Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Self Belief

Imagine you are a sculptor.  Not a painter.  A sculptor.  Now imagine someone asks you to paint a giant scene over 1,100 square metres - roughly one sixth of the size of a football pitch.  The scale required will be massive, so it will be impossible for you to see what is developing as you paint.  You are asked to paint this scene over another painting made by an old master, but are assured this will not be a problem because the person who owns this believes your painting will be better than the one already there.  Remember, you are not even a painter, let alone a great painter.  Leaving aside the ethics of destroying a valuable piece of art, and just thinking of the challenge before you, would you do it?  Or would you react by saying "I am not a painter, I'm a sculptor!  I cannot do this!  Even if I manage to complete this mammoth task, what I paint won't even be as good as what I will be replacing!".  Would you have as much faith in yourself as the man who has asked you to do this clearly has in you?

You may well know the story I am telling here.  The painting of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City by Michaelangelo.  At the time Pope Julius II commissioned this work Michaelangelo was not a painter but a sculptor.  Yes, he was an artist, but of a very different kind.  He had never before done anything like the work Julius was asking him to do.  It wasn't even ordinary painting, but rather highly specialised fresco work on a curved surface high above the ground.  But the Pope believed in him and so Michaelangelo also believed in himself, despite initial doubts and worries.  When he was a third of the way through the job, Michaelangelo saw mould spreading over his work, spoiling the painting before it was anywhere near completion.  So he had to stop what he was doing, remove the mould, and change the way he was painting so the mould did not reappear and destroy his work.  If he had succumbed to his very natural initial self doubt we would now not have one of the most beautiful frescos in the world.  Yes, he had doubts and worries.  But, encouraged by the Pope who believed in him, he also had self belief and completed the task, taking nearly 5 years to do so.

If Michaelangelo had asked his friends whether he should attempt this impossible task, what do you think they would have advised?  Probably not even to try!

Let's imagine something else.  Imagine you were born without arms.  But you have decided you would like to be a pilot.  Impossible?  You would think so, wouldn't you?  Especially given the requirement to pass a pretty stringent assessment of your flying skills before you are given a pilot's licence.  It might seem impossible, but if you have self belief you can do it.  That is what Jessica Cox did.  Jessica wanted to achieve her dream of flying.  She believed in her ability to do so even though nobody without arms had ever learned to fly.  All she had going for her was her self belief, but that was enough.  Jessica became the first person in the world ever to gain a licence to fly.

If you had been born without arms and knew that nobody without arms had ever flown a plane, could you have dreamt of becoming a pilot and then done everything necessary to get your licence?  Jessica did, because she had self belief.  I can imagine her family and friends told her she was crazy.  It would certainly have seemed that way.  But Jessica never gave up, and now she flies planes using just her feet!

I want you to spend a few moments thinking about what you want to achieve in life.  Don't worry whether or not it seems to be achievable.  All that matters is that it is something you really want to achieve.  Write it down.  Not as something you want one day, but write it as though it is something you have already achieved.

You will probably now hear all the voices in your head telling you why you can never achieve it.  But think about it for a moment.  Is it really so much more difficult than having no arms, yet obtaining a pilot's licence - at a time when nobody else thought this was even possible?  Believe in yourself just as Jessica Cox did and you can achieve your dream.

You will probably face obstacles along the way that you had never expected, even when you first thought about your dream and recognized how difficult it would be to achieve it.  Michaelangelo knew he was attempting a near impossible task when he began painting the ceiling in the Sistine Chapel, but he didn't also expect his painting would start going mouldy when he was only part way through.  He didn't give up at that point, but simply found the right way to tackle this new obstacle.  You must do the same.

Finally, having decided what it is you want to achieve, take the first step, then the next, and then the next.  Don't simply sit there waiting for it to happen.  It won't unless you take action!  Having agreed to paint the ceiling in the Sistine Chapel, Michaelangelo didn't just sit down and wait for the fresco to appear.  He got on with it.  Having decided she wanted a pilot's licence, Jessica Cox didn't sit there waiting for someone to give her one.  She started doing all that was necessary for her to earn it.  So must you.  Start with self belief.  Know you can achieve it.  Then get on and do whatever is necessary for you to get there!

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Scientifically Proven Health Benefits of Meditation

Why meditate?

Funnily enough, this is not a question I hear very often.  I get the "why" question about a lot of things, but not about meditation.

I say "funnily enough", as I know the reality is that very few people really seem to practise meditation.  They apparently know why they should, but just never get around to it.

But I am now going to give some good medical reasons anyway.  Don't skip them!  Don't say "I know why I SHOULD meditate" unless you regularly practise meditation.  If you don't regularly practise, then you really need to remind yourself of exactly what you are missing.

According to "Mind", a large and well respected mental health charity, one in four people in the UK will suffer with a mental health problem this year.  Read that again: one in four!  You may not live in the UK, but the statistics are probably very similar in your country.  Probably not publicized, as to far too many people "mental illness" is a dirty word, so the problem tends to be brushed under the carpet.  Just think about it for a second - if you have a spouse and two children then the statistics say it is very likely one of you will have a mental problem in the very near future.  By far the commonest problem is a condition consisting of a mix of anxiety and depression.  Roughly 10% of the population suffer from this.  Over 2.5% will suffer from severe clinical depression.  Around 17% will consider suicide at some point in their life.  Are these statistics surprising and disturbing?  They certainly took me aback!

One of the best answers to this very prevalent problem is to practise meditation.  In January 2014 an assistant professor of medicine at John Hopkins University, Madhav Goyal, published a paper in the American Medical Association's journal of internal medicine, reviewing the results of properly conducted scientific studies on the impact of meditation on anxiety and depression.  Goyal found good evidence that meditation was as effective in countering and controlling anxiety and depression as was a properly administered and controlled drug therapy regime.  He also found that there had been far too little proper research of this kind, and the suggestion was that meditation would most likely be found to be even more effective if anyone bothered to research it more thoroughly!  What an inditement!  But also, what an endorsement of the power of meditation!

Another study, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, showed that a meditation program resulted in a significant reduction in anxiety and panic attacks in a group of patients with anxiety and panic disorder.

A study by neuroscientists at Harvard University, headed by Dr Sara Lazar, showed that regular meditation resulted in a significant increase in the grey matter of the brain in areas that controlled memory, learning ability, regulation of emotions, compassion, self-awareness and the ability to put things in perspective - and that these results were obtained after only 8 weeks of meditation.  Please read this sentence again!  Regular meditation even for a fairly short period has been demonstrated in a controlled scientific experiment to increase your ability to learn, to control your enotions, become more self-aware, become less concerned about problems, and even simply to be more compassionate.  Look at that list!  If you are at all interested in self improvement you should certainly be including regular meditation in your various practices.

The more the cerebral cortex of your brain is folded, the better your brain becomes at processing information.  In other words, you make better decisions if your brain is folded more.  Well research by the UCLA Department of Neurology in 2012 showed that people who meditated regularly experienced greater folding of their cerebral cortex.  This means meditation improves your brain in a way that means you can make better decisions.

An article published in 2010 in "Behavioural and Brain Functions" showed that even novice meditators were able to perform tasks significantly better after just a short course of meditation.  The research also showed that there was an apparent reduction in the need for sleep in the group practising meditation for a longer period.  So the evidence suggests you should be able to work more effectively, whatever that work might be, and either sleep less or gain greater benefit from sleeping for the same number of hours.  Do you think this might be beneficial for you?  If so, you need to meditate!

In the Journal of Neuroscience, 6th April 2011, a group of researchers reported on a study which showed meditation significantly reduces the effect of pain.  They measured two factors - pain "unpleasantness" and pain intensity.  The research showed that after just 4 days of meditation, the volunteers showed a reduction of 57% in the "unpleasantness" of a pain sensation, and a 40% reduction in the intensity of the pain.  Apparently this is a greater impact than a normally prescribed dose of morphine would give, but without the potential side effects of severe constipation and even possible addiction if too much morphine is required.

There are many more proven health benefits of meditation, but let me finish with just one more.  A study by scientists at the Institute for Psychological Research and Leiden Institute for Brain and Cognition, Leiden University, showed after a very short period of meditation (three 45 minute sessions every 10 days) the meditators became more creative.  When researching a problem we all have a tendency to follow one train of thought and then miss all the other possiblities which might otherwise have occurred to us.  This is termed "convergent thinking".  The opposite of this, "divergent thinking", allows us to consider lots of different ideas instead of being trapped in just one way of thinking.  What the researchers found was that the meditation exercises promoted divergent rather than convergent thinking.  So if you meditate you are much more likely to come up with different, productive ideas.

I suggest you read this again and again.  Meditation has scientifically proven, medically confirmed benefits.  It changes your brain physically in ways that:

  •   reduce anxiety, depression and other mental health problems
  •   increase your ability to learn
  •   improve your memory
  •   improve your ability to control negative emotions
  •   reduce your worries about problems
  •   improve your abilities to find the right answers to problems
  •   increase your compassion
  •   increase your self-awareness
  •   improve your ability to make the right decisions
  •   improve your ability to complete tasks properly
  •   reduce the intensity and "unpleasantness" of pain
  •   improve creativity

Is this list long enough for you?  I hope so, even though it has only just scratched the surface.  Perhaps now you will be more ready to start meditating properly and regularly so you can gain all these great benefits!

Wednesday, 17 August 2016


How suggestible are you?

When I ask people this question, the typical response is "I am not suggestible at all!"  Fortunately that is not true!

Fortunately?  Why am I suggesting that it is a good thing to be suggestible?

The reason I believe it can be a very good thing is that you can take advantage of the suggestible quality of your mind to create changes you really want to see in yourself.

Take creative visualization for example.

Many people, myself included, believe when you use visualization to manifest something, you are using the power of the Universe.  But I also believe that power of the universe is within me if only I will make an effort to use it!  By focusing properly on whatever it is I wish to achieve, by putting it in a setting that generates warmth and happiness and that reminds me I have already achieved it, I am in a sense "tricking" my subconscious mind to utilize that inner Universal power.

When you use affirmations, you are doing the same thing.  You are "tricking" your subconscious and making it believe you have reached your goal and all that remains is to bring this inner reality into the physical world.

In both cases, the main reason this works is because you are suggestible.  If you were not at all suggestible, then your subconscious would ignore your visualizations and affirmations and simply retort that they do not accord with what it sees in the physical world.

Sometimes, though, that DOES happen.  It happens when your subconscious becomes aware that you ARE tricking it.  Allow that to happen and for that moment in time you are no longer suggestible, which means your visualizations and affirmations will not work.

Typically, this will occur when you approach manifesting techniques in a half-hearted manner.  Perhaps you begin affirming but at the same time keep thinking this is probably not going to work.  If you do that, then I can guarantee it is NOT going to work.  Your subconscious is not going to respond, as it knows you are trying to trick it.  It is almost as though you are first sending it a message saying "don't believe what I am going to say next - it isn't true!".

One of the secrets of manifesting properly is to leave all your doubts to one side.  You may simply be able to do this without using any other techniques.  Or you may need to bring those doubts to the surface first, and address them one by one, setting each aside as you answer it.

You should also try to get yourself into a suggestible state.  Relax!  Allow your mind to drift and reach your "safe haven".  This is a place where you know you are perfectly safe no matter what.  Where you are nurtured by the Universe and feel really happy and comfortable.  I cannot describe this place for you, as the reality is we each have our own safe haven which is not going to be exactly the same as anyone else's safe haven.  You should spend some time meditating and exploring your inner world so you can find your own safe haven.

Use these techniques and you will find you are much more suggestible and your visualizations and affirmations work far better.

Be aware, though, that suggestibility can work against you as well.  Not in your safe haven or when you are using these techniques.  But when you are just living your normal life it is possible for others to take advantage of your suggestibility.  I don't want you to worry about this, as your own suggestions will be far more powerful.  But I do want you to be aware so you can counter any negative influence.  Make sure you associate with other positive people, not with any who are negative and will consciously or unconsciously send negative messages to your own subconscious mind.

Recognize that if you are a human being, then by your very nature you are suggestible.  Use that knowledge to reduce the power of negative people to influence you, and use it to harness the extraordinary power of the universe to change you and everything around you to what you really want for yourself.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Abundance and Religion

We live in an abundant world.  Abundance surrounds us.  Never doubt it!  Abundance of things, of relationships, of happiness - of everything good.

If you are at all religious you will most certainly find references to the abundance all around you in the holy writings of your religion.

For my Moslem friends, refer to Chapter 108 of the Quran, the shortest chapter in your holy book.  It says "We have given thee abundance of good things."  This was written at a time when the Holy Prophet was facing what seemed a very gloomy future.  It looked as though his mission was about to fail, and he would have been justified in feeling complete despair.  Yet the message he received was that there was an abundance of good things all around him, he didn't despair, and his mission certainly didn't fail!

For my Jewish and Christian friends, the Bible is absolutely full of references to abundance.  Perhaps the clearest example, loved by both Jews and Christians, is Psalm 23.  The entire Psalm reminds us that no matter how bad things may seem to be ("Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death") we are provided with everything we need.  We are living in an abundant world, looked after by God (or the Universe, if you prefer a non-theistic approach) who "prepares a table before you in the presence of your enemies".  You need fear nothing, as God (the Universe) is with you every step of the way, ensuring there is an abundance of everything you need.

For my Hindu friends, Section 4.1.5 of the Yajurveda Samhita says "You are the unchanging direction, make unchanging in me children, abundance of wealth, abundance of cattle, abundance of heroism."  If you want to experience abundance, look at the goddess Lakshmi.  Lakshmi personifies the abundance of our universe, and her four hands show us the goals on which we should focus if we want to achieve that abundance: Dharma (right behaviour), Kama (right desire), Artha (right goals) and Moksha (self realization).

For my Buddhist friends, consider the Buddha Ratnasambhava.  Like the Hindu Lakshmi, Ratnasambhava personifies the abundance that is there for all of us if we approach life in the right way.  Ratnasambhava removes the feeling of separation we have from all other life, and which makes us blind to the abundance all around us.  When we recognize the interconnectedness of all things in the universe, we have to recognize the abundance that surrounds us.

For my Sikh friends, the Guru Granth Sahib says "God has produced everything in great abundance. Granting His Grace, God has satisfied all. Bless us with Your Gifts, O my Great Giver. All beings and creatures are satisfied."

Some adherents of these six world religions try to claim their religion forbids them from seeking an abundance of anything.  This is not true.  They are all rooted in the abundance of good that surrounds us and that is intended for all of us to receive in our lives.

If only one religion told us that abundance is all around us for us to enjoy, then we could be forgiven for thinking this does not apply to us as we do not believe in that religion.  When all the major religions tell us this, then perhaps we should listen, whether or not we are normally religious.

Recognize that this is an abundant universe and that you are intended to enjoy that abundance, even if (like the Prophet Mohammed) you are at the centre of despair and it seems there is nothing good awaiting you.  Know that if you behave in the right way (Dharma), encourage and develop your desire for the good things awaiting you (Kama), set proper goals to obtain those things (Artha) and continue working on your self development (Moksha) you will be able to share in the abundance which is all around you.  Become grounded in the abundant universe and allow that abundance to flow through you.  To do anything else is to disrespect the universe and its creator who wants you to enjoy all the good things created just for you.

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Self Sabotage

Do you have a goal you want to reach and it always seems just out of your reach?  Or perhaps, even worse, even as you reach the goal you find yourself slipping back.  It was right there in your grasp and then it was gone again.  Or you achieve a goal, are happy that you have got there, but then you find the whole world is conspiring against you to take it away again.

For the big goals in your life maybe this doesn't apply.  They are so big you are nowhere near them yet, so they are not "just out of reach" and you don't find you have achieved them and then they are taken away again.  But you will probably agree this does happen to you with at least some of your smaller goals.  Perhaps those goals you need to reach in order to get closer to your big goals.

So who is that goalkeeper who is so efficient at keeping your ball from passing between the goal posts?  Whoever it is, they must be really good at goal-keeping, as you never seem to score!

If only you could make that goalkeeper switch sides just as you are approaching the goal, how easy it would be.  You would achieve exactly what you want to achieve!

Let me reveal exactly who that goalkeeper is.  It is you!  Yes, that is right!  You are the one who is making it impossible for you to score your own goals.  And I agree that goalkeeper is good.  Really good!  As for switching sides?  Well, now you know you are the one standing in the way and stopping you getting to the goal it should be easier for you to reverse this.  You don't need to make the goalkeeper change sides, just recognize he or she has mistakenly been playing on the wrong side all this time.

Enough of the sports imagery though.  Let's have a closer look at what is happening and what you can do about it.

You are guilty of self sabotage.  This is not another metaphor I have made up, but a recognized psychological issue.  We all do it.

Some of us do it in very noticeable ways.

If, for example, you are trying to get healthier and lose weight you may find you are also a "comfort eater".  You have a bad day at work, so the moment you get home you attack a big bowl of ice cream.  You feel a bit depressed (perhaps even depressed about the fact that you are not losing enough weight) and so you reach for the biscuit tin to give yourself some comfort.

Or you are trying to reach a goal of cutting your credit card debt, perhaps even losing that debt completely.  You have the right plans in place and know you can get there.  Then you suddenly find you have gone on a shopping spree, which has dug a deep hole in your debt reduction strategy.  It is almost as if a different person came along, grabbed your credit card, and put you right back to the beginning again.

I have known sales people, good sales people, who have gone along to one of their most important, big sales ever and have completely screwed up the sale.  Not because they were nervous.  Not because they didn't know how to swing the sale.  But because they found themselves saying things that they knew would mean their prospective client would not buy.  Why did they do this?  Not because they no longer believed in what they were selling.  Not because they thought it was wrong for the person in front of them.  They still believed passionately in the product or service they were selling, and they knew it was right for that person.  They seemed just deliberately to sabotage their own sale.  Why?

I have known business owners who, just as their business was really growing and starting to give them the return they had always dreamed of, started taking actions that any good business consultant could have told them would destroy the progress they had made in the business.  They didn't do this because they hadn't taken the right advice from a business guru.  They did it even though if they had stopped and thought carefully about what they were doing, they would have known it was a disastrous strategy.  So why did they do it?

The answer in all these cases is self sabotage.

Your own self sabotage may not be as obvious as these examples, but I can almost guarantee somewhere along the line you are guilty of committing self sabotage.  And that may be the very reason you have not yet reached your desired goal.

It may be as simple as knowing the right way forward but allowing yourself to go in a different direction.  If you are reading this blog it is very likely you understand very well the concepts of positive and negative thinking.  You know if you focus on the negatives you will never get there, yet still those negative thoughts keep coming into your mind and you don't seem able to stop them.

Why we self sabotage is a deep and complex subject.  I could write a whole book about it, and I guess there are a number already written.  But there are just a few reasons behind most examples of sabotage.

Perhaps one of the commonest reasons is that although you think you want to achieve the goal, deep inside you are afraid of getting there.  You may be afraid of changes it will inevitably trigger in your lifestyle.  Maybe you have got into a comfortable rut and subconsciously you want to hang onto that comfort even though you know it is a rut and you cannot afford to stay there.  You may recognize that once you reach your goal many of your "friends" will be jealous and will no longer want to be your friends.  Notice, though, I put "friends" in quotation marks.  The reality is that your true friends will be happy for you if you do achieve what you want to achieve.  Those who are jealous were never really your friends in the first place and you are better off without them!

Another very common reason is that you have some doubts, which may be genuine concerns, and then you surpress those doubts.  But you have not rid yourself of the doubts, just repressed them.  They are still there, and they are now making you sabotage your efforts to reach your goal.  Instead of repressing them, you need to recognize and address them.

Linked to this is what I, and many other coaches, refer to as "blocks".  Often these arose many years ago, perhaps in your early childhood.  They are usually irrational, but that doesn't stop them making you sabotage your progress towards your goals.  The key to dealing with blocks is to recognize they are there, to identify them.  Sit quietly, focussed on your goal, and allow repressed doubts and objections to arise.  This might not happen immediately.  It might not even happen the first few times you meditate in this way.  But keep trying and you should find they do eventually arise.  Even better, let one of the many good coaches who specialize in "blocks" guide you through the process.

There are many reasons for self sabotage, and there are many ways to counter it.  But the very first step is to recognize that, just like everyone else, you are guilty of sabotaging your own progress from time to time.  Once you recognize this you can work on unearthing the reasons and then finding out how to remove them.

Wednesday, 27 July 2016


What is "Manifesting" all about?

I am sure, as you are interested in becoming successful, you have come across the term "manifesting", or "manifestation".  But what exactly does it mean?

The Oxford Dictionary principal definition of "Manifestation" is "an event that embodies something abstract".  In other words, you take something that is not concrete, not "real" in the way most people understand this term, and transform it into reality.

The way it is meant in the "personal development and success" world is very similar to this.  You have a desire (which is not concrete, but abstract) and turn it into reality.

In the medical world, "manifestation" means the way in which an ailment expresses itself through detectable symptoms.  In other words, there is something there which is not visible in itself, but you then become aware of it because it creates something which shows it is there.

Again, this is close to what I believe about "manifestation" when considering success strategies.  My wish or desire for something is not visible in itself, but it then creates a result which is very clearly visible.

Notice that in both definitions there must first really be something there, something undetectable but still very definitely there, before the results can manifest.  This is certainly the case when considering "manifesting" or "manifestation" as part of a strategy to achieve a certain goal.  You cannot simply think it would be nice for something to happen and then assume you have done all that is necessary to manifest it!  The seed must be there in the first place if you want the plant to grow.

Actually, it is a jolly good thing this isn't the way "manifesting" works.  Imagine the chaos!  You have a brief thought that "it would be nice if ..." .  Fill in the gap with anything you like.  Whatever it is, it may be something you really want, something that is right for you, or it may not.

With most things in life we begin by deciding what we might like to happen.  We then think about it and decide whether this really is what we want.  If so, we start to make plans to make it happen.  And then we start taking actions by following that plan so it DOES happen.  At every stage of the way we have the option to change our mind.  Even once we have started taking actions we can usually reverse and start again in a different direction if we begin to feel this is not right for us after all.  Included in all this is our moral and ethical analysis.  Perhaps when we first think of something we would like to happen we don't consider the effect it might have on those around us.  I would like to think that I DO consider this first, or at least very early on in the process, but many people only consider this later on - perhaps when they start taking actions and realize that there are negative implications they had not considered earlier.  Some people may decide to proceed regardless.  Hopefully you are not one of those people!  When you recognize that, for example, the goal you wanted to achieve means people around you will suffer I hope you will reflect carefully and either find a different way which will not cause this suffering, or will change your goal entirely.

So it is important that there is time for a "reality" check, time for proper reflection on all the implications, before whatever it is we want materializes.  And this is exactly the way manifesting works.

First you have to examine your dream carefully.  You must make sure it properly reflects your inner values and that it is something you really want.  During this process you will consider not only what it will mean for you but also what it will mean for others.  You must spend as much time as necessary embedding your desire for this dream properly.  If you have done this properly you will feel an intense emotion when you focus on the dream.  That powerful emotion is the "something abstract" that manifestation is going to turn into a real event or series of events.

Having taken the trouble to ensure you are going after the right dream, you must begin to take the actions that will turn that dream into reality.  These actions will begin with preparing something physical that will constantly remind you of the dream and why it is so important to you.  You will begin turning the "something abstract" into something more physical by giving it a name and writing that down.  A name that truly encapsulates whatever it is you want.  You will write it down in a way that shows it already has moved from the abstract to a real event.  Express it positively in the present moment.  State your dream as a goal already achieved.  This process is what is often called creating a "vision board"  Now all that has to happen is for what you and everyone around you see as "reality" to catch up with true reality.

Do not, though, think that because you have done all this you no longer have to take any other actions.  It is most certainly true, as Sophocles said (in 409 BCE) that "heaven ne’er helps the men who will not act", or in the words of Euripedes (428 BCE) "for to the worker God himself lends aid".  Do not just sit back and wait for it to happen, but take whatever actions you would take to move towards your dream even if you did not believe in "manifestation".  Often, the way manifestation will work is by presenting you with great opportunities.  But if you are not doing anything to move towards you dream you will not notice those opportunities and will not take the actions nedded in order to benefit from them.

In this short article I have only touched on the surface of "manifesting", but you should find there is enough here for you to start building on this foundation.  Don't stop there though - study all you can on this very important subject and take advantage of all the opportunities that come your way to improve your manifesting techniques.

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

What are Your Limiting Beliefs?

Notice I didn't ask whether or not you have any limiting beliefs, just what they are.  If you believe you do not have any, you are deceiving yourself.  We all have limiting beliefs.  Every one of us.

Limiting beliefs are not "limited" to the poor and those of us who are not well known.  The French King Charles VI, for example, had a belief that limited him from being touched by others - his belief was that he was made of glass and that if anyone touched him, he would shatter!  Most of us will not have limiting beliefs quite that strange, and most of us will not act quite as erratically as King Charles - who even gave his country away to the King of England!  But we do all have limiting beliefs, and some of those beliefs will be highly debilitating.

A limiting belief is any belief which stops you achieving something you would like to achieve.  This is often, but not always, because you do not believe it is possible for you to achieve it right now.  Sometimes it is a belief that what you want is in some way sinful.  It may be a belief that even though you really want to achieve it, you will be unhappy if you do.  Perhaps because deep inside you are not sure it is right for you.

As you will see, there can be many different kinds of limiting belief.  The best way to deal with some of those beliefs is to take some time to review very carefully what you really do want to achieve.  As I have said many times before, look deep inside and make sure your desire is fully aligned with your inner values.  If it is not, then you will always be struggling against yourself when you try to reach that goal.  Something has to change before you can move forward.  Either your inner values must change or your goal must change.  For more help on aligning your goals with your inner values read my article on Alignment here.

Probably one of the most common limiting beliefs is that your goal is impossible to achieve.  Impossible for you.  Impossible at this time.  Perhaps even impossible for anyone, ever.

Nothing is impossible.  What seems to make it impossible is your limiting belief, or even a whole series of limiting beliefs which are all conspiring against you.  Absolutely anything is possible if you truly believe you can achieve it.  In fact, I would go even further.  My belief is that as long as you are determined to deal with your limiting beliefs you have ALREADY achieved your goal.  Read that again!  You have ALREADY achieved it.  That achievement is in the future, but the future is real, so you have really achieved your goal.  All you have to do now is to allow that future achievement to unfold in the present.

One way to unearth your limiting beliefs is to look out for a person inside you called Mr, Miss, or Mrs Yabut.  Yes, you have multiple personalities, and one of those personalities has the name "Yabut".  This is the person who, when you think about one of your goals, says "yah, but ..."!  What comes after "yah, but ..." is the key.  It is the objection you need to answer.

If you have ever had any sales training you have probably been taught to unearth and then answer objections.  If you don't have this skill it is very difficult to sell anything.  In fact many sales trainers will tell you that an objection is a buying signal.  Your prospective buyer is telling you that he or she wants to buy from you but first you need to help them remove this obstacle.  Give them the help they need to remove that obstacle and you have the sale.  In other words, find the "Yabut", answer it, and then you can assume the sale is made.

It is exactly the same when you are "selling" to yourself.  Find the "Yabut", answer it, and then move on with the certainty that you will now achieve your goal.

Just to give you some encouragement, here are some "Yabuts" that others have answered and moved on to achieve their goals.

Shania Twain was born into poverty.  In her childhood, she and her brother and sisters often went hungry.  From the age of 8 she had to work to help earn enough money for her family to survive.  Shania is now one of the most successful country singers of all time, with a net worth estimated at the time of writing as around $350 million.

Howard Schultz was also born into poverty, and nobody in his family had ever been to college.  Perhaps you have never heard of Howard Schultz.  But I am sure you have heard of Starbucks.  It was Howard Schultz who catapulted Starbucks from a single coffee shop into a worldwide chain that, when I last checked, had nearly 24,000 branches.

Another great man born into poverty was Andrew Carnegie, the steel magnate and philanthropist who gave away around $350 Million to charity in the last 18 years of his life.  In today's terms that is over $78 Billion.

Have you heard of Steve Jobs?  I am sure you have - the co-founder of Apple Computers.  Steve had a lot of problems at school.  His parents were not well-off, and when he realized how much college was costing them and how little they could afford it, he dropped out of college to save them the money.  So here you have it - a family background of financial difficulty, and an educational dropout.  Despite this background, and despite many other challenges after he co-founded Apple Computers, Steve Jobs realized his dream and completely revolutionised the computer industry.  In 2010 he was worth over $8 Billion!

J K Rowling struggled as a single mother after a failed marriage, living on state benefits. Her first draft of "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" was rejected by publishers 12 times, before the 8 year old daughter of the chairman of the Bloomsbury publishing house read the first chapter and demanded to see the next chapter!  Bloomsbury took her on, but also told her she should get a "proper" job, as she had little chance of making any money as an author of children's books.  As I am sure you know, J K Rowling has made a fortune from the Harry Potter series and is now a billionaire.  She has also set up a charitable trust with an annual budget of over £5 Million to combat poverty and social inequality, which are two of her major passions.

There are plenty of other examples of individuals who are now very famous for what they have achieved but who overcame enormous obstacles to get there.  How about Michael Jordan, the basketball star?  He didn't even manage to get into his high school basketball team, and today he reminds us that the only reason he is successful is because he has failed so many times, having lost over 300 games!

Or how about overcoming obstacles that occur while you are already living your dream and that threaten to take that dream away from you.  Perhaps one of the best examples of someone who overcame in those circumstances is Ludwig Van Beethoven.  In his late 20's he started to develop hearing problems, compounded by severe tinnitus (a condition in which you continuously hear sounds that are not actually there).  This is a difficulty in many careers, but would seem an insurmountable problem for a professional musician!  Imagine having your concentration on creating a symphony interrupted by continuous noise!  And then being unable to play and hear the passages you want to include in your masterpiece!  These are the obstacles Beethoven faced.  They were pretty solid and apparently insurmountable obstacles, but they did not create for Beethoven the limiting beliefs they would have created in almost any other musician.  He was very frustrated by them, but that did not stop him - he simply carried on regardless!  When he wrote his magnificent 9th Symphony, which contains the "Ode to Joy" that is now the official anthem of the European Union, Beethoven was completely deaf.

Find your limiting beliefs.  Recognize that nothing can limit you unless you allow it to do so.  Then go on to achieve your goals, whatever they may be!  But don't stop there - also recognize that no matter how many limiting beliefs you have unearthed and destroyed, there will always be more under the surface.  Keep on rooting them out and keep on achieving goal after goal!

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

What stories do you tell yourself?

How suggestible are you?

Many people believe they are not at all suggestible.  They laugh at the idea that the TV ads can influence them and get them to buy something they hadn't already planned to buy.  They watch Derren Brown or Wayne Hoffman and laugh at the way people are influenced by these mentalists, knowing there is no way they would be caught out like that.

The reality, though, is that we are all suggestible.  We are VERY suggestible.  All of us.  This is not actually a weakness but rather a strength.  An essential element of our personality.

Why do I claim this?  Life presents us all the time with so many stimuli that it is impossible for us to take them all in before making a decision on the "right" way forward.  Nature has taught us to be reactive.  If we were not, we would mentally explode.  So we often have to make our decisions with very little background information.  Not because the information is unavailable but because there is too much there to analyse.  We have to act fast in so many situations, too fast to take much notice of the facts that perhaps should be influencing our decision.  Life is too complex for us to keep analysing all the alternatives before deciding on what actions to take.  So we go by our "gut reaction", our basic intuition.  Having made our decision we then convince ourselves that we DID analyse the alternatives and made a logical choice.  The decision was not really made logically, but it is important for our self-image to believe it was.  

One very well-known pyschological experiment consists of showing someone a series of photos of a member of the opposite sex and asking them to choose the one they found the most attractive.  The experimenter then uses some sleight of hand, swapping the photo the person chose for a completely different photo.  The person is then asked to talk about which features in this person they particularly found attractive.  You would expect that, having chosen someone completely different, they would look down at the photo and say something like "Hey!  This is a different photo!  I can't tell you what I found attractive in this person, as this is not the person I chose!"  Some do, but very few.  Most actually select features in this new person which they say made them choose him or her in preference to all the others.  Maybe, for example, a man chose a blonde lady but now has in front of him a photo of a brunette.  He now says that one of the reasons he chose her is because he likes brunettes.  There has been no Derren Brown or Wayne Hoffman trick here, using different verbal triggers to make someone who likes blondes change and like brunettes.  All that has happened is that the photo has been swapped, and the man thinks he chose the brunette, so he now tells the experimenter he prefers brunettes.

What is happening here?  What is happening is that, having made a particular decision (or thinking he has made that decision) the man in this experiment is now justifying it to himself by telling himself a "story".  In that story, he prefers brunettes to blondes, even though if you had asked him before the experiment he would have told himself that he preferred blondes to brunettes.

An even more powerful example of this is an experiment conducted in a Scandinavian country at the time of an important election.  The two main parties had quite different sets of beliefs.  Rather like Democrats and Repbulicans in the US, or Conservative and Labour in my own country (the UK).  The experimenter gave the volunteer subjects two sheets of paper listing a number of different ideals.  Each set of ideals related to one or other of the two parties.  The volunteer was asked to pick which set of ideals he or she most identified with.  As would be expected, typically the subject picked the set of ideals that related to the party he or she had previously supported.  Again there was some sleight of hand, and the sheets were swapped.  The subject was now asked to justify why he or she believed in those particular ideals.  Again, you would expect that most would look at the listed ideals and think "this is not me!  I don't believe that!", but that is not what happened.  Most of the subjects proceeded to justify why they had picked these ideals (even though they hadn't done so!).  Effectively, the experimenter had changed the political beliefs of the subjects simply by making them believe that they had picked a different set of ideals.  The subjects then had to tell themselves a story that they believed things which before the experiment they had simply not believed.

Once you start telling yourself a story like that it becomes more and more powerful.  The effect it has on you can be negative, neutral or positive.

Your "story" may be that you are a smoker.  You just keep telling yourself that, and that you enjoy smoking, and this then justifies the actions you now take (buying and smoking cigarettes).  You tell yourself that this is you, the real you.  That you don't want to stop smoking because smoking is part of who you are.  You can choose to tell yourself this story, and if you do it will then define the real you.

But someone else may now change their story.  They tell themselves that they don't enjoy smoking, that it is a filthy habit, and that they don't want to keep doing it.  That the real "me" is a person who doesn't smoke.  Just by keeping telling themselves this new story they are no longer a smoker and they find it comparatively easy to stop smoking.

Your "story" may be that you are no good at making money.  That you have tried lots of different ways in the past and that they have always failed.  That it is impossible for you to make money.  That nothing you try will ever work for you.  If you keep telling yourself this story it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Instead, you need to tell yourself the story that you can now make money.  That all you have to do is start taking action and you WILL make money.  That the real "you" is a person who knows how to make money and does make money.

Tell this story properly and it will happen, whether it is about stopping smoking, making money, having a wonderful relationship, getting your "dream" job, or whatever else it is you want.  Why?  Because that is the way nature wired us all.  We are all suggestible.  We all change to fit whatever story it is we are telling ourselves.

Learning how to tell the story properly, how to avoid telling it so badly that your subconscious does not believe it - well that is another matter.  The good news is there is plenty of material out there and plenty of good coaches who can help you do it properly.  The key step is first to decide you want to change the stories you are telling yourself.  Take that step, start telling yourself the right stories, and your life can change in previously unimaginable ways!

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Setting Goals

Before you read any further, just humour me.  In the next 10 seconds, please write down the number one goal you are working towards.  Not a goal set by someone else, but a goal you personally subscribe to and are trying to achieve.


I can already hear the complaining voices.

"10 seconds is not long enough.  I need more time."  Is your goal that complicated?  I didn't say give me chapter and verse of the goal.  Just write down what it is.

"It's not fair!  I need longer to work out which of all my various goals is number one!"

Did either of those thoughts occur to you?  If not, congratulations!  You are already very much closer to achieving your number one goal than almost everyone else who is reading this article.

But if you didn't manage to do it, don't despair.  You are not alone.  The reality is that very few people truly set themselves goals and persevere in trying to achieve them.

The reason I gave you such a tight time limit is to stop your subconscious mind from cheating, thinking up a goal and then convincing you that this is a goal you set yourself some time ago.  No, I am not joking.  This IS the way all our minds work.  There are many psychological experiments that have been conducted which prove our minds manufacture memories that support and justify views we now have.  So if your subconscious mind thinks that it is important to you to know that you have been working towards a goal it will happily create that goal and then give you a false memory of having set yourself that goal and even of having started working towards it.

I have read somewhere that only 3% of the population set goals, and only 1% write them down.  If you couldn't complete the exercise it doesn't mean you are a failure, just that you are very similar to virtually the whole population.

Let me ask you a question.  Imagine your favourite team is trying to score a goal.  The trouble is, for some reason every member of the team has a mental block and cannot see where the goal is or remember where it was before they lost sight of it.  They don't even know where it should be, as the shape of the field has changed, so there is no longer a logical place it could be hiding.  How likely do you think it is that they will score the goal?  If you have said anything much above 0%, please go to the back of the class!  Ok, you are not in school, this is not a class, and I am not a teacher, so you don't go to the back of the class - just try again!  If you want to score a goal you really do have to know where that goal is!  Otherwise you will never score.  That is not rocket science, just good old common sense!

It is the same with personal goals.  If you don't know what your goal is, why be surprised that you never achieve it?  If you really have a clear personal goal and really are trying to achieve it, you will know what that goal is and writing it down in 10 seconds is no problem at all.

So the first step in achieving your goals is to set them in the first place.  Set REAL goals.  Ones to which you can really commit.  And the first step in setting them is to write them down and study them carefully.  Look at each goal in turn.  How do you feel when you read it?  Does it excite you?  Energize you?  Make you feel really happy?  Enthusiastic?  If it does, put a tick by it; that is a real goal.  If it doesn't, cross it out; it isn't a true personal goal for you.

Even if you completed the first exercise and are congratulating yourself for being in the top 3%, still do the second exercise.  If the goal you wrote down doesn't come up to scratch, then put it aside and find out what your real goals should be.

For some people this little exercise works first time.  If it does for you, great!  You have found your goals.  Now you just need to go through them prioritizing them.  Once you have done that, focus on your number one goal.  Write it out really clearly and neatly.  Ideally, do that on a piece of A4 paper in landscape view, with nice big writing.  And draw a neat border around it.  Focus on it every day, making sure it is in your mind so that you can begin to make progress towards it.

Now you are not just in the top 3%, but in the top 1%.  The 1% who not only know what their number 1 goal is, but have also written it down.

I am not going to tell you the story of the 3% of Harvard or Yale MBA graduates who made ten times as much as the other 97% combined, simply because they wrote down their goals.  Sometimes it has been reported as Harvard and sometimes as Yale.  It doesn't really matter which one you say, as the story simply isn't true even though you will find it all over the internet.  But it also doesn't matter that it is not true, as it IS a parable, and it is a very good one.  Myths and parables are very powerful, and you should learn to utilize that power.  Write down your number one goal and you WILL have a much greater chance of achieving it.

Communicate your goal to someone, along with the steps you are going to take to achieve it.  That is really important.  If you communicate your goal and the actions you have committed to taking you will have an even greater chance of achieving it.  Don't do this with someone who is likely to be dismissive and tell you that you are silly to have such a goal.  Ideally you should find an accountability partner, and you should then share your goals and action steps with each other.  If you are unable to do this, then share your goal and actions in the comments section of this blog, and simply imagine all the readers of my blog holding you accountable.  When you have completed the steps, communicate that you have done so.  When you have achieved your goal, communicate this too.

Unlike on the football field (or ice hockey rink, or whatever image sprang to your mind when I asked about your favourite team), life goals don't stay in the same place forever.  They change position.  So you need to keep on top of your goals.  A goal that used to be your number one goal may no longer be right at the top, or may even have been replaced altogether.  Perhaps it is no longer relevant.  Or perhaps you have now achieved it, or as much of it as you need to achieve.  We are a very adaptable species, so adapt!  Find out what your new number one goal is.

There is a lot more I could write about setting goals, but I think this is enough for now.  Explore your inner self to find the right goals, identify the number one goal, write it down, communicate it, and keep focused on it as you go through life.  Believe me when I say this one exercise will make an enormous difference to your life!

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

The Purpose of Life

What is the purpose of life?

Have you ever asked yourself this question?  I would be very surprised if you haven't.  But what is the answer?

Would it surprise you to know that there are over 7 billion genuine, but different, answers?

The answer to the question "what is the purpose of life" is deep within you.  Or, rather, "what is the purpose of my life".  The word "MY" is key, and is the reason there are so many different answers.  We each have our own unique answer.

It is, of course, possible to generalize and thereby create a broad answer which fits many people.  For example, if I were to say "the purpose of life is to make the world a better place" I imagine many (but not all) of my readers would agree.  Some would want it phrased as "the purpose of life is to follow the will of God (or Allah)", but that would usually mean something very similar to the first generalized answer I gave.  Many others (those who believe in reincarnation) would agree that "the purpose of life is to learn important lessons", or "to become a better person".

My own view, actually, is that all four answers I have given in the above paragraph are true.  But do not feel that the answer for you has to fit within one or more of those models.  As I have said, there are over 7 billion answers, some of which will probably look quite different.

A broad answer, though, is really not good enough.  This is the most important question you will ever ask yourself.  You should dig deeper and find the answer which fits you.  The unique answer, the one in 7 billion which is what should be guiding your path through this life.

Tragically, most people never truly ask themselves this question.  They may ask it as a general question, not really addressed to themselves, and then decide there is no way to answer it.  If you pose it as a general question, then there IS no way to answer it.  The question must be specifically addressed to you as an individual, not as some broad philosophical enquiry.

If you go through life without ever asking yourself this question, and more importantly without getting an answer, you will waste your opportunity to make a difference.  If you do make a difference it will be more accidental than purposive.  You will also not be as happy as you should be, not feel as achieved, not gain the success you deserve.  After all, how can you be successful if you don't even know what "successful" means for you?  This is the reason you will find many people who would be regarded by most of us as "successful", yet who feel empty and not at all successful.  The success they have achieved is not fully aligned with their real purpose in life and therefore leaves them still feeling empty.

By now you may be asking "but how do I find my own purpose in life?"  That is a very good question.  Ask it!  Even by asking that question you are getting much closer to the answer than most people ever will, even those the world believes are successful.

Begin asking yourself this question, doing so regularly.  Don't get frustrated that there may not be an immediate answer.  Just sit and meditate with the question in mind.  Wait on the Universe, the Self, God, Allah, your Spirit Guide, or your Guardian Angel - whatever or whoever you believe will give you the answer.  Keep asking, and the answer will come.  And when it comes, make sure your desires and your goals are aligned with the purpose of your life.  Do this and you will be far happier and far more successful than the great majority who never even ask themselves this question.

What is the purpose of life?  I hope that soon you will be able to answer!

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Thought Form Blocks

Have you ever tried to achieve something but found no matter what you did there was always something in the way completely blocking your progress?

Frankly, I will be amazed if you say this has never happened to you.  If you do feel you are an exception to the rule I would even suggest it has still happened to you but you were simply not aware of it at the time.

If you feel there is something blocking you, almost certainly there is.  It is unlikely to be pure coincidence.

Usually these blocks are internal, not external.  It is important to recognize this.  Do not start to think the universe is conspiring against you, or there is some evil spirit out there preventing you from achieving what you wish to achieve.

I can guarantee the universe is NOT conspiring against you.  The universe simply does not do this.  It may, though, be responding to unintended messages you are giving it.  For example, maybe you are studying to become a lawyer, but you fail every exam you sit even though you are studying really hard and you know you are intelligent enough to make it.  Why, then, do you keep failing?  I would suggest in a case like this it is because deep within you do not actually want to be a lawyer!  Perhaps you think you want to be a lawyer because your parents encouraged you from an early age to choose this career path.  Deep inside you don't really want to be a lawyer, but this resistance is hidden so deeply within you that even you cannot see it.  You cannot see it, but the universe can.  Your soul sends out messages telling the universe this is not what you want for your life, and the universe hears and responds.  This is not a conspiracy by the universe to stop you, but rather a co-operation by the universe with your inner self.

It is also quite unlikely there is an evil spirit blocking you.  I say this not because I don't believe in evil spirits.  Actually I DO believe in them.  But I also believe they do not normally interfere in this way unless you invite them in or a powerful magician evokes them specifically to act against you.  If you have undertaken an invocation ritual, in which you invite a spirit to take you over for a while, this could have got out of control and that spirit might now be blocking you in some way.  But if that has happened you will already know it!  Likewise, if you have upset a powerful magician enough to make them wish to cause you harm you will probably already know this too.  In both cases you will need deeper help than I can give you in a short blog article.

Most blocks are what I would call "thought forms" rather than evil spirits.  At some point in the past, maybe in your early childhood (and, if you believe in reincarnation, perhaps long before you were born into this existence), you created the block yourself.  You created an intention, for example an intention not to acquire wealth, and then you breathed life into that intention so it became a "thought form".  These thought forms are extremely powerful, especially if they have been around for some time and you have reinforced their power many times over.

Why would anybody do such a thing?  Is it very rare, or is it commonplace?

Unfortunately, this is not a rare occurence at all.  I would go as far as to say that almost certainly you have a number of such self-created, negative thought forms surrounding with you. They travel with you, always there ready to block you in your endeavours which are contrary to what you originally told them you wanted.

There can be many different reasons for creating a thought form block.  More often than not, the reason is quite illogical.  Say, for example, as a young child you heard your parents arguing.  You didn't really understand what the argument was about, but you kept hearing the word money.  You therefore associated "money" with "arguments" and created a thought form block to prevent you acquiring money so that you wouldn't have to suffer the pain of arguments.  Every time there was an argument about money, the strength of this thought form increased.  It may also have been increased in other ways.  Perhaps an adult told you that money is the root of evil, or that it is wrong to want money.  Your thought form block has absorbed all such comments and increased its strength through them.  Anything that is said or that happens which contradicts the "world view" of your thought form block is just ignored, but everything that supports it is absorbed and strengthens it.  Over all the years since it was first created, this thought form has become extremely powerful, able to negate all the efforts you put in to becoming wealthy.

Thought form blocks can cover many areas.  A block on becoming wealthy is extremely common.  In fact, I would go as far as to say that most of us have such a block.  Another very common block is a relationship block.  This may have very similar roots.  Most couples have arguments from time to time, no matter how loving their relationship.  A small child may witness such an argument and then believe that if you enter into a relationship you will have arguments (which is almost certainly true, but is most certainly not the whole truth).  To a simplistic, childish logic the answer to avoid the pain of arguments is to avoid entering into a relationship.

How can you reduce the power of your thought form blocks, and eventually destroy those blocks altogether?

The first step you must take is to identify the blocks.  Sit quietly by yourself and begin meditating.  Focus on one of your objectives during that meditation.  See what thoughts and feelings arise as you meditate on it.  Try to become particularly sensitive to any negative thoughts and feelings that may arise.  As such thought forms appear, start to dissolve the block by using positive affirmation.  Feel the power of the block gradually disappearing as you focus on the positives.

In order to do this properly you will, of course, need a number of very good positive affirmations.  You will need to know why it is you want wealth, a good career, happy relationships, or whatever else it is you are gtrying to achieve.  Really feel the good, positive power of your objective.  It is this power you will use to confront the block that appears.

This is only one way of countering Thought Form Blocks.  There are many other ways of doing this, with perhaps the most effective being with the aid of a good coach specializing in this kind of exercise.  But the mere fact that you have now recognized the existence of the block is a major step forwards.  Once you have done this, keep up that forward momentum and you will start to see a big improvement in your ability to use affirmation properly and achieve your goals.

If you want to try out a coach specializing in this, you may be interested in a free program offered by Carol Tuttle.  You can find out more about this free program here.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

The Ethics of Money

A few weeks ago I wrote about money.  This is a subject many "spiritual" people find challenging.  But it is also something we must all address unless we decide to go and live on a desert island.  We each have our own slightly different take on the subject.  You may find you disagree completely with mine, but hopefully not.

What are the ethics of having and using money?

My belief is that correct stewardship of money is highly ethical.  It is something that is required of all of us.  Notice my choice of word here - "stewardship".  One definition of stewardship is "responsibility to shepherd and safeguard the valuable of others".  So do I mean that our money belongs to someone else, not to us?  Yes, I do!

Money is not something you keep forever.  For a start, you will not be taking it with you when you leave this life.  Ancient Greeks and Romans believed it was necessary to pay a bribe to Charon, the ferryman whose job was to take you over the river between life and death.  But "Charon's obol" was just a single coin, not all the wealth the deceased had acquired during life.

Money belongs to society, not to you.  Some of your money is taken directly by society in the form of taxes which pay for all the services you enjoy.  But even the money that is not taken in taxes still really belongs to society.  If you are looking after it properly it is not hoarded by you and kept locked away - it flows through you.  As it flows, you can enjoy the benefits which come to you.  Be grateful for those benefits, and at the same time make sure the flow is not interrupted.  Some people do not allow it to flow properly, trying to keep it and all its benefits just for themselves.  Those same people also usually do not feel or express any gratitude for the benefits their money brings.  This is a very short-sighted attitude.  It is not only unethical, but also self-defeating.  Those of my readers who are Christian probably know the following quote very well:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal." (Matthew 6:19)

Many people interpret that verse as saying it is unethical to acquire money.  But this is not what it says.  In my interpretation this verse tells me not to dam the flow of money, trying to keep it for myself, but instead to allow it to flow through me, bringing benefits not only to me but to those around me.

If you truly allow money to flow through you then you will find more and more comes to you.  Especially if you feel and show gratitude for it.  But if you have a very selfish attitude, feeling that only you should benefit from it and trying to stop the outward flow, you will find the inward flow also slows and less and less comes to you.  This is almost a law of nature.

Think about it for a moment.  When you use money it passes from you to someone else.  Presumably you receive something in exchange for the money, so you now have a benefit you did not have before the transaction.  This may be a very tangible, immediate benefit such as a nice meal at a restaurant.  Or it may be something less tangible and providing a benefit at some time in the future - for example a deposit on a holiday.  But whatever it is, you now have a benefit (or a right to a benefit) for which you should be grateful.  This is only one side of the transaction though.  The person to whom you paid the money now has more money.  If they are in business they may use some of that money to pay wages to their employees.  If enough money flows through them they may employ more staff.  So by allowing that money to flow through you, not only are you benefiting from whatever it is you are buying, but so are other people.  The business owner who may now be able to expand his or her business benefits.  So do the employees of that business who are employed only because you and others like you have allowed that money to flow.

As long as the people to whom you pay the money allow that money to flow through them as well, that flow continues on and on.  Just a small amount of money has a ripple effect that benefits so many people in so many different ways

This is why I think of the "ownership" of money as "stewardship".  You will not keep it.  It is your job to use it responsibly, allowing it to flow to others, bringing both you and them (and many others you have never even met) many different benefits.

Do not misunderstand me though.  I am not saying that you must go out and spend all your money, not saving or investing any of it!  That is not what I mean at all when I say you must allow it to flow through you.  It would most certainly not be ethical to spend it all and then rely on others to provide for your needs later.  Again, the word "stewardship" comes into play here.  Certainly invest your money so that you will have more to use in the future and will not have to rely on the charity of others or the safety net provided by the state.  Allowing money to flow is a state of mind, accepting that money belongs to the Universe, and that you are simply its custodian for a short period of time.  During that short time (your lifetime) it is your responsibility to see that it flows properly, providing the right benefits to you and to others.

Some of your money will (or at least should) be used mainly to bring benefits to others rather than to you.  For example any payments you may make to charities.  I say "mainly", though, as in reality this also brings you a benefit - the benefit of knowing you have done the right thing, of knowing you have helped others and that their lives are now better as a result of the gift you have made.

Think about how you are using your money, and make sure this is fully aligned with your core inner beliefs.  This is the true ethics of money - the ethics of right use, whether that is direct spending or investment.  You cannot be responsible for how others may end up using the money you have allowed to flow through you to them, but there are certainly some very obvious distinctions you can make when deciding how to use and invest your money.

From now on, never allow yourself to feel that money is evil, a burden, or something you have to grasp and hold on to.  Allow it to flow through you.  Channel it in ways that bring good into the world around you.  And feel and express gratitude all the time for the benefits that flow of money is bringing to you and all those in contact with you.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Learning from Ramadan

If you are reading this article at the time I have published it, Ramadan has just begun.  I am sure all of my Muslim friends reading this need no reminder, but those of us who are not Muslims may not have been aware.

One reason for writing about Ramadan is to make sure you know what it entails and do not inadvertently do anything which might cause your Muslim friends embarrassment.  This blog is all about personal development, and I believe a very important aspect of personal development is to learn to respect the beliefs of others even if you do not share them, and to avoid doing anything which might hurt those around you in any way.

Another reason is that I strongly believe there is much to be learned from the beliefs and practices of those who do not share our own beliefs.  Having studied what happens in Ramadan, and why, I find many things which I think are helpful to anyone learning to become a better person.

So, what actually does happen during Ramadan?  I am not a Muslim, so if any of my Muslim friends spots errors in what I have written, please let me know.  I have taken great care and tried to be accurate, but am happy to correct what I have written if I have misinterpreted anything.

Even my friends who have had little or no contact with those of the Muslim faith probably know one key fact about Ramadan - that it is forbidden to eat or drink from dawn until sunset.  There are some important and practical exceptions to this rule though.  If you are ill, elderly, pregnant, breastfeeding, or diabetic you do not need to fast.  The same applies if you are travelling.  It is really up to you to decide whether your own circumstances fall within one of those exceptions solidly enough to mean you should eat and / or drink.  Where practical you should then try to fast outside the month of Ramadan to make up for the fact that you could not do so during Ramadan.  Clearly this does not apply where the reason is simply that you are elderly or diabetic.

During Ramadan it is not permissible to make love between dawn and sunset.

Putting these two prohibitions together, this means during the daylight hours you are practising abstinence from what are perhaps the most compelling and enjoyable human pleasures.  Such a practice is a very good discipline for anyone learning to become a better person.  Why?  Certainly not because there is anything wrong with eating, drinking, or making love.  But because learning to practise self-discipline is a very important aspect of personal development.  The more self-discipline you have, the higher up the ladder of personal development you can climb.  Note, though, the important balance introduced in Ramadan.  Are we told to fast and abstain from sex throughout Ramadan?  No, we are not.  Only during daylight hours.  As long as you don't live in Rovaniemi (or even further north) this gives you plenty of time during which you can eat, drink and enjoy making love - every single night of the festival.  I believe balance like this is very important.  Struggling to remain abstinent for days or weeks at a time is really not necessary when learning self control skills.  You are much more likely to be successful if you follow the teachings of the Quran in this regard rather than trying to be completely abstinent, day and night, and perhaps finding your motivation to continue dwindles.

There are also other abstinences which you must observe during your fast, such as swearing, gossiping and lying.  Obviously you are not expected to do any of these things at any time, but it is especially important to abstain from them during Ramadan.  If you do any of those things, or anything else that is clearly wrong, it is as though you have also broken your fast.  You may as well not have bothered to fast in the first place.  In the case of these things you do not have an exemption during the hours of darkness.

Ramadan is not, though, simply about abstinence.  During Ramadan a good Muslim thinks deeply about his or her faith.  It is a time for spiritual development, a time to purify your heart and soul.  The time that would otherwise be spent eating, drinking (and perhaps also making love) is time that can be used instead for spiritual exercises.  For a Muslim, this period of reflection will most certainly include reading the Quran.  For my readers who are not Muslim and who want to adopt a practice similar to that of Ramadan for their own personal development, they may not wish to read the Quran, but I suggest it would be a very good idea to spend time reading spiritual works of one kind or another.

Just as bad deeds are strictly forbidden during Ramadan, good deeds are particularly encouraged.  This includes, but is certainly not limited to, giving generously to charity.  And "charity" is also very broadly defined anyway in this sense.  For example, when the fast is broken after sunset it is considered good to share one's food with others.  In many cases this is simply with family and friends, much as Americans share the blessings of the earth with family and close friends at Thanksgiving, but it is also considered good to share with those who may not be able to afford the good food you have perhaps kept aside for breaking your fast.

Now that you are more aware of what is involved in Ramadan, please try to remember this when talking and making arrangements with Muslim friends.  For example, remember that they are not allowed to eat or drink during the day, so please do not try to invite them to lunch, or even to dinner if it is early in the evening before the sun has set.

If you have read this far and are interested in any form of self development I hope you have seen that the practices of pious Muslims during their festival of Ramadan might be a good thing to practise in order to accelerate that self development.  It may even be that some Muslims will look at their own practices during Ramadan and realize they should be using their time during Ramadan more effectively for their own spiritual development. 

If you are not a Muslim you may simply wish to pick out certain aspects as outlined above and see if you can incorporate them in your own practices.  But if you have Muslim friends maybe a good way to do this would be to ask them if they would mind if you tried to share their spiritual practices with them during Ramadan.  Don't push it if they seem less than enthusiastic, but you may find they like the idea and are very willing to share their beliefs and practices.  If so, this should not only help you develop practices which I strongly believe will help you in your self development, but also strengthen your friendship with Muslim acquaintances and increase your understanding of their faith.  Anything that increases understanding between people of different faiths has to be a very good thing in a world in which misunderstandings and prejudices are so common.