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  • Our Words Paint a Self Portrait

    I'm reading the Emerson Essays again and there are two things about him that strikes me. He is 1.) wicked smart and has amazing insight into the human spiritual psyche and 2.) extremely inaccessible to mere mortals that don't have a reading vocabulary at the Ph.D. level. Okay maybe I exaggerate a little bit but seriously, I have to look up at least 1-2 words per page of content and most folks don't have that much patience. In a world where our President is selected based on "out of context" soundbites, I can't imagine the average person taking the time to read Emerson. So I had this idea, if I could somehow reduce the essence of Emerson, or any great spiritual thinker down into a manageable soundbite then I could do a great service to the world. The great thinking inaccessible to many could be delivered over coffee with the Sunday funnies. The only problem I have is that I'm an okay writer but my drawing skills are nil to none. I love the self portrait concept and have always believed this idea that what we say of others we really reveal about ourselves, but I never said it with such eloquence and directness as Emerson, "A man cannot speak but he judges himself...he draws a portrait to the eye of his companion by every word. Every opinion reacts on him who utters it." I've seen it in my own life time and time again. And the reason this happens is that we typically have something inside ourselves that resonates with the person we are talking about. The more emotional we are, the more resonance. So for example a thief will suspect everyone of trying to cheat him or steal from him because that is how he thinks about the world, what can I steal or take that isn't mine. And on the positive side, a trusting soul will leave their door and heart open to others because how they are is how they see the world, full of trusting honest people. The next time you are tempted to go on a tirade about someone or something that is happening, take heed and notice how much more you will be saying about yourself.

  • Be in the World But Not of It

    A friend of mine reached out to me yesterday for some advice about her work situation. She felt that her boss was trying to force her to resign so that the company wouldn't have to pay severance or unemployment. Things had gotten so bad that she thought her health may be at risk, feeling panic attacks and moments when her heart seemed to be beating in her throat either when she was at work or thinking about it. She had decided to give her 2 week notice on Friday but wanted my advice before she did that. Myself knowing what a difficult market it is out here and knowing that she just had a baby in the past 6 months and knowing that her job is the one that provides benefits for the family I advised against that move. She then asked about an alternative of going to HR with her list of grievances to see if that would help the situation. Again I advised against that approach. What I did suggest was that the universe was giving her a wonderful opportunity to learn how to be in the world but not of it, an opportunity to create peace and tranquility even in a difficult situation, to learn that peace is something that comes from within and isn't something that anyone can take away from you without your agreement. I asked her to find a picture of a lotus flower to help visualize what this might look like. The lotus flower is a wonderful metaphor as it is one of natures most beautiful creations and one that grows best in the most stagnant and putrid of waters. It reminds us that wonderful things can emerge from seemingly terrible conditions. I asked her to visualize herself as that lotus flower, emitting her inner beauty and not reflecting her putrid surroundings. I also said this would help her direct her focus on what she wants to have happen in her life instead of focusing on what she doesn't want to happen. Whenever we invest energy into complaining or fretting about a bad situation it robs us of the very thing we need to set us on a right and peaceful course in our life. The more time we spend focused on what we don't want there is less focus that we can give to what we do want. So I told her to find a picture of a lotus flower that she could look to for inspiration whenever the putrid waters rush over her. To look within to find the peace and focus to create something better in her life. It is an old Sufi saying that we should be in the world but not of the world which means that we are here to give to life our fullest potential rather than being sucked into anything less which might happen if we let the world around us determine who and what we are. Of course I also told her to use some of the energy that this would free up in her life to create the next place for her to exercise her creativity. And I'm happy to report she is already seeing improvements on both fronts. An excerpt from the site I link to about this quote written by A H Almaas about conflict and challenges in our life: "Your essence is very intelligent, very generous. It has a way of throwing a conflict in front of you, so that by looking at that conflict or barrier you'll find out something you need to know. The situation that you are given is perfect in terms of timing, place, the people involved, your capacities, the capacities of people around you, everything, every detail. The situation is such that if you actually try to understand it, you'll understand something about your essence." A not so funny thing that we do as humans is that when confronted with conflict or challenge we somehow think that if we can only remove ourselves from a situation, a relationship or a person that somehow we can remove whatever exists within ourselves that called that situation to us. So we throw away partners, jobs and friendships thinking that our problems will be solved when they are gone but then we eventually find ourselves facing the same issue in the a new job, relationship or situation. How much easier it would be to understand and learn about ourselves so that we can grow into something even better, no matter where we are or who we are with. Photo by Carlos de Miguel on Unsplash

  • Everyone is a Perfect Expression of Spirit

    Everyone is a perfect expression of Spirit - how far from reality does that feel some days, for myself and for those that seem to upset me. I say seem to upset me because no one can make me feel anything. I am the only one that can decide how I react or feel about someone or something. So today's message for me is to remind me that we all are perfect expressions of Spirit who are here living and learning and making choices every day to the best of our abilities. So I try to think of it this way. I'm here on earth stumbling around trying to find my way back to my Godliness and all of the souls in heaven look down and say, hey, who wants to volunteer to give Sheryl a hard time so that she can learn how to be at peace no matter what might be happening around her. And some gracious soul raises their hand and says, "Its a tough job, but I'll do it" and they appear and give me a hard time. My peace comes when and if I can remember that we are both, all, perfect expressions of Spirit and no matter what might be appearing otherwise, it just isn't the truth about any of us if it deviates from this fact. Do people sometimes do desperate or mean things? Of course they do, but if the meaning of life is to give and receive love then those mean and desperate things are only a cry for love from someone that needs it and perhaps they are in my life so that I can learn to give it no matter what they might be doing outwardly. This song by the Roches but it is one of my favorites and communicates this message very well: Everyone is Good by The Roches I would like to be a person who does not judge Free to be me whatever that might be I don't want to hold a position, don't want to hold a grudge 'Cause it seems to be the cause of a lot of misunderstanding Heartbreak misery Looking in your eyes you're different from me Why does it have to be that one of us is better Can't we both be beautiful even if we don't agree Like the flowers in the garden and the animals in the wood Each one with a purpose and each one is God Everyone is good Nobody's God says hate your neighbor Even if the neighbor doesn't believe in God Put aside your religion do your God a favor And wouldn't it be something to be loving and kind Forgive yourself for everything having once been blind Everyone is good Everyone is a perfect expression of Spirit.

  • What Does All Maya Mean?

    For some reason not a lot of people ask me about this, even when my email address for the past 25 years has been Allmaya, my license plate on my car is ALL MAYA and my user name on most social media sites is Allmaya, I'm surprised at how few people ask me about it. But the few that do ask me are always fun to watch when I tell them. It's like asking a 5 year old what they want to be when they grow up and they answer you with a full rundown of their plans to attend Harvard Medical School and then take up a specialty practice in Neonatal ICU - it just isn't what you expect as a response. Fireman, nurse, teacher, but not the depth of thought maybe. So I thought it was worth a post. Maya is a Sanskrit word that represents the veil of illusion that we perceive the world through - a filter that is our perceptions, judgments and past experiences clouding this reality, changing it, making it in our own vision but changing it along the way from reality to illusion. For most of us the filter is so strong that by the time an experience gets through to us, it resembles nothing like what actually happened. This is why sometimes a situation will be experienced by two people and it is as if they didn't experience the same thing - because they didn't. When I apply this to my own life it helps me to let go of things that upset me, things I don't like, things that don't turn out the way I wanted them to turn out. I hop in my car or I check my email and these words All Maya remind me that whatever I perceive isn't reality - a reminder that it is all an illusion - All Maya - something I made up and my emotional reactions aren't real either. They are merely my reactions to this made up story. It helps put things into perspective. The great thing about this is that I can make up a different reality for anything that happens, I can choose another illusion and a different reaction if I want to. I did this at one time in my life as part of a 22 day intensive course where everyday for 22 days I had to tell my workshop partner my life story, over and over again. But each day I had to change the theme of my life story; one day to be the victim, the next to be the hero, one day my life as a tragedy, the next as a comedy. Let me tell you, after 22 days, I was so sick of my story I didn't ever want to hear it again. And I realized something even more important - it was just a story. It wasn't real. It was the made up things in my mind that were reactions to things that just happened, neither good or bad or happy or tragic, they just were. What a powerful release that was - to see it all as Maya, my own personal illusion that was getting in my way of seeing the world as it truly is. The tarot deck has a powerful figure that represents this concept, the high priestess. She sits in a place of honor with the scroll of our life on her lap. Behind her is the veil of illusion that once we are able to let go of, will reveal to us our true purpose in life. I like this image and she inspires me to let go of these things that stop me from seeing the world and my place in it for what it truly is and what I can truly be - a perfect expression of Spirit. Photo by Haneen Krimly on Unsplash

  • Life is Like a Math Problem

    I spoke recently to someone I care deeply for and wanted an update on her budding love affair. Well, although they absolutely adore each other, she told me that she wasn't sure it was going to work out. She felt like she was losing herself in the relationship, just like she did in her last one. Somehow she had magically found and fallen in love with someone that was almost a carbon copy of her last long term relationship. How could this have happened? Indeed, how is it that when we leave unhealthy relationships that we somehow recreate them wherever we go, no matter who we fall in love with - they turn out to be similar to the one we left? Here's my analogy, life is like a math problem. So we are sitting in class, math class, and our teacher (the person we are in relationship with) comes to us with a problem to solve. We don't like the problem so much so we change schools (relationships). And after the initial getting to know you phase at our new school, an amazing thing happens, the exact same math problem is the one that our new teacher presents us with. So why is this? Well the math problem is our lesson in life, something we need to solve within ourselves in order to move up to the next grade, the next level in our relating with others. And our math teachers are perfect beings of Spirit that volunteer to come into our lives to teach us this important lesson, no matter how unpleasant they might have to be in order to get the point across. So when you think the other person in your life is being difficult because of some character flaw, that might be the case. But if that character flaw follows you around from relationship to relationship, then maybe it is something within yourself that can be changed, improved, learned. For example, if you find yourself in controlling dominating relationships, ask what is it in myself that teaches others that it is okay to control and dominate me? What things are there in my life that I'm not doing or getting that I have voluntarily denied myself so that I can give control to this teacher? Maybe this relationship is an opportunity to change the way I teach people how to treat me? Maybe I won't give permission to anyone to dominate me. Maybe I will just go out and get that puppy after all, even if it isn't logical, rational or perfect timing. I'm the one that wants it and only I can prevent me from getting it. Well at least that's true after I graduate. Photo by John Moeses Bauan on Unsplash

  • The 95/5 Rule of Relationships

    I know, you think I'm bad in math and got the Pareto Principle (80/20 rule) wrong, but this is the rule that really matters in life, the 95/5 rule. It is human nature, nothing magical about it, just something we all do in life. We do it with our jobs, our family, our intimate relationships, we just can't seem to help ourselves. Finding fault is not a virtue, it is a deal killer. I see it kill deals every day. "I hate sitting in so many meetings, I don't like writing status reports, I miss my old boss or my friends back at such and such company" and on and on. Right now we are doing less and less of this at work if we are lucky enough to still have a job, so there is a silver lining in all this economic devastation. We are finally focusing on what is right about our job or our company or our colleagues because we are so thankful to have them. Relationships are an even juicier outlet for the 95/5 rule. In the beginning our future soulmate is everything we ever dreamed of and more. And the reason this happens is that we have no idea who they are, so they can be whatever we want them to be. We project all of our dreams and fantasies into the knowledge void we have about who this person really is. But then over time the void starts being populated with facts and experiences that are attributed to the real person and we start to pick them apart, finding all of the things about them that are wrong. But the problem with this approach is that we completely miss the 95% of the person and relationship that is absolutely right. Now of course no one is going to be 100% our dream but in reality, I'm not that great at dreaming and usually the person I'm with turns out to be better than my wildest dreams, which is the case with my wife Toni. For me to find relationship joy I need to be open to asking for what I want in life and adding at the end of my endless list of demands the statement, "this or something better." Because the person we are in a relationship with may not match up exactly to our expectations causing us to become fixated on all of the ways they aren't our perfect match, totally missing how they may in fact be better than we imagined. I find that this fixation on the 5% starts to consume us, to get on our last nerve as the focus magnifies the differences and makes them take on a life of their own. All of the endearing qualities that our soul mate had in the first months of the relationship now drive us crazy with frustration, but how could they have changed so much? Well the truth is, they didn't. It is just that we know them better now and they aren't the person in our dreams, they are a real person in flesh and blood. And given the chance to interact with my dreams and a real person, the real person wins hands down (no pun intended). So if your goal is a lasting and beautiful relationship that is better than anything you could have imagined, my advice to you is to mindfully turn your focus each and every time one of those 5% issues rears its ugly head, to one of the many things about the person you love, to the 95% that is right. And before you know it, that 5% will lose its grip on your attention and most likely you will grow out of your need to have everything in life delivered exactly to your specifications. Relationships that last tend to grow deeper into wonderful things that we can hardly imagine but changing our focus is the only way to get to this deeper place. Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

  • Focus on What You Want in your Life Rather than What You Don't Want

    Focus, focus, focus, if I could only just focus. But when we do focus, what is it that we spend our time and attention on? Is the glass half empty or half full? The reason this is important is that what we focus on is what we will create more of in our life. So I ask myself, am I focusing on what I don't like about my situation or am I focused on what I want more of in my life. How many times in my life has someone asked me, what is it that you want most? And my response is a litany of what I don't like or want about my current situation. How this works is much like the person with arachnophobia who hates hates hates spiders. And how is it that this person experiences more spiders than anyone else they know. It is as if their fear or hate acts like a magnet pulling toward themselves whatever it is that they are focusing on and in this case it is spiders albeit a hatred, it is still an intense focus. Another way to explain this is the law of attraction, our thought patterns are attracting the things we think about. Focus on positive thought, good things are drawn into your life. Obsess on the negative and it draws more of the same. But anything in life can be like a spider (or a whole herd of them if you really focus). If I am focused on not having a full time job and the fragmentation of having 3 part time ones, then I will get more fragmentation and keep attracting the lack of a full time job. If on the other hand I focus on more abundance than I can imagine from what I am doing now or something better then I have a better chance of drawing that into my life. It sounds so easy but how quickly we slip into our old pattern of thinking...where did I put that flyswatter anyway? Photo Credit: Unsplash

  • There is Never a Lack of Time, Only a Lack of Faith

    I learned this lesson over 20 years ago when I wrote case studies for the Darden Graduate School of Management at UVA. My friends would respond whenever anyone asked me what I did for a job that I wrote term papers for a living. And they were right. Writing case studies is like research term papers due every few weeks, loads of fun collecting the data from interviews with C level folks at the company plus hours at the library ferreting out industry data to put the company in context. And then hours and hours of organizing, formatting, creating tables and writing prose to bring the case to life and thread the pieces together. There was this one case in particular that was both intriguing and overwhelming in information, facts and figures. It involved Ohio Arts who makes Etch A Sketch and their decision to license the Disney image of Mickey Mouse to create a younger version of the old standard toy where Mickey's eyes would move when the child turned the drawing knobs. I was under deadline as the CEO of Ohio Arts was scheduled to visit the school in a few weeks to hear the students debate the finer points of his dilemma, to renew the license or not. It came down to the wire, the last night before the editors needed the final draft so they could do their magic, get it printed and distributed in time for student consumption. I sat down that night with only 10 hours left before the 8 am submission deadline. From writing about 15 of these puppies I knew that I had easily, 40-50 hours of work in front of me before the case would be ready for prime time. I was so overwhelmed that I didn't know where to start. I would pick up one stack of facts and then decide no, better start over here with this stack of interview notes and back and forth and back and forth accomplishing nothing! I decided that I needed to center myself or this constant back and forth would sap all of my energy and not a word would be committed to paper. So I put my head down on the keyboard in front of me and prayed. I stated out loud that I couldn't finish this case alone and that I needed help. That there was not enough time to complete the task and that it would take a miracle and help from a miracle worker to finish it on time. I was then very still and I let the calm of something other-worldly wash over me and then I heard it. As clear as if someone were in the room, the words came to me, "there is never a lack of time, only a lack of faith." So simple, so poignant, so matter of fact that all I could do was acknowledge the truth in its simplicity. I sat up and immediately found the exact opening statement flowing from my fingertips onto the computer screen. Every fact or figure or quote that I needed presented itself to me as if it had surfaced from amongst the disarray on my desk on command. The words flowed, the story unfolded in a way that I almost felt like an observer in the movie that was the writing of this case study. I finished with an hour to spare, time for a quick shower and a cup of coffee before I headed to campus to meet my editor. The case study was finished on time, the students came to the same conclusion that Ohio Arts did (they canceled the licensing deal) and the case study was voted as the student's favorite for that academic year, Etch A Sketch Meets Mickey Mouse. Even the title was inspired. When I read the case later, it was a work of brilliance, one that I don't remember participating in. But more importantly the case was an important lesson in the arena of faith. I have found that time isn't the only thing that we perceive is in short supply. This simple truth applies to anything we think is in short supply - money, love, abundance, jobs, hope. I have now had an experience of what this looks like and when I remember to apply those wise simple words, the situation transforms itself right before my very eyes. The truth of the situation is that the process or the outcome may not look exactly the way we envisioned it, but whatever needs to happen will happen in the time, money, job or love allotted. And if we get out of the way it will always be better than anything we could have imagined. There is never a lack of money, only a lack of faith. There is never a lack of love, only a lack of faith. There is never a lack of hope, only a lack of faith. There is never a lack of jobs, only a lack of faith. Or restated, there will always be enough.

  • Change Your Mind, Change Your Past

    One of my favorite sayings and one that has had life changing impact on me is "Change your mind, change your life." (This quote is loosely related to one by Norman Vincent Peale "Change your thoughts, change your world.") This concept is easy to see if you think about the future - if I change my outlook then my future will reflect this changed thinking. That makes sense and I have seen it work in my life, almost like a miracle every time I make the effort to change in my mind. The idea of changing the past was a new one for me, one that I got to experience firsthand when I was 35. I always thought that the past was the past, water under the bridge, something to move forward from. In my case, I had this mental image for as long as I can remember of my Dad leaving me, walking out of the house, out of his marriage with my mom and out of his role as my Dad. I held onto that image and the emotions surrounding it for about 33 years. Even when I saw him every weekend, when I spent my time growing up around him, his new wife and his new family. The only thing I could see was his leaving me. Like being with someone but not being there - lights on but nobody home - that's how I would define our relationship. So I did a brave thing when I turned 35 I decided to change my mind about the situation. I decided that his leaving was the only thing he could do at the time. I saw it for the first time as an act of love, to remove me from a bad marriage, from an unhappy couple and from an ill-prepared Dad. I decided in that moment to let down the wall I had built around my heart "for protection" from what he had supposedly done to me and an amazing thing happened. I felt the flood of 33 years of unfelt love rush over me. As if it were waiting just on the other side of that wall I had built and fortified year after year. I felt the love the only way my Dad knew how to give me and it was overwhelming. A past, barren of my father's love was suddenly drenched in unreceived emotions finally finding their way home. In that moment my past transformed. My relationship with my father transformed. It was as if my life was re-lived but this time with a happy ending. I called him that night and told him that I finally felt his love and I knew it had always been there, waiting for me to open my heart to receive it. We both cried together, tears of joy as decades of love given was finally received. He kept saying, "I tried so hard, I tried so hard." It took a few more years, but after decades of avoiding him, I moved to South Florida to be with my Dad, to share our lives and the love that was always there waiting for me to change my mind. The mind is a powerful force. I hope that I can always find a way to use it for good in the world. I love you and finally my life is enriched with your love.

  • Change Your Mind, Change Your Life

    It sounds so easy, if I don't like my life, if I'm not joyful and satisfied, all I need to do is change my mind and I can have all of those things, right? Sort of right. But for some reason I want to cling to things that make me miserable so I can whine about them. I mean if my life were great, wouldn't I feel guilty around all the people whose lives aren't great? Okay, maybe my life isn't great because I have lost perspective. No matter how bad my life may seem, lost my job, upside down on my house, my dogs bark too much, I'm not wildly popular or rich, my bananas went limp, I'm behind on my bills, I'm disorganized, I'm estranged from my sister and brother, I'm overweight, all very important things, one thing I'm sure of, there are many people on planet earth that would give anything to have the life I live. I think unhappiness is a lack of perspective. Not having a job is terrible, but having 3 part time jobs is how blessed I am to have 3 people or companies willing to hire me in very tough economic times and pay me a decent hourly wage so I can maintain my lifestyle. When I watch the news and hear about all of the people who are living in their cars and vehicles because they lost their job, their home and can't even pay rent, then I know that I am truly blessed. When I see people whose health has failed them, suffering from cancer, recovering from surgery, or are differently-abled in a wheelchair or on crutches for life, I know that I am truly blessed. When I see a soldier who has returned from duty maimed or injured beyond recovery of their former life just so that I may live in peace in this great country, I know that I am truly blessed. When I see whole countries that struggle to provide clean drinking water and sanitation for millions of their people, many dying from cholera, malaria, Hepatitis A or AIDS, I know that I am truly blessed. When I know that millions go to bed at night malnourished, hungry and thirsty not sure what or if they will be able to eat tomorrow, I know that I am truly blessed. When I look at the numbers of women who are raped or beaten by someone they know or love and fear for their life and the lives of their children, I know that I am truly blessed. I guess when you put things into perspective, my petty problems are just merely inconveniences in a very blessed life, and I need to realize that I'm doing that human thing where I focus on the 5% that is wrong with my life and not the 95% that is very right. Just going through this exercise has helped me change my mind at least for today. Jana Stanfield came and stayed with us on one of her South Florida tours and ended up writing a song about our coffee mugs that say "All that we ask is that you stay open to changing your entire life by changing your mind." Here's the recording of the coffee mug song.

  • Everyone Makes the Best Possible Decision

    Everyone makes the best possible decision based on the information available. Okay, that was a mouthful but it helps me remember why sometimes, some people will make decisions that I can't understand or agree with. I mean my decisions are so rational, logical and common sense to me, that when someone disagrees or decides something to the contrary I think that maybe they are either incompetent or purposely trying to piss me off (usually the latter because it is all about me). So this lesson gives me a glimmer of hope that if I provide this poor decider with the same information and set of facts that I possess they can only make the right decision and agree with me, no? Okay, the logic may be flawed a bit and when I relentlessly harp on the facts and the obviously missing information in their dataset I do understand that I can be a pain, but in my mind I'm sure that I am just one fact away from agreement so why stop short? Okay the thing that matters most here is for me to realize that maybe the other person has the missing fact that might pull me over to their side, if they could only get a word in edge-wise. My peace and happiness lie in my ability to ask questions, to probe and to uncover the knowledge I lack or to find the weakness in their argument and go for the jugular once I have it in my sights... Old habits are hard to break. Photo by Vladislav Babienko on Unsplash

  • Gloom & Doom Are Nothing But Congealed Lies

    Michael Beckwith said it when he was in Ft. Lauderdale, he didn't want to watch the news or listen to anyone complaining about the economic meltdown. He was convinced that it was nothing more than congealed lies. As a matter of fact, anything we share that is negative or complaining fit into this category. Beliefs that we invest ourselves in so much that they become congealed in our mind even if they are lies. Case in point, no matter what happens, good or bad, we have an opportunity to grow and become stronger as a result. So who is to say that this so called meltdown is anything but strength training? A much needed work out to make us stronger and healthier in the end. It is human nature to complain and moan, of course! But the simple facts are this; as Americans we each can lose more in the stock market in one day than others on earth will make in a year, and hardly notice it. Sure I lost 25-50% of the value of my 401K, but even at 50% loss, we as a country are among the richest 25% on the planet consuming 75% of all the resources and wealth. I also know that 56 percent of the world's population lives in extreme poverty surviving on an income of less than $730 per year or $2 per day. Instead of complaining about my American economy, I should be counting my blessings - and I am. We will get through this even with the Republicans kicking and screaming and resisting all the way. And in the end we will be stronger for it, a stronger housing market, a stronger banking system and a more regulated corporate America even if my investments take a beating along the way. I just need to remember that I'm Rocky in training and a few bruises is all part of the character building. Photo by Simon Hajducki on Unsplash

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