Second Thought, First Action

I am so glad I found Cine Club Los Cabos. Every Thursday they show movies for free at the local high school. This month will be French films with Spanish subtitles, which will be a fun language lesson for me. Last month they showed movies about and created by women. “BrØdre” or Brothers was one of the movies shown. Although it centered around two men, it was a film written and directed by Danish filmmaker Susanne Bier. The film shows the progression of the no-good alcoholic brother becoming a standup man, and his brother falling into violence and lies after being an upstanding citizen, good husband, and esteemed military leader.

The start of the fall begins when the older “good” brother has to make a life or death decision in wartime. He may not have made the choice we would hope he would, but it was during a war and he was going to die otherwise. I couldn’t really fault him for what he did. What did become difficult to watch was how he lied about the incident again, and again, and again. In one scene, he goes to visit the family of the man he killed. If ever there was a chance to redeem oneself, this would be it. But instead of telling the whole truth or at least that her husband is dead, he tells a massive lie which gives the spouse hope of her diseased husband coming home with no potential of it ever occurring. As I shook my head and sighed, I noticed the woman in front of me doing the same.

How easy it is to see what someone should do and how difficult it is for us to do it in our own life.

angry action
Photo by Heather M. Edwards on Unsplash

I have been doing a lot of personal work lately (again, still) and one of the things I am focusing on are my thoughts and reactions to situations.  I am noticing how my first thoughts when I am triggered are to blame the other person. I can put together a laundry list of how they are a bad person and how what they did is inexcusable. My first desire is then to attack them for how bad they are. Instead, now I try to stop and to look at my part. Once I can see how my words and actions caused or inflated the situation or maybe how I would act the same as they did if the roles were reversed, I can find empathy for the other person and find the right words to make it a growth experience for both of us.

It is not easy, or even commonplace, to not act rashly out of anger. Go on social media for 10 seconds and you can find 50 people who are more than happy to blame the other for the ills of the world. The other political party, the other race, the other gender, the other baseball team. Someone can always be found to blame for the bad in our lives. As a society we thrive off being justified in our anger, outraged, and attacks on the “bad guy.” What we are not good at is taking personal responsibility. I am certainly not perfect at this either. A concept I heard that helps me and has become my mantra in contentious situations is, “I am responsible for my second thought and my first action.”

Second Thought

We are human. More times than not our first thought will be self-serving. Our first thought will be anger. Our first thought will be attacking others. Our first thought will be self-protecting. Our first thought will be based on the fears we learned in our childhood. We are not bad people because we have that first thought. We all do and that is ok. Where the power and freedom and strength come in is when we pause and allow ourselves to have that second thought. When we can look past ourselves to what the other may be experiencing. When we can find empathy and understanding for their situation. This second thought frees us from how we always react. It frees us from mental pain and anguish. This second thought opens up better ways for us to approach our lives and our relationships.

First Action

Most of us tend to live life using knee-jerk reactions. We get cut off in traffic, think the guy is a jerk, and find ourselves flipping him the bird before we consciously choose to. Much of the actions we do during the day are done unconsciously and based on our first, not-so-ideal thoughts. When we take the time to stop and think a second thought, and have the courage to wait for that second thought before we act, we can create a brand new life.

As you go about your week, be aware of your first thoughts. Can you pause long enough to have second thought before you act?

baby shark

Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo Do-ing

Baby Shark overtook our household for a while. Everything got the Baby Shark treatment. Baby spinach doo doo doo doo doo doo. Gato Blanco doo doo doo doo doo doo. It was silly and fun. When I started to write this post, I thought of a new variation, Stressy Me doo doo doo doo doo doo. When I was younger, stress was a way of life. I always overcommitted and put my work above my relationships and my health. I was always doing, doo doo doo doo doo do-ing. I thought stress was normal. It was what life was all about, right?


Thankfully through my awakening in Peru, I started to see that there was more to life than stress and that there were ways to minimize the amount a stress I experienced, such as practicing patience. This brought a brand new world to me. A world where I could choose what I committed to and what I didn’t. A world where I had the right and the responsibility to put myself first. I began to live and not to do. Instead of being a victim of stress, I used tools to minimize and prevent it. Life was wonderful. My belief became that stress is part of life, but we don’t have to let it overtake our life.

This new way of being has served me for about the last decade and my life has changed because of it. I left a high-pressure career (or what I made a high-pressure career) for one that fits my outlook on life. I simplified my life and moved to a country that moves at the speed I want to live. I thought I had made it. This was great. Then I learned that I can even go deeper. I am now learning how to stop creating any painful negative stress in my life.

I may experience the positive stress of an upcoming event like a trip or a birthday; to me this should really be called excitement not stress. And yes, there will be negative stress events in my life like deadlines, losses, and accidents. But I don’t need to make these negative stress events into more than they are. The event is stressful. My thoughts about the event are what makes it painful.

Brené Brown reminded me of this in her book, Rising Strong. The stressful event itself is not what causes the pain. What really causes the pain of negative stress is our thought or our story about the event. It is not that there is a deadline. It is the thought that if we don’t meet the deadline we are imperfect and unlovable. It is not that we lost a loved one. It is that we didn’t do enough for them when they were alive which makes us a horrible person. It is not that there was an accident. Our story tells us that we were a worthless stupid idiot and that is why there was an accident. When we can keep our stories at bay, the pain of stress naturally minimizes.

Recently I had an off week. I really didn’t know why but I felt anxious, tired, and worried. Yes, I was having a busy week but I have had busy weeks before and I didn’t feel this poorly. What I realized was the story I was telling myself about my busy week was what was causing me pain. I felt I had to take on more clients at work or I would be seen as unproductive and maybe lose my job. I felt I had to put my needs to the side to take care of others or I would be a failure. I believed I had to do everything myself and not ask for help or I was not doing my share and was unworthy of love. Once I identified and released the stories I had made up, it was easy to look at my week, schedule in downtime/self-care, and approach my work from a space of giving instead of being taken from. And the pain was gone. Painful negative stress is caused by our thoughts and beliefs around issues. I was stressed because I had poor boundaries and was choosing to take too much on because I thought I had to or I was worthless. Once I removed this dishonest thinking, I moved forward to solve problems without the crippling effects of stress.

Where are you feeling stress right now? How much of it is fact? How much is it a story you have made about yourself or other people? If you release your false story, how much stress do you feel?

hiding true self

Letting Go of ME, to be me

As I mentioned recently, surrendering my ego is one of the current challenges, goals, liberations I am working on. The ego is who I think I am. The ego is the persona I have created based on where I was born, how I was raised, and what I look like. The ego is how I choose to see life, the purpose of life, and how life should be lived. But the ego isn’t really me. A few months ago, I defined what ego is and is not. At this point, I feel like I have a pretty good handle on what ego is, how it can negatively affect me, and why I should let it go. My ego, however, has different plans.

The ego has its own survival mechanism. It does not want to be easily discarded. If we don’t believe in and protect our ego it goes away, and like Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction our ego will not be ignored. Like any change, releasing the ego is scary. For half a century I have believed myself to be one thing, defining myself as an intelligent driven compassionate woman who has scored some victories and made some mistakes. My ego is how I describe myself, it is how most people see me, it is what gives my life meaning. It is my boundaries and my framework. And the ego is also a trap. When we hold on to a rigid definition of who we are, we limit what we can experience. When we protect our ego, we distance ourselves from others. In protecting this persona, this role we have taken on, we can become confrontational toward anyone and any circumstance that pokes holes in what we believe we are.

hiding true self
Photo by Nong Vang on Unsplash

To be truly me, truly deeply Type-Me me, I need to release what I think defines me – family, nation, body, job title, ambition, accomplishments, beliefs, perspective – and instead embrace my true inner self. I had a glimpse of being me without my ego when I returned from Peru. I had shed the beliefs. I had shed the labels. I had shed the judgments. I was just present. I was unaffected by the world and the people around me. Don Miguel Ruiz talked about being without ego when he said, “I don’t take anything personally. I am a secondary character in other people’s stories. I know that whatever people say about me is just a projection of their image of me. It has nothing to do with me.” When are without ego, we can not be defined, we can not be hurt. Whether others are projecting their image on me or I am projecting an image on myself or others, it is all make-believe. It is not reality. The ego is “the idea or opinion that you have of yourself,” it is not a fact. Like the old saying goes, “sticks and stones my break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Words can only hurt my ego; they can never hurt my true self.

Being without ego is pure peace, very empowering, and a bit terrifying. It is frightening because it is not how many of us commonly live. We believe that the life we have crafted is hard fast truth, when it is really perception and interpretation. To let go of this perception leaves us floating without a tether. We are ungrounded. It is pure bliss and yet our ego sees it as alarming because everything has changed; the reality we knew no longer exists. The ego wants to feel loved. To feel loved it needs to define something to love. The ego wants to be recognized. To be recognized it needs to define what is good and what is bad. The ego wants to endure. To endure the ego needs to exist and be defended. Being without ego is living without definition, good/bad, and individual existence.

When I have those moments of releasing the ego, I do not disappear. Yes, the persona I wear fades away, but my truth, my true being shines strongly. Without my self-created ego, I am the a free powerful being beyond restriction. I am tapped into the powerful oneness of the universe which is and will be eternal.

Hopefully in some of my existential babbling you received the message you need to hear today.

cloud

For every silver lining, there is a cloud

Over the years, I have gratefully received many compliments on my articles. At the core of what people say, is that they can relate to what I write, and they are drawn to the fact that I am not perfect. At first, I was worried about this second remark. If I wasn’t perfect, would someone want to work with me? If I showed that sometimes my life was a struggled, would potential clients think I could help them? When I look at the industry, it appears flooded by perfect looking, perfect speaking, utterly successful individuals who got that way quickly and easily. And that is what we all want right?

things or people
Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

Of course!  At our heart, we all want the get-rich-quick, lose 20 lbs. in a day, instantly achieve your dream life magic formula. But in my experience, instant success is usually not in the cards for most of us. Those who profess easy and quick solutions to all our problems are creating unrealistic expectations. Whether they think that sharing their shadow side will hurt their business or if they are consciously deceiving, either way they are hindering how they can help others. Unfortunately, many coaches, gurus, and blogs make transformation and life seem easy, and I think this is a disservice. Coaches and experts who only show their success may hurt for those they desire to help.

A previous client of mine was very into the Law of Attraction (LOA) (which I have no qualms about; the belief systems of my clients are theirs). Unfortunately, when this client did not see immediate results from following LOA practices, she blamed herself. “How did I mess up? How come everyone else gets what they want, and I don’t? This just shows again how I am broken.” Thankfully, we were able to work through these negative beliefs together.  What angered me was how disheartened, hopeless, victimized, and miserable she had felt.

Transformation is not all roses, rainbows and unicorns; it is like childbirth a miracle and joy – which is the result of discomfort, pain, mess, blood, sweat and tears. I am not saying that transformation and achieving our goals needs to be a long hard road, but it is also not the result of a some too-good-too-be-true overpriced self-development program. Every day we have the opportunity to live a good life. We need to be mindful and consciously choosing. We need to be diligent and take responsibility. And we need to do the work. No person, no system is going to fix our lives instantly for us. Only we can and should be the ones responsible for creating the life of our dreams.

It is also important to remember that the outside stuff – how our body looks, what we own, where we live – are the byproducts of living a good life.  They are not the goal.  I know individuals who have more money, more homes, more stuff than I do. I know people whose bodies and faces look photoshopped.  Their possessions and outward appearances, however, are not what brings happiness.  It is the daily practice of living in gratitude, helping others, and consciously being impeccable in word and deed that truly brings happiness.

Next time you are drawn in by promises of outward results instantly achieved, take a moment to consider when you were the happiest. Was it due to something outside of you or what you experienced within your being?  Then cut yourself some slack. We all have good days and bad days. The goal of life is not in the achievement of some perfect result but living our life to the best of our ability on that particular day.

computer code

What’s Your Glitch?

I have been burning through the latest offerings from Netflix including Russian Doll which explores choices, redemption, and the meaning of life.  In one episode, Nadia is called into work to fix a bug. Somewhere in all the code for a computer game, there was a glitch, some poorly-written code. Nadia reprogrammed the code, and all was well with the game.  What I have realized is we can all fix our lives with a bit of reprogramming.

We all run on code. Some of the code we are born with, like how our lungs and heart know how to automatically breath. Some code we consciously or unconsciously write ourselves. We learn from our parents, our teachers, our friends, society, and our own experience how to live. We learn something once or twice and then we write our internal code as to how to respond. We don’t have to relearn every day that a stove is hot. We learn it once and then it becomes programmed in our mental database along with the appropriate response (don’t touch). Much of our programming is done in the first seven years of our lives (based on current scientific thinking). Therefore, much of how we live our life at 30, 40, or 50 is based on programming decades old. Sometimes that old programming has glitches. What we have internalized as truth worked in one specific situation years ago, but it is not the best choice nor should be applied to current situations. We need to reprogram our outdated thinking.

computer code
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

I am aware of many of my glitches or character defects, and I am sure there are many unconscious glitches yet to be brought to the surface. Here are some of my currently recognized defects/glitches. I react to strong egos and the greedy. I react to those who are “too pretty.” I react to what I deem is injustice. I react to the need to label and create exclusive groups. I react to those whose desire for money supersedes the welfare of the many. I react to those who appear to have had an easy life and expect everything to be handed to them on a silver platter. Because of these preprogrammed thoughts, I sometimes react to people and situations based on these beliefs and not by the real situation at hand.

Much of our life we live on autopilot. We react to current situations based on the code we created decades ago. We are not in the moment analyzing and acting based on current data. We are usually unconsciously reacting based on something that happened to us when we were five. And it can get us into trouble.

I have addressed many glitches already like the belief that it is good to put work above the welfare of those I love, and have hopefully reprogrammed the ones that were causing the most frequent and damaging harm to me and those around me. Currently I am digging deeper and working through more of my programming with the goal of living every day from a place of in-the-moment conscious action versus living-in-the-past unconscious reaction. Here are the steps I am taking:

Uncover

I am taking a fearless inventory of my past and am being aware in the moment of the contentious situations in my life. Analyzing each situation, I uncover the glitches in my thoughts and the unconscious programming which are causing harm.

Be Here Now

If your mind is like mine, it goes a mile a minute. And unfortunately, my mind is usually replaying again and again something that has already happened or playing out fifty different what-if scenarios for the future. We can not change the past nor accurately predict the future. What we can do is affect the present. To help me as Ram Dass suggests to Be Here Now, I do my best to meditate every day. I find that even spending five minutes a day can disconnect me from the busy-ness of life, turn off the useless monkey-chatter of my mind, and help me center so I can make conscious decisions.

Reprogram

Using the knowledge of my defects and doing my best to be present, I can consciously choose differently in the moment. Instead of being on autopilot, I have the power to make rational and better choices acting on clear thought versus reacting from poorly-written programming. And every time I make a new, healthier choice, I am creating new programming for the future.

What are your glitches? How do you work around them? How has your life improved when you remove poorly-written programming?

a delicate dance

The Delicate Dance

It has come to my awareness recently how much of my anger, sadness, resentment, and victimization all stem from focusing on my ego. It is important to differentiation what the ego is and is not.  Lately every time I am triggered by something it is because I assume someone is doing something to me or not thinking of me, therefore bruising my ego. The truth is, I’m not that important. Others are taking care of themselves. They are thinking about themselves. They are doing what they are choosing to do. All with zero or minimal thought of me. And rightly so. I do the same. We are all the lead character of our play, while everyone else is but a small bit part. My ego takes over when I assume I am the leading character in everyone’s play therefore making everything being done because of or to me. Not true.

Our ego gets us in trouble. The ego is constantly wanting to be seen, protected and focused on. The truth though is we are not our ego. We are not our career; we are not our role as mother/sister/daughter; we are not the labels we have adopted (conservative, liberal, feminist, gun rights advocate). We are not the star of anyone’s play, even our own. What we truly are is what I choose to call our soul. Our soul is our being without any title or label. It is that ephemeral drive which makes some of us love horses and others love Shakespeare. It is what has created our theme and challenges in this life. It is what exists no matter where we live, what we do, and who we interact with.

Our ego is of this world. Our soul is beyond it.

What is fun – and challenging – about this lifetime is we need to be in this world, but much of our happiness steps from being beyond this world. When I returned from Peru, I did not feel or act of this world. I stopped playing the game of wanting a certain job, being consumed by the latest television show or fad, and being worried about anything this transitory world produced. I had never known peace like that before. Think about it. Write down the top five things you are focused on or concerned about right now. Would they matter to someone on the other side of the world? Will they matter in five years? Is your belief about its importance based solely on your chosen societal values? Did you value the same things ten years ago? Will you still value them ten years from now?

a delicate dance
Photo by 7 SeTh on Unsplash

All of the anger, sadness, and resentment I experience is based on and in the transitory world. Remember being devastated at not receiving an A on your college thesis or not being asked to the dance by the person you were smitten by? How important is that class now? Can you remember your crush’s name? Remember the 5×5 rule and release any pain being created by the transitory. Releasing the focus on our ego world is what gives us peace.

And yet, we have to focus on the world around us. Unless you are a monk cloistered away for the rest of your life, you need to be in and deal with the world around you. That is the dance of life. Meditate in the morning to touch the great beyond. Deal with traffic going to work. Open your heart to a friend who needs love and support. Spend five hours on hold with your cable provider. Use music, movement or creativity to release your passionate soul. Spend an hour making a meal that will be consumed in five minutes.

As the saying goes, “Before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water.” It is amazing and wonderful to touch on the enlightenment of seeing beyond this world. While we are simultaneously loving and dealing with living in this world. That is our delicate dance.