I said to the almond tree, Friend, speak to me of God,
and the almond tree blossomed. - Nikos Kazantzakis
How like trees we are. Except for one thing... they are not upset.
But let me backup for a moment.
One morning I was watching a palm tree.
This one, actually.
It's rather beautiful how they sway with abandon (I swear they are going to snap in half!) and how tall some grow on huge spindly legs -- some three times higher than the homes below them.
I was watching a palm standing perfectly silently. Everything was still in the air. So I thought. Then a few of the feathered fronds began twitching wildly. There must have been one small stream of air gusting through that part of the branch.
The palms are so high that they catch all kinds of air currents that I never feel or see. These invisible winds can strip the palms of all their fronds and send them hurling to the ground, crashing through the windshields of the cars below. Or just tickle them gently. Palms are truly at the mercy of the shifting winds. Nothing can change the effect the wind on them: they sway and flutter all day and all night. It is easy to see that this whole picture works very harmoniously, even on the stormiest of days. In fact, it seems built to work this way.
Tossed by the Wind
As I watched the palm fronds doing their accordion dance, it occurred to me this is the way human thinking works too. We experience our thoughts much the same way the palms experience the winds. Thoughts move through us long before we detect they are there and we too, sway and flutter. (In terms of our feelings that is).
One thing I know to be true about humans is that thoughts are the source of our feelings. Stormy thoughts stir up inevitably dark and tempestuous feelings and activate our senses. We can't stop that process any more than the palm can not sway in the wind.
When the human has passing thoughts moving through they ondulate in harmony with that thinking, just like the tree bends with the passing wind; the difference is the tree is not upset about the fact that this is happening.
The Tree is Neutral
When our thoughts are blowing around and our feelings are getting tossed up and down, however, we get anxious and afraid. We don't feel neutral about this. We get concerned about our own movement. I work with many people who are concerned about the way they are feeling. They ask me, "Why do I feel so bad?" Consider the possibility for a moment that there are not infinite answers to this question. There is, as far as I know, only one answer to this question: thought is blowing through.
Sydney Banks who first described the 3 Principles wrote in The Missing Link
, "Thought on it's own is a completely neutral gift."
The simple explanation for all of it is, you are experiencing what you think.
If only, like the tree, we could be neutral about this process! After all, it's just the way we are made. Trees don't prefer calm days to windy days.
Trees are not concerned about storms.
People are not like this are they? We humans would like it all to stop moving. We want it smoothed out. We don't want to sway in the wind. We don't like it. All these troublesome feelings getting stirred around ... we want to control the wind. We want to locate the person who sent the wind and make them stop. We hire people hoping they will tell us how to stop the wind.
We are not always happy when we realize we can't stop the wind blowing.
It's No Big Deal
One of the laws of life is that, as humans, we think. Another is that we feel what we think. What if we could really see that this is just no big deal?
It is so very important to know that the human is not defective as he/she experiences the ups and downs of emotional life.
I was telling a friend that the great benefit of learning the Three Principles is not that my life has smoothed out to a lovely even hum, but that I've stopped worrying about tracking where I am in every moment and trying to control what I think. I accept that I am in movement.
I used to be incredibly concerned about my moods. I thought they meant something about me. Now I see how they come and go and I am much less attentive to them. I'm not trying to create a prevalent "good mood" I am simply getting clearer about how the process works. And that clarity has left me much kinder and more understanding towards myself. Being less concerned about shifting feelings also tends to leave me in a clearer state of mind generally, so I notice I occasionally have made better decisions about what truly needs to be said out loud, or whether I should be driving.
When I am not trying to change my own mood or judging it, I get more open to seeing it for what it is.
We are actually as perfectly built as the tree. You already are the tree that bends. If you were not unhappy about that, you'd be as contented as the palm tree, or let's say -- you'd be as "non-concerned" as a palm tree -- and you'd stop trying so hard to control the content and flow of your thinking.
In that moment you'd find your complete freedom, because you would literally no longer be like Don Quixote "tilting at windmills."
When I first decided to write on the importance of "understanding" I wondered if you'd would think I was talking about some kind of passive attitude toward life, or advocating some form of forgiveness called "understanding how it wasn't their fault." But I'm talking about neither.
I'm reaching as deep as I can into the meaning of what it is to understand. Because actually, if your life is chaotic, understanding how that happens truly helps.
Understanding is so misunderstood!
The Myths of Understanding
We think understanding means analyzing. What do when you try to understand your partner, for example? You dissect. You pick apart. You scrutinize. You observe with the intent of figuring out why it is they are so messed up.
We also confuse understanding with ruminating and obsessing. When we try to understand ourselves, we start to dig up the past in order to find the root of our behaviors. We replay what's happened to us, how people have wronged us. Have you noticed these activities do not lead to the kind of understanding that fosters lasting change or loving connection?
Humanity has lots of history. We've had lots of past and lost of time to look back on the past and we still have very little understanding. We've also been using our logic for a while now, but haven't got much better at locating the sources of our internal human misery. We have only to look around to see that is true.
The United Nations officially came into existence on 24 October 1945 and we still don't really understand how to create peace amongst nations. We just don't. We have some theories. We have some notions. But we have yet to truly understand why charters, structures, treaties and organizations are so ineffective. If we had this understanding within each person, we'd have world peace by now.
It is not so surprising there's no peace amongst nations, when you realize that we barely understand how to love people in our own households. Relationships are minefields of unsigned bargains, silent expectations and keenly tuned transgression antennae. I know. That's been me.
Our outer world mirrors our deep misunderstanding of ourselves as human beings. How could that happen?
I remember being very shocked the day my life completely broke down and realized I actually knew nothing, I had no clue whatsoever, how to create a truly loving relationship. The facts where obvious to me: I had a string of broken relationships behind me. Clearly I did not understand.
Then I asked myself, having spent time in therapy, and lots of time analyzing myself and others, what exactly was I failing to understand? Was I failing to understand others, or was I failing to understand myself?
Add Understanding and Let Rise
If I could write the recipe for a happier life, I'd put in a big dose of the one most important ingredient there is; the one thing that is actually the most helpful thing you can ever have: understanding the human.
I want to suggest that if, in your life you are not operating to your fullest capacities, it can be very helpful to know where good ideas live.
- If your career, relationships, or projects tend to get derailed easily, it's helpful to understand where human resiliency is found.
- If the misbehavior of those around you gets under your skin and disturbs your peace of mind don't you agree it would be helpful to understand why it is you come unglued?
This is the kind of understanding I'm talking about: understanding the inside mechanisms and what they have to do with how you feel in your life.
The Case For Misunderstanding Is Everywhere
The other day I was reading an article that was making the strong argument that workplaces ARE, by nature, inherently stressful. The article was saying that offices have challenging things happening and stressed people in them (which is true) but then it asserted that although people have some internal control over stress, "the workplace itself is at the root of most employee stress."
Your own common sense will show you, if you seek to understand the roots of stress, that there is no stress living in "offices." There are chairs and desks and people. Other people exhibit stress, for sure, but it's not a virus. You can't catch it when they stress-sneeze on you.
In fact, you've had plenty of days when despite a hornet's nest of worried co-workers buzzing all around you, you maintained your equilibrium and were fine.
If you are going to deal with stress, tension and the often disturbed behaviors of others on a permanent basis aren't you curious to understand how you managed that day of resiliency -- when what we read indicates you shouldn't be able to? If outside things are causing inside reactions why are there exceptions? Understanding that seems to me like the answer to everything. The universal panacea.
Or would you rather keep trying to take the stress out of the office ...? Because, like world peace, we haven't really got a handle on that one yet either!
That's lots of training for very little understanding.
I only know of a handful of initiatives that have had true and lasting impact. And they all had one thing in common: They offered a greater understanding of how our own internal human systems work. The Proof In The Pudding
This week I had the good fortune of spending some time with Don Donovan, one of the people working in the Three Principles Global Community and a former executive at a large military systems manufacturing corporation. Don brought Pransky and Associates into his division of the company to offer exactly this understanding to the people who worked there -- with tremendous results. In fact, every critical success factor the company measured to track the health of the business, elevated in direct correlation with the dissemination of this understanding.
As the understanding of the how human beings actually function became more common, not only did it change the workplace and business results, it also changed the families and communities in which employees lived.
As we were talking he said, "You know, George Pransky and I used to sometimes say that it's as if human potential were freeze-dried and this understanding works like pouring water onto it."
What do you say to that kind of understanding? I talked about this in the radio show on January 27th, to listen, click here
I sometimes wonder how many team meetings, improved processes, morale building, stress-reducing initiatives have taken place over the course of the years in just the companies I worked in. Over the life of those companies alone I reckon probably thousands! Now what about around the world? Oh my goodness.
If you are experiencing a serious crisis or loss, I highly recommend you read Daphne Rose Kingma's Ten Things To Do When Life Falls Apart.
You will be inspired, comforted and for each of the Ten Things there are exercises for reflection, meditation and journaling that will assist you:
1. CRY YOUR HEART OUT
2. FACE YOUR DEFAULTS (four steps to face them)
3. DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT (No, it doesn’t feel like expansion…it feels like loss but you can change your relationship to the problem)
4. LET GO (hanging on is fear, letting go is hope)
5. REMEMBER WHO YOU HAVE ALWAYS BEEN
6. PERSIST (hope is born of persistence)
7. INTEGRATE YOUR LOSS (you Are big enough if you remember who you really are)
8. LIVE SIMPLY (a surprising chapter!)
9. GO WHERE THE LOVE IS
10. LIVE IN THE LIGHT OF THE SPIRIT
And remember: There is more to you than what you ordinarily think of as yourself
Times are uncertain. There are no easy solutions. Our inner beliefs are being tested by circumstances that seem beyond our control.
Whether the future will be the same as the past, or bring an entirely new paradigm, remains to be seen.
Whatever the future holds, the present uncertainty is both an opportunity and an incentive to build inner strength. Now is the time to develop those attitudes and habits that will enable us to face, with calm acceptance and joy, whatever comes.
Here are five tips to stay balanced:
: Don’t think only in terms of “down time.” Think also of “up time.” There are two ways to relax. One is to shut down awareness with things like television, beer, or excessive sleep. The other way to rejuvenate is by expanding awareness. Build into your daily or weekly schedule spiritually centering activities. Learn to meditate. Read uplifting books. Attend classes on life-enhancing subjects. Listen to calm, inspiring music. Be out in nature. Get to know yourself in solitude and silence.Be Original:
To be original does not mean doing something that has never been done before. It means to act from your own point of origin. Don’t allow yourself to become a dull reflection of the world around. Think deeply. Act consciously. Be sincere in everything that you do. If circumstances require you to accommodate yourself to the needs and demands of others, concentrate on inner freedom. See yourself as a single thread in the vast, unfolding tapestry of life. Through love, compassion, and generosity of heart, make yourself into a thread of gold.Be Creative
: The secret of prosperity is creativity. This will become especially important if times get hard. Whether you define success as all the things that money can buy or all the things that money can’t buy, a creative person never accepts failure or limitation as the final decree of fate. If one approach didn’t work, then go after the same goal from another angle. See every day, every situation as a fresh opportunity to discover some yet unknown possibility. Be on the lookout for new and improved ways of doing even oft-repeated tasks. Be mentally active. If your work leaves your mind free, then sing, pray for yourself and others, memorize and repeat poetry. Creativity in itself brings joy. And sooner or later, the positive magnetism of your creative attitude will bring you whatever you seek.You Are What You Eat
: Think in terms of life force. Fresh, natural food is filled with vitality. Devitalized food makes, not only a heavy body, but also a heavy mind. In these uncertain times, you can’t afford the extra burden. There is so much life force in an apple, for example, that, if you bury it in the ground, the seeds can sprout, and one apple becomes an apple tree. Bury a “Big Mac,” and nothing more will come of it! The net result of consuming too much over-processed foods is less than zero. It takes more energy to digest such foods than they can ever give back to you in life force. Trying to right the balance with more caffeine is not the solution! You don’t have to be a fanatic and change your diet overnight. Just gradually begin eating more foods in their natural state or close to it, and your own experience will be your guide.Strength in Numbers
: You have to walk the path yourself, but you don’t have to walk it alone. In times of stress especially, the presence of like-minded companions can make all the difference in whether you keep going or give up in despair. If you don’t have supportive friends, then go out and find them! Group spiritual practices are especially beneficial, giving you the experience and power you need to go deeper on your own as well. Visit meditation centers, churches, and spiritual groups of all kinds until you find those people and practices that resonate with your own inner self.Listen to the show with Asha here
Asha Praver is a lecturer, teacher, counselor, Spiritual Co-Director of the Ananda Palo Alto Community, and author of Swami Kriyananda as We Have Known Him. Asha has been trained in yoga, meditation, and spiritual living by Swami Kriyananda, who was a direct disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda. Since 1969 Asha has been a disciple, a meditator, and an intentional community member. Contact Asha at www.ashapraver.com.
Henry Grayson's MUST-READ book, 'Mindful Loving
I hope you enjoy practicing the couple of tools to arrest some of our negative thinking before it takes us on the direct expressway to Overwhelm.
Extracted from 'Mindful Loving', the 5-Step Thought Monitoring Process we talked about on the show November 4, 2009
is as follows:
"1. Upon feeling a loss of inner peace, ask yourself, 'What was I just thinking?'
2. 'There is one fo those disturbing ego thoughts.'
3. 'If I focus on this thought it will surely increase. Do I want this thing I'm thinking to increase? No Way1'
4. 'I banish that thought'
5. Quickly state your affirmation one or several times. "
for more about this process see Dr. Grayson's book and his site http://www.henrygrayson.com/
While you are there watch the video where he teaches how to open New Neuro Pathways!!