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Archive for the ‘Personal insight’ Category


A favorite new book is Sam Bennett’s “Get It Done!” (Samantha, but she’s called Sam). I really like the book, and it has inspired me to write my own next draft. Her premise that that if a dream or goal has NO energy, we do not procrastinate. We just don’t need to do it. But if an idea just will not go away, it has a storehouse of energy worth unpacking.

Her basic tool is to work just 15 minutes on your project. And, as she writes, “And you need to do this before you open your email, BEFORE YOU OPEN YOUR EMAIL, BEFORE YOU OPEN YOUR EMAIL.” Think she’s been spying on you? Nope, she’s spent too much of her time looking at my schedule.

However you perceive this idea, I encourage you to spend 15 minutes just making a list of those ideas and projects and dreams that haven’t left you alone for days, months, years, decades. Why not?

If we refuse to beat ourselves up for NOT doing something, there is pure pleasure in contemplating what those ‘somethings’ are, and to ask the next questions:

  1. What could be holding me back from beginning one of them?
  2. Which one would I choose, and I wonder why… that one?
  3. If I were to spent just 15 minutes on this one, what might I do? Where would I do it? Whom would I need to help me, if anyone?

Small beginnings mark every single major accomplishment. I wish you well.

Now, back to my outline.

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My relationship with the To Do list is rather complicated, and it goes back a long way. In the olden days, and I am talking about sixth grade in the early 1960’s, I created a poster-sized chart with lines and places for stars and check marks. I taped it to the back of my bedroom door to be reviewed every day. On it were dozens of  tasks I had to complete, including brushing my teeth, homework, cleaning my room; a wonder it didn’t include breathing and eating. This was the first stark evidence of my inner perfectionist taking charge of my life.

This vague fear of not doing my life well without constant scrutiny has been a constant companion, the creation of driven parental modeling and messages; avoiding the dreaded curse of “not living up to her potential.”

At times “the list” creates as much angst as it relieves. This happens when I don’t take the time to clarify what is truly important, and treat weed the flower bed with equal fervor as write for pleasure. I think I want to create a list in order to prioritize it. But a friend nailed this fallacy eloquently: “The big issues are SO large, it’s easier to focus on the small stuff.”

What is it about the To Do list that still triggers a shock of enthusiasm in me? Any sane person should want to crawl under the covers after creating a staggering catalog of “undone important goals.” But for me, I feel a thrill when I fill a page of neatly organized boxes, and new energy arises as I take up the gauntlet now thrown down, “I dare you to try to complete this list of twenty tasks!” Hercules must have felt the same way when told he had to check off his picayune list of three deeds.

These days, I recognize this long-held internal conflict of inner voices and Selves, and I tend to favor my inner organizer. She sees me as marvelously intelligent and capable of major accomplishments. However, my inner sloth deserves more embracing: she regards me as perfectly fine just the way I am; a message I can use a great deal more of. I think it’s time for me to go read a novel. That must be on a list somewhere.

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This simple (ha!!) story from The Pocket Pema Chödrön, is on page 72. I love how specifically she details the actions that scared me, all of us, as children. “This is how I make you do what makes me comfortable and keeps you from knowing how important you really are!” could have been the thought bubble over every parent. I know how easy it is to believe that someone, anyone, on the other end of a phone call, my spouse, a clerk in a store, would do these things and I would be powerless. Of course, that is such a ridiculous thought, it adds in the element of shame and “what is wrong with me!?” As I said, “simple??”

HOW TO DEFEAT FEAR

Once there was a young warrior. Her teacher told her that she had to do battle with fear. She didn’t want to do that. It seemed too aggressive; it was scary; it seemed unfriendly. But the teacher said she had to do it and gave instructions for the battle.

The day arrived. The student warrior stood on one side, and fear stood on the other. The warrior was feeling very small, and fear was looking big and wrathful. The young warrior roused herself and went toward fear, prostrated three times, and asked, “May I have permission to go into battle with you?”

Fear said, “Thank you for showing me so much respect that you ask permission.”

Then the young warrior said, “How can I defeat you?”

Fear replied, “My weapons are that I talk fast, and I get very close to your face. Then you get completely unnerved, and you do whatever I say. If you don’t do what I tell you, I have no power. You can listen to me, and you can have respect for me. You can even be convinced by me. But if you don’t do what I say, I have no power.”

In that way, the student warrior learned how to defeat fear.

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People often ask me about how to increase self-confidence so they can try new things. They imagine confidence to be a magically acquired inner quality, and that successful people are naturally fearless, willing to try new experiences, managing to look cool in the process. The real path to self-confidence is to develop COMPETENCE with practice, trial and error. To dare to follow your dreams requires the willingness to look foolish, to risk failure and rejection. Our mistakes are requirements for wisdom and true confidence. Of course, His Holiness manages to say this with much more elegance and simplicity.

Warm-heartedness reinforces our self-confidence – giving us not a blind confidence, but a sense of confidence based on reason. When you have that you can act transparently, with nothing to hide! Likewise, if you are honest, the community will trust you. Trust brings friendship, as a result of which you can always feel happy. Whether you look to the right or the left, you will always be able to smile.

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Love is what we were born with. Fear is what we learned here.  As stated by Marianne Williamson

Is this true, that we are all open to giving and receiving and being pure love when we take our first breath, and soon after the lessons begin to convince us that we have to be perfect to be loved?

This fits, I think, when trying to cope with my own fears of rejection. When I place my guilt/shame/anxiety in a crucible, and cook out all the what ifs, what I end up holding is the fear that I have blown the chance to be accepted and loved. I know, I know, that “no one is perfect, everyone makes mistakes.” Yet, it is much easier for me to forgive others than to accept my own imperfections, because rejection is the greatest fear, tantamount to death our ancient DNA structure.

Marianne stays consistent with The Course in Miracles core teaching that we have two choices: love and fear, that to give energy to complicated variations of feelings only prevent us from reconnecting with Divine, with our own Best Selves.
Can it be so simple? That we can choose to focus on love rather than fear? I didn’t say it was easy, but perhaps it helps to simplify.  Today I wish it so for me, and for you.

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 Pema Chodron, again. These words are especially important to me, today. Blessings on us all.

January 25, 2012

WE ARE COMPLETELY INTERRELATED

If   we begin to surrender to ourselves—begin to drop the story line and   experience what all this messy stuff behind the story line feels like—we   begin to find bodhichitta, the tenderness that’s underneath all the   harshness. By being kind to ourselves, we become kind to others. By being   kind to others—if it’s done properly, with proper understanding—we benefit as   well.

So   the first point is that we are completely interrelated. What you do to   others, you do to yourself. What you do to yourself, you do to others.

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An essential part of my personal and professional practice is in hospice. Since 1978 I have worked or volunteered with the seriously ill and dying, providing support to patients and families. Every hospice volunteer or worker knows that the real gift is not in the giving of service, but in the lessons and love received. I  recommend this book to everyone, because we all will face the end of our days, and the days of many we love.

Thanks to Judith Keyssar, RN director of a hospice program in SF, for this marvelous read. “Last Acts of Kindness” tells the stories and lessons from the bedside of hospice patients, and just won a national award (to be announced in January 2012). Comfort, love, and hope on every page.

Last Acts of Kindness
by Judith Redwing Keyssar
LESSONS FOR THE LIVING FROM THE BEDSIDES OF THE DYING  www.lastactsofkindness.com

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I took an actual vacate-tion this early autumn. Two weeks with no obligation to be productive. For fifteen hundred miles in a comfy rental car, no schedule or itinerary, I loafed and lingered, knowing I needed a decisive break from fixed routine. And yet, an odd sense of guilt, of not being productive or useful, haunted me. And that reminded me that guilt is rooted in fear, specifically the fear of being found unworthy, useless.

Knowing that guilt over relaxing would not serve the Greater Good, I persisted in my goal of escaping being over-responsible. (I am aware of the irony of making goallessness a goal.) I didn’t even write in my journal for much of the trip. Instead, I saw the trees change colors for the first time in my life, pulled over dozens of time to take pictures and sometimes left my camera, and simply cried at the beauty of it all. I discovered XM radio, where several classical, comedy, and NPR stations vied for my attention. And the silence crept in a little each day, until I would realize I hadn’t turned on the radio for half an hour or more. I didn’t want to hear the news, even music distracted me at times from simply seeing, and being at home within myself.

Beyond words and knowing, the antidote for pressure might sometimes be silence, a soft and sacred space.

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I frequently find myself lost. I seldom have a complete  certainty of where I am on the planet. Whether in parking lots, department  stores, or most recently in Golden Gate Park by the museums, if it weren’t for people who know where I happen to be at that moment, and what direction might get me to where I want to go, I wouldn’t “be here now.” It has to be brain damage from… drugs? car accidents? brain surgery? I’ve had them all.

For the most part I have learned not to panic. Being clean and sober, finding myself in  totally foreign landscapes can be a sort of high, at least Twilight  Zone-esque.  I used to feel shame,  frustration, and self-deprecation in these circumstances. I’ve learned to surrender  during these misadventures, telling myself that the spiritual warrior learns to  “enjoy the journey.”

I fear the disorientation may be getting worse. My only hope is that I lean toward the style of  the absent-minded professor whom people find adorable. There is a terrific story about Albert Einstein. He was walking on the Princeton  campus when a student asked him to discuss a theorem. After a cheerful and engaging conversation, Albert said, “And now, if you wouldn’t mind helping  me? When you stopped me, was I walking toward or away from the Science  building?” When the student replied, “Toward, sir.” “Ah,  then I’ve already had my breakfast.”

I once  heard the term pronoid, defined as a  person who has the sneaky suspicion that everyone wants to help her. This is me, how I was raised. My family subscribed to Will Rogers’ philosophy that a  stranger is just a friend you haven’t met. This core orientation allows me to fearlessly ask for directions, and given that I tend to go in circles, often from the same person twice.

There is sufficient scientific evidence proving that assisting other people reduces stress, so perhaps I am doing a service to let  the helpful help me.

At times, I recognize this attitude may be irresponsible, being cavalier about a character defect that I could improve. I’ve avoided putting it on the long list of issues  that bother me much more; those having to do with kindness, acceptance of  things I cannot change and the like.

After hearing my story about being lost in Golden Gate Park, my friend Alice gave me a  portable GPS.  Perhaps my energy would best be spent in learning to program the thing. It’s wonderful also to depend on the kindness my friends.

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Here is a sweet reminder from Pema Chondron

AN INNOCENT MISUNDERSTANDING

When the Buddha taught, he didn’t say that we were bad people or that there was some sin that we had committed—original or otherwise—that made us more ignorant than clear, more harsh than gentle, more closed than open. He taught that there is a kind of innocent misunderstanding that we all share, something that can be turned around, corrected, and seen through, as if we were in a dark room and someone showed us where the light switch was. It isn’t a sin that we are in a dark room. It’s just an innocent situation, but how fortunate that someone shows us where the light switch is. It brightens up our life considerably. We can start to read books, to see one another’s faces, to discover the colors of the walls, to enjoy the little animals that creep in and out of the room.

Be gentle with yourself. Blessings, Cynthia

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