Category Archives: The High Road

Your Life Isn’t, and Has Never Been, About You…

Profound wisdom from an author of one of my favorite books, “Taking Our Places: The Buddhist Path to Truly Growing Up” by Zoketsu Norman Fischer. He recently spoke at a Stanford Baccalaureate explaining why your life is not and has never been about you…

“A moment is a moment. As with all other times in life, there are highs and there are lows. Today you may be feeling high, and that is beautiful. Time passes though, and you forget about that moment. But right now, you have the skills, connections, and obligations to do great things. And this means not only great things for yourselves-  you are expected to do great things for others and for the world. So let’s be honest: the future really is in the youth. And yet the truth is it is not always going to be easy to survive your promising life, anywhere in the world. There is so much competition, and anxiety about that competition, that it is possible that success won’t come easy, and it’s also possible that success won’t come at all. Or maybe it will come in abundance, but you don’t find it as meaningful as you thought it would be. Or, maybe success comes and you find it satisfying but only at first when it is still bright and shiny and exciting, and later at the state and with the implications of the successful life you have lived, it will wear you down and you will find yourself tired and confused.

It could be that as time goes on from this day, some of your personal relationships don’t work out the way you hoped they would. It’s possible that your sense of self doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. It’s possible that there will be disappointments, setbacks- some acknowledged and some buried deep within and not acknowledged. In short, it is very possible that from this day forth there is some pain awaiting you: bad love affairs, betrayals, losses, disillusions. Likely, you are going to have some seriously shaky moments. Maybe as you move through the decades it will become increasingly difficult to maintain the idealism and hopefulness that you have right now. It could be that one day you wake up and you find yourself wondering what have I been doing all this time? Who have I become?

You’ll keep busy. You’ll have a lot of things to do. And if there are such feelings, you’ll try your best not to notice them. If there is any despair, disappointment, discouragement, or boredom that you’re feeling years from today, you’ll try not to notice and I bet you’ll be able to do that- to not notice it…

I should say something encouraging.. and I do intend to do that! But, I figured I would be more convincing if I were also pretty realistic and it is realistic to say that your lives from now on will not be that easy. It is realistic to say that the skills you will need to survive may be more than, or other than, the skills that you have so far in your lives. Because the truth is that it takes a great deal of fortitude and strength to sustain a worthwhile, happy, human life over time in this actual world that we live in.
LIFE
So here comes the uplifting part:

Your life isn’t and has never been about you…
It isn’t, and it has never been about what you accomplish, how successful you are (or are not), how much money you make, what sort of position you ascend to, or even about your family, your associations, your various communities, or even about how much good you do for others in the world.

Your life, like mine, and like everyone elses, has really only ever been about one thing: LOVE.

Who are you, actually? And where did you come from? Why were you born into this life? You didn’t ask for it. When this short human journey is over, where do you go next, and why and how does any of this exist? What is the point of it all? Not even your Nobel-prize winning professors know the answers to these questions- these inevitable and unavoidable questions. The only thing we know is that we are here for a while and then we are gone, and that WHILE WE ARE HERE, WE ARE HERE TOGETHER, Which is why the only thing that completely makes sense, the only thing that is completely real is LOVE.

This is not a mystery and this is not news or some great discovery. Everyone actually knows this even though we forget about it. Love is always available to you wherever you look and when you dedicate yourself to love- when you dedicate yourself to be kind to everyone you meet, not just the people on your side, AND not just the people you like and approve of, but EVERY human and EVERY non-human being, then you’re going to be ok.

In your life, whatever it brings, even if it brings a lot of difficulty and tragedy, your life will be a beautiful life. I hope that you find this uplifting…

But there’s more… HOW do you love? What does this mean? How do you make your love real so it’s not just a pretty idea? This does not happen by itself. It takes attention, commitment, and effort over time. It doesn’t come from wishing or believing or assuming. You’re gonna have to figure out how NOT to get distracted by your personal problems, by your success (or lack of success), by your needs, desires, suffering, various interests, and ALWAYS keep your eye on the ball of love, even as you inevitably juggle all the rest of it. So you have to commit yourself to love and you have to have a way- a path or a practice for cultivating love and strengthening it throughout your lifetime no matter what happens, because love is not a feeling, it is an overarching attitude and spirit. And it’s a daily activity.

When you go about this practice of cultivating love, whatever practice you choose, the most important characteristic of this practice is that it must be useless- absolutely useless. In other words, it has to be an activity that has no practical effect other than to connect you to your heart and to your highest and most mysterious purpose- a purpose that is literally unknown because it references the unanswerable questions I mentioned a moment ago.

We’ve been doing so many good things for so many good reasons. Lots of good things for our physical health, psychological health, emotional health, family life, future success, economic life, for your community, for your world… but the practice of love that you choose must be a practice that is useless. It doesn’t do anything but to touch our lives beyond all concerns. For example, you could practice gratitude. Have you ever woke up in the morning and just been grateful for another day?

Another practice might be the practice of giving. Giving doesn’t have to be money or gods. Giving can be a daily intention of just a kind word or smile. Or you could practice kind speech on all occasions even difficult ones – committing yourself to speak as much as you can in kindness, and with inclusion of others and their needs, hopes, and dreams – not just speaking from your own side.

Or you can practice beneficial action – committing yourself to intentionally acting with a spirit of benefiting someone else (For example, you could wipe the counters after you’ve used a public restroom, or you could pick up and throw away someone’s garbage in the park) .

Or you could practice identity action, recognizing that when you do anything you are not, and cannot do it alone by your own power. You’ve never done anything alone and by your own power because inevitably whatever you do involves others, and the whole world involves others in a world of support. For example, you cannot breathe air on this Earth without the trees producing oxygen.

Or you could practice compassion – which is going toward, rather than turning away from, the suffering of others and your own suffering. We all want to avoid pain so much that what we do in our lives is focused on avoiding pain- making pain disappear. But oftentimes we cannot make pain disappear- so can you go toward it rather than run away? Can you become softened or brought to wisdom by the unavoidable pain found in others or yourself?

All of these practices share one thing: they come from love. They encourage love. They produce more love. And when you do them over time, little by little it conditions your heart and you discover that you are living in a world full of love, and for your life and for our lives collectively in the times to come, of all the things we need the most, we are going to need much more love. LOTS OF LOVE.

In good times, love is lovely, and in hard times, love is absolutely necessary. Love turns tragedy into opportunity. It turns something unwanted and difficult into a chance to drive love deeper-  to make it wiser fuller more glorious and more resilient.

Fenton Johnson said, “One can and should lay great plans, but life has its own ebb and flow and our first duty is to be present to that ebb and flow. We must realize that failure and success are social conceptions that can be useful but that in their conventional definitions have little to do with what really matters, which is to study and practice virtue.”

Timothy Kelly said, “How one lives one’s life is the only true measure of the validity of one’s search.”

So, please, do seriously think about it. Not in a grim way, but with a certain amount of joy and lightness. It is amazing to be alive. Amazing. Unlikely. What is really worthwhile and what is just a distraction, no matter how much another person tells you what is and what isn’t. Only one person can do that, and that is you.

I’m happy for the life you’ve had so far, and I’m congratulating you and hoping for your life a head, a life of challenge and difficulty and passion. What an opportunity.

Watch here if you want to hear it for yourself! (Starts at 29:00 and ends at 57:30).

How To Finally Let Go and Let Live in ONE Week!

Here is a FREE 7-day program that will finally allow you to let go and let live. All in ONE week!

After learning this technique, my life was changed forever, and I thought I’d share this little gift with the world, so here it is, in 5 easy steps!
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1) Go out and find a large rock. It should be light enough to fit in your pocket and heavy enough to feel the weight. Now name it. You can write that name on it or not. Whatever works for you. I called my rock “Stress”, with other pet names such as “Anger”, “Frustration”, “Worry”, and “Resentment”.

2) Put your new rock in your pocket and carry it with you every where you go. No pocket? No problem! Just hold it. Put it in your purse, your backpack, your bra. Whatever you got! Taking a shower? No problem. Bring it with you. This rock will be your new best friend for the next week.

3) After the first few days, reflect on how you feel. Not bad, right? No biggie. Still not sure what’s the point? That’s ok. Keep carrying it. Talk to it. Feed it. If you give it enough attention it will grow!

4) After three days, reflect on how you feel. Did people ask you about it? Did you find it getting in the way of things you wanted to do? Places you wanted to go? A little embarrassed? Did it become such a burden on your day that you weren’t as productive as you could have been? Are you starting to feel weighed down? Keep carrying it! Introduce it to your friends!

5) After the 7th day, reflect how you feel. Are you ready to throw that rock away? Are you ready to end the friendship you’ve developed to it? Ready to let it go? Or do you want to carry it around a little longer? At this point it’s your choice. You can carry it with you for as long as you want. You can also choose to leave it and carry on with your life.

“Stress”, “Worry”, “Frustration”, “Regret”, “Insecurity”, “Fear”… She was my best friend for nearly 25 years. I loved her. She was there for me. She never let me down when I needed a really good excuse for not doing something. The comfort of holding on to our relationship seemed more easy than letting her go. But one day, I decided it was time to go our different paths… And my life has never been the same.

Now I realize that it was my choice all along to carry all that stress, worry, frustration, regret, insecurity and fear with me. Letting go was never the hard part. It was carrying it with me for 25 years that was the ultimate burden.

DISCLAIMER:
This site and the information referenced herein does not constitute an attempt to practice medicine. Use of the site does not establish a doctor-patient relationship. The information presented on this web site is not intended to take the place of your personal physician’s advice and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

The Blame Game

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We all make mistakes, and we all seek forgiveness. Ironically, we also tend to downplay our own mistakes and over-dramatize the mistakes of others. And because we know what our intentions were, we expect forgiveness to come easy for the ones we have hurt or disappointed, yet we find it so difficult to forgive those that have crossed us. Why do we do this?

It’s hard to move on from our past mistakes especially when people keep bringing you down, or reminding you of your failures or bad decisions. In the peak of my divorce and child custody battle, I remember my ex forwarding me old emails of things I’d said or done that weren’t that “smart”. He would leave old anniversary or Valentine’s Day cards I had written him when we were married on my doorstep as a “reminder”, and screenshots of texts I’d sent to him when I lost my cool. He would document the moments I was less than the perfect mother, and say I was a horrible, weak, ignorant person that could not be trusted. He would threaten to use my childhood trauma and history of psychological counseling as “evidence” that I was an unfit mother, and that my son had to be taken away from me. He would keep detailed notes of who my friends were, and threaten that by being their friend I was exposing my son to “bad people.”

At one point, I began to believe him. His stories almost became my stories. Maybe I was a failure. Maybe I should have stayed in the marriage. Maybe I was stupid. Maybe I was mentally unstable… No.

That was not true. That was his story, not mine.

We all make mistakes and it’s important to remember that not all mistakes are one-sided (well, some are…) I’ve never liked the word “mistake”. I prefer to call them “bad calls” or “bad choices” because mistakes make it sound like we didn’t have a choice in the matter. When we make bad choices, our job is to own up to them. Now if you’ve paid your debt, even if the other person hasn’t moved on, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t move on. You don’t have to wait for someone else to move on in order for you to. Sometimes forgiving yourself is the best thing you can do. When we forgive ourselves or others, we are not saying that what was done was ok or somehow justified. When we forgive ourselves or others, we are simply saying that what has happened is done and we love ourselves and others enough to move forward and grow from that experience. This doesn’t mean that crimes should never be put to justice. What it means is that we don’t have to ridicule, put someone down, or remind them of bad decisions made (and it might help a little, or a LOT, to acknowledge the role that you played in that experience as well).

But if someone keeps bringing up your past or telling you that you will always be a horrible person because of something you have done, that’s ok. It isn’t a reflection of who you are, it’s a reflection of where they are in life at that moment. And it’s ok to forgive yourself for what you’ve been through. Although it is ok to feel bad and maybe even a little regret for the bad decisions you’ve made, it is NOT ok to stay there and live in the past, and it is NOT ok to allow another person to keep you or pull you back into that past.

We are progressive beings. We move forward, we evolve. Most importantly, we love, and we love passionately. Our spirits thrive on goodness. We feel joy in kindness and being kind.

And so maybe the next time someone belittles you or tells you how horrible you are because of your past, try this:

Think deeply at the last time you held a stubborn stance when someone apologized to you. Look back on the last time someone let you down and you hesitated to forgive them or respond in kindness. Remember that time when you were judgmental about someone who did something you questioned as morally wrong.

Regardless of how unkind another is, regardless of the mistakes others make, we too, have unkind moments. We too, make hurtful choices. We too, have difficulty forgiving.

I have a challenge (for myself, and I ask it of you too). The next time someone makes a mistake, instead of pointing out the flaw, how about looking for a way to encourage them?

“You’ve come a long way. I’m so proud of your progress. Look at how well you’ve been dealing with ….”

And if they still are struggling, maybe add kind suggestions that get them thinking, such as:
“I noticed that when x,y,z happened, you responded by doing, a,b,c. I wonder if your message got across to them effectively…?”

Perhaps these small gestures can end the cycle of this blame game, one person at a time, and encourage empowering relationships instead.

Maybe, instead of blaming and pointing fingers, we can build people up. Bring forth encouragement when people are at their lowest. Remind them, by our own actions, that peace prevails. Goodness prevails. Love prevails. It always has, and it always will.

And if that doesn’t work (because sometimes it won’t) and those SOBs keep bringing you down, fly high! There’s a story I once heard that goes something like this:
Storm-Eagle

When a storm is coming, the Eagle sets its wings so that the wind will pick it up and lift it above the storm.
While the storm rages below, the Eagle is soaring above it.
The Eagle does not escape the storm. It simply uses the storm to lift it higher.
It rises on the winds that bring the storm.

When the storms of life come upon us – and all of us will experience them – we can rise above them by setting our minds and our faith toward a greater good.
The storms do not have to overcome us. We can allow our faith and fearless inner peace to lift us above them.

Faith is what enables us to ride the winds of the storm that bring sickness, tragedy, failure and disappointment in our lives.

Like an Eagle we can soar above the storm.  Remember, it is not the burdens of life that weigh us down, it is how we handle them.

(Story adapted from http://www.indianchild.com)

Doing The Right Thing When You Don’t Want To (and you’re pretty sure it won’t work anyway)

I remember when I was a kid growing up with two other siblings, fairness was always an issue (and a totally rational excuse for starting a fight). If my elder sister got to go on a date, it only made sense that I should be able to go on one too. If my brother didn’t have to do dishes, then I shouldn’t have to do them either. When we were kids it made sense, and we applied that rule to EVERYTHING. As humans, we are always comparing, measuring, balancing, as if it is our responsibility, our personal obligation, to make sure he doesn’t have more than me, because if he does, it’s simply not fair and this world MUST be fair.

In some circumstances, this may be true, but what we often fail to recognize or consider is that what may be suitable for one is not always suitable for another. What may be good timing for one person may not be good timing for another. My sister went on several dates before I did. My brother never had to do the dishes. But it didn’t ruin my life. In fact, it made it better.

As we grew up, somehow the term “eye for an eye” was misinterpreted to assume that reciprocal justice had to be carried out by you (or another person, or some legal official) instead of leaving it to karma, or “God”, or whatever other beliefs are out there (I’m going to talk about divorce, because that’s what I’m really knowledgable about). Divorce cases with children typically end up losing the main focus (the best interest of the children) and result in two spouses fighting it out, sometimes for years, until they either both lose, or the more powerful feels they’ve adequately gotten “even” with the other person. The idea of “taking the high road” or “doing the right thing” has not even had the chance to become an option. Emotions are high, pride is on the line, and ego is at stake. The idea of revenge feels so much more pleasing than walking away and starting over. Why should I have to accept this? Look at all he’s done! He shouldn’t be allowed to get away with this! He must be punished!

The past few weeks I was blessed with the opportunity to challenge myself on several occasions in trusting this “karma”. Although tempted to manipulate the situation, I took the high road. In each moment, I took a risk, but knew that even if I lost, I would still have the resources I needed to make it through.

What happened, you may ask. Three things:

1) In signing the child custody papers, I was supposed to select 3 co-parenting therapists (a professional that helps two divorced parents peacefully parent a child). I found two extremely qualified Psychologists that I felt would be an excellent fit, and one other that was “meh”. Since I couldn’t find a third “amazing” Psychologist, I added the “meh” one but noted that she didn’t accept insurance (the other two did).  Since my ex is all about money, I assumed he wouldn’t pick one who doesn’t take insurance. As luck would have it, my ex chose the “meh” one and I immediately starting thinking of ways I could manipulate the situation so that we didn’t have to have her as our therapist. I reminded myself that these kind of tactics don’t work in the long run, and that I needed to trust the Universe, trust the process, trust karma, and accept the repercussion of my own decisions. One week later when we tried to schedule the “meh” therapist, she responds that she can’t take on any new clients, which left us with the two preferred therapists in the end. My ex ended up selecting the one I ultimately had my eye on.

2) Our child custody case has always been high-conflict. Our biggest problem was that my ex was a flight risk. He had threatened on several occasions to take my son away from me and move to Japan, or Vietnam, or Detroit. My attorney and I were able to put stipulations in place so that he couldn’t fly out of California without my permission, and I was to hold on to the passport and IDs, but Japan is still an infant when it comes to child custody and divorce issues. Even today, they have little to no regard for any US court orders in child custody cases. If my ex wanted to create a Japanese passport for my son and fly him out of the country, there is almost nothing I can do from preventing that, and once done, almost nothing I can do to bring him back to the US. That said, I did some research and found that I could petition to the Japanese Embassy and ask them to put a restriction on renewing/creating any passport for our son. The catch? When our son was born, my ex failed to name me on the Koseki Tohon (Family Registry) so the Embassy didn’t recognize me as my son’s mother, and told me that I had no authority to put such a restriction in place. I was doomed… I tried to think of ways I could manipulate the situation, and again, had to remind myself that “doing the right thing is ALWAYS the right thing”. After talking to my best friend in Japan I found out that there were other ways of going about it. After directly contacting the Ward in Japan, we resolved the case in less than a few days and they sent us the documents we needed to continue the process.

3) My ex had been out of the country and out of our lives for nearly all of my son’s life. It was only 2 years ago, when he found out I was seeing someone, that he asked for custody of my son.  Our litigation has taken that long. To make a long story short, the cause of the delay was basically unnecessary delay on his part and my allowing that to happen for too long (This is a topic I’ll address in a separate post about what you need to know when talking to your lawyer, and how to take the lead on your case). My ex delayed the case because he needed time to hide assets. The Financial Disclosures he did provide were incomplete and we didn’t know any better because they came to us in Japanese, which no one could read. After some translation (on my part) I found out that he was missing several months of salary and stock/bond options. When it came time to present our case to the Settlement Officer Conference (something we had to cancel 3 times prior because he “wasn’t ready”) they again, asked to post-pone. But this time, I was smart enough and decided to call them out on their bluff. I gave them the their Financial Disclosures and asked them to account for the missing salary and stock information, or to sign off on the orders immediately. I threatened that if they did not sign off on the orders, I would hire a forensic accountant and external attorney to discover assets with the intention of pursuing half. The document was signed the next day… Yeah, they got away with fraud, but I got closure to the custody issue. I didn’t get everything I wanted, but I got what I wanted most, which was peace from the hell of litigation.

What happens now is to keep reminding myself that good always triumphs. We cannot see, hear or feel the magic of this truth, but it is out there. I promise.

“Everything will be ok” does not equal “everything will go my way” but it most certainly means that you can trust God, the Universe, or whatever you want to call it, that doing the right thing, even if you don’t want to, will always be the right thing.

We live in a 3-dimensional world in which we define our reality as what we can see, hear, or physically feel, and given that our species is still so young, that doesn’t make us much different than gorillas, dogs, and fish. Our small minds are more reactive like our primal ancestors, and we fail to see the larger picture. But as scary as it is, it was precisely this restraint from primal reaction that allowed us to evolve as human beings, and I believe it is the nurturing of this restraint that will continue to push us towards further evolution (and possibly into a 5th dimension…but that’s for a different post). There’s a Confucius saying that I absolutely love:

“The ultimate revenge is living well and being happy. Hateful people can’t stand happy people. Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.”- 
Confucius