April 29

Chaos: Resisting change  (part 2)

            (Continued from yesterday…)  I was in the liquor store recently picking up some wine for the weekend.  As I stood quietly in the checkout line, an undercover cop suddenly wrestled a young man in a trench coat – a shoplifter – to the floor.  There was quite a struggle, and the police officer kept yelling, “Stop resisting! Stop resisting!  I am a police officer – stop resisting!”  The young man took a royal beating as he continued to struggle with the undercover cop and the handcuffs.  It was obvious to everyone watching that if the young man had not resisted, he could have avoided a great deal of pain and suffering.       

     How does this notion of “resisting” apply to the rest of us?

            I can illustrate this principle by reflecting on my own experience in business.  When I first got into the sign-making business, I was required to learn the art of hand lettering.  This was a challenge but not a hard ship.  I took the course at college precisely because it involved this particular art form.  But as the years ensued new developments in computer technology began to take off.  I had barely got my feet wet when the rules began to change.  Hand lettering quickly became a dying art, and the competition around me exploded. 

             But I resisted.  I fought the change by continuing to manufacture signs by hand.  But the marketplace became flooded with a great many start-ups; individuals who couldn’t design but suddenly could make perfect, digital letters with a computer.  Between that and a major recession, prices began to plummet.  But instead of trying to adapt, I held on (to what I thought I had) for dear life. 

             The chaos – the changes in technology and the economy – was prophesying a change; and it was demanding change from me.  But I chose, instead, to ignore what was going on around me.  This caused fear and resentment (resisting) which caused even more chaos: Bankruptcy!  Unfortunately, this was a train that no one could stop.  It was either get on board or get run over.

       You may say, “Well, I didn’t cause these events; they just happened!”  “If my boss had just left me alone I wouldn’t be in this funk… I blame my boss for this.”  And it certainly would appear that your boss was to blame for your anger, resentment and upset.  But that’s because you’ve chosen to view yourself as a victim.  As a victim you either shrink back or rage in anger; either way you suffer.

       We have trouble realizing it’s not what’s happening around us that’s causing our suffering; it’s our resistance to these events that creates our misery.  In other words, we create our own suffering.  And it’s a choice.

 Tomorrow’s topic – Chaos: Clarity and informed choice

April 28

Chaos:  Resisting change

       Have you ever heard yourself say, “Today was just perfect.  Wouldn’t it be nice if every day was like this one?”  In other words, “can’t things just stay the same?”  I get that.  Isn’t there some way we can bottle the happiness that we experience every now and then?  We know this isn’t possible, but the question reveals something about ourselves:  Our resistance to change.   

       We have this fantasy that we can stop the sun and the moon in its orbit; everything frozen in time.  Perfect.  Forever.  But it’s a fantasy because change is inevitable.  The only constant is change.  And the more we become attached or entrenched in this fantasy about “the perfect day” the more resistant we become to change.  And so, our lives continue to evolve.

       The flip side to this is, of course, the fact that we are able to change for the good.  If change never took place nothing would grow.  You would cease to exist because the cells of the fertilized egg inside your mother’s womb failed to divide forming you into a tiny fetus.  If change suddenly stopped, our brains would stop growing and we would remain physically and mentally retarded.  (It would appear that some have gone that route!)  If we never evolved we would still be living in caves.  There’d be no fire; no one would have invented the wheel; we’d be doing math problems with sticks!

       By now you’re probably wondering what I mean when I talk about resisting:  Resisting responsibility, resisting change.  We do it so automatically we are not even aware that we’re doing it.  We tend to argue, to protest when things don’t go the way we want them to go.  This is resistance.  Or we can shut down and ‘resign’ ourselves to what is.  This is another way we resist. 

       Let’s say something happens to us that challenges our happiness.  Perhaps the government has ruled that your income taxes are going up this year.  Maybe your daughter has just informed you that she’s pregnant and plans to move back home.  Or you’ve planned to go on a picnic that day and it’s pouring rain.

       Are these circumstances that you can control?  I rather doubt it.  But you don’t want them to happen.  So naturally you resist.  How?  Well, in the case of the government ruling about your taxes, you can resist by planning to cheat on your tax return.  You can resist the situation with your daughter by trying to convince her that she needs to get an abortion in order to hide this “unfortunate tragedy.”  Resisting something like a rainy day could simply involve pouting and complaining, spending the day in a foul mood.

       Since it is the natural order for things to change and evolve, if we resist we suffer.  How so?  Through chaos.       

 Tomorrow – Chaos: Resisting change (part 2)

April 27

 Chaos:  The illusion of chance

       Resisting change allows chaos to continue and keeps your life in a state of turmoil.  Events are happening to bring about change, and you resist with rage and resentment or just shut down altogether.  This only creates more mental and emotional suffering.  As a result, things seem to happen randomly.  You try to deal with all these chance events, some days feeling like a circus clown who’s trying to juggle too many balls in the air at once. 

       Certain events appear to be a result of good or bad luck.  And you develop a belief in “luck.”  Your belief creates for you a set of circumstances that reflect your conviction about “luck.”  When someone you know gets a great job you say,  “He’s lucky.”  If a friend breaks up with her boyfriend, you say that she’s “unlucky.”  And life seems to lack meaning when you can’t understand why certain events unfold as they do.

       Of course, this is all an illusion.  The universe is actually governed by law:          

  • The law of gravity
  • The law of aerodynamics
  • The law of cause and effect
  • The law of love 

       These laws keep our world and our universe from spinning out of control.  Cause and effect means we can predict that if ‘this’ happens ‘that’ will follow.  If you put your feet on the floor after a good night’s sleep you can be sure that your body will remain on the floor.  This is gravity.  We rely on it to work every time.

       If you believe in luck, then your worth becomes contingent on how “lucky” you are.  But there is no such thing as luck.  Things don’t happen by chance.  They happen by choice.  Stop resisting chaos and watch how your circumstances change for the better.

       How is this going to happen?  By making a decision:  the decision to gain control of your thoughts.  Thoughts are things that we created in our mind.  They do not come from outer space, or from other minds.  We create our own thoughts, and we need to learn to take control of these thoughts.  You need to get clear on this truth.

       This takes time.  Stop resisting.  Learn to accept what is.  Remember that things are as they should be.  You cannot change who you are, but you can change how you think about yourself and the world around you. 

 Tomorrow’s topic – Chaos:  Resisting change

April 26

Chaos:  (Suffering through confusion)

       If you’ve ever seen the aftermath of a tornado – the complete destruction of people’s homes, and the hopelessness in their faces – you can understand the confusion that these victims experience.  There’s nothing stable about a tornado, and there’s nothing stable about chaos. 

       Chaos is not a force to be reckoned with, nor is it something that can be resisted.  It has a formidable power that can only be accepted and allowed to bring about the changes necessary.  Unlike a cyclone, chaos can bring about positive change.  It’s only when we try to resist, that chaos becomes even stronger – more like an actual cyclone – and more confusing than ever.  The more energy we use up trying to resist change, the more depleted and confused we become.

       When you are faced with an illness, or an ‘accident’ that leaves you bed ridden, the only thing you can do is accept it for what it is and rest.  Trying to continue on as if nothing happened can only prolong the healing.  If your family is in sudden turmoil because of something you are doing or not doing, attempting to carry on by ignoring what’s happening will only prolong and increase the turmoil and confusion.

       An addict thinks that continually using will solve the problem with obsession.  “Just one drink” has kept many an alcoholic in the grip of a powerful addiction.  Continually trying to wrestle it to the ground only results in a more powerful addiction.  All the addict can do is admit to his/her powerlessness, and believe in a Power greater than themselves that can restore them to sanity.

       It is possible to allow chaos and change to bring about a better understanding of our selves.  Admitting to our powerlessness and weakness is not a tragedy; rather, it is a victory.  It means we can begin to take positive steps to bring about positive change in our lives; and as we work through the steps we get clarity about our struggle with our addiction. 

       There’s nothing more painful than a person who continually fights with a situation or circumstance that is there by design.  There is a reason for everything that happens to us, and it only frustrates our passage if we resist.  Painful lessons will be repeated until learned.  Only by allowing the chaos to change us will we ever end the cyclone.  Only as we accept what is will we ever be able to avoid the confusion of the cyclone and get clarity on what is really happening.

 Tomorrow’s topic – Chaos:  The illusion of chance

April 25

Chaos:  (The absence of order)

       While many of us don’t think that our lives reflect any chaos, our lives are evolving constantly.  Chaos is part and parcel of evolution and change.  Without chaos every thing would stay the same.  But if these changes are met with resistance ( rage, depression, addiction, etc.) the pain soon turns into suffering.

       As fear is the absence of love, so chaos is the absence of order.  Allow order to be created and chaos disappears.  Let us compare the characteristics of chaos and order:

 Chaos:                                                             Order:

  • Discord                                                        Harmony
  • Turbulence                                                   Calm
  • Commotion                                                  Quiet
  • Stress                                                            Ease
  • Madness                                                       Sanity 
  • Confusion                                                    Clarity

       Chaos creates discord.  He resists change and anyone who tries to bring change into his experience.  He can never agree on any matter.  Chaos always feels out-of-control.  Anything good or bad is a result of good or bad luck.  Therefore he never takes responsibility for the shape of his circumstances.  Chaos also has a hard time making decisions.  That’s because he is covered in a thick cloud of confusion.  Chaos creates turbulence.  Like bumper cars in an amusement park, he experiences a great deal of mayhem within.  Consequently he is at odds with those around him.  Needless to say, he is completely unsettled and can’t find help but create a lot of noise.  He is not a happy camper and lets everyone around him know it. 

       Order creates harmony.  She is simply an agreeable person.  She knows that stuff happens, and never resists change.  Order feels in control of her life circumstances and is prepared to take responsibility for her life.  She seems to have clarity about which direction to take.  Therefore, she feels secure about her decision-making.  If something goes wrong she quickly learns from it and moves on.  It is her ability to focus that gives her clarity in tough times.  Order gets her rest; she can sleep peacefully at night.  She is seldom sick and her motto is “Easy does it.”  Her optimism allows her to accept life in life’s terms.  For her the future always looks bright.

       Like a powerful cyclone chaos rips through our lives destroying almost everything in its path.  I have lived a life that resembles this cyclone of upset and turbulence.  The illusions that existed in my mind somehow manifested an unsettled chaos in my everyday circumstances.  When I needed clarity, I had none; when I needed calm, I felt only stress.  And this disruptive chaos caused a great deal of suffering.

 Tomorrow’s topic – Chaos:  Suffering through confusion

April 22

Chaos:  Confused by the cyclone of chaos and turmoil

       “Things are perfect right now.  I just wish I could keep my life like this forever!”  It wasn’t the first time I’d heard her use the word “perfect.”  I’ve known her since I was a kid and always thought she was a bit of a control-freak.  Everything always had to be wonderful and perfect; but of course it never was.  In fact, there was always a certain amount of turmoil in her otherwise perfectly ordered life. 

       I feel her suffering, her constant need to control and contain everything around her.  It’s a wonderful fantasy to wish that things could remain perfect and never change.  But it’s just not possible.  The only constant is change.  Everything is constantly changing:  growing and developing.  To wish that away is to resist the natural order of things.

       There is something quite natural and necessary about chaos.  This may not sit well with you if you are an orderly and methodical person. However, it appears to be part of the evolution of life – the progressive development of and the continual change in the universe.  We do not live in a perfect universe that doesn’t need to change.  The perfection of this world is that it can change and be transformed! 

       It’s actually chaos that brings about change.  And change is inevitable, as is pain, death and taxes.  To resist change is to create more chaos!  To try to control things that are bigger and more powerful than us, we create all kinds of chaos and turmoil – just by resisting it.  We could save ourselves a lot of suffering by accepting what is and by letting go and letting God work in our lives. 

       Nature’s way is best.  When a seed falls into the ground it “dies” before the life inside it can grow and expand.  You can’t help the seed to grow; you must let nature take its course.  Consider the caterpillar:  It must form a chrysalis and remain cocooned before it can become a butterfly.  Trying to help the butterfly escape the confines of the cocoon would only lead to its demise.  

       There is a natural order to the way our lives unfold.  Our resistance to chaos (the natural order of how things change) creates more chaos and slows down our evolution and growth.  We must learn to get out of the way.  Trying to control what can’t be controlled will always result in more chaos.

       Perhaps it’s time to step back and observe.  Back away from what’s going on in order to get a better perspective.  That’s right.  Simply watch what’s happening and notice your reaction to it; learn to observe without passing judgment.  Learn to love what is.  Begin to realize that the only things you can control are your thoughts about what is. 

       It takes time to gain control over your thoughts.  This is not an easy thing to do.  But if you begin with simply being aware of your thoughts – if you learn how to think about your thinking – you will have made a great start toward gaining more control.  And control is really what we want, is it not?  Not the kind of control that causes us to suffer because we’re resisting, but authentic power and control over that which is our only choice:  Our thoughts.    

 Tomorrow’s topic – Chaos:  The absence of order

April 21

Fear:  Awareness and conscious choice

       Members of a Twelve-Step group meet together for mutual support and to “get current.”  In other words, we bring everyone up to speed on how we’re doing in terms of our recovery.  This takes courage, honesty and a sincere desire to remain sober.  Getting current involves thinking and speaking:  when we think the truth about our addiction, we admit to ourselves how we’re really doing and take ownership of it; when we speak the truth, we confess it to someone else.  And in so doing, we shed a great deal of light on our truth.  This helps to raise every member’s consciousness.

       If you are willing to step out of the “movie” in your head and begin to think and speak the truth, you will learn to differentiate between fantasy and reality.  And in so doing you will learn how to “get current” with yourself and others.  Your thoughts will come under your own scrutiny making you more consciously aware; you’ll be thinking about your thoughts. 

       Your thoughts are pictures on the computer monitor of your mind.  They are your interpretations of the world around you – what’s happening, and what isn’t happening.  You can choose to accept or reject your thoughts.  And in so doing, I can change the way I feel because my feelings flow from my thoughts.

       If you remain aware of your thoughts for what they are – just thoughts – you are given the power of choice.  And choice enables you to decide a better outcome.  Imagined fear will lose its grip as you become more consciously aware of where it’s coming from – your thoughts.  They remain just thoughts.  Your thoughts.  The fear of failure and loss is simply a myth that we believe in.  And because we believe it to be so, we experience it, and feel it, and are convinced it is true. 

       I can liken it to watching a movie on the big screen.  If  the movie is really good, I am somehow transported to another place.  I somehow become Tom Cruise in ‘War of the Worlds’ and I feel his panic and fear.  But I can also look down at the floor, check for more popcorn, look at the person next to me, take a sip of pop.  I can remind myself that it’s just a picture, and my anxiety level is immediately reduced.  (Of course, why would I do this?  I’ve paid good money for this experience!) 

       I have learned over the years to recognize fear for what it is: An illusion played out on the computer monitor in my mind.  And this illusion is a vapor that can disappear as quickly as the morning mist when the reality of the sun appears.  The best way to deal with this illusion is to step back and observe our own thoughts – the movie that plays in the background – and the secret dialogue we have with ourselves all day long.  We can choose to get current on a regular basis by stepping back and consciously observe our thoughts, checking to see if they line up with what’s really going on.

 Tomorrow’s topic – Chaos:  Confused by the Cyclone of Turmoil

April 20

Fear:  The illusion of loss

        When my two kids were little I used to take them to the candy store and let them pick out something for themselves.  Miranda, the younger, would immediately find something that “was her favorite,” while Jennifer would agonize over her choice.  Growing impatient, I would intervene.  “Honey, what’s wrong?”  She would respond with, “O Daddy, I can’t choose… I’m afraid I’ll make a mistake and choose the wrong treat!”

       But aren’t many of us like that?  I know I am.  Don’t want to commit to anything just in case I make an error in judgment.  So I procrastinate; I don’t want to “lose out.”

       The fear of making a mistake stems from the fear of loss.  It’s something that you and I live with every day.  But let’s face it:  We don’t worry about the next guy making a mistake and “losing out.”  It’s really just a selfish concern, because the perspective we have of ourselves is very different from how we feel about other people.

       We can usually see the bright side of a loss or tragedy as it happens to someone else, but not if it happens to us.  When I lost my business, a house and my credit rating I couldn’t understand why no one else could see the devastation and feel as hopeless as I did.  And how could they?  They had a completely different take on it.  Not being as close to it as I, my friends and family could afford to be objective – and somehow see the good in it all.  I thought my world had come to an end; they knew it hadn’t.  My “attachment” to the loss consumed me.  Even though I can now see how my business and financial failure – in the grand scheme of things – was ultimately a good thing, it sure didn’t look that way at the time. 

       When our world comes crashing down around us, it’s natural to think that we failed, that we’re losers.  If things don’t go the way we expected we say to ourselves “I lost” or “I failed.”  However, our perspective is merely an illusion.  Sure, stuff happens; and sometimes we make bad choices.  But we haven’t ‘lost’ anything unless we declare it to be so.

       If you think you are a failure, then you will fail; if you believe you are a loser, then you will lose.  But ‘losing’ exists only in your mind.  There are no winners or losers – or failures – in the natural order of things.  Life always happens as it should.  Winning is a judgment; so is losing.  When you interpret a certain outcome as good, you feel like a winner.  If you don’t get what you want you feel like a loser. 

       It’s our own mental construct that creates a universe where losing actually exists.  And it’s fear that causes us to imagine failure and loss in a world of our own making.  The fear of failure and the illusion of loss lead us down the path to suffering and defeat.

 Tomorrow’s topic – Awareness and conscious choice

April 19

Fear: Resisting responsibility

       “I hate being blamed for something I didn’t do – especially by the person I feel is at fault.  Of course, I’m never at fault because, you see, I’m almost perfect.  I work very hard at my perfection, and as a result I’m always pointing out the faults of others.  When things go wrong in my life I have a thousand excuses why I’m not to blame.” 

       I know there’s a problem with this picture; and I think it’s because I confuse blame with responsibility.  I can’t be blamed for anything!  If I’m to blame that would mean I am responsible!  And for this reason I have always run from responsibility because I am afraid of being wrong.  My ego hates to be wrong, so it’s very important that I am right all the time.  However, I have learned that fleeing responsibility comes with a great price tag.

       You can’t escape personal responsibility; it’s impossible.  If you try it will cost you.  You can pay now, or you can pay later.  At some point you have to make a decision.  Even ‘not making a decision’ is a decision made.  The problem is I don’t want to be held responsible for the outcome if I make a bad decision.  I want to be able to hand over my responsibility to someone else so I can blame them when things get messed up.

       For some reason, we think, “if I’m responsible it means that I am to blame.”  Bad things happen in organizations; people mess up.  And a mature leader accepts the responsibility for that which they are not to blame.  Blame has nothing to do with it.  Good leaders know that decision-making is part and parcel of being responsible.

       Resisting responsibility leads to indecision; and indecision leads to procrastination.  We want the privilege without the responsibility.  As fate would have it, many are given the privilege of winning or inheriting huge sums of money.  But nearly as many of these individuals are not prepared to accept the responsibility for the proper handling of these funds.  Quite often, a fool and his money are soon parted.  Resisting responsibility will cost you.

       The same principle applies to all of us, rich or poor.  You may find yourself situated in a bad marriage, a lousy job or confined to a wheel-chair.  God hasn’t been fair; you’ve been dealt a lousy hand in the great poker game of life.  Your anger and resentment have increased over the years until you are bent over beneath the weight of the world resting on your shoulders.  Others are to blame for your misfortune.  The ones who are enjoying success are “just plain lucky.”  You have not had the ‘breaks’ that others have had.  And so you carry your anger and resentment around with you.

       Blame is not the answer.  It keeps you stuck.  And resisting responsibility will cost you.  This is precisely the kind of suffering that is not necessary.

 Tomorrow’s topic – Fear:  The Illusion of Loss

April 18

FEAR:  (Suffering through superstition)

       Imagined fear is like a forest in medieval times: The mystery of the forest and the supposed spirits that lived in the trees kept most people from entering except outlaws who wanted to escape the law.  Similarly, for thousands of years the world was believed to be flat.  This belief prevented merchant ships from sailing too close to the horizon where it was believed they would fall off the edge.  It was only the foolish and the very brave who dared to question these beliefs and set sail in search of other trade routes. 

       We laugh at this superstition because the fears of the people were based on false beliefs.  And what are false beliefs but stories that are fabricated to explain the unknown?  To believe that something is ‘impossible’ makes it impossible.  To believe that you will fail sets you up for failure.  Undoubtedly, false beliefs are also limiting beliefs that prevent us from “entering the forest” or “crossing the ocean.”  They keep us stuck.

       There were three false – and limiting – beliefs that held me back:  

  1. I am a loser.
  2. God is no fun.
  3. What I want doesn’t matter.       

      I have more, but these three sum up in a nut shell what I falsely believed about myself and God.  I’m sure you could list quite a few limiting beliefs of your own.  But I know that they are going to stem from limiting beliefs about yourself, your world, and your God.  Limiting beliefs don’t match up with who you are and what you are truly capable of.  They prevent you from really trying – putting 100% into what you are doing.

       There’s a lot of pain in this world, and none of it can be avoided.  It’s just part of life; we must take the good with the bad.  But there’s no need to suffer because of it.  Limiting beliefs cause us to suffer because we never are able to become who we were meant to be. 

       Limiting beliefs keep you tied to what is small, familiar and safe.  False beliefs prevent you from putting any effort into following your dreams – the things that really float your boat.  When you were a child, you dreamed big; you were bold and courageous.  But when you became an adult you gave up some of your dreams because they were “not practical” and, quite frankly, they scared you.

       Isn’t that what keeps us stuck?  Fear of the unknown, and fear of risk? When was the last time you thought about what you really wanted?  Or do you even remember what that was?

 Tomorrows topic –  Fear:  Resisting responsibility