Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Saint Valentine

If you are reading this blog article on the day it was published, in many parts of the world today is Valentine's Day.  A day that celebrates romantic love.

The story behind St Valentine is shrouded in the mists of time.  There is even uncertainty about who this man was, with at least three different possible candidates.  But many believe he was a Roman Priest, cruelly executed in 269 AD by the emperor Claudius.  Those who believe this tell the following story about his "crime" and its link to romantic love.

Emperor Claudius issued an edict forbidding young people from marrying.  Why did he issue this edict?  Because he wanted all young people to be available to serve in his army, and he believed soldiers who were married and experienced true romantic love were much less likely to kill.  St Valentine believed that romantic love was a God-given emotion and that it was wrong to forbid young people to marry.  So he conducted weddings secretly, despite the edict expressly prohibiting this.  He was arrested for this "crime", and beaten, then stoned, and finally beheaded.  Before he died, he sent a note to the young lady he loved, the daughter of his jailor Asterius, and signed it "from your Valentine".

This is not the only story behind Valentine's Day, but to me it is the most powerful.  Is it true?  I really don't know, and nor does anyone else.  As I say, the story is lost in the mists of time and we can never be wholly certain which bits of it are true.  But it doesn't really matter.  Historical truth is important if you are trying to piece together exactly what happened and when, but the power of myths and legends does not rely on historical truth.  Their power is vested in the way they influence our beliefs and actions.

I truly believe that love reduces the capacity for violence.  Sometimes propaganda can distort our love for friends and family and make us believe that it is necessary to fight in a war in order to protect them.  But I believe, as did Claudius, that the overall effect of true love is to make it far more difficult for anyone to twist the way you think and feel and make you do anything designed to cause suffering.

Do you love anyone?  I really hope you do!  In fact, I hope you love everyone.  If you do, and you allow this love to influence you and determine the way you think and behave, this will have a very positive effect on you and on all around you.  This applies not only to romantic love, which is emphasized in the story of St Valentine, but also to a broader and more general love.

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Epigenetics and Personal Development

When I studied biology at university in the 1970's there was a small but significant resurgence of belief by some geneticists in the theories of the French biologist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck.  This biologist developed an evolutionary theory well before Charles Darwin wrote "On the Origin of Species".  Lamarck believed that every organism develops during their lifetime characteristics that are useful to them, and that they pass on those characteristics to their offspring.  Darwin agreed with the first premise, that all organisms develop useful characteristics, but fundamentally disagreed that those characteristics could be passed on.

Lamarckian evolution as originally stated by Lamarck is no longer regarded as scientifically correct.  However, the concept that we can pass on to our children characteristics developed during our lifetime IS an accepted scientific fact.  Rather than Lamarckian Genetics this is referred to as Transgenerational Epigenetics.

This is not a blog on biological science, so why am I referring to the ability to pass on developed characteristics to our children?  For one very important reason.  If you join with me in believing you can pass on your non-inherited characteristics to your children you will want to ensure you give them the best possible start by ensuring you have worked hard on your own personal development.

Some people seem to think that working on their own personal development is a selfish activity, especially if they are spending money on it - money which could be used in other ways to help their family.  I want to reassure you that this is never the case.  It is always a very good thing to develop all the positive characteristics you can in yourself - and now you know that if you try to remove anything that is negative and improve anything that is positive you will be giving any children you may have a better start in life.

This is not, of course, restricted to epigenetic transmission.  It is also environmental.  Your children will recognize the positive aspects of your character and this will help them to develop positively themselves.  So it applies to children you already have, not just those who will be born in the future.

But what if you are no longer of child-bearing age, and your children are fully grown and developed?  Even then, this is still an important thing to do.  Adult children respect their parents, even if they don't always show that respect, and they can still learn from you.  And you can extend this even further - by developing positive traits yourself you can influence those around you, family, friends, and colleagues, to consider working on their own personal development.  Never underestimate the power of personal development to change the world around you.

Finally, you should note that just as you can pass on traits to your children, environmentally and epigenetically, so too you will have received such traits from your parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents.  Traits that may be hidden deep within.  Hopefully many of those traits will be positive, but not all will.  Some may have been appropriate many generations ago when they were first developed but are no longer so.  Use meditation, and other personal development techniques, to identify any traits within you that may no longer be helpful and to eliminate or modify them appropriately.

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Unlocking Your Potential


Has anyone ever told you that you should unlock your potential?

It is very true - but what exactly does this mean?

If you are being encouraged to unlock your potential, then this must mean it is locked away somewhere.  Locked away - not simply sitting there unknown and unrecognized.

Think about that for a moment.  If you are like most people you probably believe that the potential within you is hidden away and just needs to be recognized in order to flower in all its beauty.  It is true that this is the case with some of your potential.  All of us have powers and abilities within us that we have never noticed.  Certainly we should do what we can to identify and develop those powers and abilities.

But unlocking potential is something rather different.  If it is locked away then clearly it is not something that has never been noticed.  It was once seen, and then locked so that we would no longer have free access to it.  But why?

There are two possible reasons for locking something away.  The first is because we believe it would be dangerous to leave it free and uncontrolled.  We have imprisoned it.  Probably with an "indeterminate sentence" - which means it cannot be released until we are convinced it will no longer be a danger to ourselves or others.  The second is almost the opposite.  We have locked it in a safe because it is so precious that we don't want anybody to steal it away from us.

In some cases both reasons apply, even though that seems illogical.  We are frightened of that potential.  We fear if we set it loose it will change us in ways that make us feel uncomfortable.  But at the same time we recognize it is very powerful and are afraid others will recognize this and take it away from us.

Most of us, if not all of us, have enormous potential that we have locked away for one or even both reasons.  And this is the potential which can change our lives beyond all recognition if only we are prepared to release it and let it do its work.  Don't be afraid of that change.  Allow those hidden powers and abilities within you to develop and you will indeed experience massive change, but it will be change for good.  For your good and for the good of those around you.  Don't be afraid that others will take it from you.  They cannot.  It is yours, and yours alone.  It can, and indeed should, be used to help others, but this is something that you yourself do with it, not that they take from you.

What potential have you locked away?  Don't say "none", as that is most definitely a lie.  I can guarantee there is something deep within you that you have locked away and that needs to be released so that your life and the lives of those around you can be improved dramatically.  When you say "none" what you are actually doing is guarding the key that will unlock your potential.  Stop guarding the key, and instead use it to unlock your hidden potential.  Decide right now that the "indeterminate sentence" has come to an end.  Decide right now that you will release your potential and let it do its powerful work in the world around you.

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Integrity



Do you have integrity?  Is it important to have integrity?  What does it mean anyway?

My dictionary gives two definitions of integrity:

  1.  Honesty and holding oneself to consistent moral and ethical standards
  2.  Being whole and undivided


Most people view these as two different and unconnected definitions, but to me they are inextricably linked.  The link words are "consistent" and "undivided".

Deep within you there is a moral compass.  For some people this may be the voice of God, or the Holy Spirit.  Others may not choose the "God" word, and may refer simply to the Spirit within.  Yet others may not see it as anything other than their own code of conduct.  But whatever you may choose to call it, wherever you may feel it comes from, this compass guides you through your life, telling you what is right and what is wrong.  Most of the time you are fully aware, consciously, of what is the right thing to do.  But sometimes it is not so clear and the signs your moral compass gives you are more important to follow.  One aspect of having integrity is being aware of the leadings of that moral compass and consistently following them.

Notice I said "deep within".  It is important to dig deep and make sure you are truly listening to the leadings of your moral compass.  Many of us think we have consistent, undivided standards, only to find if we look very carefully there is a conflict between them.  Search deep within and you will find a clear, consistent signal.  Learn to trust that signal.  It is never wrong.  Sometimes, though, the signal is clouded by all the noise between your deep centre and your conscious mind.  So the signal we receive gives us a different message from that which is intended.  This can lead to great tragedy.  It can make you do things that are very wrong, but that you do with conviction as you believe they are the right things to do.  This particularly happens when people decide to focus on what they truly want to get out of life.  The right signal initially arises, but as it travels through your unconscious and subconscious it can change and no longer read true.  Continuing the compass analogy, it is as though there are many different magnetic elements within you which can distort the reading.

How can you know whether or not you are receiving a pure, unclouded signal from your moral compass?  As with most things in life, with practice.  Take time regularly to sit quietly.  Think of nothing.  When thoughts appear, do not allow them to distract you; do not react by trying to get rid of them, but just ignore them.  There is a big part of you that will object to this and will try to stop you doing it.  The only way it can stop you is to create those distracting thoughts and hope you follow them.  Don't.  By sitting quietly and ignoring all distracting thoughts you are allowing the "magnetic noise" within you to disappear.  This will then allow the true moral compass deep within you to reveal itself.

It doesn't come, of course, as a "big reveal".  You probably won't hear trumpets and suddenly know exactly what you must do.  It doesn't normally work that way.  Most of the time you will feel nothing has happened.  You have simply sat there in silence.  But what HAS happened is that you have opened and cleared a channel.  The more often you do this, the clearer that channel will be.  And when you actually need the leading of that inner compass it will be much easier to receive the right signal.

But how important is it to have integrity?

It is vital.  If you don't have integrity you will never be as comfortable as you should be.  If you truly have integrity life will feel so much better.  You will feel fulfilled.  The reason you will feel this way is that you ARE fulfilled.  You are living life the way it is meant to be lived.

If you truly have integrity you will find others respect you more.  They may mock you at times, but deep within they will know they can trust you.  This means over time you will find opportunities arise that would never have arisen if you hadn't spent time searching for that inner compass and following its leadings.

If you have integrity you will find that you are in tune with the Universe.  What you truly, deep within, want to happen will begin to happen.  It simply has to, as what you want is also what the Universe wants, and nothing can be more powerful than that.

So think about this deeply and carefully.  Do you truly have integrity which guides you absolutely on your path through life?  Spend time in silence allowing proper communication with that moral compass within and you will become unstoppable and totally fulfilled.

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Creating a New World


What kind of world do you want to live in?

Think about this seriously and carefully for a while.  Don't put any limitations or boundaries on your thinking.  Imagine you have an absolutely clean slate and can make the world around you exactly as you want it to be.

There may be something you regard as of vital importance.  If so, then certainly change this, but don't stop there.  Imagine the world with that one thing changed but then, keeping this new world in focus, move to the next thing you would like to change.  Work on this for a while and build up an inner picture of this lovely new world you are creating.

Quite probably you will have changed the physical environment around you, perhaps in ways that only seem possible if you are very wealthy.  But don't get stuck in thoughts about this environmental change to the detriment of everything else.  What about the people around you?  Would they be any different?  In what ways.  Be specific.

Imagine what life is like for you in this new world.  How does it make you feel?

Spend as much time as you like creating this lovely new world.  It feels good, doesn't it!  So spend time creating it and immersing yourself in it.  Get the most out of this experience.

There are a number of very powerful things you are doing when you use this exercise and create your new world.

  1. You are making yourself feel good.  There are plenty of things around that can make us feel bad if we allow them to do so.  By following this exercise you are countering those influences and allowing yourself to be happy.
  2. You are creating an inner picture of what you would like to achieve and what you would like the Universe to help you achieve.  Most of us do not spend enough time working out what we want to achieve.  If you don't have a clear vision of where you want to go, how can you expect to get there?
  3. You are sending out very powerful creative signals.  I happen to believe in an all-powerful creator, and perhaps you do too.  But I also believe the life force itself is creative.  Look around you and you will see signs everywhere of what you have created.  Some, perhaps most, will be good.  Some will be not so good.  But it has all been created by you.  Focus your creative energies on the right targets and you may be surprised by just how much change you can make in the world around you.
  4. You are telling the Universe what you want to achieve and what you want it to help you achieve.  This is similar to the third reason, but also goes beyond it.  With the power of the Universe behind you there is so much more you can create and change in your world.


You are recognizing, perhaps for the first time, what is important for you.  Once you recognize this then you simply have to go out and get it.

Probably one of the things you wanted to change was the way people around you treat you.  Is that the case?  Even if you didn't originally include this in your vision, now that I have raised this is there anything you would like to change about the way you are treated?  I am sure if you think deeply about this you will find many changes you would like to see.  Well I am now going to let you into a secret.  Creating this change is not difficult.  This change begins in you.  How do you want to be treated?  Well start treating others around you in exactly this way.  Some will not respond well at first, but don't give up.  Keep behaving in this way, doing unto others what you would have them do to you.

My Christian friends may have recognized a quote from the Bible here.  Matthew 7:12 - "So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets." 

In fact, the exercise we have just been practising is really summed up in the verses leading up to this.  Listen to what Jesus says in Matthew 7:7-12:

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?  If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!  So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

I realize not all my readers are Christian, but this "Golden Rule" is not just a Christian belief.  Here is what, according to the Hadith, the Prophet Muhammed said on the subject:

The Prophet said: "As you would have people do to you, do to them; and what you dislike to be done to you, don't do to them."  Kitab al-Kafi, vol. 2, p. 146

In the Talmud, Hillel the elder said "What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow: this is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn." Shabbath folio:31a, Babylonian Talmud

For my Hindu friends - "One should never do that to another which one regards as injurious to one’s own self. This, in brief, is the rule of dharma. Other behavior is due to selfish desires." Brihaspati, Mahabharata (Anusasana Parva, Section CXIII, Verse 8)

For my Buddhist friends - "One who, while himself seeking happiness, oppresses with violence other beings who also desire happiness, will not attain happiness hereafter." Dhammapada 10. Violence

In Sikh teaching - "Precious like jewels are the minds of all. To hurt them is not at all good. If thou desirest thy Beloved, then hurt thou not anyone's heart." Guru Arjan Dev Ji 259, Guru Granth Sahib

No matter what religion you follow, there is a version of this "Golden Rule" within it.  In most religions, as indicated in the above texts, it is one of the most important instructions to follow.  But also if you have no religion, if you even hate the idea of religion, the "Golden Rule" is still for you.  It is the underlying basis of Humanism, in which it is known as the ethic of reciprocity.

I recommend you make creating your new world a daily exercise.  Every day do the above visualization, and every day put the Golden Rule into practice.  Bit by bit you will see a whole new and better world unfolding around you.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

GIGO and Laughter



Have you ever heard the term "garbage in - garbage out"?  This is often expressed as the acronym "GIGO".  It is commonly used to remind people that no matter how clever a computer program may be, if you feed the wrong or inappropriate information in, then it will probably come up with the wrong or an inappropriate answer.  That is not because there is anything wrong with the computer, but because the person trying to use it is not using it properly.  Computers can be wonderful things, but you cannot expect them to read your mind and do what you hoped they would do if you don't give them the right instructions!  To a certain extent, what is called "fuzzy logic" can sometimes seem to work miracles in this way, but there are still limits and you still need to understand what it is you want the computer to do before you start giving it instructions.

You have probably read somewhere that your unconscious or subconscious mind is like a powerful computer.  I truly believe this.  Just like any other computer, it relies on having the right programming, and receiving the right instructions.  Program it correctly, give it the right instructions, and it can indeed perform miracles for you.  But always remember that, just like a computer, it is subject to GIGO.  You must program it correctly and you must give it the right instructions.

Sometimes it can be difficult to know how to program your subconscious, and what instructions to give it.  But just because it can be difficult you must not give up.  Don't think that you can just ignore it and not "bother" to give it instructions.  You are giving it instructions all the time, whether or not you intend to do so.  So it is vital you look carefully at the instructions you are giving it and ensure you are not setting yourself up for massive failures.

One deliberate way of instructing your subconscious is by using what are called "affirmations".  Statements that show it what you want to achieve and that are expressed in a very positive way in order to use your subconscious to help you reach your goals.  You will find plenty of material online teaching you how to create affirmations properly, including articles in my own blog (check the label "affirmation"), so I am not going to repeat this here.  Any time you spend researching this will be time well spent.

But what I want to remind you is that whether or not you consciously create affirmations you are still giving your subconscious instructions all the time.  If you DO create an affirmation, but then continually give the opposite instruction to your subconscious you really should not expect that affirmation to have much, if any, effect.  In fact, I would suggest that the main reason so many people complain that affirmations don't work is not necessarily because they are not using them properly (although that can also be the case), but because they are constantly countermanding those affirmations.

A lot comes down to how you feel all the time.  Feel happy, and you will be sending a message to your subconscious that you WANT to be happy.  OK, I know it is a bit of a vicious circle.  Sometimes it can be quite difficult to maintain positive emotions.  But the vicious circle works in both directions.  Prime it in the right direction and it reinforces itself, making it easier and easier to maintain the positive emotion.

I have said this in previous articles, but I make no apology for repeating it here: adopt the right posture to go with the positive emotion and you will find it a lot easier to feel that emotion.  Do the things you would normally do when you had that emotion.  The more you act as though you are feeling that way, the more you WILL feel that way.

Many years ago I studied Aikido in the "Hombu Dojo", or world Aikido headquarters in Tokyo.  One of my teachers was a shinto priest.  He started every session by making us laugh.  I don't mean he did or said something funny.  Nor did he tell us to think of something funny.  He completely bypassed all of that and told us simply to make the noise of laughter.  We had to feel that laughter arising in the solar plexus and then radiating up the centerline of our bodies, erupting from our mouths as the sound we call laughter.  Let me tell you, it worked!  Soon we were all really laughing, not just making the sound.  At that point he stopped us and the lesson began.  It made a huge difference to the way we internalized the lessons he taught us and how positive we felt about those lessons.  It also set us up for a happier and more productive day.

You don't need a shinto priest or an Aikido instructor to tell you to do this.  Just know that you CAN do it.  Try it for yourself - preferably when you are alone, unless you want to get a rather odd reputation!  I can assure you it really does work.  And once you realize what a difference a simple action like this can make to your state of mind, your emotions, and your spirit, you will realize just how easy it can be to create positive emotions within you if you are only willing to try.  Create those positive emotions, and allow them to influence the workings of your inner computer, your subconscious mind, and you will find your life will soon begin to feel better!

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

History Does Not Exist


"If only I could start over!"

Have you ever wished you could have a new start?  Have you ever said to yourself "if I could start over I know I would do far better"?

Most people I ask agree that they have said this to themselves.  Some confirm that they regularly say it.

Take a good look at your life right now, and find something in your life where you wish you could say this.  Perhaps your relationship with your partner?  Your own business?  Your career?

If you could start again, what would you do differently?  How much difference would that make to where you are now?  Would your business be so much more profitable?  Would you have been promoted and now have a much better position with a much bigger salary?  Would you have a much stronger and more meaningful relationship?  Would you be so much happier?

Now I am going to let you in on a secret.  You CAN start again!  What is stopping you?

50 years ago I read a book by the American anthropologist Carlos Castaneda, in which Castaneda outlined the shamanistic training he received from a Yaqui sorceror, Don Juan.  At the time I found this book quite challenging, but also fascinating and eye-opening.  But one statement the sorceror made puzzled me.  He told Castaneda that if he wanted to become a true sorceror he had to erase his history.  In fact, he had to recognize that his history did not exist.

I found this concept troubling.  I imagined forgetting all my friends and family, and felt this was not something I would wish to do.  I imagined wiping out everything I had achieved so far in my life, and realized I was not ready to do this even if it did mean I could never become a sorceror like Don Juan.

But what I didn't realize at the time was that "erasing history" was a very powerful tool I could use in order to achieve better and greater things.  A tool that would allow me to start again in any endeavour or relationship and turn it into something much closer to my dream.

Look again at what you said earlier you would do differently if you could start again.  It may not be possible to do all of it, as your starting point is now different.  But if you look carefully there WILL be some things that you CAN now do differently and that will improve your situation.

Yes, you probably have what we call "baggage".  Some of this you wouldn't want to change.  It may seem to be in the way of one of your life goals, but at the same time it is something you want in your life.  If so, then you certainly don't want to erase it and start again.  Although you should be aware that it IS possible to erase it, no matter how challenging that may seem.

Have you ever read "Pilgrim's Progress" by John Bunyan?  It may have been written 340 years ago, but it has some eternal truths which can help you along your journey through life.  One of those truths is the main underlying concept of the novel - that each of us is carrying a burden which is stopping us achieve what we should be able to achieve.  The hero of the story, Christian, carries this burden for many miles and finds it is weighing him down and making his journey more and more difficult.  But when he reaches the "place of deliverance" the straps, which are holding the burden to his back, break and Christian finds himself completely free of his burden.

Bunyan wrote this as an allegory of the sins that weigh each of us down and which we can cast away when we accept salvation.  I don't want to trivialize something that means so much to committed Christians, but I believe this allegory can apply to far more than what Christians refer to as salvation.  We all carry burdens which stop us achieving what we want to achieve, but never stop to wonder why we continue to carry them.  These burdens are our history.  And what I learned from Carlos Castaneda is that we don't have to keep carrying those burdens unless we want to do so.

Recognize that your history cannot stop you achieving what you wish to achieve unless you allow it to do so.  Know that you CAN start over.  That every day is a new day with enormous potential if only you are prepared to take advantage of that potential.  Whatever it is that you want to do differently, just do it!  At first it may seem strange.  You may find resistance from unexpected quarters.  But keep on going in this new direction and don't allow your history to stand in your way!

If you would like to obtain a copy of "Pilgrim's Progress", just click here.

For an edition in the UK, click here.

To obtain a copy of Carlos Castaneda's first book, click here.

For an edition in the UK, click here.




Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Laugh



Recently I saw a dance performance by a 3-year-old boy on "China's Got Talent".  When asked why he danced he said he did it because it made people laugh, and that people who laugh are happy.  So he wanted to keep dancing so he could keep making people happy.

There are a number of lessons in this for all of us.  Yes, no matter our age we can learn lessons from a 3-year-old.

The first lesson is the link between laughter and happiness.  This is very important.  Of course, whatever makes us laugh can of itself give us happiness.  I was certainly happy watching that little boy, and not simply because I was laughing.  But the act of laughing or smiling itself makes us happy, even if there is nothing there that should be making us laugh.  Even forced laughter makes us happy.  It may seem false to laugh when there is nothing to laugh about, and we may initially just be forcing laughter we don't actually feel, but keep forcing that laugh and you will find  it creates a significant mood change anyway.

Just in case you don't believe me, I want you to try an experiment.  Start laughing right now.  It doesn't matter that nothing funny is happening.  Laugh anyway.  Don't say "I can't laugh unless there is something funny".  Just open your mouth and make the sound.  Don't worry that it doesn't sound quite right, just keep doing it.  Soon you will find it turns into natural laughter - even if that is only because you are laughing at your silly attempts to laugh!  Now that you have done that, how do you feel?  Miserable?  I think not!  You will find you feel happier than you felt before.  This works particularly well when you are miserable, as there is a very clear contrast.

This is a very important lesson.  If you want to change your mood, simply change it by doing whatever is associated with the mood you want.  That association will attract the mood.  Most people think they only laugh because they are amused, but what they don't realize is that it also works the other way around.  They can become amused simply by laughing.

Laughing is very infectious.  In her poem "Solitude", Ella Wheeler Wilcox said "Laugh, and the world laughs with you", and how true this is!  The little Chinese boy understood that if he could get some people to laugh they would be happy, and also that this happiness would spread as more and more people laughed.

This means it is really very easy to create happiness in the world, to make people around you happier than they were.  Laugh.  And do things to make others laugh.  That little boy knew this, and at only three years old he was putting this in practice.

I like to laugh and smile whenever I can, and to help those around me laugh and smile too.  I know this is the way to make this world a better place.  Every day I make at least one person happier by laughing or smiling is a day well worth living, a day when I have added something good to this world.  And it is so easy to do.  So much easier than all the wonderful ideas so many people have about making the world a better place; ideas that may be great ideas but that are very difficult to realize, consistently, day after day.  Just laugh and smile!

And to me that is perhaps the biggest lesson this lovely Chinese boy has imparted to us.  That it is our role in life to make people happy.  Be happy yourself and help to make those around you happier.  Do this, and you will know that each day you really are making the world a better place, that the world really is a better place simply because you are there doing what you do.  Wouldn't that be a lovely epitaph to have when you eventually passed away?  "He made the world a better place!"  "She made the world a better place!"  Well, this really can be your epitaph.  You don't have to do anything spectacular to earn this epitaph.  Simply make sure that each day you do what you can to make those around you happier.  Do this by trying to laugh and smile as much as you can.

I shall end this little lesson by quoting the entire poem "Solitude".  Read it and take it to heart:

   Laugh, and the world laughs with you;
   Weep, and you weep alone;
   For the sad old earth must borrow its mirth,
   But has trouble enough of its own.
   Sing, and the hills will answer;
   Sigh, it is lost on the air;
   The echoes bound to a joyful sound,
   But shrink from voicing care.

   Rejoice, and men will seek you;
   Grieve, and they turn and go;
   They want full measure of all your pleasure,
   But they do not need your woe.
   Be glad, and your friends are many;
   Be sad, and you lose them all,—
   There are none to decline your nectared wine,
   But alone you must drink life’s gall.

   Feast, and your halls are crowded;
   Fast, and the world goes by.
   Succeed and give, and it helps you live,
   But no man can help you die.
   There is room in the halls of pleasure
   For a large and lordly train,
   But one by one we must all file on
   Through the narrow aisles of pain.

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Parables



How important are parables in determining the way you view life?

I would say very important.  It is no coincidence that Jesus chose to pass on his wisdom by telling stories that were not actually intended to be historical truth.  He did so because he knew that the deeper truth embedded in those stories would have a lot more impact and be recognized and understood better that way.

I am sure you have heard the saying "a picture is worth a thousand words".  Some things can be understood quite easily, but not easily put into words.  This is particularly true of many aspects of personal development, whether spiritual or otherwise.

Using parables is a great way of getting your message across.  If you really want to change the way others think and feel, use parables.  Even more important, if you want to change the way YOU think and feel, use parables.  Whether or not you are a Christian, read or re-read some of the parables in the New Testament - they are very powerful and the underlying messages are certainly very important.

A friend of mine regularly uses parables to change the thinking of those around him, and they usually don't even realize that is what he is doing.  He does it when he needs to get across something that his listeners would regard as a criticism and would probably react by trying to justify themselves rather than taking in the fact that they have done something wrong.  His usual method of doing this is to tell a story of either something he did or something someone he knew did, and the negative consequences that arose because they did it.  As his listener doesn't believe the comment is about themselves they don't feel the need to resist and justify, and instead actually take in those negative consequences.  The next time they are tempted to say or do the same thing, subconsciously they will recall the parable and may then think twice.  This is a very powerful technique.  You may feel it is dishonest, but I don't.  I think it is far better to bend the truth a little (sorry to my fellow Quakers - no real dishonesty intended here!) in order to ensure no offence is given but that the inner meaning is properly absorbed.  Jesus thought so too.

Try it!  Use it to spread a little more morality and create a better world around you.  Use it to take in some inner truths yourself.  There are plenty of online examples.  The next time you see a lovely story online, don't immediately go to "Snopes" or some other myth-buster site to find out whether or not it is historically true, as the historical truth doesn't matter.  By all means check out the historical truth before posting it yourself, and maybe include a comment that this is not intended to be a true story but that you found it very touching.  But don't focus on whether or not it is the truth in the historical sense - the deep inner meaning IS true if it inspires you and others to become better and do better things in what can often seem a very mediocre world.

Whatever your religion, go back to your holy book(s) and recognize that probably most of what is written there is in the form of parables.  It doesn't matter whether or not it is historically true.  That is really not the point at all.  What matters is whether or not the underlying message is good or bad - and usually you will find it is good.  Read the holy books of other religions in the same way.  Do this even if you are not at all religious.  You will not be "getting religion" - just allowing some hidden wisdom to help you become a better person and create a better world around you.

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Who Knows Best?



Have you ever found you wanted something so badly, maybe prayed for it, used "manifesting" techniques, used "affirmations", used all sorts of other techniques you have learned, and it simply didn't materialize?  Be honest!  If you are truly honest I can guarantee that either you never really want anything so strongly or you WILL have experienced this.

Is it because prayers don't work?  Certainly not - they DO.  Is it because "manifestation techniques" don't work?  Not at all.  They do too.

So why is it that this sometimes (perhaps often) happens to all of us?

Well, one reason can be, of course, that you are not doing it right.

I find, for example, that praying for something I want is never a good idea.  I do pray regularly, but not with a kind of "Santa wish list".  It would feel wrong to me and clash with my deep inner beliefs to do this.  That does not mean it is not right for you.  If you do it in the right way, and it doesn't feel wrong to you at all, then it most certainly can work wonders.  But my own inner beliefs would tell me that God is not there at my beck and call to give me the things and experiences I think I want.  It doesn't really matter whether or not those inner beliefs are correct.  All that matters is that I have them, and that is enough to ensure any attempt by me to pray for what I want is unlikely to produce the results I expect.

When it comes to using affirmations and other manifestation techniques it is, of course, important to get them right.  If you don't, they won't work.  And the very first step in getting any of them right is for you to have the right desires and the right attitude.  I have covered off "right desires" in other blog articles, but in essence I mean digging down to your inner core and making sure what you desire is not in conflict with your deep-seated inner beliefs, your spiritual values.  If it is, then the exercise is doomed to failure.  As for the right attitude, again I have covered this elsewhere, but in particular you should maintain an attitude that properly reflects the abundance of the universe.  Don't be fooled by the tendency of most people to believe in "limited good".  Recognize that there is not a limited supply of whatever you want but rather an abundant supply.  Know that you are not taking anything away from anyone else when you gain whatever it is you want.  This change in attitude is vital.  Without it, you will find it is very difficult if not impossible to use any manifestation techniques.  Also, never focus on the lack.  If you want something "badly", you are probably already moving in the wrong direction.  Even that word, "badly", is a negative.  Never focus on negatives, only positives.

But often I find that even though I am doing everything right I still don't get what it is that I think I want.  And I am sure that is the case for you too.

Why?

Because sometimes what I want is not really the right thing for me at that time.  It is not in conflict with my inner beliefs or values.  There is nothing wrong with it.  But it is simply not the right thing for me at this time.  God, or the Universe, or whatever label you want to use, knows best.  He/she/it knows there is something even better for me at this time, and that is what is delivered instead.  Over the years I have come to recognize that very often it is not me who knows best what I really want or need.  God knows best.  The Universe knows best.  I have learned to trust implicitly in this and so I am just as happy when I DON'T get what I have asked for as when I DO.  Learn to recognize and trust in this too, and you will have a much happier life.


Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Hurdles and Obstacles



What obstacles have you identified which are preventing you from achieving what you want to achieve in life?  Are there any such obstacles?

I assume there are, as otherwise you would have achieved your dreams wouldn't you?

Some people may answer this by saying "I don't really have any dreams".  If this is you, then you are kidding yourself.  Somewhere within you, maybe deep within, there is a dream waiting to be released, waiting for you to see it and fill it with emotion.  The obstacle in this case is your failure to recognize you even have a dream.

Many will say something like "dreams are only for dreamers, and I am no dreamer!"  They say this with pride.  As though the rest of us who do have dreams are to be pitied or are perhaps idlers and fantasists.  I say the same to these people - deep within you there is a dream waiting to be released, waiting for you to see it and fill it with emotion.  The obstacle in this case is your failure to recognize you even have a dream.  Probably because you are too frightened to admit that you might have one.  You are afraid if you admit this to yourself you will only fail to achieve your dream and then this will make you unhappy.  Does that sound familiar?

And most of the rest do have dreams they want to achieve, but have pulled up at the first obstacle.  That is a bit like a hurdler running along the straight and then pulling up at the first hurdle and saying "I cannot go any further because there is a hurdle in the way!"  Yes, there is!  And the idea is to jump over that hurdle, not simply stand there looking at it and wishing it wasn't there.  Wishing it wasn't there won't make it go away!  So if you just stand there miserably looking at the hurdle you will never make any progress towards the finish line for your dream!

How can you jump over the hurdles that are bound to be there on the road towards your dream?  How can you pass around the obstacles you are bound to confront?

The answers are actually in the questions.  Jump over the hurdles.  Pass around the obstacles.  Really, it is as simple as that!  When you start to do this you will find many of the hurdles are really not very high.  They just look it because they react to your initial fear or despair by appearing to grow to an impossible size.

Your obstacle, your hurdle, is Oscar Zoroaster.  Who is that? you probably ask.  Oscar Zoroaster, the conman from Omaha, Nebraska who took the name "Oz" and ruled the kingdom of Oz by pretending he was far more powerful than he really was.

Be like Dorothy and her friends and challenge your obstacle, your hurdle, your Wizard of Oz.  Challenge it and usually, just like the Wizard in that immortal story, it will shrink away and you can continue on the the yellow brick road to reach your dream!

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Have you chosen to be abundant?



What is abundance?

It seems to be a simple enough word.

According to my Oxford Dictionary it means "a very large quantity of something".  Well that is certainly not what I mean when I refer to abundance.  Not a "large quantity".  And certainly not a "very large quantity".  Those concepts very much suggest "more than is needed", and even "more than is deserved", and that is most definitely not the abundance I and others like me enjoy.

Another dictionary definition is "plentifulness of the good things of life".  That is certainly closer.  A lot closer.

"Plentifulness" is a good word and one that certainly applies.  It means there is enough around for everyone.  Not "loads for me and nobody else can touch"!  Enough for everyone to have their fill.  Enough to allow me to do whatever I wish, and enough left over for everyone around me to do exactly the same.

"Good things" also very much applies.  There is absolutely no point in having lots of something available if it is not good!  If you are having breakfast would you like there to be a plentiful supply of burnt toast?  As many slices of burnt toast as you like and plenty left over for everyone else?  Well personally I am not a fan of burnt toast, so a plentiful supply of it would not epitomize abundance for me!  And "good things" has more than one meaning.  It means "what is good for me", which is often not the same as "what I want".

The Universe knows what is good for me and constantly surprises me by delivering something completely different from what I had expected.  Something that later I realize was far better than what I thought I wanted.  That is true abundance!

It knows what is good for you too, and probably constantly delivers that to you.  The problem may be, though, that you do not realize this is what is happening.  A bit like someone in the 1860's complaining about all that black, horrible smelling liquid that keeps pouring out of the ground and messing up their crops - not realizing they have been given a gift that will make them very wealthy if they change their thinking and adapt to the new circumstances around them!  If this is you, then eventually the Universe will see you do not want to take advantage of its free gifts and it may simply stop trying.  This is a reversible state.  All you have to do to reverse it is to open your mind and be grateful for what the Universe gives you.

Finally, to me "abundance" is a state of mind rather than something physical.  It is knowing that I have everything I need.  It is knowing that if something changes in my life and I need something else it will be there for me.  It is knowing that I don't necessarily need lots of money in order to achieve what I want to achieve, but also not rejecting the idea of lots of money if that happens to be the right thing for me at this time.  And as "abundance" is something within me rather than without, it means nobody and nothing can take it away from me.  It means I don't have to wait for someone or something to give me more.  That, to me, is the true meaning of "abundance".

How abundant are you?  Have you chosen to be abundant, or do you (like most people) believe there is a limited amount of everything and that if one person has lots that means there is not enough left for anyone else?  There is not a limited amount, there is abundance.  Leave your "limited good" thinking behind today and take advantage of the true "abundance" that is waiting for you to recognize it is already here!

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Gratitude List



Take a clean sheet of paper and start writing down all the things for which you are grateful.  Keep writing until you can think of no more.  And when you get to that point, don't stop the exercise.  Sit there quietly meditating, and allow more thoughts of gratitude to come into your mind.  Carry on overleaf, and even on another sheet of paper if you fill up both sides.  That instruction alone should give you some idea of just how much I believe should be on your "Gratitude List"!

When I went through my own reasons to be grateful, I listed one that will probably shock you.  My prostate cancer!

I can hear the cogs going round in your brain right now!  "How could he possibly be grateful for having had prostate cancer?"  Well there are many reasons for this:
  • I am grateful for the way in which my prostate cancer surfaced.  It gave me symptoms (I understand it usually doesn't), and so I was able to get treatment quickly.  The speed with which I was treated almost certainly saved my life!
  • I am grateful that I live in a country where I can receive good medical treatment and that I don't have to pay for that treatment.  That is something for which I should be very grateful, and I am.
  • I am grateful that the cancer I contracted was one that can be treated if it is picked up quickly enough, as I know there are many forms of cancer that are much more difficult or even impossible to treat.
  • I am grateful that I was insured against cancer, and that I was able to use the insurance payout to pay off my mortgage and start a part time online business.
  • The list goes on ...


Every morning when I wake up I am grateful that I have been given yet another day to achieve something.  Another chance to change the world.  Yes, change the world!  Everything we do results in changes in the world even though we may not see them.  When I smile at a stranger I have no way of knowing what effect that smile may have.  But what I do know is that the effect is much more likely to be good than bad.  Perhaps the person I smiled at was feeling unwanted and unloved, but then the smile comes and they think "even this person who doesn't know me likes me and is smiling at me".  This may change their life completely, and for the good.  Another person may find the unexpected smile so uplifting that they smile at the next few people they meet, some of whom then have a similar reaction.  The ripple effect!  My smile may literally travel around the world and back, changing hundreds of people!  And no, I don't believe that is an exaggeration.  I truly believe that can be the case.  Not with every smile, but every so often.  And I don't just smile, of course!  I try in other ways to make the world around me a better place.  And so, as I said, I am thankful that God has given me another day to change the world, and I do what I can to change it for the better.

When I first taught myself to sell, I read about a door-to-door salesman who had what seemed like a strange habit.  Every time someone rejected him he thanked them.  Most didn't comment and probably thought no more about it, assuming he was just being polite.  But one day someone asked him why he always thanked the people who rejected him.  I think the "someone" was a trainee salesman who had been told to "shadow" him, as he was the best salesman in his company.  Then the salesman explained he really was grateful.  Like any good salesman, he knew his statistics.  He knew that most people would reject him, but a certain percentage would want to buy what he was selling.  I cannot recall the figures, but let's just say it was 1% who would want to buy.  One in a hundred doors knocked.  So our salesman saw each rejection as one step closer to that one sale.  He knew he had to meet 99 people before he found the one who wanted to buy.  The person who just said "no" was one of the 99, so now there were just 98 left!  How is that for a positive view on life?  How is that for a reason to be thankful?

If you do put down anything on your list that could look negative, like my cancer, or the salesman's rejection, make sure you write a bit next to it explaining why you are thankful.  I strongly recommend you do this.  It can make a massive difference to the way in which you view the things in your life that seem to be negative.  And it is your attitude to what happens which really counts.  Nothing outside you can make you miserable.  It is your reaction to what happens that either makes you happy or sad.  Personally I prefer to be happy rather than sad, so I try to find the good in everything that happens - as you probably realize from what I said about my cancer.

So spend some time now thinking about all the positive outcomes from what might look like bad things that have happened, and add those positive outcomes to your list.

If you have done this properly you should now have quite a few pages listing all the reasons you have to be thankful.  Just producing this list will make at least a small change to the way in which you react to things in the future.  And you should look at this list often, so you become more and more positive about your life.

Do this, and the Universe will see you are thankful for what it gives you.  And guess what?  The Universe gives more to those who who are thankful for its gifts!  This is one very important step in the process called "Manifesting", which you can use to attract to you the things you want to receive.  Make sure you do this regularly, make sure you are always thankful for the many good things you receive and you will find, apparently mysteriously, the good things you receive will gradually increase.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

I Have a Dream


On 28th August 1963 Dr Martin Luther King delivered his famous "I have a dream" speech.  Just as a quick reminder, here is a brief extract:

"Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!"

Dr King had a powerful dream.  One that in his day must have looked impossible to achieve.  We have nowhere near achieved it even today, but we are a lot closer, thanks in no small way to the fact that Dr King had that dream in the first place.

I have no doubt that well-meaning friends told Dr King he was foolish to have such a dream, that the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners would never sit down together as brothers.  Certainly not in Georgia!  I have no doubt they said Mississippi would never become an oasis of freedom and justice.  But Dr King ignored their comments.  He refused to accept their apathy.  Although he knew it was unlikely his dream would be achieved in his lifetime he also knew it would never be achieved unless he and others like him believed it was possible.  And so he worked to achieve his dream, and changed his society radically and forever.

What is your dream?

Do you even have a dream?  If not, why not?  Is it because you do not believe it can be achieved?

Did you perhaps have a dream when you were younger, but through the years found so much cold water was thrown on your dream that there is no longer even a spark there to be ignited into a powerful flame of desire again?

Imagine it is your last day on earth and you know that in just a few hours you will have passed away.  What would you want to be able to feel you have achieved?  What would you want to look back to and be proud and happy that you achieved it?  What dreams would you want to see turned into reality?  What other dreams would you want to see that had still not been fully achieved but were well on the way to becoming reality?

Think about this carefully.  One day, that day will come for you.  Maybe you will have time to reflect on what you have achieved and maybe not.  But that day will most certainly come.  And you can either pass from this life without having achieved anything of value, or you can pass from this life knowing that the world is a better place simply because you lived in it for a short time.

You should have at least one big dream.  Perhaps more than one.  Perhaps many.  Some may be completely altruistic.  Some may be of benefit just to your family and close friends.  Some may even be mainly about you, and what you want to enjoy in this life.  Don't shut out any of those dreams.  There is room for them all.

Dr Martin Luther King did not allow anyone to throw cold water on his dream, and the world is a better place as a result.  It is by no means a perfect world, but it is a better world simply because he had a dream and he lived his life doing everything he could to turn that dream into reality.

What is your dream?

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Unseeing and Unhearing


Have you ever sat in front of your television watching a film and then suddenly realized you haven't taken in anything that happened over the past half hour?

Have you ever been reading a book and then suddendly realized you have been turning the pages but not really read anything?

Probably in most of those cases it was because you were half asleep.  But not always.  Sometimes it is because you have focused on something else.  Perhaps something important you have been working on.

Or here is one probably the male partner of a couple will recognize.  Has your partner ever been in conversation with you, got some standard grunts and vague answers from you, but you didn't really hear anything she said - or perhaps didn't even really notice she was talking to you at all?

Recently I just finished reading a "weird fiction" novel called "City and City" in which two cities are intertwined and the residents of one city have to "unsee" and "unhear" the residents of the other city.  Maybe you have read this too.

Why do I mention this?

Because unfortunately it is all too common for each of us to "unsee" and "unhear" things.  It is all too common for us not to notice what is going on around us.  We become so focused on our own problems, on what it is we want to achieve, that we miss all the signals around us which, if we only took the time and trouble to look and listen, would actually get us where we want to go far quicker than any of the strategies we can come up with by ourselves.

Different people call those signals different things.  I call them intuition.

You have probably learned since an early age to "unsee" and "unhear" those intuitive signals, just like the residents of Besźel and Ul Qoma in China Miéville's novel "City and City" have learned to "unsee" and "unhear" the residents of the other city.

Probably at some point in your childhood someone told you to "stop dreaming".  Probably they told you that you have to use logic to find answers to your problems.  And so that is what you have done ever since.

The answers are out there waiting for you to see them, which you can do most easily by daydreaming, and which you can do simply by stopping this "unseeing" and "unhearing" that is ingrained in you and that society regards as "normal".

Now is the time to stop "unseeing" and "unhearing".  Take some time every day to sit quietly and listen to the intuitive voice within you.  See what that inner being wants to show you.

The first time you do this you will probably not see or hear anything.  Only a voice telling you not to be so silly and to get on with your work!  Not just the first time, in fact, but probably many times.  You have a lifetime of "unseeing" and "unhearing" to reverse.  So be patient.  Don't expect immediate results.  But also be ready for any results that may come.  Sit quietly and allow your intuition to get to work.  Daydream, and see where you are taken in your dream.  This is not a waste of time at all, but a very good use of time.  A way to use your intuitive side rather than just your logical side.

Take back your natural intuitive power.  The power that was stolen from you by people telling you not to daydream.  The power that can provide all the answers you need to achieve whatever you want to achieve!