Official blog for the book "Just Behind the Door"

Posts tagged ‘peace’

Practicing Forgiveness is Good for Your Heart!

In childhood it’s all about self but as we mature into adulthood we begin to understand the importance of being kinder, more forgiving and accepting of others. We start to see the world in shades of grey rather than simply black and white. This week the Pope’s message was to practice ‘peace, tolerance and respect for the dignity and rights of others.’ It seems that integral to doing this is to practice the art of forgiveness.

There is a reason that forgiveness is at the heart of healing. At a recent gathering in Manhattan 400 people were asked if they had difficulty and were not on speaking terms with members of their families. Over two-thirds of the participants raised their hands! Think about how many people are holding on to grudges and surrounding themselves with negative energy – it must be exhausting. Recognizing the importance of the topic, forgiveness is being further studied through the Stanford Forgiveness Project.

There are two common themes within all of this – forgiveness and its challenging cousin – judgment. When we think about an upset between family members or friends it seems to boil down to two things: assuming we hold the trump card on truth (believing that we know how others should feel or behave) and refusing to accept responsibility for any hurt we may have caused them through our practice of judging. Judgment can be felt without any words spoken.

When judgmental attitudes surface those half-hearted apologies of ‘I’m sorry that you’re upset,’ are not examples of respect or love. A true apology is recognizing what we have done that has hurt someone and then being courageous enough to verbalize it to them. In other words it’s about us – our actions – and not their reactions that are at play here.

The good news is that as we practice accepting responsibility for own own behavior we become stronger, more positive and happier people. We begin to realize that we don’t walk in another’s shoes and really have no idea about how difficult it is for them to learn their own life lessons. Maybe – just maybe – they are doing the best they know how at this moment.

Dr. Fritz Perls, the noted German psychoanalyst who emphasized Gestalt Therapy speaks to tolerance and acceptance of others in The Gestalt Prayer:

I do my thing and you do your thing.
I am not in this world to live up to your expectations,
And you are not in this world to live up to mine.
You are you, and I am I,
And if by chance we find each other, it’s beautiful…

When I read this prayer I think of a world in which true acceptance of differences is foremost in our thinking and behavior. Peace, tolerance and respect for self and others flows from this mindset. We become more rather than less as human beings.

We are all in a fluid state between independence and interdependence in life. Doesn’t it just make sense to look for the strengths in family and friends rather than focusing on what we perceive as their weaknesses? When we acknowledge their effort we show them that we have faith in their ability to handle difficult situations. We allow them to grow. As we learn to judge less and forgive more the value and significance of touching base or celebrating holidays begins to take on a greater significance. We learn to bring our best selves to the table and treat our family and friends as we would like to be treated.

Over the next few days let’s try to see how we can practice greater forgiveness and allow the Pope’s message of peace, tolerance and respect to take seed in our lives.

Have a great few days!

Being in the Now

Today is the 4th of July, a day of celebration in recognition of our independence as a nation. There will be fireworks tonight that are so beautiful the ‘ahhs’ of the crowds will be heard and universally shared. When the Grand Finale of the individual firework displays happen, the crowds erupt in applause – it’s a thank you to the event coordinators, managers and even to our nation which supports this day with such recognition.The tempting smells of hamburgers and hotdogs grilling make us aware of the importance of family and friends as we indulge in the delicious recipes that have been passed down from generations. How fortunate we are to live in a country that believes in the rights of the individual and celebrates this day with us.

Events like today allow us to ‘be in the moment.’ I know it’s an overused phrase but the reality is that most of us are so busy worrying about our tomorrows that often today just passes us by and we are left wondering where the time has gone. When days, months and years pass by at what seems like the speed of light it’s important to consider if we have learned anything, developed a deeper understanding or appreciation from our life experiences or … Are we actively growing and becoming or simply waiting, wondering and using up our time in the regrets of yesterday or worries about our tomorrows?

Let’s make a pact, tonight when watching the fireworks – in person or on T.V. with each explosion of color, let’s take in the experience completely. No thinking about yesterday or worrying about tomorrow just absorbing the 30 or 45 minutes of pure delight. Think of it as a gift – the gift of being in the moment – that we choose to give ourselves.

Books have been written by many people about the importance of living in the now. In fact, some would say we can only know the power and love of the Universal Energy when we are in the now – living in the flow of the moment – when time seems to stand still. There is no constant chatter in our brains when we are in the now, no should, could or if only, no voices interrupting our personal reverie – just the sweet escape of the moment and we smile from inside out. We feel something bigger, more grand that may remain undefined by words but felt in our hearts.

Have a great holiday!

Determining Your Authentic Self

Have you ever felt that you are not being appreciated or that you are doing all the giving or supporting in a work or personal relationship? If you answered yes to this question let’s look a bit deeper into it. Could it be that you are so interested in getting others to accept or appreciate you that you have not allowed your authentic self to show? Is the fear of people really knowing you blocking you from showing the world what you truly stand for? If so, let me assure you that being authentic draws people to you – not ever away. People can feel truth.

Being authentic starts by first determining what is most important to you in life. As unique individuals we each have specific values that we hold most dear – those things that are truly nonnegotiable to us. Think about them as your personal mission statement. Values such as love, accomplishment, fairness, compassion, confidence, courage, health, freedom, family, harmony, integrity, kindness, optimism, patience, service, trust, orderliness, peace, spirituality, and gratitude are just a few from a long list of values to consider. Each one speaks volumes. Once you determine your own priority of values navigating through life becomes so much easier. In essence, you become more confident and decision making becomes easier because you are more at peace in your own skin.

A helpful way to determine your authentic self is to choose five values that you find most important. You know, the ones that seem to radiate energy back to you as you consider them. The list of words above can be a starting point to consider. The list is long for a purpose. The process is important. Evaluating each word forces you to take the time to consider what it truly means to you. Determining your top five forces you to prioritize as you remind yourself of who you are in your heart. Once you have taken the time to determine your own nonnegotiable values life becomes easier. When you encounter decisions, challenges or obstacles (the should I or shouldn’t I) in life you have a measuring stick to help steer you on a course of action reflects the real you.

Growing more confident as an individual means that you allow your unique identity to be known by others. But…’what if they won’t like me or accept me for who I am’ you may wonder. It’s true not everyone may like you. Just as you do not necessarily like everyone you encounter. It’s simply a cold, hard immutable fact of life. There are bits and pieces in everyone’s personality that leaves something to be desired. It’s called being human. These little quirks in others can be overlook but the values behind them cannot. A person’s values determine not only who they are but what they will do in a pinch. That’s important to know. Likewise, if we try to morph ourselves into something we do not truly value in order to fit in or be accepted it just doesn’t work. We project insincerity or insecurity that is easily felt by others.

Determining the values you hold dear helps you project with confidence who you really are at your core. Just as truth has no versions – your authentic self has no versions either. Any future role in life will never define you because deep down you know what you stand for – no pretenses necessary. Taking the time to determine your authentic self is critical to self esteem. The process alone will help you begin to truly love yourself for all the strengths you possess and there are many! Give it a try and take the time to decide on your top five values … you’ll be glad you did!

Have a great few days!

Beyond Silence There Is Communication

Many of you have emailed me after reading my book, ‘Just Behind The Door,’ to tell me how the book affected your life. For that I am grateful. My intent was to share the experience of losing a loved one – my son- and what I learned from the subsequent decade of communication that has followed. The most important goal in writing it was to offer hope to others that our loved ones may be gone physically but their energy – their spirit – lives on and WE CAN reconnect with them – of that I am certain.

In another email received this week Linda writes, ‘ my mind was open (but since my son’s death) I have closed myself off from the other side. In the last year I have been thinking about opening up that door of belief but I’m a little scared. But because of your book I’m willing to try to open the door again. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.’

Losing a loved takes our breath away. Life no longer holds meaning as we become lost in our grief. Yet, we are expected to heal and go on. Our minds know this but we can’t seem to communicate it to our broken hearts. I understand – I have walked the walk.

When we read about how others have attempted to cope with their grief in can give us hope that we will eventually make it through what is truly the most devastating experience possible. If you know of anyone who might need help in dealing with their grief please consider giving them my book, ‘Just Behind The Door.’ It might just serve as a lifeline for them when they need it most. This poem says it all…

If you look with your head and heart you will see:
Beyond chaos, there is reason
Beyond darkness, there is light
Beyond absence, there is presence
Beyond nothingness, there are infinite possibilities
Beyond pain, there is healing
Beyond brokenness, there is wholeness
Beyond anger, there is peace
Beyond indifference, there is connection
Beyond boxes, there is infinity
Beyond questions, there are answers
Beyond silence, there is communication
With communication, there is love, light and peace.

In gratitude to Linda and all of you who have taken the time to email me – I thank you.

Have a great few days!

Be the Change!

Between the world and national events we need a little Christmas in our lives. What has happened may seem overwhelming and we may feel helpless as we struggle to try to make sense of it all. Without having all the facts we simply can’t figure out what really happened that has caused others such suffering as their lives implode. Maybe the best we can do is to remember that each of us can feed into the negative energy or choose to use our own positive energy to help ourselves and others realize the importance of life during this season. The challenge is not to be overwhelmed and forget our human purpose but to rise above it, as difficult as it may seem, as we remember that we are here to learn our lessons – the biggest of which is unconditional love of self and others.

The feelings of the Christmas season, regardless of our backgrounds, elicit a sense of peace, joy and understanding. It is a time when we remember those less fortunate than ourselves in both big and small ways. A smile to the clerk who is frantically trying to keep up with the line of people at the checkout counter, dropping a dollar in the red buckets outside the stores as the Salvation Army volunteers continue to ring the bells reminding us of the need of others. Even a simple phone call, email or visit to someone to brighten their day, can help to change our part of the world. We can make a difference, in so many ways, if we just take a moment to remember that we really do have the potential – obligation even, to change the world – one heart at a time. Although we can’t fix what has happened we can stand tall like a beacon in the night pulsating a signal of light that directs others and guides them home to the truth buried in their heart.

It has been said that it is darkest just before the dawn. Could it be that we are here to help the dawn – the light – surface in the lives of others as well as our own? Maybe this is a test to see just how strong we can be as we are faced with the anger, violence and hatred from the senseless random acts in our world that tear down rather than build up.
One thing is for sure, to quote Winston Churchill, ‘Never, never, never, never give up.’ He repeated this phrase when England was being brutally, continually attacked and all seemed hopeless. His statement reminds us of the importance of holding on to our strength, courage and belief in truth. We must stand for something or we will fall for anything.

Not being privy to all the facts of world and national events can leave us feeling both hopeless and helpless. Remember the phrase from Churchill and do not become overwhelmed or defeated. We can never give up on our truth. What we can do is to make a commitment to be the change we want to see in the world. A critical mass, believing in truth can accomplish what even the best minds in our world cannot. We have the power to change the world because we have truth, peace and love on our side. Visualize the effect of tossing a pebble in a pond and watch the motion of the water as the impact radiates out to the larger body of water. It was just a pebble but yet the effect changed the entire pond!

I believe there is a critical mass of us out there who believes justice will prevail and complete truth will eventually surface as ultimately love conquers even the most deep seated hatred that is directed at us. No one can stop us because, ultimately, love will prevail.

This week let’s go out of our way to project our beliefs. Together we can make the change we so desperately want to see. Just think it all started with a pebble – our belief – that love conquers all.

Have a great few days!

An Instant Mood Changer!

Could it be that in our hectic nonstop world there is yet another way that we can help ourselves achieve an immediate sense of calm? For instance, within our sensory family, our sense of smell is often relegated further down our list of importance for anything other than spraying on our favorite cologne or perfume. We can walk up to the fragrance counters in a department store and inhale the latest scent and immediately tell if it will work for us. Yet with the advances in aromatherapy we can also transport our homes and even offices into places that are welcoming and productive, even memory enhancing, since our olfactory senses are amazing messengers.

When we walk into our homes we can instantly smell us – that ‘uniquely us’ smell means we our back in our own comfort zone. We are home, safe and ready to kick back for a few moments and reflect on the day. When we go into other people’s homes we also can immediately detect smells. Sometimes those smells are inviting and at other times a bit off-putting. Everyone and everything has its own trace of olfactory recognition.

The interesting thing about a smell or odor is that it is the only information sent to the limbic system, a part of the brain responsible for memory and emotion. Further, due to our own genetic makeup and memories our individual reaction to the same smell can differ significantly! Certain smells can be intoxicating to some and repulsive to others. Researchers from Rockefeller University have recently discovered that in addition to our personal reaction to smells we can detect more than one trillion of them!

What smells cause you to smile when you inhale them and remember where this smell first originated in your life. For me, the smell of roses takes me back to my grandmother’s garden. The smell of those beautiful roses coupled with the taste of the red raspberries that grew along side them was a treat. Today when I smell roses I inhale deeply and remember. Each of us can experience a surge of deeply rooted emotional response ranging from intense pleasure to even fright or pain from smell-induced memories from our past. Scientists term this phenomenon “olfactory-evoked recall.”

The understanding that an odor can retrieve not only a memory but a particular emotional state can open up all sorts of possibilities for us in life. It seems that the companies who produce wall plugs, candles, body and room sprays as well as colognes and perfumes have the potential to hold the corner market for both our memories and emotions now and even more so in the future. Aromatherapy is alive and well and truly real. When we walk into certain stores (frequently high end) and a certain smell envelopes us it can be inviting, a bit exciting and relaxing all at the same time. That folks has the potential power to redesign the world of sales. As we continue our never ending quest to find ways to be super productive at work and yet be able to relax into a home environment that is inviting, peaceful and centering all at the same time may only be a candle, wall plug or spray of cologne away!

Have a great few days and in the meantime don’t forget to stop and smell the roses.

Developing Serenity

We have all read the Serenity Prayer at some point in our lives. ‘God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can change. And the wisdom to know the difference.’ If you are like me it seems I have read this a million times and yet actually applying its deeper meaning seems to work better when issues are less critical or important in life. When the ‘big dogs’ of problems surface oftentimes, the real meaning of this prayer is lost and we find ourselves simply reacting as we have done in the past and feeling more and more frustrated with the results. We typically take the path we have chosen so often in our lives because it has become a conditioned response.

As with so many significant sayings in life we can mouth the words, even memorize them and yet never completely internalize them which will cause a change in our attitude, beliefs and behavior. I have chosen to use the Serenity Prayer over the next few blogs to delve more deeply into what it can do for us. The few words contained in the prayer have tremendous potential to help us arrive at a greater sense of confidence, peace and wisdom in our lives. It is worth taking the time to think about in greater depth over the next week. It can help us harness the power of these words and then apply them when we face the next truly big challenge in our lives.

The Serenity Prayer basically boils down to two issues: learning how to accept with grace and humility the things in life that cannot be changed or learning how to dig deep to surface the needed courage to change the things that are possible for us to change. Seems straight forward enough doesn’t it? Ah, but as with everything else in life simplicity is an art that only results after wrestling with the true complexity of the elements behind it. Determining which path to take is, of course, the ultimate challenge but it is not a mere choice arrived at easily but rather the result of understanding and examining the complex web of emotions and beliefs established from our early conditioning, cultural mores and personal life experiences.

To begin our more in depth look at the deeper meaning of the prayer I would ask you to consider the following questions.

Which approach is usually HARDER for you … accepting the things you truly cannot change (without anger or resentment) or finding the courage to actually change the things (with grace and tenacity) that you can change?

Your answer to the above question is important. As individuals we have a preference for one approach over the other. It doesn’t mean that we can’t use the other approach but it is not something we typically do or prefer to do especially when dealing with the ‘biggies’ in life.

Your answer is very important as we continue to dive deeper into the well of understanding about human emotions in our goal to develop greater wisdom and Serenity. In essence, in one response we are dealing with learning to trust more fully and with the other response learning how to better control our fears. Both are difficult but achievable behavioral changes. One answer is not better than the other it is simply different and will help us decide on the next pathway to follow. In the meantime after you decide which approach is harder for you the logical step is to ask yourself the question – why? Really think about why that particular approach is harder for you – just a hint – it is usually the result of early conditioning.

Stay tuned and we will follow up on the possible ‘why’ in the next blog.

Have a great few days!