Does “Self Improvement” Make Any Sense? Evolution. Acceptance. And the Most Important Thing…

books vertical_HOW DO WE START

It seems that in the first part of life, we are presented with a buffet of limiting beliefs, insecurities, and traumas to choose from.  Thanks to something, or someone, you bought into an idea you are not good enough or lovable. We all did.

And then the time came when you really wanted to make things work. Maybe you were 16 or in the middle of a midlife crisis… you messed up already couple times and you started to search for prescription how to live.  We all did. I still recall me and my friend in high school: we just wanted to be “perfect stoics” as a remedy for any upcoming drama, haha! He used a lot of hair gel. I started sun salutations.

DESIRE TO FLY

We want Happy. Easy. Light. True. Finding our identity, overcoming pain is a do-it-yourself project. We get lost, we get rescued, we raise, we fall…

HOW DO WE MAKE IT WORK

a.  WE TRY. We are on a mission to change others. Marianne Williamson says: our ego is very good in checking the spiritual progress … of other people. If you are very convincing, and find the right partner,  you may even get away with this for few years… later you will of course get divorced and your partner will seek therapy.

OR

b. WE DO THE INNER WORK.  We discover there is no other way but to roll up the pants and enter the messy process of transforming OUR OWN attitudes, insecurities, reactiveness, and habits that ruin relationships or keep us unhappy.

AND HERE IT COMES:

Your first personal development course, “manifestation” workshop, counselor, the right self help book you use for self diagnosis, spiritual retreat, yoga studio, meditation class…

We start the exhilarating  process of “personal development.” Ambitiously.

DON’T CHANGE. EVOLVE.

Is there value in being into “personal development” if there is no evolution happening? We all met people who talked a lot about love or spirituality but they were the very people who could benefit from change. But not all of them (us) are created equal. Many of us truly do the work and it’s really deep work. The saying goes: you teach what you need to learn. It’s a process.

WHY CHANGE? WHY EVOLVE?

We don’t discover ourselves, we don’t get more peaceful, courageous, considerate, compassionate only for others – we do it for ourselves. The rewards are in how we feel inside about ourselves and our life. The rewards are in a new way of seeing life. Our own peace and self respect and anything that stem from them – become easier and easier to experience.

Before we can give something to others we need to have it ourselves. “You can’t give what you don’t have” a Course in Miracles says.

CAN WE CHANGE?

Many people strongly believe we don’t change. I, on the contrary, believe we can and we do. But we can change only:

  • If we discover that our beliefs are not getting us what we want. First we rationalize and justify why we don’t have it, but if we no longer can believe our own words – we change, kicking and screaming.
  • If we are honest with ourselves about who we are and we don’t really like it.
  • If we are willing to see ourselves in a new light
  • If the benefits of our old beliefs are in conflict with our new values.
  • If our life was shaken, fell apart, and we had to put together the pieces in a new order.
PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT GONE WRONG

You started with good intentions and then:

  1. You spent $3,000 for self improvement and you improved someone else’s bank account.
  2. Your bookshelves look impressive.
  3. You sound more more educated about your personal mess (I’m laughing but I did it too)
  4. You joined a meet-up group for people who have similar problem: you now have more messed up acquaintances who vent to you about their life, but never ask what’s your dog’s name.
  5. You fall into the numerous traps spiritual people fall into and sometimes stay there.
  6. You use self improvement as another tool of self criticism
THE MOST IMPORTANT PART

Yes, the process of self evolution will be painful for our ego. It will bring us to tears. It’s not always fun: some things need to fall apart before new things come together.

At the same time: it is easy to lose yourself in it especially if you desperately want to achieve something.  You can overdo it.

You can get too ambitious in “creating the better version of yourself” – term I rather dislike. I associate it with performance and achievement. Doing instead of being. I read it as: ”you are not enough now.” 

Tell me if you think it works differently for you but…

I think the most important in the whole process is…

  • to realize that we can depend on ourselves. That we can trust ourselves.
  • to stop waiting for permission to be free or to dye your hair electric blue.
  • to stop asking others about their “honest opinion” what  we should do. Just do it.

It’s important:

  • that you peel off the layers  that are in conflict with your authentic self.
  • to be ok with who you truly are.
  • to practice self acceptance (this can be a lifelong process…) no matter what we want: lose weight, find love, earn more money – it is all about self acceptance.

Doing that we discover: there is not much to improve. It’s like chopping off the pieces of stone to get to the perfect sculpture hiding inside.

It’s important:

  • to have self compassion. Because we can’t give what we don’t have.
  • It is important: to make it all LIGHT. And fun. Whenever possible.

How is your process of personal evolution going? What did it change for you? Were you burned? And if you never tried – why? 

 

“Can I get rid of anger if I meditate daily?” The Nature Of Our Emotions

meditation bowl

In this post: Can we get rid of emotions?  What happens with strong emotions when we meditate? (when I say meditate I mean vipassana style, mindfulness meditation, or zen. I do not mean “guided relaxation”) 

Listen here to the short answer, or read the full version below :

“Do people who meditate still get angry?”

Many people dislike so much certain emotional states, they want to get rid of the emotions causing them. Anger is one of the most uncomfortable. Will meditation help? And even if it can, is it the only answer? Long answer:

1. First things first: can you really get rid of feelings?

Can you get rid of feeling of pain? Joy or disappointment? Why don’t we look at emotions as symptoms… When you have physical pain in your body you may try to get rid of it with painkillers. But being smart and mindful you would know that the pain may be a symptom of a deeper issue and you would investigate it. What could happen with the body if we ignore the symptom?

In the effort to get rid of certain feelings, you may want to suppress them, numb yourself. At the same time you should expect that you will not be able to fully enjoy the positive emotions too. And if you suppress, store, accumulate,  at some point you may become an exploding doormat.

But don’t worry, I am not going to offer a psychotherapy session to bring unpleasant things up and mull over them forever.

For now: consider emotions symptoms we can’t ignore. They have something important to indicate about your life, relationships, self image…

View your emotions “as vehicles for transformation (the word emotion comes from the Latin meaning “to move”) rather as simply as feelings that make you happy or miserable. Expect them to test your heart; that’s the point. [...] Facing emotions – all of them- is a courageous, spiritually transformative act.” Judith Orloff, M.D.

When you can’t get rid of something – transform it.

2. Nature of  emotions. 

Some people seem naturally calm (maybe they are suppressing everything, ha!)  and some always look like they are about to explode. (Don’t come close! Anything you do or say sets them off.)

However all emotions, those with good and those with bad reputation, are available to everyone all the time. Of course the difference between people is we are triggered by different things. And when we are triggered, we react with a different degree of intensity.  

We may be “trained” (by our parents, past, experiences,  state of mind, practice) to feel this or that emotion more. We can be trained to feel and show the positive more often. It can be more of a choice. A matter of right focus.

Since we know this, let’s go back to the question: 

Do people who meditate still get angry?

Short answer:

Whatever triggers you, may cause you to react automatically, without considering the consequences of your  actions and words.

When you practice meditation, there is a space, a cushion, created between the trigger and your reaction.  

This space, that may last a fraction of a second, allows you to make a decision about how to respond to the trigger. It allows you to quickly analyze consequences of your spontaneous reaction, and, likely, change the reaction to one that is constructive, or at least less damaging. Once you do that, you are actually no longer REACTING:  you are RESPONDING. 

Mindlessness doesn’t consider consequences (that’s why the trigger is pulled, and the words that hurt are said).  Even well justified anger if it is channeled into mindful action – brings (generally) better results (sometimes not- but so much good judgement must take place in that fraction of time) You don’t need to practice meditation to know this. You can be naturally mindful, or you developed a mechanism that help you do that.

But since all emotions are available to everyone, you don’t completely lose the ability of feeling it. People who have been meditating for 20, 30+ years (and are famous teachers of meditation) still report of incidents when they get mad, angry, unpleasant. They can still “lose it”.

In the essence:

Meditation allows you transform anger, possibly feel it with less intensity, make better choices about expressing the emotion. It may bring you insights as to how to avoid situations that lead you to it. It also may eventually create so much peace within you, that the people and things that made you feel bad before – no longer have any power to shake your peace.  You may also achieve the same results by simply living, observing, and drawing conclusions… what’s worth your time and energy?

Warning:  Be aware Meditation magnifies truth. It will magnify the good. And the ugly. If you deal with unexpressed anger and injustice, it can actually bring it up, animate it.  See it as a creative energy.  It may bring to the surface things you need to deal with to move on to the stage of transformation, mindfulness. Keep going (sitting). Otherwise, why meditate?

I would like to hear from you (via email or below in the comments) :

  • How is meditation helping you?
  • How were you able to transform negative emotions ?
  • What do you struggle with when it comes to meditating or out of control emotions? 

You may also find value in these posts: 

Healing From Anger

What’s under the anger?

7 Steps to heal from repressed anger

How to handle your anger

How to prevent a doormat explosion

If there is a topic you would like me to cover please write to me.

 

Psst… You Are Not Alone. The Cause And The Cure For Procrastination.

[Is there a cure for procrastination? The reasons. Why it hurts. What’s underneath (and it's not the lack of strong will) and what CAN we do about it.]

procrastination

I was on the plane from Phoenix to Chicago and I decided to read few chapters of “You are not so smart” by David McRaney from my slim ibooks library. And… you got it, there it was: a chapter on procrastination. 

So you know what many people think when they catch themselves procrastinating? “I’m lazy, I can’t manage my time well…” - but, according to David, it’s a misconception.

David cites a long term experiment (children followed into adulthood) which results showed: people who procrastinate less are not smarter, but “they know how to trick themselves into doing what’s best for them.”)

When we procrastinate we choose a pleasure over what needs to be done. We choose “want” over “should”. People who don’t procrastinate know: “want” never goes away. People who procrastinate don’t have a plan for times when they will be tempted.

Some “can get things done, not because they have more willpower or drive, but because they know productivity is a game played against childish primal human predilection for pleasure and novelty, that can never be excised from the soul.

Your effort is better spent outsmarting yourself than making empty promises through plugging dates into calendar or setting deadlines for push-ups” *

This single chapter filled with logical information did it for me. My time management is still terrible. But the realization that my human nature will want to lead me to the fridge 10 x a day when I need to finish writing something – is enough to reduce this need significantly.

Either you control it or it controls you.

David Mcraney gives us one reason and one trick – certainly a good one. Let’s see what are other reasons  we procrastinate, and what we can do about them. When we think about it…

…we really put off things in so many areas of life, that expecting to control and completely eliminate procrastination from life may not be realistic. It may not even be the wisest choice… (see below “good things about taking your time”)

But in some cases we can help ourselves to avoid unnecessary problems.

Like what?

8 serious reasons to do something about it.

  • Procrastination undermines your self esteem. (You didn’t do it, or if you waited to the last minute you have done it to your lowest standards. Involuntary comparison: you look at other people if that’s the case and compare your project to theirs, the nonprocrastinators. They are usually close to perfection and you hate them. You beat yourself up for not starting sooner and you feel like a loser.)
  • It’s a source of unnecessary stress.
  • It may (and often does) lead to sleep deprivation. (which equals more stress, leads to worse performance, compromise of the immune system)
  • It leads to health problems.**
  • It wastes time, consumes us emotionally.
  • It simply hurts.

The only ability that is increased by procrastination is our imagination, which goes wild, when we think of reasons why we haven’t done something. (I’m always being abducted by aliens.. and you?)

So why, why, why do we procrastinate and what’s the cure?

I’m the right person to ask because I have done it all. Why do you procrastinate? What are you afraid of? What can’t you harness? Why do you STILL believe in your ability to do things fast under stress while being sleep deprived, if you have done it 22 times already?

  1. You overestimate yourself.
  2. You don’t have realistic expectations about how long things take.
  3. You are paralyzed, because… – whatever it is - it got to be perfect.
  4. You can’t focus, overwhelmed with ideas: there is too many of them, all great, all flying around. You don’t know where to start. There is too much tension.
  5. You see no reward in handling things on time. No reward in doing things now vs. next month (right eating, exercising)
  6. Your dopamine, serotonin, testosterone levels are out of balance. (very high levels of neurotransmitter, serotonin, are associated with obsessiveness, perfectionism. Testosterone provides sustained attention. Lower dopamine level allow to increase effort, higher causes more curiosity and ability to envision things, including fact there is no reward coming anytime soon) ***
  7. There is always something more pleasant to do, and you don’t know the secret (well, now you do), that “want” never goes away.
  8. You may actually create something big and you are scared of the consequences. The results will force you to step up,  you’ll need to assume more responsibility.
  9. You are avoiding dealing with difficult emotions (procrastinate contacting someone, listening to a voicemail they left, because you are scared) This may be the same thing that prevents you to sue someone, because of past trauma, or clean up the back room in your house… the stuff may bring up too much emotions, which now are safely hidden deep inside.
  10. The project is just something you can’t stand. You are not passionate about it, you dislike the teacher, the team, you hate the whole package.
  11. Short term reward is real. Long term vague. You know what you should do (where “should” = something good for you) but the reward is a year / 10 years from now. It’s vague anyway and NOW you WANT something else. Think broccoli soup vs light chocolate cake topped with whipped cream and strawberries soaked previously in Grand Marnier, maybe with candied pecans…  yay! there is fruit in it. (broccoli… now or later?)
  12. You rationalize: ”I work better under pressure”. Truth: you work only under pressure.
  13. You may be depressed. Can your procrastination be a sign of depression? Or is your depression a result of procrastination? The insight can motivate you to address one or the other. 

Perfectionism, self sabotage, fear, human nature, avoidance of pain, the need for comfort and safety, inability to organize ideas, lack of plan, constant distraction, lack of boundaries.

Should we now choose our medicine?

Solution.

I don’t know how you learn. What helps you to stop doing what hurts you, and start doing what serves you? Choose the remedy that works for you. And if you know of something that is not here… please share in the comments!

1. Logic. Your own [secret key, formula, mantra]

Just like the aforementioned book said: “want never goes away”… when we anchor this mantra in our mind, we will recall it next time we have a desire to watch a movie instead of doing what needs to be done. And then we can actually act on it…

Examples of other mantras “Back to work, Back to work” (Brian Tracy), “Do what needs to be done. Do what needs to be done” (Brian Johnson), “The time is NOW” (Joanna), Yours? _____________________

2. Save yourself the emotional stress.  When you really can’t face a task, because of your emotional attachment, and all attempts to “detach” yourself fail, there is a way to shorten your distress. It gets much easier with a help of a supportive friend who has no attachment (or even someone you hire). They will move thru the thing like a storm without a blink. Seeing it being handled you will feel your strength coming back to you. 

Helpful thoughts to detach yourself:  “ what’s the worst that may happen?”, “Why do I feel guilty about this?”,” Is this really my responsibility?”

3. Eat better for focus. One of the excuses we have for not getting things done is ADD. I encourage you to look into this. It is not only about avoiding sugar, simple carbs, aspartame, soda, coffee. It is not only about increasing good proteins, magnesium, probiotics, vitamins, particularly B, C, E.  

Doctor Haas brings out attention to food addictions, food allergies, poor diet, toxicity. “Common food allergy  reactions associated with hyperactivity are to wheat, corn, milk, eggs, gluten containing grains (barley, oats, rye). To be avoided also are sugar, soft drinks, coloring agents, particularly yellow 5.”**** Check your food allergies. Don’t be afraid of good quality supplements from sustainable sources (supplements are also not created equal).

You may also look into balancing the neurotransmitters (I can’t speak on that at this point, but when I have more knowledge about it I will update this post) 

4. Plan visually. Plan in details. Plan ahead. Grab a pen. Draw a visual plan of action. Make a list. Create a sequence of tasks. 

The big project that is levitating in your mind… if it seems too big for you – grow up to match it. Eventually it will need to happen or you will face resentment… when you see someone else realizing it. Because you may know that IDEAS and not hidden in the privacy of our thoughts… they are floating above and whoever catches them and act on them  is the winner. 

5. Instead of hiding your head in sand- learn from pain. You had your share of shame caused by being late. Now.. plan ahead.

6. Address your perfectionism. There is perfectionism that is necessary for things to work and be safe. There is perfectionism that is killing your creativity, freedom, progress.Don’t spend too much time thinking about stuff. Realize, it will never be perfect. And if you don’t start, you won’t know what to improve anyway. “Clarity comes from action” (Marie Forleo)

7. Know yourself. When do you perform your best? When are you most creative, when are you handling stress better? When do you have access to support? 

8. Set a system of rewards. Have a big project to do? Reward yourself after each finished section – choose a reward if the satisfaction from a completed task is not enough.

The reward may also be a change in perception. Procrastinating to pay bills? See a pleasure coming from having it done on time. Focus not on the feeling that you spend money again, but on the fact that you can afford to pay for all the services, things that you enjoy in everyday life. Paying off cars, house, furniture? See if you can feel again the gratitude and joy you felt when you were buying them. 

9. Balancing pain and pleasure. Do you hate the subject you are working on? If delegating is not an option, make a list of pros and cons. Again we are back to simple awareness.

When I procrastinated to finish a big project in business development class- which I couldn’t stand- a coach helped me to see all the pros and cons of doing and not doing the work. it was beyond just making a list. She pressed me to make a list of 20 painful things that may result of me not doing the work. 20 good things that may result from completing it. Brainstorming, looking for those negative consequences made me feel how much more painful it will be, if I don’t accept it and do it. 

10. Use your subconscious mind (the ~85% of your mind)  In hypnosis the reasons for procrastination may be reversed, released, and if there are deeper issues preventing you from moving forward the insight may bring you awareness of something you didn’t suspect. Often just the awareness is enough to release the problem. Though we don’t know how exactly hypnosis work you can achieve your goal much faster than working only with your conscious mind (~15% of your mind) Ask me how.

But wait, ain’t there any

good things about taking time, delaying, avoiding?

For the past 2 weeks I procrastinated on writing the post about procrastination (lack of focus). I wanted it to be deep and good (perfectionism). I wanted to give you easy action plan to free yourself from this condition (purpose).

At this point I can only rationalize that maybe this is a better version than the one that wasn’t written few weeks ago. But I actually read a chapter in “Antifragile…”  called “In praise of procrastination – the fabian kind”. Taleb – in his own mischievous way – praises certain types of procrastination, giving examples from history, ancient and recent, and from his own life. Let me make a list of the general message here…  We need something to support ourselves in case it comes up again.

Procrastination and delaying may be a wise choice when:

  • We delay engagement in a fight (Romans respected the act of voluntary omission)
  • We delay engagement when our goal is a moving target and only time can show what is the best choice
  • It’s our natural defense mechanism – some things and problems actually do take care themselves – and he gives an example of body healing on its own without undergoing a recommended surgery.
  • Procrastination may be a message from you inner self. A message reminding to be true to yourself, sometimes to avoid trouble, of not pushing. To let things happen naturally.
  • “In fact we humans are very bad at filtering information, particularly short-term information, and procrastination can be a way for us to filter better, to resist the consequences of jumping on information, [...]” *****
Now your turn. Share in the comments below: Do you struggle with it? What’s the worst part? Have you overcome it? Can you share how you succeeded?

Ready: free sound guided meditation to curb procrastination. Sign up for updates to get access to the private page. 

——

* McRaney, David. “You Are Not So Smart.” PENGUIN group, 2011-09-21. iBooks. 

**  A group of students was asked to write a paper due late in semester. They were also asked to report any symptoms of physical illness early and late in semester. procrastinators not only obtained on average lower grade but they also reported more illness symptoms late in semester (due to more stress). The non procrastinators reported some symptoms early in semester, but the consequences for procrastinators was a great increase of stress and physical illness in the end. they felt most ill at the time when they needed to be in good health to finish the work.  Philip. G. Zimbardo, Richard J Gerrig “Psychology” Longman 1999, p 509-511

*** Pierce J. Howard, PhD “The owner’s manual for the brain” HarperCollins 2006, 2014

**** Elson M. Haas M.D. “Staying healthy with nutrition” Celestial Arts 2006

***** Nassim Nicholas Taleb. “Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder.” Random House, 2012-11-27. iBooks.

Why Should You Find Your Own Sacred Space

find your sacred spaceWe have in Phoenix a wonderful, spiritual retreat. It consists of the sacral buildings; the church, chapels, dorms, but it also has a huge, enclosed, desert area. While walking the paths, day or night, you can come upon benches hidden in the trees, a labyrinth, gazebos, sculptures, and bunnies hopping here and there. Every time I’m coming here I find peace and comfort.

You can find sacred everywhere you want to see it, but there is something about this piece of land, maybe because it was designated for contemplation: the spirit of this place helps me to get in touch with a deeper dimension within.

“We are multidimensional spiritual beings”  Dr. Robert Anthony

I feel deep gratitude for the presence of this dimension in my life, and I feel what a difference it makes on all levels, when I’m in touch with it.

Here is why it benefits us when we find or create the sacred space for ourselves: 

  • it allows for spending time alone, which is essential for hearing our own voice, inner wisdom, our genius
  • it lowers blood pressure, releases stress (the cause of over 80 % of all disease)
  • it get’s us in touch with the dimension bigger than us
  • it instills a sense of  deep balance
  • it builds a reservoir of peace (this is a reservoir you also build when you are meditating)

I would love to hear from you… Do you have a sacred space you visit regularly? Please tell us in the comments how is it helping you.

 

 

Three Mistakes We Make When Solving A Problem

big Picture(audio below) Why it’s so hard to deal with some problems? What to do with, what seems, unresolvable? I hope that after reading this post, you will have some ideas what to do (or not do) next. When we have a big problem, it’s easy to be blinded, to see only one side of the coin, to be stressed out, to “lose it”, to block our genius.

The three common mistakes we are making

… have to do with looking for a solution in all wrong places, that means, on a level that doesn’t offer the answer (e.g. focusing on spiritual, while the solution is on the physical level or vice versa)

1. Focusing  exclusively on the physical solution.

Fixing things. Getting frantic and making too many moves. Spinning around. Not seeing beyond the physical. Doing without thinking. Getting too active and aggressive about making things “right.”

It may be the right thing if during the process your mind is clear, direction known, and you stay focused. ( e.g. When your friend cuts off his finger with a sword, you wouldn’t start praying (spiritual), but you would take him immediately to ER (physical))

But if actions bring nothing but more confusion? Listen to Robert Anthony “If you don’t know what to do, don’t do anything”. Instead of trying to control the situation (active, physical), allow the dust to settle down, take the hands off the wheel, allow some time to pass, while you connect with your divine / higher self / The Spirit.

2. Focusing only on the mental solution (thinking)

Overthinking. Overanalyzing. Indefinitely running scenarios in your mind. Talking about it forever with your friend, spouse, therapist.

If the thought  process is leading you to too many blind alleys, maybe the solution is waiting on the physical level: be active: ask the question you want to ask. Ask for support. Take the supplement. Cross the bridge…

And yet there is a wonderful thing that may happen in our minds: understanding of others, or of the situation, transformation, a change in perception to one that brings more peace. This  actually happens on the border of the mind and spirit.

3. Focusing just on the spiritual solutions.

Examples: delegating the problem to the divine (praying) while not taking personal responsibility. Seeing negative consequences of our action and asking for forgiveness, without taking any action to fix what we broke, while having the capacity to do so. Trying to “manifest” just with your mind, and not doing the work that would lead to the goal.

In the essence…

Solution A:  Seeing the big picture (we can train ourselves to see it). a) Applying solutions from the appropriate level.  When you have a cold, no need to do a past life regression, when all you need is to drink liquids and take vit C.  b) Keeping balance between the active and inactive ingredient: balance between allowing for things to fall into place AND taking responsibility for our part.

Solution B: Seeing across the spectrum: recognizing  that for the problem that we have, something can be done on all: the physical, mental, spiritual levels. Combining them into a powerful action plan.

In addition:

Important questions to ask ourselves:

“What do I need to learn from this?”

“Does it reflect the state my mind is in?”

“What greater good can this situation inspire?” And if it cannot, what do I need to learn from this. 

“Is it really my problem or someone else’s, and I just assume responsibility for the person…?” 

Allow  TIME  to do it’s work.

We don’t see now about the situation, what will be revealed to us later.

There is a solution to everything.

We’ll never know all the reasons.

If nothing seems to make sense, look inside you, release control.

Perhaps the thing that needs to happen is the inner transformation, some call “a miracle.”

 

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