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Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Perception

I was recently reminded of the time I spent in Paris one winter. I visited one of the museums with a friend and we got lost for hours gazing into all the amazing artwork and sculptures. But this particular day I remember the two of us contemplating what I thought was a fairly simple straightforward painting. To me, it simply looked like a woman dressing (or undressing) behind a screen. But to my friend, it was something entirely different. He didn't see a screen at all but instead a complicated symbol for something that never even crossed my mind. Fascinating as it was, at the time I thought it was completely annoying as my friend was so adamant about his interpretation that I felt as though we were living on different planets. It just didn't make any sense to me at all!


How interesting that two people can be standing in the same room, looking at the same painting, having what appears to be the exact same experience, and yet - be actually seeing their own very personal and very opposite realities. I think this happens a lot. All the time in fact. Not just in museums or when people are critiquing fine art; but in the every day interactions at our work, in our relationships and throughout our day.

I'm also reminded of another friend who was driving along in his car, feeling pumped as he was rockin' out to some of his favorite tunes. As he was driving along, radio blaring, he waved his hands and arms in an excited way, dancing in his seat a little bit. The guy in the car ahead took it as a sign of agitation and started pumping the brakes, slowing down, and shaking his fist at my friend. How interesting!! As my friend danced away in his car, this other driver perceived his movements as aggressive and reacted to that - nearly causing an accident.

Perception is everything. And reality truly is subjective. There's just no possible way that we can ever know what's truly going on with another person ~ how they feel, what their past experiences are, what triggers them or upsets them. You just can't know. My father used to say a lot that "all of the world's wars could have been solved with proper communication." While that's debatable, I certainly agree that if we learned how to communicate - really listen and speak truthfully, vulnerably, without blame or finger-pointing, most of our problems would be so much easier solved.

But that's much simpler to say than to actually do, isn't it? Think of the last time you were "triggered". Maybe it happened when someone didn't appreciate you, or neglected to give you something you were rightfully owed. Maybe it happened the last time you felt insecure or when you convinced yourself of someone else's motives without really having the facts. Whatever the case, how do we stay true to ourselves, open to life, and clear hearted enough to give others the benefit of the doubt??

The yogic texts tell us to cultivate Awareness, Compassion and Detachment. Phew. Easier said than done!
What is it that makes us suspicious? Untrusting? And once we've been hurt, how do we possibly move forward without tainting our present with ghosts from the past?

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Raise Your Standards

"Who you spend time with, is who you become." ~ Anthony Robbins


A lot of people, I find, are lowering their standards in an effort to make life "easier". I happen to think this is a big fat load of hogwash. People with higher standards are apparently more successful and possibly even happier than most. People with high standards have made habits out of living their lives repeating rituals and actions that propel them forward toward positivity and power, every day. That's the difference between the world class athlete on top of his game and the guy who works a dead-end job, that he hates, just to "pay the bills" and maintain the status quo. All the while feeling tortured inside because of the utter soul-lessness of his job and lack of passion, true passion and drive, in his day to day life. When you wake up in the morning, how do you begin your day? When you move through the day, where does most of your attention go? What do you do with your free time? We all have certain things we repeat week after week. The difference between the highly successful, happy person and the struggling person is that the highly successful individual has made a habit out of pushing themselves to excel, staying fit and healthy in body and mind, and surrounding themselves with positive people who also have high standards.

Remaining in toxic or unhealthy environments with folks who live by lower standards than you may make you feel good for a while. Your ego can look down and say righteously "Look how great I AM. At least MY life isn't as bad as THAT person over there. I must be doing really good. Gee I sure am smart and great and wonderful." Then you don't really have to change your life, all you gotta do is hang around with people with lower standards so you can feel good about yourself.

But those feelings won't last. Ultimately a quiet resentment will build, a knawing discontent. Because you're still not living true to your own potential. The only way to really bring passion, power, and uncontrolled zest for life is to raise the bar. Raise Your Standards. Aspire to be more. To be full of Joy and Exuberance. (or Health and Wealth, or Power and Positivity....) What better motivation could there be?? When that is your motivation, suddenly the tv loses it's hold on you. That oh-so-comfy couch gets even comfier after you've been out all day moving your body, tantalizing your senses and gathering information and knowledge. It's easier to let go of stress because all your misdirected frustration and any agitated energy has been moved through and released in healthy and productive ways. Life is meant to be abundant, interesting, endlessly entertaining and maybe even a little exciting... but definitely not stagnant. And definitely not tainted with bitterness and suspicion.

The people who complain to me the most about how hard-done-by they are and how passion-less their lives and relationships have become, are always the ones who have developed daily habits that do not support a life (or a relationship) that thrives. Instead they do "what they have to do" to pay the bills and get through the day. How different would your relationship(s) be if you had habits and rituals that supported keeping the passion and the connection strong and alive?! Or are you content just heading to work, doin' your duties, then returning home to a life that is less than satisfying?

Tony Robbins, motivational mogul, puts it eloquently when he talks about "Daily Rituals". What do you do every single day that shapes your world? What are your daily rituals? How are you really choosing to live your life? I heard him speak recently about how you can have all the "vision" in the world - but if your daily rituals don't back that up, it's completely useless. In fact I believe his exact wording was "(if that's the case) stop lying to yourself."

Friday, 2 March 2012

The Truth About Mean People

We can’t hurt someone and not suffer because of it.
Byron Katie

I believe this to be true. I really do. I have to. Otherwise I wouldn't sleep at night.

Sometimes I think I'm a little naive. I must be. Or just a wishful thinker maybe. I put a lot of energy into trying to see the best in people. Again, I kinda have to. That is, if I want to continue to do the work I love. I have been trained to look past people's behaviors and to continually practice widening my capacity for forgiveness. That's not always a simple thing for me. But its getting easier.

There are a couple of exceptions though. A couple of very difficult people who have crossed my path that have ultimately become my greatest teachers. They've provided me with such powerful lessons in keeping my heart open and humbly picking up some of the mess they left as a result of gracing my life with their presence. Yoga has trained me in the language of symbols. Everything is symbolic. People's injuries are symbolic, the way people hold themselves and their bodies are symbolic, the words people use.....all symbols of the incredibly intricate and complex inner worlds that we carry around within us.

Interestingly, I've come to notice the people we somehow attract into our lives are also symbolic - of what we need for true growth. Which, is really what we're doing here, isn't it? Learning, evolving...? I mean, if you had real resistance, real difficulty with trusting people because you were terrified of being abandoned, for example, what do you think the best way to really learn to release/heal that? Probably to experience your way through it so you actually build up the necessary tools. Probably to attract someone into your life who does the exact thing you're afraid of. Why? Because you keep living. You keep going. It hurts for a while but then you move on, and are ultimately stronger eventually. And that old fear, that resistance, is calmed. Because you've already survived it.

Plus, MeanPeople are really just ScaredPeople in disguise. Funny how seductive the emotions can be isn't it? We can get all caught up in the drama of a situation or the indignity of it all that we forget to really notice what's happening. Looking at things symbolically can help change a lot of cycles and patterns that you find repeating themselves. Next time you find yourself confronted with a MeanPerson relax and try to understand that deep down they're just frightened. Deep down they're really a lot like you I imagine. Understanding that breeds compassion. It's easier to forgive when you see your same-ness with another. Underneath it all we're not really that different from each other.

When another person makes you suffer, it is because he suffers deeply within himself, and his suffering is spilling over. He does not need punishment; he needs help. That's the message he is sending.— Thich Nhat Hanh

And in these very wise words lies the real, heart of the matter, truly:

'Life is a mirror and will reflect back to the thinker what he thinks into it.' Ernest Holmes