Chatting with Phyllis Serene on Emotional Fitness

I had a wonderful time chatting with Phyllis here at Mestizo in Vilcabamba, Ecuador. We discussed a wide range of applications, all grounded in healthy emotional fitness.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this talk. Can you relate? Am I missing anything? Do you agree with how relevant I think this is for all of us?

On Sobriety Challenges…

Please consider this, that the point of removing vice is to get clearer about your core being.

I’m not talking about your core physical being, I’m talking about your core existential being, your spiritual self.

What’s the opportunity of getting sober?

Inspired by this article on vice.com, I was moved to express a more complete consideration of giving up vices.

The exercise that can be played with is noticing the filters that are added, or not, with various substances. Spending weeks, months, or years using alcohol on a regular basis, and fundamentally alter your perceptions and your interpretations. Same is true with any mind altering substance or process. Sex, overworking, gambling, are all processes that alter your mentality, and whether that’s past an unreality threshold is up to you to decide (though it’s highly recommended to consider this with a healthy, objective advocate).

It’s up to you to determine whether or not that affect is beneficial to your life or not, but a period of sobriety can give you a chance to compare and contrast how to affect you. The same as with any other substance or process, take work versus vacation as a simple example as well, and compare and contrast the difference of your being in each of those different activities.

A greater, more fulfilling payoff

It seems to be trendy and exciting to simply remove vices, but the opportunity presented is much greater than just getting through a 90-day challenge of not partaking.

Thus, I propose a distinction between “sobriety” and “recovery”. In recent personal research, I found numerous alternatives to AA being listed as “Top XX Ways To Get Sober”, but the distinction with AA is that a fundamental part of the process was to reconsider how we were moving through the world, what type of character we were living with.

My time of sobriety was the most transformative of my life, and I can only wish others to experience the same depth of transformation that I had, or that I’ve seen in others that have seriously explored sobriety, or more specifically, recovery.

The Basics: Thus Spake Zarathustra (Happy New Year 2013!)

I love re-watching great movies as I get older. So much to behold and learn. It reminds me of a simple truth…

There are Truths.

A teacher of mine made me aware of the fact that there are some things in life that are true, regardless of time or circumstance. Once I became willing to believe that, and became willing to learn from others, I started seeing the truth (sic) in that statement.

For much of my life, I was a skeptic; and over time while living with those lenses on, I became a cynic. In hindsight, I see that as grossly self-indulgent, insisting life conform to the way I expected it to look. Thankfully, the unsustainability of that worldview bore itself out by bringing me to my proverbial knees, presenting me with one of my first unassailable truths, that I can’t control my entire world.

I had reached my bottom.

In the past eight years, I’ve come to appreciate an endless source of beauty and peace from that acknowledgement, and I’ve been able to recover much of what I had lost in all that time. There’s a lightness of being that is freely available when one is humble towards what they have power over, and what they don’t. Recognizing, and choosing that, is often a moment-to-moment playground of opportunity.

While there are infinite sources of innovation and creativity, which we see spring around us every day (especially thanks to the Internet), there are these Truths (with a capital “T”) that make themselves available to us. We can choose to live them or not; even become champions, insisting and defending them against apathy and confusion.

If you’re seeking truth for yourself, I encourage you to talk about it openly. While there are individuals that would try to take advantage of innocence, given enough open-mindedness, willingness, and honesty, you’ll be sure to recognize what feels Right for you.

Here’s to another amazing year ahead, 2013. I hope you are able to see the abundance of opportunities available to you, and I hope you relish the experiences you choose.

A New Program: Letters of Diplomacy

I’m starting a new series of posts, for those times when communications are challenging. There have been countless times when someone just didn’t know how to work things out with someone, and a written letter was a productive tool. I’ll be writing up examples of letters that can work in those situations. If you have suggestions of challenging situations, or of letters you think would work, please let me know!

If you’re struggling at all, read this.

Note: this is a lengthy post, as it touches on a number of ideas, and all of this can apply to life in countless ways. If you have any thoughts about this post, please share them with me. I’d be very grateful. –Burt

Do you find ever find yourself tired? Frustrated? Confused or bewildered? Ever feel a little lost, unsure, under confident? Are you tired of waiting to feel cool, calm, and collected? Does it seem like life is just too busy, and you’re never going to get settled?

If you’re reading this, and eager to make progress, I’m here to tell you a simple truth.

You may not realize how close you are to the state of mind and being that you’ve been looking for.

It like looking for your lost keys, and realizing they’re already in your pocket, or feeling incredibly anxious before a test, only to realize it was far easier than you imagined.

I’m going to offer this thought to you, and, of course, you can accept it or not.

I will bet good money that you are already who/what/where you want to be, or more precisely, you’ve been in touch with that part of you, but you’ve had a hard time holding onto that feeling, that sense of who you really are.

Can you recall a moment when you felt totally connected with yourself? Maybe it was connection to feeling centered or grounded. Maybe it was your “muse”, when your creativity was flowing. Perhaps it was after some effort of preparation, for a trip, project, or test, and you felt ready; in fact, the feeling might have come after the experience, when you felt fulfilled. Maybe it was during exercise, playing a sport, creating art, or doing good work.

Take a few moments to recall what that felt like at it’s very best. Can you recognize a clarity in your mind, where there’s little else going on in your thoughts besides that sense of fulfillment, calm, clarity?

Can you recall a little more specifically, to a moment when you took a breath during that activity? That very last breath before you began… that very first breath after… the one breath when you gave it your all…

Hold on to that breath in your mind. We’re going to get back to that.

For those moments when you had clarity, within those breaths, I offer to you that these are glimpses of you in your highest self, at your very best. Bear in mind, there’s no one keeping score, or judging the quality of this; only you can know for yourself. Those moments of true honesty with yourself are precious and powerful.

Would you agree that it’d be easier going through life if you were connected to that feeling more often? How about if you felt that all the time, 24×7? While I can’t guarantee that you’ll ever achieve that feeling with every waking moment, I can say that you can have those feelings of peace, strength, clarity, power, and confidence; and that you can grow those feelings as deeply as you want. More importantly, your mind can develop and grow into being able to focus on those things that keep you connected to those feelings.

As I understand it, yogis who have attained “true enlightenment” have done exactly what we’re talking about, but deeper, and more consistently. Frankly, they don’t have much else to do, or more specifically, they choose to do nothing else except pursue that level of focus. Their focus is on developing a level of mental clarity, and what they often find is a depth of peace and serenity.

For many yogis, they will take this ability for clear thinking, and they apply it in various ways: business, personal development, further enlightenment, peace missions, etc… Some will stay focused in meditation in order to simply exist in that state of being. To do this, some yogis will devote their entire lives to develop these abilities.

So, let’s play around with the thing that you’re best at in life, or the thing that comes most easily to you. I imagine you spend a good amount of your time in that activity, or if you don’t, then when you do engage in that activity, it comes “naturally”.

What would happen if you devoted your life to that? You might become world-class, an expert, or just really competent, skilled, and capable.

The same dynamic applies to other activities that you might be less naturally talented with, and the one that I’m talking about now includes “getting centered”, “feeling connected”, or any other part of your life that you want to develop.

If you have a hard time feeling centered, I’ll bet good money that you have a busy life, that there are a lot of parts to your world, and that you’re spending a lot of energy and time keeping things together, juggling all those balls in the air.

Imagine what your level of expertise would be if you took all the devotion, time, and attention that you’ve given to all those aspects of your busy life, and distilled it down to just focusing on nothing but being.

Can you imagine that?

When it comes down to it, like so much else in life, it’s a matter of budgeting and resource management.

Can you see that?

Yet, you’ve touched that feeling of being centered, probably more often than you can count. I want to bring those instances to your awareness, to get you connected to the fact that you have experienced the state of being that you long for. And, now that you’re aware of it, you can touch it more often, more deliberately. And, just like with any other activity, practice makes “perfect”… better yet, “proficiency”.

I find the word “proficiency” to be very appropriate. We can develop proficiency at attaining that highest state of being, and because of our “training” and “practice”, we are then able to perform at that level of proficiency longer, and do more with those skills.

I’ll bet you know some people in your life that have that sense of centeredness. They carry themselves with confidence, they are reliable, they are calm. It doesn’t matter what their race, gender, religion, profession… it just doesn’t matter. What I’ve found is that there are _very_ few people that have become that way for free, without effort. I’ve found that most people that have that have gotten it through fire, effort, or hard work; or perhaps they were blessed to have been shown how to have it by others.

I propose to you that through all this confusion, frustration, and struggle, you’ve been going through fire, and no one has mentioned that you are now far closer to being fully cooked than you realize. In fact, if you’ve been struggling for a long time, you’re quite possibly close to being “cooked to perfection”. You really can now simmer and allow the flavors to deepen.

…and you can do this without changing a single circumstance in your life.

I’m going to ask you to put aside any judgment for just a moment, and allow me to describe something that often gets brushed aside too quickly. There’s a mystery to meditation that can be distracting. Remember that activity that you feel most comfortable doing? I’ll bet you’ve experienced those moments during those activities, at least touched them.

So, remember that breath that you thought of earlier? The one that had your body fully engaged in your favorite, clearest, most powerful activity? Can you take that breath now? Only do this if you can recall that moment of power!

Inhale… and gently hold your breath for a few seconds… and exhale. And feel that feeling.

If you’re having a hard time feeling it in this moment, can you imagine that feeling? Can you imagine taking that one breath? Can you _feel_ and _know_ who and where you are in that moment, at the top of that breath?

Here’s the meditation… can you hold that “state of being”, without thought, just the BE-ing? Maybe “hold that breath” for a few moments?

If that’s something you can relate to, maybe you can tease that state of being out a bit longer. It doesn’t have to last long; what’s more important is your “presence” in that moment, your willingness to again experience that feeling of connection, strength, centeredness, and clarity.

So, I’ll stop with this thought: Just remember to breath. And for every breath, you now have an opportunity to RE-capture that state of being.

Imagine that? Being _there_ with _every_ breath?

One breath at a time.

(Inspired by my new friend, Kimberly. Thank you.)

We are “Children of the Lie”

Precinct Commander Steven Mauriello “failed to meet [his] responsibility.” As a result, “an atmosphere was created discouraging members of the command to accurately report index crimes.” — from the Village Voice

Whoa.

When I read this, I wonder what my part is, in maintaining and encouraging the demands and expectations of people in these positions of authority. Clearly, what’s going on is wrong and against my values. Have I been ignorantly promoting the pressures that the police management have bowed under?

This is another example of the third(?) level of evil that is described in “People of the Lie” by M. Scott Peck. I imagine this behavior is against everyone’s values, at least the people I know, yet our society has enabled and allowed this, so we are responsible.

Here’s a succinct summary of some of the points from the book, from a review at Amazon:

  1. The evil hide their motives with lies.
  2. Evil people want to appear to be good.
  3. When confronted by evil, the wisest and most secure adult will usually experience confusion.
  4. Evil seeks to discourage others to think for themselves (fosters dependency).
  5. To oppose evil we must have an ongoing dedication to reality at all cost.

That all seems to apply here. So, now that we are aware of what’s going on, we have a choice, don’t we? What is within our realm of influence that we can choose in order to make a difference?

Postscript: I’ve categorized this with “Clinical Depression” (among other things), per point 3 above which names “the wisest and most secure adult”, but what about the rest of us?