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Entries Tagged as 'truth'

Thoughts Coming at You Like a Runaway Train?

June 26th, 2018 · 2 Comments

runaway train #2
When the email came in last week, I was puzzled. I’d received a notice that an Emergency Motion and an Emergency Court Order had been filed in a probate case I’d handled twenty years ago. My thoughts began to spiral:

  • I need to file a Motion and Order to Withdraw. UGH! What a hassle!
  • Maybe I did something wrong. Maybe that’s what this is about.
  • I probably did do something wrong.
  • I’d better read the court file and see what is happening. Maybe it’s online. I’ll ask a clerk to help me find it since I don’t practice law any more.
  • UGH! They are probably too busy to help me. I’ll have to go downtown. UGH! That’ll take half a day.
  • For sure I did something wrong.
  • Yes, I absolutely screwed something up.
  • OMG! How long is the malpractice statute of limitations?
  • What if my malpractice was only recently discovered and the statute of limitations won’t apply?
  • What if I get sued and everything is taken away from me?
  • Everything will be gone!
  • What should I do?
  • There’s nothing I can do. I’m screwed.

Within moments, I’d gone from casually checking email to eating government cheese and living in a van down by the river. The Inner Lizard–that part of the brain that is always on high alert, ready to screech urgent warnings—was, as always, preparing me for disaster. It doesn’t care whether we’ve encountered a spider or a shadow, it’s job is to determine that there might be danger and to scream, “MOVE QUICKLY OR YOU WILL DIE!” It doesn’t think critically. It doesn’t care about truth. Its job is to save our lives.

It’s a brilliant system that causes us to needlessly jump out of our skins if there is any possibility that a fuzzy little bunny rustling in the bushes could be a venomous snake. It’s simply trying to keep us safe.

For lawyers, this powerful system tends to go on overdrive, as our training teaches us to intentionally look for what could go wrong in any situation. After years of looking for the worst, we find it easily. But lawyers aren’t the only ones and it doesn’t take special training to over-react like I did.

But here’s the important part of this tale. For the past ten years, I’ve personally applied the principles I now teach others. I don’t automatically believe everything I think, like “I’m screwed, I’m going to lose everything.”

I now know that thoughts like these need to be critically examined if I’m in no immediate physical danger. I’m aware of the signals that my body broadcasts and intervene early with breathing and focusing techniques when I begin to feel the symptoms of fight, flight or freeze. I practice mindfulness techniques regularly so that I’m ready for emergencies like this one.

After a few deep breaths, I was calm and knew I needed more facts. My body is primed to immediately calm down because of my practices.

Then, I simply called the attorney on the paperwork and learned that years before I ever was involved in the case, the decedent sold a piece of property without signing the proper documents. This attorney reopened the case to clear title for the subsequent property owners. She had to notify me because I was attorney of record on the original file. There was nothing for me to do. She got the necessary court order and I would stop getting notices in a few days.

Okay, said the Inner Lizard. Nevermind.

Here’s the important point: my mind-body tools and practices didn’t stop my capacity for catastrophic thinking. But my reactions to those thoughts were significantly different than they use to be.

In the old days, thought spirals like this would trigger high stress, panicky symptoms like a stomach ache, trembling hands, and sleep loss. I might have avoided calling the attorney for a few days, frozen in physiologically triggered fear, and worrying the whole time.

Now, I can think clearly. “Oh, I’m having a bunch of crazy thoughts. What do I need to do? I need to get the facts. What’s the easiest way to do that? Oh, look at the documents more closely and see if there is an attorney I can call. Look, there’s a name, now find her number.” In several minutes, it was over.

Taming the Inner Lizard is not the equivalent of a lobotomy. Your brain will still strive to look for catastrophe, always looking to keep you safe. You may still have spirals of disastrous thoughts.

But with the right tools, your reactivity will be reduced significantly. It takes some time and practice, but it’s so, so worth it.

My Inner Lizard is now warming herself on a rock, her eyes half-closed, just waiting for our next adventure. Meanwhile, I’ll go back to my email, just waiting for the next time to take a few deep breaths.

Next time your thoughts are coming at you as fast as a runaway train, here are a few simple tools that can help:

  1. Drop your attention into your body by feeling your own weight. Feel the weight of yourself on your chair, of your legs and feet, of your arms and shoulders. Then take three slow, easy breaths, concentrating on a long, slow exhale that is at least as long as the inhale. Exhaling triggers the relaxation response of your nervous system, telling your brain that you are safe.
  2. Ask yourself which of your thoughts are true. In other words, which are factual and provable, and which are merely thoughts or conclusions without evidence? In the example above, the only thought I had that was factual was the one that said I needed to get more information by calling the attorney who filed the Motion.
  3. Try my Heartbreathing Meditiation Tool. For a free worksheet and mp3, just drop a note to support@terrydemeo.com and put the words “heartbreathing” in the subject line.

Tags: fear · stress · truth

The Life-Changing Magic of Taking the High Road

August 1st, 2016 · No Comments

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Re-printed from The Huffington Post

 

We’re seeing quite a bit of unfortunate low road behavior in national politics right now, from all sides.

That’s one reason why Michele Obama’s speech at the DNC has been lauded as powerful and deeply moving.

Michele had a perfect opportunity to take a swipe at the opposition and in fact, some people were hoping for it. After all, her very words from the 2008 presidential convention had been famously plagiarized. What an opportunity she had to take the low road, while claiming to be on high moral ground, a nifty sleight-of-hand routinely employed by low roaders in both public and private venues.

Instead, Michele addressed the high road directly, as a mother of her own children and as a role model for the nation’s children (and ideally, its adults.)

Her words were simple and clear: “When they go low, we go high.” Read more here.

Tags: compassion · connection · truth

Life Begins at the Edge of Your Comfort Zone

May 13th, 2013 · 11 Comments

Buddy and me

Within an hour of my arrival at summer camp in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains the summer I was ten, I was hunched up in a puddle of tears.  A group of returning campers had introduced me to  Camp Mount Mitchell’s initiation ritual—they knocked me to the ground, pulled off my sneakers, and tossed them onto our cabin roof.  Those sneakers may as well have been on the moon.  I was so frightened of heights, the thought of having to climb up to that roof left me inconsolable and weeping. 

That fear of heights stayed with me.  Amusement park rides, steep mountain trails, even ladders—all sent me into a panic.  Flying on commercial planes was fine, but the nausea and shakes I had during an afternoon in a small plane left me swearing that I’d never get in one again.  

Which is exactly why I jumped at the chance to take a flying lesson in a small, open cockpit 1929 vintage biplane recently.

Because I’ve been on a mission to overcome my fear of heights.  It’s part of a larger goal to deal with all of my irrational fears.  One of the things I’ve learned about fear in the last few years is that it can be provoked by real or imagined danger.

And like many people, I have a wonderful imagination when it comes to scaring myself silly.  But when imagined fears are in charge, our lives stay small and pallid. We avoid adventures large and small and retreat from opening our hearts to love, speaking our truth, and going for our dreams.  Fear overtakes common sense, and even worse, it drowns out desire and passion.

Yes, fear drowns out our desires and passions–those delicious yearnings and stirrings inside us that pull on us and guide us towards lives of pleasure, passion, and deep connection.

In short, we can imagine ourselves out of the very adventure of being alive.

So here’s what I’ve done to change the pattern:

I examined my thinking.  I identified the thoughts fueling my fears and gently questioned them, looking for the truth.

Is it true I’m going to fall, get stuck, trip, loose my footing, crash, die?

What would this experience be like without the belief that I’m going to get hurt or die?

Can I think of instances where I or others did these things safely?

I worked through my scary stories just like that, one by one.  The truth was always safer and kinder than my imagination was.

I calmed myself with mind-body tools.  I did my heartbreathing exercise until I could imagine myself in a situation involving heights and then gently and efficiently bring myself back to a calm state.  I breathed consciously in moments of challenge.  I visualized myself being calm and confident in scary situations.  I grounded myself over and over.  (email Support@TerryDeMeo.com if you want an mp3 and a worksheet guiding you through the exercise.)

I felt the fear and did it anyway. I remembered what Darren Taylor, a/k/a Professor Splash a professional stunt diver, once told me about his fear of diving off an 80-foot platform into a tiny, shallow vat of water.  “Hell, yes, I’m afraid.  I just do it anyway.”

I gradually challenged myself in the real world.  I did this in ways that were fun and engaging.  I put no pressure on myself.  I did it because I wanted to, not because there was a voice in my head scolding or berating me.

Climbing at Bandelier

A couple of summers ago, I climbed 140 feet up a series of four ladders to Alcove House, an archeological site of the Ancestral Pueblo people in New Mexico’s Bandelier National Monument.  I had to consciously breathe the whole way, but I did it.  And I was also so elated that when I got back down to the canyon floor, I climbed right back to the top again.  Guess what?  The second time was a snap!

Ziplining in Barbados

I went ziplining in the rain forest in Barbados, attached by a harness to a thin cable hundreds of feet above the ground.  I coached and calmed myself, and before you know it, I was standing on a platform in the jungle, all hooked up and ready to soar.  Lifting my feet off the first platform took some “feel the fear and do it anyway” self-coaching.  But by the time I arrived at the end of the course, I was elated–no shakes at all!  It was fun flying through the air!

And then, a few weeks ago, I was invited to the grandest adventure yet—a chance to fly a very special small airplane.  The very idea triggered the same old responses–sweaty palms, fearful thoughts, racing heart and legs like jelly.

Several friends gave me “you’d better be careful” and “I would never do that” messages.  My very vivid imagination got carried away more than once.

But I trusted the tools and processes that have worked for me and for so many clients.  And I used them.  (I’ve learned that the best coaching tools in the world don’t work unless you use them!)

And I climbed into the front seat of Buddy, a 1929 vintage Stearman Model 4 open-cockpit bi-wing airplane, one of only seven still existing in the world.

I was a little afraid as I was getting settled into the leather cockpit seat when the shoulder straps repeatedly slid off my shoulders.   Can I fall out if we tip over too far? But I realized that was just a predictable little protest from my lizard brain, and immediately diverted myself with some gentle breathing .  And once we began taxiing, fascination and excitement took over.

Sarah and me, up in the air

My fabulous instructor, Sarah Wilson, sat in a compartment just behind me; we wore headsets and talked to each other the entire trip.  She gave me clear concise instructions, and before long, I was steering the plane, guiding it up and down, left and right, and even into a figure “8.” Sarah’s ebullient energy and deep love of what she does encouraged me to engage and have fun, and made the day even more special.

Elephants and Buddy’s wing.

We flew high and we flew so low we could smell the orange groves beneath us.  We saw elephants in a field at the Ringling Circus Center for Elephant Conservation.  We saw cows and flocks of birds and highways and farms.

And when we landed, I realized that I hadn’t had one single frightening thought, my heart never raced, and I didn’t have to remember to consciously breathe.  I had so much fun and it was so interesting that I forgot to be afraid.

Will my irrational fears return?  Who knows?  It doesn’t matter.  If they do, I’ll just keep chipping away at them.

But this I do know: when we intelligently and consistently confront the things that hold us back from our dreams, we find the places where we come fully alive and where we soar.  And in that place, the sky is the limit.

Tags: fear · risk · truth

Maps to Manage Your Mind Chatter, Part II: Tips from a Self-Taught Master

March 27th, 2011 · 2 Comments

“The Camp” Courtesy of Judy Fuller.

“What makes you think you can paint?  You’re not an artist.  You’re kidding yourself!”  This is Judy Fuller’s inner voice at two a.m., when she wakes up churning about a painting she’s working on.  Judy is a self-taught artist whose extraordinary, luminous landscapes of the Florida wetlands are sold for thousands of dollars at an upscale gallery in my neighborhood.

Judy’s bright smile, twinkling eyes, and obvious success might suggest that she never hears a mean-spirited voice like this.   Not true.  Like the rest of us, Judy is human.  Like the rest of us, her mind can spin out of control.

“What do you do when you hear that voice?” I asked.  We were both at a party in the gallery, and by chance, happened to begin chatting.

“I just tell myself that I’m tired, that I worked hard today, and that I deserve to rest now,” Judy tells me.  “I remind myself that I’ve worked through blocks like this before, and I remember how wonderful it feels when I finish a painting and it pleases me and I just know it’s beautiful. That’s the truth.  The voice in the middle of the night isn’t.  And I get up the next morning and go to work again.”

“I have a post-it on the studio light switch. ‘The painted ponies go up and down.’ I see it at night when I turn off the lights.  It prepares me to remember the truth if the voice comes in the middle of the night.”

Judy’s not only a self-taught artist; she’s also a self-taught coach, who coaches herself when she hears the nagging, nay-saying inner voice that keeps so many of us from our dreams.  She gently reminds herself of the truth.

Here’s exactly how Judy stops her mind-chatter from stopping her:

1.  Pay attention to what is happening. Judy didn’t avoid the voice. She didn’t surf the internet or eat a quart of Chunky Monkey ice cream straight out of the container.  It’s important not to distract yourself at this point.

2.  Be compassionate. She spoke to herself gently and kindly.  She didn’t make herself wrong for having the thought, and didn’t berate herself further.  In other words, don’t beat yourself up for beating yourself up.

3.  Find “the why.” Judy found reasons why the harsh voice was acting out.  She was tired.  She had been working hard.  She had an artistic problem that was unsolved.  She was discouraged.  You can similarly ask yourself: why could this voice be speaking out?  What’s it afraid of?  What’s it trying to tell me?

4.  Find evidence that the critical message is untrue. Judy reminded herself that she’s heard from this voice before, that she produces many beautiful paintings and loves what she does, and that her work in on display in galleries and is purchased by others.  This kind of specific, detailed, truthful evidence is exactly what we need to find when we are disputing the mind chatter that threatens to derail us.

5.  Acknowledge the real truth. Judy remembered what is true for her and what that truth feels like–when she finishes a painting and sees its beauty, she feels it, too.  In those moments, there’s no doubt.  She knows she’s an artist.  When you land on the real truth, your feelings will shift.  It feels so much better.

6.  Give yourself an immediate, healthy solution. “I tell myself to rest, that I can come back to the painting later, that I’ve worked it enough for now,” Judy said. Taking a break from a problem is a proven strategy for moving through it.  So is resting.  Three slow, gentle breaths, a walk outside, or a bath with lavender oil are remedies that work, too.  With experimentation, you can find what works for you.

7.  Don’t give up. The next day, Judy went back to her work.  She didn’t believe the voice and didn’t let its message stop her.    You don’t have to, either. You don’t have to believe everything you hear, even if it’s coming from inside your own head.   That critical voice doesn’t mean you should give up your dreams–just go back to work.

It’s a fantastic example of masterful self-coaching.  The proof?  Her beautiful art exists on canvasses, not as unfulfilled dreams, existing only inside her head.

So, the next time a voice inside your head says you can’t have what your soul yearns for, remind yourself as Judy does, “The painted ponies go up and down.”

Tags: self-criticism · thinking · truth · Uncategorized

A Declaration of Independence for Women (from being nice at any price)

July 2nd, 2010 · 12 Comments

A smart, wonderful client who lives in Manhattan recently got a lesson in the high cost of being nice. While riding on the subway, a bedraggled man got on the car, sat beside her and, in a series of escalating advances, attempted to engage her in conversation and then began to touch her.

Frightened, she quietly waited until the train came to a station, told him it was her stop (it wasn’t and yeah, she actually gave him an excuse for leaving), and left the car. She re-entered the next car which had more people on it.  He followed her, continued his advances, and luckily this time several men on the car restrained him, and summoned the transit police who took the very mentally ill man away in handcuffs.

My client was grateful because it could have been worse, but she was tremendously upset and shaken.

What was she thinking? As we deconstructed the event, she realized that she saw him initially approaching her, felt uncomfortable, but she sat still because she didn’t want to seem impolite.

We do it all the time don’t we? We’re such nice girls. We are literally conditioned to be nice.

After all, little girls are made of “sugar and spice and everything nice.” We’ve heard it since we could literally understand the words.

I once visited a new hairdresser, walked into an elegant salon and was greeted by a man dressed in black and chains.He looked like an old, grizzled British rocker who’d partied hard back in the day.

I didn’t like his looks or his vibe, but I politely sat in his chair anyway.  As I picked at my hair, trying to describe what I wanted, he abruptly told me that I was paying him to cut my hair, not drive him crazy, so I had to keep my hands out of my hair.  I was taken aback but, nice girl that I was, I folded my hands in my lap.

As he roughly raked through my hair, my eyes welled up with tears.  “I’m extremely tender-headed.” I told him.

“Well I’m not known for being gentle,” he growled. And I still sat there, blinking back the tears.

I was aware of a sickly feeling growing stronger in the pit of my stomach.  But I did not leave. I was frozen and didn’t move.

You know the ending of this story, right?

Of course.

I left with three inches less hair than I wanted, a lousy, unflattering haircut, and the prospect of finding someone else to repair the damage.

What was I thinking? I was operating on the same frequency as my client was in the subway, as the woman who doesn’t get off the elevator when the creepy guy gets in, the woman who doesn’t get up, walk out, make a fuss, or do whatever it takes to live her exactly as she pleases.

I ignored all the signals from my gut, because I felt too uncomfortable standing up and leaving.  I ignored my feelings because I was afraid to tell him the truth.

We’re such good girls aren’t we?  In the name of being nice, of not making a fuss, not offending, not drawing attention to ourselves, and a load of other unhelpful motivations, we tolerate all kinds of inappropriate people and behavior.

We ignore the clues in our bodies, as they sometimes whisper and  sometimes scream at us–get up, leave, walk, run, speak up, yell, don’t sit here, don’t stay here, don’t do business here, get the hell out of here and don’t turn back.

Enough!  I for one am declaring my personal independence and I invite you to join me.

Let us declare our independence from being nice above all, no matter what it costs.

Let us declare that from this moment forward, we will put our desire to be safe and happy over our desires to be nice, polite, good girls.  Let us listen to the signals from our bodies, to our discomfort, to our gut feelings. 

Whether it’s to protect our personal safety or our hair or anything in between, let us give up sitting quietly with our hands folded in our laps. 

Let us never, ever again fail to speak up for ourselves, and not leave, speak up, shout, or whatever it takes to look out for our best interests. 

Will you join me?

Tags: fear · listening to your body · risk · truth

It’s not about the pose.

December 29th, 2009 · 2 Comments

Natalie Morales Koundinyasa“It’s not about the pose, it’s about your reaction to the pose.”  Over and over I hear this in from my yoga teacher.

When my standing leg turns to jelly, when I quit while the rest of the class keeps going, or when my arm strength gives out and I plop rather than float to the floor, my wonderful yoga teacher, Natalie Morales, softly reminds me, “it’s not about the pose, it’s about your reaction to the pose.”

When I lose my balance and topple sideways, Natalie cheerfully calls across the room, ”nice dismount, Terry!”  Encouraged, I grin and quickly return to the pose. With her good humor and gentle guidance, I can focus on my present efforts, rather than grumble to myself about what I didn’t do, how impossibly hard it is, or how I’ll never get it right.

When I can  remember this, it’s so much better. If my arms are weak and I don’t pop up into full wheel effortlessly, or at all, it’s fine.  My inability to hold chaturanga becomes almost as interesting as my graceful execution of a fully extended dancer’s pose.

I can stay strong, moving forward with less and less effort, steadily improving even as I topple, wobble, and flop.

Slowly and surely, I progress physically.  Little by little, my balance and stamina improves, my leg lifts higher, my headstands last longer and become more stable.

But the most empowering aspect of this practice is the transformation of my attitude, from one of competition and judgment to a powerful attitude of acceptance and persistence.

It’s not about the pose.

It’s not about what happens, it’s about our reaction to what happens.

When, despite your very best efforts, life’s challenges still arise (as they always will), what will your reaction be?  When the weather changes and your eagerly anticipated plans have to change with it, when loved ones let your down, when life just doesn’t cooperate with you, how will you react?  Will you gnash and thrash and struggle? Will you mutter under your breath that it’s too hard, not fair? Will you regretfully scold yourself, tell yourself you should have done better or you should have handled it differently?  Will you give up?

Or can you smile, tell yourself “nice dismount,” and jump back in, renewing your efforts?

Can you remember what you did well, how you showed up and reached out, how well you communicated, how you stayed calm under fire, took a risk, stayed in your truth, took responsibility, and aligned with your values?

And just as important, will you forgive yourself for the times you didn’t.

When you fell out of the pose, when you didn’t reach out when you could have, when you were thoughtless or didn’t say the right thing, can you still move forward?  Can you let it go, and simply acknowledge that it’s not about what happened?  Can you remember it’s always about how you respond this time, right now?

Over and over, we will have the opportunity to answer these questions:  How do I want to react?  How do I choose to respond?

By remembering this simple truth, we can stay empowered and eager to jump back in, ready for the next challenge, and fascinated by the wonder of it all.

Tags: acceptance · truth

Guilty with an Explanation

December 5th, 2009 · 2 Comments

gavelAs a new lawyer, I worked in Miami’s county courts of where kids with blaring stereos and cars without mufflers, unruly boaters who sped across manatee habitats, and petty thieves faced time in the county jail mostly for their unrepentantly boorish behavior.  The courts teemed with emotion, illogic, and, not infrequently, chaos.  The defendants and their families waited alongside long-suffering neighborhoods seeking their day in court against louts whose dogs ran through their gardens, digging, pooping, and terrifying cats.

In addition to the legally recognized pleas of guilty and not guilty, the shrewd judges allowed a third alternative which had absolutely no legal significance but served as a practical and efficient way to keep the heavy docket moving.

Over and over, the court clerk sternly demanded of the defendant, “How do you plead, guilty, not guilty, or guilty with an explanation?”  “Guilty with an explanation” was the overwhelmingly popular choice

The defendant was then given a few minutes to offer his excuses, justifications, and rationalizations for doing what he did.  But he was still guilty, and treated accordingly.

How often we do this in our personal lives?  We behave unreliably, sometimes worse.  We break rules, ignore the twinges of conscience that tug at us, then plead “guilty with an explanation,” stammering out our excuses.  It feels lame, because, in the end, it is lame. We’re guilty with or without an explanation.

What if we simply admitted it?   “I’m sorry. I apologize. I hope you’ll forgive me.”  An apology without an excuse.  Guilty without an explanation.

It’s a risk that takes courage, but, in the end, a far more truthful and satisfying  choice.

Tags: truth · Uncategorized

How not being sensible got me to Africa.

September 17th, 2009 · 9 Comments

Does she have an Inner Nag?

Does she have an Inner Nag?

After I returned from my trip to Africa, people wanted to know what the best part of the trip was. The people, the animals, the landscape, the country, and the workshop I attended all enriched my life in so many ways.

But did one thing stand out?

Yes. The best part of the trip for me was that I went.  I didn’t take the advice of the whiney chorus of nagging, nay-saying voices in my head intoning “NO-O-O-O. Don’t go.  You shouldn’t do this.”

“You don’t have the time,” the clockwatcher crisply noted.

“You don’t have the money,” intoned the voice of lack, convinced it’s the only thing between me and a life spent living under a bridge with my worldly belongings in a shopping cart.

“You didn’t plan this far enough in advance,” clucked the practical one as she studied the lists on her clipboard.

“The long plane ride will wipe you out,” implored the hand-wringer that thinks danger and injury lurk around every corner.

“Everyone will think it’s foolish/be jealous/won’t like you,” pleaded the approval-junkie that desperately wants to get along well with others.

Is she looking for approval?

Is she looking for approval?

I’d heard them all before, cautioning me not to seize other opportunities in my life.  I’ve listened to their advice so many times.

This time, I realized they were just the voices of doubt, trying to protect me when I didn’t need protection.  So I thanked them for their efforts–they really had my best interests at heart.

Then, I ignored them.

My stomach still did loops when I gave the airline agent my credit card information and realized that I was committed.  It’s to be expected when stretching into new territories, both geographically and metaphorically.

And I had a fantastic trip with absolutely no regrets.  I was enchanted.  I learned.  I shared amazing sights and transformative insights with fabulous people.  I had an adventure.  It felt light and airy and magical and free.  And it still does.

He doesn't seem to be worried about his future.

He doesn’t seem to be worried about his future.

The Buddha taught that you can always know the sea because it always tastes of salt and you can always know enlightenment because it always tastes like freedom.

I can recall so many adventures that I’ve passed up because I chose to believe that chorus of hyper-cautious, sensible voices.

This time I listened to the deeper, wiser voice inside me.  “Go,” it whispered.  “This is an opportunity of a lifetime.  Don’t pass it up.  Go.”

Recognizing and listening to that still, quiet voice of truth is the greatest lesson I learned.   And it’s delicious.  It tastes like freedom.

Tags: desire · fear · truth

Where’s The “Real” World?

September 8th, 2009 · 14 Comments

Londolozi, South Africa

Each dawn we bundle up and sleepily climb into an open Range Rover.  We pull thick wool blankets across our laps, gratefully tuck our hands around the hot water bottle nestled inside, and head out across a network of dirt trails traversing gently rolling hills and grassy fields.

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We pass leafless tree-skeletons

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and quiet ponds ringed with vibrant green marshes.

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It looks very much like the open lands in the Colorado foothills, with one very significant exception.  Londolozi teems with an incredibly diverse array of animals and birds not found in the wild in North America.  Nyala, kudu, duiker, impala, hare, vulture, eagle, bat, heron, mongoose, monkey, warthog, baboon, giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, elephant, water buffalo, hippopotamus, lion, leopard, rhinoceros, hyena, crocodile, duck, stork, lizard, guinea fowl, lilac-breasted roller–the list is endless and in short time, we see them all.

And it’s up close and personal. . . .
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We sit motionless, spellbound by the antics of lion cubs pouncing on their macho but indulgent father.

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We’re awed by the sublime

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And the ridiculous

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We were even charged by this grumpy, one-tusked bull elephant.  My adrenaline was running so high, I missed the photo op.

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Luckily he only wanted to chase us off.  We happily indulged him.

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The full moon is shinier and fuller and more beautiful than ever before when sitting atop a termite mound.

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And just as we were getting used to the idea that we really were in Africa, that we really were seeing the African land, the African moon, and that the animals really hadn’t escaped from the zoo, it was time to leave.

Toward the end of the week, a couple of folks in our group voiced their dread of returning to “the real world.”

Which raises a fascinating question—which one is the real world anyway?  Is it the one at home, with careers, relationships, fashion, television, mortgages, the internet, and animals who eat from cans?

Or is it here, in the African bush?

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Tags: acceptance · truth

The Power of No.

August 6th, 2009 · 2 Comments

monkey-noDo you ever say “yes” or “maybe” when you really want to say “no?”  Or do you muddle your “no” with explanations, excuses, or apologies?

Consider these alternatives:

–I don’t want you to get the wrong idea about me.  But you know, I don’t know, I just don’t think it’s a good idea.  I’m sorry.  Please don’t be mad at me.

–No.  I’m not ready to have sex with you.

How about these:

–I really don’t want you to use my car tonight because the last time you went out in it you stayed out until 4 am and you didn’t call me and  I was so worried about you and I just don’t sleep when that happens.

–No, dear.  You can’t borrow my car tonight.

Or these:

–I don’t know.  I’m really tired, and I’m not sure how I’ll feel tonight.  So, I’ll have to call you later.

–No, I’m not available tonight.  Thanks for asking!

How about these options:

–You know, my credit card balances have really crept up and I have to get my washer fixed and go to the dentist and I don’t get paid for another two weeks.  So, I don’t know, I’ll have to think about it.

–No, I can’t lend you money.

When we are not clear in our no’s we open the door to debate and  argument.  We set ourselves up for difficult relationships.  We often agree to do things that conflict with our real desires and our core values.

Whether we reluctantly go along with something because we’re  reluctant to say “no,”  or we somehow wriggle out of it by offering up enough excuses, it feels icky.  We’re wind up doing something we didn’t want to do, or we’re exhausted by our guilt and the effort to get out of it.

One of the most empowering things we can do is to say “no” honestly, clearly, and cleanly.  Without excuses. Without hemming and hawing. Without strangling your own voice.

It feels good. Try it. I bet you’ll agree.

Tags: truth