Official blog for the book "Just Behind the Door"

Posts tagged ‘near death experiences’

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!

No Problem, No Worry, No Drama

The Australian people are an interesting culture. On a recent visit I was taken aback by what I thought, at first, was lack of customer service. Observing them in greater depth, however, I discovered a valuable perspective on life. They seem to have developed an attitude of acceptance of things rarely seen in the United States. For instance, if something is just not quite right or you need something in a store or on the public transit system, their typical response is ‘no problem, no worry, no drama.’ They actually verbalize these words! They seem to get things done without exhibiting any nervousness or tension. It is really quite amazing and must surely be better for overall health.

When we analyze why certain cultures or people seem to have more worry, problems and drama in their life could it be that the person is really saying that life isn’t fair and demanding through their behavior that someone or something be different? Could it be that they actually believe that only they have all the right answers? That thought is kind of scary isn’t it? Actually, the drama is a form of manipulation for control or attention. It is the ‘poor me’ syndrome at heart. Unfortunately, if the person continues to exhibit this behavior and it becomes a habit, over time, they spiral downward. Their glass is then perpetually half empty rather than hall full. The drama of ‘poor me’ has become their lifestyle and worldview. No matter how great something is they can quickly find the ‘yes, but….’ in it. Ultimately, they become too exhausting to be around because our energy is sapped by simply trying to keep a more positive attitude in life.

Our methods of coping in life are formed when we are very young and the filters we create from our early experiences simply become a part of who we are at the core. It takes courage to point out to someone you care about when they are exhibiting the ‘poor me drama’ but if they are receptive and it is done with love you may be able to help them see that their behavior not only turns others off it takes the enthusiasm out of their own life as well. Once the habit is recognized and owned by the individual they can choose to replace it with a healthier response pattern- the challenge is, of course, that they have to see and accept that what they are doing is no longer working.

Once we accept that we alone are responsible for our feelings and behavior for everything that happens to us in life the element of drama is neutralized. There is no one to blame for our emotional state. We have chosen our life – the challenges and the opportunities – for the lessons. The length of time it takes to learn the lessons is completely up to us.

Adapting some of the Australian attitude of no worry, no problem, no drama may just be the best thing we could do for ourselves.

Have a great few days!

The Gift of Chaos

How often do you experience chaos or challenges in your life? Have you ever thought about what purpose these events serve? Seriously, I used the word chaos for a reason. Each challenging, chaotic event allows us the opportunity for growth. It forces us to stretch by thinking about things in new and different ways. It allows us to become more flexible and develop a greater capacity to handle life. As a result we become wiser, more secure and able to see that we are stronger and more capable than we ever thought possible. Actually, viewing chaos in this way allows us to see it as a gift of growth opportunity from the Universe.

Often we look at chaos as something just to get through as quickly as possible or we put up a wall of protection around ourselves and resist thinking about what it could teach us. Resistance is the key here. The more we resist the inevitable changes often brought about through temporary chaos in our life the more discomfort we feel. The more discomfort we feel the more we are thinking about what we don’t want rather than what we do want in our lives. We may even find ourselves demanding that things be different … meaning the same as they have always been. Not only is that unrealistic it is stagnating in our lives.

Remember how important it is to occupy your mind with positives and possibilities? If you are resisting challenging events as they occur in your life you are doing just the opposite. You are occupying your mind with the negatives about what you don’t want in life rather than what you do want in life. Remember, the Universe will deliver to you whatever is foremost in your thinking – every time without fail.

If we visualize our lives through a kaleidoscope we have the power to turn the cylinder ever so slightly when experiencing chaos and accept the situation simply as that – a situation that we can grow and learn from rather than resist or refuse to accept. The saying, ‘you can run but you can’t hide’ is apropos here. We have, after all, each chosen our unique life lessons to learn and they will be presented to us again and again, in one form or another, until we learn them and move beyond the self imposed limitations that we see as security. The question then is how long will it take, how many times do the chaotic events need to surface before we breathe deeply and say to ourselves, ‘Ah, I get it, I have been in this place of discomfort before but this time I will choose to learn from it.’

Viewing chaos as challenging but necessary for personal growth allows us to truly internalize the saying, ‘All is as it should be.’

Do You Hear What I Hear?

When we ASK others for information or their view on a circumstance then sincerely listen to their response we give and receive power from the exchange of energy. I believe the most valuable thing for a person is to be heard. We all want someone to care enough to inquire about us, show concern and ask clarifying questions about what we are doing in our lives. Yet, many times we find that they are so busy talking about their life that they forget about us! If all of us gain value by being heard it behooves us to model good listening skills ourselves and, at times, take the risk to point out to others if they are not honoring us or themselves by listening. You may be thinking to yourself, I might hurt their feelings if I comment. You may that is true but ultimately you will be helping them much more in the long run.

I am just finishing a book entitled, The End of Your Life Book Club, written by Will Schwalbe. In this memoir he and his mother are consummate readers so during her battle with cancer they formed a book club consisting of just the two of them. During each of her chemo treatments they would discuss the latest book they were reading and offer different perspectives on it. Like everything in life both age and experience can cause two people, regardless of how close they are, to have different perspectives. That is the beauty of the give and take of authentic conversations with others. Listening to what they have to say makes us more not less and gets the wheels going in our minds. We see things in a slightly more enlighten and broader view.

Schwalbe mentions in the epilogue that after his mom’s death he ‘would suddenly be seized with paralyzingly guilt over something (he) neglected to tell her…eventually (he) came to realize that the greatest gift of their book club was that it gave (him) time to ASK her things (and fully listen to her thoughts) not TELL her things.’

Whether we are living or dying the most important thing is to have someone who genuinely cares enough to listen to us. We feel more valued as a person and have the opportunity to hear our own thinking. Often, this can be one of the greatest therapies in the world. We realize that, in the far reaches of our minds, we know the answers to the more troubling things in our life when we experience the simple act of voicing the concern to others and listening to their response. It helps us clarify our next steps and we feel more empowered.

What we give out to the Universe comes back to us double fold. It sort of makes listening right up there on the 10 most important things we can do for ourselves and others. In our fast paced world, developing the skill to be an empathic listener is good for our minds and our souls.

Wouldn’t be wonderful if everyone could become aware of the significance of developing heartfelt listening skills. Maybe you can be the gentle nudge to help others consider ASKING rather than TELLING as we all live out our life lessons.

Have a great few days!

Thresholds of Tolerance

Have you ever thought about your threshold of tolerance? Are you satisfied with it or does it inhibit you as a person? Do you become upset over inconsequential things in life? Think of someone you know who just seems to be able to cope with one life change after another and keeps on going like the Energizer Bunny. What causes these people to have higher thresholds of tolerance? What do they know that we don’t know?

We can easily recognize when a situation develops that causes us to reach a point in which we say to ourselves – this is too much! Once we reach this point we find ways to reduce the negative energy and stress about the circumstance by using our own unique coping mechanisms such as anger, emotional outbursts, withdrawal, depression, excessive drinking, talking, eating, exercising – the list of possible coping behaviors are too numerous to list. The problem is that many times these coping mechanisms simply make our situation worse as they become habitual and the cycle continues.

Our thresholds were created based on the unconscious beliefs we learned early in life. We adopt our own unique coping mechanism due to our family background and experiences. Many times fears, beliefs and limitations are modeled and transferred from generation to generation simply because ‘this is the way it was done’ in our early environment. Often we don’t take the time to evaluate the lack of logic behind them. Sadly, lower thresholds of tolerance can hold us back from growing, doing and becoming all that we would like to be.

When we step back and observe our own behavior we may see areas that we would like to change. It takes conscious effort to make a change. Make no mistake this can be hard work but I would ask you to consider if you are worth the effort. I think you are worth it and more! Knowing that any change, in itself, can cause us discomfort we need to work at it, one step at a time and not give up. If we rush back to our place of ‘safety’ what we feel as safe is frequently little more than another limiting factor in our lives.

The good news is that we can change and expand our threshold of tolerance if we so desire. It takes work to examine our life and accept the fact that in certain areas we are not as …. (fill in the blank) as we would like to be. Once we recognize something about ourselves that we would like to change the challenge to do something about it is simply that – a challenge – that can be met and overcome if we truly want it badly enough.

When we begin to live life more consciously by honestly evaluating our various responses to new or difficult situations we short circuit the automatic response mechanisms developed from our past. We find, at first, that new vistas may not be as comfortable as we would like but as we continue to force ourselves out of our comfort zones we open up new, exciting territories for living. We become more not less.

It takes honesty, courage and desire to heighten our threshold of tolerance but it’s so worth the effort!

Have a great few days!

Greater Happiness by Expanding Your Comfort Zone

Science talks about open and closed systems. This concept has direct application to the way we behave as individuals. Whether it is a personal growth or personal suffering experience the idea of visualizing an open or closed system has significance.

A closed system is rigid and non-resilient. It has little or no interaction with the environment and does not evolve. An open system, on the other hand, is adaptable, resilient because of the ability and choice to grow and evolve.

As human beings we are a complex open system designed to grow, change and evolve through learning and life experiences. If we stretch and allow ourselves to move out of our comfort zones we are forced to handle new situations and learning occurs. We become more resilient to the ups and downs that characterize our lives. The more we experience life the more resilient we can become.

Resiliency is tantamount to confident living. Knowing you can handle circumstances in life offers a sense of well being. The trick seems to be to allow or even force ourselves to risk experiencing new situations without becoming overwhelmed with the changes. If change, in general, is so overwhelming, maybe taking small steps could be the answer.Just as an athlete trains to run a race, for example, they do so in stages. They don’t simply go out and decide they are going to run a 10k race and achieve their best time on the first go of it. They work up the strength and endurance by pushing their bodies bit by bit until they are able to perform at the level they so desire.

If we think about this analogy, the same is true of our emotional well being. Staying in our own comfort zone may help us feel, temporarily, more at ease or secure but over time our open, complex systems need greater stimulation, more experiences to thrive. There is a major difference between surviving versus thriving. Our emotional well being is predicated on the assumption that as life happens to us, regardless of the difficulty of our experiences, we will pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and start once again on our chosen path in life. It is, indeed, a challenge to push our comfort zones but it is invaluable to our overall happiness.

The choice is always up to us. Pushing ourselves to experience the new and different can cause all of us discomfort and a momentary feeling of being unsure. However, after each new experience we are basically moving up the next step on the ladder to greater peace, acceptance and resiliency.

Sure sounds to me like it is worth the try! Have a great few days!