The first essential step we all need to take

Screen Shot 2014-09-02 at 2.10.45 PMIn the book Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior by Chogyam Trungpa (who is Pema Chodron’s teacher) he wrote “Habitual patterns allow you to look no further than 3 steps ahead of you.”

Brilliant.

Simple.

100% accurate.

The start of the path to our true self is seeing our true environment, both inside and out.  And it starts by analyzing our habitual patterns and then letting them go.  

Once we’ve let them go, the path then gets longer and brighter.  We can see more than our next fix. We see more than 3 steps.

A tall, but very rewarding process.

The importance of sharing our devils

Our devils

What is in the shadows

It is a hard thing to open up and sadly, often impossible for some.  We are so afraid of what would happen if other people saw just how different we were.  Just how fucked up we think we are.  

We’re not so different, though.  Our devils may have variations but at the core we are all the same.  We all have fears, an ego, shortcomings, apprehensions, weaknesses, doubts and a very large part of us that is scared.  Very, very scared.  

But when you let the devils out into a conversation, you are no longer that avatar or facade that you have been promoting. You’ve let your true self out.  You’ve connected with another human being on the most human of levels; letting them know that they are not alone.  That what they think and feel and wake up at panicked with at 2am is exactly what keeps you up as well.

It is what keeps us all up.

We are one

The sharing of our devils connects us to the whole of humanity but does more than simply remind us that we are not alone.  It also shrinks the size of our devils.  It puts them in their place because it is no longer them against you.  It is them against all of us.  And there are a lot of us.  

Becoming your true self is a journey of honesty with yourself and others.  So it is essential that these devils we all work so hard to hide get brought out into the light.  

We’re in this together.  

Don’t be afraid to share what is in your shadows because an honest life is so much more fulfilling than living with the devils.  

4 steps on how to be true to yourself

1882317616_9f2d324636_zThis is challenging.  No doubt at all.  

But, it is possible. Personally, in the past few years, I’ve found myself in may situations where I do feel like it would not only be easier, but necessary to sacrifice what I want.  In some cases, I did and overall the results were poor.  

Sacrifice is an essential part of being a good human being, but it is the extent of the sacrifice you make that you have to keep in check.  You can’t give yourself away and here is how not to:

  1. Be honest.  
    1. To yourself–If it feels like you are getting pulled in a direction that you are uncomfortable with, vocalize to yourself what feels hard and why.  Answer the question “What is it that I want?”  This act of labelling what it is that you want quickly strips away all the bullshit.
    2. To others-Don’t underestimate other people’s ability to empathize.  Tell them when you are struggling. You’ll may  surprised at how human and understanding other people can be.  
  2. Educate rather than isolate–When other people question what it is that you are doing, don’t see it as a challenge or disapproval (even if it is).  Use it as a time to educate them on what it is that you are doing and why.  Remember that you have had a lot more time with your thoughts and idea than they have, so they need time to get up to acclimate.  It may feel that you need to cut them off or isolate them from your lives, but what if you just took more time and patience with them while still nurturing your bond? 
  3. You can’t be wrong–If you are acting from a place of honesty and being true to what it is that you want, you cannot fail.  Your truth and ideas are essential to who you are and can’t be ignored.  Trust this deep inner honesty and truth.  It won’t steer you wrong.  Believe this.  
  4. Focus on the direction rather than the destination-It is much more important that you are letting your honesty and truths move you in the right direction rather than arriving at what you see as the destination.  Being on the path of your truth is much more valuable than being at the destination of a lie.  

And when all else fails and/or it gets confusing, see point #1.  It is never wrong.  

How to move past the hopelessness

Acknowledging how you feel

HopelessI’ve often found myself with a very heavy sense of hopelessness.  In some cases, feeling a very powerful sensation of not having a way out and I need to be very proactive in keeping this emotion in balance.  If I’m not careful, I can easily jump to many worse case scenarios that can overpower my current thoughts and cripple me into inaction.  At that point, I’m not going anywhere and moving more into my true self is halted.

Therefore, I work very hard with myself and clients to find bright spots.  Bright spots is a term coined by the Heath brothers in the book Switch.  Simply put, it is noticing what exists in your life when you feel things are working, and then replicating it in all areas of your life.  So for example, if I feel good at the end of the day, I often ask myself “What was different about today?” Or if I had a good conversation with somebody that really challenges my patience, I reflect up on what made this encounter special.  It is finding those mindsets, attitudes, situations and feelings deep from within and applying them to all areas of your life.

How to start

  • You have to be honest.  Gentle and kind, but honest.  A true moment of honesty produces very moving results.  
  • If you feel nothing is working, then find the areas of your life that are the least uncomfortable and analyze them.  They might not ideal, but they are more so than others, so deconstruct what it is that allows you to feel better about these areas.
  • If your life has a real range of sensations and feelings, then target those true bright spots.  Put them under a magnifying glass and see why they are so special to you.
  • Start to feel areas of your body as you think.  Notice where your emotions settle into your body and how the body changes depending on your emotional state.
  • Spend more time alone or at least quiet.
  • Take away judgement.  Think “no thought deserves a gold metal or a reprimand”.
  • Be gentle as you apply the bright spots to the dark ones.
  • Go slow.  Change is slow but the process can very be enjoyable if you give yourself a reasonable timeframe.
  • Keep at it.
  • Keep at it.
  • Keep at it.
  • Be frequent with your reflections and don’t shy away from it when it is uncomfortable.  That is where the really good stuff is; where all the learning happens.  You can learn more about yourself in a  few minutes reflecting on the challenging issues than a life time on the easy ones.
  • Be emotional.  Let yourself cry (even if your a guy.  Especially if you are a guy).
  • Look at your language.  How do you label events in your life?  How do you talk to yourself?  Others?
  • Get support.  Other people can listen, offer support and insight.  A change in perspective can jump you in an instant to a completely new way of thinking.

We are not alone in sharing a sense of hopelessness.  It is a very valuable emotion.

However, like all emotions, it needs to pass and not become a lifestyle.  Start the work and uncover the learnings that hopelessness has offered you and enrich your life with it’s teachings.

Developing life skills requires patience

Skills are not instant

Learning how to either develop new habits and/or leave other ones behind takes time.

Creating your own Personal Development and Sticking with itI know that might seem like an obvious statement, but one of the most common things I hear from people is: “I tried that once and it didn’t work” or “It was way too hard, so I just stopped”.  Having “it” not work or feeling that it is too hard needs your re-evaluation of how you are going about it.  You need to think of it as developing a skill. And like all skills, it requires that you:

Go at a reasonable pace where you are challenged, yet not frustrated.

Pick a starting point that represents your current abilities and tolerance for change.

Realize that it is not an all or nothing endeavour.  There are shades of trying and it does not need to be like a light switch where it is either on and bright or off and dark.  Your efforts are more like a dimmer switch for that light.

Consistently keep trying and growing

If you were teaching a child how to dive into a pool,  would you take him/her to the top of a cliff and say “After you jump, just make yourself go in head first”?  Of course not.  You would start slowly at the edge of the pool or dock and encourage him/her to take steps that challenge them but that do not frustrate them to the point of quitting.  Over time, you will see their skills increase and with diligence everyday, they will be able to dive from much higher up.

Your development, your skill

Whether you’ve wanted to start yoga, quit smoking, drink less, write more and/or just be nicer to yourself and others, ask yourself this: Have I thrown myself off the cliff when starting change? Or have I treated it like a skill and slowly but very steadily tried to increase it?  I have a book out entitled “Creating YOUR Personal Development: How To Do It Everyday and Thrive“.  It is an eight chapter guide that works with you to create, sustain and continually grow your personal development endeavor.  It is available on Amazon.  I’d love your feedback and hope that you find it a valuable tool.

3 ways to create the most important moment of your day

The only thing between the ideas in your head and creating a reality is the act of starting.  It is a humbling process of letting go of your ego and preconceived images of perfection and simply getting messy.  And messy to the point where you can only laugh at yourself.6132262825_faaa3647f2_z

You see, we each have ideas of what we’d like to be doing or be, but in reality, they are just not happening.  Whenever I personally have problems with doing, or I”m talking to others who keep starting sentences with “I wish I could…”, this is what always works:

1.  Be OK with a “rough” start.  The important thing is starting so don’t worry about how it looks.  In reality, most people are so caught up in their own lives that nobody is paying attention to you anyway.  So if you want to start something new or stop something old, then do just that. 

And let it be less than ideal because the act of starting isn’t so much about actually doing something well.  It is about getting into it mentally.  That act of actually feeling the process start releases a tidal wave of motivation, a sense of accomplishment and kills the dread.

2.  Say “Fuck it” out loud (I know serious bloggers shouldn’t swear, but Fuck it).  Seriously.  Do the best you can with what you have and release the judgement of it all.  It is not perfect so fuck it.  It won’t ever be perfect ever.  Just. Try.

3.  Don’ think past the start.  There is a time to plan ahead and look up at where you are going, but sometimes looking too far ahead can paralyze you.  The idea is to let your brain act on some of the ideas you have in your head without worrying where it will take you.  Let your brain indulge and if it is happy, then you can start to look at step 2 and 3 and 4 and 5……but right now, all you need to enjoy is step one.

Don’t over think it.

Let it be ugly.

Let is be imperfect.

Do the best you can in your current situation and focus on starting.

When you are done, go about your day.  Then sleep. Then get up and start again.

The rest will come; if you keep starting that is.

Overestimating what you have

“Change is hard because people overestimate the value of what they have—and underestimate the value of what they may gain by giving that up.” James Belasco and Ralph Stayer Flight of the Buffalo (1994)

This quote raises a very interesting question about what impedes our path on our way to being our true self.  A good example for me was this morning.  I didn’t want to meditate.  I was feeling OK, not great, but good enough that I felt I could just keep Don't overestimate your situationon working.  I overestimated the quality of my mind.  In short, I settled.

Luckily, I did sit for my 20 minutes, and when I opened my eyes at the end, I felt lighter.  I felt in touch.  I had noticed reoccurring thoughts that I hadn’t noticed when my eyes were open.  I had underestimated the power of the 20 minutes.

That is just a small example, but if you look, I’m sure you can find 100 things in your daily life that you are interested in doing, but have overestimated your level of contentment.  A conversation with your spouse, a run, a personal project, an unsent email, a book half way read, etc.  As well, it might even be in the realm of not doing.  Turning the TV off earlier, drinking less, or getting less angry or impatient.

Whatever it is, ask yourself if with a little bit of effort, “what small act would allow me to navigate the resistance on the road to being my true self?   For me it was just sitting an closing my eyes.  What is yours?