Official blog for the book "Just Behind the Door"

Archive for August, 2013

Unconditional Love

Life is nothing without love and through love everything is possible. The interesting thing about the topic of love is that we are often guided on the importance of loving others but are not taught the importance of loving ourselves unconditionally. Some of us may have been blessed with unconditional love from a parent or other significant adult in our lives. For others who did not experience this type of love they may have many things yet to unlearn in life. Until we can love ourselves unconditionally we are incapable of unconditional love toward others.

Unconditional love has no limits or boundaries. It can’t be bought or sold. This kind of love does not dictate conditions but is offered without expectations of receiving in return – no strings attached. It is the kind of love a mother has for her child. The distinction between conditional and unconditional love is huge. We can think of examples where love depended on what was being received. The person who had enough money to give, give, give and when their ability to give was changed or compromised their friends or even family members no longer had time for them. That’s conditional love and it hurts.

Could it be possible that if we do not really love ourselves unconditionally others feel it and in return do not experience unconditional love toward us? Seems to me that since the energy we give off attracts more of the same type of energy back to us, the importance of truly loving ourselves unconditionally becomes even more crucial. We are, in essence, like a magnet with a positive end (unconditional love) and negative end (conditional love) and we attract more of the same type of energy to us that we are giving off. Makes truly loving ourselves even more important doesn’t it?

If we find ourselves thinking ‘I’m not … enough or I’m too …’ or in reference to someone else, ‘they are too … or not enough …’ that kind of thinking reflects conditions. That hurts you and others. Is it time to fully accept ourselves and others and realize that all of us have chosen our life path, in this body and at this time in history for our own unique purpose? The lessons we are being presented with in life were designed by each of us for a specific reason – to learn from them.

You truly are perfect in the eyes of the Universe and in the eyes of those who love you unconditionally. There is no ‘if’ in their loving. They just love you because you are you. That’s what really counts in life. It is not about the number of ‘friends’ you have on Facebook but the number of friends you have when you need them, without judgment or conditions, simply because they love you unconditionally. It has been said that most people can count the number of true friends like this on one hand and have fingers left over …maybe so. Maybe that’s the way it is supposed to be …

Do we all make mistakes, need some rework and growth experiences during our life? Absolutely! However, we can face these challenging times with a much larger tool kit if we have first accepted ourselves, as we are – a person who is growing and becoming all that we can be – and making a difference on planet earth -because we cared and dared to love unconditionally.

As Elisabeth Kubler-Ross said, “the ultimate lesson all of us have to learn is unconditional love, which includes not only others but ourselves as well.”

Have a great few days!

Increase Your Face Value

Have you ever thought about the power of an authentic smile? It is the one thing that defies a language barrier! I find it impossible to feel badly or worry about life when I have a genuine smile on my face. It just seems to lift me up, give me a surge of energy and lightened my step. A real smile truly is contagious.

When referring to a smile, I use the words authentic, genuine and real for a reason. Everyone sees through a fake or forced smile and withdraws in response. A true smile cannot be forced. It must be felt by the heart and is received accordingly.

When we see children playing, or people greeting each other at the airport we see and feel the energy radiating from them through the smiles on their faces. It seems to me that a smile is the most cost effective therapeutic technique that we can engage in during our daily lives. It is a visible sign of perceived self-confidence.

When we read that it is the simple things that give us pleasure in life I relate that to a smile. It costs us nothing yet returns to us double and triple fold a feeling of happiness. From such a simple gesture we can make our own day and the life of others just a little bit happier.

Being a people watcher I am amazed at the difference something as simple as a smile can make on others. Sales clerks, struggling with checking out people who are in a hurry will actually stop and seem a bit amazed when you take the time to smile and thank them for their service. They feel valued, appreciated and who knows it might be just the thing they needed most in the world to face another day. In fact, research has found that people receive more help when they exhibit an authentic smile. The latest brain (neuroscience) research tells us that when we are introduced to someone and we smile at them their memory retrieval (of us) is enhanced! That’s quite powerful don’t you think?

It is so easy to become wrapped up in our own lives and forget that all of us are simply looking for that universal sign that indicates that life is good. Joseph Addison said, “What sunshine is to flowers, smiles are to humanity. These are but trifles, to be sure; but scattered along life’s pathway, the good they do is inconceivable.”

Do you have the time today to increase your face value by passing on a smile to someone … maybe even to yourself?

Have a great few days!

How Full Is Your Cup?

Remember the song we sang in kindergarten, ‘If Your Happy and You Know It Clap Your Hands?’ One line in the lyrics is especially telling, ‘your face will surely show it.’ When you look- really look – into the face and eyes of another person you can see how they view others and life in general. Another indicator of their view on life is their voice. Listen carefully and you will hear how they expect the future to play out. The face, body language, and word choices a person uses all tell a story that invites us in or keeps us at a distance. Their energy can fill us with happiness, peace and hope for the future or drain us with pessimism and worry about tomorrow. As hard as we may try to hide our true feelings we are really just open books to those who care about us.

When someone we trust cares enough to offer a helpful suggestion or observation about our comments or behavior they are giving their time, energy and love to try to help us just as we do for them. If we are open, and set our fears aside, their input they can assist us on, as Ralph Waldo Emerson said, ‘ The never ending task of self improvement.’

Just as we can see and feel the ‘happiness index’ of others they can be a witness to our own level of contentment and peace. Is it time for a personal happiness check? The next time you look in the mirror stop a moment and think about what you see and what others may see in you. Do you see reflected back a smile or peace behind your eyes that tell a story about the wonderful possibilities of tomorrow? You might also try to listen to yourself as you are talking to others. Are your statements generally positive or can you hear more negative, energy limiting statements? Each time we allow ourself to think or say negative thoughts we are robbing ourselves of the energy – the life force of life.

Our free will allows us to decide how we want to live out our days on this planet. We can choose to see our cup as half full (optimism) or half empty (pessimism) and live accordingly. Although the amount in the cup is the same, one type of thinking gives us hope and energy for tomorrow, the other despair and a feeling of hopelessness about our lot in life. It is important to remember that the Universe will match the type of energy that is foremost in our thinking. If you want more problems – think negatively – if you want more positives in your life – think positive. It is both that simple and complex. It is not easy to change you habits that by definition have become ingrained but it is so worth doing so!

Have a great few days!

As always, we have the gift of free will to accept or reject these observations.

We Grieve Differently

Scott Simon, an NPR host, was tweeting recently to his 12 million followers about his experience during the death vigil of his mother. From the article written about the event in The Week magazine dated August 16-23 entitled, ‘Twitter: A death shared in real time’ has created quit a stir.

Writers from various news sources rushed to weigh in with their opinions about the appropriateness of this type of tweeting. Really? Why would anyone be surprised about it when social media has become so popular that over 70% of Americans now say they are connected to at least one site.

Each of us has our own level of tolerance or acceptability for information. Some feel that death should remain a private experience while others choose to share the highly emotional experience as a way to vent their raw feelings as it is happening. We each seek solace and understanding in our own unique ways.

While death is not something that we often choose to talk about it is, nonetheless, a natural part of the cycle of life that touches our very core. If Mr Simon felt the need to share the experience with others so be it. I do not walk in his shoes and therefore choose not to have an opinion on his choices. As Roger Ebert, the first film critic to win a Pulitzer Prize for Criticism once said, ‘ imprisonment …is being unable to tell another person what you really feel.’

The easy part about being consummate communicators on social media is that we have the ability to choose what we want to read and watch. With a simple click we can exit a site, without comment, if it is not something we want to know more about.

Is it possible that we could allow others the right to choose what to share when it comes to something this difficult without feeling compelled to offer our opinions about it? Losing a loved one is tough enough. If we are present and watch the breathing of our loved ones become more and more labored and we are experiencing flashes of happier memories of the past we need all the support we can get in whatever form we are most comfortable using. Allowing others to grieve in their own way just seems like the right thing to do.

Rather than having an opinion on his tweet topic, I applaud Mr. Simon’s dutiful presence during such a difficult time and hope that he was able to witness a look of peace when his mother took her last breath knowing that, ‘All is as it should be.’

Have a peaceful few days!

What If Thinking

When we are very young children we are naturally self-centered. We feel that everything in the world revolves around us. After all, we are fed, changed and often entertained by the adults in our lives. We have not yet developed an extensive vocabulary or life experiences which allow us to conceptually understand events such as grief, loss, or even nuances in the behavior of others. Our abstract thinking skills take years – into late adolescence – to develop. In some people these skills, in fact, never develop for various reasons. As young children when something happens – pleasant or unpleasant – we usually internalize it as something we have caused because we are still, by nature, egocentric.

As we grow into adolescence and adulthood, sometimes the self-centered or egocentric thought pattern of early childhood continues and we may develop dysfunctional behaviors such as the ‘what if syndrome’ which can stop us from expanding our world and enjoying life.

If the ‘what if’s’ in our lives can be controlled they can cause us to analyze our choices more fully which leads to better decision making. Thinking through the possible outcomes of our choices can be healthy. If, however, we allow this type of thinking to become a syndrome which controls our lives we can become so fearful of simple everyday occurrences that we are rendered helpless – afraid of what the next moment or tomorrow may bring. Obsessing about all the possible ‘what ifs’ of an event or decision can result in panic attacks that may start to control our lives necessitating professional intervention.

We hear the word moderation so often that sometimes it loses its meaning. Yet, it is very important in this context. A little goes a long way with the ‘what if’ type of thinking. Only you – or someone you trust – can observe if you have taken the fear involved in ‘what if’ thinking to an art form level which is preventing you from truly living.

Expanding our life through sound decision making and occasional risk taking experiences will allow us to more fully enjoy our life journey. As Albert Einstein said, “A ship is always safe at the shore – but that is NOT what it is built for.”

Have a great few days!

Taking a Risk is Worth It!

Leo Buscaglia was an American author, motivational speaker, and professor at the University of Southern California for years. His lectures were televised by the PBS network. While teaching he was profoundly moved by a student’s suicide and he began talking about feelings of disconnectedness and the meaning of life. He also wrote extensively about love transcending death. Through his love of humanity he made a difference in thousands of lives. The following inspirational verse and message on risk taking was actually written by Janet Rand but something he often quoted and is worth the read.

To laugh is to risk appearing the fool,
To weep is to risk being called sentimental.
To reach out to another is to risk involvement.
To expose feelings is to risk showing your true self.
To place your ideas and dreams before the crowd is to risk being called naive.
To love is to risk not being loved in return,
To live is to risk dying,
To hope is to risk despair,
To try is to risk failure

“But risks must be taken, because the greatest risk in life is to risk nothing. The person who risks nothing, does nothing, is nothing and becomes nothing. He may avoid suffering and sorrow but he simply cannot learn, feel, change, grow or love. Chained by his certitude, he is a slave; he has forfeited his freedom. Only the person who risks is truly free.”

Risk taking enhances our lives and gets the blood pumping in our veins. It connects us in ways that are beyond explanation. I’m signing up – what about you?

Have a great few days!

Ordinary or Extraordinary?

Making a living is important. My parents worked hard from the 30’s through the 60’s raising a family, buying a house, cars, furniture and were grateful to be able to afford a one week camping vacation each year at the same Michigan state park the third week of June. Dad would go fishing while Mom would cook and try to dry out the blankets on a makeshift line during the day. That was before air mattresses and other camping gear was either available or affordable. Yet, that was how they lived year after year and they were grateful that they could pay their bills and take that one week vacation. How times have changed!

Working and taking care of our families enhances our self esteem. My parents taught me the difference between ordinary and extraordinary is just that little bit more that you are willing to do without being asked. Dad used to say, ‘give your employer $1.50 back in effort for every $1.00 you make and you will never be out of a job. It was good advice that I followed.

The opportunities are endless when it comes to making a difference. Some may be able to discover new scientific methods and answers that will benefit the world. We are all recipients of medical and engineering breakthroughs. Steve Jobs said he wanted to make a dent in the Universe and he consequently changed they way the world communicates. More often than not, these breakthroughs only happened when the person did more than was expected.

We all have the opportunity to make a difference in our own unique way if we choose to do so. The question is will we rise to the occasion or take the easier path. Something to think about when we are wishing, hoping and longing for an easier road in life.

Anthony Bourdain, the world traveler who discovers exotic foods and author of Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly wrote, “No one understands and appreciates the American Dream of hard work leading to material rewards better than a non-American.”

My favorite, George Bernard Shaw said, ” My life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live, it is a privilege to do for it whatsoever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no ‘brief candle’ to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment; and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.”

Something to think about! Have a good few days!