Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Breakfast of Champions: Feedback

Although you may have grown up with the description of a popular cereal, I'm using this phrase in another way. Here, I'm talking about a requirement for all physical experience, a key to effective learning, and an essential ingredient for making the changes you desire in your life.

This core nutrient is feedback.

In the dictionary, feedback refers to a response that is "intended to provide useful information for future decisions and development."

As you encounter the world, the ongoing information you receive from other people and the environment gives you feedback on the impact of your presence, words, and actions. Sometimes you are aware of this feedback, while most often you are not.

In any case, you tend to perceive and interpret feedback with respect to your own history and memories, which frequently leads to the maintenance of your comfort zone, and the persistence of your ego or "little mind" consciousness. As a result, the interpreted feedback will support you to react in habitual ways.

Imagine this common scenario.

You have a difficult relationship with your sister. Whenever you speak with her, the conversation eventually becomes tense, someone might yell, and you exchange unpleasant words. Both of you end the interaction feeling frustrated and sad. The result seems inevitable and you can't figure out any way to change what happens.

In this example, the nature of feedback has been transformed from "useful information" to a rigid perception of your sister (and she of you) that limits the possibility of ever having a different outcome. Both of you have become attached to expect a "problem" when you experience the other.

How can feedback be used to produce a non-habitual, healthy response in this kind of situation?

To explore some possibilities, consider these suggestions:
  • Remember that you can only change yourself. The other person might not want to do anything and may assume a disinterested, indignant position with respect to you.
  • Begin to see your living as experiments in which you're simply collecting experiences without judgment. There's no positive or negative feedback--it's all just a set of responses.
  • Stay open and receptive. Since life means constant change in you, others, and conditions, you really don't know what will happen with your experiments from one time or place to another.
  • Let go of memories. Learn from your experiences, and release the past, which doesn't exist anyway.
  • Be in the present moment. Feel your body sensations, and use feedback to guide you to make healthy, loving (yourself and others) choices.
As you practice with experimentation and non-judgmental feedback, your habitual reactions will diminish, and you will create powerful, life-changing results even with difficult situations and relationships.

By viewing your life experience as ever-expanding experiments, all feedback will help you move in directions that reveal your true nature. In this skillful way, feedback is essential for you to see yourself as you are, and becomes a constant source for freedom.

Engage feedback for inspired living!

Love and Peace,

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Aspire to Be Inspired!

This winter has been especially challenging and harsh for vast numbers of people throughout the country and abroad. As a result of these severe, unprecedented environmental stressors, your home and your health may have been significantly threatened.

In the midst of the constant barrage of storms and their aftermath, you probably felt that you were struggling to "keep up" or merely survive.

As the snow and ice disappear, the severe winter weather seems to fade into an unpleasant memory. You may even be surprised at how quickly you can be absorbed by the promising signs of milder days ahead.

These typical responses to the weather provoke this question:

How can I enjoy myself amidst all the conditions of my life?

To experience a helpful response to this question, you might experiment with the following exercise:
  • Pause.
  • Let yourself relax as you bring your attention to your body.
  • Focus on feeling your breath.
  • Witness whatever you experience in your bodymind without judgments.
  • Allow yourself to be at ease.
  • Imagine and feel any of the conditions of your life.
  • Continue to relax, feel your breath, and witness these conditions, while you feel at ease.
Without any effort, as the feeling of ease deepens, you will experience stillness. You are enjoying yourself without regard to your current, past, or future conditions.

In this timeless space, you can reconnect with your essential Being of Peace, Love, and Joy.

Your feelings of struggle and survival melt away, memories become less powerful, inspiration flows more consistently, and your actions express your expanding freedom. In this way, you experience unconditional living.

As you practice the art of unconditional living, you will release your resistance and develop gratitude for the ever-fluctuating pleasant and unpleasant conditions of life.

You will strengthen your ability to love it all!

May this Thai proverb support your daily practice:

"Life is so short. We must move very slowly."

Love and Peace,

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Untangling Your Knots

As I was putting away the Christmas ornaments today, I came to one that almost sabotaged my peace of mind and joyful efforts.

It all began with a strand of painted figs that were joined together with translucent nylon string. In removing this decoration from the tree, I was very careful to keep the figs away from each other. However, when I started to wrap it around some tissue, the string got invisibly hooked on one of the figs. I tried to undo the obstacle with no success.

In fact, things only got worse, and soon the whole strand became an incredibly knotted mess!

What followed was a great test of my patience and desire to efficiently dismantle and store the adornments of the tree.

At first, I made pretty continual progress at deliberately separating the figs and connecting lines. I started to feel optimistic about my mission and the end seemed in sight. Unfortunately, something happened, and the tangle quickly appeared worse than expected.

After quite a while on the task, my energy started to drop and I began to contemplate other options. I imagined putting the tangled strand away in the box as it was. I even thought about discarding the "tired old thing."

With my increasing level of frustration and weariness, I knew I couldn't continue. More of this action would only make things worse.

I paused.

I was clear about what I did not want. So I asked myself what I did want. My internally inspired response came quickly. I wanted to return the strand to the box untangled and in good shape for the next use.

In order to accomplish this desired outcome, I realized I needed to shift my physical position, relax and breathe, and start all over at one end of the strand with slow, calming, steady movements.

As you might expect, within a fraction of the time I had already expended, I released my knots, the physical entanglements, as well as my "not"s in less tangible forms (e.g., "I'm not able to clear this up," "I do not like this ornament," "I'm not very patient," and so on).

The strand was tangle-free and so was I.

In my view, this seemingly insignificant scenario provokes several reminders that are important for all personal transformation efforts:
  • Mental states such as anxiety, worry, doubt, anger, and fear appear "real" and establish knots/"not"s that limit you.
  • Most obstacles are not permanent barriers to what you want. To overcome or transform these barriers, you usually need to tap into your resourcefulness and creativity.
  • When you or your situations get confused and tangled, a "pause" becomes a vital tool for determining what's happening and what you want to do about it.
  • Physical movement, relaxation, and diaphragmatic breathing change your state and can enhance your openness to new possibilities.
  • Patience and self-love help you create desired outcomes and enjoy your actions independently from actual results.
Consider any other implications of my experience for your own journey.
  • How do entanglements show up in your life?
  • How do you want to handle them in the future?
As you practice developing conscious responses:

May you untangle all your knots and "not"s with clarity, ease, and joy!

Love and Peace,

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Gift of Receiving

During the holiday season, most people happily focus considerable attention on giving. All the retail stores and online companies dream that this focus will encourage gift buying at record levels and lead to a profitable bottom line for the year.

While this orientation supports the ancient maxim that it is better to give than to receive, an important question arises about "receiving" that merits consideration.

What do you value, what is important to you, about receiving?

To clarify your views on receiving, here are some additional questions for reflection:
  • How would you describe your presence with presents? Consider the physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual qualities of your presence in the moment.
  • How does your presence change when you are receiving gifts or anything else in various situations, or with different people?
  • To what extent is it easier for you to give than to receive?
  • What circumstances within and outside you create blocks in your ability to fully and freely receive?
  • What internal and external conditions help you receive from others?
  • What other questions or concerns do you have about receiving?
  • What might you do to enhance your capacity to receive?
As you review these questions, you may benefit from making further distinctions in the behavior of receiving. For example, you may have observed that "engaged receptivity" feels very different from "passive acceptance" of a gift, both when you're giving and when you're receiving.

When you wholeheartedly "take on" someone else's giving, your receiving demonstrates an acknowledgment of that person's attention and efforts on your behalf. This kind of receiving can have powerful, memorable effects on the giver and the receiver, especially when you act authentically, and express genuine gratitude for what you have been given.

In these ways, receiving can become an intimate interpersonal response, and your expansive gift to others.

May your receiving touch the heart of everyone who gives to you.

Love and Peace,

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Singing Your HeartVoice!

The other night I enjoyed a TV show, The Sing-Off, that features diverse and wonderfully talented a cappella groups from around the country. Besides the amazing singers, the program possesses a pleasant surprise for the "reality" genre.

The judges!

Although the show fosters competition and seeks a "winner," this experienced panel communicates skillful insights, genuineness, and helpful criticism in their feedback to the artists. This kind of effective and supportive evaluation is difficult to find in most families, businesses, and organizations, let alone on network television.

As an example, in the most recent challenge, the judges assigned a different song that would tap into each group's strengths and potentially bring out their best performance. They weren't looking to trip up the contestants. Rather, the judges wanted to facilitate growth and a rewarding experience for everyone. Their encouragement succeeded beyond expectations, and, consequently, all the groups advanced to the finals!

Imagine what you (your friends, family, coworkers) would do with that type of loving attention . . .

Another demonstration of the judges' beneficial style frequently occurred when they remarked that a group had taken a song seriously, while allowing themselves to act "silly" or in some lighthearted way.

This distinction between a group's professional attitude about the music and their entertaining perception of themselves inevitably resulted in a solid performance. In this way, they let go of any self-consciousness, displayed a high level of skill in a very challenging situation, and exemplified the "flow" state described by noted author Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

As you would expect in such moments, the group's sheer happiness and unbridled enthusiasm became contagious, thrilled the audience, and led to rave reviews.

The series of these interactions between the judges and the different groups implicate other domains of life as well. Consider these questions for your own personal or professional activities:
  • How can you more fully tap into your own (and others') strengths?
  • What support do you need to let go of any self-consciousness you have at work (or at home)?
  • What skills would help you improve your performance in the midst of high-level challenges at work (or at home)?
  • How could you be more "silly" and lighthearted in your work (or home) environment?
  • In what ways would you like to have more fun, enjoy yourself, and "let your music out" in your work (or home) life?
  • How can you introduce more ease or playfulness into your work (or home) settings?
  • What feedback could you give to others at work (at home) that would optimally nurture their feelings of self-worth, confidence, and successful performances?
When you play with these kinds of questions, you will probably discover that you're opening doorways to creatively and lovingly explore possibilities for yourself and others.

Remember: You don't have to guess others' responses to these questions. Ask them directly and your subsequent actions will be more meaningful and effective.

In my experience with thousands of people over 35 years, I have never heard anyone say that he or she was loved too much. Therefore, when you "lavish" this specific supportive, caring attention on your family or colleagues, they may initially express some surprise. Then, they will typically warm up and happily collaborate with you to bring about a mutually desired outcome.

As you practice this new way of bringing out the best in yourself and others in daily living:

Sing out with your HeartVoice!

Love and Peace,

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Rekindling Your Holiday Spirit

At this time of year, the holiday season elicits powerful feelings and memories of loved ones enjoying venerable traditions, fun gatherings, and special festivities.

As you probably have experienced, these annual celebrations with family and friends can also be very stressful events. Although everyone has the desire to get along and have a good time, familiar gestures, habitual reactions, or casual conversations may occur that annoy someone. Then, the irritation grows and culminates in a hurtful disturbance.

How does this happen with people who supposedly love each other?

Just because you have been connected with others for a long time doesn't mean they know you now. This can be especially true with family where members may act as if their common genetic and historical backgrounds can replace in-depth and mutual communication.

The paradox of not feeling known among family or friends who have known you your whole life can be very confusing. You want to meaningfully connect and freely express yourself, yet you don't feel safe and "seen" enough to do so. In addition, your uneasiness and frustration can make you more sensitive to the words and actions of people around you, and even trigger wounds from your past.

In this emotionally charged context, you too may haphazardly engage in saying and doing things that provoke someone else. Any intentions you might have had to experience a peaceful day fade as a distant fantasy, and you may now feel badly about yourself as well.

How can you eliminate this "holiday hell"?

Although you cannot control how your family and friends act in these situations, you can manage your own behaviors. Here are some suggestions to reduce unpleasant consequences for you and your group:
  • Clarify people's expectations and any special needs prior to the event. Don't make assumptions about what everyone would like.
  • Make specific agreements regarding the logistics of your gathering. That is, who's doing what, where, when, and how? Keep things as simple as possible.
  • Approach each person with care and compassion, especially those with whom you have a lot of history. Don't be casual.
  • Reconnect and warm up before you engage in serious subjects. Ask questions in your interactions with others. Don't invite people to talk unless you want to genuinely listen.
  • Avoid joking at another's expense. Don't use sarcasm to express yourself.
  • Stop habitual reactions whenever possible. Don't take things personally.
  • Consider other ways in which you can avoid, eliminate, or decrease the incidence of personal and interpersonal harm.
After you have reflected on these alternatives, focus on a few to practice in upcoming events that you host or attend. As you become effective in eliminating "holiday hell," you can place more of your attention on cultivating the qualities you desire such as ease, relaxation, harmony, loving kindness, and peace.

In order to nurture these qualities and create a joyful atmosphere for holiday experiences, you might consider these practical skills:
  • Be responsible for your own feelings and behaviors.
  • Meditate before gatherings.
  • Give yourself plenty of time and space.
  • Observe, support, and refresh your energy level. Rest to prevent exhaustion.
  • Attend to (notice) your breath during the event.
  • Feel yourself grounded in your body.
  • Review my related discussions including "The Art of Witnessing," "Communicating from Your Heart," "Forgiving," "Create Your Own Lineage," and "Sustaining Your Momentum: Releasing Resistance."
With these practices, you will discover that you can minimize your own experience of "holiday hell," and be happy and healthy throughout the holidays.

Imagine your holiday season filled with child-like wonder and expansive joy!

Love and Peace,

Sunday, November 14, 2010


The intentional practices of releasing resistance, allowing, and being patient nurture your efforts to express your HeartVoice and inspired possibilities. As a result, you may feel much more ready, willing, and able to accomplish these changes than ever before in your life.

You're establishing a powerful inner foundation for new ways of being, doing, and having.

However, you don't need to "make it happen" all on your own.

You can ask.

One place to start is within. In this asking, you direct your attention inward, abiding in your Heart, to access the Divinity, Creator, or whatever name you choose for the reflection of that superconsciousness in you.

You might ask for guidance, the solution to a problem, something to be revealed, or clarity and wisdom on an issue that is obscured.

In the Stillness, you ask and wait to feel inspiration.

This form of your HeartVoice usually "speaks" in a quiet whisper. So your Presence is of the utmost importance in both asking and listening. Once you've received the inspiration, you'll know the direction for your actions.

Of course, you can also ask for suggestions, help, and other kinds of support from others. These people could include family, friends, colleagues, professionals, and organizations. You can identify these aids through personal connections or internet resources. The opportunities for external support are virtually unlimited.

Often, your asking for others' assistance and the enormity of available resources can bring up two common concerns:
  • What if my asking is a sign of weakness?
  • How do I know which resources to explore?
If you perceive asking as a lack of competence (a "failing"), just recall a time when someone you respect asked for your support. How did you feel about that person? How did you feel about yourself?

You probably felt honored to be asked, and happy to do whatever you could to help out. Most people share this desire to contribute to others.

In terms of resources, you might view your investigation as an adventure, rather than hard, painful work. Look into possibilities and ask for leads, as you feel inclined. Allow others to help you with ease. Be open to surprises and unexpected directions. Play with the different options you develop with people or the internet.

At any time, you might further facilitate your progress by reflecting on your exploration process:
  • Does the nature of my question, what I'm asking, need to change?
  • Do I feel clear, connected, and creative in asking or involving a specific resource for support?
No matter how you feel about asking or which resources you engage, a key element in the process is to be clear about the form of help you want and any logistics involved. You must know what you want, need, or expect, since others cannot read your mind. Then, the agreement (written or verbal) between you and your supports can be established.

In the simple act of asking for guidance from within and outside yourself, you can make a profound impact on your personal growth. By asking, you invite others to play a role in your life, share experiences, and cultivate conditions for mutuality. Your enlarged network of supportive relationships and your increased resourcefulness can also transform your sense of self-confidence and competence.

As you practice asking, you expand your capacity and willingness to receive. In this way, asking becomes a gift to others as well as to you.

To strengthen this gift, stretch yourself with this exercise:

Ask someone else for support even if you don't need it.

Ask and you shall receive!

Love and Peace,