WEEK 19: Choose Empowering Beliefs

“Man is made by his belief. As he believes, so he is.” ~ Bhagavad Gita

For some reason this week’s topic to ‘Choose Empowering Beliefs’ has really thrown me for a loop. I just haven’t been able to figure out what direction to take, and so every time I sit down to write, I find myself going around in circles.

I can’t really put my finger on what is making this one so difficult either. Maybe it’s because I didn’t really like my ‘assignment’ that much. Or it could be that I’ve read so many different things about beliefs that it’s hard to pick one area to focus on.

But whatever it is, the time has come to stop fretting about it and just get started. Hopefully, I’ll figure out the best direction to take as I go along.

Anyway, a couple of years ago I saw this YouTube video of a little girl standing on her bathroom sink, loudly affirming how much she loves everything in her life:

And when I was thinking about how to ‘Choose Empowering Beliefs’ this week, I thought it might be fun to try something similar by giving myself a little pep talk every morning. Simple enough, I thought, and a good reminder about all the things I have to be grateful for.

So I found a list of empowering beliefs on the internet, and picked one that I thought would help me start my day off in the most positive way:

“Anyone can do anything and anything can happen.”

Well, I was a little surprised, at first, to discover that talking to myself in the mirror is not as easy as it looks! When I stood staring at my reflection on the first morning, I was actually a little embarrassed to say anything at all, let alone with the enthusiastic abandon of the little girl in the video. And even though it got somewhat easier as the week went along, I have to admit that I was never really very comfortable.

Which started me wondering whether I was uncomfortable because I was talking to myself in a mirror, or because I just didn’t really believe, deep down inside, that what I was saying was true. Which kind of confused me, because I had pretty much thought that I already believed it! I mean, I love hearing stories about someone who’s done the seemingly impossible…the underdog who’s succeeded against all odds. I’ve probably watched the movie ‘Rudy’ a hundred times and have absolutely never gotten tired of it!

But no matter how loudly or often I would say this affirmation, I couldn’t ignore the little voice in the back of my mind telling me it just wasn’t true. That people do have limits, and so it’s not really possible that anyone can do anything.

What I couldn’t figure out, though, was where this belief had come from. I really have no honest recollection of anyone ever telling me such a thing, so I guess that somewhere along the line I must have done something, or witnessed something, that made me believe it was true. And the fact that I didn’t even know it was there is a little bit worrisome…I wonder if there are other limiting beliefs lurking in my subconscious?

In any case, I started thinking that maybe this is true for a lot of us – that because we don’t always consciously choose some of the beliefs we have, we’re not even really aware that we have them! We grow up with parents who have certain beliefs they pass along to us, which have been passed along to them, and even though we might question them as we get older, it’s probably pretty hard to get rid of them altogether.

And the same way this can happen with families, it can probably happen just as easily with our different cultures and religions. I imagine generations have come and gone with no one ever really questioning the beliefs that have been passed along, because it’s just the way it’s always been.

And, according to Neale Donald Walsch in his book, The New Revelations – A Conversation With God, this is exactly why our world is in such trouble today. Because many of us are really reluctant, whether consciously or unconsciously, to challenge some of those beliefs that have been passed down through the generations. And so we keep making the same mistakes, because we’re unwilling, or maybe just scared, to question the wisdom of our ancestors:

“Your world is facing enormous problems right now, and you must solve the problems at the level of belief. You cannot solve the problems at the level of behavior. Seek to change beliefs, not behaviors…You can take whatever action you want to take to alter someone else’s behavior or to stop it, but unless you alter the beliefs that produced such behavior, you will alter nothing and stop nothing.”

Unfortunately, it seems that we humans have a pretty hard time when it comes to altering our beliefs, even when there’s solid evidence that those beliefs are completely false. For instance, Walsch reminds us, we used to believe that the earth was the center of the universe. When Copernicus, and then Galileo, both offered proof that this assertion was false, they were called blasphemers and heretics. No one believed them. It wasn’t until 300 years later that Galileo was finally pardoned by the Catholic Church and the world accepted this new belief.

It’s amazing how stubborn and fearful we can be when we’re faced with a new way of thinking.

Take what’s going on today with the Occupy Movement. The protestors are being criticized for not having a cohesive message, but I think the message is actually crystal clear. Something is wrong. The world is just not in a good place right now. And whether you’re in the 1% or the 99%, there is just no getting around the fact that our system isn’t working.

And maybe it’s not working because some of our most basic beliefs have become outdated. Economic and political policies that may have worked at one point in history may just not work today. Not necessarily because they’re  wrong, but because the world is changing. And people are changing. And the climate is changing. Everything is changing.

It just makes sense, then, that some of our beliefs about how the world works may have to change too, so that we can adapt to what’s happening and be able to move forward.

Albert Einstein put it this way:

“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”

Maybe if all of us, both individually and collectively, would consciously choose to consider some newer, more empowering beliefs, we’ll be able to see which of our old beliefs may be holding us back. And perhaps then, with that newfound awareness, we’ll find ourselves at a new level of consciousness where we can start solving some of our problems.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I definitely think it’s worth a try.

So I’m going to start by choosing a slightly different empowering belief to say to myself in the mirror every morning:

“Anyone can do anything, if they truly believe that they can.”

I think even the little voice in the back of my mind can believe that.

WEEK 17: Make Yourself Happy

“Happiness depends upon ourselves.” ~ Aristotle

When I started to think about the kinds of things I would do during “Make Yourself Happy” week, I couldn’t wait for it to get here. I mean, how often in life do you get an opportunity to spend a whole week just doing things you love to do…and not even have to feel guilty about it?

But as the week got closer, I realized that a lot of the things that I was thinking I might do to ‘make myself happy’, I pretty much already do…albeit a bit guiltily at times. So when I received an email from my new ‘like-minded friend’ (Week 15) about a workshop called ‘Inner Space’ that was being held at a nearby Feng Shui Center, I impulsively signed up. I’d been learning a little bit about feng shui and thought that really diving into it at a weekend workshop would definitely make me happy.

Or, on the other hand, maybe not.

Sadly, the whole weekend was a pretty big disappointment. Instead of making me happy, I was actually fairly unhappy from the minute I walked through the door. First of all, and this is totally my fault for not reading the whole email my friend sent, the workshop had nothing to do with feng shui, even though it was at a Feng Shui Center. It turned out to be about finding the ‘inner space’ in yourself, not in your home, which is all well and good, and probably something worth learning about, but it wasn’t what I was expecting at all.

Secondly, I didn’t really care for the teacher. She seemed ok at first, but as the weekend went along she started to show some alarming passive-aggressive tendencies by picking on a poor woman who’d been a few minutes late to the class. Not exactly inspiring.

So ok, live and learn. I guess it’s a good idea to do a little homework before signing up for a weekend workshop!

But I will say that the experience got me thinking that perhaps ‘making myself happy’ is less about doing and more about being. That maybe what’s important is finding a way to be happy even when the circumstances surrounding me are not so great.

So instead of grumbling about how the workshop wasn’t what I had expected, and the teacher was a bit psycho, maybe I should have tried to focus more on what was good about it. Because, actually, there were a few things that weren’t so terrible. For instance, I learned that pine trees have psychic energy. That’s kind of cool. And I met a couple of nice people I wouldn’t have otherwise met. Plus, I did something I had never done before by signing up to go on my own.

There were actually quite a few things that could have made me happy while I was there…I just chose not to see them.

The thing is that it’s sometimes really hard to make yourself happy when you’re in an unhappy place. A couple of weeks ago, for example, I was worried about a zillion things, and no matter how hard I tried to talk myself out of the negative zone I was in, my mind just kept circling and circling from one bad thought to the next. I couldn’t find my way out.

I’d read somewhere that sometimes it can help to write all your worries down when they start piling up. That somehow putting them down on paper can get them out of your head…kind of releasing them to the universe, I guess.

So I tried it. I sat down before I went to bed and wrote down every single thing that was troubling me. And a few things that I didn’t even know were troubling me! Then I tore the piece of paper into tiny little pieces and threw them away.

Did it work? Well, I think so. I was able to fall asleep at least. I can’t say that I was happier – that would have been a pretty big leap – but I definitely felt better. And I think that it was by taking that action, by asserting a little bit of control over the negative vortex I was swirling around in, that helped make the difference.

According to Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project:

“The feeling of control is an essential element of happiness…a better predictor of happiness than, say, income. Having a feeling of autonomy, of being able to choose what happens in your life or how you spend your time, is crucial.”

The problem, though, at least for me, is that it’s hard to always have control over what happens in my life, so I need to try to remember that I do have control over how I feel about what’s going on. Maybe I couldn’t control the fact that the workshop I went to wasn’t what I expected, or that the teacher was a passive-aggressive nutcase, but I certainly could have shifted my focus from the bad to the not-so-bad while I was there, and not ruined the whole weekend for myself.

And so I’m realizing that it’s never going to be the weekend workshop I sign up for, or the cute new sweater I buy (believe me, I’ve tried that!), or the better job, nicer car, bigger house, etc. etc. that will ‘make’ me happy. None of those outside things can bring me happiness if I haven’t found it on the inside first.

Helen Keller, one of the most inspiring people I can think of, put it this way:

Your success and happiness lies in you. Resolve to keep happy, and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulties.”

I guess, in the end, if I’m looking to ‘make myself happy’, I just have to remember where to look.

Week 16: Express Gratitude On A Daily Basis

“We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures” ~ Thornton Wilder

I have to say I definitely turned a corner this week on understanding what raising consciousness is really all about. Up until now, I have looked at all of these different ‘assignments’ for my project as a means to an end. That if I meditate, or re-connect with true friends, or practice forgiveness, or any of the other 100 things on my Official List, then I am eventually going to get myself to a better place. To a better me.

What I realized, though, as I tried to ‘express gratitude’ this week, is that there really is no end point. Raising my consciousness is not at all about the future me, it is about the me right now. In this moment. It’s about being the best me I can be today, not 100 weeks from now.

So what was the turning point? Well, having heard over the years about the benefits of keeping a ‘gratitude journal’, I decided that would be the perfect way for me to ‘express gratitude’ this week. I found an old notebook and committed to writing down 5 new things every night that I was grateful for. Why 5? Because I’d read somewhere that that’s how Oprah does it. Plus, it seemed pretty simple.

Well, the first night was simple…in fact it was so simple that I didn’t stop at just 5, I wrote down every single thing I could think of. I fell asleep in a haze of gratitude – it was awesome. The next night, though, was a little trickier and I had to dig a little deeper to come up with 5 more things to be grateful about. It wasn’t actually that hard, but it did make me realize that if I was going to come up with enough new things every night, then I was really going to have to start paying a little more attention while I was awake!

The next few days were pretty fun as I started noticing things that I might have overlooked, or forgotten about, in the past. Like finding the perfect parking place on a rainy day. And getting the last box of my favorite cereal at the grocery store. Seeing hundreds of dragon flies flying around the field below our house. Certainly nothing life-altering, but I found myself feeling grateful about them nonetheless. I was definitely looking at my world through a whole new light.

And that’s when I realized that all of this consciousness raising I was doing was not just a way to a better life, it was the better life.

Now some might say that it’s easy to find things to be grateful for when life is good, but what if I were hungry, or poor, or sick? What if I was hungry, poor and sick? Well, according to a lot of the books I’ve read (and believe me, I’ve read a lot!) that’s when it’s the most important to find something, anything, to be grateful about. Even if it’s just that the sky is blue, or my heart is beating…it doesn’t matter what it is at all. What matters is that I’m making the choice to see something positive rather than negative. Because it is in that choice, that decision to stop saying ‘woe is me’, even if I have every reason in the world to say it, that life can start to change for the better.

One of my most favorite spiritual gurus, Eckhart Tolle, put it this way:

“Gratitude is very important.  It transforms your whole life, if you can remember the importance of being grateful for life.  As you go through your day, every day, you can even have little reminders – of the importance of being appreciative of life. Every person has to verify for themselves, what can I be grateful for at this moment? Sense the being that you are – not just the physical, but the sense of your own presence.  That’s a great source of joy, to feel your own presence, it cannot really be defined.  That’s the ultimate gratitude.”

It is so easy, at least for me, to take life for granted. To get so caught up in my day-to-day worries and problems that I fail to remember what an incredible gift it is to just be alive. Even after being jolted out of my complacency a few times with health scares, I still find myself coasting along on auto-pilot every so often, not paying any attention at all.

I read a story this week that my niece had sent out to our family, about a social experiment, organized by The Washington Post, on how people perceive certain things. Back in January, 2007, they arranged for a very famous violinist, Joshua Bell, to play incognito in a DC Metro station, during the morning rush hour. He played music written by Bach on his $3,500,000 violin for an hour, and during that time about 2000 people passed through the station. Of those 2000, only 6 people actually stopped to listen. The question asked at the end of the story was this:

“If we don’t have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world, playing some of the finest music ever written, on one of the most beautiful instruments ever made…how many other things are we missing?”

Well, if I learned anything this week, it’s that if I want to be the kind of person who stops and listens to the music, I am going to have to slow down every now and then so I can hear it.

WEEK 15: Befriend Like-Minded Individuals

“Friendship is born at the moment when one person says to another, ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one!” ~ C.S. Lewis

Well, I guess when I started my project back in March I should have given a little more thought to how I would keep up with it during the summer, since I am away (and unplugged) for a lot of it. So rather than spend my vacation fretting about how far behind I was getting, I decided to simply add another guideline to my list:

Number 11: Don’t take myself too seriously – it’s just a blog!

So, in the spirit of that guideline, I enjoyed a very relaxing summer, and now I’m ready to pick up where I left off back in July…Week 15: Befriend Like-Minded Individuals.

I’m pretty sure that if I had actually given any thought beforehand to how I was going to go about finding a ‘like-minded individual’ to befriend, I might have panicked a little bit. I mean, it’s not like meeting new friends is the easiest thing to do, like-minded or not. Luckily, though, I didn’t have to think about it. It was almost as though someone led me on a treasure hunt, and the prize at the end was the perfect ‘like-minded individual’!

What’s amazing though, especially in hindsight, is how easily I could have not met this person, because a lot of the decisions I made along the way were pretty out of character for me. I’m not sure if it was fate, or the universe, or just dumb luck that led me down the right path, but I am incredibly grateful that something kept pointing me in the right direction. Otherwise, I might still be out there looking for a like-minded person, and be even further behind than I already am!

So here’s what happened:

A friend read my blog on Facebook and thought I might be interested in going to hear Gabrielle Bernstein, a young spiritual author, speak at a local playhouse. Now, I don’t usually like to go out during the week if I can help it, so it would have been much more like me not to make the effort. But for some reason I went. That was Not-Like-Me-At-All Decision #1

When we got to the event, some vendors were set up in the lobby, and there was a long line in front of one of them. When I found out that everyone was waiting for a free ‘angel reading’ I was pretty intrigued, so I got in line. That was Not-Like-Me-At-All Decision #2, because I really hate standing in long lines.

The reading itself was brief, but amazingly accurate given the circumstances, and so I took one of her cards, thinking an ‘Angel Reader’ might come in handy when I got to #70 on my Official List: Connect with Your Spirit Guides. So a couple of days later I checked out her website, and ended up sending her an email to get a few more details about what she did. At the last-minute, I decided to include a little bit about my project, and added the link to my blog. Now, I have to tell you, I have never shared my blog with anyone I haven’t met before, so this was definitely Not-Like-Me-At-All Decision #3.

We started a little email exchange and she suggested that maybe we could meet for coffee sometime and talk more about my project. I was so excited…someone I didn’t even know actually liked my blog! So I sent her a quick reply saying that I was getting ready to leave on vacation, but I would love to have coffee as soon as I got back. I had no sooner pushed the send button, though, than I turned the page on my calendar and saw that my next week’s ‘assignment’ was to ‘Befriend Like-Minded Individuals’! It seemed too good to be true!

So, at the risk of her thinking I was completely nuts, I quickly sent another email asking if she would possibly help me out by being my like-minded friend for a week, and she agreed to get together before I left. Now, for some people, meeting with a complete stranger may be no big deal, but for me it is just not something I do every day. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’d never done anything like it before…so Not-Like-Me-At-All Decision #4!

We met a couple of days later, and luckily, despite my worry that it might be totally awkward, it was just really, really fun. Talking to someone who is on the same path is so energizing – especially when that someone is a little further along that path. I felt like I’d known her forever! And believe it or not, even though she and I had never really met, I actually knew her husband. In fact, I was going to be seeing him later that morning! It really can be a crazy, small world, can’t it?

Of course, I’m sure there are people out there who might read this and say that it was all just coincidence, and that I am making way too much out of what happened. But the week after all of this took place, I randomly picked up a book called The Celestine Prophesy, by James Redfield, and to my utter amazement the whole first chapter was about experiences such as mine. According to Redfield:

“…these coincidences are happening more and more frequently and, when they do, they strike us as beyond what would be expected by pure chance. They feel destined, as though our lives had been guided by some unexplained force. The experience induces a feeling of mystery and excitement and, as a result, we feel more alive.”

Redfield refers to such experiences as ‘meaningful coincidences’ that lead one in a particular direction, and he believes they happen a lot more often than we realize. We just miss recognizing them because we are moving so fast through our lives. Perhaps if we could slow down and take ourselves off autopilot once in a while, we would notice more often when we actually have a choice to make that could point us in the right direction.

Looking back on all of the ‘coincidences’ that led me to my new like-minded friend last week, I have to say that the experience left me with an incredible sense of possibility. That if I would just step out of my comfort zone a little more often, and perhaps try some new ways of thinking (and doing), it would be much more possible for me to experience the limitless opportunities (and friends!) that are out there, waiting for me to find them.

I just need to slow down so I’ll notice the clues.

 

WEEK 13: Cultivate a High-Performance Mind

~ “The greatest discovery you’ll ever make is the potential of your own mind.”  ~  Jose Silva

I am a little behind with this week’s post for a couple of reasons, the main one being that I was away for a few days and internet access was limited. Well, actually, to be perfectly honest, that’s only partially true…the real reason is that I was a little bit intimidated by this week’s topic, at least at first. I just couldn’t wrap my head around how in the world I was going to ‘cultivate a high-performance mind’ when names like Stephen Hawking and the Dalai Lama kept popping into my head. So I procrastinated. And then I procrastinated some more.

I finally made myself read the book that the author of my Official List had suggested on his website, called “The High-Performance Mind; Mastering Brainwaves for Insight, Healing and Creativity,” by Anna Wise. I picked it up pretty reluctantly – somehow learning about brainwaves all week was not exactly my idea of fun. But I have to admit, by the time I had finished the first chapter, I was intrigued. Her ideas made a lot of sense to me…and were definitely not just for the brainiacs of the world.

According to Wise, a high-performance mind is “one that can enter at will the state of consciousness that is most beneficial and most desirable for any given circumstance.” And, as it turns out, it is something that we are all capable of experiencing, no matter what our IQ might be. As far as I understand it (and I think I have this right), if we can just learn to recognize what our different patterns of brainwaves feel like, then we can consciously shift our mind into the pattern that will be the best one in any particular situation.

The easiest way for most people to learn about their different brainwave patterns, as well as how to tap into them, is through meditation. The book offers step-by-step instructions as to how to master the four levels (beta, alpha, theta and delta) through a series of guided meditations. It’s a fairly involved process, which I totally recommend to anyone interested, but a week was not really enough time to do it any justice. So I can say for sure that I have not yet quite mastered it. I will say, however, that the experience definitely got me thinking about how incredible it is that we all have this untapped power pretty much at our fingertips…we just need to learn how to use it.

One way to learn, besides meditation, is through neurofeedback, a kind of biofeedback for the brain. By measuring an individual’s brainwaves, it’s possible to teach them how to alter their mental state, helping them to overcome all sorts of issues like depression and ADD. Neurofeedback can also help someone take their performance to the next level, whether they’re an athlete looking to improve their game, or a singer getting ready for a big gig. I was pretty curious about the process, since it was mentioned quite a bit in the book, so I decided to give it a try.

And I have to say I’m really glad that I did. Unlike the picture I had in my mind of being strapped to a chair with wires hooked up to my head, it was actually a very gentle and relaxing experience. I sat in a recliner with a few small electrodes on my head and ears, and pretty much just listened to music through some earphones for half an hour. Granted the music skipped a lot, which for me was kind of irritating, but I guess I have a very sensitive auditory system (according to the practitioner), so this is not always the case for other people. The results, however, were a little disappointing to me. Not that they weren’t interesting, but I guess I was just hoping for some great insight into what makes me tick. Or maybe even how to tick better.

Anyway, it seems to me that the most important thing in cultivating a high-performance mind is learning how to recognize it within ourselves. And I think that most of us, whether we’re aware of it or not, have experienced this higher state of consciousness at some point in our lives. A musician may feel it when he’s in the middle of an awesome riff, and an athlete when he’s skiing down the mountain, or running in the park after work. A mother might feel it when she’s rocking her baby to sleep in the middle of the  night, and a writer when he’s lost in the story he’s telling. It’s that feeling that there’s something bigger than ourselves at work, and we’re able to just give in to it, and let go.

I recently heard about a book called “Explorers of the Infinite”, by Maria Coffey, which tells the stories of some ‘extreme’ athletes and what makes them do the crazy things they do. One woman, a mountain climber, describes the feeling she experiences when she’s out there, and I believe it’s a good example of a ‘high-performance mind’ at work:

“…when you leave to go to the mountains, at first all you’re concerned about are your daily routines back home. Your head is full of chatter. Within hours, you’re in this rhythm where you’re thinking only about food, and fuel, and camps. Then, when the climb gets technical, and especially when there’s a level of danger, you become utterly present. There’s no stress, sometimes even no fear. You literally become simple consciousness. Something larger than you takes over. It’s mysterious and inexplicable. You need to go out there again and again to find it.”

Albert Einstein, who acknowledged experiencing similar moments of awareness (though probably in a less extreme way!), described them as feeling “free from one’s own identification with human limitation.” To me, this is the perfect description, because if there’s one thing I’ve learned so far with this project, it’s that if we can free ourselves from our own limiting beliefs, we are way more likely to reach our real potential.

So, maybe, if we can experience this feeling of ‘limitlessness’ more often, whether by hanging off the side of a cliff, or sitting comfortably in the bedroom meditating, we will learn to tap into our high-performance minds more easily.

And then, maybe, we’ll not only unleash our own potential, but the potential for the whole world, as well.

WEEK 11: Treat Yourself With Respect

“To free us from the expectations of others, to give us back to ourselves – there lies the great, singular power of self-respect.” ~ Joan Dideon

I’m afraid this week was one of those weeks. Between a sick dog and a house full of 20-year-old boys, I just couldn’t seem to find the time to write this post. And as the week went along, I became more and more anxious about it, because I’ve been trying really hard to stick to my Friday ‘posting’ deadline. Luckily, though, I remembered Project Guideline #5, which reminded me to ‘be flexible’, so I was able to give myself a little breathing room. And as I sit here now trying to think of something to write about, I’m wondering whether, by giving myself that break, I actually ended up doing exactly what I was supposed to do this week – treat myself with respect.

I’m guessing that the reason it’s even on the list of ‘Ways to Raise Your Consciousness’ is because if we aren’t able to treat ourselves with respect, how can we expect other people to? I am also guessing that in order to know how to treat ourselves with respect, it’s important that we are aware of our strengths and weaknesses…and therefore, more conscious of who we really are. Luckily, I am definitely conscious enough to know that the combination of a sick dog, a houseful of boys, and a self-imposed deadline could definitely put me over the edge. And that awareness allowed me to treat myself with the respect necessary to avoid making myself, or my family, crazy.

I think that, on the whole, I generally treat myself with a decent amount of respect. Especially since my health scare, I am way more conscious about the food I eat, and the exercise I get. And I suppose, now that I think about it, even my napping habit could be seen as a sign of respect…yeah! I have also grown a lot more conscious of my thoughts and ideas over the last few years, and am learning to stand up for them in ways I never could have when I was younger. Actually, this project is a pretty good example of that.

On the other hand, though, there are definitely some areas where I could use a little work. For instance, I have a pretty bad habit of saying the word ‘just’ a lot. Like, “Oh, it’s just me” when I call someone on the phone, or “I just think…” when I’m voicing my opinion. I’m not sure why I do this – and actually I wasn’t even aware of it until a friend pointed it out one day – but it is certainly not a word that elicits a lot of respect, from others, or myself for that matter.

I think that in order to treat yourself with respect you definitely have to have a fair amount of self-respect. And I think that to have self-respect, you have to really know who you are, and have confidence in who that person is. For me, in my life, I have to admit there have been a few times when I haven’t been so confident, and I may have settled for something less than I really deserved, just to be safe.

One time, when I was a 20-something, newly promoted account executive at an advertising agency, my boss asked me to make a presentation to the client. Now you have to understand, for as long as I can remember, I have had a fear of speaking in front of people, so even though this was just a small group, and made up of people I’d known for a while, I was absolutely terrified. And as embarrassing as this is to admit, and believe me, this is very embarrassing, I totally chickened out. I let my fear get the best of me. I can still see the disappointment on my boss’s face even now, almost thirty years later, when I came up with some lame excuse to get myself out of it. Yuck.

Talk about not respecting myself! And I think the reason I still fret over that decision so often is because it wasn’t just my boss I let down that day…it was myself. I knew back then, and I know it even better today, that I should have made that presentation. Sure, I might have messed up. And I might not have done the best job ever. But at least I would be able to look back without regret, because I had tried.

And, as I’ve gotten older, I am understanding better how life is, really, all about the trying. It doesn’t matter how something turns out, even though our egos will tell us otherwise, because it is the fact that we tried at all that allows us never to regret the not trying. Why it took me so long to figure this out, I’ll never know…maybe it’s been a fear of failure? Or maybe, as Marianne Wilson suggests in her book, “A Return to Love”, in a crazy, backward way, a fear of success? She says:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that people won’t feel insecure around you. We are meant to shine, as children do…And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”

Wow, I wish I’d come across those words when I was 23, rather than 53!

Anyway, in the end, I guess that the key to being able to treat myself with respect is to be confident in who I really am, the good and the not so good, cause then I’ll know more easily what is best for me. And whether it’s letting myself off the hook to keep my sanity, or not letting myself off the hook so I’ll try something new, I should always trust that my true self knows what I need to get my light to shine brighter.

P.S. Dog is ok, boys are gone, and I am liking the Monday morning posting deadline a lot!

WEEK 9: Always Be Open-Minded

“If you keep doing things like you’ve always done them, what you get is what you’ve already got.” — Anonymous

I have always considered myself to be a fairly open-minded person. I will, for the most part, always listen to someone else’s point of view and, even though I might be getting just a teensy bit set in my ways, I will usually consider a different way of doing something, if it seems to make sense.

So when I stumbled upon an internet quiz, “How Open Minded Are You?”, earlier this week, and only scored a 65%, I was a little surprised by the result. It seemed pretty low – kind of like getting a D on a math test (which I’ve had some experience with) and I just couldn’t understand how I did so badly. Was I really that wrong about myself? Well, just to be sure, I decided to take another look at the results, and noticed that along with the number score came the following description: You are tolerant and flexible, and appreciate most lifestyles and viewpoints.” Well, ok, phew! I guess 65% wasn’t so bad after all…but it definitely got me thinking about the other 35%. I decided that this week was the perfect chance to take a look at the areas in my life where I may be just a little less than open-minded.

I seem to have reached a ‘certain age’ when I often may do something more out of habit than anything else. Take the kinds of food I eat. Being a fairly picky eater, I don’t usually ‘experiment’ with anything new…in fact, I can pretty much decide if I’ll try something based solely on the look of it – sad, but true. So the other night when I was offered an appetizer at a party, my first inclination when I saw it was to say no thanks. But then I remembered what week it was, so I took a deep breath, cut one in half (I know, a little wimpy) and popped it into my mouth. And, well, as much as I would like to say I loved it, to prove my point, I’m afraid I can’t. I just didn’t like it. It was really spicy, and as anyone who knows me understands, I am just not a spicy food kind of girl.

So, even with an open mind, the fact is that there are just some things I don’t like. And that’s got to be ok – we’re allowed to not like things, right? What’s important, though, at least for me, is that I remember to consider trying new things, whether it’s food, or ideas, or whatever, even though it might take me out of my comfort zone. I think that a lot of times, whether out of habit, or laziness, or maybe even stubbornness(!), it is often just a lot easier to stick with the status quo.

For example, much to my son’s dismay, I am pretty set in my ways when it comes to how I get my news. He has suggested, a few times, that it might be good for me to broaden my horizons a bit and check out some alternative sources. Up until now I haven’t been too receptive to his suggestions, but in honor of ‘Always Be Open-Minded’ week, I spent some time looking through a few of the websites he had told me about.

Well, it was certainly an eye-opener! Reading about some of the issues we are facing, from a totally different perspective, made me realize that maybe he had a point, and I have had some blinders on, so wasn’t able to see the whole picture. And even though I can’t go so far as to say those websites are any more right than the mainstream media I usually watch, I will absolutely agree that it’s important to open my mind to some other points of view more often. Especially in this day and age, when there are so many ways of distorting the truth with technology (i.e. digital imaging, Photoshop, etc.), and so many people with their own agendas, I think it’s going to require a certain amount of conscious effort to really understand all sides of an issue. It’s not like in the old days when there was Walter Cronkite and…well, Walter Cronkite. Today there are so many choices about where we get our news that it’s almost paralyzing.

So I realized this week that being open-minded, at least for me, is really about my willingness to acknowledge that there is a possibility of another way of looking at something, whether I agree with it or not.  What can be hard, though, is that in order to acknowledge that possibility, I have to let go of my need to be right, and, unfortunately, my ego sometimes gets in the way of that. And I don’t think I’m alone in this. In his book, “The New Revelations; A Conversation with God”, Neale Donald Walsch has a lot to say about this human tendency to always want to be right. He believes that if we could let go of that need, and open ourselves up to the possibility of some new ways of thinking, then we might actually have a chance of getting ourselves out of the mess that we’re in:

So long as you believe that there is such a thing as Right and Wrong, you will be willing to risk everything to be ‘right’. You will not change your beliefs if you think that doing so will make you, or someone you love, wrong. Yet as soon as you change the Right-Wrong axis to a What Works-What Doesn’t Work paradigm, the difficulty of critically analyzing – to say nothing of changing – basic beliefs is eased.”

Maybe if I could let go of my need to be ‘right’ a little more often, and replace it with a need for ‘what works’ instead, then my ego wouldn’t care as much. And without my ego in the way, maybe I could be open-minded more than 65% of the time.

Then who knows…by opening myself up to other possibilities more often, I might actually end up with something that works even better than what I started with.

And I think that is definitely worth a try.