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Friday
Feb162007

Heed your own advice

I think to phrases like "practice what you preach" and "if you make your bed, you must lie in it."  These kinds of expressions are passed down through generations.  Why do you think that is?

I tend to think they're effective echos meant to teach us things about ourselves at the same time as we aim to guide others.  When you're asked for advice by a student or a friend, and you explain that you recognize room for improvement in their situation or behavior, you will also see room for improvement in yourself.  The question is, will you choose to recognize and learn from it? 

During my school days, I recall my mom telling me I had to wear socks in my shoes to class unless it was at least five degrees Celcius outdoors.  My desire to wear bare feet in my shoes on colder days led me to remove the socks many times once I had walked down the hill to my bus stop.  I though what she didn't know about my feet wouldn't hurt her.  On a few occasions when I did catch a cold as the result of no socks, I realized it would've been useful to heed her advice.  

I suppose what it comes down to is many people believe they shouldn't tell other people to do things unless they would be willing to do it themselves.  Yet, what we choose to tell people may also represent what we think we need to hear.  We may advise others based on what we would do in their circumstances, but since it isn't us, our advice may be misdirected or a projection. 

You may hear of an alcoholic father tell his son not to drink, when he goes right on drinking himself. You may learn of a single parent encouraging a child to study harder to become accepted to university when this is a dream the single parent had yet to realize.  You may advise a friend to elope when you never had the courage to make such a decision yourself.  You may encourage a brother to take a job abroad when but for your fears, you only dream of the experience yourself. You may advise friends not to get their children involved in too many activities when your toddler's agenda is busier than your own.  Whatever advice you offer to others may be what you most wish for yourself.  In principle, these choices you suggest may be great opportunities for the people you advise, but their choices are ultimately theirs.  Your life choices could benefit from your advice.

Above all, listen closely to yourself. You can always become more attuned to who you are and the steps you need to take to become the person you envisage. Yoru offers clues about what to do.        

Friday
Feb162007

8 Tips to Strengthen Life Relationships

1. Identify your thoughts & feelings honestly: explore if you communicate exactly what you feel.  In cases where you haven't been open with others, then you're also lying to yourself. It's unlikely people will be able to read your mind.  As you clarify things for them, you will also help yourself.

2. Confront your negative thoughts & feelings: determine the root causes of pain and related fears that may drag you down.  Consider a time when you may have sabotaged a relationship.  Imagine you remove weeds from your mind and a more positive relationship garden will grow.

3. Facilitate two-way communication: act to become a more effective listener and speaker.  Men only take in small amounts of information at a time. They feel comfortable when they take turns. Women are multi-taskers. They thrive on talking fast and cover more topics in depth.   Whatever your gender or personality, remind yourself that not everyone is well-equipped to think and talk about many things at once.  Listen to the words you choose. They reveal your personality type.

4. Empathize with others to sense how they feel: grow to appreciate things from different points of view.  Explain that you understand what a person has said by repeating it and putting it into context.  You also have the freedom to explain why their opinion may not apply and why.

5. Practice problem-solving: isolate problems, generate alternatives, and evaluate your results.  If you have issues with someone or forsee a potential issue, try dealing with it hypothetically. Imagine a scenario to yourself or aloud with the other person involved.  Discuss potential reactions and how you would react if you were in their shoes. Reverse roles. Share opinions.

6. Assert yourself: tell others what you desire, work toward it and be willing to compromise. You need to find the courage to discuss what your relationship goals are on various levels. The only way you will know if you are on the same wavelength about shared issues (i.e., children, bills, housing, groceries, chores, ect.,) is if you learn to present your views in non-threatening ways.

7. Accept change: reframe your traits as more than static strengths & weaknesses.  As your perception evolves, you will learn to see benefits to making different kinds of life decisions.  You will gain a sense of what choices make you feel good about yourself and which ones don't.  Recognize that your relationships are evolving at different rhythms too. Some people evolve together and other people evolve such that they grow apart. Learn to understand the reasons why your relationships evolve as they do. Do you take an active interest in other people?

8. Highlight the positive: build relationships by discerning different reasons for compatibility or incompatibility.  You may openly compliment other people, raise their spirits and also your own.  If you hope to build a deeper or more intimate realtionship with someone, highlighting their strengths and talents will encourage them to excel and help them to build confidence. As the saying goes, what goes around comes around.  

As you assess what it would require to refine and strengthen your relationships, as you take action to make them more real, you'll learn to reduce stress, and attract people and circumstances that enrich you. Write out how working through each of the above steps will help make that happen.

Friday
Feb162007

Redefine a sense of freedom

Imagine yourself 5-10 yrs from now. How do you see yourself? Where are you living? What is your lifestyle? Are you able to focus on what means the most to you? Do you have the kind of relationships and security that you desire? Benjamin Franklin, former U.S. president, suggests that if we give up freedom for our perception of security, we may not obtain or deserve either one. Perhaps the secret of happiness is found by redefining our own freedom, and the secret of freedom is the ability we develop to access and apply our own courage? Once you realize you control your choices, you have supply of courage, and you define your own freedom, you will arguably come into your own.

You may have heard the phrase “where you come from is not as important as where you’re going.” What do Oprah Winfrey, Burt Munro, J.K. Rowling and Stephen Spielberg all have in common? They all endured hardships on the road to making their dreams come true. They are the sort of people who remind me that my attitude toward circumstances can enable me to grow.

Oprah Winfrey sensed from a young age that she wished to grow up and be paid for talking. Imagine that from the age of three, she volunteered to recite in her local church. Her enthusiasm for speaking grew. She was scorned for being born out of wedlock. She was raised by different people in different homes, disciplined and physically abused by four male relatives. Early on, she did get into some trouble in school, but she grew determined to make something of herself. She took a risk to leave high school to take a job as a reporter in Chicago. Though she was eventually fired from that job for being too emotional, her ability to take risks is the reason she is where she is today, a financially successful entertainer, businesswoman and philanthropist.

Burt Munro was a NZ motorcycle legend. At age 16, he bought his first moto (with sidecar) and never looked back. People thought he was a dare devil but he developed a kind of fearlessness. He became resourceful by building motorcycles out of objects and parts other people had thrown away. At age 68, although he had heart trouble and doctors advised him to give up his moto biking, he got the under-1000 cc world land speed record in 1967 at Bonneville Salt Flats on an Indian motorcycle he modified himself. His record stands! He died after 3 more years of races.

J.K. Rowling is a woman who pursues her passions. They got her into trouble. Her choices led her to be an unemployed single mom, yet she still had a vision. She was determined to create opportunities. She studied to become a teacher. She wrote a story on napkins which many of us know as the Harry Potter series. The popularity led to financial success which changed her life.

Stephen Spielberg was clever, and inspired me with his persistence. His high school report card gave the illusion that he wasn’t intelligent. At one point, he visited Universal studios as a tourist and slipped off the trolley to explore ‘behind the scenes’ for a day. He spoke with the security guard and then went back daily for a month pretending to be an intern. He was always dressed up, carried a briefcase and looked as though he knew what he was doing. He spoke with writers, producers, directors and even adopted a vacant office as his own. When he showed a high school project to one of the directors, he was taken on board. Box office sales of his movies

Ultimately, the freedom to choose enables us to shape our own attitude. You may not get to choose how or when you die, but you do have the power to decide how you will live in the present. If you are too influenced by the desires or opinions of others, you will be unable to focus on or realize your own desires. Power of identifying your goals: I grew up surrounded by people who chose jobs with predictable paths of study, income and lifestyle. Yet, something within me always wished to choose the unpredictable and often more difficult path. I’ve been described as an enigma, yet I realize my choices determine how I perceive and define my sense of freedom.

Friday
Feb162007

Flickering candles

Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe.  -- St. Augustine

In the not so distant past, I went to visit one of my favorite cemeteries in Pirita.  I'd only been there once before, but that was accompanied by a friend who simply pointed out a few plots before we left.  This time, I went alone of my own initiative.  I had returned because during my visit years before, I experienced a mysterious energy and calmness that drew me back.

The Pirita district lies within Tallinn’s boundaries, only a 10 - 15 minutes by bus from this Estonian capital. When you discover Pirita, you nearly forget the bustle of Tallinn.  You're suddenly embraced by a dense, pine forest, refreshing sea air and, a renewing peace and tranquility. It's a place that has the power to enable you to stand back and perceive your life in different ways.

So, I was drawn to explore Tallinn's famous cemetery, Metsakalmistu, officially opened in 1939. Among its most famous permanent residents are Estonia’s first president, Konstantin Päts, writers Lydia Koidula and Anton-Hansen Tammsaare, chess player Paul Keres, composer Raimond Valgre and singer Georg Ots. At the time of my second visit, I wasn't especially interested in visiting celebrity graves, but I had heard these people had been buried in the idyllic place.

I rode an empty bus from another era. I was the only passenger to exit across from the cemetery. Apart from that, a peasant woman in simple clothes and kerchief caught my attention. She stood motionless beside a folding white table covered in candles. I assumed she was the caretaker's wife. A small, wooden home stood closeby. I smiled at her plump, solemn face and crossed the unpaved street to enter the cemetery grounds. I carried no map. I had no planned itinerary. I simply intended to stroll and explore. The different levels of plots fascinated me with their small sets of steps. The setting reminded me of an Escher painting or a kind of dream. As birds sang and fluttered above, I felt surrounded by an enchanted garden full of life.

Looking back, what was rather extraordinary was how I felt drawn in a certain direction. My legs were receptive. I became open to new kinds of awareness and no other people were in sight.   I gazed up at the pine roof and heard the wind whispering things I couldn't quite make out. Still moving forward, I admired epitaphs and unique, stone masonry. I also passed a brick structure and approached an area of plots sheltered behind it.  A sign indicated these people were recognized by government for their contributions to society.  

A stronger pull drew me to walk through the rows to bring me face to face with the tombstone of a man I realized was my great grandfather.  I hadn't known he was buried there.  I remembered having been told that he was an Olympic soccer coach and much respected. Just then, I noticed a candle flickering out by my feet. I wondered who had placed it there since my great grandfather had died nearly 30 years before.

My instinct was to retrace my steps to the lady with the folding table.  She stood precisely where I had seen her before.  I chose one of her largest, white candles, paid her and returned to my great grandfather's grave.  I stared at it for a while and listened to silence before I took a photo.

Perhaps this experience deepened my relationship with a spiritual side that strengthens my inner guidance.  I pay closer attention to my dreams and often gain new insight into myself. Over time, I've learned the more I recognize the power of my dreams in waking life, the more willing I am to stop looking at circumstances logically. We can decide what is possible by way of thoughts and feelings.Some people claim to only believe what they see. My own life teaches me that believing enables me to see the positive results of what I attract.

Friday
Feb162007

Mysterious, helpful strangers

Who are those people who seem to appear just when we need assistance and then disappear back into the woodwork? You hear about roadside rescues on abandoned highways, people who offer you that extra amount of money you need for the parking meter or grocery bill when a line of impatient peole give you the evil eye.  You may perceive these as good fortune or godsends.  Yet, could these incidents be more than that, gestures which renew your faith in people and your sense of hope about your future?

I recall a time when I lived in France.  I was returning home late at night by the Champs Elysees metro and walking down the road alongside Le Grand Palais museum.  I came across a homeless man on a bench whom I hadn't seen before. I was familiar with another homeless man whom I saw regularly near my place and offered him fresh fruit or whatever food I had. This wasn't him. 

The man on the bench wore simple clothes and said things to me which captured my attention.

"You know what you need to do.  Your place isn't here because..." and he proceeded to tell me intimate details about my life which still baffles me to this day.  His eyes were a deep blue and reflected genuine compassion.  He went on that what I was doing wasn't what I was meant to do.

"You'll be leaving soon, " he said, though his sense of time might've been different than mine.  "Your life is unfolding somewhere else."

From the moment he started speaking to me, it appeared that time stood still. I sat beside this friendly stranger and listened to him tell me that my sense of success at the time was somehow misdirected. He told me a fable and then asked me if I wished him to read my palm.  I nodded.

"All I need is a bit of salt," he replied.  I explained that I lived nearby and would go fetch some.  I scurried off, passing the familiar homeless man asleep around a corner behind the refuse bin. When I returned to the bench with the salt, the man from under the streetlamp was gone.

I never have gotten that experience out of my mind.  His kind words still echo in my head.  That mysterious, helpful stranger was very accurate in his assessment of my life at that time.  When I've mentioned this experience to a handful of people, they suggest I must've been dreaming.  Perhaps I was visited by another angel who was offering me the chance to redefine my sense of success.  I read between the lines of our brief conversation and listened to my heart. He was like a sounding board in passing which resonated feelings in my conscience. It wasn't long before I did leave France. Low and behold, my life took very different and exhilarating turns. My view of success today is very different. I moderate extreme passions and listen to my inner soul.