Official blog for the book "Just Behind the Door"

Archive for September, 2013

Barilla Out/Bertolli In

This website is about deepening our understanding about human emotions especially dealing with grief and loss. The topic of loss comes in many forms. An important one is the loss people experience from a lack of respect from others due to their lifestyle. We are, after all, created by the same Universal Energy of pure love. This site is about trying to make the world a better place one person, one blog, at a time. Rarely do I enter into current events unless my heart moves me to do so- and it did today.

Guido Barilla, chairman of the world’s leading pasta manufacture on Wednesday stated, “I would never do (a commercial) with a homosexual family, not for lack of respect but because we don’t agree with them. Ours is a classic family where the woman plays a fundamental role.” Why am I having a hard time accepting his explanation? The latest add for his company features Antonio Banderas baking biscuits (it seems there are 15 different brands and products made by the Barilla company) and talking to children about a chicken called Rosita. It was MR. Banderas who was featured in the add – but didn’t Barilla argue his point by saying ‘women play a fundamental role? Mr. Barilla also said he opposes adoption by gay parents. Ah…the real issue surfaces. No question where he stands on the topic of respect and equal rights. After a firestorm on social media sites, Barilla responded, “I apologize if my words have generated controversy or misunderstanding…” His words ring both hollow and insincere. Notice he didn’t apologize for being discriminatory but simply of “generating controversy” sounds like he is worried about the bottom line – money – and his PR folks were probably pleading with him, on bended knee, to recant his words. Mr. Barilla I think, ‘ thou protests too much!’ One just has to wonder why.

Misunderstanding really? Mr Barilla there is no ‘misunderstanding.’ Your comments were judgmental, offensive and lacked the integrity needed for a leader of a major company. You have a right to your own extremely limited perception but NOT as a CEO of a major company you inherited from your father which employs over 13,000 people. I wonder how some of your employees who are, no doubt gay, feel working for a company that promotes such discrimination. Do they have to hide in the shadow hoping not to be discovered and fired due to your stance? You made yourself both sadly and perfectly clear. Your comments were not a simple misunderstanding but a hateful and judgmental attack. You might want to contemplate on the statement, ‘Judge not, that ye be not judged.’

Now it is up to us, as consumers, to stand up and be counted. There is no place in my world that can accept a company that promotes discrimination, that includes Chic-fil-A and any other company that promotes division and discrimination among people. I accept the suggestion from Mr. Barilla that if his words upset me, simply do not eat his pasta – actually I could no longer stomach it. With each bite his comments would ring in my ear. Now let’s see if his 5.4 billion in net sales with be likewise effected. It’s up to us to decide.

It is good to know that alternatives exist. For instance, Bertolli, another Italian pasta maker company is NOT discriminatory and chose to feature a commercial highlighting a gay couple back in 2008! Imagine that! The character of this CEO and his company speaks volumes. They now have me as a permanent customer. I’m putting the intention out there that over the next year or so Bertolli will increase their sales by 40% because of both the integrity of their company and the quality of their product.

There is no room for discrimination, judgment or hateful comments in my world. Not now – not ever. Mr. Barilla will reap what he sows. That’s just how the Universe works.

Please forward this blog on to your friends and family. Information is a powerful thing. Let’s give others the chance to make a difference – an informed choice – so everyone can be accepted and treated with respect.

Have a great few days!

Balance – the Key to Life

In this classroom called life we are each working on learning our individual lessons. What seems difficult for one may appear easier for another. Not to worry, it’s all fair ultimately. Each of us has signed up to learn certain life lessons – no one gets a free pass on planet earth. When we think about what is THE most difficult thing to accept and learn to handle with grace we are uncovering one of our own lessons.

Learning unconditional love, letting go of the fear of living life fully, compassion for others, and truth are major themes that seem to be repeated in the lives of many. We know that whatever the lesson, the Universe will continue to present the challenges we need until we master it. Remember the saying, ‘First God whispers, then talks and may ultimately have to shout to get our attention.’ Whatever name you give the power greater than yourself, the process seems to be the same.

What if overriding all the individual lessons that we are working on is the granddaddy of them all…BALANCE. It seems the more I observe the challenges we have in life the more it all boils down to achieving a sense of balance by enjoying the journey, bringing our entire self to the game, as we work on our lessons.

Do we work too hard and resent the feeling of exhaustion at the end of the week? Are we eagerly waiting for the time to come when we can be done with our hectic work schedule? Is that when we plan on enjoying life more fully?

Do we demand that things be ‘just so’ in our lives and come unglued when people or things do not meet our expectations? Good luck with that – sounds like a never-ending story of disappointments as we face the twists and turns of life on a daily basis.

Are we constantly on the hunt for ‘things’ that we want rather than being satisfied with things that we truly need. Funny thing about consumption – the more we have the more we want. It becomes a cycle of temporary gratification until the next ‘want’ pops into our minds.

Maybe life is a bit simpler than we imagine. Maybe it really is about learning to balance our needs, wants, lessons, achievements and ‘things’ with living in the now – being present in our thoughts, feelings and behavior. It may be near impossible to do so if we allow ourselves to be on a fast-paced course to get to tomorrow, next week or next month.

Simply put, we only have today. The future may be a fleeting thought that will never be realized. Something to think about when we are hurrying to get to the next meeting, rushing to catch the green light or half listening to another who is in need of our time and attention. The only sure thing we have is this moment.

The next time we are feeling rushed, overwhelmed or frustrated maybe we could take a deep breath and realize that if we continue living at warp speed we may ultimately regret the journey.

Have a great few days!

Accepting Those People Who Are Bigger Than Life

In Truman Capote’s biography the author explained that when Truman walked into a room is was like “the chemist’s drop of (a) volatile substance that changed the composition of any gathering from amity to effervescence.”

We have all met someone like this and marvel that just by walking in a room, everything seems better, more interesting. Sometimes we wish we could be more like them. The room seems to sparkle with their energy, charm and magnetism. That is a gift few have but all admire. However, like everything in life gifts can also be burdens.

Do we ever allow them just to be themselves? Or do we see them through rose colored glasses and just assume that they are always this way, without major down days or emotional challenges that weight on them. The truth is that everyone has the ups and downs of human emotions. Some people are just much better at hiding it. Many times, their reputation precedes them. In the past they may have been told of their effect on others which causes them to strive hard to live up to that expectation. They strive to be proper, positive and entertaining and not let anyone see a crack in their armor. Regardless of what concerns they have at the moment they will ‘perform’ with excellence because they want to please and live up to their ‘perceived’ reputation.

It’s important that we realize, after all, they are human and allow them to just be themselves. When they are feeling stressed or down they need to be given the love and acceptance to work through their feelings. If not, they may bury them for a while but like water that forcefully pushes at the cracks in a dam until it is allowed to flow more freely, their emotions will surface often with an intensity that seems out of proportion to the circumstance. Feelings of being overwhelmed, confused, angry or fearful can be hidden momentarily but surface when least expected. Usually, if these type of folks do let it out it is with someone that they fully trust, someone they know will not reject them or think less of them. In other words, they intuitively know that they can let their guard down without judgment or reprisal.

Human emotions are a commonality we all share. No one escapes the negative feelings of fear, anger or resentment. We may choose to label the feelings differently but they are felt all the same. It is the manner by which we work through them and allow others to work through them that’s the significant difference. Not what or who, in essence, but how is the issue here.

The next time someone you love or care for deeply reacts in a disproportionate way to an event just remember that they feel you are a safe harbor that will allow their venting to relieve the pressure of the emotional stress they have inside from something in the past. It may not feel like it but, in essence, it is a vote of confidence that they have given you. Everyone needs to find a way to let go of pent up emotions and not carry that baggage into another day. It’s important to remember that even those we greatly admire are human and have their own life lessons they are working on. As with everyone we meet in life, acceptance of where they are at the moment is key.

Have a great few days!

Individualized Curriculum Plan for Life

What if …just what if… we are each living our life here on earth with our own individualized curriculum plan of life lessons? Can you visualize carrying around a textbook with your name on it and reviewing the table of contents to find it is uniquely designed just for you?

When we find ourselves struggling with the same things over and over in life we wonder …why, why is this path I’m on so terribly difficult? We can’t seem to get past it and on to chapter two – we’re stuck in neutral. The challenge just continues to resurface in different shades or versions until one day we drop the demand, the resentment even, that things be different and ask for help in understanding the true lesson of acceptance. The classroom of life delivers exactly the lessons we need at exactly the right time to give us an opportunity to become wiser, more loving human beings.

Often people ask how they can discover what their lessons are – what are they supposed to be learning. The answer is simple, the getting there more complex. If you look at your life at this point what is the absolute most difficult thing for you? What makes you want to grit your teeth and demand that things be different? Bingo! Somewhere in your response is the show stopper – the big lesson – that you have chosen to learn. When we stop thinking that life is unfair and demanding things be different we are on the path to acceptance and acceptance is key. When we start searching for what WE need to learn the ‘aha’ comes flooding into our consciousness. Pride, envy, fear, control, resistance all become things of the past and we move forward with humility and gratitude.

In our individualized life plans we are given the teachers (when the student is ready the teacher comes along) our very own individualized curriculum and even testing out opportunities along the way. In fact, these plans are so individualized that we can take all the time we choose to learn our lessons. We can resist and extend the length of learning time or we can ask the Universe for help while searching in ourselves for what we are doing to continually get results we do not want. Each of us has the power to overcome incredible odds when we stop blaming or making excuses and move to a position of, ‘It’s me not thee.’

Is it time to trust yourself and the Universe enough to let go of the strangle hold of control and your demand that things be different? If we take a deep breath and admit that we feel powerless at times but have faith that all will work out just as it is supposed to something magical happens and we find greater strength in knowing that everything is going to be okay. We gain a renewed sense of confidence that regardless of the challenge we can make it through and learn from it. What if…just what if…we turn the kaleidoscope ever so slightly and search for the opportunity for learning in the challenge. Rather hard to wrap your mind around but worth the effort.

Everyday and in every way we are growing and becoming what we have chosen to be…fully present, at peace with ourselves and others and grateful for the opportunity to tap into the Universal energy at any moment simply by humbling ourselves and asking for help and deeper understanding along the way.

Have a great few days!

Seeing is Believing?

The idiom, ‘Seeing is believing,’ was first recorded in 1639 and interpreted to mean that concrete or physical evidence is convincing. Although we have heard this phrase hundreds of times it actually assumes that the new evidence presented will be accepted in our minds as truth and will broaden our understanding. Seeing and believing requires us to demonstrate an openness- a willingness – to set aside our previous assumptions- and let go of our need to control long enough to take in the new ‘evidence.’

That is a tall order for many – especially those ‘special’ people who just seem to feel that they have all the answers. When new information comes along if it doesn’t match their world view or their plan, oftentimes, they simply dismiss it regardless of any evidence to the contrary. They may continue to replay their old truths in their minds digging a deeper rut in their behavior and attitude. Problem is, the only difference between a rut and a grave is the depth of the hole!

When we are in the rut, dismissing new evidence and demanding control, the Universe just seems to step in and throw us a curve ball from time to time. We are left thinking to ourselves, but…. that’s not the way I planned, expected or wanted it to be. We have all been there and it isn’t easy, in fact, it’s down right hard work to adjust our attitude, eat a bit of humble pie, and move forward.

For those who, given new evidence, choose to accept and internalize it, they discover that flexibility, change and letting go of their stranglehold of control was an essential part of the process. They have chosen to deepen their understanding about themselves and life in general. The good news is these folks regroup, reboot and move forward in their journey. They are the learners, the positive beings that refuse to be daunted by the curve balls. They are the type of people to which we are naturally drawn. We feel energized, enthusiastic and hopeful about the future when we are with them.

A line in the Serenity Prayer is especially meaningful in this context, “…. grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Think about how you react to new information that just doesn’t fit into your existing comfort zone. Do you push it away with disbelief or draw the new information in and sift through the evidence searching for the golden nugget – the lesson – that has been presented.

Have a great few days!

Life is 650,000 hours!

According to Bill Bryson in his book, ‘A Short History of Nearly Everything,’ the average human being lives about 650,000 hours which amounts to a little over 74 years. Of course this is simply an average but it does give a person pause when you think about our life span in that context – reduced to the concept of hours. All of a sudden every hour we spend living in the past or worrying about the future takes on a whole different perspective. One hour gone …how many more do we have left?

Each of us is carrying a load of rocks from our past in our invisible backpacks. If we perseverate on them the rocks can become boulders and cause us to slow down and even bend under the weight. The question is do we have the extra time and energy to continue to carry around anger, regrets or disappointments from the past? Or is it time to decide the next hour, day and week of our life will be better than ever because the clock is, indeed, ticking.

A simple practice of training ourselves, immediately upon awakening, to think about one thing to be grateful for and put a smile on our face we start our day off with more physical and emotional energy. It doesn’t cost a thing but will reap tons of benefit. It also helps us bring our ‘a game’ to the moment, the hour in which we are living. You may be thinking to yourself that you’re not a morning person. You don’t have to be. Simply getting into the practice of waking up with a thought of gratitude and a smile can be a game changer for the day. You still don’t have to talk to anyone until you have had that first cup of coffee or tea. This practice just seems to help get our own internal house in order for the new day. After all, you are still alive and have another chance to realize your purpose and make a difference in life. That, in itself, is a big reason to be happy.

It’s a matter of intention and self awareness. The next time you pass a mirror glance at it and honestly decide what your face is showing to the world. Does it project warmth, positive energy and welcome others in? Can you see a smile in your eyes? If not, the good news is that you can decide to change. Since it takes less energy to be positive than negative it seems like a no brainer to me. Yes, it takes honest self reflection and a bit of effort but we can change just about anything in our lives if we so desire. No cost involved – just a choice to become more aware of our own happiness index and do something about it.

Living is not resisting and merely existing but rather evolving by learning, growing, and polishing the rougher edges of our personality. We all have them. We can become happier, more energized and the person we always wanted to be when we have the courage to take stock of our lives and choose to do something about it. Self improvement is time incredibly well spent. It fuels the body, heart and soul.

Today you can choose to make a difference in life – one step at a time- starting with yourself. Now that is something to get excited about!

Have a great few days!

Helping to Heal

In my book entitled, ‘Just Behind the Door’ I write about communicating for the past decade with my son who passed on in 1999. From the other side he has deepened my understanding about many things in life. My goal in writing it was to share the information from him and help others who are dealing with loss, grief and healing. It seems to give people hope – that’s all I could ever ask for – and what I have received.

The first thing he has emphasized is about life lessons. We are all here on our own unique paths to learn the lessons we have chosen to learn. Dealing with the loss of a loved one, especially a child, is no doubt the toughest lesson. I don’t think a parent ever gets over such a loss but merely through it given enough time. There is no magic wand to wave to heal a broken heart. I found that reading the stories by other parents who had lost a child gave me a sense of hope. They seemed to live to tell the tale and their willingness to share their gut wrenching stories helped me to know that I would survive as well. Sometimes you do question. I also learned that the many mind games we play with ourselves about the loss is natural, normal and, in fact, even predictable.

The second thing my son has spoken about is energy. The Universal Energy is in everything and everyone. We can feel the difference in the different types of energy when we are around people who seem to just energize us and give us hope as well as those that seem to deplete us of energy. When a person is dealing with the loss of a loved one sometimes the best thing we can do is simply be there to listen. They are able to tap into our energy and strength and make it through another hour, day or even week. That’s a priceless gift to receive. When I hear people say they know they should go visit someone who has recently lost a loved one but haven’t done so because they don’t know what to say, I suggest that simply being with them does not require words – maybe just a hug and a cup of coffee while you listen to what happened and exactly how it happened. Allowing someone to talk about their loss helps them heal. One hour at a time and it is, indeed, a long journey.

The third idea my son continues to emphasize is that, ‘All is as it should be.’ That is a bitter pill to swallow when you have experienced a loss but true none the less. The Universe doesn’t make mistakes. We can relax in knowing that there truly was nothing we could do to avoid the inevitable loss. The plan was set in motion long before we set foot on earth.

Since we have free will, what we do with these ideas is up to us. I know they are truth since I have lived them. We can gain a sense of peace about our lives when we think deeply about our life purpose and the lessons we are learning.

If you would like to read more about my communication with my son or know of someone who has experienced a loss and seems to be stuck in grief, please consider giving them my book (available through AuthorHouse or Amazon) and let me know what happens. I know you will be surprised to hear their response after reading it. If you are hesitant to offer a book of this type to someone that’s okay. I know from the book talks I give and emails I receive that those who will benefit from reading it somehow find a way to do so.

Have a great few days!

A Friend Indeed …

The World Happiness Database (yes there is such a thing!) has found that people who have close friendships are happier, more empathic, display greater honesty and altruism. On another front, evolutionary biologists have found that these are traits that are very important to give and receive for survival. As Homo sapiens we are basically just wired to be social animals.

What causes some people to have more friends than others? I’m not talking here about the ‘friends’ we may have on Facebook or other social media sites but the kind of person (friend or a family member who is also a friend) that you could call in the middle of the night because you feel the need to talk. Could it be that they have developed greater empathy and curiosity for others?

If you watch them closely, you see that they truly care about others. They are more interested in letting the other person talk rather than keeping the attention on themselves and taking up all of the ‘air space.’ They find other people interesting and are curious about their world views. You can just feel a genuineness about them. They are not simply giving you 5 minutes of their time but are actually interested in what you are saying! Their energy is positive, uplifting and seems to naturally draw us in with their empathic regard. They want to walk a step or two in our world to better understand us, without value judgments but simply to more fully understand.

George Orwell serves as a tremendous example of a person who purposely experienced different world views to expand his empathy and understanding. After serving as a colonial police officer in British Burma in the 1920’s he returned to Britain determined to develop a deeper understanding of what life was like for the economically poor street people. As he spent time, dressed as a beggar, he realized that homeless people are not simply ‘drunken scoundrels.’ He wrote a book entitled, Down and Out in Paris and London about his experience and stated that it was the ‘greatest travel experience of his life.’

Rarely do we hear of such extreme learning examples such as Orwell’s but the truth remains, when you take the time to observe, listen with your heart and try to walk in another person’s shoes, even for a few moments, you develop greater empathy and respect. Without even realizing it, you find the numbers of friends you have increasing because you have taken the time to show you care. After all, we are all doing the best we can in this lifetime as we work at learning our own unique lessons.

William Shakespeare said, ‘A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow.’ Doesn’t get much better than that right?

Have a great few days!

Your Social Footprint

A recent article in ‘The Week’ magazine summarized a research study from the University of Michigan regarding social-networking sites (Facebook). Looking into this a bit further, I discovered that there are many research studies that have been conducted on the topic. The conclusion of these studies is a bit unnerving. It seems that frequent and continual use of these sites (5 times or more per day) leads to greater feelings of loneliness, depression, sadness and even anger. Whoa! I had no idea about the research but had felt a nagging unease when I saw teenagers and adults waiting in line to check out of a store while simultaneously viewing a social media site or texting a 5 second response to someone. I have wondered how present are they in the moment? Watching a family attempting the annual school clothes shopping trip while half of the members are on their phones and emotionally out there in space somewhere just takes the joy out of the experience.

The good news is that the study also found that when the research subjects used direct face-to-face communication with others it resulted in happier and more cheerful feelings. Remember the idea of staying in the present? Another way of thinking about this is to try to keep our attention where our feet are planted. You, your friends, clients and colleagues are worth the time.

Could it be that PART of the reason that people in the United States rate the highest (9.6%) for depression compared to 14 other countries is that we have begun to substitute actual personal contact with a social media site? Are we choosing to live in the shadow of texting and posting rather than ‘live’ contact?

Granted, there are many additional reasons for depression. The economy, personal challenges, family obligations, the pharma companies telling us that if we feel ‘down’ there is a pill for this or that … are just a few examples. What if part of the solution to unhappiness is the overuse of social media and the lack of face-to-face communication? You can fix that one – no cost, no worry, no problem. Just a slight change in habit. Are you up to it?

We may think we do not have a moment to spare in our lives as it is and to take the time to reconnect with a friend or make a new friend is simply out of the question. It may just seem easier, faster and more ‘with it’ to post a message and wait to see who responds. But now you know the long term effects. We can fix this – one person – one commitment at a time.

Like everything else in life the issue becomes one of awareness and moderation.

Have a great few days!