Happy Problem-Solving!

We are always going to have problems. That’s just part of the package of life.

Truthfully, though, a lot of us have far fewer problems than we think we do. Illness, death, starvation, war, abuse… These are problems. And I don’t pretend to have answers.

No, I admit, the majority (but not all by any means) of the problems I encounter in my life or through other peoples’ are #firstworldproblems. As in, we wouldn’t have these problems if we weren’t lucky enough to live a comfortable lifestyle.

I just spent three days with someone who could speak without complaining. It made me very sad because it was readily apparent that everything that frustrated her was also created by her. Call it playing the victim, call it ingratitude or attitude… Beneath it all, that kind of behavior is a form of masochism, which is why it’s so repellent.

I’ve met many people like this. I remember being one of them.

This person doesn’t want to be happy, at least not right now. This person wants to suffer, but why?

From what I’ve seen, I believe this masochistic negativity is triggered by heartbreak and trauma and sustained out of fear. Negativity in the form of complaining and resentment functions as a security blanket.  By complaining, we protect ourselves; we place the blame for our pain outside of ourselves because we are afraid of it being our fault. 

When we cling to our negativity, we are afraid that letting go of it means we are saying that whatever was done to us was okay or that we somehow caused it just by being who we are.

But blame is not really the point.

Taking responsibility for our well-being is not the same thing as taking responsibility for what was done to us. Nothing will take away the events of the past or the scars they gave us, but our hope for happiness lies with our choice to have it.

Happiness is not a perfect state of eternal and constant bliss. As before, we will always have problems. You can tell, though, the people who are generally happy, who maintain a sense of positivity and are able to bounce back after life gives them a knock. Sure, sometimes this is a result of privilege, but it is something that is accessible to everyone who truly wants it…and is willing to do the work for it.

The right work. Becoming a more positive person is not a matter of whether someone is hardworking or lazy. It’s a matter of bravery.

When we truly want to be happy, we make it happen.

The first step is committing, from this moment forward, to be responsible for our own happiness.

The second step is making that commitment again and again and again and again.

We have to let go of our unhappiness in order to be happy. It’s just common sense. We have to let go of our hold on the past to move forward. Yet this is not a one time purchase.

Life will poke at our negative thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. That’s not something that will ever stop. In fact, when we start on the path of happiness, we’ll notice the poking even more. Our default patterns will want to take over, and we must over and over choose to be positive.

This is very tiring work. Sometimes we will fail. We will choose poorly. We will default because it’s easier. But we will also succeed, choose well, and change. And it gets easier because it’s what we truly want. Over time, we change our default setting.

We first change our behaviors, until we’ve changed our overall energy. We go from making positive choices to being a positive person.

When we become positive people, we don’t stop having problems, but we can solve them. Maybe not always as in “solve for x,” but we can figure out how to handle our problems. It’s true that sometimes to solve a problem, what’s needed is a fresh set of eyes.


By choosing happiness, we give ourselves a fresh set of eyes. We take on a new perspective, so we see our problems differently. We see everything differently.

It’s possible. It happens. Happiness and positivity are ours for the taking when we really want them.

It’s a huge change, and change is scary. But it is absolutely a change worth making.

After all, it’s only the rest of your life.

 

So the next time you feel the urge to complain or someone complains at you, take a moment to discover a positive choice to handle the situation. You’ll know what to do, then do it. Each small step adds up to miles.

The Beliefs That Make Us Who We Are

Love.

I find it puzzling and ridiculously annoying that the English language uses only one word to describe about a million different things.

I can love my spouse. I can love my parents. I can love my children, my friends, my pets. I can love God. I can love traveling or writing or cycling or knitting. I can love peanut butter and Netflix.

Yet these are not all the same thing.

Love can be a noun, a verb, an adjective or an adverb. Love can be used in a healthy way and in a toxic way. Love can be spoken but not meant. Love can be epic or tiny.

This doesn’t make any sense. What is love, anyway?

I am a romantic of the highest caliber, so, to me, love is everything. I have sought after it my whole life, and now that I’ve found it, I am very opinionated about it. So too, I’ve found, is everyone else.

They say, When you know, you know. And I know. I know in my bones, in my gut, in my soul. I have found love. I am in love. I understand the words of the poets; I see a whole new world; I am a better person because I truly love someone who truly loves me.

But there are many people who want to argue that what I have is not love, because I share it with someone of my same sex.

I want to say to these people: If you actually have love and know what it is, how can you deny that I do too, even if it doesn’t look the same as yours? Of course, I can’t just claim that homophobic people don’t have real love in their lives.

I had an interesting conversation with someone recently, if you can call it a conversation that is. Mostly it was me yelling while she responded calmly with her opposing opinions. I asked her to explain why she believes love between two people of the same sex is wrong. Her response was, “Because it ends life.” She believes the whole point of life is to procreate; life wants only to reproduce more life. Homosexuality goes against nature, she says, which is why it is a sin.

At the end of our talk, I still wanted to tear someone’s hair out, but even so, I knew this person was a godsend. I needed to hear someone’s reasons for discriminating against people like me beyond “For the Bible tells me so.” I could argue against her reasoning point by point, but the real point is that we hold different beliefs.

I could never believe that homosexuality is a sin. I believe that love is not limited by anatomy. I believe real love always makes the world a better place. That is a belief that makes me who I am.

We all have beliefs that are tied inextricably to the people we are meant to be. Does that mean that the belief in the unnaturalness of some people’s identities are meant to be?Something deep inside me tells me no. I believe that jam should be spread on a scone before the clotted cream, but that’s not tied to my destiny. There’s a line between opinion and belief, though they too often get confused.

Beliefs go deeper than preference, deeper than what we’ve been taught. Our beliefs are written into make up, and often we don’t even know what they are until we look at them. Some of our beliefs are meant to be various, but some are meant to be shared among us all. And Love is at the heart of all belief. No pun intended.

We’ve reached the stage in our development as a species in which we need to examine the stories and beliefs that make us who we are. This need comes from within us; it is a collective urge for growth. It’s nothing new, of course. Mystics and sages have been doing this for centuries upon centuries, but now in the first world there is a mass movement toward self-examination and self-improvement.

Why? Because now we need more than survival. We need more than comfort. We need more than power. We need love.

So the question still lingers, What is love? Given the plethora of ways we use the word, I think it’s clear that, collectively, we don’t yet know or understand it. When we do, I believe the world will look very different.

Love is a huge part of what we are as humans and who we are meant to be. As we search for love, we are really searching for ourselves. That’s where it begins. With you. With me. With each of us.

Have a look see. In your heart of hearts, what do you believe in? What do you love?

How Meaning Is Made

The question that has bothered humanity since the beginning of consciousness–and that inspires my life’s work–is “Why?”

Why are we here? What does it all mean?

We can answer all the other questions just fine–Who? What? When? Where? How? And yet the why of it all drives us mad if we let it, if we see the lack of a clear answer as uncertainty. Uncertainty leads to insecurity, which leads to fear, which very often leads to violence in some form or other. But the why is not uncertain. It is mysterious.

Over the millennia, we have created countless traditions that seek and revel in mystery. Call them wisdom, philosophy, religion, spiritual path, or whatever you will. They feed our souls and fill the void that no amount of knowledge could ever fill. At the end of the day, our beliefs are what give our lives meaning.

But what is meaning and how do we make it?

Meaning is truth created by the connection of beings through shared language.

For example, you read a book or a poem or an essay that feels like it was written specifically for you. The writer perfectly describes your experience even though you’ve never met. They’ve said it, you’ve read it, and now it’s become truth in your life. You share your new truth with your friends and family, and if it is true for them, your bond grows more meaningful.

That’s how faith traditions work. We are drawn to the truth communicated in language that makes sense to us as individuals and communities. Certain words, gestures, and practices are meaningful because they give us peace in the presence of “Why?”

The thing is, those certain words, gestures, and practices are not the same for everyone. But the end goal is.

Thus far I have sought the truth in Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Wicca and other pagan paths, metaphysics, and Yoga… and I’ve found that every spiritual path I’ve encountered, at its heart, teaches the same wisdom. We’re all going to the same place; we just have different ways of getting there.

So what’s the answer? What’s the truth? What does it all mean?

We make the meaning.

Whether you see God as a person, as energy, as emptiness, as one or many or none–the truth is. The Truth comprises all of our truths. We make it. It takes all of us.

For me, everything is meaningful. Every relationship, every event, every choice, every breath. I take my responsibility for meaning making very seriously and also very joyfully.

I believe we are here to learn, to grow, to explore, to experiment, to love, to wonder, to play, to live and to die. And that really is the why it of all.

Remember when you were a kid and your parents made you do something you didn’t understand or didn’t want to do? You’d ask, “Why?” and they’d say, “Because.” It’s frustrating, and it’s probably the truest thing ever.

I believe in a divine design, and we each have a part to play in its unfolding. God is in everything, and we are in God. That’s why it is so important for all of us to live out our authentic paths and purposes.

Together as a species, as a planet, as a universe, as life itself, as the divine–we are growing and creating. Maybe it’s toward something, maybe it’s just because. That’s the mystery. That’s the meaning. We’re making it up as we go.

Your life is meaningful. It matters that you grow into the person you are meant to be.

As each flower blooms, the garden becomes more beautiful.

“Beauty is truth, truth beauty”–that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.
–John Keats, “Ode on a Grecian Urn”

The Way of Forgiveness

Forgiveness is not merely the “it’s okay” spoken after “I’m sorry.”

It’s not letting someone back into your heart. It’s not letting someone off the hook.

Forgiveness is letting yourself off the hook.

When we do not forgive, we are on the hook of our own pain. We cling to it, using a past wound to define the choices we make, the paths we pursue, the people we let into our lives. More truthfully, we use it as an excuse for what we don’t do.

Our grudges becomes our walls.

The walls we build out of our grudges may feel safe, but we are not meant to be caged. We need to grow. We need to explore our potential. We need to share ourselves with the world.

That’s why we need to forgive.

The truth is, forgiveness is a choice, and it is a selfish one. That’s a good thing. In this way, we should all be more selfish.

 

Forgiveness is a powerful tool and pathway to healing and wholeness, for us individually and collectively. Forgiveness is the weapon of the wise. 

 

 

Many people mistake forgiveness as something that must be received from someone else. When feeling guilty, they go to God or another person and ask for their forgiveness.

This is lazy.

To be forgiven, you must first forgive…yourself.

Forgiveness is hard work. Excruciating, actually. Because forgiveness requires us to examine ourselves, really examine ourselves and our actions.

It’s one thing to admit we’ve done wrong. Everyone makes mistakes. We all know that. It’s quite another to know why we’ve done what we’ve done.

When we look at our whole selves, we find that each of us is capable of great evil and great goodness and everything in between.

We go wrong when we isolate pieces of ourselves and ignore the whole. Maybe we maintain our self esteem by focusing only on our good qualities, unable to bear criticism. Maybe we are comfortable in self-loathing, quick to criticize ourselves. Neither of these are true or beneficial.

Likewise, when we meet someone, our opinion of them is based on our isolated observations of and interactions with them. Whether we like or dislike them, we are not giving credit to the whole person. We may praise them or disdain them based on how they treat us on a particular occasion.

Either way, we can know that they have reasons for being the way the are, doing what they do, saying what they say. As do we ourselves.

For better or for worse, we all have our reasons.

When someone hurts us, we are guaranteed that there were people and events behind their behavior we may never understand. We are also guaranteed that we have and will again hurt someone too.

Forgiveness is the conscious choice to release our grip on pain, anger, resentment. It means to accept the reality of what has happened and leave it in the past. It is the only thing that frees us to live the lives we were always meant to.

The way of forgiveness is a practice. As with anything else, it takes time and repetition to build strength and skill. We can all become adept forgivers.

To begin, start small. When one of your less desirable qualities arises–as it undoubtedly will–laugh at it. Make fun of yourself. Forgive yourself for not being perfect. Rather than resenting this trait, accept it. It is as much a part of yourself as your best quality, and you had reasons for developing this characteristic.

Another practice is speaking your forgiveness out loud. Don’t wait until you feel ready to forgive, because that won’t happen. When you’re alone, think of the person who wronged you and say, “I forgive you.”

It won’t happen immediately, but with practice it will happen. Again, you’re not letting that person off the hook. You’re letting yourself off the hook of your pain so you can move forward.

Some wounds are so enormous they feel impossible to forgive. But if you believe it is possible and you truly want to be free, you will make it happen. The power of your faith and your will is enough. It may not look exactly like you think it should, but your life is your own to live.

We owe it to ourselves and to God and to the world to practice forgiveness. Through forgiveness, we may become our best, happiest, and freest selves.. and that is exactly what the world needs.

The Work of Anger

If allowed to, anger will overwhelm completely.

Anger is more blinding even than infatuation. When anger takes root, it breeds on itself, growing into bitterness and hatred.

Angry people live in a hateful world, one that is out to get them. To an angry person, God is wrathful and separate from us. So too are other people disconnected and isolated. Every man out for himself. Dog eat dog. No one helped me, why should I help anyone else?

Anger is a lonely business. Anger pushes people away. Anger is a rejection of God and all the blessings the Universe has to offer. When we choose to be angry, we are saying, “I am better off without the rest of the world.” The ego cuts off from the rest of the Self. Angry people are not whole people.

 

Anger is like a virus, infecting our vision and spreading to everything we contact. Anger can become a whole life, an all-encompassing outlook. It can define, and has, an entire race of people if left untreated.

So how to treat anger?

The thing is, anger cannot be cured, because anger is not the disease. Anger is the symptom of a truer emotion, and treating the symptom only prolongs the illness.

When we look behind anger, we discover heartbreak.

 

We each have our own individual heartbrokenness that we carry with us throughout life. Colloquially speaking, “Everyone’s got their shit.” Baggage, we call it.

It is true that heartbreak is universal. Everybody experiences it. It is commonplace.

In some ways, treating heartbreak as such is beneficial. We can be flippant about it precisely because we all go through it. We shouldn’t dwell on our pain, lest we prevent ourselves from enjoying all life has to offer. Individually and collectively, we need to be functional members of the human race.

At the same time, dismissal often leads to suppression. That’s how heartbreak transforms into anger.

It’s not that we aren’t meant to be angry sometimes. Anger in and of itself is not bad; it is an emotion, a response, a natural human experience–one we need to understand better.

We commit evil out of anger. We cause pain and destruction. We are participants in a karmic cycle, all guilty of doing to others exactly what was done to hurt us.

That’s a hard pill to swallow. Most of the time, angry people don’t want to take responsibility for their anger or their actions. Some people are so deeply entrenched in their anger that they don’t even see it anymore. If approached and asked, “Why are you angry,” they may respond, “I’m not angry! I’m a realist/I’m telling it like it is/It’s not me, it’s them!”

The problem is that this begins at such a young age, before we even learn responsibility. Our hearts are first broken when we are children, and we don’t know how to handle it. Our parents are of little help if they never dealt with their heartbreak either. So we grow up heartbroken people just doing our best.

But we can do better.

We can heal.

We are meant to be whole. Body, heart, mind, and soul.

Anger is our symptom, heartbreak is our disease, and forgiveness is our medicine.

 

Tomorrow’s Post: The Way of Forgiveness

 

We Know More Than Our Minds

Sometimes what you think doesn’t really matter.

When making choices, each of us has a plethora of guides to help us. We have our minds, we have our bodies, we have our emotions, and we have our intuitions.

That’s a lot of voices talking to us at once. How do we know which to listen to?

In our technology driven society, our mind is the valued source of information, while the validity of the others is diminished. This is an error in judgement.

Our emotions indicate whether something is right for us, but as we’re taught to repress them, their signals get confused.

Our bodies readily tell us when something is wrong in our life, but our culture has trained us to throw a pill at it instead of listening to it.

Our intuitions are our direct link to the energies vibrating within and all around us, but our minds dismiss its messages as irrational.

Although it is supposed to be our most reliable source of information, the mind is not actually a superior function. It is on the same level as our emotions, bodies, and intuitions. They are meant to work together. When we preference one of our guides and dismiss the others, we knock ourselves out of balance.

The problem with relying solely on the mind is that the mind can rationalize anything. And if we have it doing all the information processing and conclusion drawing, it’s gonna make a mess of things.

How often do you feel lost in your thoughts, like there’s a million voices talking in your brain pulling you in different directions?

How often do you regret picking out the one thought that should have been left alone and choose to act on it?

How often do you feel like something is wrong but you have no idea what?

Can you ever get your mind to stop talking?

Our minds are not meant to carry the load we put on them. It’s gone so far that we link our whole identities to our minds and their thoughts. No wonder we so often feel lost and confused.

When we are open to receive the messages from all four of our guides, we stop being lost. We have a path and a purpose, and we are equipped with everything we need to fulfill them.

Instead of insulting our emotions, bodies, and intuition by telling them to shut up, we should be grateful for them.

They are not like talents, stronger in some and weaker in others. Each and every one of us has these gifts and can use them to create our best lives. If they’ve gone dormant from disuse, they will happily reawaken.

The next time you find yourself frazzled, take a moment to breathe and listen. Let your mind rest and allow your other guides to speak.


What are your feelings telling you?

What is your body telling you?

What is your gut telling you?

Then trust yourself.

Sometimes what you think doesn’t matter.

But what you know always does.

 

 

 

Not Perfect. Brave.

We are not meant to live perfect lives.

We will never have perfect health, perfect work, perfect relationships, perfect finances, perfect leisure, perfect faith or perfect time-management to do everything that makes up our lives.

We all make ourselves sick. We all make mistakes at work. We all hurt the people in our lives. We all make stupid purchases. We all get stressed on vacation. We all put our spirits on the back burner when there’s too much “real life” stuff going on.

Even when you’re living your best life, it will not feel perfect if you want to get rid of the flaws.

The example of Alan Watts comes to mind. His life was such a gift to the world. He played an instrumental role in the movement of bringing Eastern thought to the West. He wrote many books and gave even more lectures filled with wisdom and insight. He had a unique spark about him that he willingly shared and that lives on after him in his work.

He also had three failed marriages and a drinking problem that, it has been said, was a reaction to his anxiety of public speaking and a contributing factor to his death.

Do these pieces of his life make his whole life not perfect? Who cares?

Who’s to say the world would have the brilliance of Alan Watts without his flaws? What if, instead of writing and speaking, he focused his energy on perfecting his flaws?

How many of us are guilty of exactly that? How many of us deny the world our gifts because we fear showing our imperfection?

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We all have something we need to give birth to, and there will always be metaphorical power lines in the way.

I argue that our true faults are not our “character flaws” or our failed ventures. Our real imperfections are our tendencies to deny our hearts’ desires and our lives’ missions.

We make ourselves imperfect when we make choices that take us off our path, that steer us away from giving our gifts to the world. We choose the wrong school, spouse, career, religion, location, community, hobby…because we convince ourselves that’s the life we should want.

Should be is safe. Meant to be takes bravery.

So why worry about your flaws? Are people going to criticize you? Yes, every step of the way. Everyone who’s ever done anything has done it in the face of criticism. This is a step on all of our paths–learning to be who we’re meant to be and what we’re meant to do no matter what!

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For me, it’s this.

 

We are not meant to live perfect lives.

We are meant to live brave ones.