Wednesday, February 3, 2010

In a world of unlimited possibilities, how do you know when to stop? When is enough really enough? The five questions to ask yourself when it all seems like too much.

The other day, I was having lunch at work with a few friends. Two were in their 30s with young children, demanding jobs and seemingly impossible schedules. One was single, childless and in her 40s. And I'm in my 50s with an eclectic work and family life that involves a blend of 9-to-5, travel and chunks of time spent in the solitary netherworld of writing.

"I have a question," I said to my colleagues.
"When I say, 'How much is enough?' what comes to mind?"
"Enough of what?" one of my younger friends asked.

"Enough of anything. What's enough success? Enough good deeds? Enough parenting? Enough creativity? Enough sex? Enough apps? Enough emails, tweets, texts? Vacations, clothes, shoes? In a world of unlimited possibilities, how do you know when to stop? How much is enough? Do you know what I mean?"

Everyone nodded vigorously. Regardless of age or lifestyle or to-do lists, we all got the point. A sigh arose from our lunch table. If it weren't for the plates of food, I think we would have cradled our heads in our arms and taken a long nap. It seems as if humankind made a group decision just a few years ago to pick up our collective pace. You know those long, moving walkways in airports? Where you step on and suddenly you and everyone else are going a little faster? That's what things feel like to me these days—like we jumped on the fast track and now we can't get off.

But we can, actually.

We can break out of our group trance; we can turn ourselves around, walk against the current and step off the moving platform—at least long enough to ask some important questions. I call them the 5 W's: the What, the Why, the Where, the Who and the When. It helps to have a real-life concern in mind when considering the 5 W's. So think of one "how-much-is-enough" issue you are wrestling with. Maybe you're wondering if you should enroll your daughter in gymnastics on the one free afternoon of the week; maybe you're thinking of working overtime or taking a second job; perhaps you don't feel you're making a big enough difference in our hurting world; or it could be a smaller matter, like you're not sure if you really need the newest iPhone. Pick one issue (just one!) to ponder, and then apply the 5 W's:

1. WHAT matters most? What brings you joy, peace and a sense of purpose? You may need to quiet down for a few minutes before you can tap into that answer. It may take more than a few minutes; you may need to sift through many layers of social and family conditioning to discover what's really important. It's worth the digging. The key to knowing how much is enough is to give voice to your deeper values.

2. WHERE is the hidden cost? You pay a price when you accumulate too much, push yourself too hard or multitask too furiously. Beyond the obvious stress of debt or exhaustion, constant striving can exact other tolls: the loss of community, family tension and diminished relationships, as well as compromised health and frayed nerves. There is a direct correlation between the speed and excess of our current lives and the amount of pills popped for body and soul.

3. WHY are you doing it? Will _________ (fill in the blank) engender health and happiness, love and connection, peace of mind and generosity of spirit? Or will it just provide you with more stuff, more stress, more stimulation? Do you really think it will benefit you or your loved ones, or are you just sort of addicted to having more—more money, more experiences, more gadgets, more going, getting, giving? Have you sacrificed the simple pleasures of everyday life for the illusion of more-is-better? And will future generations look back and wonder why we sacrificed their well-being for our addictions?

4. WHO are you doing it for? This is an important question. So much of our activity and consumerism is based on keeping up with the mythical Joneses. We imagine there's some sort of cosmic tribunal judging the worthiness of our life and comparing it to the lives of other mortal beings. And so we end up doing things, and being things, and buying things in an attempt to impress everyone from our parents to the Joneses to the big committee in the sky. Here's a little secret: If there is a cosmic committee, the members want something so much grander for you than more stuff or more status. And here's another tip—the Joneses are also comparing themselves to someone else—maybe even you. So whatever you do, do it for you—the deeper you. Put your energy into being your most genuine, fully alive and generous self. And start now, because…

5. WHEN do you stop striving and start living? When you work in order to achieve a future goal, whether it's to build the dream house or save the planet, you often forget to celebrate what's already in the house and on the planet. That's not to say you shouldn't dream or you shouldn't try to improve yourself or the world. But as the great civil rights activist Howard Thurman said: "Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive." So, instead of longing for more, consider loving whatever bounty you already have. Instead of excess, cultivate excellence. And instead of later, do it now.

We should consider ourselves lucky just to be pondering the 5 W's. They are not the kinds of questions asked by people who are hungry or homeless or lacking the bare necessities for survival. Even so, the 5 W's are not easy things to pull off. Best to hold them as gentle guidelines. Discovering how much is enough is a path, not a prescription. The great Persian poet Rumi wrote some lines in the 12th century that still can guide us in the 21st:

Let yourself
be silently drawn
by the stronger pull
of what you really love.

There's a total game plan packed into those 14 words, starting with "silently." It's in the silence where we can discover how much is enough. If we just rush noisily from one thing to another, how will we ever feel the stronger pull that Rumi alludes to? How will we even know what we really love if we never drop down into the quiet waters of the heart? The next time you are faced with a "How much is enough?" dilemma, take a few deep breaths, dip down into the silence, and see if you can feel the stronger pull. And then follow it. It may not lead to the mall, but I promise it will bring you the golden treasure of enough.

Elizabeth Lesser is the co-founder of Omega Institute, America's largest adult education center focusing on health, wellness, spirituality and creativity. She has studied and worked with leading figures in the fields of healing and spiritual development for decades. A former midwife and mother of three grown sons, Lesser is also the author of Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow and A Seeker's Guide: Making Your Life a Spiritual Adventure and is a guest host of Oprah's Soul Series on Sirius/XM.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


Strange how a teapot can represent at the same time the comforts of solitude and the pleasures of company. ~Author Unknown

TeaMind is the mastery of mysteries; no hand can paint it, no voice can describe it. Yet it is easy to grasp; few people know this. Many travel the wrong path, pursuing the false and turning their backs on the true. Yet attaining TeaMind is easy to accomplish. And now that this has been said, you should not cling to the words but just savor the meaning. For it is written:

"The whole problem with Civilization is that we've been trying to squeeze the mind into the brain and it won't fit. The great gift of the leaf is that it relaxes the brain, freeing it to float to its true home in the boundless and the inexhaustible-the sublime state we call TeaMind."

-The Minister of Leaves , The Republic of Teas.

Did you know there was such a thing?

It was China - the year was 2737 B.C.- as legend has it. Emperor Shen Nong discovered something wonderful...tea leaves, infused in hot water and slowly sipped were, well, very very good. Heads cleared. Thoughts focused. TeaMind was discovered. TeaMind is a calm, yet alert mind, full of good questions and smart ideas waiting to be born.

While difficult to describe, TeaMind is a natural state often obtained by sipping the right tea. Tasting tea is an art, not a science. Once you learn to appreciate good leaves, the world becomes new again. Within the stillness, a further pleasure arises when you discover there is a time for every tea and a tea for every time.

It is one plant - many teas, diverse in flavor and effect. We remain humbled by the magnificent greatness of the leaf. To respond to our Citizens passionate interest in the Sip by Sip life, we offer the solitude of this fact finding retreat where you will laugh more. You will look at your watch less. You will have fewer imaginary problems, once you have learned to sip. The Republic of Tea

Im telling you I want this. I am working very hard at it. ;)

Drink your tea people! It does good for you.

If you are cold, tea will warm you. If you are too heated, it will cool you. If you are depressed, it will cheer you. If you are excited, it will calm you. ~Gladstone, 1865

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A quote...

I get up. I walk. I fall down. Meanwhile, I keep dancing." -Rabbi Hillel

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Power of Authenticity

by Mike Robbins

How often do you not say or do something because you're worried about how it'll be perceived? For most of us, myself included, this happens more often than we'd like to admit.

We live in a culture that is starving for authenticity. We want our leaders, our co-workers, our family members, our friends and everyone else we interact with to tell us the truth and to be themselves. Most importantly, we want to have the personal freedom and confidence to say, do and be who we really are without worrying so much about how we appear to others and what they might think or say about us.

Sadly, however, even though we may say we want to live in a way that is true to our deepest passions, beliefs, and desires, most of us don't. It's not that easy. We've been taught by our parents, teachers, spouses, friends, co-workers, politicians, the media and others that it's more important to be liked and to fit in than it is to be who we truly are. In addition, many of us assume that who we are is not good enough and therefore we're constantly trying to fix ourselves or to act like others who we think are better than us.

However, as the famous 19th-century author and poet Oscar Wilde so brilliantly stated, "Be yourself—everyone else is already taken."

What It Really Means to Be Authentic

Authenticity is about enjoying a new sense of freedom to be who we really are—ourselves, natural and without a mask in our relationships, our work and our life. It takes courage, commitment and depth to:

Look within ourselves
Tell the whole truth (even when we don't want to)
Be vulnerable
Admit, own and share our true thoughts, feelings, desires, insecurities, passions, embarrassment, dreams and more

However, being open and real about all of these things (and more) is what it means to be authentic in life.

In order to utilize the power of authenticity in your life as a way to enhance your relationships, increase your fulfillment and empower yourself use these five key principles as a guide.

Know Yourself

The first essential aspect of our journey to live a more authentic, meaningful and fulfilling life, is to know who we truly are at the deepest level. Knowing ourselves, like being authentic itself, is a lifelong process. The more deliberate we are about this, however, the more we can grow and evolve consciously.
For me, knowing myself has been, and at times continues to be, a little tricky. For many years, I thought "knowing myself" meant knowing about myself (my "story," my issues, my drama, where I'd been, what I'd been through, etc.). While knowing about ourselves is important, it's only a small piece of who we really are.
Being fully aware of ourselves is about looking more deeply within. This can be challenging, confusing and scary for some of us, myself included. We often aren't sure where to look, what to do or how to deal with the aspects of ourselves we don't understand or even like. There are times I find myself wanting to avoid or deny certain aspects of myself, rather than confront them and deal with them directly based on my own fear or self-judgment. However, as we're willing to really go within ourselves, know who we are and make peace with ourselves, we can create what we truly want in life. As Eckhart Tolle says in his best-selling book A New Earth, "Only the truth of who you are, if realized, will set you free."
Transform Your Fear

Fear is something that we all experience throughout our lives, especially on our journey toward deeper authenticity. Being who we really are, expressing ourselves honestly, being bold and going for what we want in life can cause a great deal of fear in us.
I get scared all the time. When I was younger, I thought there was something really wrong with me because I would get so nervous—in sports, in school, in social settings and more. I now understand that everyone else experiences their own version of the same basic fears I have (being judged, making mistakes, looking bad, failing, disappointing others). It's just part of being human.
Many of us run away or hide from our fears because they seem scary, uncomfortable or embarrassing. We also erroneously think we "shouldn't" have them or that we are somehow "wrong" for feeling scared. However, most things that mean a lot to us in life don't show up without any fear at all. As we strive to live with authenticity, it's inevitable that we'll experience quite a bit of fear along the way.
The question isn't whether we experience fear in our lives (because we all do and always will for as long as we live); the more important question for each of us to ask and to answer is: How can I move through my fears in an honest way so they don't stop me from being who I really am and going for what I truly want in life? We're able to transform our fears by admitting, owning and expressing them, thus allowing us to move through them in an honest and authentic way.
Express Yourself

While most of us aren't bald-faced liars who go around deceiving people consciously, if we're honest with ourselves about it, we often don't fully speak our truth or express all of our emotions. We've been trained and have in turn trained ourselves to be "appropriate" and to say and do the "right" thing so we can get what we want and look as good as possible in most situations.
For me, being a "nice guy," a "people pleaser" and wanting others to be impressed with me often poses a challenge when what I want to say or express doesn't seem to fit into the "likable" category. Most of the people I know and work with have some "story" about themselves they want others to believe and therefore only feel comfortable sharing thoughts, ideas and feelings that match up with this story or the public "identity" they put forth.
However, what if, even with whatever fear or resistance we each have—we were able to fully, passionately and honestly express ourselves? When we're willing to passionately, vulnerably and boldly speak up and express ourselves, we tap into our power in an authentic way.
Be Bold

Some people may consider themselves "bold," but most people I know and work with—myself included—admit that they don't often think of themselves as a "bold" person. Or, if we've done or said bold things in our lives, they seem to be few and far between...and they also seem to scare us half to death. Hence, we often don't find ourselves being bold in life—or not nearly as much as we'd like.
Being bold, while scary and challenging for many of us, is essential if we're going to live an authentic life. Boldness is about stepping up and stepping out onto our "edge" in life—pushing the limits of what we think is possible or appropriate. It's about living, speaking and acting in ways that are both courageous and true to who we really are.
Because we're all unique, our individual versions of boldness will look quite different. Something that might be "bold" for me may not be so for you—or vice versa. Being bold has to do with us getting in touch with our deepest truths, passions and desires in life and then having the courage to live and act "out loud" in a way that is congruent with this.
Celebrate Who You Are

The ultimate goal of being ourselves in an authentic way is actually about celebrating and loving ourselves in a generous way. If we truly love ourselves, most of what we worry about and even much of what we strive for in life becomes meaningless. We may still have some worries, and we'll definitely continue to have goals, dreams and desires. However, from a place of true self-appreciation and self-love, the fear behind our worries and the motivation for our goals dramatically changes from something we have to avoid or produce in order to be accepted and valued to something we're genuinely concerned about or really want to accomplish.
On the flip side, if we don't love ourselves, nothing much really matters. No matter what we conquer, create or experience ,we're never able to appreciate it or ourselves or to be fulfilled in the process, because we're constantly striving to be validated in an insatiable way.
Self-love is what we're all searching for. Sadly, we spend most of our lives thinking that someone or something else can give us what only we can give ourselves. To be truly fulfilled in life, we have to find that love within us and give it to ourselves. No other person, amount of money, material possession or accomplishment can do it. It's up to us. We have an opportunity to celebrate who we are for any reason and at any time.
Being your authentic self is not for the faint of heart, but once you're willing to truly engage and do the work to become more real—your life, your work and your relationships will be more exciting, meaningful and fulfilling!
Mike Robbins is a best-selling author, sought-after motivational keynote speaker and personal growth expert who works with people and groups of all kinds. Robbins is the author of the best-selling books Focus on the Good Stuff and Be Yourself: Everyone Else Is Already Taken. He and his work have been featured on ABC News, in Forbes, Ladies Home Journal, Self and many others.

Monday, November 2, 2009

What if your scared of change

by Amy Bloom

Change can be wonderful. People improve their appearance, improve their marriages, get great new jobs, even great new spouses. Plus, dear little babies become adorable toddlers, and pretty soon the toddlers can read and then they're having a really nice Sweet Sixteen and their skin clears up and they never talk to you, they fall in love with people you wouldn't allow in your house if you had a choice and they move far away and you rarely get to see the grandchildren.

That's what change is for a lot of us—stuff you have to pretend to embrace even as your heart sinks; you know it's going to end badly and you already feel the inevitable loss. The other awful thing about change is that we want it as much as we fear it and we need it as much as we need safety. I hate my marriage but I'm afraid of being alone. I'm sick of being a lawyer but I don't know how to do anything else.

Good news: It doesn't matter whether you like change or not, whether you embrace it or run in the opposite direction. Not only will changes be taking place, they will be taking place all the time, with and without your participation, from the mouse-sized (they no longer make your favorite suntan lotion) to elephant-sized (death, divorce, and disability). It turns out that even if you make no changes in your lousy marriage, your stultifying job, or your painful relationship with your brother, all those things will change anyway. Your only choice is to take steps toward change (you don't have to quit the job or the marriage all of a sudden), or to wait and see what surprises the universe has for you as you cling to what you thought was safety.

Mostly, change is as inevitable as rain in the spring. Some of us just put on our raincoats and splash forward, some of us choose to stay home, a few admirable nuts shed their clothes and cavort in the yard, and some people go out and get deeply, resentfully, and miserably wet. And no matter what, the rain falls. It falls on dry grass, which is the kind of change we love, and it falls, too, on June weddings and the day you began the Appalachian Trail. Sylvia Boorstein is a Jewish grandmother, a psychotherapist, and a Buddhist, which signifies to me that she must know something about complaining (even quietly) and accepting (not just pretending to). She writes: "We can struggle, or we can surrender. Surrender is a frightening word for some people, because it might be interpreted as passivity, or timidity. Surrender means wisely accommodating ourselves to what is beyond our control. Getting old, getting sick, dying, losing what is dear to us…is beyond our control. I can either be frightened of life and mad at life—or not. I can be disappointed and still not be mad." People get old, plans change, red wine spills on your great-grandmother's tablecloth—there isn't any other way.

It seems to me that the absolute star of accepting change is the Dalai Lama, the easy, gentle master of living in the moment and understanding that life is nothing but transition. My sister is not the Dalai Lama; no one has ever gotten them confused. My sister's approach to change, although not approved by the International Council for the Happy-Go-Lucky, is novel and effective.

Me: Hi, it's me. I just wanted to let you know that x (a member of my side of our extended family) wants to bring someone to Thanksgiving/Passover/anything.
She: Oh. S***. The table will be so crowded.
Me: Umm…
She: It'll be awful. People will be sitting on the patio, practically.
Me: Umm…
She: I'm not making something vegan, dammit.
Me: Umm…
She: Is he/she nice?
Me: Yes.
She: Are they in love?
Me: Looks that way.
She: [Pause] Okay.
Me: Okay? It's okay?
She: [Sweetly] Well, of course. [Patiently] There's plenty of room.

So, maybe, there's an alternative to beatific acceptance of change. Maybe a little grousing helps. Maybe some frank grumbling smooths the way for some genuine acceptance. Maybe the trick is to acknowledge that change is sometimes wonderful, sometimes not, often disturbing, and always happening. Then, make room at the table.

My sister, the Dolly Lama.

Becoming the person you are meant to be: Where to start

by Anne Lamott

We begin to find and become ourselves when we notice how we are already found, already truly, entirely, wildly, messily, marvelously who we were born to be. The only problem is that there is also so much other stuff, typically fixations with how people perceive us, how to get more of the things that we think will make us happy, and with keeping our weight down. So the real issue is how do we gently stop being who we aren't? How do we relieve ourselves of the false fronts of people-pleasing and affectation, the obsessive need for power and security, the backpack of old pain, and the psychic Spanx that keeps us smaller and contained?Here's how I became myself: mess, failure, mistakes, disappointments, and extensive reading; limbo, indecision, setbacks, addiction, public embarrassment, and endless conversations with my best women friends; the loss of people without whom I could not live, the loss of pets that left me reeling, dizzying betrayals but much greater loyalty, and overall, choosing as my motto William Blake's line that we are here to learn to endure the beams of love.Oh, yeah, and whenever I could, for as long as I could, I threw away the scales and the sugar.When I was a young writer, I was talking to an old painter one day about how he came to paint his canvases. He said that he never knew what the completed picture would look like, but he could usually see one quadrant. So he'd make a stab at capturing what he saw on the canvas of his mind, and when it turned out not to be even remotely what he'd imagined, he'd paint it over with white. And each time he figured out what the painting wasn't, he was one step closer to finding out what it was.You have to make mistakes to find out who you aren't. You take the action, and the insight follows: You don't think your way into becoming yourself.I can't tell you what your next action will be, but mine involved a full stop. I had to stop living unconsciously, as if I had all the time in the world. The love and good and the wild and the peace and creation that are you will reveal themselves, but it is harder when they have to catch up to you in roadrunner mode. So one day I did stop. I began consciously to break the rules I learned in childhood: I wasted more time, as a radical act. I stared off into space more, into the middle distance, like a cat. This is when I have my best ideas, my deepest insights. I wasted more paper, printing out instead of reading things on the computer screen. (Then I sent off more small checks to the Sierra Club.) Every single day I try to figure out something I no longer agree to do. You get to change your mind—your parents may have accidentally forgotten to mention this to you. I cross one thing off the list of projects I mean to get done that day. I don't know all that many things that are positively true, but I do know two things for sure: first of all, that no woman over the age of 40 should ever help anyone move, ever again, under any circumstances. You have helped enough. You can say no. No is a complete sentence. Or you might say, "I can't help you move because of certain promises I have made to myself, but I would be glad to bring sandwiches and soda to everyone on your crew at noon." Obviously, it is in many people's best interest for you not to find yourself, but it only matters that it is in yours—and your back's—and the whole world's, to proceed.

And, secondly, you are probably going to have to deal with whatever fugitive anger still needs to be examined—it may not look like anger; it may look like compulsive dieting or bingeing or exercising or shopping. But you must find a path and a person to help you deal with that anger. It will not be a Hallmark card. It is not the yellow brick road, with lovely trees on both sides, constant sunshine, birdsong, friends. It is going to be unbelievably hard some days—like the rawness of birth, all that blood and those fluids and shouting horrible terrible things—but then there will be that wonderful child right in the middle. And that wonderful child is you, with your exact mind and butt and thighs and goofy greatness.Dealing with your rage and grief will give you life. That is both the good news and the bad news: The solution is at hand. Wherever the great dilemma exists is where the great growth is, too. It would be very nice for nervous types like me if things were black-and-white, and you could tell where one thing ended and the next thing began, but as Einstein taught us, everything in the future and the past is right here now. There's always something ending and something beginning. Yet in the very center is the truth of your spiritual identity: is you. Fabulous, hilarious, darling, screwed-up you. Beloved of God and of your truest deepest self, the self that is revealed when tears wash off the makeup and grime. The self that is revealed when dealing with your anger blows through all the calcification in your soul's pipes. The self that is reflected in the love of your very best friends' eyes. The self that is revealed in divine feminine energy, your own, Bette Midler's, Hillary Clinton's, Tina Fey's, Michelle Obama's, Mary Oliver's. I mean, you can see that they are divine, right? Well, you are, too. I absolutely promise. I hope you have gotten sufficiently tired of hitting the snooze button; I know that what you need or need to activate in yourself will appear; I pray that your awakening comes with ease and grace, and stamina when the going gets hard. To love yourself as you are is a miracle, and to seek yourself is to have found yourself, for now. And now is all we have, and love is who we are.

My first post

I have created this blog to let loose the products of my mind. I often stumble across awesome articles that really hit home for many reasons. Either by reading the article I want to do better or be better. This is not to be confused with insecurities or self worth. This is entirely based on tools that I would like to gain to better enrich my life and the people around me. I do believe we are all "A work in progress" We are constantly striving to learn more, teach more, feel more and be more. Its human nature to be imperfect. We all have our quirks. Its the way we look at them that determines our strengths and weaknesses. If we constantly view life as imperfect or less than our expectations, We will constantly be let down. There will always be a crack in our foundation. Its the minute we let go of these expectations that we enable ourselves to accept the joy and richness that surrounds us.

This blog is just a recourse of tools that I stumble across, whether a product of my mind or an article from a magazine. I will leave it here.