Lower Your Standards!

There’s a great story about the poet and teacher William Stafford. He’s recognized as one of the most prolific poets of recent times and during the last twenty or more years of his life he wrote at least one poem every day.

Yes… that’s one poem EVERY DAY!

And, much to the dismay of his poetry students at Lewis and Clark University, he assigned them the same “homework:” One poem a day for the entire semester!

I can just imagine the groans and complaints that followed that announcement. But when the students asked how it could be done, he replied simply, “Lower your standards.”

Perfection is An Abundance Killer!

Perfection is one of the most effective abundance killers! I should know, I’m a recovering perfectionist and I can look back and see all of the times that I have let my desire to be “perfect” get in the way of abundance.

When perfectionism takes over, nothing you do or create can ever be good enough. And if you don’t believe that anything you do or create is good enough it’s going to be awfully difficult to feel excited about sharing what you do with others.

And isn’t that what abundance is all about? In order to receive abundantly, you MUST be willing to share abundantly. Perfectionism breaks that cycle before you can even begin sharing! Not a great way to start your journey to TRUE Abundance

When I first heard that story about William Stafford, many years ago, I thought he must have been crazy!  “Lower my standards?”

The thought of lowering my standards flies in the very face of my beloved and comfortable perfectionism. If I’m going to put something out in the world it had better be perfect. And, as far as my inner perfectionist is concerned, nothing will ever be perfect!

But see, there’s a key component to Stafford’s assignment that my inner perfectionist doesn’t quite get. Stafford never told his students to publish a poem a day. He told them only to write a poem a day, which is exactly what he did.

Crappy Is Good!

I bet if we could see some of his daily poems – the ones that did not get published – we would agree that many of them, perhaps most, were not so good. Some of them were probably pretty crappy! And I’m sure he’d agree with us as well.

But when you write a poem a day, you’ve got a lot to choose from. And out of those daily poems he found enough good ones to publish more than 50 books, one of which – Traveling Through the Dark – won the National Book Award for poetry. He was also awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and held the post which is now called the Poet Laureate of the United States.

Clearly there’s something to this idea of “lowering your standards.”

Would you like to know how many “unfinished” essays, stories, newsletter articles, course outlines and book chapters I have stashed away on my hard drive? I bet you would! But I’m not going to tell you! Suffice it to say that by lowering my standards, not a whole heck of a lot, I’d have a lot more stuff out in the world.

And what if someone, just one person, happened to read one of those “extra” blog posts or newsletter articles? And what if that article was exactly the thing she needed to hear at that moment? What if lowering my standards helped to change her life for the better?

Is it worth it? Is it worth the risk that I might publish a crappy article every now and then? Is the possibility of being of service to more people worth lowering my standards? You bet it is!

Are You Ready for What God Sends YOU?

And what about you? What “articles” do you have sitting on your hard drive? What creation of yours is waiting to see the light of day because it is not yet “perfect?” What if you lowered your standards? Just a tiny bit. Just enough to finish it and get it out into the world.

Here’s my hope and my challenge to you: Can you lower your standards? Just a bit? Can you look through your hard drive, or your closet or workshop? Can you dust off your chisels or brushes, get out your business plan or novel and reawaken your creative dreams? Can you lower your standards just enough to get those creations, those ideas, those dreams that are waiting inside of you, out into the light?

If you find yourself stuck in the process, wondering if it’s perfect enough, remember this line from the last poem William Stafford wrote on August 28, 1993, the day that he died:

“Be ready for what God sends.”

Indeed, be ready for what god sends, and be willing to let it come through you and out into the light.

I look forward to seeing more of your creations out in the world!

Law Of Attraction Lessons The Blackberry Bramble Taught Me

The blackberry bramble in our backyard is bursting with beautiful, shiny, berries. They are hanging there, within easy reach, ripe and ready to fall off into your fingers at the slightest tug and melt in your mouth with the sweet juicy yumminess that comes at this time of year. My daughter and I have been watching the berries ripen slowly over the last few weeks. And lately, we’ve been going out there almost every evening to pick some “best ones” as Ella calls them, to put into our yogurt.

Last night she got a scratch as she was reaching for one of those “best ones.” When she said, “Ouch, I got a scratch Dada.” I said, “Yes, that sometimes happens when you’re reaching for the one you really want.”

And as I said it I realized that this entire process of watching and waiting for the berries to ripen has been filled with powerful Law of Attraction lessons.

So in no particular order here are a few of the Law of Attraction Lessons the Blackberry Bramble has taught me:

1. Desires need time to ripen just like blackberries. Whenever you set an intention, there will be a period of growing and ripening. Patience is required during this time. If you pick a blackberry before it is ripe, the tartness or even bitterness fills your mouth. This can be an extra big shock for a mouth expecting the sweet juicyness of a ripe berry! So too, attempting to “pick” one of your desires before it is ripe can lead to disappointing results. Don’t be in such a rush to have your desire ripen. Give it the time it needs to become plump, juicy and sweet. And then truly savor the sweetness of it when the time is right!

2. It takes work to get what you want. Early in the season when the few ripe berries are hidden back deep in the brambles, you have to work to get them. You have to gingerly thread your hand in through the brambles reaching for that one that looks so plump and juicy back there. It is the same with our desires. Attaining them requires work. You need to focus on what you want and be willing to take the time and risk to work you way through the obstacles to get it.

3. Sometimes you’ll get scratched reaching for your desires. Blackberry brambles are quite adept at protecting their sweet prizes. If you’re not careful (and sometimes even when you are) you’ll end up with some scratches on your arms and legs. But (in my opinion) the reward of those sweet juicy berries is well worth it! Somehow the sweetness of that just-plucked blackberry immediately takes away the pain from any scratches you may have gotten. Likewise, when we reach for our desires, there may be some times that we get “scratched.” But if we can hold onto the taste of the sweet, juicy reward in our mind, those scratches will be worth it.

4. Desires have seasons. Right now we’re at the peak of blackberry season. And while that means that there are “best ones” everywhere we look. It also means that we are heading towards the end of the season when there will no longer be any blackberries. Already, with so many ripe berries on the bramble, there are far too many for us to pick. And every day we see more and more shriveled, dry berries that have gone past their prime. The Law of Attraction teaches the importance of continual expansion. When you attain one desire, enjoy it, savor it, celebrate it, but do not get caught in the trap of thinking that the process is over. Do not let yourself become dry and shriveled like those blackberries. When the season is over on one desire, move on to the next one. Enjoy the cycles of expansion.

What lessons have you learned from the blackberry bramble? Share them in the comments below!

Did I Do the Right Thing?

As a child, my father often said, “Do the right thing, Edward.” From turning out the lights when I left a room to sending thank you cards after receiving gifts, he would speak those words.

Back then I did my best to avoid doing the right thing… or at least doing HIS right thing. Certainly, there was a good measure of youthful rebellion in that avoidance but there was at least an equal part of me that felt the mechanical, rote nature of his words. They felt empty and disconnected from a greater rightness that I sensed existed beyond the words.

If you had asked me back then I doubt that I would have been able to voice it but a part of me sensed that doing the right thing meant more than turning out the lights and sending thank you cards (although those are certainly good things to do!)

Now, though, when I hear those words coming from within, I find that I am grateful to have internalized this concept of “the right thing.” Not that I believe there is one “right” thing in a situation but because the question, “What IS the right thing?” opens me to bigger answers.

As the start of the Awakened Man Summit approaches and I dive deeper into the research and reading in preparation for it, I’m beginning to understand what it means to be an Awakened Man.

To be honest with you, when I got the “hit” to produce this summit, I wasn’t exactly sure what it meant to be an awakened man. I had a sense of what it meant, but no clear picture or definition. Now, with less than 2-weeks to the start of the summit, I’m starting to “get it!”

Letting Go!

A big part of awakening, as a man, means letting go of the old concepts of the “right thing.”

Until recently most men have chosen to follow a path of rightness handed down blindly through generations of men. This unbalanced expression of the active (masculine) principle that has defined what it means to be a man in our culture has led to violence, war, unchecked growth and the increasingly unsustainable condition of our world.

More recently, some men – myself included – have actively chosen another path, one that disowns the active (masculine) principle and intentionally embraces the softer, receptive, feminine principle.

While there is much benefit in “exploring the feminine” most of these explorations start in reaction to the belief that there is something “wrong” or “bad” about the active, masculine energy. In that place of reaction, where men are actively connecting to the soft, feminine energies and consciously (or not) disconnecting from the active, masculine energies the “right thing” has led to inaction and an abdication of responsibility.

Neither of these paths leads to the Authentic Power that a man can access and wield when he disconnects from the old beliefs about manhood, discovers his true purpose and surrenders his idea of rightness into the service of the highest good of all.

It saddens me to think that my father – like most men – has never explored the concept of rightness unhitched  from the yoke of manhood placed upon him by his forefathers (and mothers).

Rites of Passage

In most indigenous cultures there were, and remain, rituals of initiation to help boys make the transition from childhood into manhood. These rituals involve extended time in the company of men, away from the energy and influence of women. As these boys step through the fire of initiation they are unburdened from the need to act in ways that lead to approval and acceptance from the feminine.

These cultures understand the importance of guiding men out of the “womb” and into the world. For, in many ways, men remain connected to and immersed in the womb of “WOMAN” until consciously and actively choosing to release that connection and step out into the world “naked and alone” as an awakened, conscious, mature man.

Our modern culture lacks those rituals – or gives us watered down versions such as a bar mitzvah. So most men have not experienced the transformative possibility these rituals offer.

Until a man makes this choice and releases his attachment to the energetic womb of “WOMAN” he cannot show up fully as a man in the world or in relationship with a (singular) woman. There will remain within him an urge to answer the question “What is the right thing” based on whether or not it will lead to approval and acceptance from the energy of WOMAN.

The Hero’s Journey

Last night, I saw the movie Thor. It was a bittersweet experience: My beloved and I had been planning to see it together and it didn’t work out that way. We were in the midst of a relational opportunity… to choose to move forward and deeper into trust or to step backwards into distance and defensiveness. The jury is still out on which way we’ll end up going.

[Note that a slight movie “spoiler” follows!]

There is a scene near the end of Thor where he makes a decision to save many lives and an entire world. It is not a decision easily made, for in saving the lives of many he must cut the bridge that connects him to his beloved. In making that choice he knows there is a chance that his actions will forever separate them.

As he strikes the final blow that shatters the bridge he speaks the words, “Forgive me, Jane.”

If Joseph Campbell were here, he would tell us that, with that blow, Thor had completed his “hero’s journey.” He had learned to seek out, listen for and act upon a rightness transcendent to his own personal desires and even those of his immediate loved ones. He had become an awakened man and earned the right to become King.

While not nearly as dramatic as Thor’s actions, I made a decision yesterday to narrow my focus down to a laser point and put all of my time and energy into preparing for the Awakened Man Summit. I felt guided to stand in service of the highest good and consciously devote myself completely to this project.

In choosing that path and sharing my decision I knew that it could create a chasm between my beloved and myself.

It has.

Now I find myself standing at the edge of that shattered bridge wondering if I did, indeed, “do the right thing.”

Was the guidance I received authentic or was it coming from a place of fear?

Was my action truly “Awakened” or was I motivated by unconscious forces?

Will my beloved forgive me or have I permanently severed our trust and broken the bridge between us?

I don’t know the answers but I sense that asking these questions means that I am not far from the right path. My intuition tells me that my guidance was “right” but that I could have found a more graceful and elegant way to navigate those waters as I shared my decision.

Sin and Forgiveness

Sam Keen, author of Fire in the Belly: On Being a Man, and one of the speakers in the Awakened Man Summit, once said, “Sin and forgiveness is a better way to handle relationships than the illusion of perfection. We learn from our mistakes.”

What a relief it was to hear those words and to let go of the “illusion of perfection” in my relationships. And, yet, what a difficult path to walk… to be open to the “sins” of your partner and your own, to be willing to forgive your partner and yourself, and to be willing to acknowledge and learn from your mutual mistakes and use those lessons to awaken more fully. What a blessing. And what treacherous waters you may (WILL) find yourself in when you choose to engage in relationship in that manner.

I have no illusions about being a “perfect” partner (except sometimes when I do!). Nor do I have expectations of perfection in my partner (except sometimes when I do!) To be quite honest, I have no idea what it would look like to BE a perfect partner or to HAVE a perfect partner!

Perhaps perfection is to be found on the path of surrendering the question, “What is the right thing?” again and again, into the service of the highest good.

It seems that my father’s refrain of “do the right thing, Edward” worked, though perhaps not in the way he intended. I truly do long to do the right thing. Perhaps that longing is enough. And perhaps the desire to do the right thing, combined with the willingness to learn from my mistakes will keep me moving forward on the path of awakening.

We’ll see!

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Leave a comment below!

Lessons in Divine Timing From a Loose Tooth

One night last week as my daughter was falling asleep she called down to me, “Dada, guess what?”

“What sweetie?”

“I’ve got a loose tooth!”

“Yay. I’ll check it out in the morning.”

And, sure enough, in the morning I saw that Ella had her first loose tooth. Now having your first loose tooth is always a big moment for a child. But for Ella it was especially big since every other kid in her first grade class has already lost at least one tooth. So she’s been waiting, not always so patiently, for one of her baby teeth to loosen up and fall out.

And that, no-so-patient part came out the next morning when she tried to get that tooth out of her mouth! She tried grabbing it with her fingers and tugging it, wrapping string around it, eating “hard food” and asking me to wrap a string around it and tie it to a doorknob!

She’s discovering the contrast between human timing and divine timing, between our physical nature and our spiritual essence.

“We are spiritual beings have a physical experience.” I’m sure you’ve heard that before. Our spiritual essence exists as infinite, limitless consciousness outside of time and space. But while we are here, in this three-dimensional realm, having this physical experience we exist as individuals within the context of and seemingly under the influence of linear time and space.

Ironically, it is the very presence of time and space in the physical world that gives us the opportunity to remember and ultimately reunite with the timeless nature of our larger, non-physical essence. Part of our maturation process as spiritual beings involves awakening our capacity to acknowledge, honor and live fully engaged in both of these seemingly incompatible flows: The timeless and the time-bound.

Have you ever said something like, “There aren’t enough hours in the day,” or, “I just don’t have the time,” or, “We’re running out of time?” If so – and, let’s face it, who hasn’t? – you’ve experienced the disconnect between linear and non-linear time. You’ve lived with them out of sync, out of alignment.

When linear and non-linear time come into alignment the feeling that there is “not enough time” goes away. The timelessness of our spiritual nature seeps into your physical reality and opens you to an effortless flow. Synchronicity happens when linear and non-linear time are aligned.

Miracles happen!

Within the context of  our physical, human experience there are many ways that we can perceive and interact with time. In most cases we perceive time from a purely human, linear perspective. We have an agenda and a schedule and a chronological connection to the flow of time. In this place there is little room for the natural flow of life. If an unexpected traffic jam makes us late for a meeting it is difficult to expand out of linear time and open up to the larger perspective of non-linear flow.

Life often has a different take on “right timing” than we have in our minds. Our minds see the trees, sometimes opening up to see the forest. Life IS the forest. But it is also the trees, the fields, the rivers, the mountains, the earth and the sky.

When things don’t happen in your life in thetime-frame you have envisioned it is always an opportunity to open up to the perfection of non-linear or divine timing. I’m sure you’ve had at least one experience where you didn’t get something you really wanted in the time you wanted. And have you ever seen that disappointment open to an even better outcome an outcome that you probably couldn’t even imagine?

That is the beauty of Divine Timing. When you’re anchored in linear, physical time, it is difficult to see all the possibilities. But life’s little, and not so little, disappointments give you the opportunity to let go of your death-grip on linear time and open your vision and perspective to other possibilities and to the blessings and manifestations  awaiting you that are unimaginable to your linear,rational mind!

That morning, last week, I could see Ella grappling with the contrast between the timing of what she wanted from a physical and mental perspective versus the timing of the flow of life. Ella’s human, physical reality timing had that tooth out of her mouth right now! Life wasn’t in such a rush.

Her loose tooth was an opportunity to experience the contrast. And the next day, she got to experience the discomfort that we create when we push against the flow of life.

She was back at her mom’s and absolutely, definitely wanted that loose tooth out of her mouth. So they pulled it out! And since it wasn’t quite ready, wasn’t quite the right time, it hurt her a lot and caused some bleeding in her mouth so she had to “gargle a lot with yucky water!”

Maybe next time she’ll be willing to sit in the contrast and allow the tooth to loosen up until it gently and easily falls out on its own.

That’s the beauty of allowing divine timing to merge with linear time: life unfolds easily and effortlessly as you experience one “miracle” after another.

So today, watch for opportunities to relax into the unknowing of divine timing and allow life to unfold itself. And when you do, get ready for the miracles to begin!

Your partner in TRUE Abundance

Edward

Top 10 Life Lessons I’ve Learned From My Daughter (So Far)

Children bring a great amount of wisdom with them when they join us here in this world. I have known this for many years and have always loved being around children. But it was not until I became a father, a bit more than four years ago, that I discovered just how wise these little beings really are.

From the moment of my daughter’s birth (and even before that) fatherhood has been a truly transformative experience. It’s rare that a day goes by without learning something about life from my Ella. And in many ways I really do see her as one of my most effective teachers.

So I thought it would be fun to share some of the personal growth lessons I have learned from Ella over the past four years. If you have children you will most likely recognize many of these. If you do not have children, you may find some of these corny or silly. Trust me, they are not. Every one of these lessons has had a significant impact on my life.

So here, then, are the top 10 Life Lessons I’ve Learned From My Daughter so far!

1. Tomorrow’s Gonna Be a New Day.
When Ella was younger she would ask me, “Is tomorrow gonna be a new day?” I assured her that, yes, indeed, tomorrow would be a new day. Now that she’s reached the ripe old age of four, she gets it. And now she reminds me: “Don’t worry Dadda. Tomorrow’s gonna be a new day!” It’s good to remember that!

I the only one hearing a refrain from Little Orphan Annie in the background? “The sun’ll come out tomorrow” Sure it’s cheesy, but there is a lot of power in recognizing that, no matter how difficult today is, tomorrow’s gonna be a new day.

2. Sometimes it’s Better to Make Up Your Own Rules
I already wrote about this one in the post Life Lessons from Candyland. But it’s an important one so I included it in this list.

Bottom line: Sometimes it’s best to throw away the rule book and make up your own!

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Show Your Enthusiasm.
Ella is not shy when it comes to showing her enthusiasm. If someone makes a suggestion that she likes she responds in a number of different ways depending upon her level of excitement. If she likes the idea, she’ll say something like, “That’s gonna be a great idea, Dada!” If she really likes the idea, she’ll nod her head vigorously and let out a loud, “Uh huh!” And if she really, really likes an idea, she starts jumping and galloping around, shouting, “Uh huh, uh huh, uh huh.” over and over and over and over…

My favorite part is when we’re at the dinner table and we make a suggestion (like for instance on a hot summer night when we, very rarely, suggest walking down to the ice cream shop in town) Ella will get so excited that she actually has to climb down off her chair so that she can run back and forth yelling “uh huh, uh huh, uh huh!” Sometimes her excitement is so powerful I’m afraid she’s going to fall off the chair!

Do you ever curb your enthusiasm? I know I do. Somewhere along the line most of us learned that stuff we really wanted or were really excited about could be taken away in an instant. Often the very things that were most exciting to us were used to get us to do or not do certain things: “Get dressed now or you can’t ride your bike today!” Or, “Stop saying that word or you’ll be grounded for a week.”

No wonder we’ve learned to hide our enthusiasm! We don’t want the good stuff taken away from us so we don’t let anyone know what we think is good! How messed up is that.

Well it sure is refreshing to watch Ella express her enthusiasm with no hesitation. Enthusiasm is contagious. People want a taste of enthusiasm. They want to know that it is safe to be happy about something.

So give it a try. The next time you discover something you really like, do a little happy dance and see what happens.

4. Feel your emotions fully.
Ella isn’t always happy. Like all kids she has moments of frustration and sadness. We’ve done our best to encourage her to fully feel those emotions and express them when they’re happening. It’s amazing to watch how Ella has learned to deal with these moments.

If something happens that causes Ella to feel frustrated or angry she’ll go into her room, close the door, lie down on the floor or on her bed and scream or cry for a minute or two. Then she opens the door, comes back out and says, “All better.” And usually she is. The frustration that was moving through her just needed to be let out.

How often have you held onto sadness, frustration, anger or grief? I know I’ve held onto stuff for a long time! And the longer I hold onto those emotions, the more powerful they become.

Much better to just let them out in the moment and let yourself be “all better!”

5. Walk On Walls Whenever Your Have The Chance
When was the last time you walked on a wall? Whenever I’m out walking with Ella and we pass a wall, whether it’s a curb or a retaining wall, Ella wants to walk on it. And now she gets me to walk on them with her: “Come on, Dada!” And I must say, if you haven’t walked on a wall in a while, give it a try. It’s a lot of fun!

The life lesson here is that we adult types tend to pass by opportunities for joy and exploration without even noticing them. These opportunities are all around us all the time. We just have to open our eyes and expand our perception. Hanging around kids (even if you don’t have your own) is a great way to do that.

6. Sometimes you have to do it alone (even if there’s someone right there who could help you).
I often feel a strong temptation to reach out to help Ella put her shoes on or put a puzzle piece in the right place. Simple tasks that I take for granted are a challenge for Ella, as they are for any child. If I were to constantly jump in and say, “Let me do that for you,” it would take her a lot longer to figure out how to do it.

It’s especially tempting to help her when she reaches that frustration point. But I’ve learned that if I let her go a little bit longer, just past that moment of frustration is when she succeeds.

In those moments I sometimes think of the scene in the movie, Ray, after Ray Charles has gone blind and his mother pretends she’s not in the room as he’s calling out for her help. In that moment, he discovers that he’s not as helpless as he thought.

It’s been a powerful lesson for me as a father and in my own life.

7. Know When to Ask For Help.
Now, while this one seems to contradict the previous lesson, they really work hand in hand. Let’s face it; there are some things that a four year old just can’t do yet. Ella is pretty good about trying to do things. And she is also pretty good about asking for help when she has reached the end of her patience: “Please help me, Dada.” Or if she’s tired or frustrated she might say, “I can’t do it, Dada.”

Her willingness to ask for help is a powerful lesson for someone like me: a die-hard do it yourself-er. Countless hours have been spent figuring out something that I could have easily asked or paid someone else to do.

Knowing when, and how, to ask for help is an important life skill to master. And I am learning from a master.

8. Don’t be attached to what you painted yesterday (or 2-seconds ago).
Ella is a prolific artist. She cranks out paintings and drawings faster than the fastest graffiti artist. And the beautiful thing about her creativity is that once she’s done, she’s done. There is no attachment to the painting she just created. She puts her piles of artwork into the recycling bin as easily as the Tibetan monks sweep their intricate sand mandalas back into dust. http://www.artnetwork.com/Mandala/gallery.html

I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time letting go of stuff I created 10-years ago! Ella’s willingness to let go of her creations leaves her open to the flow of creativity. She is not attached to what she painted yesterday. She does not compare what she is doing today with what came before. She is free to be open and just let it flow.

9. Singing Makes Everything Better.
No matter how traumatic a situation might be, whether it’s an overtired and cranky before bed tooth brushing meltdown or a big boo-boo, singing makes it better. Ella and I sing together on our way to preschool. We sing the silly tooth-brushing song we made up together. We sing the pee-pee song. We sing our favorite bedtime songs. Just about anything that you can say can be sung (hey, didn’t the Beatles write something about that?).

Singing is fun. Singing makes you smile. I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s research showing that singing releases endorphins. And most of us adult types tend to sing far too little. The 7-Dwarfs knew what they were talking about when they whistled while they worked! So try adding a bit more singing into your daily diet.

10. Dance like no one’s watching (even when you’ve made sure that everyone is!)
Like most houses with young ones, the phrases, “Watch Dada. Watch Mama. Watch everybody!” are heard on a regular basis. Ella loves to dance. And when she does, she lets it all hang out. She makes up new dance moves on a regular basis: There’s the running back and forth dance, the sneaky dance, the jumping up and down dance, the spin around until you fall down dance, and of course Ella’s famous Jiggy-Jiggy dance!

Somewhere along the way, most of us lose that uninhibited ability to express ourselves. The voices of self-doubt come in and we become self-conscious of our performance. Watching Ella dance with all her heart, whether she’s alone or in front of a crowd, is a great reminder of the innocence and joy that we all have inside of us. Isn’t it time we start letting a little more of it out?

So there are the top 10 life lessons that Ella has helped me learn so far. What lessons have your children taught you? I’d love to hear. Leave a comment below and share your lessons and stories.

51 Ways to Expand Your Comfort Zone

Most of us love the familiar. Whether we realize it or not, we put a lot of work into ensuring that certain things in our lives remain constant.This personal “comfort zone” is the invisible, but very real area that defines the boundaries of what we know and understand. By staying within this comfort zone we reassure ourselves that we are safe. And as long as we are safely held within the walls of what we know we feel secure and confident.

As we move closer to the edges of that zone we begin to feel a bit shaky and unsure of ourselves. But those edges are where we grow. And by stretching those boundaries we increase our ability to receive.

T. Harv Eker, the author of The Secrets of The Millionaire Mind has said that our comfort zone equals our money zone. In order to have more money in our lives we must expand our comfort zone.

I would add that our comfort zone equals our joy zone, our love zone, our fulfillment zone, our spiritual connection zone, you name it.

So if you want more of anything in your life, the place to start is with your comfort zone. By expanding your comfort zone you will get more of what you want. It’s that simple.

Now it sounds easy enough, but most of us have built up some pretty sturdy walls around our comfort zone. Pushing them out or breaking them down requires conscious, concerted effort. And I have found that it’s easier to expand the comfort zone in small, steady, steps than in great big leaps. But in order to do that, you need to intentionally take expansive action on a daily basis.

So to get you started, I’ve created a list of 50 actions that might expand your comfort zone.

Keep in mind that the parameters of everyone’s comfort zone are different. So if you already love to Scuba dive, number 30 on this list isn’t going to expand your comfort zone very much! But there are most likely other items on this list that will work for you.

Also realize that many of these can, and may need to be, turned around to work for you. For example, number 6 is “Be the first to say, “I love you.” But if you’re the one that always says I love you first, you’ll need to turn it around to “Let the other person say ‘I love you’ first.” For some of you that’s going to be quite uncomfortable, especially when the other person doesn’t say “I love you!”

This is not meant to be an all-inclusive list. It can’t be. Instead, it’s a catalyst and a reminder for you to take small steps each and every day that expand your comfort zone.

Here’s the list:

1. Try some new food.
2. Go on a silent retreat.
3. Ask for a raise.
4. Smile at strangers.
5. Say hello to people in the grocery store.
6. Be the first to say “I love you.”
7. Perform at an open mike night.
8. Eat at a local restaurant by yourself.
9. Take a day off from work to volunteer at your child’s school.
10. Go back to school.
11. Start a new business.
12. Moonlight as a waitperson.
13. Unplug the TV for a week.
14. Write in a journal every day.
15. Learn to surf.
16. Go to a different church/temple/mosque each week.
17. Get your news from different sources.
18. Live in another country.
19. Do a house-swap for a month.
20. Use public transportation.
21. Wear an outrageous outfit.
22. Meditate for 15-minutes a day.
23. Put your cell phone in a drawer for a full week.
24. Make a fool of yourself – on purpose.
25. Call someone you admire in your community and ask them out for lunch.
26. Ask someone you admire to be your mentor.
27. Switch sides (of the bed) with your partner.
28. Confront a phobia.
29. Jump out of a plane (with a parachute please!).
30. Learn to scuba dive.
31. Say I love you to your parents/children/siblings/friends.
32. Admit you were wrong.
33. Go to a movie by yourself.
34. Take responsibility for something you didn’t do.
35. Give away all one-month’s income.
36. Give a public talk on a topic you’re passionate about.
37. Join a networking group.
38. Disconnect the Internet for a week.
39. Ask for help.
40. Get a part time job as a checker at your local grocery store.
41. Enter an art show.
42. Forgive someone.
43. Join Toastmasters.
44. Start a blog.
45. Ask for a partial or complete telecommute arrangement at work.
46. Take lessons in something you’ve always wanted to try (art, music, woodworking, dancing, etc.).
47. Learn a foreign language.
48. Read a book in a genre you don’t usually read.
49. Delegate more of your work.
50. Get up an hour earlier than usual.
51. Try a therapy or modality that seems a bit “out there.”

Which of these have the most potential for expanding your comfort zone? Which ones made you gulp or start to sweat a bit?

Which actions did I leave off this list that, for you, are particularly effective at expanding your comfort zone?

Leave a comment below and share some of yours.

10 Tips For Staying Positive Around Negative People

Let’s face it. No matter how positive we intend to be and how focused we are on attracting positive people into our lives, there are times when we will come into contact with negative people. You know the type: They love to talk about all the things that are going wrong in their life. They live for the gossip about the latest tragedy in Paris Hilton’s life or their neighbor’s. They bask in being the first to point out why a project won’t work.

These people may be tangential to your life or they may be firmly embedded in the fabric of your life (can you say “family members?”). But either way, when they come into your presence, they provide a true “test” of your ability to maintain a high, positive vibration.

So how do you deal with these people? How do you maintain a positive vibration when you find yourself surrounded by people with less positive vibrations?

Here are ten tools, techniques and insights to help you maintain a positive vibration. Try them out. Discover what works for you. Improvise, combine them, add your own. As you work within the Law of Attraction you will begin to discover your own tools and techniques for maintaining your highest most positively attractive resonance in every situation.

So here they are.

10 Tips For Staying Positive Around Negative People:

1. Leave.

If possible, remove yourself from the presence of the low/slow vibrations as quickly as you can. This is the easiest and often the best way to deal with the situation. If you find yourself immersed in a water-cooler conversation that takes a negative turn, excuse yourself as soon as you realize what’s happening. Admittedly, this is not always possible (think family gatherings!) so we’ve got 9 more.

2. Try to keep the conversation positive.
If you recognize that the conversation is taking a turn for the worse, see if you can turn it back around. Politicians and marketers call this staying on message. Your “message” is positive. The topic doesn’t matter so much as the tone. So anything you can do to keep the conversation positive is staying on message.

3. Think of something positive in your life.
If, in spite of your efforts to stay on message, the conversation becomes negative, see if you can split your attention and allow a part of your mind to focus on something positive. Think of it like the “picture in a picture” feature on your TV. Insert a little positive thought or memory into the big picture.

4. Find something positive about the person to focus on.
Everyone has redeeming qualities. They may be difficult to notice in the heat of the negative moment. But they are there. See if you can find one. Maybe you like her scarf. Maybe he just got a new hair cut that looks good. Maybe she smells good. Maybe he helped you move last weekend. When you notice and focus on something positive it neutralizes the power of the negative energy.

5. Close your eyes.
This obviously may not be possible when you are engaged in a one-on-one conversation. In this case, deliberately slow down the blinking of your eyes. Closed eyes, even if closed for just a second, immediately begin to bring your brainwaves down towards the alpha state. Try it right now. Take a few slow eye-blinks and watch what happens to you physical and mental state. You are much less susceptible to negative energy when you are in that relaxing, contemplative alpha space.

6. Focus on your breath.
Again, see if you can split your attention and focus part of your awareness on your breath. Become aware of the air moving in and out of your body. Feel your chest and belly expanding against your shirt. Notice the rhythm of your breath and see if you can consciously slow your breath down.

7. Unplug your energy from the other person.
Imagine that you are literally pulling your plug out of the other person. These negative people thrive on their ability to bring others down to their vibrational level. Use visualization, feeling, or intention to pull your plug and maintain your own vibrational level.

8. Remember the prayer of St. Francis.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy. Recognize that the person’s negativity is an expression of their inner doubt, despair and sadness. The way that you “sow” love and hope and peace and joy is by remaining positive and allowing yourself to become an instrument of peace in that moment.

9. Stop judging.
If you find yourself being judgmental, stop. We all have moments of negativity. And, in fact, this person’s presence in your life could be a signal that there is some negativity in your space that you are not acknowledging. So stop judging the person and, instead, offer your gratitude for the opportunity to explore your own tendency to drift into low/slow vibrations.

10. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you get pulled down into the low vibrations!
Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, no matter how strong your intention is to stay positive, you will find yourself pulled down into that negative vibration. Be kind on yourself. As with number 9 above, judging yourself will only add to the downward spiral. If you fall off the horse, the best response is to get right back on and try it again!

Have You Left Your Joy Behind?

I’m nervous!

You see I’m performing tonight for the first time in 10-years! Back in the day, I played my guitar and sang out in coffee shops, restaurants and small clubs a lot. And I loved it.

grease

I'm in the leather jacket, looking all Kinicki-like!

Music brings me joy. Or I suppose it’s more accurate to say that music awakens the joy that is already in me. I began playing guitar when I was 6 and have played on and off ever since – Wow, that’s 40-years! I performed in musicals starting out as the Captain of the Pinafore in 6th grade and ending with perhaps my crowning achievement, my role as Kinicki in Grease in a community theater performance… You know “Go greased lightnin’ rollin’ on down the line!”

(And as an interesting side note, I recently learned – through Facebook of course – that Dane Cook, the apparently somewhat famous comedian, was in the show. Is it bad that I didn’t know who Dane Cook was until I looked him up?)

But, as much as I love music, it’s interesting that it has always come and gone. I’ll play for a few years and then drop it. Play again for a while and then drop it.

And that’s just what happened about 10-years ago: Somewhere along the way, in between moving away from my musical “comfort zone” (where I knew all of the venue owners and could perform whenever I wanted) getting married, “settling down” and having a child, the performing dropped out of my life. I continued to play at home and invite friends over to jam for a while. But eventually even that stopped, and, for quite a few years, my guitar sat in its case, in a closet, untouched.

Why?

Playing music is something that brings me massive joy and lets that joy spread out into the world.

So why did I let it go? Why did I say “no” to my joy?

Well, as with any complex life experience there are number of factors. But at the very deepest level, I think it comes down to a core – and mostly unconscious – belief that I don’t deserve that much joy! I know it sounds sort of dramatic, but when I play music the joy can be almost overwhelming. And it lights up and activates any of the old, wounded places inside of me that have not been healed.

And my guess is that when I’ve chosen to move music to the back burner it’s because the places inside me that felt I didn’t deserve such joy were stronger than the parts of me that wanted that joy. My wounds won!

Now, it’s very interesting that for the past 3-days I have pulled the Hummingbird Medicine Card. And I shuffled the deck really well each day!

According to Jamie Sams – the creator of the Medicine Cards – Hummingbird is all about Joy! She writes.

“If Hummingbird is your personal medicine, you love life and its joys. Your presence brings joy to others. You join people in relationships which bring out the best in them… You move comfortably within a beautiful environment and help others taste the succulent nectar of life.”

That’s it. That’s exactly what I do when I’m playing music.

Does the fact that Hummingbird has flown into my cards for the past 3-days mean that I’m done leaving that part of me behind? Does it mean that I’m ready to reclaim my joy and my ability to fully share that joy with others?

We’ll see!

And what about you? Have you left some of your joy behind? Is there something you used to do that opened you to the flow of joy and allowed you to share joy with others?

What is it? Where has it gone?

Whatever “reason” you have for no longer doing it, get over it!

For the past 10-years, my “reason” for not playing music was my family. I felt the pressure to be “responsible” and, as my father used to say, to “Do the right thing.” And a part of me believed that being responsible meant giving up the things that bring me joy.

D’oh!

How could I ever be truly responsible for my family when I have turned my back to joy? How could I ever hope to model TRUE Abundance to my daughter if I’m not willing to embrace and share my joy with her and with others?

Sharing what you love, sharing the song in your heart – whether it’s music or art or healing or whatever – is one of the most challenging things you can ever do. But until you are willing to say YES to your joy and to the things that bring you joy and to the joy YOU BRING to the world, TRUE Abundance will continue to elude you.

You may have lots of money, but that money will be empty, for your heart will be closed to the true nature of this life, which is JOY!

So take some time to consider what you have left behind. And when you find it, take a baby step today to start bringing it back into your life!

If you feel like sharing, send me an email, or leave a comment over at the Evolving Times blog.

Oh, and the next time you hear a hummingbird, remember this, from the Medicine Cards:

“Follow sister Hummingbird and you will soon be filled with paroxysms of joy and experience a renewal of the magic of living.”

I have no idea what “Paroxysms” are but they sound pretty frickin’ good to me! I’ll take it!

Your partner in TRUE Abundance

Edward

PS. If you’re in the North Bay and want to come share in some of the joy tonight (Saturday) I’ll be performing at Infusions Tea Shop in Sebastopol from 7:00 – 9:00.

PPS. I’m getting ready to launch a new training course – The Money System Upgrade – later this month. But before I launch the group program, I’m going to work with a handful of private clients and take them through the Money Upgrade System, one-on-one, at an introductory price. If you’re interested in working with me and having me upgrade your Personal Energy Systems so they are aligned with TRUE Abundance, go check out the details here.

Serious Spiritual People Suck!

cistine-chapel-2All right. I admit it. That title is a bit harsh. But I guess I’m qualified to write it, since the person I’m mostly talking about is myself! You see I spent a significant portion of my life being a serious spiritual person. And most of the time, when I was serious, I sucked!

And yesterday I caught myself falling right back into that sucky, serious, spiritual space and I didn’t like it! My daughter was in a great, goofy mood, and I just couldn’t meet her there. That, old, core belief that to be spiritual you have to be serious had taken over the controls again and all goofiness and fun was out the window.

The problem many of us spiritual people have, is that our models of spirituality are all serious. Think about it: have you ever seen a picture of Jesus smiling? How about God? Any candid camera snapshots of the big guy in the sky cracking up?

And how about bible stories? When was the last time you had a good belly laugh while reading that good book?

Eastern religions seem to have a bit more lightness. Think of the laughing Buddha statues. I love those. And yet, when you read the story of the Buddha’s life there doesn’t seem like there was a whole lot of goofing around happening during his lifetime.

What’s up with that? Who made the rule that spirituality and fun and joy and laughter and lightness don’t mix?

I realized just how much of a core belief this is for me just now when I watched a video of Ken Wilbur talking about Big Mind or the part of us that is the observer, detached from the events in our life. As I dropped in and tried to find that Big Mind space in me, I realized that I didn’t want to find it because if I did, I believed that I would have to spend the rest of my life being serious and stoic and removed from life.

That doesn’t really provide a whole lot of motivation to go and find the Big Mind!

So I’m embarking on a “Lighten Up Francis” campaign for spiritual people – especially myself! (And if you don’t get that reference you obviously missed one of the classics of contemporary western cinema!)

Let’s bring some lightness and laughter and, yes, even silly goofiness into our spiritual development.

I mean, how’s the serious thing been working for you? If you’re like me, not so well!

There actually are some examples of light-hearted, deeply spiritual people. When I visited Agape a month or so ago, I was cracking up. Michael Beckwith was smiling and laughing and joking… And it was one of the most deeply moving and transformational experiences I have ever had at an organized religious event.

The emergence of Rumi and the light-hearted Sufi poets as spiritual models is another example.

dalai-lamaThe Dalai Lama also seems to exude a lightness in the midst of his profound presence. You often see him smiling or grinning. And sometimes it sure looks like a pretty mischievous grin, if you ask me!

And what about all of these new – and not so new – spiritual development practices that are filled with light and lightness? Transformational dance workshops, tantra, high-energy intensives (think Tony Robbins) laughter yoga, karaoke seminars (well, I haven’t seen any karaoke seminars yet, but you get the point). We’re beginning to recognize that spiritual development can actually be fun.

In fact, I’ve come to believe that the more fun you have, the more joy you experience in your life and in your spiritual development practices, the more you actually develop spiritually!

Now some might say we’ve gone too far, that the pendulum has swung to the other side and there is too much lightness and indulgence in our modern spiritual development practices.

Well how about if we all just stand up right now and moon those folks!

So the pendulum has swung. Big deal! Pendulums do that. And we sure do need a break from the super serious spiritual systems of the past.

What can you do today to bring some lightness to your spiritual practice? How about listening to an old Steve Martin recording during your meditation practice? How about playing Weird Al Yankovich songs when you teach your yoga class! Alright, maybe that would be too far!

But seriously… no, scratch that… see if you can find a way to merge fun and spiritual practice today. Let me know what you come up with. I’d love to hear about your Lighten Up Francis adventures!

Vision Quest Journal #6

This morning I was thinking how strange it was that I had not seen, or heard, any raptors since being here. Just now, I saw my first hawk. A small one, slightly smaller than a Cooper’s Hawk with thicker wings. Almost all white or light gray underneath. Slight darker above. No other distinctive markings that I could see. Flight pattern was several quick wing beats with a moderate, circular glide in between. No call that I heard.

The water is even closer than I thought. I’m sitting on a new rock that’s at the northeast edge of my site and it’s clear that the creek is just a little ways into the brush. Probably no more than 40-feet away.

It’s still difficult to believe that it’s been bubbling this entire time. When I was scouting the site, I walked right over to the edge of that brushy area to see if I could get closer to those big old pine trees. Strange.

[Note. I looked on the map and there is a spring above where I was camped. My guess is that the spring fills up a pool during the night which overflows down the mountain in the morning. But by the afternoon, the sun dries it up. Because by late in the day, the sound of water was gone again.]

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Midday. Feeling antsy. Having a hard time finding a comfortable spot. Trying to stay naked as much as possible. But today, without much wind, it’s too hot in the sun and the slight breeze makes it too cool in the shade. I’ve compromised and put on my t-shirt and am sitting partly in the shade.

Antsy too because I don’t know what to do. The excitement of the first day has passed and now I’m in a place of trying to figure out what to do, how to have a vision. As I recall from previous quests, the second day seems to be the hardest.

The first day is new and exciting, in some cases you’re dealing with the discomfort of your body’s detox reaction from the fast. And while that’s unpleasant, it is a distraction from the isolation and emptiness.

Now, near the halfway point of my quest, I begin to wonder why I’m here. I begin to doubt the confidence I had earlier about the hunger as I notice the emptiness of my stomach more keenly. I begin to wonder if the insights I’ve had already are “enough.”

Isn’t it time to end this a go home? And even as I sit in the quiet of meditation I find myself reaching for something more. “Where is the vision I seek?” But nothing comes.

Just the peacefulness of this place. But I am too distracted to let that comfort me. Now I will try once more to drop into that peacefulness and allow it that to be enough.

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It’s amazing how quickly your body gets weak when you don’t drink water. I’ve had only 4-5 small sips since last night and my body has definitely hit a wall. It’s an effort just to stay upright. And I’ve spent much of that last couple of hours curled up in a ball on the ground.

Now I’m realizing this is where I’m meant to be. This is the place I’m supposed to get to. This is the place where I realize that I can’t get through this on my own. Alone I’m not strong enough. Certainly the strength of my body, without food and with very little water, is not enough to get me through the rest of today and tomorrow.

This is when I call out to God, Source, Great Spirit. This is when I open myself up to the support and strength of a force far greater than myself. This is when I begin to act in harmony with the words I heard earlier: “It is your vision that brought you here, but it is MY strength that will get you through.”

So now I pray. To God. To Source. To Great Spirit. To the Earth. To that is greater than me. I pray for strength. I sing for strength. I open myself to receive you strength.

You can read all of the posts in the Vision Quest Journal Series here.