Dec 3 2015

Authority? Or Control?

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I have some questions for you. Do you like to be controlled by other people, manipulated to do or say things you don’t want to do? Does it feel good when someone tries to force you into something that’s not right or welcomed, or bully you into doing things their way?

Of course not.

Bobby Drinnon in Petitioning Reality with Faith says, “If you have power within yourself you have no need for power over anyone else.” (Or anything else, for that matter.)

You may not like being controlled, but are you doing that very thing yourself? Are you expressing inner strength, aka authority, or are you trying to control your world? Beware! We fool ourselves! We think we have authority, but more often than not we’re just controlling.

For example, it might seem as though we are managing our lives and it may appear that things are going well, but we often have to hold on to, manage, or control in some way people, situations, and things to make them/ keep them the way we want. Keeping things under control is not the same as expressing authority. And as you may well know, it is not possible to control indefinitely. Relationships, jobs, life: nothing is supposed to stay the same. Control is guaranteed to create chaos, because things must and do change.

This is what happens in a lot of relationships. We try to control issues/feelings/the other person in order to get along, in order to feel safe and secure, and in order to gain acceptance and approval. At some point we can no longer maintain that, and things explode or fall apart. However, when we come together in our own authority – when I stay balanced and you stay balanced and we as a unit stay balanced – that’s when relationships go well, and that’s when we allow them to do their job: helping us grow our authority by showing us where it’s missing.

The biggest mistake we make in relationships is thinking that they are going to make us happy. Relationships are meant to make us stronger, and it is from that strength (authority)that we gain our greatest happiness.

When we have authority, we are not reactive because we have a sense of self-certainty and are constantly growing, following our evolutionary movement. That’s when life and relationships are the best, and that’s the difference between striving and struggle. Struggle is control. Striving is authority. When we try to control, we have to struggle to maintain that control. Striving is much more than that. It is having strength to stay aligned in the flow of life whether times are good or bad. Striving is thriving, struggling stays stuck.

Authority/Control
A: Sets goal, works to reach it, learns fm experience
C: Forces outcomes, struggles to “win”

A: Strong enough to go with the flow
C: Must have things a certain way

A: Recognizes their impact on others
C: Focused on self (gratification, security, approval)

A: Willing to negotiate
C: Resists, puts up walls

A: Deals directly with issues
C: Avoids, denies, complains, blames

A: Asks respectfully for wants, needs
C: Cajoles, manipulates, intimidates with guilt/anger

A: Able to take calculated risks, step into unknown
C: Stays stuck, uses excuses to not move forward

A: Balanced and centered in any circumstance
C: Reactive

When you travel, the scenery does not stay the same along the way, does it? Control says “I like the the woods. I only want woods, I want them to be this way all the time.” That’s not moving forward. At some point you get tired of looking at the woods, or the woods get tired of looking at you. Then chaos ensues because you have not been moving forward and life has to step in to get you going.

Authority is the strength and freedom, even when difficulties occur, to keep moving forward and keep growing. And that is my Christmas wish for you!

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Oct 27 2015

Depth of Character

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You’ve heard me talk about inner strength a lot over the years. This is because I see it as:

  • the foundation for serenity, power and freedom,
  • the source of feeling good about ourselves and getting along well with others
  • the basis for having a solid sense of belonging and purpose in life.

 

With so much emphasis on finding happiness these days, it is important to realize that this is not the end goal. Underneath the search for happiness is the soul’s intent to establish inner strength, also known as depth of character.

In his book The Road to Character, David Brooks discusses two disparate and sometimes conflicting aspects of our nature. Citing references to the two accounts of Adam in the book of Genesis, he describes the two forces within us that are at odds with each other, especially in today’s world. Brooks refers to them as Adam 1 and Adam 2. I call them our Human Being and our Spirit (or Soul) Being.

Adam 1, the Human Being, is the resume-building, externally-focused aspect that wants to accumulate, create, produce, and discover things. That part of us feels compelled to achieve status, gain attention and approval, and compete and win, sometimes at all cost. It can be prideful and self-centered, and it easily succumbs to weakness of character.

Adam 2, the Spirit Being, is driven by the urge to embody moral qualities, develop depth of character, experience inner peace, and not only do good but be good. Brooks says, “Adam 2 wants to love intimately, to sacrifice self in the service to others, to live in obedience to some transcendent truth, to have a cohesive inner soul that honors creation and one’s own possibilities. While Adam 1 wants to conquer the world, Adam 2 wants to obey a calling to serve the world.”

Our innate connection with the Adam 2 part of ourselves is obvious when you know what to look for. Notice all the videos, Facebook posts, and news stories that show heroic deeds and compassionate actions. We are moved by seeing that strength in ourselves and others. Notice also how often we say that having gone through difficult circumstances is “character-building.”

My question, then, is this: Why wait for a catastrophe to happen to bring forth our Spirit Being? Why not live it every day?

Example 1: From meek to mighty

I once counseled a woman who was learning to stand up for herself, build self-confidence, and set appropriate boundaries. As the new manager of a department in a large corporation, she had inherited an employee who was chronically late, uncooperative, and unproductive, and he had gotten away with this behavior for a long time. Her heroic moment came when, pushing past her habit of avoiding conflict and worrying about hurting another’s feelings, she accomplished what other managers had been unable or unwilling to do: she raised the issue with HR and the employee, and put him on an improvement plan. Ultimately the employee chose not to change and thus got himself fired. My client, on the other hand, achieved an inner strength and new level of confidence she had not experienced before.

This wasn’t on TV or Facebook, and she didn’t win an award at work for doing her job, but that does not matter because Adam 2, the Soul Self, is not motivated by outer reward, only inner. In our own lives, these everyday acts of heroism alter the course of our destiny.

Example 2: The caring couple

Creating a great relationship with a significant other is one of the most difficult and rewarding experiences one can have. Inevitably, problems arise, feelings get hurt, tempers flair. We experience disappointment, frustration, upset, and betrayal. In working with many couples, I have witnessed first-hand the power of the Spirit Self. Forgiveness, willingness to change for the sake of a better relationship, letting go of anger and resentment … these are powerful acts of compassion, courage, and character that create the loving intimacy we so deeply desire.

There are many aspects to developing a depth of character, and everyday life experiences give us the opportunity to apply ourselves to that very thing. However, when we neglect our Spirit Being, we tend to stay stuck and are vulnerable to the negative aspects of our humanness. At our best — and the ultimate goal — is for Adam 1 and Adam 2 to be in partnership, with our Soul Self as the driving principle behind our actions, and the human self making it happen.

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Sep 24 2015

The Seven C’s

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I recently had the pleasure of attending a lecture given by Susan Hitchcock, an Atlanta-based expert in leadership development and a contributing author of a book entitled The Female Leader: Empowerment, Confidence & Passion. Susan shared her Seven C’s of Success, which I think are worthy of passing on. For most of you this will not be new material. Nonetheless, in keeping with last month’s theme of Back to Basics, I expect that you will find this to be a helpful reminder.

 

The Seven C’s are:

  1. Competence
  2. Commitment
  3. Confidence
  4. Connections
  5. Courage
  6. Credibility
  7. Character

 

As obvious as these might be, I will elaborate with a combination of Susan’s and my own input. The greater the clarity, the more power we have to take appropriate action.

 

Competence means you are not only good at what you do, you are also good at improving yourself in ever increasing cycles. Great leaders do not stop growing themselves – Ever! – and they inspire others to do the same. Comfort, pride, and complacency are soul and success killers.

 

Commitment is about applying yourself 100% to whatever you are doing. “Be the labor great or small, do it well or not at all!” This includes applying such qualities as focus, discipline, determination, perseverance, accountability, and DWIET (doing whatever it takes). Great leaders are committed not because it brings success, but because it’s the right way to live.

 

Confidence, as we know, is key. No one can believe in you if you don’t believe in you. “Certainty sells” because of a powerful, unspoken energy of knowing your value, purpose, and place. Others sense this instinctively and respond to it positively.

 

Connections go beyond just who or how many you know. Susan recommends netweaving (www.netweaving.com), which is a much deeper form of networking based on focusing on what you can do for others instead of what they can do for you. What goes around does come around.

 

Courage is “the state or quality of mind or spirit that enables one to face danger, fear, or vicissitudes with self-possession, confidence, and resolution.” Leadership courage particularly applies to the fear of making waves, people not liking you, and in some cases potentially losing your job, because to be a great leader, you must stand up for yourself, live your values, and speak your truth. Otherwise, the inauthenticity of not doing so will eventually undermine your success.

 

Credibility can be summed up in two words: earned influence. Earned. Influence. Profound! So much I could say about this one. Perhaps another day. Meanwhile, ponder.

 

Character is who you are when no one is looking. It is the embodiment of the deepest meaning and values by which we live – good or bad. It is the basis of the other six C’s. And yes, this is such a good one it will be the subject of a future newsletter. Stay tuned!

 

You can be a great leader at any stage of your career and in any situation in your life, if you apply yourself to maintaining these and other key leadership qualities. The effort is well worth the reward.

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Aug 19 2015

Back to Basics

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August is that time of year when children are going back to school and we are heading into the activities of fall and winter. It is a good opportunity to regroup and make sure we’re paying attention to the things that support our inner peace. Here is a reminder of four important basics.

Space

We need room in our lives to connect with our innermost being. In a world full of busyness, it may seem difficult to carve out time for ourselves, for creative expression, for self care, for Spirit care. But the payoff is more than worth the effort! Space allows grace to flow to us/through us; busyness (and the resultant stress and irritation) crowds it out.

Silence

Our soul doesn’t need sleep; only our physical body does. However, it does need silence, as in meditation. Meditation is one of the most important things you can do for your Self. Not only does it quiet, relax, and de-stress the mind and body, it establishes a relationship between your human self and your Spirit Self in a way that empowers every aspect of life.

Soul Food

Are you “consuming” the right sustenance for your soul? It is essential to have something to study, read, and otherwise remind us that we are more than our human self, to help us access the richness of our Spirit Self. I have provided one of my favorite soul foods below. You’re welcome.

Structure

Just as we care for our emotional well-being and physical bodies, we must tend to our Spirit Self as well. Inner strength does not happen by accident and it does not happen overnight. In order to live in serenity, power, and freedom, we must practice regularly, over a long period of time (the rest of our lives would be best J). How will you structure your life to build in time and space for these important activities?

Today’s Helping of Soul Food (from Sri Babaji Haidakhan)

Have faith. Everything depends on faith.
Love and serve all humanity. Assist everyone.
Be happy. Be courteous. Be a dynamo of irrepressible joy.
Recognize God and goodness in every face.
There is no saint without a past and no sinner without a future.
Praise everyone. If you cannot praise someone, let him or her out of your life.
Be original, be inventive. Be courageous. Take courage again and again.
Do not imitate; be strong, be upright. Do not lean on the crutches of others.
Think with your own head. Be yourself.
All perfection and every divine virtue are hidden within you. Reveal them to the world.
Wisdom, too, is already within you. Let it shine forth.
Let the Lord’s grace set you free.
Let your life be that of a rose; in silence, it speaks the language of fragrance.
Truth – Simplicity – Love

 

 

 

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Jul 20 2015

Inviting Change

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Have you noticed? You can’t force change. Whether it’s in yourself, in your life, or with others, true change cannot be forced. It can only be invited, and that invitation starts by changing your insides.

Insanity
Until we learn this fundamental truth, most people try to coerce, cajole, control, and manipulate. Sometimes coercion can change the form of the thing we wish to alter, but shifting the form is not true and lasting transformation. Unless you get to the core issue, whatever it is will eventually return or come out in some other way. We know the definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results. Attempting to force change falls into that category.

Example 1: There are those who try to change their experience in love relationships by leaving the one that isn’t working and going out to find another. “This person is different.” “It will be better this time.” Until you modify your insides, your outsides will stay the same. It might have a different face, but the result will eventually be the same.

Example 2: Have you ever tried to change or control someone else? Right. I rest my case.

Resist-Persist
Ignoring the problem rarely helps. This falls under the category of what you resist persists. Putting up with (tolerating) something that ought to be handled hoping it will eventually go away on its own is a form of denial. Sometimes we get lucky and change does happen, but most often denial just makes a big mess. That mess is meant to get our attention: time to grow.

Example 1: This one’s pretty obvious … health issues. They don’t go away just because you ignore then or pretend they’re not there. You have to shift your attention, your attitude, and your actions in order to impact the problem.

Example 2: When we hate what’s going on, we are resisting. Hating the illness is akin to ignoring it. It keeps us stuck in old patterns.

The Invitation
Albert Einstein is credited as having said: we cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them. In other words, in order to change your life, you have to change your mind.

Whether it’s a job you don’t like, a habit you can’t stop, a relationship problem that keeps repeating, or something else you want to to be different, you must seek new truth, new perspectives, and new tools that help you shift your consciousness, your insides. This invites true and lasting change.

Example 1: One inner exercise is to live the question. That means noticing everything you can about whatever it is you’re trying to change. Then live your life pondering the answers to such questions as, “What would it look like to change? Who would I be if that happened? What do I need to be, know, or do differently to make that come about? Who can help me with that?” Want a great quote about this? Click here for Live the Question.

Example 2: Change your focus. Instead of focusing on losing weight, learn to fall in love with being healthy and watch what happens. Notice I said learn. Energy follows intent. You get what you focus on.

Example 3: Seriously study spirituality. True spirituality changes consciousness, pulling you out of old levels of thinking.

Change takes practice, perseverance, determination, and patience. How will you invite change?

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Jun 24 2015

It’s Personal

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How often do your feelings get hurt by something someone says or does (even someone you don’t know)?

In order to live in joy, we must stop taking things personally. It is easy to observe when we do it in our close relationships, but did you know that there are other times the issue shows up? The more subtle experiences are harder to identify, but they, too, rob us of the things we want: love, peace of mind, personal power.

Some examples. If you get upset at the guy/gal who pulls in front of you in traffic, you’ve taken it personally. If you feel hurt when your cashier or waiter is gruff or rude, you’ve taken it personally. When you become incensed by the bad things happening in the world today… Yup. Personally. We even take what we say to ourselves personally as well! Feeling bad about yourself or your life? You have let your negative self-talk hurt you.

The truest identifiers of having “gone south” are things like:

  • resentment
  • criticism
  • condemnation
  • blame
  • desire for revenge or punishment.

 

In other words, ill will. Notice how often you feel ill will towards the offending party!

To be clear, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t feel sad or disappointed if something doesn’t go well. It is the degree of the hurt and the resultant ill will you must look out for.

It also doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take action; this is a case of response versus reaction.

  • When we take things personally, we are in a reaction, we are attached to a particular result or desired outcome (more like demanded outcome, really), and we are more focused on our personal experience than on what is best for the situation.
  • When we stay balanced, heart-centered, and detached – when we don’t take it personally – we can respond powerfully, appropriately, and effectively. We can do what is right for the situation, instead of “being right” about how bad it is.

 

Two things to consider: our feelings only get hurt when we have feelings to hurt, and more often than not, there is a pay-off to the ill-will.

The stronger our sense of Self, the less we will get triggered, so the antidote to taking things personally is to notice when you do it and then work on strengthening the aspect of Self that the situation is pointing out.

There will probably be a part of you that resists this process. Until we develop a strong sense of Self, we tend to get a charge (pay-off) from the feelings of hurt, anger, resentment, and ill will that come with taking things personally. There is a part of human nature that not only likes suffering, it becomes addicted to it, and it will hang on instead of letting go. We must engage our Higher Self to overcome this natural tendency.

It is not easy to stop taking things personally, but the serenity, power, and freedom that come from doing so make it well worth the effort.

 

Related articles and a book

The Bodies – http://theawarenessstudio.com/2015/05/

Miracle Grow – http://theawarenessstudio.com/2015/03/

Taming the Beast – http://theawarenessstudio.com/2014/12/

A Path to Non-Violence – http://theawarenessstudio.com/2014/08/a-path-to-non-violence/

The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz

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May 20 2015

The Bodies

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Continuing the conversation about fooling ourselves, it is important to remember: we are not our physical body, we are not our thinking, we are not our feelings. Sometimes we forget this. But to legitimately have serenity, power, and freedom in life, we must not only know this truth, we must live from it as well. J Krishnamurti, in his book At the Feet of the Master does a beautiful job of explaining (emphasis added):

Do not mistake your bodies for yourself – neither the physical body, nor the astral, nor the mental. Each one of them will pretend to be the Self, in order to gain what it wants. But you must know them all, and know yourself as their master.

When there is work that must be done, the physical body will want to rest, to go out walking, to eat and drink; and the man who does not know says to himself: “I want to do these things and I must do them.” But the man who knows says: “This that wants is not I, and it must wait a while.” […]

The astral body has its desires – dozens of them; it wants you to be angry, to say sharp words, to feel jealous, to be greedy for money, to envy other people their possessions, to yield yourself to depression. All these things it wants and many more, not because it wishes to harm you, but because it likes violent vibrations, and likes to change them constantly. But you want none of these things, and therefore you must discriminate between your wants and your astral body’s.

Your mental body wishes to think itself proudly separate, to seek much of itself and little of others. Even when you have turned away from worldly things, it still tries to calculate for self, to make you think of your own progress, instead of thinking of the Master’s work and of serving the Greater Good. When you meditate, it will try to make you think of the many different things which it wants instead of the one thing which you want. You are not this mind, but it is yours to use; so here again discrimination is necessary. You must watch unceasingly, or you will fail.

Between right and wrong, right living knows no compromise. At whatever apparent cost, that which is right you must do, that which is wrong you must not do, no matter what.

These are powerful words! We are not the physical body, nor the astral (emotional), nor the mental. They will lead us astray if we let them. We must be vigilant, and we must do that which is right, which is living from truth. To do this, we must know our Highest Self.

Many people feel a strong sense of restlessness these days, not quite sure which way to go. Perhaps this is the soul’s urge – Divine Discontent – asking us to look internally for a connection to our inner knowing. Life today is more intense than ever before, causing anxiety, impatience, and agitation. The strength to overcome this intensity lies in the connection with the true Self, not the bodies we might think of as ourselves.

 

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Apr 24 2015

We Fool Ourselves

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When we don’t know who we really are, we are identified with a false sense of self. That false identity filters our experiences, thoughts, actions, etc. and gives us inaccurate feedback. Because of this, we see things incorrectly – not as they are, but as we want them to be – because we need to see them a certain way. In other words, we fool ourselves. This is known as the veil of karma.

Our false identity causes us to behave in ways that are not aligned with our Spirit and to believe things that are not true. When we act according to those untruths, we come from wrong intent and we create painful learning experiences. In other words, we are veiled by our unawareness, and that creates karma.

Some examples.

In one situation, there’s a woman who has no idea how afraid she is – afraid of other people, afraid of getting hurt, afraid of failing, afraid of being known. The story she tells herself is that she is intimidating to others. She thinks others are afraid of her because she’s tall, smart, and has a great job, when the truth is that she is the one who is afraid of them. The feedback she gets from men is that they’re not interested in dating her, and the feedback she gets from her boss and others at work is that she needs to be stronger and more assertive. The problem is, she is not able to hear this important input through the density of her false identity. There is one person in her life who tells her that she is intimidating to others. Who do you think she’s listening to? Notice how we collect evidence for whatever it is we want to believe!

When someone is that disconnected from their true self, you can bet that many relationship mistakes will be made, and almost everything will be done with wrong intent.

Another example. This woman has an ex who makes her out to be the bad guy. She says she knows she isn’t the bad guy, but her behavior demonstrates otherwise. She spends a lot of energy trying to show him, prove to him, convince him that she’s not the problem. She recently realized that by the very act of trying to prove and convince, she was showing that she did not, in fact, believe herself.

Her unconscious still acted as though she were the problem, in spite of her conscious belief to the contrary. What freedom she experienced when she realized this! She let go of the attachment: the need to have her ex think she was ok. She can now live according to a new truth.

When this woman was trying to show she was a good person, she was doing the right thing for the wrong reason. It is the right thing to be good and ethical and integrous and nice, no matter with whom we are interacting. However, it is with wrong intent to do this in order to prove something, or make someone like us. The right reason is simply, because being a good person is the right thing to do, no matter what anyone else thinks.

Other false identities we get caught up in look like this: “I’m not good enough” – “I’m a failure.” – “I’m not loveable.” – “I’m a mess.” Sure, we all have issues in our lives we have to deal with, but to turn those into an “I AM” statement puts us in that veil of karma, keeps us fooling ourselves.

The point is that it all boils down to identity. Are we attached to a false sense of self that keeps us in the darkness of unawareness, or do we know ourselves to be powerful, divine beings who are fulfilling our purpose to be in service to Spirit, knowing and following the will of God?

Are we fooling ourselves, or not?

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Mar 30 2015

Miracle-Gro

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Being in relationship is like putting Miracle-Gro on your character defects.”

Great quote, isn’t it? I heard it many years ago and still find it to be Oh.. So.. True. And, I think there is a good reason for this.

If we are meant to be the biggest and best we can be, if we’re meant to live into our fullest and most powerful potential, then how are we to do that? By developing the positive and getting rid of the negative. One of the best ways to do this is in relationship.

Instead of the term “character defects,” I prefer to say “misuse of power.” Some examples:

  • When we don’t speak up for ourselves to ask for what we need, and instead stew quietly in our resentment, that’s misuse of power.
  • When we engage in people-pleasing in order to gain approval from others, instead of behaving authentically and standing in our truth (yes, even at the risk of being disliked, rejected, or criticized), that’s misuse of power.
  • When we let our jealousies and insecurities interfere with our peace of mind, instead of being responsible for creating our own great life, … misuse of power.
  • When we take things personally and get stuck in hurt feelings, instead of laughter, curiosity, and self-awareness, … misuse of power.

 

The beauty of relationships – whether at work, at home, or elsewhere – is that they show us where we have opportunities to grow: to strengthen our gifts, and to take our power back so that it can be used for beneficial purposes instead of self-sabotage, self-destruction, and injury to others. Too much of the negative, and we get things like divorce, loss of friendships, and problems and chaos at work.

We misuse our power when we’re not in touch with the certainty of who we really are. The good news is that our issues in relationships can guide us to that knowing if we let it.

By observing our negative traits, aka character defects, aka misuse of power, and making the effort to turn the negative into a positive, we can let life lead us to our strengths, virtues, assets, and gifts. Then and only then can we be the best that we can be, living into our fullest and most powerful potential.

That’s when you turn Miracle-Gro into Making Miracles Grow!

——-

For a checklist of flaws and assets, click here: Pos-Neg Qualities Assessment

For a program to help you get to self-certainty: Serenity, Power, and Freedom

 

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Feb 23 2015

Ice Cream Sundaes

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You can’t have that ice cream sundae with whipped cream and a cherry on top if you don’t have a bowl to put it in. That’s pretty obvious. What’s not so obvious is that this is true on many, many levels.

Experience shows that most people who win the lottery jackpot tend to lose all their earnings very quickly. This is such a well-known phenomena it has a name: “the curse of the lottery.” Why does this happen? No “bowl” = no sundae.

That “bowl” is a spiritual concept known as containment, and it applies to many things in life. Want to know why happiness is so elusive, why love doesn’t last, why success is sometimes hard to find or keep, and why so many lottery winners experience the curse? No containment.

From an inner perspective, the sundaes we seek are joy, love, serenity, power, freedom, confidence, and the like. When we have the inner strength to receive and hold these goodies, our outer world reflects them in lasting love relationships, close friendships, success and fulfillment at work, and overall, a really great life.

But we first must build that container to hold those sundaes in place. That container is made up of awareness, emotional maturity, integrity, detachment, and self certainty. These qualities result in an internal strength and joy that become the beacons which attract and hold the good things in our lives … and get us through the rough patches.

And while you may have a decent container, you must watch for “holes in your bucket.” We weaken our strength with things like self-pity, fear, shame, neediness, self-doubt, irritation, complaining, and inertia. These are simply obstacles, distortions that must be dealt with in order to have the great life you know is possible.

You can avoid the curse of the lottery – you can have your ice cream sundae and eat it too – by developing a strong personal foundation.

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