Facing Down the DramaCourage is the price that life exacts for granting peace.
· Amelia Earhart
We are born with two simple but definite absolutes in our lives. The first is that we are going to live for a time here on the earth and the second is that we are going to die at some point in the future. Neither of these is negotiable.
We have the least amount of control over dying. We can eat the nutritious foods, exercise, and develop a healthy wqy of living, but this does not guarantee longevity, only a better quality of life.
The quality of life we have on planet Earth is really up to us through the choices we make. Many outside factors present us with good fortune or challenges, but as life progresses, we hope to learn to deal with our choices in positive, life-enriching ways. As adults, how we choose to react to outside circumstances is entirely up to us, especially if we are awake to the human and spiritual dimensions of life.
I found myself at a juncture in life filled with incredibly painful physical symptoms caused by an addiction to fear. I gave up alcohol and drugs only to take on a new addiction to fear and worry. So even with nine years of sobriety, I chose to go back into therapy and look at the monsters that were under my bed. Therapy is not a fast process, but it has brought me most relief.
Fear has been one of my greatest challenges. Fear of failure, fear of not being liked or accepted, fear of not having enough, fear of dying. The list goes on and on. Fear is one of the most powerful feelings that any human can experience. But 90 percent of the fears we experience hold no water in the reality of life.
They are horror stories we make up and project in our mind. Most of the time, the body does not know the difference between what is real and that which we create so vividly in our imaginations. The body reacts in defensive ways even though there is no actual threat. Adrenaline is pumped throughout the system, which only makes us more hypervigilant. This causes more stress. Stress in turn has many physical ways of expressing itself: headaches, ulcers, fatigue, insomnia.
As a society, we self-medicate, treat the symptoms, and rarely get to the underlying causes. Those remedies may work for a while, but the toot cause usually pops up in another manner. The symptoms are a wake-up call that something is out of balance and needs to be looked at. Fear is not a bad feeling. It helps us in times of challenge by alerting us to danger and giving a boost of energy to activate the “fight or flight” response.
I cannot tell you how many times I have lain awake in bed playing out my fear scenarios over and over again only to wake in the morning exhausted. Those scenarios I created never happened, but my body felt as if they had, and my life reflected turmoil and disease.
“Face your demons or they will bite your butt” was some advice I got a number of years ago. There are still fear scenarios that I invent that make me sick; but I try not to play the “What if this horrible thing happens” game.
Fear-based living is an addictive lifestyle. The price of playing with imaginary fear scenarios is too costly for me. I start my day with prayer and use positive thoughts to keep me centered in reality. At bedtime I thank God for the day and its lessons and consciously choose uplifting thoughts before going to sleep. A fearful thought may pop into my mind, but I do not entertain it. I cannot stop someone from knocking on my door, but I do not have to let him into my home.
No passion so effectively robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear.
· Edmund Burke
“Every path has a purpose… and the most exciting moments in your life are always ahead of you.”
At the age of 41, I came to realize that my emotions and fears had a lot to do with what was happening in my life. There had to be some other way of experiencing life that I did not understand. There must be a way out of these controlling insecurities, I thought. I had finally come to accept what was happening. Other people appeared to have a better way of dealing with life than I did. So, I made a commitment to myself that I was no longer going to experience life this way. “No matter what!”
There is no particular value in explaining what was going on at that time or what had been happening in my life. I have come to understand that it is just “drama,” my own story. Everyone has his or her own story. All are equally important and valid. Comparing the “dramas” is just another exercise in “my load is heavier than yours.” I have learned the comfort in the journey is that we are the same. The important thing, which is common to us all, is our emotions.
After embracing this journey through the emotions, I realized that it was longer than I had imagined. If someone had told me how long and difficult it was going to be, I might not have started. I know now that it is not really a choice. Once you are ready, you are just ready. Now, I am very thankful because the rewards are far beyond anything I could ever have imagined.
After walking through enough emotions to come to some sort of reasonable balance, I was not satisfied. I wanted to know more about our states of “conditioned reactive behaviors.”
It began to dawn on me that I was not unique. My quest for wisdom and understanding had begun. Perhaps this is a desire common to us all. Wisdom is available from many different sources. I began to search everywhere: books, experiences, people, feelings and nature. Life is the teacher if I am willing and open.
A statement by Herbert Spencer began to take on great meaning for me:
“… a principle … which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance … is contempt prior to investigation.”
As long as I believed there was nothing for me to learn, I would remain in ignorance. For the most part, I felt alone in this quest. There were many teachers, but no guide.
Was I wrong to seek understanding? There were those around me who said, “You don’t need to do that.”
Undaunted, I continued my pursuit. I came to understand that it was my commitment to myself that enabled me to withstand this criticism. Later in this book, you will come to understand what causes others to attempt to stifle the growth of others. In nature, “all good will be attacked.”
Weeds grow without cultivation.
As the choice to seek wisdom was directing me, I began to see wisdom in many things. When self-cultivation became my goal, my own experiences began to give me wisdom. Nature began to shower me with its natural wisdom.
There were many lessons for me to learn, and I never knew what they were going to be until after I had learned them. This led me to realize that to project expectations in life would lead to fear and resistance. If I thought I already “knew” the lesson I needed to learn, there would not be the necessity to learn it. As I learned to embrace all experiences as available wisdom, it is amazing how much easier it became to receive them.
The first lessons I needed to learn were about myself. Since I am part of life, I was the first lesson.
A tree does not grow from the “outside in,” rather the “inside out.”
The primary reason I sought this journey was because there were many patterns repeating themselves in my life that I did not want. The same situations, the same reactions, the same frustrations, the same pain, and “OH! YES!,” the same “feelings.”
No matter how smart I thought I was, these patterns kept repeating. I had no control. The results of my actions were not the ones I wanted. Some change was necessary! I had to make some different choices. AHA!
Lesson #1: “Life Is Choices and Change”
The first lesson was the realization that if I wanted change to occur, there were different choices to make. This is the first major wisdom in becoming conscious.
Sometimes change made me angry, but there was no one to blame. I was not a victim. The idea that everyone and everything else was responsible for my conditions and circumstances in life was an illusion that had been created.
Another realization came to me, “If these illusions had been created, they could be uncreated.”
Lesson #2: “I Am Responsible for the Choices In My Life.”
Complete responsibility? I did not much care for that. It was a lot easier to make others responsible. If I was responsible, what about all those other people who had not understood me and done things to me? Certainly, they had much to do with all the frustration in my life.
When I referred to Lesson #1, I accepted that I had chosen to be with those people and circumstances all by myself.
Additionally, they had their own pain, frustrations, and skills. If I wanted to be patient and compassionate with myself perhaps it would be helpful to be patient with them.
Lesson #3: “Allow Others the Dignity of Their Own Choices in Life.”
This lifted a tremendous burden from my emotional shoulders. You see, I thought I knew how everyone and everything ought to be in life. Life and everyone needed to be fixed and I was certainly qualified to fix it all. Streets are named after people like me. ONE-WAY!
It was a very non-compassionate attitude and very selfish. The choices I had made in my life had indeed been my choices. Some of them turned out well and others not. Regardless, I had the right to make them. So does everyone else. Life was not broken and Gene did not have to fix it. Those were some of my illusions. Instead of life being a destination, I came to realize that it was a process. I was in my process as is everyone else.
Since I did not know what I needed to learn, how could I determine what others needed to learn? Everyone’s life deserved the same respect, honor, worthiness, and esteem that I was beginning to give to myself. This is the beginning of understanding the meaning of compassion. Just as I had been interfering in the process of everyone else’s life with my uninvited opinions, I became aware that others could do the same to me. When my self-esteem was low and I was very insecure, their uninvited opinions affected me in an emotional way. If I were to learn about myself, I had to learn to not have those opinions impact me so severely.
Lesson #4: “Uninvited Opinions from Others Tell Me Much About Them.”
Compassion was something that had been missing in my life. When I was telling everyone what he or she ought to be and do, I thought I was a great person. I was helping others whether they needed it or not; whether they wanted it or not. That is not compassion; it is interference and meddling. Compassion now began to have a real meaning for me. As I was beginning to accept myself, I was beginning to accept others. Everyone has a right to be who he or she is and make the choices they make. I began to see that “life” is the teacher, not me. Life is what shows us the lessons we need to learn and each of us has different lessons. We do not know the lessons we need to learn. How presumptuous for us to think we know what others’ lessons are, how they are to learn, or, even, if they are to learn?
Wisdom is the ability to discern qualities, relationships, attitudes, and courses of action. Discernment is the quality and power to distinguish and select what is true or appropriate. In the search for compassion, understanding, and wisdom, a practical formula became evident. Wisdom is the result of information coupled with experience tempered by humility. Wisdom = information + experience + humility.
Information alone simply gives me knowledge to use in mental debates with others. It can become a game of the ego. Experiences without discernment are animalistic and will lead me to simply seek pleasure, avoid pain, and continue meaningless, repetitive, conditioned behavior and avoidance of personal growth. Humility is the openness necessary for self-examination and is the tool to find out how our experiences and information can provide wisdom and awareness. The quality of discernment is the mark of a healthy person. Wisdom is available to us all.
My father loved this statement by Will Rogers: “We are all ignorant. We are just ignorant of different things.”
The same can be said of wisdom: “We all have wisdom, just of different things.”
No one should be discounted. We all have wisdom. It comes from within us and our capacity for humility is the key to that door. When I am unwilling to trust my own process and experiences, my opportunities for wisdom and the usage of it become susceptible to the opinions of others. I have not had their experiences. I have had my own. Their wisdom is relative to their own experiences and capacity for humility. I have no awareness of what that might be.
Very simply, when I am overly influenced by the opinions of others, I give them power over my own life, experiences, and ability to learn.
Lesson #5: “The Only Power that People, Places and Things Have Over Me Is That Which I Give to Them.”
POWER! I had been in illusion all my life about this word. Power is the ability to act. It is the capacity for action. My illusion was that I was all-powerful, when in reality I was just controlling and judgmental out of the fear of being controlled. Instead of having the ability to act, I had been giving it away to others out of my own fear and insecurity. My conditioned reaction to others was responding to their conditioned reactions. I had been giving my choices and actions away to everything outside myself.
What a confusing and endless cycle that is! Is it any wonder that we feel emotionally lost at times? The ability to choose and act had always been available to me. What a revelation! My life was being controlled by my reactions to others.
Lesson #6: “Any Thought Without Action or Emotional Investment Means Nothing …
… it is just a thought and I can do with it as I choose. My thoughts and reactions were who I was. My thoughts were conditioned by everything outside me. My thoughts were also the result of hundreds of thousands of influences in my life. If I was to grow, I had to learn how to detach from my reactive thoughts and believing they were who I was.
Effectively, my life had been a mask through which I had been speaking and reacting. I was a human “doing,” not a human “being.” Amazing! The naturalness and spontaneity of being genuine had left my life.
Lesson #7: “Be In the Present Moment …”
Spontaneity, genuineness, and authenticity had been removed from my life. Many of my actions had indeed been reactions. My need to fit in with life, people, places, and things had become more important than what I felt. As long as I could not live out lessons #1 through #6, I could never live out #7. I could not be in the moment. I would always be tossed about on the sea of my emotions. Sometimes fiercely! I could not truly be “alive.” Until I could meet and have a relationship with myself, I could not have an honest one with another. As long as I was not compassionate with myself, I could not have compassion for another. As long as I did not know how to “love” myself, I could not “love” another. Until I could be in the present and embrace all that I am, spontaneity would escape me. I would be an “actor” upon the stage of life.
My past is my wisdom to use today; the future is my wisdom yet to experience. Be in the present for that is where life and wisdom reside.
An everyday natural life …
<![if !supportLists]>· <![endif]>Gene Oliver
Gene embraces the joy of life, inspires spontaneity, and conjures the spirit of growth to all. He has facilitated the journey of many - setting them steadfastly along the path toward the rediscovery of the Spirit, Aspiration and Motivation in their own lives. Additionally, these very simple tools enable people to lead others, facilitate change and create environments of productivity within lives. Gene has conducted seminars and workshops for over 10,000 people and 200 companies while sharing these simple principles. He has searched the disciplines of Mythology, Psychology, and World Spiritual Teachings. The complexity of his study has been distilled into 7 Simple Principles that assist people in transcending the fears and emotions that control their lives.
The forgoing is an excerpt from Gene’s groundbreaking book, Life and the Art of Change, which is carefully crafted and designed to articulate clearly, concisely, and simply, life's journey through the many paths of change. This compilation is the result of years of Gene’s personal work, experience with guiding others, and a reflection of the process involved. The language is down to earth, and has garnered an ever-growing audience of people both directly and online through his website, http://www.manypaths.com/. I highly recommend that you visit Many Paths for yourself.