Official blog for the book "Just Behind the Door"

Archive for August, 2014

Unload Your Backpacks!

Our resistance to the values and behaviors of others that our different from our own causes tremendous weight in the backpacks we carry through life. The more resistance we exhibit the greater the weight until we are totally exhausted. Life becomes a burden rather than an experience to cherish. Sound strange? Well, let’s think about it.

From our background and life experiences each of us has created our own set of expectancies of how the world ‘should’ work and how others ‘should’ respond. When an event happens that doesn’t fit our framework we often become uncomfortable or even angry. Like a young child who learned how to get their own way we may become upset and mentally demand that things go according to ‘our’ plan. The problem with this type of thinking is that every human being has their own set of expectancies, their own plan which frequently does not match up to our own. You may be thinking, ‘but I know the right approach, the right answer and others are not listening to me.’ Of course you think you do and that is exactly why they may not be listening. The biggest reason they begin to shut you out is that they simply disagree with you and they have that right. The sad part about it is that eventually they choose not to be around you and ultimately that hurts.

The question then becomes what do we do with the event or negative energy that we feel when things do not go according to our plan and people slowly begin to avoid us? There seems to be two choices. We can either look at the situation and realize that everyone has their own take on life and respect it by letting the discomfort roll off our backs or we can perseverate on it and take the energy into our bodies where it will find a stockpile of similar negative, resistant energies that are stuck inside us. If we choose the latter it is like adding weight to our backpacks. Over time the weight becomes heavier. Rather than stones or rocks we are now carrying boulders in our backpacks. As the weight increases our minds and hearts become weighted down simply from living. In an attempt to regain control we then add more weight to our backpacks by adding more of the ‘they should’ type of thinking to our mindset until our world becomes terribly small. Others don’t want to be around us and start to avoid our energy. Why? It is just too exhausting to be around.

Just think, this whole process started because we determined that much of life may not be the way we like it and insisted that things and people change to fit into ‘our’ way of thinking. Soon, due to our self imposed resistance to the values others hold dear, we actually move to a more even more dramatic level where we expect to become disappointed or uncomfortable with others. As always, the Universe gives back to us exactly what we give out and gradually we become less rather than more. Our world is closing in on us. Unless we choose to be perpetually unhappy, does it makes sense to continue to expect, demand even, that others to do what makes us happy? Again, only children act this way until they mature and realize that it is not about others making them happy but about the unique gifts each individual brings to the table to make it more bountiful.

If we seem to be experiencing more stress and discomfort in our lives, maybe it’s time to do a reality check. What are we doing to cause the situation? The amazing thing is that we have the power to change it! We don’t need to remain stuck with our world closing in on us until we are isolated and alone. All it takes is the willpower to make small changes which bit by bit grow into a larger, more expansive comfort zone. This zone welcomes different thinking and views of the world. It is nonjudgmental and recognizes the unconditional love within each of us that is just waiting to be invited in rather than shut out. We can choose to open up to learn from others and relish in the rewards of the positive energy that will then surround us. It’s always up to us – that’s the beauty of free will.

Have a great few days!

Overcoming Our Pressure Points

My last blog talked about how our walk speaks volumes. As part of the whole topic of body language which has been said to constitute 55% of the first impression we give to others an awareness of this is important. Let’s dig a little deeper into the topic of the messages we give off to others by considering the soles of our feet. Sound strange? Just stay with me on this one.

The soles of our feet stretch from our heels to our toes. They have experienced millions of miles on our journey through life. We have seen the machines that when stepped on show us the hot spots or greater pressure points that we have developed on our journey. Suggested orthotic shoe inserts, different shoes or even specific exercises are then recommended to us ease our pain. From our walk, stance and daily activities all have had an impact on the soles of our feet. We can become slow, stiff even weak because of the pain we have accumulated in life until we choose to deal with the pain – head on – and overcome it.

When you think about it there is something significant about the words sole and soul other than purely sound. Actually, the soles of our feet are a good analogy to our spiritual souls. Each of us have unique hot spots, retraction points and pressure issues that we have come to accept as a normal part of living. Some of us accept the challenges or pains we have accumulated in our hearts as just something we have to endure. Rather than limping with bad feet we retract our energy (a form of limping through life) when we choose not to deal with our issues directly. This causes us to bring less enthusiasm, excitement and fun into our lives for fear of being hurt or uncomfortable. We believe that we are protecting our unique hot spots.

The nonstop change process that we are living in today can send some of us running for cover, locking the doors trying to prevent the changes from disrupting our lives. Yet, and here is the kicker, the harder we try to hide from change and not deal with our ‘hot spots’ that we have acquired on our souls the greater our ‘limp’ becomes in life. Visualize it on a scale from limping, to using a cane or ultimately not even being able to walk. Why? Because we have chosen not to recognize the individual pressure points on our souls. We choose to ignore rather than deal with them proactively. Consequently, the tenderness continues to grow and our spiritual limp becomes more visible and more limiting.

No one comes into this life or lives it without accumulating areas of tenderness or hot spots that need to be worked through to becomes more fully functioning human beings. It is not a question or ‘if’ but ‘when’ we take on the challenge.

If fear of anything is controlling your behavior it is a signal from the Universe. It’s time to deal with it rather than pass. Deciding to use a crutch to sustain us will not achieve less pain but simply start us on a path of greater and greater dependency. Recognizing the fear – the issue for what it is is 75% of overcoming it. You are strong enough and wise enough to overcome anything once you choose to do so. We know that the Universe gives back to us exactly what we give out – no more no less. Choose to embrace your individual pressure points or hot spots and recognize them for what they are … simply an opportunity for growth and greater happiness. You can do it!

Have a great few days!

Your Gait Speaks Volumes!

We have all heard the saying that you can’t judge a book by its cover. Partly true but also somewhat misleading. For instance, have you ever watched people walk? It’s fascinating really and can tell you a great deal about them as individuals. Do they shuffle, swagger, hobble, timidly place their feet forward, shoulders slumped, or move decisively ahead with purpose? The examples go on and on. One thing we know for sure is that our gait or walk is another distinctive form of body language. It can indicate introversion, extroversion, an adventurous spirit, neuroticism, warmth, approachability, feigned helplessness, and a host of other things. The truth is that your gait tells a great deal about you as a person and you don’t even have to open your mouth for an astute observer to know more about you than you might have imagined.

For instance, the pace of which you walk shows your state of mind. It brings an energy to your encounters. Is the energy positive, frenetic, negative, calm? A quiet walker doesn’t want to intrude, influencers may walk, stop and even change directions, supportive type people walk with a steadiness arms closely by their body – sort of a glide really, drivers walk with intent, cautious people walk as if they are following the rules of the road. This is my lane and that is yours they seem to be saying to themselves.

We know that females take smaller steps (other than fashion models) and have more pelvic movement. Their hips sway more naturally because of their body build and sometimes to physically attract others. On the other hand, walking with a bit of a swagger, shoulders and head up, eyes clearly focused ahead gives off a sense of physical attractiveness and confidence in males. Generally, the more confident the person – male or female – the longer the stride.

We all size up people instantly. We assume their intelligence, self-esteem, competence, as well as the organization they represent. Is it fair to do so – maybe not – but remember it happens and you always want to play to the winning hand.

Why would this be important information to know? Remember the sayings, dress for success, your shoes display your mental image of self, you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression, skill and qualifications are important but first impressions tell the tale, a picture is worth a thousand words, put your best foot forward … The list goes on and on but the take away is that your external image really displays your inner feelings of self and your gait is part of that image.

The Concise Oxford Dictionary describes image as “the character or reputation of a person as generally perceived.” The operative words, of course, is ‘generally perceived.’ This is before your first words are even spoken. Within a few minutes or seconds of meeting someone their body language and dress create an impression that is hard to overcome. Why not give yourself the competitive advantage by considering if your walk or gait together with your appearance is the message you really want to give to others. Think your skills or expertise should speak for itself? Good luck with that one.

According to research by Dr. Albert Mehrabian of UCLA, appearance and body language accounts for fifty-five percent of an invaluable first impression! Seems like a big percentage to me that is worth giving considerable thought to don’t you think?

Light travels faster than sound so your walk and dress visually communicates volumes before one word is exchanged. Let it be volumes of confidence, purpose and positive intention. It’s something worth considering.

Have a great few days!

A Comedic Messenger

Robin Williams, the absolute genius of comedy and from all accounts a wonderfully generous human being has passed away. By now, we have all heard the reports of his untimely death. We are saddened and shocked that a person who appeared to capture the hearts of so many by giving us non stop laughter was so depressed that he could no longer find the strength to go on. Maybe because of his fame, his passing will help all of us learn more about depression and Parkinson’s disease.

Being strong does not mean that we can ignore or talk ourselves out of a serious depression. I’m not talking about a day or brief period in our lives when we feel overwhelmed with life. No, I’m talking about serious clinical depression that can be caused by psychological, environmental, biological or genetic causes. Think of it this way, if Robin Williams the talented and successful comedian was not immune to the ravages of clinical depression is it time to sit up and take notice when we hear or feel that someone we know or love is seriously depressed?

It has been said that if a person feels hopeless, helpless or worthless they are prone to depression and even possibly suicide. That makes sense – if your bucket feels totally empty to you it would be hard to continue to carry it. The World Health Organization estimates that 13% of U.S. men suffer with depression. Studies also show that the older men get the higher the rate of suicide from depression. This is a note to my baby boomer friends. You are more than your career (now retired) your physical stamina (becoming less so yearly) or your physical appearance (with age comes those lines that indicate you gave it your all).

We do a great disservice when we expect men to suppress their emotions, be strong and keep a stiff upper lip. That expectation is not only ill informed it is a tremendous disservice to them. Men are not machines functioning without emotions. Yet, sadly, many men have naively accepted this stereotypical image that is not only wrong but psychologically dangerous. Give me a man that shows honest, heart felt emotions and I will show you a human being who will make a difference in this world. No one is invincible or immune to times or periods in their life where they struggle with their own self worth. What we can do to help ourselves and others is to have enough strength to recognize that we may need a listening ear, a medical intervention or even to seek the help of a mental health professional if the depression is prolonged.

We now understand that Robin was experiencing the early stages of Parkinson’s disease. This disease can fuel the fire of a person already fighting the effects of depression. The first longitudinal study from the national Parkinson’s Progression Makers Initiative was published in the August 15th issue of Neurology (Robin was always the master of timing). The researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania tracked Parkinson’s patients rate of depression from the time of their initial diagnosis over a two year period and compared the rates to more healthy peers. The depression rates were TWICE as high in the first year alone (14% to 7%) and even higher in the second year!

What caused the significant increase in depression among Parkinson’s patients? Was it caused by hearing that they had a disease that was serious? No, it is much, much more than that issue. It seems that not only are bodily motor functions affected but the chemicals that affect Parkinson’s disease are also closely associated with mood regulation due to changes in the brain! The physical changes in the brain contribute to depression. It is not mind over matter but the change in brain functioning specifically that makes this disease more difficult. Our vigilance to be sure our friends and family members who are diagnosed with this disease are regularly monitored for depression is essential.

Thank you to Robin Williams for all the brilliant moments he brought to us and thank you also for his last act… not one of selfish indifference – but one that may help hundreds or thousands of people better cope with clinical depression and Parkinson’s disease.

Have a great few days!

Have You Arrived Yet?

Have you ever had someone ask you to call them when you have arrived at your destination? How did you respond? Did you interpret it as a sign of caring and love or an infringement on your personal space? The truth is that like many things we do in life we interpret things as a negative or positive based on our early conditioning.

People who dealt with fear growing up as a predominant factor in their early lives often need reassurance that all is okay. It is such an integral part of their makeup that they unwittingly perpetuate it on others and, at times, restrict growth. Taken to a further extreme they may even help create a fear of life in those they love the most. Do they do it purposely? Absolutely not! They are simply living out the life they experienced and passing it on to their loved ones. Is it time to hit the delete button?

As adults if we fall into the category of fearing life we can begin to confront that free floating fear and work through it by refusing to allow ourselves to continue to live in a state of constant anxiety and worry. The other option, of course, is to blame our responses on our upbringing and continue to live out a life script of fear. The truth is that once we come to grips with the fact that 99% of everything we worry about never happens we are at a cross road for decision making. Do we continue to worry and fret or slowly, gently wean ourselves away from the need to know – to control – to have something to worry about.

Teenagers often interpret the request to ‘check in’ as a sign of lack of trust. Sometimes it is due to events of the recent past. We know that as our children become young adults everything in their world becomes an issue of control. The challenging yet critical issue for parents is the gradual timing of letting the reins out slowly as our children mature. Too fast and they flounder, too slowly and they resent it.

For those who did not have an adult – a consistent mother figure in particular – in their lives that tried to loving watch, suggest, even direct the actions of their children at times the idea of ‘call me when you get there’ is foreign, an affront even, to them. They may stay stuck in the stage of a rebellious child for the rest of their lives. Deep down they know something was missing – what that was exactly – they are not sure.

Everything can be taken to an extreme. From eating and drinking at one end of the spectrum to advice giving and the ‘checking in’ factor to the other. Anything can become excessive. If we encounter a behavior or response directed to us that appears to be excessive try a gentle reminder to the person. ‘I’ve got this handled,’ is a statement that speaks volumes about personal responsibility and independence. Like life the issue is one of balance. It is a tricky road to negotiate at times.

Responses change as we mature in life. That is the beauty of it all. We don’t have to remain stuck behaving or responding the way we did in the past because everyday with each new life experience we are given the choice to see it as a potential for growth and deeper understanding or an excuse to remain stuck in the past. It is always up to us.

Maybe the next time someone asks you to let them know when you have arrived at your destination, you can take a deep breath and be grateful that someone who cares enough to request it is still in your life.

It’s All About Perspective

Today before you say an unkind word to someone – do you know what they are dealing with – have you walked in their shoes?

Before you complain about the taste of your food – think of the 1 out of 7 people worldwide (1 million children in the U.S. alone) who go to bed hungry every night.

Before you complain about your partner, best friend or family member – think of having no one in your life to even get under your skin.

Today before you complain about life – think of someone who left this earth too soon.

Before you complain about your children – think of someone who desires children but has none.

Before whining about the distance you drive to work or traffic problems you encounter – think about the people who can’t even afford a vehicle to drive.

When you are tired and complain about your job – think of the unemployed who are struggling day to day just to exist (6% in the U.S., 27% in Greece, 44% in Bosnia/Herzegovina).

Before you make a negative comment consider if it will make a difference 5 years from now in the big scheme of things.

When you go to bed complaining that you are totally exhausted – be thankful that you had the opportunity to live another day.

When you have a brief illness that disrupts your life – think of those who will never get over their illness and would trade places with you in a minute.

When you complain about an achy joint – think of those who are paralyzed.

When you think about the foolishness of someone – remember a time when you were also foolish.

If you think you are all powerful to gain a better perspective – look around at nature and be prepared to be humbled.

When life seems overwhelming and you just want it to stop – think about what that really means.

When you complain that life is not making you happy – look at what you are thinking, saying and doing to make it better.

We all have moments when life seems difficult even overwhelming yet somehow, some way the sun comes up tomorrow and gradually we feel a little better, more able to cope with our latest trials and tribulations. If we didn’t have the challenges would we truly appreciate the majority of times when life is good? Maybe our job on this earth is to face our issues without losing hope for tomorrow and search for the lesson in every situation. Ask yourself…what is life trying to tell me?

Have a great few days!

Best Friend or Dependency Friend?

Human relationships are so important for us and the relationship between best friends is as the term implies – simply the best. Is it because they always agree with us or compliment us? No. In fact, a best friend is one who may disagree with us at times because they feel confident enough in the friendship to do so. We know, deep down in our hearts, that they only comment because they are concerned. The biggest thing we share with a best friend is our authentic self. We know that they will not judge, cajole or manipulate us into wanting what they want but encourage us to seek our own happiness and spread our wings and fly. Sometimes this means that we move on with our own life and the extreme closeness that we once shared may be altered slightly. Our time and thoughts need to be allocated differently so life as we once knew it with our best friend needs to change to accommodate our own life changes. When we have a best friend we want what is best for them and know that they also want what is best for us – terms and timelines or touch points become less important because our friendship still remains deep.

Sometimes a relationship between best friends can become one of dependency over time. The change happens subtly but we can tell when the relationship becomes more of a need rather than a want basis. When we begin to need to touch base (like many of us need that first cup of coffee in the morning) the relationship has devolved from wanting to talk to needing to talk and it’s time to do a gut check. Is it now a relationship of possessiveness, control, dependency – does the exact word even matter? The change from best friend to dependency friend usually morphs slowly overtime until one day we realize our personal independence or any influence in our lives other than our best friend is either discounted or at least regarded by them as a threat. When a friendship becomes dependent the mere thought of not touching base frequently becomes uncomfortable. Often, abandonment at an early age is the seed that germinates into dependency for one of the two people involved and results in a fear of change, risk or loss. The best friend may then have difficulty adjusting to any change in our relationship with them and may even find a subtle way to cause us to feel guilty by not giving them enough attention. If a dependency friendship exists and one of the parties is making a life change without them they may become more needy, unhappy or even delay making decisions or following through. In reality that is another subtle yet unspoken message that they are ‘just not the same without us.’ Basically, they are not happy having to share us with others. The longer this type of relationship exists the stronger the manipulations get to control our personal space. To them the idea of sharing us with others means, ‘We must not love them best.’ Sound a bit childish? Remember where abandonment starts and it makes sense. They may even become angry, hurt, depressed and question our true feelings about them if they feel threatened by what they see as any loss of control or influence that they have had on us. Sadly, with their choice to become ‘exclusive’ in their friendship with us they are refusing to grow in life and develop additional friends. Overtime they can become cynical and disappointed with life in general. To help them they need to be pushed, ever so gently to get on with their own life as we get on with ours. Purposely reducing the time and attention to them will slowly help the friendship regain a healthier balance.

Recalibrating a dependency friendship back into a healthy best friend relationship is difficult and often resentment and even guilt will be felt until a more healthy equilibrium is once again achieved. However, the change is essential for both parties to experience a full authentic life with others. A healthy relationship is one that is secure enough to know that neither party needs the ‘psychological possession’ of the other to make it in life.

A best friend encourages you to experience life both with and without them. They truly want to see you go for the gold and live your authentic life because simply and truly they love you with a heart that is selfless. It is not about what they get out of the relationship but what they see you becoming that is more exciting and rewarding to them. In their heart the friendship is so much more than possession – it is one of simply being.

Have a great few days!