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Entries Tagged as '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

How ignoring my Inner Nag got me to Africa.

September 17th, 2009 · 9 Comments

Does she have an Inner Nag?

Does she have an Inner Nag?

Over and over, I’ve been asked the same thing about my recent trip to Africa: what was the best part, the most important thing I learned, my biggest “aha”?  The people, the animals, the landscape, the country, and the African STAR workshop enriched my life in so many ways.  Did one thing stand out?

I puzzled over this, and then it hit me.

The biggest lesson for me was this–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,” somber as a criminal court judge handing down a life sentence without possibility of parole.

“You don’t have the time,” the clockwatcher crisply noted.  “You don’t have the money,” begged 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 many times.  This time, I realized they were just the voices of limiting thoughts that weren’t true.   So I thanked them for their efforts.  And I ignored them.

Oh my stomach still did loops when I gave the airline agent my credit card information.  But I knew my feelings were coming from thoughts fueled by my Inner Nags.  So I bought the ticket.

And I had a fantastic trip with absolutely no regrets.  I was enchanted.  I learned.  I grew.  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 · stillness · thinking · truth

Which one is 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’re even charged by this grumpy, one-tusked bull elephant.  Our adrenaline was running so high, I missed the photo op.

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He’s probably responsible for snapping the tree limb here, so 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: noticing · truth

What do you do when things don’t go smoothly?

June 2nd, 2009 · No Comments

Broken BowlA quiz:

1.  The electric drill breaks in the middle of a big project that you had set the whole weekend aside for. You:
a.  Tell yourself the drill shouldn’t break because it’s not that old.
b.  Curse the drill, the traffic on the way to the home store to buy a new drill, and the long checkout line in the store.
c.  Tell yourself and the person next to you in the checkout line that it’s a rip-off that drills cost so much and don’t last long.
d.  All of the above.

2.  Your printer is feuding with your computer when you need a document pronto for an important meeting.  You:
a.  Tell yourself that the printer should work because it was working fine a minute ago.
b.  Hit the print command over and over.
c.  Tell yourself you are an idiot for waiting for the last minute to print the document, and worry about losing your job.
d.  Tell yourself that bad things always happen to you
e.  All of the above.

3.  You leave late and hit a huge traffic jam on your way to your dental appointment.  You:
a.  Tell yourself the traffic shouldn’t be jammed at this hour.
b.  Grab the steering wheel tightly, clench your teeth, and curse the traffic.
c.  Think up dramatic excuses to tell the dental receptionist, the dentist, and everyone in the waiting room about why you are late.
d.  Complain to everyone in the waiting room that you have way too much to do and not enough time to do it in.
e.  All of the above.

4.  You are remodeling your kitchen and the granite you ordered doesn’t arrive on time, requiring your contractor to postpone the installation of your counters and new sink.  You have a big party at your house Saturday night, and you were planning to show off your new kitchen.  You:
a.  Chew out the contractor about how he missed an important deadline.
b.  Cancel your party and tell your friends (and yourself) how stressful it is to remodel.
c.  Get in a huge fight with your partner who doesn’t want to cancel the party, and who just doesn’t get it.
d.  Spend the afternoon crying.
e.  All of the above.

If you chose a, b, c, d, or e, it’s called arguing with reality, and it’s an argument you will lose.  Always.

Here’s the truth:  drills break, printers don’t print, and traffic jams happen.  Refrigerators and washing machines break, too, usually when they are full.  Kids forget to take their homework to school, granite doesn’t arrive on time for your party, and your last pair of contact lenses rip as you take them out of the container.  No matter what you are endeavoring to do, sometimes there will be glitches, delays, foul-ups, screw-ups, and mess-ups.  Count on it.

Now, answer one more question:

You are in the middle of something and a glitch, delay, or foul-up happens.  You:

a.  Accept reality
b.  Respond with a peaceful heart
c.  Find your sense of humor
d.  All of the above

Tags: stress · truth

Some tough, amazing questions to ask yourself about what’s bugging you.

March 14th, 2009 · No Comments

pest-control3What’s bugging you?  Is there anything going on in your life that you think shouldn’t have happened, shouldn’t be happening?  Here are some tough yet amazingly compelling questions to ask yourself.

How is this situation right?

How is this situation perfect?

What difference is there between the two questions?  What is the difference in the answers you got?

This is a powerful way to get honest and to see reality from another perspective.  For me, it cuts right through all of the noise and clatter of self-righteousness and victimhood and blame and excuses.

I find that when I do this, I get all of my icky judgmental thoughts exposed to the light.  What’s left is honesty.  Sometimes that honesty still hurts.  But it’s a very different, clean hurt that I can allow myself to feel and move through.

The shift can be amazing.  Try it.  See for yourself what happens.

Tags: noticing · truth

Can You Love All of You?

December 2nd, 2008 · 2 Comments

pink-flower_000005420955xsmallIn our Joy Diet class today, I mentioned Evy McDonald, who suffered from ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), an incurable, usually fatal, neuromuscular disease where the body’s motor neurons, which control voluntary movement, degenerate.  Sitting in her wheelchair, Evy chose to literally face her disease, and sat before a mirror looking at her deteriorating body.  In the beginning, she was revolted by herself.  Gradually, she became able to find aspects of herself to admire.  In time, she made peace with herself, both her healthy as well as her weakened body.  And then a miracle occurred.

Evy wrote about it in a newsletter of the Canadian Holistic Healing Association: “I couldn’t pinpoint just when the shift occurred, but one day I noticed that I had no negative thoughts about my body. I could look in the mirror at my naked reflection and be honestly awed by its beauty. I was totally at peace, with a complete, unalterable acceptance of the way my body was – a bowl of jello in a wheelchair.”

Although she had been given only a year to live, Evy ultimately made a full recovery from the disease.  In writing about her process, which you can read more about here, Evy stresses a point we have discussed at length in our Joy Diet class: she let go of outcome in her quest to accept herself.

She suggests this as a step in the healing journey, a step we can all wisely follow, no matter what kind of healing we are doing:  “Release all expectations of how it will turn out. Your body may heal completely – or not at all. You may find that a wheelchair, cane, walker or crutches becomes an integral part of your daily life. That does not determine whether or not you live in a state of wellness.”

Our wellness, indeed our wholeness, then, does not depend so much on whether we lose the weight, heal our knee, or find the perfect career.  We become well and whole when we make peace with all of us.

Our jobs then, as joy seekers, is to make peace with our overweight bodies, our strained backs, the times we yelled at our kids when we were tired and angry, the unkind things we said to ourselves, marrying the wrong person, failing the test, and on and on.  When we can accept all that we are, all that we’ve done, all the decisions we’ve made, all with an open and loving heart, we become whole.

The only thing that’s stopping us is the our failure to see the truth about our beauty and our magnificence.  Luckily, as joy dieters, we know the steps to get there.  And we’ll keep taking them.

Tags: joy diet · truth