14 November 2017      

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Breaking Old Agreements:  Freedom
Don Miguel Ruiz

Recognize When You're Fighting Reality
Richard Carlson

Not My Way
tom walsh 

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Acceptance is a letting-go process.  You let go of your wishes and demands that life can be different.  It's a conscious choice.

Gary Emery

If you bring five percent more awareness to your work tomorrow, or to your most important relationship, what might you do differently?  Are you willing to find out?

Nathaniel Branden

Modern people are frantically trying to earn enough
to buy things they're too busy to enjoy.

Frank A. Clark


Breaking Old Agreements:  Freedom
Don Miguel Ruiz

Everyone talks about freedom.  All around the world different people, different races, different countries are fighting for freedom.  But what is freedom?  In America we speak of living in a free country.  But are we really free?  Are we free to be who we really are?  The answer is no, we are not free.  True freedom has to do with the human spirit--it is the freedom to be who we really are.

Who stops us from being free?  We blame the government, we blame the weather, we blame our parents, we blame religion, we blame God.  Who really stops us from being free?  We stop ourselves?  What does it really mean to be free?  Sometimes we get married and say that we lose our freedom, then we get divorced and we are still not free.  What stops us?  Why can't we be ourselves?

We have memories of long ago, when we used to be free and we loved being free, but we have forgotten what freedom really means.

If we see a child who is two or three, perhaps four years old, we find a free human.  Why is this human free?  Because this human does whatever he or she wants to do.  The human is completely wild.  Just like a flower, a tree, or an animal that has not been domesticated--wild!

And if we observe humans who are two years old, we find that most of the time these humans have a big smile on their face and they're having fun.  They are exploring the world.  They are not afraid to play.  They are afraid when they are hurt, when they are hungry, when some of their needs are not met, but they don't worry about the past, don't care about the future, and only live in the present moment.

Very young children are not afraid to express what they feel.  They are so loving that if they perceive love, they melt into love.  They are not afraid to love at all.  That is the description of a normal human being.  As children we are not afraid of the future or ashamed of the past.  Our normal human tendency is to enjoy life, to play, to explore, to be happy, and to love.

But, what has happened with the adult humans?  Why are we so different?  Why are we not wild?  From the point of view of the Victim we can say that something sad happened to us, and from the point of view of the warrior we can say that what has happened to us is normal.  What has happened is that we have the Book of Law, the big Judge and the Victim who rule our lives.  We are no longer free because the Judge, the Victim, and the belief system don't allow us to be who we really are.  Once our minds have been programmed with all that garbage, we are no longer happy.

This chain of training from human to human, from generation to generation, is perfectly normal in human society.  You don't need to blame your parents for teaching you to be like them.  What else could they teach you but what they know?  They did the best they could, and if they abused you, it was due to their own domestication, their own fears, their own beliefs.  They had no control over the programming they received, so they couldn't have behaved any differently.

There is no need to blame your parents or anyone who abused you in your life, including yourself.  But it is time to stop the abuse.  It is time to free yourself of the tyranny of the Judge by changing the foundation of your own agreements.  It is time to be free from the role of the Victim.

The real you is still a little child who never grew up.  Sometimes the little child comes out when you are having fun or playing, when you feel happy, when you are painting, or writing poetry, or playing the piano, or expressing yourself in some way.  These are the happiest moments of your life--when the real you comes out, when you don't care about the past and you don't worry about the future.  You are childlike.

But there is something that changes all that:  we call them responsibilities.  The Judge says, "Wait a second, you are responsible, you have things to do, you have to work, you have to go to school, you have to earn a living."  All these responsibilities come to mind.  Our face changes and becomes serious again.  If you watch children when they are playing adults, you will see their little faces change.  "Let's pretend I'm a lawyer," and right away their faces change; the adult face takes over.  We go to court and that is the face we see--and that is what we are.  We are still children, but we have lost our freedom.

The freedom we are looking for is the freedom to be ourselves, to express ourselves.  But if we look at our lives we will see that most of the time we do things just to please others, just to be accepted by others, rather than living our lives to please ourselves.  That is what has happened to our freedom.  And we see in society and all the societies around the world, that for every thousand people, nine hundred and ninety-nine are completely domesticated.

The worst part is that most of us are not even aware that we are not free.  There is something inside that whispers to us that we are not free, but we do not understand what it is, and why we are not free. . . .

The first step toward personal freedom is awareness.  We need to be aware that we are not free in order to be free.  We need to be aware of what the problem is in order to solve the problem.

Awareness is always the first step because if you are not aware, there is nothing you can change.  If you are not aware that your mind is full of wounds and emotional poison, you cannot begin to clean and heal the wounds and you will continue to suffer.


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Recognize When You're Fighting Reality
Richard Carlson

After a lecture in Chicago one evening, I was speaking to a forty-seven-year-old man from the audience who had a twenty-year-old son.  This nice man, named William, was telling me how disappointed he was that his son had decided not to attend college.  He said that it was "his dream" that his son not make the same mistake he had.

William went on to say that he knew not going to college was the worst decision he had ever made and that he was certain his son would never recover if he made the same mistake.  I could see in this man's eyes that he believed what he was saying, that his pain was real, and that it was severe.

The fact of the matter was that William's son wasn't going to college.  It was obvious that nothing this father could do or say was changing that fact.  The problem was that William was fighting against certainty.

Learning to recognize when we are arguing with, or struggling against, reality may be one of the smallest shifts you can make in your attitude.  But it may also yield one of the most significant insights.  Very simply, recognizing when you're fighting reality spells the difference between guaranteed misery and a life filled with peace and contentment.

Think about what happens whenever any of us argue with reality, when we resist what is.  We might dwell on how much we hate the fact that the new neighbor has moved in down the street, or that the liberals or conservatives are in charge of Congress (as the case may be).  The problem is that the neighbor has moved in down the street, and the liberals or the conservatives are in charge, just as William's son has decided not to attend college.  In any of these cases, it's eye-opening to ask the question:  how is resisting concrete reality going to help?  Or to put it even more bluntly, is there any chance whatsoever that fighting reality is going to make you feel better?  The answer is--and always will be--no.

You can hate the truth, and you can talk about it and resist it until you're blue in the face.  You can complain and look for sympathy, stomp your feet, feel like a victim, and spend the rest of your life feeling sad, depressed, angry, and resentful.  But none of this is going to change anything.

Being aware of the difference between what we can control and what we can't is critical for day-to-day happiness.  There is no point in banging our heads against a wall.  Once we understand what we can't do, we can then make the most important decisions about what we will do.  Instead of fighting with his son, for instance, William could have simply shared his concerns and worked with him to ensure that the decision to skip college did not damage his future.

It's a subtle shift in your thinking to be able to recognize when you're fighting reality, and the fact is that most of us do it a great deal of the time.  But if you can make that slight change in your awareness, you will save yourself a great deal of agony and empower yourself and your decisions like never before.



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Consider the trees which allow the birds to perch and fly away
without either inviting them to stay or desiring them
never to depart.  If your heart can be like
this, you will be near to the way.

Zen Buddhist teaching



Not My Way

One of the most important things that I've learned in life is just how much I used to think that people should do things the ways that I think they should be done.  I've never been a control freak, per se, but I have had (and still do have, to a certain extent) a set of expectations about how other people should act in certain situations, and I've often been a rather harsh judge of people when they don't meet those expectations.

Some of those expectations are very realistic and justified, I believe.  For example, I have no problem with expecting other people to follow speed limits to keep the road safe for all of us.  I think I'm justified in expecting people to respect the rights of others to live in their own ways.  When I teach a subject that has very strict rules--a language, for example--I can expect my students to know the proper way of saying certain things if they expect a certain grade.  With the big and important things in life, it's often very clear that we are justified in having expectations of others.

On the other hand, there are many things that I really don't have the right to expect of others.  If a person is faced with making a decision and asks me for advice, I don't really have the right to expect that person to follow my advice, and I'm only disappointing myself if I feel hurt when the person doesn't.  Advice is simply advice--it's not an order or a mandate.


Most of us crave control.  We think we'd find lasting happiness
if only others would do what we want.  But wringing our hands
over their independence won't change anything.  On the contrary,
addressing our own behavior, our own thinking, our own attitudes
can encourage the very behavior we tried to demand all along.

Karen Casey

I very often see parents who seem to think that their children should see the world exactly as they do.  They "train" their kids to eat as they do, to think as they do, to believe the same things they believe.  They want their children to adopt their religious beliefs, to be loyal to the same political party that they belong to, even to follow the same careers that they've followed.

But these parents often are setting themselves up for some very difficult times as their children develop their own beliefs and start to march to the beat of a different drummer.  As a teacher, I've often seen the problems that this kind of approach can create.  Young people are conflicted, torn between the desire to do what truly interests them and what truly interests their parents.  They want to please their parents, but they're afraid that if they don't do what their parents tell them they should do, their parents will be disappointed in them.  And of course, different people respond to this sort of internal conflict differently--some make themselves ill from worrying, others act out their frustrations in ways that are completely unrelated to the problems at hand, and some withdraw into loneliness, isolation, and even depression.

Of course, there are those who seem to accept the conflict readily and to respond to it well.  In these cases, though, there are often problems later when they realize that they haven't lived their lives in their own unique ways at all, that they've simply followed the rules and guidelines set down for them by someone else.

You have no control over what the other person does.
You only have control over what you do.

A. J. Kitt

Letting people do things their own way isn't giving up on them.  If I know a young person who's about to do something that I think may be harmful or inappropriate, instead of telling them what they should do, I try to make them aware of the possible consequences.  I may say something like, "I know that you need to make your own decisions and that's fine, but here are a few possible things that can happen if you do that."  If they're about to buy something that's far too expensive for them, I try to show them how expensive the monthly payments are compared to their monthly income.  If they're about to take a job that's going to work them very hard but pay them very little, I let them know the effects of such a job on one's normal, day-to-day life, things like not being able to spend time with friends or to do things with others on weekends.

But ultimately, I'm always sure to say, the decision is theirs, and not mine.  And my mind is clear because at least I know that their decision is now based on at least one other perspective, no matter what they decide.

Sometimes the lines between giving direction and telling how things should be are quite blurred.  In a college composition course, there are certain things that need to be done, and it's easy for me to say, "You have no thesis statement here, and you really need one," for that's one of the most important element of a college paper.  I can lower a grade because one's missing because the requirements of the course are quite clear.

In a creative writing course, on the other hand, it's much more difficult to be as straightforward--mostly because of the value that's put on creativity.  One of the important goals of a creative writing course is to allow students to stretch and explore boundaries and to do things that are, well, creative.  On the other hand, if they're so "creative" that their readers don't understand a word of what they've written, then they aren't really writing effectively, and someone needs to guide them in a direction that will help them to create more effective prose or poetry or drama.  In this case, though, my goal as a teacher is not to tell them how to do things, but to help them uncover their own ways of doing things.  How can you as an individual make your writing more accessible to more people?  What can you do to make your prose clearer, your poetry more universal, your drama more approachable?

I don't need to make them write my way to make them write effectively.  There are plenty of effective ways of writing, and it's more productive of me--and more empowering for them--if I help them to find their own ways rather than telling them to adopt my way.

Be not angry that you cannot make others as you wish them
to be, since you cannot make yourself as you wish to be.

Thomas Kempis

If a friend of mine is having problems in a relationship, do I want to tell them how I would deal with the problem, or would it be better to help them to come up with ways of dealing with it on their own?  If a child is creating a project for school, should I tell them exactly how to do it?  And if I don't and they don't do very well on the project, does that prove that I should have helped them?  No--it's part of that child's learning about life and living, and if he or she really wants a better grade next time, that child knows what's necessary to earn it.

We like to help people, of course.  We like to share our knowledge and talents and expertise in order to make things easier for others.  But our goal while we're here on the planet shouldn't be to get other people to see things our way or to do things our way, for that would lead to a lack of creativity and originality on their part, and frustration and aggravation on our part.  Rather, asking some pointed questions on just how that person wants to approach a goal or an issue can help them to clarify their own ideas rather than simply copying ours, and if I let another person do something in his or her own way, then I'm helping that person to grow and learn and expand as a human being.  And shouldn't that be our desire for them, also?

More on expectations.


One of the most important elements
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The impression is that love is something that happens to you like magic.  That love is something others do for you, but that you cannot do for yourself.  Love is not something you wait for.  Love doesn't just happen.  Love is something you do.  When you want love, give love.  Moment to moment, you make the choice whether to give love and be loved.

Jennifer James

Upon the Sand
Ella Wheeler Wilcox

All love that has not friendship for its base
Is like a mansion built upon the sand.
Though brave its walls as any in the land,
And its tall turrets lift their heads in grace;
Though skilful and accomplished artists trace
Most beautiful designs on every hand,
And gleaming statues in dim niches stand,
And fountains play in some flow'r-hidden place:
Yet, when from the frowning east a sudden gust
Of adverse fate is blown, or sad rains fall,
Day in, day out, against its yielding wall,
Lo! the fair structure crumbles to the dust.
Love, to endure life's sorrow and earth's woe,
Needs friendship's solid mason-work below.


My wish simply is to live my life as fully as I can. In both our work and
our leisure, I think, we should be so employed. And in our time this means
that we must save ourselves from the products that we are
asked to buy in order, ultimately, to replace ourselves.

Wendell Berry
The Art of the Commonplace




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