Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Extreme Self-Esteem

dog training I watched a Bill Maher Real Time HBO episode recently. His interview guest was Amy Chua, author of "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother." The point Maher zoomed in on from her book is that parents these days are so concerned about a child's self-esteem that they "over-reward" them for doing the least little thing right. Chua maintains that children should earn their self-esteem by doing difficult things well that require skill to do them.

The reward-for-least-little-thing-right thinking I believe comes from pet training. All a dog has to do to get a treat is sit down, come when called, or rollover. You train cats in the same way, although much more strategically. Our big tabby cat, Ralph, believes he is training me to do what he wants, and I'm happy to do it because when I do what he wants when I want it, it trains him when to ask (such as for food and going outside).

But, children are not pets. They are a part of yourself, and like yourself, they do not need constant reinforcement to do what they probably would do anyway. I don't believe humans are wired to fail--it's an evolutionary imperative, for one thing. A person may appear to fail at something, but they'll keep trying until they succeed; and if they continually fail at the same thing, they are getting some sort of success out of it on the back end, guaranteed. If they give up, it's because they've changed their definition of success.

More accurately, humans are wired to see success in every action they take. Some actions may seem futile to some, but they keep on doing the action, looking for some way to make it a success, or to re-evaluate the situation so that it becomes a success.

Self-esteem has become linked to success or failure--the more successful one is, the higher the self-esteem. If one fails a lot, their self-esteem takes a beating. There's a lie in that, however, because the definition of success or failure is an arbitrary judgment.

Taoist parable It's like the ancient Taoist parable about the old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. "Such bad luck," they said sympathetically. "May be," the farmer replied. The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. "How wonderful," the neighbors exclaimed. "May be," replied the old man. The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune. "May be," answered the farmer. The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son's leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out. "May be," said the farmer.

We have no way of knowing what the consequences are of a particular success or failure, so basing one's self-esteem on such illusory concepts is pointless. Thus, by accepting the truth of the illusion of the success-and-failure model, the entire question of good or bad self-esteem is rendered moot.

The other major factor entering in to what we call self-esteem is the judging of self against the expectations of others. Children are particularly susceptible to this form of failure, as the expectations of their parents sets up the link between self-esteem and success/failure. You're bad when you "fail," good when you "succeed," where failing or succeeding depends on the accuracy with which the child can judge or estimate the expectations of the parents. I believe this is all wired to survival strategies of the young. They must not fall out of favor with the source of their nourishment, and they learn quickly the difference between a smile (which is rewarded), and a frown (for which there is no reward).

Thus, the habit is formed to look outside one's self to ascertain other's expectations in order the judge one's own success or failure determining the level of one's self-esteem.

I caught myself the other day with a picture of my mother in my head telling me how to vacuum correctly, and I was actually changing my behavior to please her. She's been dead for 15 years, and yet here I was still trying to be a success in her eyes, so I could have good self-esteem.

on TV These are habits of thinking. They are not the truth. These habits are tricky, though, and you have to be on the lookout for them. In my article on Values and Memes, I point out how concepts of expectations can be easily wrapped up into a couple of "code words" that can be used to manipulate behavior. This is especially rampant in politics and marketing. You are a "success" if you buy this after shave; you are a "winner" if you buy this brand of car; you are "smart" if you buy this baby food; etc., etc., ad nauseum. The implication is--because of the success/failure dichotomy--if you don't buy these products, you are a failure. I went through one phase a few years back where I specifically refused to buy any products I saw ads for in retaliation for all the years of manipulation before. Of course, I snapped out of it when I realized I'd been manipulated into the retaliation.

By being aware of these types of memes and their manipulative power, you can simply step outside of the whole game of "want success/don't want failure." My guru kept making a point to me for a few years about preferences. "You don't WANT something--you prefer it," he'd say. I couldn't get the difference for a long time. Of course I prefer what I want. But this was his point. By preferring, you can be happy with something not of your preference--it's not such a binding concept as wanting.

"The world suffers because it wants," he'd say. "Change the world by changing your preferences." Hence, by preferring something like world peace, you are allowing what is not world peace to be there so that it doesn't form a polarity. By strongly wanting world peace, you add energy to its opposite. The basic truth of the matter is that there IS world peace, otherwise how would we know the difference?

So winding back down to self-esteem, the basic truth is that anything we do is a success, because just being is a success as far as the universe is concerned. We are spiritual beings having a physical experience, so by just showing up, you're perfect. You cannot do anything wrong other than what you or society have judged to be wrong.

The only preference the universe has is that you BE. Ultimately, any expression of self is an expression of god, because at the very center of our Being is a direct connection to the Divine. Just like Jake and Elwood Blues--we are all on a mission for God. What more self-esteem can there be than that?

Monday, September 29, 2014

You Are The Healer

healer I usually get really fired up when the subject of corporate medicine violating personal power comes up. But, I admirably held my tongue the other day, when a musician friend of mine came into a gig all stooped over, in obvious pain, looking pale and weak. From years of abusing his own health, he has ended up at age 52 with degenerated lumbar discs, which cause him so much pain, his doctor has him on a daily regimen of morphine. It had been valium, but after a while that wasn't doing anything for him except making him sicker, so in all medical wisdom his doctor simply prescribed something way stronger.

Well, my friend, being the party-hardy fellow he has always been, ended up abusing this prescription of morphine, so by the end of the prescription period he had already taken all the doses, and now he was without medication, and nearly writhing in pain.

I remember several years ago, my musician friend told me that if he ended up getting lung cancer from smoking too much, liver damage from drinking while on prescription drugs, or incapacitated for any other reason, modern medical science will just fix it, and he'd be fine... presumably to continue smoking, drinking and abusing drugs.

I asked him if his doctors ever recommended he stop smoking and drinking so much. He said his doctor smoked, and no, which was fine by him, because they would just prescribe more drugs.

I personally think my friend should probably sue his doctor for malpractice, but then I realize that he has kept that doctor for a good reason: to get high and have a enabler for all his bad health habits. This really had very little to do with the doctor and everything to do with how my friend was being a doctor to himself.

In another case, I regularly speak with a customer of Pure Energy Rx, who has had many health challenges, but has always either self-treated or gone to a Chinese medicine practitioner. One day, because of a requirement by her insurance company, she went to the insurance company's M.D. for a physical. She called me, all shakey, and said that this doctor was very concerned about her health, and that he practically coerced her into getting immediate testing for heart and liver damage. She was devastated, because she had been feeling great, her life was going well, and she was making vacation plans with the family. Now all that was in jeopardy, she thought.

I suggested that she simply go see her naturopath, get blood tests, and calm down, because the fear installed in her by this M.D. was having more effect on her health than anything else going on in her life.

healer A few weeks later, we spoke again, and I asked what had happened with the scary M.D. She said she'd gone to her naturopath, got some acupuncture for stress, because that's all the naturopath could diagnose from her symptoms. She got the blood tests, which all turned out to be within normal ranges, and she was greatly relieved. And then she got annoyed, and soon angry at the insurance company for using this scary M.D. who was obviously running some kind of fear tactic to get new patients.

That re-reminded me of the glut of scary medical information that gets thrown at the general public through pharmaceutical ads plastered across TVs, magazines, newspapers and the Internet. Much of this "information" is so generalized, that anyone has had this or that symptom at sometime in their life, which is the point. Corporate medicine must make a profit like everyone else, and it doesn't really matter if scaring people works to sell their products.

Yet, there is a much deeper point to these observations, and I keep coming back to this: we are all creating what happens to us. The trap in this, however, is that we have been convinced by Life that we have limited or no effect on what we experience. We are afraid of what we might not know. And this is exactly what "experts" rely on to create fear in potential clients, so these new clients will run to them to resolve their "unknown" crises.

"You may have a more serious condition," "Your financial assets may be in danger," "Your credit card or computer could be hacked," "You may not know the Truth about yourself!" After a while, you come to believe that every moment carries some risk of fatality, or incapacitating injury. The metaphysical point here is that none of it is true until you agree. And that is the real Truth about yourself right there.

In the book, The Bond, by Lynne McTaggert, she makes a great case about the psychological value of belonging to a group trumping the effect of personal lifestyles. One of several examples she cites, was a recent extensive study of Japanese immigrants. The study compared immigrants who maintained the traditional Japanese cultural behaviors within groups or communities doing the same; against those immigrants who eschewed their traditional culture and embraced a new American set of values and behaviors.

After analyzing 35 years of data, the researchers found that the immigrants who maintained their Japanese culture with a group (such as a large family or community) lived significantly longer (Japan has the highest number of centenarians per capita in the world), than those immigrants who abandoned their cultural roots. This was independent of diet and other health behaviors. In fact, many of the centenarians in the traditional group had remained committed smokers from a young age.

Therefore, it was concluded that it was the traditional cultural bond amongst the members of the group that trumped anything else for longevity. The sense of belonging was more important to health than any other factor.

alienation What I took away from this information is that the mind-body connection alone ultimately determines health; and if you feel alienated, out of touch with humanity and Nature, fearful of every moment, without love in your life in some form, that is a blueprint for disease.

In shamanistic healing practices, every uneasiness, discomfort, pain, ailment, disease, or fear is a signal. It is your body telling you something about how you are disconnected from the True Self. The True Self is radiant, vibrant, unconditionally loving, infinitely creative, and unlimited in its power. Therefore, what is not that is The Work. By finding the patterns of belief, justification, and decision that have taken you away from True Self, you are released to be Who You Truly Are.

What a different world this would be if we taught our children this very thing. They are radiant, creative, loving and meaningful--their thoughts and feelings determine their body's responses. Instead, our children are barraged with images of violence, demeaning behaviors, alienation and disempowerment. We all grew up with that, and that is our legacy.

Therefore, bottom, bottom line is that honest, penetrating self-inquiry out of the infinitely deep well of love in our hearts will trump any perceived outward condition, circumstance, or disease. Yes, it is work, but what other kind of work is there? Really.

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Sunday, September 28, 2014

You Are Your Life

mirror There is an ancient Mayan greeting, that roughly translated is, "I am another yourself."

When I first heard that, I kept thinking about it, and what it actually means. And as I continued down that rabbit hole I realized that within that simple statement sits the core of all the forbidden, secret spiritual knowledge. Because, if I am really you, then I know everything about you. If I know all about you, then I know all about your life. If I know all about your life, then that means my experience of life is what I'm creating.

People fight this idea, and god (literally) knows I certainly have. We fight it because we fear ourselves--we fear what we create, and usually with damn good reason. Add up all the pain, suffering, injustice, catastrophe, drama, and tears, and who would want to cop to creating all that?

Well, the good news is that when you finally DO start to cop to it all, it starts to look more and more like a game you can win. But the game is really multi-handed solitaire, with all the players being different versions of yourself. Life really is a game you play with yourself.

Not surprisingly, at the heart of shamanic knowledge is this core Reality that everything you sense (that means everything) is something you have created. During my shaman training, I had to be broken of the habit of rationalization on this point. I'd say, "Well, OK, I can see how I helped to create what I perceive--I can see that as being reasonable." Then the teacher would snap back, "No. The 'others' creating your experience are you, too." So then I'd say, "Well, we share a mutual experience." Then the retort, "No. There is no sharing. This is you." At that point, I'd usually get my mind blown and shut up. But within a few days, I'd re-embrace the societal norm of individualistic separatism, where everyone you come in contact with has their life (that you know little about), and you have your life that they know little about. It's all about feeling safe in the not-knowing of it all.

This thinking is, of course, dis-empowering and completely unacceptable for any kind of shaman certificate you may be studying for. Shamans call it the Art of Impeccability. And this is, for me, the hardest part of accepting my own creation.

Impeccability means being impeccable with your awareness, so that you at every moment are aware of what you are aware of. It's easy to lapse into an illusion of spectator, or victim, and that is the societal norm--or even requirement in some circles. "This was done to me by forces beyond my control." Boy, say that to a shaman and you're likely to get slapped upside the back of the head. There is no such thing as "beyond your control." There metaphysically cannot be, because the basic assumption (when you incarnated) is that you're creating your experience of time, dimension, body, life. The first lie we buy into is that it is a "participatory reality," or a "consensual creation." Nope. It's all you, baby!

ourselves But, but, but... I couldn't possibly know what my friend ate for breakfast--I wasn't there. Well, I've got news for you: because you asked the question, you were there, and can answer it accurately, as long as you maintain impeccability long enough to receive those perceptions.

What we as humans are really good at is separating ourselves into "conscious" and "subconscious." The conscious part is what we are aware of, and the subconscious part is what we are not aware of. Therefore, for spiritual progress to happen, the task is to find out what it is that we are unaware of. How do you do that? Well, every technique taught in any spiritual modality will do--they are all just ways of discovering what you are not aware of.

Patterns are an excellent place to start. Who hasn't had an "a-ha" moment when spotting a pattern in their own behavior? In fact, the human mind is all about patterns. Without the ability to render the senses into patterns, nothing would materialize. The mind IS the pattern-making device we use. The reason the "a-ha" happens from noticing a pattern is because a part of yourself was creating that pattern, and now that you recognize it, you reclaim that unconscious part of yourself, so it feels like a revelation. What's great is that revelations feel good, which, as far as I'm concerned, is the saving grace of the human race.

Once you make this pattern search a regular discipline, all sorts of other patterns will emerge that you had no idea had been related. For instance, I noticed a pattern happening around the change in seasons last week where my body started looking for a cold or allergies or something that I usually would experience from summer to fall. I traced this back to my mom telling me to watch out for the autumn cold. It's reinforced by signs in grocery stores hawking "Flu Shots", and every other myself running around looking for the first signs of a cold or flu. It's an unconscious pattern that gets accepted without awareness. That is what is called NOT being impeccable.

Adopting a Sherlock Holmes-ian attitude of exuberant investigation into anomalous patterns helps to flush some of these buggers out. What is the energy going on around that ache in my leg? Why am I slightly on edge today? Why am I grumpy? Why am I broke? These are valid investigatory lines and will bear fruit as long as you impeccably proceed without any attachment to what you may or may not discover.

Asking life in general for answers is always a sure-fire method. There are so many participatory layers of awareness available to you, you can literally ask any question and get a meaningful answer--sometimes it takes some time, but I've never seen that fail. I have, however, failed to continue to ask until it is answered, but that is all a part of impeccability.

noticing Another good tool is "Noticing What You Notice." It's a part of the game of being aware of being aware. When you are investigating for patterns, notice where your attention goes and what your mind does while on the investigation. You'll be amazed sometimes at just how much you really can be aware of, and how your mind works to create a recognizable experience for yourself.

One of my spiritual guides, Anttarr, got me going on this particular article after reading his book, "The Forbidden Gift." Anttarr talks about projections, and how humans project out into their creations parts of themselves that have no outlet within their standard inner experience. We might project out our friend being sick, because we already know we are healthy, but something sick inside of us can't express itself, so it projects out into the form of a sick friend. This is at the core of the Hawaiian technique of Ho’oponopono, where the Kahuna searches within herself to find where she is creating this disease or discomfort sitting in front of her in the form of a client.

Anttarr further sums up, "In all circumstances, the self meets self. So one will find exaggerated features of their own psychology represented by all others in their lives."

Focus on all circumstances and all others. We are all mirrors of our total psychology. Anttarr continues, "Again, self meets self at every turn, and there is no escape. Because it is within, wherever you go and whatever you do you will always recreate the experience in one fashion or another..."

So, as I tend to do, the take-away bumper sticker is, "Wherever you go, there you are."

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Saturday, September 27, 2014

Message from the President

Finding Now

now We humans struggle so with such earnest and angst about problems, issues, decisions, and judgments, when 99% of it is an illusion. And even that awareness can be equally upsetting.

I've found in my research that this 99% illusion is primarily composed of our inability to or lack of focus on the present moment. NOW is who you are. NOW is where heaven is. NOW is simultaneously the way and the destination. NOW is home.

Take a look at what you have been worrying about. Is any of it actually happening NOW, or is it really happening in the past or the future? One double-edged capability we all have is to put our thoughts and our feelings into the past or the future. If I was to ask you if you are in the present moment when you are crying, you'd say "yes" because that sorrow seems to be heppening right now. If you are in physical pain, you would most certainly claim to be in the present moment, if for no other reason than the pain itself seems to force you there. But this is, once again, an illusion.

Pain, suffering, grief, jealousy, anger, and the rest of what we refer to as "negative" emotions are really all connected together in a sort of past-experience matrix. The fear of pain, suffering, etc. is a future projection connected to that matrix. Pain, especially if it is excruciating, convinces us that the NOW is painful and forces us into a "future" where that pain is gone. And with chronic pain, depression sets in from living in a desperately desired future that never comes.

The big "SECRET" is that we are all hard-wired for joy, and that joy is only found in the present moment. I say "hard-wired" because joy is the basic and primal driving justification for existence. ALL of our attention, intention and our striving is for one purpose, and one purpose only: JOY. As famed mystic and intellectual, Alan Watts said, "Ecstasy, by one road or another, is inevitable." I would venture to say that the reason this is hard-wired is because THAT is WHO WE ARE, and this is reflected in our brain-body-mind.

road to now The "road" Watts refers to is made of decision and intention. We decide to leave the past and the future, and intend to experience joy. The space between leaving the non-present, and entering into the now, is what we call "time". Have you noticed that when you are fully in joy, or even just really happy, time fades away. And yet, when we are in pain, time seems to go on forever.

One conundrum of human existence is that joy is the only thing that brings us into the present moment. It is always an option, and as such is just a decision away. It may be a chirping bird, the sweet scent of a rose wafting through the air, fluffy clouds in a deeply blue sky, infinite stars in a cloudless sky... or, the sense of breathing in the sweet, living air, the faint pulse of your heart in your knees, the wonderful healing heat of rubbing your hands together. Whatever it is, it can immediately bring you to now.

This is a skill. But there is an over-arching principle here that is important: What you pay attention to expands. The more joy you decide to perceive, the more joy becomes apparent, and will crowd out any pain and suffering. Continue to be with joy, and soon your life will reflect back to you more and more reasons for joy. And because joy is who and what you are, this can happen very quickly. Appreciation and gratitude are more skills to apply in getting to now.

The other "secret" that we all really know is what some call "faith", others call "contextualizing". We have "faith" that what we think is happening to us is positive and leading us to more joy, more healing, more happiness. Referring back to Watts' statement that "ecstacy is inevitable," we all get there, either in life or by death.

For example, one person is coping with an aching knee and "has faith" or contextualizes that he is "getting old" and the knee is breaking down. Alarmed, he visits his doctor who runs a couple of tests and although there was nothing conclusive, the knee may be arthritic, and subscribes various drugs for the pain and inflammation. Further alarmed, this person has now decided he has arthritis in his knee, and if he doesn't take the drugs the pain is worse. Soon, x-rays show that the cartlidge in the knee is shrinking, and soon the doctor recommends surgery.

cloud of joy On the other hand... a person with a pain in his knee has faith that it is a new energy pattern to improve or heal a weak knee. The person is excited about having a healed knee, and in a few days, the pain is gone, and the knee feels stronger.

In the first case, the person has stepped away from the present moment into futures of pain and suffering. In the second example, the person has chosen to step into the joy of the now and the healing of the knee.

In both cases, where the attention went is what expanded.

Allow the option of joy at every opportunity. Exercise that skill and it will grow stronger and more effective. Let the pain and worry of life be a cue to find the joy, and soon the Real Ecstatic You is revealed in all its wondrous healing glory.

In vibrant health,

Boyd Martin, President