Keep Your Ego In Check

Part of me suspects that I’m a loser, and the other part of me thinks I’m God Almighty.” ~ John Lennon

I guess it’s pretty obvious to anyone following My Consciousness Project that I have been having some difficulty sticking with my weekly posting schedule. In fact, it’s gotten to the point where I’m lucky if I get a post out every year, let alone every week. And even though I think about what I want to write ALL the time, I just can’t seem to get back into the rhythm I had when I first began.

So I thought that it might help to go back and re-read my first post, Here I Go, to remind myself about why I had started this project to begin with. And I have to say, the words I wrote back then really did help me to remember that My Consciousness Project was born from a deep-rooted need in my soul to step out of my comfort zone and try some things that might help me become a better me.

I was also reminded that there was a real purpose to my project, and that I was actually trying to prove something by doing it. Back then I wrote:

“…when I came across a quote from Daisaku Ikeda, a Buddhist philosopher, I knew that I had found the basis for my would-be project. Ikeda asserts that:

‘A great inner revolution in just a single individual will help achieve a change in the destiny of an entire society and, further, will cause a change in the destiny of humankind.’

Could it be possible that I, an ordinary, everyday person, could somehow change the destiny of humankind by sparking my own inner revolution? And could I spark that revolution by trying to raise my consciousness?”

Reading those words was definitely re-inspiring, yet sadly, at the same time, reminded me that I had not been doing a very good job at sticking with the original timetable. What had started out to be a 9-month project was well into its 31st month! That’s almost 2 years behind schedule and I’m not even half-way through my Official List. Yuck.

And since I’ve developed enough self-awareness over the past couple of years to realize that I don’t always finish things that I start, I feel even worse. I mean, how can I possibly influence change in the world if I can’t even influence change in myself?

So it’s kind of ironic that the topic I’m stuck on right now is ‘Keep Your Ego In Check’, because I’m pretty sure that my ego is the culprit here. What I’m not so sure about, though, is whether I need to keep it in check because it’s too big, and thinks I can actually make a difference in the world, or because it’s too small, and thinks that I can’t.

According to most of the spiritual authorities out there, our egos are what keep us separate from everything else, creating an illusion of fear that holds us back from reaching our higher goals. A Course In Miracles teaches that the ego “seeks to divide and separate”, that it “cannot survive without judgement” and “lives by comparison”. Eckhart Tolle, author of one of my favorite books The Power of Now, describes ego this way:

“One way to think about ego is as a protective heavy shell, such as the kind some animals have, like a big beetle. This protective shell works like armor to cut you off from other people and the outside world. What I mean by shell is a sense of separation: Here’s me and there’s the rest of the universe and other people. The ego likes to emphasize the “otherness” of others.

This sense of separation is an intrinsic part of the ego. The ego loves to strengthen itself by complaining—either in thoughts or words—about other people, the situation you find yourself in, something that is happening right now but ‘shouldn’t be’, and even about yourself.”

Interestingly enough, when I looked up the definition of ego on the internet, in addition to being defined as “an exaggerated sense of self; conceit”, it was also defined as “appropriate pride in oneself; self-esteem.” Which makes me kind of wonder why, if our egos can provide us with something as positive as self-esteem, so many of our spiritual leaders feel the ego is something we need to rid ourselves of.  Sure, an inflated ego can definitely stir things up in the wrong way, but on the other hand, a strong ego, a strong sense of self, can help us achieve things we may not otherwise achieve.

So maybe instead of trying to banish our egos, we should be trying harder to find the balance between having one that’s too big and one that’s too small.

But, unfortunately, finding that balance can be a little tricky, especially if you’re anything like me and aren’t too sure which way the balance is tilting.

I decided that the best way to figure this out would be to spend some time listening to the conversations I was having with myself whenever I thought about my project. Which, I have to say, turned out to be pretty enlightening and didn’t leave me with much doubt about what direction my ego has been taking me!

And at the risk of totally embarrassing myself, here’s an example of a fairly typical exchange:

Me: So I think I’m going to spend some time on my project today.

Ego: Really? You’re pretty behind schedule on it…what’s the point?

Me: Well, it’s pretty important to me…I like writing.

Ego: Sure, but it’s not like you’re getting paid for it. You should pay some of those bills on your desk, or clean out that closet.

Me: But maybe if I just write one or two sentences I’ll get the juices flowing again.

Ego: Well, you could try that, but it’s been so long since your last post does anyone even care?

Me: People are still going to the website every day, even though it’s been so long.

Ego: Yeah, but you need thousands of visitors a day to be a successful blogger.

Me: But I don’t really care about that. I’m really only doing this for me…I just want to get through the list.

Ego: Well good luck with that. At the rate you’re going you’ll be old and gray by the time you’re ever finished.

Anyway, I could go on, but it seems pretty clear from this conversation why it’s important to ‘Keep Your Ego In Check’. If I keep listening to what this one is saying I might never write another word again!

But I definitely want to keep writing, so I tried to think about why my ego might be trying to stop me. Maybe it feels threatened by the things that I’m writing about, and is somehow trying to protect me from sharing too much of myself. Or maybe it just feels more in control when I am safe in my comfort zone, doing the things that I’ve always done.

Or maybe I’ve just been lazy and have let this negative ego get the upper hand.

Which means it’s time for some re-balancing. It’s time for me to up my game a bit and give my other ego, the one that helped me start this project in the first place, a fighting chance.

So the next time I am tempted to clean out the closet rather than write, I am going to choose to write. When I start worrying that no one is paying attention and I’m wasting my time, I am going to take a deep breath and choose to write. And when I’m old and gray and fretting because I still haven’t gotten through my Official List, I will remember how important it is to ‘Keep Your Ego In Check’ and choose to write.

Because maybe, for me, the ‘great inner revolution’ that Daisaku Ikeda is talking about is finding the strength, or maybe the courage, to keep tilting the balance back toward the part of me that believes I can make a difference, and just keep writing.

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WEEK 27: Gain Wisdom From Others

“Our best thoughts come from others” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Gathering of the Minds.jpg
The way I have felt about this week’s topic is the same way I felt after the first day of Philosophy 101 my freshman year in college…totally paralyzed by the enormity of what I was being asked to consider. I can remember trying to do my homework that first night of class and simply not being able to wrap my head around the concept of infinity. There was just no safe place for my thoughts to go – and the harder I tried to figure it out, the more the answers seemed to elude me.
 
It was definitelty not my favorite class.
 
And even though I know it seems a little absurd to compare this week’s topic to ‘Gain Wisdom From Others’ with a concept as big as infinity, I have had the same kind of trouble finding a safe path for my thoughts on this subject to go. There are so many different directions I could take that I’ve found myself going in circles trying to decide which way would be best.
 
And needless to say, since it’s been 8 (yikes!) months since I started to think about this, I’ve been going around in circles for a while.
 
I think the main problem I’ve had is that really, when you think about it, the only way we really ever learn anything is from other people, right? I mean, the knowledge that each of us has, individually, didn’t just come out of nowhere…it had to come from something, or someone, outside of us. Otherwise we would have been born knowing everything we need to know.
 
But that’s just not the case. We are born pretty much an empty slate, and as we interact with others, we gain knowledge from them. Just as they gained knowledge from the people they interacted with. And the people before them. It’s a never-ending spiral of knowledge that gets passed from generation to generation, person to person.
 
The thing that really gets my mind going in circles, though, is when I start wondering about the very first idea. There must have been one. There must have been a kind of ‘aha’ moment when one of our earliest ancestors realized he (or she) had knowledge to share.
 
In her movie, The Story, Barbara Marx Hubbard refers to these early ancestors as ‘the ones who know they know’. Somehow they became consciously aware enough to understand that by sharing and collaborating with each other, their ability to survive became stronger. It is the movie’s premise that this ability to share and collaborate could be what allowed Homo-Sapiens to continue to evolve, while others, such as Homo-Neanderthal, died out.
 
Which is probably why ‘Gain Wisdom From Others’ is on the list of ways to raise one’s consciousness. Because in order for us to keep evolving, we need to keep learning. And in order for us to keep learning, we need to keep sharing, otherwise the whole system breaks down.
 
Somehow, though, it seems humanity has moved away from this sharing philosophy in the last few years. Individuals (and corporations) seem to be more concerned with getting themselves ahead, than getting humanity ahead. Copyright infringement, CISPA, SOPA…I can’t help but believe that this ‘me me me’ culture is going to lead us down the same path as Homo-Neanderthal.
 
Thankfully, though, I don’t think it’s too late for us. There are a lot of people and organizations out there who understand the importance of sharing and collaborating. There’s TED (Ideas Worth Sharing), Creative Commons (Share Your Knowledge and Creativity With The World), Wikipedia (The Free Encyclopedia), Linux (Free and Open Source Software Collaboration) and Minds.com (Free and Open Souce Everything), to name just a few.
 
There is definitely a shift taking place toward a world where sharing and collaboration are the norm, rather than the alternative.
 
There’s an ancient African word called Ubuntu, which loosely translated means, ‘humanity to others’. In the Xhosa culture it means “I am because we are’. Gregg Braden, one of my favorite spiritual teachers, shared the following story on Facebook, and it really struck a chord with me:
 
“An anthropologist proposed a game to the kids in an African tribe. He put a basket full of fruit near a tree and told the kids that who ever got there first won the sweet fruits. When he told them to run, they all took each others hands and ran together, then sat together enjoying their treats. When he asked them why they had run like that, as one could have had all the fruits for himself, they said: ”UBUNTU, how can one of us be happy if all the other ones are sad?”

It is my greatest hope that one day we will all join hands together and share the fruit.

P.S. I am in the process of moving My Consciousness Project over to Minds.com, a new open source social media site. Please consider joining Minds and subscribing to the My Consciousness Project channel. Thanks!

WEEK 26: Face Your Deepest Fears

“Expose yourself to your deepest fear, after that fear has no power.” ~ Jim Morrison

A few years ago when I was in Sedona, Arizona, I went on a hike to the area’s famous energy vortexes, led by a rather intimidating ‘shaman’. I will never forget standing among those beautiful red rocks, on an equally beautiful June day, and having this complete stranger yell at me: “You are so scared, you don’t even know what you’re scared of!”

I was completely taken aback by the vehemence of his words, so I can’t remember now if I even responded. But I do remember thinking he had no idea what he was talking about because, having just finished 5 weeks of radiation treatment for early stage breast cancer, I was pretty sure that I actually did know what I was scared of back then.

And even today, though, luckily, cancer is no longer at the top of the list, I think I still have a pretty good handle on what my deepest fears are.

For instance, I’m scared of being the center of attention. And of being judged by others. I have a deep, inexplicable fear of anything having to do with vampires. I am also becoming a little worried that I won’t get through all 100 topics on my Official List by the December 21st deadline, which I guess points to a certain fear of failure.

Anyway, as I started to think about this week’s topic to ‘Face Your Deepest Fears’, I was reminded of that crazy shaman’s words, and it occurred to me that maybe he wasn’t as crazy as I’d thought. In fact, maybe he had just been trying to get me to do what this week’s assignment was forcing me to do.

Because it turns out that it’s one thing to know what I’m scared of, but to actually do something about it is an entirely different matter. Not to mention, a whole lot harder.

Ok, so for my assignment this week, I decided to face one of my bigger fears (i.e. being judged by others) by trying to do something I’d been putting off for a while. Ever since last summer, I’d been tossing an idea around with a couple of my like-minded friends about getting a group together to talk about spiritual stuff. Kind of like a book group, but without the book. I kept putting off doing anything about it, though, because (and this is pretty embarrassing to admit) I was a little worried about what my other, less like-minded friends would think of me if they found out.

And, unfortunately, the longer I put it off, the worse I started to feel, because I knew that, deep down, I was really just being a total chicken. I kept hearing this little voice in my head telling me that I better be careful. That if I started this group people may talk. About me. Behind my back. Yuck.

But because it was ‘Face Your Deepest Fears’ week, I made myself take a deep breath, shush the little voice in my head as best I could, and figure out what I needed to do to get this group going. And so I picked a date, made a list of people who I thought might be interested, and sent out an email inviting them to come to my first ever Consciousness Group.

Pushing the ‘send’ button on that email may have been one of the scariest things I’d ever done. That is, until I had to stand up in front of all the people who had, happily, all come to the meeting, because that was even scarier.

But the way I felt after it was over was definitely worth every moment of terror that led up to it.  I imagine it’s the same way someone might feel after they’ve gone skydiving: elation that they’d found the courage to actually jump out of an airplane into thin air, and relief that the parachute had opened so they didn’t plummet to their death. And though I realize that starting a spiritual group is a very far cry from jumping out of a plane, that is exactly how I felt.

I had stepped out of my comfort zone and survived. I was so happy.

The thing is, in the long run, I’m not sure it actually matters how I stepped out of my comfort zone, just that I did. Because whether it’s starting a group, fighting cancer, or jumping out of a plane, the important thing is to find a way to quiet the voice that’s telling me I can’t, so that I can hear the other voice that’s telling me I can.

Because, as Eleanor Roosevelt once said:

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence in every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”

And I think that in order to do the things that I’m not sure I can, I have to listen for the voice that’s going to remind me to be brave, rather than careful. The one that’s going to urge me forward, rather than hold me back.

And, most importantly, the voice that will remind me to be who I really am, rather than who I think everyone else wants me to be.

I just have to remember to be brave.

P.S.  I realized as I was crossing ‘Face Your Deepest Fears’ off my Official List just now, that I can actually cross off a few other topics as well. Because in order to do this week’s assignment, I really, really had to ‘Muster Up Some Courage’ (#54) to ‘Form A Mastermind Group’ (#80) so I could ‘Be A Leader’ (#83) to ‘Share Unique Insight and Wisdom’ (#38) and ‘Guide Others in Raising Their Consciousness’ (#77).

At this rate, I might make my December 21st deadline after all. Yeah!

WEEK 25: See Perceived Faults As A Mirror Image

‘Reality is the mirror of your thoughts. Choose well what you put in front of the mirror’ ~ Remez Sasson

I had a feeling the first time I saw this topic on the Official List, over a year ago now, that it was going to give me a little trouble. And I was right, it definitely did, although, surprisingly, not quite in the way I thought that it would.

The week started out with a somewhat sticky situation involving myself and some good friends. I don’t want to bore everyone with the details, so suffice it to say that some information was shared in a way that caused a few hurt feelings. In hindsight, though, I guess I can be grateful that it happened when it did, because it certainly provided me with a pretty good opportunity to try to ‘See Perceived Faults As A Mirror Image’.

And I was definitely starting to perceive some faults, because I honestly didn’t think I had done anything wrong!

Now, believe me, I am no saint. Sadly, I’ve been known to partake in my share of gossip in the past, and have learned the hard way that nothing good ever comes from it. But I really felt as though I had actually, finally, learned the lesson, so when I found myself smack in the middle of this situation anyway, despite my conscious effort to stay out of it, I figured that it had to be someone else’s fault.

But before I could really start playing the blame-game, I remembered my ‘assignment’ for the week. And so I took a deep breath, and forced myself to look at the ‘perceived faults’ I was trying to find in the others as a ‘mirror image’ of something inside me. Not the easiest thing I’ve ever had to do…my ego was pretty reluctant to accept any responsibility, even in the name of My Consciousness Project!

It seems, however, that taking responsibility was, in fact, exactly what I needed to do. According to Dr. Hew Len, an Hawaiian therapist and co-author of the book, Zero Limits, we are all, each and every one of us, 100% responsible for what happens in our lives. And not just for our thoughts and actions. It seems that everything we experience, whether it’s good or bad, our fault or not our fault, is totally our responsibility, simply because it’s in our life. By learning to accept this responsibility, and see our experiences as a reflection of our own inner judgements and beliefs, we can begin to take more control of what happens in our lives.

Dr. Hew Len teaches an ancient Hawaiian practice called Ho’oponopono, which, loosely translated, means ‘to make right’. Basically, it’s a very simple process that involves the following 3 steps:

  1. Acknowledge the negative situation.
  2. Accept 100% responsibility for it.
  3. Silently repeat the words; “I’m sorry. Please forgive me. I love you. Thank you.”

In their book, Dr. Hew Len and his co-author, Joe Vitale, share the story of how thirty years ago, Dr. Hew Len healed an entire ward of mentally ill criminals at the Hawaii State Hospital, using only Ho’oponopono. It’s a pretty amazing story, especially since he never even met with these men in person. He simply sat in an office with their files, and, over a period of several years, he would read about what each one had done. Then, if he noticed himself feeling repulsed, or judgmental, or in any way negative about them, he would use the process to clear himself of the negativity:

“Dr. Hew Len’s method involves cleaning yourself of all memories or negativity in order to see change in yourself and even in others. It seems bizarre, but when you take care of your own issues, they disappear in other people. The whole idea is to love the problems away.”

According to Dr. Hew Len, because our reality is a reflection of our internal thoughts and beliefs, when we experience a negative situation it is simply because we have a similar negative thought or belief lurking in our sub-conscious. Ho’oponopono is a way to clear these limiting beliefs so that they will no longer be reflected externally.

Anyway, I decided to give it a try to see if it would help the situation with my friends. So here’s how it went:

  1. I acknowledged to myself that, yes, I was definitely in a negative situation.
  2. I acknowledged that yes, I was (gulp) 100% responsible for it because I was, in fact, experiencing it.
  3. I silently repeated, somewhat self-consciously, the prescribed words.

Now, I would love to say that as soon as I did this the whole situation miraculously resolved itself, but it didn’t happen quite that way. What did happen, though, was that once I honestly accepted the responsibility for being involved, I realized that blaming someone else was not going to help make it right. The only way that I could possibly make it right would be to change the way I was handling it.

Which made total sense when I really thought about it.  I mean, if I were standing in front of a real mirror and didn’t like something I saw, I wouldn’t try to fix the reflection. That would be a complete waste of energy because, obviously, it wouldn’t change a thing. The only way for me to change the reflection would be to change what was being reflected. There’s just no other way.

So, I took yet another deep breath (believe me, I took a few this week!), pulled up my big girl pants, and went over to apologize to my friend. And, believe it or not, before I could get one word out, she was apologizing to me!

It was almost like I was looking in a mirror again…but this time I really liked the reflection. And, amazingly enough, I never heard another word about that whole situation again, from anyone involved. It’s like it never happened.

Anyway, I have to say that although this week’s assignment was one of the hardest I’ve experienced so far, it was also the most enlightening. The idea that we each have within us the potential to change our life experience, simply by taking responsibility for the things that happen to us, gives me such great hope for the future.

Just imagine how incredible the world would be if we all remembered to look in the mirror! Because, as the great 13th century poet, Rumi, once wrote:

“We are the mirror, as well as the face in it.”

WEEK 24: Have Sex With Your Partner

“Love is our true destiny. We do not find the meaning of life by ourselves alone – we find it with another.” ~ Thomas Merton

OK, so I don’t think this will come as much of a surprise to anyone, but there’s been a little bit of concern from certain members of my family about how I was going to handle this week’s topic. And I actually can’t say that I blame them…I’ve been wondering quite a bit about it myself!

Fortunately, I remembered my Project Guidelines, specifically #5 to ‘Be Flexible’, so I decided that it was okay to let myself (and everyone else!) off the hook by keeping my experience with this particular ‘assignment’ to myself.

Hmmm – I think I can actually hear the collective sigh of relief from my entire family…my own being the loudest!

Anyway, as the week went along, every time I tried to think of what I was going to write about, the phrase ‘Make Love, Not War’ would pop into my head. And the more it popped into my head, the more I started to wonder who the first person was to actually say it. John Lennon? Some other 1960’s pacifist?

Well, when I searched the internet I was pretty surprised to find out that it didn’t come from anyone in the 1960’s at all!

According to Wikipedia, the phrase originated in 411 BC, when a Greek comic playwright, Aristophanes, wrote an antiwar comedy called ‘Lysistrata’.  The play was about a woman, Lysistrata (meaning ‘releaser of war’), who tried to rally the females of Greece to withhold sex from their husbands and lovers so that the men would stop killing each other in the violent Peloponnesian War they were all fighting in.

And the idea actually worked…the play ends with the men literally choosing to ‘make love, not war’. Wow!

Unfortunately, such a strategy is pretty much the opposite of what this week’s topic is suggesting. And I’m not totally sure that it’s ever that good of an idea to use sex as a bargaining chip anyway…even when it’s for something as important as peace.

But what I am sure of is that love, above everything else, is the best way to a more conscious and peaceful world…no matter how we choose to demonstrate it.

So whether you’re a 5th century woman trying to keep your husband alive, a 1960’s pacifist refusing to fight a war you don’t believe in, or simply someone like me,  a 54-year-old woman trying to raise her consciousness, the important thing is not how we demonstrate love, just that we do. Any way that we can. As often as we can.

Because clearly the world could use a little more love these days.

And even though John Lennon didn’t actually come up with the phrase himself, I still think he said it best when he wrote:

“Make love, not war. I know, you’ve heard it before…Love is the answer. And you know that it’s true.”

 

So maybe, hopefully, after centuries of trying to make it happen, 2012 will finally be the year that we all choose, both individually and collectively, to actually make love, and not war.

Because I truly believe that each one of us knows, deep down in our hearts, that love really is the answer.

WEEK 23: Think Positive, Act Positive, Be Positive

“If you realized how powerful your thoughts are, you would never think a negative thought.” ~ Peace Pilgrim

I really didn’t expect that I would have much trouble with this week’s topic because ever since my first health scare a few years ago, I have been a true believer in the power of positive thinking. Since it had worked pretty well for me during those difficult times, it seemed that it wouldn’t be too hard keeping my thoughts positive when things were actually going relatively smoothly.

As it turned out, the week for this ‘assignment’ was the same week that I was going to be down in Florida with my mom and sisters, celebrating my mom’s 84th birthday. I had been the one to organize all of the logistics for the trip – choosing the hotel, renting the car, and coordinating our flights so that we would all get there about the same time. The thing is, as those who know me will attest, I can be a bit of a worrier, especially when I’m the one in charge of something.

So to think, act and be positive this particular week was actually going to be a little more challenging than I thought.

I remembered a trick I’d been taught back when I was sick, which was to imagine a stop sign in my mind every time I caught myself thinking negatively about my situation. Somehow the image of the stop sign really helped to remind me to switch the direction of my thoughts before I ended up at the worst-case scenario.

So I decided my ‘assignment’ for the week would be to look for the stop sign whenever I started to worry that the hotel wouldn’t be nice enough, or someone’s flight would be delayed, or the weather would be bad. And, hopefully, when I saw it, I would remember to switch the direction of my thoughts before my worrying became a reality.

Happily, the trip started out incredibly smoothly. Our flights all got in on time – in fact, some were even early. And although it was pretty cloudy, the sun peaked out just as I was landing, which I took to be a really good sign. The drive to the hotel was very easy.

But when we pulled into the hotel driveway and it started to rain, it was as though every single negative thought I had kept at bay the past few days had materialized right in front of me. Everywhere I looked I noticed something wrong. The hotel was old…and small. The parking was impossible. The pool was tiny. By the time we got up to our suite I was a wreck…and even though my mom and sisters were nice about it, I felt terrible.

And what’s even worse is that I never once saw a stop sign. As soon as we drove in the driveway, the negative thoughts started piling up so fast that I don’t think I would have noticed one even if I had crashed into it.  Really, I’m not exaggerating…just ask my mom and sisters!

It wasn’t until we were having dinner a little later that I even remembered it was ‘Think Positive, Act Positive, Be Positive’ week, and I honestly started to laugh out loud. How in the world had I let myself get so caught up in what was wrong that I missed everything that was right?

Because, actually, a lot of things were right. For one thing, our suite had gorgeous ocean views from every window. It was really spacious. It was clean. There was a beautiful print that reminded me of my grandparents’ house. And most important of all, I was sitting around a table with my mom and sisters, which just doesn’t happen that often.

So why couldn’t I have seen all those positive things sooner? Why was it so much easier to let myself get sucked into such a negative vortex?

Well, as it turns out, there actually is a reason. Scientists call it a ‘negativity bias’ which, according to Wikipedia, is a ‘psychological phenomenon by which human beings pay more attention to the negative things in their life than the positive’. Studies have proven that the brain actually shows more neural activity when it is reacting to negative input than positive!

Dr. Rick Hanson, a neuropsychologist, explains that ‘the mind is like Velcro for the negative, and Teflon for the positive.’ For instance, if someone were to give me ten compliments and one criticism for a job that I did, it would be the criticism that would stick with me, not the compliments. It seems our ancestors, in order to survive, had to be much more aware of the things that could go wrong, than the things that could go right.

I had no idea! No wonder I have to work so hard to stay positive!

But what I think I have to try to remember, and this is definitely easier said than done, is that even though I might have this ‘negativity bias’, I also have within me the incredible power to choose the way I think about something. So when I find myself spiraling out of control in a negative ‘this is the worst hotel ever’ vortex, I can reverse that spiral anytime I want. And whether it’s by putting up an imaginary stop sign, or making a shift in the way I’m looking at something, what’s important is my conscious awareness that a change is necessary.

I recently watched a video called ‘Celebrate What’s Right With The World’ about a National Geographic photographer, Dewitt Jones, who uses the lens of his camera to show how the seemingly ordinary subjects he’s had to photograph can be transformed into things of beauty simply by asking himself, “What’s right here?” Sometimes the answer doesn’t come immediately, so he has to be patient. And sometimes he might even have to shift the angle of his lens in order to see it. But his incredible photographs are definite proof that there is always something ‘right’ to be found…it’s just a matter of choosing to see it.

So from now on I am going to choose to look for what’s right in the world, too. Because, as Dr. Wayne Dyer has always said:

“When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at will change.”

WEEK 22: Speak Compassionately

“In separateness lies the world’s great misery, in compassion lies the world’s true strength.” ~ Buddha

I wasn’t at all worried about this week’s topic to ‘Speak Compassionately’. I was actually so unworried that I didn’t even think I needed to come up with an ‘assignment’ to do. I guess because I’ve always thought of myself as a pretty compassionate person, I just assumed speaking compassionately for a week would not be too much of a problem.

Well, as it turned out, it was a little harder than I expected! In fact, and this is pretty embarrassing to admit, I totally flunked the first night of ‘Speak Compassionately’ week! I’m not kidding…within about 15 minutes of sitting down to watch the news, I found myself saying some pretty uncompassionate things about how a couple of the reporters looked. I didn’t like one of their outfits. And another’s teeth looked a little funny to me. I couldn’t believe I was being so mean!

I guess I had somehow forgotten the old adage that ‘if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all’. And even though it wasn’t like I was saying these things about people I knew, or actually hurting anyone’s feelings, the fact that I felt compelled to make such comments at all was pretty troublesome to me.

So I decided that this would be the perfect week to put those wise old words into practice. I would watch what came out of my mouth very closely, and if I caught myself about to say something mean or unkind, I would either not say anything, or try to find something nice to say instead.

Fortunately, I realized pretty quickly that I don’t really say unkind things very often, at least about anyone other than television news people! I have no idea why I am so critical of them…maybe I’m just trying to be funny, or somehow make conversation. But I did find, the next time I was watching the news, that by holding my tongue whenever I felt the urge to say something mean, I felt much better. Almost lighter. It was as though the whole energy in the room shifted because I decided to keep those negative words to myself.

And as it turns out, words really do have the power to change the energy in a room, or in anything for that matter.

In the 1990’s, Dr. Masuru Emoto performed a series of experiments observing the physical effect of words on the crystalline structure of water. He hired photographers to take pictures of water after being exposed to different types of words, and then froze them so that they would form crystalline structures.

Amazingly, when exposed to prayer, or positive words like ‘love’ and ‘appreciation’, the crystals formed beautiful patterns that were pure in color, and in perfect symmetry. On the other hand, when exposed to negative words like ‘anger’ and ‘hate’, the crystals were rough, dull, and in a state of disarray.

Dr. Emoto explains:

“Think of it in terms of vibration. It’s easy to understand that language — the spoken word — has a vibration. Well, written words also have a vibration. Anything in existence has a vibration. If I were to draw a circle, the vibration of a circle would be created. Drawing a cross would create the vibration of a cross. So if I write the letters L O V E, then these letters put out the vibration of love. Water can be imprinted with these vibrations. Beautiful words have beautiful, clear vibrations. But negative words put out ugly, incoherent vibrations which do not form clusters.”

And because humans are made up of almost 60% water, it just goes to reason that the words we use to communicate with each other could have as big an impact on the people we’re talking to (not to mention ourselves!), as they did on the water in Dr. Emoto’s experiment.

So whether I’m talking to myself or someone else, it seems to me that it’s really important that I try to pay attention to the words I’m choosing to use. Because when I’m more conscious of what I’m saying, the greater chance I’ll have of choosing words that are positive, rather than negative. And that can only be good, for me and anyone else I’m talking to, or about. Even television news reporters.

I came upon this acronym on Facebook the other day, and I think it’s going to be the perfect way to remind myself to ‘Speak Compassionately’ from here on in:

T.H.I.N.K. before you speak! Is what you are about to say True, Helpful, Inspiring, Necessary, and above all, Kind?”

Because if there’s one thing we could all use a little more of in this world, it’s kindness.