Living in the Gutter – Why Change is Challenging

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“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.” – Henry David Thoreau

Daily we’re bombarded with new books, videos, podcasts, conferences, news, and research about why folks behave irrationally – even when they “know” their behavior isn’t rational. We learn why affirmations, acting “as if,” “faking it til you make it” and other strategies and tactics often don’t lead to sustainable  change, and why change is so difficult even when the brain is supposed to be so “plastic,” etc. Why is true and lasting change and transformation so challenging? Here’s one perspective. See how it works for you.

The Gutter
Visualize the “gutter,” the ball return “groove,” on either the side of a bowling alley lane. Assume that at one time this “gutter” was perfectly flat. Visualize that, with guide barriers keeping the bowling ball moving in a straight line along the gutter surface, the ball consistently moves from the far end of the alley to the near end where it returns to a ball-holding area.

Over seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, and years, the ball begins to carve out its own pathway, and at some point no longer needs any guides to control its movement/direction. The ball now follows it’s own self-created pathway — day in and day out, night in and night out, over and over, with never a change in direction. The ball seemingly has a mind of its own. A sort of programming.

Who Carves Your Groove?
Think of the initial guide barriers on either side of the “groove” as your parents or primary caregivers, your siblings, relatives, playmates, teachers, clergy, etc. – i.e., those who “guided” you from infancy to about the five, six, seven…

And think of that “groove” as the neurological pathways, neurons, and synapses in your brain — each representing an “habitual way” of doing, be-ing, having and thinking (i.e., thoughts, beliefs, actions, assumptions, premises, expectations, “stories,” feelings, emotions and worldviews that created your orientation to, and perceptions of, your world).

Even with all the neurobiological and brain science research touting “brain plasticity,” and popular “wisdom” annotating how irrational we are in spite of our protestations to the contrary, etc. we can begin to have a glimpse of why many folks cannot or will not change.

“All appears to change when we change.” – Henri-Frederic Amiel

Re-Smoothing the Groove
In order for true, real and lasting change to occur, one of two things has to happen: (1) we have to “sand-paper” down the original grooves and/or (2) create new grooves representing new ways of do-ing, be-ing, having and thinking. Either way, both of these tasks require concerted time and effort, and more, they require commitment. And here is why “recidivism” of a sort haunts most folks who want change.

Clinging to Old Ways
What prevents most folks from carving out new grooves is that they’re wired to hang on to their original groves. They are “clinging.”

Most folks live in a “closed system” — a loyalty to our own internal reality – resistant to change. We become in the present what we became in the past., i.e., we “futurize our past.” In Buddhist terms, we are attached to this inner reality, constantly reconditioning to itself. The brain also continually generates this closed internal representation of our outer world, seeing and relating to it the same way, over and over again, even if, IN REALITY, the outer world is changing. We are stuck in our “grooves.” We become caught in an emotional and psychological attachment – to survive – to stay, i.e., be, the same in order to feel safe ands secure.

As adults, our orientation to our world is largely how we were as infants, then children, then as adolescents, as young adults…. As adults, we are our earliest “grooves.”

Be a Work in Progress
The good news is that this “stability” helped us survive and make sense of our world as infants and children. The bad news is that it locks us into seeing and reacting to our present world and experiences in similar ways over time, i.e, we are hardwired to be resistant to change.

The key to true and lasting change, from the perspective of some psychotherapists, and from a Buddhist perspective is to open the closed system in such a way that we do not view our self as a calcified, reified structure but rather as a “process” – often why many folks who do deep personal work say they are “works in progress.” They no longer identify as “I am this” or “I am that” but see themselves simply as “being” (resulting from the process of sandpapering down the old grooves, and loosening the hard, rigid identification with one’s self, i.e., “who I think I am” or “who I take myself to be.”) and creating new grooves.

Change Cannot Be Cognitive Alone
An important point here is that such change most often cannot be done through the mind, i.e., “cognitive” efforts, alone. True change needs to be processed through a conscious mind-body-spirit process — one reason why “positive thinking”-type efforts seldom produce true, lasting change and transformation. The mind alone cannot “open” it’s own closed system.

Think of the moment you wake up. That split moment. When perhaps you hear the birds communing, or notice the sky, or hear the rain, or really smell the coffee – that split moment before “thinking” kicks in. That’s the place where true change and transformation takes place. That’s the place where we are an “open system.” Here, we are not conditioned by past experiences. We are completely present to our experience, right here and right now. No brain/mind to interrupt, to interpret, to link our present moment to past experience. Once “thinking “begins, almost all (change) bets are off.

As soon as we allow this moment to become influenced by memory, conditioning, and past experience, we slide right into the old “grooves” and are taken over by past perceptions, judgments, thoughts, beliefs, feelings, emotions, etc. — back to the old ways of “I am this” and “I am that.” We futurize our past. Our history take over. Our present is experienced through our past. We are clinging.

As soon as we begin “thinking,” then all the old feeling and emotional patterns related to our thoughts also arise. The clinging process is mental, cellular, neuronal, emotional, psychological and physiological as all our old patterns, urges, needs and desires arise, often unconsciously — just as the ball habitually returns to its starting place. Clinging that reinforces our closed-system inner reality, our old, habitual self.

“They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.” – Andy Warhol

Clinging is the basis of resistance to change. Clinging is a survival strategy that emanates from deep, deep down in our core. In every “new” situation, we keep “re-birthing” our old, fixed self and in the process our familiar, protective ways of defending our old, familiar, resistant self also arise. This process is our “way of life.”

Presence
A process that leads one to a conscious, deeper awareness of these dynamics, a process that supports one to move into presence (where identity with “grooves’ is non-existent), where there is no need to defend, where there is no attachment to “I am this” or “I am that” is one possible way to experience true and real shift and change. The “mind” alone cannot foster such change and that’s one reason we read of so many examples of “irrationality.”

The challenge is to choose to move away from “things mental and rational” into “things spiritual” (not religious or theological, but spiritual) where we shift from identification and the need to perpetuate our conditioned or habitual self, but towards an alignment or connection to our self as we are in that moment when we wake up, in that present-time experience, before “I”/”me” kicks in.

True and lasting change is an eminent possibility. But it takes time, consciousness, striving, honesty, steadfastness, courage, strength, will and lots of love and compassion for one’s self – qualities that for many in our culture seem to be in short supply.

We can smooth out our old grooves, the “gutter” of our past, the “irrationality,” and create new grooves — but just not by 9:00 tomorrow morning – a sad realization for many enmeshed in our microwave-oriented, Twitter-connected, 15-second sound-bite, seeking-immediate-gratification culture.

“It’s not that some people have willpower and some don’t. It’s that some people are ready to change and others are not.” – James Gordon, M.D.

Some questions for self-reflection:

  • On a scale of 1-10, what number describes your general feeling of impatience?
  • Do you ever reflect on how you came to be who you are, what you think or why you act the way you do? If so, what do you see about yourself? If not, are you curious as to why not?
  • Do you feel enslaved by your electronic life? Is this by choice?
  • What “old grooves” would you like to sand down and eliminate? What new groove would you like to create? Are there obstacles that prevent you from doing either, or both? How so?
  • Do you ever behave “irrationally” — do-ing or be-ing in ways you know you shouldn’t? If so, why?
  • What of your past do you cling on to? How so?
  • Can you envision a world where you feel free in most every moment, where you can let go of notions of how you “should” be and dis-identify with “I am this” or “I am that?,” where you’re not a fixed entity but a process?


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(c) 2017, Peter G. Vajda, Ph.D. and True North Partnering. All rights in all media reserved.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to share this reading with you and I hope you find it insightful and useful.  Perhaps you’ll share this with others, post it on a bulletin board, and use it to generate rich and rewarding discussion.

What is the one thing that is keeping you from feeling successful, happy, confident, in control or at peace as you live your life – at work, at home, at play or in relationship? Maybe you know what that “thing” is…maybe you don’t. You just have a feeling that something has to change, whether or not you embrace that change. And how would that change support you to show up as a “better you?”

I’m available to guide you to create relationships that reflect honesty, integrity, authenticity, trust, and respect whether at work or outside of work. I support you to focus on the interpersonal skills that enable you to relate to others with a high level of personal and professional satisfaction – unhampered by personal inconsistencies, beliefs, “stories,” and behaviors that create barriers to a harmonious, pleasant, conscious, compatible, healthy and productive relationship.

I coach by phone, Skype and in person. For more information, 770-804-9125, www.truenorthpartnering.com or pvajda(at)truenorthpartnering.com

You can also follow me on Twitter: @petergvajda.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TrueNorthPartnering

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Black Friday – And the Dark Side of Humanity

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The evil of our time is the loss of consciousness of evil.” – . Krishnamurti

“Outta my way!” seems to be the mantra that defines many folks’ orientation to Black Friday. In recent years, Black Friday has brought out the worst – the dark side, the shadow side – of folks. (The data are not in for 2017.)

Consider:

Police arrested a Wisconsin woman who cut in front of a long line – after she allegedly threatened to shoot those she moved ahead of.

In North Buffalo, New York, several shoppers were trampled – trampled! – as they surged through a Target store. Reports called it a “nasty mob.”

Out-of-control, pushy and unruly shoppers in Sacramento, California, caused a store to be evacuated. The Sheriff’s office had to be brought in.

In Tulalip WA, black Friday shoppers descended on a Nike store like a “Zombie Apocalypse.

But, wait, there’s more.

Store managers and others connected to these incidents say the causes, generally, are competition and anxiety. Competition and anxiety? Hmmm.

This gets me to thinking of how many of our workplaces – on the other 364 days a year –  are characterized by both subtle and not-so-subtle “competition and anxiety.” I’d guess more than a few. And, I’m curious about what the consequences are of much of our workplace “competition and anxiety.”

Often, folks experience colleagues and co-workers whose behavior reflects some type of assault on “anybody who gets in my way” – a “Black-Friday”-type of mentality of folks whose sole reason for living is to take care of themselves and work for their own good – blinded by their own ego-driven need to win or succeed at any cost.

While such violent instances of “stomping on” and “trampling over” others are not everyday occurrences in our workplaces, the mantra of “stepping on folks to get what I want” is  a mantra lived out daily by some leaders, managers and employees who are driven by their own flavor of “competition and anxiety.” While we don’t witness actual stampedes on a daily basis at work, we do witness more subtle, but equally-painful” crimes of “morale-stomping,” “spirit-stomping,” “satisfaction-stomping,” “passion-stomping” and “reputation-stomping” by those who mis-treat, mis-use and abuse their colleagues just to soothe their own ego needs for control, recognition and security – driven by “competition and anxiety.”

Those who step on and trample overs others to get what they want, to feel like a “somebody,” usually fall into such categories as: bullies, egoists, narcissists, and psychopaths – folks who don’t or can’t respect others, trust others or see the humanity in others – at work, and at home, at play and in relationship. Their deeper emotional and psychological issues drive them to regard relationships as win-lose or dominate. Their “win at all costs”, “zero-sum” approach to relationships is based a need to be triumphant while shaming or humiliating others.

Corrupting, manipulating, bullying, gossiping, one-upping, disrespecting, demeaning and devaluing others in order to gain power and praise, status and influence, and control reflect these folks’ “Black Friday, outta-my-way!” behaviors that destroy others – mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually and psychologically. Intimidation, back-stabbing, and sabotage are their “Black Friday, outta-my-way!” behaviors that cause others mental, physical, emotional, spiritual and psychological distress – stomping on others’ passion and spirit.

In order to survive, to feel “seen” and be “somebody,” these bullies, psychopaths and narcissists trample on others through humiliation, criticism, persecution, ignoring, sabotaging, attacking, scapegoating, ganging up on, controlling, denigrating, and contradicting others, as they seek special treatment for themselves.

From an emotional or psychological perspective, what brings one to trample on and walk all over others? What’s underneath their ruthlessness – their lack of sensitivity, respect or considerateness? Here are three sources:

  • Upbringing – being raised in a harsh, abusive environment where they were consistently called lazy, good for nothing, or stupid, i.e., a “nobody”. This individual sees the workplace as their “family.” Their “I’ll show you I’m somebody!” mantra drives them to walk over others in order to feel, and prove to others, they have value and worth.
  • Compliance – growing up in an environment that resembled boot camp. Now they intimidate and threaten in order to feel successful. They demand complete compliance and obedience. Stomping on others is their “motivational approach” to exacting compliance.
  • Ignorance – they don’t know how else to be. Growing up in an environment where force was king, they integrated “force” into their psyche and so, “force it is.” It’s their default programming.

On Black Friday, as well as in in many of our workplaces, the important question is, “Where is the civility?”

Some questions for self-reflection:

  • Do you experience folks being/feeling distressed in your workplace? Do you have systems in place to support these folks? If not, why not?
  • Are bullies, psychopaths and narcissists a major reason folks leave your organization? Is abuse a reason people leave?
  • How does your organization deal with abrasive people? Is abrasiveness condoned as “business as usual?”
  • How are matters of abuse dealt with?
  • Do performance and productivity suffer as a result of emotional distress? Are folks passive-aggressive? Is “presenteeism” a common occurrence in your workplace?
  • Do you suffer from presenteeism (showing up but far less than 100%) due to workplace bullies, psychopaths or narcissists?
  • Do folks feel helpless when dealing with arrogant, abrasive leaders, managers and colleagues?
  • Have you ever been accused of being arrogant, abrasive, bullying, or disrespectful? How did that make you feel?
  • Did people in your childhood environment reflect elements of bullying, narcissism or psychopathology? Did you? How so?
  • Have you ever stepped on someone else to get what you want? Do you now?
  • Have you ever been victimized by someone who stepped on you to get ahead? What was that like?

“The greatest evil is not done in those sordid dens of evil that Dickens loved to paint – but it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried) in clear, carpeted, warmed, well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voices.“- C.S. Lewis, Introduction of the Screwtape Letters

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(c) 2017, Peter G. Vajda, Ph.D. and True North Partnering. All rights in all media reserved.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to share this reading with you and I hope you find it insightful and useful.  Perhaps you’ll share this with others, post it on a bulletin board, and use it to generate rich and rewarding discussion.

What is the one thing that is keeping you from feeling successful, happy, confident, in control or at peace as you live your life – at work, at home, at play or in relationship? Maybe you know what that “thing” is…maybe you don’t.  You just have a feeling that something has to change, whether or not you embrace that change. And how would that change support you to show up as a “better you?”

I’m available to guide you to create relationships that reflect honesty, integrity, authenticity, trust, and respect whether at work or outside of work. I support you to focus on the interpersonal skills that enable you to relate to others with a high level of personal and professional satisfaction – unhampered by personal inconsistencies, beliefs, “stories,” and behaviors that create barriers to a harmonious, pleasant, conscious, compatible, healthy and productive relationship.

I coach by phone, Skype and in person. For more information, 770-804-9125, www.truenorthpartnering.com or pvajda(at)truenorthpartnering.com

You can also follow me on Twitter: @petergvajda.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TrueNorthPartnering

Spiritual Bypassing


Robert Augustus Masters, Ph.D., defines Spiritual Bypassing as “the use of spiritual practices/beliefs to avoid dealing with painful feelings, unresolved wounds, and developmental needs.” Masters suggests spiritual bypassing is so common “that it goes largely unnoticed.” In his book, Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism, Chogyam Trungpa, focuses on our deeply entrenched misuse of spirituality, and how  we use (and abuse) spirituality.

My curiosity is how and why folks use spirituality as a means to evade, deny, avoid and otherwise detour around their unresolved psycho-emotional issues.

Author Aletheia Luna explores ten of the most common forms of spiritual bypassing (summarized here):

1. The Optimistic Bypass
They love to laugh and smile, (and) seem to be forcefully optimistic.  “Focus on the positive!” “See the glass as half full!” “Don’t let a frown get you down!” are some of their common phraseology; they view optimism as a way of avoiding the more somber and troublesome realities of their life.  The optimistic bypass is often a side product of anger-phobia, or the inability to deal with their negative emotions.

2. The Aggrandizement Bypass
This is a type of self-delusion that some spiritual seekers use as a way of masking their perceived deficiencies and insecurities.  The aggrandizement bypass is adopted by those who seek to feel enlightened, superior or having reached higher planes of existence.  It is sometimes used by self-proclaimed masters, leaders, awakened souls and gurus.

3.  The Victim Bypass
When one becomes a victim of their gifts, or of other people, this takes away the pressure of responsibility for shaping a satisfying life and taking responsibility for one’s happiness – such is the case with the Victim Bypass.  This type of spiritual bypassing is often used by spiritual seekers who believe they have extrasensory gifts of some kind, but due to their gifts they are unable to feel happy or healthy.  Identifying as an  Empath is sometimes a good example of this type of bypassing, as it can be interpreted as the fault of other people and their emotions for behaving in self-destructive and volatile ways.

4. The Psychonaut Bypass
Many spiritual seekers explore the frontiers of the mind, the soul and reality through the use of psychedelic drugs such as LSD, DMT, psilocybin mushrooms, mescaline and other entheogens that expand the mind and perception of existence.  While this is a fascinating way of exploring reality, entheogens, like any other drug, can sometimes be used as a way of escaping reality and avoiding committing to personal development and soulful refinement.

5. The Horoscope Bypass
When we frequently look outside of ourselves for help and guidance, as is with the case with Horoscopes and Psychics, we are failing to tap into our inner wellsprings of wisdom and strength and are allowing external predictions to control the outcome of our lives.  The Horoscope Bypass is derived from a fear and mistrust of ourselves, our inability to make decisions, and our inability to deal with anything tough that comes our way.

6. The Saint Bypass
Since we were little we were taught that spiritual people were kind, compassionate and saintly.  We continued to repeat this story to ourselves when we ripened into adulthood, and for some of us it turned into our biggest nightmare.  The Saint Bypass is a reflection of extreme “black or white” thinking, promoting the underlying belief that spiritual people can’t have dark sides because that would make them “unspiritual”.  This type of bypassing is essentially an avoidance of one’s own Shadow Self by overcompensating with the guise of a sweet, heavenly, exterior.  Self-sacrifice is a major symptom of this type of bypassing.

7. The Spirit Guide Bypass
“I have an angel called Raphael who protects me.”  In some spiritual traditions it is a God who protects, in others an angel, an animal or an ascended being.  No matter who the Spirit Guide is, the belief that they are there to “protect” us is pleasing to the mind, but harmful to the soul.  When we place our faith in another being’s power to ward off danger and keep us safe, we are committing a classic spiritual bypass: that being avoiding responsibility for ourselves and our lives, and sidestepping the tough development of courage and resilience.  We are not children, but when we think of ourselves as being so we mold our lives in such a way that we fail to develop strength of spiritual character.  Spirit guides serve to teach us rather than to babysit us.

8. The Praying Bypass
Similar to the Spirit Guide Bypass, the Praying Bypass circumvents personal responsibility by putting faith in a higher being to solve all of our problems and issues.  While praying can be a healthy practice, it can easily become limiting and destructive.

9. The Guru Bypass
Often it is beneficial to latch onto a particular guru, shaman or spiritual teacher to learn and grow from, however, too much attachment can serve as another form of spiritual bypassing.  While not everyone has the ability to independently follow the path of spirituality, when we begin to worship another living being, we fall in love with the rose-colored illusory image we have of the teacher rather than the essence of their teachings.  Not thinking or discovering truth for ourselves by treating the words of a guru or master as scripture subtracts from our growth and our own mastery on our personal spiritual journeys.

10. The Finger-Pointing Bypass
On our spiritual quests we begin to see through the lies, delusions and crazy behaviors committed by our fellow human beings and this can make us angry, downhearted and greatly frustrated.  However, when we get caught up in “everything that is wrong” with the outside world and other people, dedicating our lives to the self-righteous quest of finger-pointing, this can be another form of spiritual bypassing.  Finger-pointing instills us with a false sense of righteousness, taking away our responsibility of looking inside and working on ourselves.  At its roots, the Finger-Pointing bypass is sourced from fear and avoidance, and is a powerful form of procrastination.

Author Linda-Ann Stewart says, “I’ve known many people who’ve used spirituality and meditation as a way of avoiding dealing with their issues. Since they feel good when they’re pursuing a spiritual path, guru, or new technique, they think that will make all the uncomfortable stuff dissolve and go away. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. Spirituality is no more a magic bullet than anything else.”

Lawreence LaShan, author, psychotherapist and meditation teachers, furthers, “…meditation can help strengthen the structure of our personality, making us better able to deal with our challenges. And it may give us more insight into our issues, but meditation doesn’t do away with them. It may reduce overall anxiety, make us feel safe, therefore better able to face ourselves, but we still need to do the internal work needed to bring about change.”

Whatever supports us to feel joy, or bliss or euphoria – alcohol, drugs, food, sex, spirituality, meditation… – can become addicting. We cling to the feeling and effort to experience it as often as possible. It makes our bad feelings go away. True, spirituality is a “healthier” escape than any of the others, but it still can be an escape. We need to ask ourselves, “What am I trying to escape from or avoid?”

“There needs to be a balance and a grounding at the same time. Getting carried away with bliss can mean not attending to day to day affairs, such as paying the bills, eating right, and having healthy relationships… The euphoria from spirituality and meditation doesn’t erase our personal responsibilities… But as long as it’s being used to avoid our feelings and deep issues, we can’t move forward. We’re either resisting discomfort or moving toward wholeness. We can’t do both”

Truth be told, we need to be able to balance our spiritual practices with our everyday and emotional lives and responsibilities. Spirituality and meditation can provide a sense of connection that we can then take into the rest of our experience. When we are able to acknowledge our issues, work through them, and accept all of ourselves, we’re honoring our spiritual essence.

“What gives light must endure burning.”   Viktor Frankl – Man’s Search for Meaning

Life is not easy. A life worth living is hard. The pursuit of harmony, balance, meaning, integrity, authenticity, love and all the rest…takes “work” – work that is uncomfortable, scary and damn challenging. It requires honesty, truth-telling (to our self to others). It requires exploring our shadow self, our illusions, our fears, “stories,” biases, prejudices, self-limiting and self-sabotaging beliefs, even our fake and phony spiritually-bypassing self.

Life is choices. Even a spiritual life.

Questions for self-reflection:

Do you ever use “spirituality” as a defense mechanism or a drug – a way to escape, avoid or deny painful aspects of your life?

Do you ever allow yourself to be walked all over, used, or disrespected in the name of “being spiritual,” or being “loving,” or “compassionate?” How so? What does your behavior get you?”

Do you ever immerse yourself in spirituality” as a way to avoid painful emotions – your anger, sadness, depression…? How so?

Do you ever use spiritual terminology, labels and the like to mask the shadows of your personality? How so?

What do you feel it would take to move from a place of self-deception to self-liberation, or from a place of idiot compassion to honest self-awareness and personal accountability in your interactions with others and with yourself?

Can you say with honesty, sincerity and self-responsibility, you are taking responsibility for your life – physically, mentally, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually?

Do you engage in addictive behaviors such as over-exercising, hyperactivity or workaholism, eating, watching/reading porn, other internet activity, material obsessions? How so?

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(c) 2017, Peter G. Vajda, Ph.D. and True North Partnering. All rights in all media reserved.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to share this reading with you and I hope you find it insightful and useful. Perhaps you’ll share this with others, post it on a bulletin board, and use it to generate rich and rewarding discussion.

What is the one thing that is keeping you from feeling successful, happy, confident, in control or at peace as you live your life – at work, at home, at play or in relationship? Maybe you know what that “thing” is…maybe you don’t. You just have a feeling that something has to change, whether or not you embrace that change. And how would that change support you to show up as a “better you?”

I’m available to guide you to create relationships that reflect honesty, integrity, authenticity, trust, and respect whether at work or outside of work. I support you to focus on the interpersonal skills that enable you to relate to others with a high level of personal and professional satisfaction – unhampered by personal inconsistencies, beliefs, “stories,” and behaviors that create barriers to a harmonious, pleasant, conscious, compatible, healthy and productive relationship.

I coach by phone, Skype and in person. For more information, 770-804-9125, www.truenorthpartnering.com or pvajda(at)truenorthpartnering.com

You can also follow me on Twitter: @petergvajda.
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TrueNorthPartnering

Pressure’s On

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Northern Illinois University professor Larissa Barber, PhD, coined the term “telepressure” – the urge to respond immediately to work-related messages, no matter when they come.”

A recent study in Time magazine reports: “The majority of US workers (52 percent) check their e-mail during non-work hours, including on sick days.  Depending on your employer, it may be an unspoken requirement to respond immediately, but, more likely, you respond right away not because of actual workplace policy but due to a phenomenon known as “telepressure.” Other research underscores our unhealthy attachment to our cellphones and the insanity of doing so.

Meshing work and home

The question I would interject is “To what degree is our addiction to being ‘connected’ 24/7 affecting your health – mental, physical, emotional, spiritual and psychological?”

Prof. Barber’s research found: “…those who felt greater telepressure, and therefore a stronger urge to check and respond to e-mails at all hours, faced some serious consequences.”

Knee-jerk reactions

Telepressure, in my experience, is a two edge sword – one edge, necessitating the other. On the one hand, our addiction to our devices creates a neurological dynamic in our brains, think “addiction”, to seek more and more stimulation – checking my iPhone, checking my smart phone, checking my social media sites…non-stop, always seeking more, more and more stimulation. It’s the progressive drug that requires ever greater doses in order to satiate.

The other edge is the immediacy with which we feel compelled to reply or to respond. This immediacy often precludes what’s needed in that very moment – time to reflect, time to think, time to analyze and time to step back. This immediacy often results in less-than-optimal choices and decisions. Lose-lose.

Psycho/emotional health

Prof. Barber reports that those who engage in this constant state of stimulus and response, face some serious health consequences: worse sleep, higher levels of burnout (physical and cognitive), and increased health-related absences from work.

Another unfortunate downside of always being “on” and “available” 24/7, 365 is pure and simple: exhaustion, stress, burnout, rust-out, disengagement and presenteeism (your body shows up, but you don’t).

The constant wear and tear and stress that accompanies always being “on” and “available” has serious psychological effects – suicidal thoughts, anxiety, and other stress-related afflictions such as diabetes, heart attacks, depression, alcoholism and drug addiction.

The body and mind cannot race at 100 miles an hour non-stop and not break down in some way, shape or form. No matter how invulnerable or  invincible you think you are.

The challenge for folks today is not how to connect but to disconnect. Our devices have become extensions of ourselves. Folks need to learn how to disconnect from their devices in order to connect or reconnect with themselves.

Other research tells us that spending an inordinate amount of time at night in artificial light, interferes with the body’s production of melatonin which helps regulate your sleep-wake cycle. People who use their computer or smartphones near bedtime are more likely to report symptoms of insomnia.

Crazy-busy

Many folks these days wear “crazy busy” as a merit badge. Many folks regard busyness and “living in the fast lane” as status symbols. These folks seem to think their status is in direct proportion to the number of emails they receive or number of meetings they attend. Writer Brigid Schulte, author of Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time, explains:

“…overwork has really become pervasive. I’m not talking about hard work. I’m all for hard work that we find meaning in. But overwork leaves us burned out and disengaged butts in chairs at work and fried at home without the energy to do much more than flop down in front of the boob tube.”

Antidotes

There are answers, or antidotes, if you’re able and willing to make some choices. Some suggestions:

Boundaries

Create boundaries between your work life and personal life. Plug-in when you’re at work and unplug when you’re not. Coming home and “plugging in” as a way of winding down and relaxing is powerfully self-destructive. To think of “plugging in” as a form of relaxation at home is a delusion, pure and simple. Nothing could be further from the truth. Unplug!

Exercise

Get your body moving; oxygenate your cells, your brain, your muscles, tendons and ligaments. Exercise reduces and alleviates stress. Exercise is a natural antidepressant.

Spend More Time outside

Being in nature, whether you’re actively running or walking, or gardening or simply sitting is a natural stress reducer. And being outside, unencumbered by your devices, is even more so.

Focus on Your Breath

Research is showing more and more today than mindfulness practice, which includes slow, quiet and deep breathing, can support your mind, body and spirit to be in optimal balance, harmony and regulation. Every cell in your body responds positively to mindfulness and breathing practices. Mindfulness and breathing practices help to regulate the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, producing states of inner peace, equanimity, serenity, positivity and the like.

Engage in what you enjoy

Do what you enjoy doing without giving in to yours or others’ critiques or judgments. Have fun.

Watch your diet

First and foremost, do you know the science between diet and health, between diet and energy, between diet and well-being, between gut-health and overall health, between eating early in the evening and eating just before bedtime and how food affects mood, the brain and you nervous system? If not, spend some quality time doing just a bit of research about diet and health. Eat mindfully. That is, dispense with the “mechanical hand” that shoves food in nonstop, unconsciously and focus on the “what” and the “how” when you’re eating. Be as peaceful as you can – in mind, body and spirit – when you eat.

Monitor your emotional state

Continually ask yourself with curiosity (and this is extremely important) and not with judgment or criticism, “What am I thinking?” And “What am I feeling?” Asking yourself these questions on a consistent basis can support you to become a witness, watcher and observer of yourself in such a that you become more and more able to move away from dysfunctional emotional states into states of positivity, stability and well-being. This practice can greatly help to reduce stress and short-circuit the beliefs and the thoughts which take you into the dark or gray places.

Connect

Loneliness is a huge stress producer. Set your intention to meet regularly with a good friend (or friends) on a regular basis so you can get “outside yourself.” Explore if there are ways you can serve and support others in some capacity to move out of your mental and emotional ZIP Code. Connection is good for the mind, body and soul.

Take “FSBs” – Frequent Short Breaks.

Get yourself a timer and set it to go off every 30 minutes. When it goes off (be reasonable; don’t plan this exercise if you know you’ll be in a meeting, etc.) and when it goes off stop what you’re doing and take one to two minutes to, for example, just breathe, go for a short walk – inside or out, stare out the window, meditate, walk up and down a flight of stairs, shake your body in place, and the like. Taking frequent short breaks is a powerful way to master your emotions, reduce stress, become more productive and energized, work optimally and otherwise experience a true sense of well-being.

Questions for self-reflection:

  • How often are you “connected” to your devices at home? Are you able to “unplug” at home?
  • Does your spouse/partner ever react that you spend more time with your phone than with him/her?
  • How knowledgeable are you about the relationship between diet and health?
  • Are you in good shape…but not in good psychological/emotional/spiritual health?
  • On a scale of 1(low) to 10(high) how would you describe your stress level on an average day at work, and at home?
  • Do you incorporate any of the suggestions above into your life? How so?
  • Do you go through withdrawal when you’re away from your devices for a while? What’s that like for you?
  • What’s your relationship with being alone and with loneliness?
  • Are you comfortable with silence?

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(c) 2017, Peter G. Vajda, Ph.D. and True North Partnering. All rights in all media reserved.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to share this reading with you and I hope you find it insightful and useful. Perhaps you’ll share this with others, post it on a bulletin board, and use it to generate rich and rewarding discussion.

What is the one thing that is keeping you from feeling successful, happy, confident, in control or at peace as you live your life – at work, at home, at play or in relationship? Maybe you know what that “thing” is…maybe you don’t. You just have a feeling that something has to change, whether or not you embrace that change. And how would that change support you to show up as a “better you?”

I’m available to guide you to create relationships that reflect honesty, integrity, authenticity, trust, and respect whether at work or outside of work. I support you to focus on the interpersonal skills that enable you to relate to others with a high level of personal and professional satisfaction – unhampered by personal inconsistencies, beliefs, “stories,” and behaviors that create barriers to a harmonious, pleasant, conscious, compatible, healthy and productive relationship.

I coach by phone, Skype and in person. For more information, 770-804-9125, www.truenorthpartnering.com or pvajda(at)truenorthpartnering.com

You can also follow me on Twitter: @petergvajda.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TrueNorthPartnering

Questions for Self-Reflection

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A prudent question is one-half of wisdom.” – Francis Bacon

I receive a fair amount of feedback on my weekly “food for thought” readings — it’s usually in response to the reading itself, but not always. Sometimes, folks respond to the list of “questions for self-reflection” following the reading. These latter comments can take the tone of: “interesting,” “different,” or “provocative.” However, from time to time someone comments that some these questions make them feel uncomfortable. It’s to these commenters that I reply, “Good!” Why do I respond this way?

Fundamentally, no true and real growth or lasting change can take place while one is in their comfort zone. For true and real change to happen, one needs to experience discomfort in some way, shape or form – a discomfort that awakens them to an “Oh, this is me and I never saw or felt this part of my self before”-type of experience – an AHA moment, an intuition, a “seeing, ” knowing or discovery. And, the process of seeing, knowing and discovering can often be uncomfortable, even painful (physically, emotionally, psychologically, and/or spiritually). But, change does not usually arise without it. Change is about becoming comfortable with your discomfort.

The beauty of self-reflective questions is they draw us out — support us to go deeper and deeper inside (if we choose) to see what our truth is below the surface — and it’s not always a welcome sight. Self-reflective questions introduce us to the parts of us that are unfamiliar — parts that live in our subconscious and in our intuitive self — parts that need to be seen, acknowledged and explored if we choose to experience true and real change and transformation.

A while back, I came across a book that blew me away – a book with questions. It’s called If — Questions for the Game of Life and is authored by Evelyn McFarlane and James Saywell. (I have no connection with these folks in any way.)

So this week, rather than writing my usual pieceand, and my “questions for self-reflection,” I want to offer you 20 self-reflection questions from their book. See where they take you, and enjoy the journey.

(Hint: once your initial, perhaps even knee-jerk, response comes up, consider taking some additional time – self-reflection time – to see if that’s really, really your final answer, i.e, the truth Maybe even ask yourself each question a number of times). Here they are:

1.If you found out for certain there was a Heaven and a Hell, how would you change your life?

2.If you had to name the one most important ingredient of human beauty, what would you say it is?

3.If you could rid your family of one thing, what would you choose?

4.If you were to prescribe a cure for grief, what would it entail?

5.If you were to select a moment when you were convinced an angel was watching over you, when would it have been?

6.If you could have had one person in your life be more candid with you than they were (or are) who would it be?

7.If you were going to die in ten minutes and could confess only one thing in order to pass with peace of mind, what would you say?

8.If you could change one thing about the way you were disciplined as a child, what would you alter?

9.If you had to eliminate one emotion from your life, which would it be?

10.If you could stop loving someone, who would it be?

11.In retrospect, if you cold have been nicer to one person in your life, who would it be?

12.If you could free yourself from one burden in your life, what would it be?

13.If you had to name the single most important thing in your life, what would it be?

14.If God were to whisper one thing in your ear, what would you like Him/Her to say?

15. If you could tell your mother or father one thing that you haven’t, what would it be?

16.If you could have your spouse(partner) say one thing about you to friends, what would you want him or her to say?

17.If you had to describe yourself as a child in one word, what would it be?

18.If you could go back in time and undo one injury you inflicted on someone else, what would it be?

19. If you could change one thing about your marriage (relationship), what would you alter?

20.If you could be emotionally closer to one member of your family, who would it be?

We accept many notions because they seem to be the logical answers to our questions. But have we asked the right questions?” – Harold L. Klawans

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(c) 2017, Peter G. Vajda, Ph.D. and True North Partnering. All rights in all media reserved.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to share this reading with you and I hope you find it insightful and useful.  Perhaps you’ll share this with others, post it on a bulletin board, and use it to generate rich and rewarding discussion.

What is the one thing that is keeping you from feeling successful, happy, confident, in control or at peace as you live your life – at work, at home, at play or in relationship? Maybe you know what that “thing” is…maybe you don’t. You just have a feeling that something has to change, whether or not you embrace that change. And how would that change support you to show up as a “better you?”

I’m available to guide you to create relationships that reflect honesty, integrity, authenticity, trust, and respect whether at work or outside of work. I support you to focus on the interpersonal skills that enable you to relate to others with a high level of personal and professional satisfaction – unhampered by personal inconsistencies, beliefs, “stories,” and behaviors that create barriers to a harmonious, pleasant, conscious, compatible, healthy and productive relationship.

I coach by phone, Skype and in person. For more information, 770-804-9125, www.truenorthpartnering.com or pvajda(at)truenorthpartnering.com

You can also follow me on Twitter: @petergvajda.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TrueNorthPartnering

Regaining Inner Peace

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I’m going to suggest some ways to find, or regain, inner peace. But, before I do, here are some “symptoms” that can tug on our sleeve, indicating we have, in fact, lost our sense of inner peace.

1.    I move through my day rather frenetically, often inattentive of the activities in which I’m engaged.
2.    I discover, after the fact, emotions that were driving my thoughts, words or actions earlier.
3.    I’m continuously bumping into things, losing things, dropping things and being careless.
4.    I find it challenging to be focused on the present moment.
5.    I often feel “off,” “out of it,” or disoriented.
6.    When I’m walking, or headed to a meeting or other event, place or location, I’m more focused on getting there and unaware of my experiences along the way.
7.    I’m unaware of physiological sensations of tension or upset until they become overwhelming.
8.    I have lots of difficulty remembering people’s names when I meet them for the first time.
9.    I’m very “robotic” (unaware) in the way I have moved to my day.
10. I listen, but I don’t hear.
11. I spend a fair amount of my time during the day living in the past or the future.
12. I sometimes find myself doing something without being able to remember why I’m doing it.
13. I eat with a “mechanical hand” – food to mouth, food to mouth without really consciously engaging in my eating experience.
14. I sometimes have difficulty remembering what I read right after I read it.
15. The calm and balance I used to experience is now very elusive.

Stress

There’s no question stress is affecting many of us, and it seems to greater and greater degrees as we move forward in our lives – at work, at home, at play and in relationship.

Inner peace

The underlying theme running through inner peace is simply that “all is well with the world.” In this place, nothing or no one can sap our physical or psycho/emotional strength, make us angry, upset, jealous, fearful, sad, or the like.

The fact is, each one of us has access to inner peace – it’s inside us, it’s always been inside us. The question is, “What separates us from that inner peace?” So, to make it more personal, right here and right now, take a deep breath or two into your belly, relax as best you can, sense your feet on the floor and, if you’re sitting, sense your back against the chair and allow the chair to support you, and ask yourself this question, “What is separating me, right here and right now, from the inner peace that I know is inside me?”

Be open, allowing and accepting and seeing what arises – without judgment, without criticism. Just be curious. What comes up for you? Tell the truth.

In essence, inner peace is a state where you are separate from your thoughts. Simple. But, not easy, right? Inner peace is a state where we’re less externally focused and more internally focused. “Inside” is where peace, equanimity, calm, happiness, etc. rest – not “out there.” You cannot create externally what you want to experience internally. This bears repeating – you cannot create externally what you want to experience internally.

Letting go

What would it take for you to let go of the externals (people, places, circumstances, events – past, present and future) and “be” right here and right now?

It’s not about thinking

The challenge is, “thinking” can’t get us there. While the neo-cortex (thinking, rational, logical, executive) part of the brain is powerful, it alone cannot get us to the place where we experience inner peace.

Other ways in

Moving into the right brain (e.g., the insula) and into the body is what allows us to access inner peace. For many folks meditation is the way in. But, it’s not the only way. Many folks don’t have the discipline or desire to meditate. And, that’s OK. Research tells us there are many “real world” and practical ways to get there. Here are some:

-Smile and/or laugh
-Spend time with an animal
-Spend time in nature, watch the clouds; just look out your window and see what you see.
-Do something kind for someone (and it doesn’t have to be on the “quantum” level)
-Take a 30-second break at various times throughout your day to be by yourself and just breathe (no need to make anything happen – just breathe) or stretch (not “gym” stretching, but kind, gentle, relaxed stretching) and be curious.
-Look around the room (or area, if you outside) and name the objects you see – no agenda here, no making anything happen, no judgment, just name what you see, while breathing gently.
-Use “touch points” – at various times throughout the day. When you touch something, e.g., An eating utensil, a doorknob, a computer mouse, a toothbrush and the like, notice where you are, how you’re feeling and what you’re doing – without judgment or criticism. Just notice. And, breathe.
-Notice five things in your day that you take for granted – that go unnoticed or are unappreciated – and be curious what life would be like for you not to have these things, or notice their fine details, or notice how these things benefit you, etc. No judgment. And, breathe.
-Scan your body. Starting at the top of your head and moving down through your body, pay attention to the physical feelings and sensations. Don’t judge them as good or bad, don’t try to change them, just be aware of them. Be curious. And, breathe.

These practices can support you to access inner peace, feel more grounded and centered and create a harmonious sense of balance. See what you see, what you discover. Be curious.

Some questions for self-reflection:

  • Do you experience any of the 15 symptoms listed at the beginning of this article? If so, which ones and how often? What thoughts, feelings, and physiological sensations do you notice as you reflect on these symptoms?
  • On a scale of one (low) to 10 (high), how would you characterize your stress level on an average day?
  • Is stress causing you mental, physical, emotional, psychological or spiritual challenges? How so?
  • If you’re one who knows that you need to relax more, and you are either unable or unwilling to do so, what gets in the way? How so?
  • Do you wear “crazy-busy” as a merit badge?
  • On that 1-10 scale, above, how comfortable are you with being alone, spending time with yourself?
  • To what degree do you look for “externals” to bring you “internal” inner peace? How’s that working? Is it a sustainable process? Is it tiring or exhausting? Exhilarating?
  • Do you ever feel victimized by the world, e.g., people, places, events, circumstances…? How so?
  • Do you spend a fair amount of time living in the past, or in the future? How so? What does living in the past or the future get you?
  • Are you happy -really, really, really happy?

 

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(c) 2017, Peter G. Vajda, Ph.D. and True North Partnering. All rights in all media reserved.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to share this reading with you and I hope you find it insightful and useful.  Perhaps you’ll share this with others, post it on a bulletin board, and use it to generate rich and rewarding discussion.

What is the one thing that is keeping you from feeling successful, happy, confident, in control or at peace as you live your life – at work, at home, at play or in relationship? Maybe you know what that “thing” is…maybe you don’t. You just have a feeling that something has to change, whether or not you embrace that change. And how would that change support you to show up as a “better you?”

I’m available to guide you to create relationships that reflect honesty, integrity, authenticity, trust, and respect whether at work or outside of work. I support you to focus on the interpersonal skills that enable you to relate to others with a high level of personal and professional satisfaction – unhampered by personal inconsistencies, beliefs, “stories,” and behaviors that create barriers to a harmonious, pleasant, conscious, compatible, healthy and productive relationship.

I coach by phone, Skype and in person. For more information, 770-804-9125, www.truenorthpartnering.com or pvajda(at)truenorthpartnering.com

You can also follow me on Twitter: @petergvajda.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TrueNorthPartnering

Living with Opposites

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One of the qualities of a “mature individual” (not chronologically mature, but emotionally, psychologically and spiritually mature) is the ability to hold in consciousness, and reflect upon, polarities at the same time, e.g., “light and dark” together. Many refer to this state as enlightening — being in a state where one does not have to, or choose to, opt for one over the other and can entertain both polarities at the same time, without judgment, but with curiosity.

Living in a world of duality
At work, at home, at play and in relationship, we live in a world of duality: love/fear, right/wrong, negative/positive, doing/being, sickness/health, comfort/risk, inner/outer, self/others, powerful/powerless, safe/unsafe, etc.

For many at work, in particular, living with duality results in stress, overwhelm, and tension on a daily basis. Consider the tension some experience as they move back and forth on a continuum between:  under budget/over budget, team cooperation/team competition; employees who are continuous learners/employees who are on “cruise control,” open and honest communication/hoarding information; bosses who are supportive, servant leaders, compassionate and nurturing/bosses who are bullies and overbearing; meaningful work/dull, boring and routine work; latest software that fosters effectiveness/legacy software that fosters ineffectiveness; efficient processes and procedures/bureaucratic processes and red tape; integrity, honesty and transparency/phoniness, dishonesty and duplicity…the list of such continuums is endless.

Stress, overwhelm, upset, resistance, fear, resentment and regret surface when we want to experience only one end of the continuum and reject the other. Many live their lives at work (and at home, at play and in relationship) believing that one side is good or right and the other is bad or wrong. In the end, much of their pain and suffering (mental, physical, emotional, social and psychological) results when they view, and live life in, their world from this “right/wrong,” “good/bad” mindset or world view, All they create for themselves is continuous pain and suffering in some way, shape or form.

Being out of balance
When we put all our attention, and intention, on one end of any continuum of opposites, (it doesn’t matter which end), our energy is out of balance. Accepting only one side of a duality and rejecting the other does not lead us to wholeness.

IMPORTANT: This notion is NOT to suggest that one “needs to engage in and behave” according to one end of a continuum that one views as “negative, unethical, out of integrity, or self-sabotaging,” etc. IT IS about asking one’s self why this other end of the continuum is in one’s life experience, however. IT IS about asking one’s self “Why is this behavior, event, person or circumstance in my life?”

Why is this happening FOR me?
In other words, asking one’s self the all-important and powerful question, “Why is this experience happening FOR me?” ( instead of TO me, which simply allows one to engage in a reactive, victim consciousness and blaming mentality). Exploring that “other end” of the continuum from this deeper “FOR me” perspective can move one to a level of inquiry and self-reflection that takes into account one’s values, motives, life purpose, assumptions, preconceptions, “stories,” etc., and can lead one to conscious personal and professional growth and maturation by looking at how one chooses to respond to the person, event or behavior that is “dark, bad, or wrong…” Such an exploration can serve to support us to clarify our own values, and ways of thinking, be-ing and do-ing.

Life is Choices
For example, “Why do I choose to go along with unethical and illegal practices in my workplace?” Why do I choose to go along with bullying bosses and gossiping that is destroying morale?” “Why do I choose not to speak up about how I can improve processes and procedures?” “Why do I choose to accuse another of being fake and phony?” “Why do I choose to take credit for another’s work?” “Why do I chose to feel threatened, play small, be invisible and not allow my voice?” “Why do I choose to allow others to hoard information?” “Why do I choose to allow expenditures that are unnecessary?” “Why do I choose to allow others to be disengaged?” “Why do I choose not to ask others to be the change they want to see in others?” In essence, why do choose to point to so many others as being “wrong” or “bad?”

There’s no light without darkness
Many folks want to experience life from the “good/positive” side of the continuum only or try to live life with a “positive mental attitude”. The result for these many is more often that not an experience of struggle, frustration, resentment, and despair. Why? Because they are out of balance. There is no one end to a continuum and denying the other end is an exercise in futility. In our world of duality, any effort to focus all attention on the “light” only serves to increase the power of the “darkness.”

We cannot live a life of balance by clinging to just one side.

The antidote
So what is the solution? How do we work with the tension of the two ends of the continuum? How do we balance or resolve them?

The reality is that the contrast is important to experience. The contrast of the opposites gives each end its identity. We can’t know “hot” unless we also know “cold,” “dark” unless we experience “light,” “good” unless we experience “evil.”  The two ends need each other to make sense. Like the back and forth swing of a pendulum, our experience of duality must include both the positives and negatives, like love and fear, health and disease, joy and grief. We can’t swing in just one direction. To grow in consciousness and self-awareness, we must honor the integrity of both parts and seek the middle, higher path of experience and expression.

Both
A next step is to find a new perspective that allows one to understand (not agree with, necessarily), acknowledge and accept both extremes at once. From this perspective, we can see the role that both ends play, if we choose to. If we can let go of our mind’s need to accept one and reject the other, and the attendant opinions, assumptions, and judgments we have, (the ones we use to judge the other as “bad” and “wrong”), we’re more able to experience life as it is as opposed to what we want (or don’t want) it to be.

From this place, when we bring together two opposites into a higher understanding, we grow in consciousness, self-awareness, maturity and the ability to self-reflect. We learn to inquire into, be curious about, and explore why these elements are in our life, right here and right now (since there is no such thing as “circumstance”) and what these elements can teach us about our self, our values, our life, our choices.

We can inquire into these elements, the “other end”, and discover what life’s lessons they present FOR us. The result is learning how to move through the not-so-pleasant vicissitudes of life, and growing our self in the process, as opposed to living a life of overwhelm, stress and tension, always feeling like a victim, constantly blaming, finding fault, fearing, nagging, moaning, rejecting and denying.

No irritant, no pearl
The pearl in the oyster cannot arise without the grain of sand that serves as the irritant which spurs its growth. No irritant, no pearl. One may choose to judge the person or event that appears at the other end of a continuum as an irritant (i.e., bad, wrong, etc.) The important questions are (1) “Why?” and (2) “How is (are) it/she/they supporting me to see more about my self through my (emotional) reactivity, thus enhancing my growth?”

Some questions for self-reflection:

  • What bothers you (at work, home, play or in relationship)? Why? Why do you think this “irritant” is in your life right now?
  • How are you choosing to deal with this irritant?
  • Why do you think reasonable, rational and decent people do things that annoy you? (Or, do you feel everyone who annoys you is unreasonable, irrational and not decent?”)
  • What are the real issues that cause you to react to the end of the continuum that you see as “bad” or wrong?” Why do you think these people, events or circumstances are in your life?” To simply allow you to get mad, angry and reactive? If there were a deeper purpose, what would it be?
  • When you see the other end of the continuum as “the problem,” that thought of yours alone is the problem. What do think about that?
  • Do you normally view the world, and the people in it, from a “right/wrong”, “good/bad” perspective? If so, why? What would your colleagues and friends say?
  • When was the last time you admitted to being “wrong?”
  • Does ambiguity or conflict bother you? How so?
  • Would you consider yourself to be a tolerant person? Would your colleagues and friends agree?
  • Think of a situation or a person where you can’t see the good, the truth or the beauty. What would you have to do or perceive to see the truth or beauty of this person or situation?
  • It is useless to discuss harmony in our world at work, without first creating harmony in ourselves. Would you agree?
  • What in your life do you resist looking at? Does this cause you tension? What would happen if you did look and allowed the tension to be there at the same time?
  • When you accept the vicissitudes and challenges in your life at work (at home, at play, in relationship), as part of life, do you experience more or less of a sense of well-be-ing? How so?
    —————————————————–
    (c) 2017, Peter G. Vajda, Ph.D. and True North Partnering. All rights in all media reserved.I’m grateful for the opportunity to share this reading with you and I hope you find it insightful and useful.  Perhaps you’ll share this with others, post it on a bulletin board, and use it to generate rich and rewarding discussion.

    What is the one thing that is keeping you from feeling successful, happy, confident, in control or at peace as you live your life – at work, at home, at play or in relationship? Maybe you know what that “thing” is…maybe you don’t. You just have a feeling that something has to change, whether or not you embrace that change. And how would that change support you to show up as a “better you?”

    I’m available to guide you to create relationships that reflect honesty, integrity, authenticity, trust, and respect whether at work or outside of work. I support you to focus on the interpersonal skills that enable you to relate to others with a high level of personal and professional satisfaction – unhampered by personal inconsistencies, beliefs, “stories,” and behaviors that create barriers to a harmonious, pleasant, conscious, compatible, healthy and productive relationship.

    I coach by phone, Skype and in person. For more information, 770-804-9125, www.truenorthpartnering.com or pvajda(at)truenorthpartnering.com

You can also follow me on Twitter: @petergvajda.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TrueNorthPartnering

This Week is Last Week’s “Next Week.”

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Speaker pageFacebook Page, Becoming a Better You book page

I recently had a conversation with an individual about how her life is unfolding these days. Short answer: “It’s terrible.” I asked, “Going forward, if this week were typical of next week, and the next week, and the week after that, and the next six months, the next year and five years after that, would it be OK?” She instinctively reacted: “No!” – filled with resentment, frustration, and muted rage. When I asked what she’s doing about her life, she sort of responded with a “Well, you play with the hand you’re dealt” attitude — being the victim — intimating that she’s too flooded by victimization consciousness to take time to stand back and gain a larger perspective or do anything constructive about changing.

Julia (not her real name), a successful professional woman, spouse and mother is basically unhappy – stressed out by her work, by her relationship, by her children, by the uncertainty of the economy, by the state of her physical health and her social life. Nothing seems to be “working” as she phrased it. When asked, “Why not?,” she thought for a moment and said, “I don’t know; I just don’t have time to get my life together.” That’s when I asked the “Well if this week is typical?” question.

So, what about you? How are you showing up in your life – not just life at work but life at home, life in relationship, and life at play?

Presenteeism
Presenteeism” is a term used most often to describe a form of “disengagement-with-life” type of fog with which folks show up in life. The reality is many folks are exhibiting presenteeism in one or more aspects of their life. They are physical, emotional and mental wrecks to some degree — often, a larger, not smaller, degree. Many folks are not doing justice to their work, their spouse, their children, their friends, or their own self because they’re suffering from presenteeism.

Being the victim
Because many folks are acting as the victim, reactively and begrudgingly living with the “hand they are dealt,” and choosing not to be proactive about changing their life or lifestyle, they are experiencing stress, overwhelm, confusion and quiet desperation – played out in their self-destructive life habits — lack of sleep, poor diet, workaholism, sickness, disease, lack of exercise, estrangement from family members (even while living in  the same house), being abusive, argumentative, resistant and resentful. Moreover, they have mostly concocted “stories” to justify why they can’t move off the dime. And thus their “insanity” continues, you know, doing the same thing the same way, over and over again and expecting different results each time.

Reflect
So, maybe this is a good time to explore your relationship with presenteeism, with your own “insane” way of dealing with your life, with change and with the stories you use to justify and rationalize why you are where you are. And in that vein here are some considerations that can support your journey forward so that the “next week” and the “next week etc. might not be carbon copies of this week or last week.

Work life:
How is your relationship with your work? Why do you do what you do? What attitudes do you bring with you to your workplace? Do these attitudes support your well-being? Do you find meaning in your work –  even in the mundane (hint: it’s possible)? Are you engaged at work, passionate, challenged, unhappy or overwhelmed? Would you do this work even if you weren’t paid? What do you like about your work (place)? How do you justify doing work you don’t like?

Family life:
What’s your relationship with your family like? Is the value of family “being the most important thing in my life” borne out by the “reality” of how you relate to your family? Is there a disconnect, a discomfort? Are you satisfied with your relationship to your spouse or partner, to your children? What about real connection and intimacy? Is something missing? What about your relationship with your parents, sisters or brothers? How’s that working? Is your relationship with your family “this week” exactly what you would like it to be in the weeks, months and years ahead? How do you rationalize and justify unhappy and unfulfilling relationships that you allow to continue? Do you allow your job to keep you from your family (that “most important thing in my life”)?

Your health:
How well do you take care of yourself? And what rationalizations, stories and justifications do you use for not taking care of yourself? How do you explain neglecting your health to your spouse/partner and children? If you became disabled tomorrow, how would that affect your family and others who care about you? Are you a good role model for others in the way you deal with your health? Do you urge your spouse/partner and children to follow your health patterns?

Social life:
Are you a friend to your friends? Or are they more the friend and you the recipient of their friendship? Do you take more than you give? Are friends important to you? How do they know? Do you subjugate friendship to a low priority, even though friendship is important? What rationalizations, stories and justifications do you use for doing so? If you have no friends, what is that about? Are your friendships consistently superficial or are they continually ripening and deepening? Do you have true and real friends at work? Are most of your friends “Internet friends?”

Your happiness:
Are you happy? Be honest, brutally honest. Do you experience joy in your life? And never mind the “it’s all relative” or “compared to whom/what” retort. You know if you are; you know if you aren’t. It’s about the truth. Are you settling? Are you resigned? Are you OK with your level of happiness? Do you know how to achieve true and real happiness? What justifications, stories and rationalizations do you use to explain your level of happiness? Is your level of happiness “this week” exactly what you would like it to be in the weeks, months and years ahead? Is happiness in the foreground or background for you? Why? What brings you joy?

Some questions for self-reflection:

  • If last week or this week were typical of next week, the week after and the week after that, and every week for the next six months, every week for the next two years, would that be OK with you? If not, why not?
  • What one or two baby steps can you take this week — this present moment, now — to move in the direction of having “next week” be truly better/different than “this week?”
  • What has to happen, or not happen, for you to take a first step towards change?
  • What conversation(s) do you need to have in order to move forward?
  • Resistance to change is based on fear – always. What are you afraid of? Be honest and tell the truth. Who or what can help you move through your fear, your procrastination or your stuckness?
  • How did you and your family deal with change when you were growing up?

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(c) 2017, Peter G. Vajda, Ph.D. and True North Partnering. All rights in all media reserved.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to share this reading with you and I hope you find it insightful and useful.
Perhaps you’ll share this with others, post it on a bulletin board, and use it to generate rich and rewarding discussion.

What is the one thing that is keeping you from feeling successful, happy, confident, in control or at peace as you live your life – at work, at home, at play or in relationship? Maybe you know what that “thing” is…maybe you don’t. You just have a feeling that something has to change, whether or not you embrace that change. And how would that change support you to show up as a “better you?”

I’m available to guide you to create relationships that reflect honesty, integrity, authenticity, trust, and respect whether at work or outside of work. I support you to focus on the interpersonal skills that enable you to relate to others with a high level of personal and professional satisfaction – unhampered by personal inconsistencies, beliefs, “stories,” and behaviors that create barriers to a harmonious, pleasant, conscious, compatible, healthy and productive relationship.

I coach by phone, Skype and in person. For more information, 770-804-9125, www.truenorthpartnering.com or pvajda(at)truenorthpartnering.com

You can also follow me on Twitter: @petergvajda.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TrueNorthPartnering

 

No Mud, No Lotus

lotus-614421_960_720[1]

Speaker pageFacebook Page, Becoming a Better You book page

Over the years, I’ve become a devout believer in the notion of necessary suffering – that you cannot heal, grow or become “conscious,” and deeply self-aware, without suffering.

Thich Nhat Hahn, Buddhist monk and author, puts it this way:

It’s like growing lotus flowers. You cannot grow lotus flowers on marble. You have to grow them on the mud. Without mud, you cannot have a lotus flower. Without suffering, you have no ways in order to learn how to be understanding and compassionate. That’s why my definition of the kingdom of God is not a place where suffering is not, where there is no suffering…”

For me, it’s not a question of whether you believe in God (Source, Spirit or whatever you call a higher power), nor is it about religion or theology. It is about how one transforms to a higher state of self-awareness and consciousness (one’s True, Authentic Self) so that one can walk the planet on a daily basis from a place of equilibrium, inner peace and equanimity.

The Buddha says:

As a blue or white lotus is born in the water,
grows up and is unpolluted by the water,
so too has the perfected one grown up in the world,
has risen above the world
and stands unpolluted by it. – samyutta nikaya 22.94

The science of it all
The reason the Lotus flower is not polluted is due to its leaves. The leaves represent what is known as the “Lotus effect” – the leaves are so structured that water beads up and off the leaves, keeping the flower from being polluted. In fact, the leaves clean the lotus of real or potential pollution.

The science, according to Wikipedia, is:  “…due to their high surface tension water droplets tend to minimize their surface trying to achieve a spherical shape. On contact with a surface, adhesion forces result in wetting of the surface: either complete or incomplete wetting may occur depending on the structure of the surface and the fluid tension of the droplet.” The cause of self-cleaning properties is the hydrophobic water-repellent double structure of the surface.

The nature of pollution
So, consider your life – at work, at home, ay play and in relationship. Are you confronted by “suffering” in some way, shape or form daily? Better, how are you confronted by suffering on a daily basis? Most of us are. How is it that we can manage to NOT be immersed by the polluted waters – literally and figuratively – of the context of our past and immediate environments?

The fact is each one of us grows up immersed in the “mud” – an environment characterized by wounding – abuse, criticism, judgments, abandonment, rejection and the like – an environment in which every family operates, into which every human being is born. It’s the human experience. The degree of suffering may differ; but the muddy environment is there. The mud also represents painful childhood memories. Later on in life, the mud represents our immediate, real-world, real-time “suffering” – mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually, and psychologically – that arises in the form of our life challenges – health, finances, social and living conditions, career, relationships, social life, finances, etc.

When we get in touch with our own suffering, head-on – recognizing it, being open to it, chewing on it, digesting it, understanding the purpose of it, metabolizing it, rather than denying and avoiding it, we grow, we become more conscious, self-aware. When this happens, suffering is still there, but the “charge” it used to have becomes less and less as we understand the reasons for the suffering, how it leads to our growth, our self-understanding and our healing. It’s the idea that you can have pain, but you don’t have to suffer.

The antidote to pollution
The growth of the Lotus, our individual Lotus, represents transformation – moving from suffering towards happiness, love, peace, and stillness in our life – at work, at home, at play and in relationship.

When we do the “work” to transform, we gain clarity, insights, AHA moments all of which point to the “purpose” of our suffering, our wounding, and our challenges. In the process of understanding, something shifts. Your attitudes, your responses, your perspective. Where your focus is more on your Lotus, less on the mud.

Understanding our own suffering, we can also begin to understand others – as well – the place from which love and compassion grow. Many of us resist getting in touch with our suffering. But, when we do get in touch, we actually suffer less. We become the Lotus.

That’s the nature of the Lotus. That’s the nature of the mud.

Some questions for self-reflection:

  • Do you ever feel like a victim? If so, why? How does that show up in your life?
  • Has your suffering taught you anything/lessons? How so? What have you seen/learned?
  • What would it be like if you viewed your suffering as happening FOR you and not TO you?
  • Do you feel you are in control of your life? If not, why not?
  • Do you believe that change begins with you?
  • Do you tend to move away from your discomfort? If so, what might it be like to embrace it? How do you feel when you consider this option?
  • To what degree (1-10), on a daily basis, do you identify with the mud, with the Lotus?
  • How did you experience suffering as a child? Do you still carry scars of that suffering with you now? How so?

P.S. If you’re someone with a tendency to want/need to fix, save or otherwise rescue others from their suffering, the story of the butterfly and the cocoon is worth reading. You can find one of many versions here.
—————————————————–

(c) 2017, Peter G. Vajda, Ph.D. and True North Partnering. All rights in all media reserved.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to share this reading with you and I hope you find it insightful and useful.
Perhaps you’ll share this with others, post it on a bulletin board, and use it to generate rich and rewarding discussion.

What is the one thing that is keeping you from feeling successful, happy, confident, in control or at peace as you live your life – at work, at home, at play or in relationship? Maybe you know what that “thing” is…maybe you don’t. You just have a feeling that something has to change, whether or not you embrace that change. And how would that change support you to show up as a “better you?”

I’m available to guide you to create relationships that reflect honesty, integrity, authenticity, trust, and respect whether at work or outside of work. I support you to focus on the interpersonal skills that enable you to relate to others with a high level of personal and professional satisfaction – unhampered by personal inconsistencies, beliefs, “stories,” and behaviors that create barriers to a harmonious, pleasant, conscious, compatible, healthy and productive relationship.

I coach by phone, Skype and in person. For more information, 770-804-9125, www.truenorthpartnering.com or pvajda(at)truenorthpartnering.com

You can also follow me on Twitter: @petergvajda.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TrueNorthPartnering

 

 

I Don’t Know

whySpeaker pageFacebook Page, Becoming a Better You book page

So, can you remember a recent time you were in conversation with someone and said, openly and honestly, “I don’t know.”? And, felt completely at ease and at peace with “not knowing”?

Why we feel we need to know
In life — at work, at home, at play and in relationship — we’re expected to have certain capacities and competencies – i.e., “know-how.” Others often expect or depend on our ability to know how to have, be or do.

But, what happens inside us when facing a dilemma, a conundrum, a challenge or problem and we “just don’t know?”

In Western culture, it’s common to want (or need?) to “save face” and often when we feel challenged, we  conjure up the “appearance of knowing.” Why? In order to show we’re in control and be recognized for what we know. In our culture, we overemphasize how much we know. While we may feel that “not knowing” is unacceptable, the fact is we often just don’t know from time to time.  Isn’t that true?

Why “not knowing” puts us on the defensive
When we don’t know, we often move into an unconscious reactivity to “defend” ourselves in some way, shape or form — i.e., clinging to jargon, double-speak, techno-babble and the like to mask our unknowing, or we create a facade or fakeness about knowing — sometimes resorting to facts or figures to cloud an issue, or muddying already-murky waters — or we avoid, i.e., feigning “exclusion” or seeking allies to support our not knowing, or we blame someone else in order to deflect our discomfort, fear, insecurity or uncertainty. All of this to be in control and protect our fragile egos.

The benefit of not knowing
In Eastern, and other, cultures, “not knowing” is often seen as a self-supporting, personal-developmental practice that can actually bring one to be ever more effective in experiencing life. Welcoming a conflict or problem with a sense of “not knowing” can be an opportunity for creativity and insight, greater self-awareness. The darkness of the unknown supports us to access our inner strength, our inner wisdom and higher self. Asking positive — not-fear-based, reactive — questions from a place of curiosity can support us to overcome our fear, uncertainty, doubt or feelings of lack or deficiency.

Actually “not knowing” gives us an opportunity to consciously slow down, “take a deep breath,” delete our assumptions, misperceptions, misunderstandings, “stories” or expectations so we can be present in the moment, right here and right now, without the intensity, irritation and agitation to “get somewhere else,” to have an answer, to be right. “Not knowing” gives us an opportunity to relax into our body and mind, focus on the foreground and the background, to “see beyond our eyes,” to jettison “my knowledge” and be curious about what I don’t know. “Not knowing” is all about curiosity, the adventure of “finding out” from a place of “Hmmm, that’s interesting. I wonder what that’s all about.”

“Not knowing” is about “punctuation,” – i.e., more question marks and fewer periods. It’s about being inquisitive, not about ego, personality, blaming, judging or “being right.” When we “don’t know” we invite, we are open, we ask and observe, watch and listen. We slow down, settle and give up our need to be “the expert.” We allow life to unfold; we don’t “make” life unfold.

Rather than defending against “not knowing, we can relax into “not knowing” as a part of who we are, knowing that it’s a part of our everyday life and an opportunity to grow and learn something new about ourselves in the process.

So, Two sets of questions:

Questions that evolve from a place of “not knowing:

  • If there is a deeper reason for me to be here, what is it?
  • What’s important to me about this situation and why do I care?
  • What’s my intention here? What’s my deeper purpose – the “big why” – that is worthy of my best effort?
  • What stands in the way of my being fully present in this situation?
  • What draws me to this interaction?
  • How much does the first person who speaks set the tone for the ensuing conversation?
  • Can I by-pass some of the trust issues that normally keep me from opening up and moving into deep conversations?
  • Can I step into the unknown?
  • To what degree might it be possible for me to see the world/issue/problem through another’s eyes?
  • What am I hiding?
  • Do I give myself permission to be fully myself?
  • Does my “expertise” distract me from exploring the essence of the issue/question?
  • How comfortable am I with not knowing?
  • What would someone who had a very different set of beliefs than I do say about this situation?
  • What is missing from the picture so far? What am I not seeing? Where do I need more clarity?
  • What could happen that would enable me to feel fully engaged and energized in this situation?
  • What’s possible here and who cares about it?
  • How can I support others in taking the next steps? What unique contribution can I make?

and

Some Questions for Self-Reflection:

  • Is it OK to “not know”?
  • How do I feel when I “don’t know?”
  • What behavior(s) do I engage in when I “don’t know?” Do I ever “pretend” I do know? How so?
  • Do I ever see “beyond my eyes”? (observe what’s around you that you’ve never noticed before…e.g., a crack in the floor, color/shapes of plants in the office, another’s tone of voice, color of lights in the elevator, someone’s usual way of talking or their body-language, softness of the carpet in my living room, others’ email signatures, pictures in the taxi, store, etc..)?
  • What in life are you curious about? Have you explored further? How so?
  • Do you resist “not knowing?” If so, why?
  • What is one upcoming opportunity where you can practice “not knowing?”
  • What was always needing to “know” like for you and your family when you were growing up?
    —————————————————–
    (c) 2017, Peter G. Vajda, Ph.D. and True North Partnering. All rights in all media reserved.I’m grateful for the opportunity to share this reading with you and I hope you find it insightful and useful.  Perhaps you’ll share this with others, post it on a bulletin board, and use it to generate rich and rewarding discussion.

    What is the one thing that is keeping you from feeling successful, happy, confident, in control or at peace as you live your life – at work, at home, at play or in relationship? Maybe you know what that “thing” is…maybe you don’t. You just have a feeling that something has to change, whether or not you embrace that change. And how would that change support you to show up as a “better you?”

    I’m available to guide you to create relationships that reflect honesty, integrity, authenticity, trust, and respect whether at work or outside of work. I support you to focus on the interpersonal skills that enable you to relate to others with a high level of personal and professional satisfaction – unhampered by personal inconsistencies, beliefs, “stories,” and behaviors that create barriers to a harmonious, pleasant, conscious, compatible, healthy and productive relationship.

    I coach by phone, Skype and in person. For more information, 770-804-9125, www.truenorthpartnering.com or pvajda(at)truenorthpartnering.com

You can also follow me on Twitter: @petergvajda.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TrueNorthPartnering