what is probably false humility.  What you have IS valuable enough to be shared.  Also, the more you share it the more valuable and powerful it becomes.  And the easier you will find it becomes to share it again.  As indicated above, not only does it become more valuable and stronger when it is shared, but also less valuable and weaker if it is not shared.

The third very common question is "how do I share it?"

There are many ways to do this.  It is perhaps more obvious with wealth.  Use it to help others.  But the same applies to your gifts.  Use them to help others.  Both directly and indirectly.  An important indirect way of doing so is to train others to develop similar gifts.  Teach them to develop, nurture, and then share those gifts themselves.

As you do this, a wonderful thing will start to happen.  You will find your gift increasing in power.  You become more knowledgeable as you share that knowledge with others.  You become more accomplished and gifted as you share your gifts with others.

I have often heard it said that one of the best ways to improve and consolidate your own knowledge of a subject is to teach it.  As you teach, so you increase your own knowledge.  You create stronger synaptic pathways in your brain which strengthen your memories, allowing you to access them quicker and benefit from them more rapidly.

Try it!  Begin sharing your gifts today and see the world around you improve and your gifts increase in strength and value.


Wednesday, 5 April 2017

The Meaning of Life


What is it that you want to achieve in your life?

This is probably one of the most important questions you can ever ask yourself.  It goes to the very root of another question so many of us ask, perhaps without expecting an answer - what is the meaning of life?

With such an important question you should not simply accept the first answer that comes to mind.  Not even if you believe you already know what you want to achieve.  Spend some time thinking deeply about this achievement.  How will you feel as you begin to achieve it?  What will change in your life and in the lives of those around you as this begins to happen?

Make sure as you do this that everything feels really positive.  If it doesn't, then there is something wrong.  You may think that this is what you want to achieve, but the reality is that there is something quite different that you really want, which is expressing itself in a different way for some reason - as it arises from the depths of your mind and spirit it appears to change, until when it comes to the surface it looks completely different.  So if you do not feel really positive about this achievement you must dig much deeper to find out what your true desire is.

What you should find, once you have properly identified what it is you want to achieve in life, is that it is something that can grow and develop.  It is something that you can begin to achieve, if only in a very small way, very soon after you have identified what it is and have started working towards it.  That is why I have tried to avoid using the word "goal", which you maybe expected to see earlier in this article.  It is more a way of life, of moving along a particular path, than something that you get and then find there is nothing left to do.  It really does become "the meaning of life" for you.

If you have identified this path, this growth, this ongoing achievement correctly you should also be able to identify some "milestones" along the way.  Milestones that show you have made progress but are not at the finishing line.  By definition, none of those milestones can be the finishing line, none of them can say "zero miles to go", as what you are aiming for is a continuous growth, not something at which you can finally arrive.

You should try to identify both distant and very close milestones.  This is important.  Have a distant target in mind, and try to make sure that what you are working on now brings you closer to that distant target rather than further away.  But also have some close targets so you can feel fulfilled in the "now" rather than only in the distant future.

So, what IS the meaning of life?  This is a question that has perturbed many very intelligent men and women over many centuries.  When you have completed the exercise I have suggested in this short article, the answers arrived at by eminent philosophers will probably now seem mundane and unimportant to you.  You KNOW the one answer unique to you.  You know the meaning of your life and know that now your life can be fuller and better every day that passes.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

The Power of Imagination



Which do you think is more powerful - imagination or will power?

If you can find the equipment to do so, I would like you to try a little experiment for me.

Find a plank of wood that is about as wide as both your feet pressed together.  Lay this plank along the floor.  Now start walking along it, placing each foot carefully in the middle of the plank.  There is quite a bit of space either side of your foot, so you should not find this exercise too difficult.  Walk all the way along the plank from one end to the other.

How did that go?  Did you misplace a foot at any point and step on the floor rather than the plank?  As long as you are reasonably fit and healthy I believe you got to the end of the plank without doing anything that would have meant you would have fallen off if the plank had been raised in the air.

The second part of the experiment is a thought experiment.  I don't want you actually to try it, as it would be a very dangerous thing to do unless you are a trained acrobat.  I want you to imagine the plank is now 500 metres in the air (around a third of a mile if you are not used to the metric system), crossing between two skyscrapers.  It is a very strong plank, and it is very firmly fixed at both ends, so it does not "bow" or move in any other way when you step on it.  Today is a beautiful day, with not the slightest hint of wind.  Now I want you to imagine stepping onto that plank and walking along it.  Way below you can see people walking along the road and they look like insects.  The cars look like little Corgi toy cars.  There is no safety net.  One false step and you will fall 500 metres to a very messy death.

How did that thought experiment go?  Did you walk the plank or decide you didn't want to risk it?  Whether or not you actually tried it in your mind I want you to answer this honestly - would you do this for real, and would you find it at all difficult.

Unless you are very unusual, if you were honest I am sure you either said you would not do it or admitted your walk along the plank would be very slow and hesitant.

Why is this?  The experience should surely be the same!  Every time you walk along the plank on the floor you walk smoothly and quite quickly.  Why is that not the case when the plank is high in the air?

The answer is - the power of your imagination!

When you try walking that plank 500 metres in the air, your imagination presents you with some very unpleasant scenarios.  Scenarios in which you fall off the plank and come to a very untimely end.  The power of your imagination is probably so strong that it completely counters the power of your will to walk that plank, or at least it makes you very hesitant.

Imagination is extremely powerful.  Typically much more powerful than will power.

Why is this important?

When you are trying to achieve success in something, do you normally try to succeed by using your will power?

Let's say you have decided to slim by following a particular diet.  If you are like most people you will try to use your will power to avoid eating certain foods, or to avoid eating between meal snacks.  There is nothing wrong with using will power.  In fact, you need will power if you really want to reach your goal, whatever that goal may be.  But you should always combine it with imagination.

Remember from your thought experiment just how powerful your imagination is.  Just how easily it can stop you doing something you want to do.  Well, apply that power of imagination to your attempts to reach your goals and you will find it so much easier to reach them.

Imagine how it will feel when you have achieved your goal.  How much better life will be.  Really focus on this.  Use the power of your imagination effectively.  Spend some time sitting quietly imagining your success and all the consequences of that success.

The power of imagination to help you achieve whatever you wish to achieve is immense.  Harness that power, linked with your will power, and you will be surprised at just how quickly and effectively you can reach your goals.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Inner Voices



If I came up to you and told you that I hear voices inside telling me what to do, and that I listen to them and act on them, I guess you would be afraid.  Probably very afraid!  After all, this is typically what a schizophrenic says, isn't it?  And what if those voices told me to kill you?

Don't worry.

First of all, I am not going to walk up to you, as you are probably many miles away, perhaps even many thousands of miles away.

Secondly, I am not referring to something that is symptomatic of schizophrenia or any other psychotic disorder.  Well, I guess I would say that anyway, wouldn't I?  But keep reading and I think you will agree with me.  Hopefully you will even start to hear voices yourself.  No, don't get scared - I am talking here about something very positive and good, not the negative voices which also exist.

We all have inner voices.  These voices are, in a sense, real.  They are real aspects of our own selves.

If the voices you hear are nasty, asking you to do things that go against your nature, then these are not voices you should listen to.  Instead you should talk to a psychiatrist or a clinical psychologist, as this could be the start of a pyschotic episode, and you should not simply wait and hope that they go away.

But these are not the voices I am talking about.

There are some negative voices that do not fall into the above, psychotic category.  These include Mr or Mrs "Yabut".  I have already spoken about this voice in an earlier blog article.  This is the voice that always seems to give you a reason why you cannot achieve whatever it is you are trying to achieve.  When you start thinking about one of your goals, this voice says "yah, but ..." and what comes after the "but" is a whole host of reasons you should not pursue that goal.   We all have a Mr or Mrs Yabut.  You should listen to what is said, but only so you can identify your limiting beliefs and then squash them.  None of the reasons given should mean you cannot achieve your goal.  So listen to what is said, eliminate the limiting belief, and then banish Mr or Mrs Yabut.

The voice you are listening out for is a much more encouraging one.  You have a voice within you that wants to help you achieve what you should be achieving.  Notice exactly what I said there.  Not "what you want to achieve" but "what you should be achieving".  I have said this many times before, but very often the things we think we want to achieve are not the things that deep inside we really want to achieve (or to put it another way, the things we should be achieving).  Listen carefully for this voice.  It can lead you in a very unexpected direction, and a direction which is far better for you and far more likely to achieve success for you than the one in which you are travelling right now.

If you are spiritual (notice, I did not say religious) you can view this voice as the voice of God, or of Atman, or of the Spirit, or of the Universe - whichever word you prefer to use the meaning is really the same.  It is a voice from someone or something that knows far better than your conscious mind what is best for you.

It is the voice you will hear if you sit quietly and calmly, allowing peace to fill you.  The voice John Greenleaf Whittier referred to in his poem "The Brewing of Soma" as the "still, small voice of calm".

Spend time every day listening for this "still, small voice of calm".  Some days you may not hear it.  Perhaps this will be the case on many days.  But sometimes you will.  And the more you practice the more often you will hear it.  You may think of this as a form of meditation, which I guess it is.  You may find it helps at first if you can be alone in a quiet room.  Ultimately, though, you should be able to listen for this voice no matter where you are and no matter how much noise there is around you.

When you have spent some time practising this you will find the voice sometimes appears even when you are not consciously encouraging it.  That is good.  It will particularly appear in this way when there is something you should do right now, so take particular notice of what it is saying.

Listen for the small, still voice of calm, and take note of what it tells you.  Act on it.  If you do this you will find you will move quickly along the path to your ultimate goals - perhaps goals you didn't even realize you had until you started this little, but powerful, exercise.