Category Archives: Life Stuff

The Satya of My Agraha

The Satya of My Agraha

“Satyagraha” is the priceless gift of “focusing on an ultimate goal and refusing to divert energy to unnecessary skirmishes along the way”; the art of restraint, of picking battles wisely, of discerning between bait and conviction.

I found this quote in a book by Susan Cain called “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking”. I’m finding it a fascinating read, I think mostly because I am innately curious about people and what makes them tick. But this quote above stopped me in my tracks; it was exactly the medicine I needed at exactly the right time.quite-book

The entire purpose of the book is to explore the quiet strength of introverts, something we often dismiss and overlook in a culture chock-full of extroverts. Having practiced being an extrovert most of my life, I have a tendency to think that I need to react to every criticism, defend every attack and fight every battle.

Over the years, though, I’ve been slowly learning to actively choose where I put my energy rather than impulsively getting drawn into a “skirmish” and then wondering how the hell I got into a mess. Apparently, this discernment is innately an introverted quality, meaning introverts do this much more naturally than extroverts.

To the extroverted side of me these “skirmishes” are attractive, presenting me with opportunities to prevail and triumph; however, they are exhausting to the introverted side of me. And quite frankly, sometimes they are just bait. Not because the initiator is purposely trying to bait me (although sometimes that may be true), but more so because if I participate it will be less conducive to achieving my goal than if I don’t. It may appeal to my ego in the moment, but really it will be diverting energy away from ultimately achieving my goal.

In Sanskrit, “satya” means “truth” and “agraha” means “soul force”. As a self-sovereign being, I am wholly responsible for the “satya” of my “agraha”, or the truth of my soul force. I can choose to temporarily divert my energy and take the bait of the battle or I can choose to more thoughtfully pause and contemplate my response, which may or may not be audible (or visible).

Certainly, there is value is being able to make a quick decision (a primarily extroverted quality), but not every situation warrants a quick decision or reaction. And certainly not every encounter is bait; some circumstances do require being addressed head-on. It is being present in the moment, being in the flow and being fully conscious that determines whether I can make this distinction. Because let’s face it, life doesn’t come neatly wrapped in a box with nicely creased edges and a bow on top; rather it is full of hairpin turns, steep cliffs and curve balls. Situations that require making this distinction happen spur of the moment and often without notice.

So this means that presence of mind becomes all the more paramount to my success and to my ability to ultimately achieve my goal, whatever that may be.

To peek inside the “Quiet” book, click here.

My Most Ecstatic, Realized Self

My Most Ecstatic, Realized Self

I was recently presented with the idea that Life is here to serve us; we’re not here to serve it. I think I’ve spent most of my Life living this idea backwards. Having this notion is like now having a new pair of glasses to see Life in a totally different shade…now I wonder how I can fully experience my most ecstatic, realized self by allowing (not expecting) Life to serve me!

The Ruinous Side of Virtues

The Ruinous Side of Virtues

I’ve often felt there exists an invisible boundary that tempers the goodness of virtues, a sort of diminishing returns when relied upon to the extreme.

I term this experience ‘running riot’ with the virtues. It starts out with a good, pure virtuous motive, but then very subtly our experience becomes something else–something not so virtuous.

Let’s take for example, acceptance. Acceptance in its purity is about loving others in spite of their exasperating qualities, while at the same time having and honoring boundaries that prevent us from taking ownership of someone else’s poor behavior (see another blog post I wrote about acceptance here). But acceptance run riot to the nth degree becomes resignation. We resign ourselves that the world, our marriage, our kids, our jobs, (fill in the blank) are doomed, so why bother anymore. That’s just the way things are. So it’s not surprising when we find ourselves abruptly detaching with resentment and putting up a wall to cope. This is not acceptance; this is resignation.

Resignation is acceptance run riot. Acceptance is swathed in love; resignation is seeded with resentment. Let’s look at how this works with other virtues:

Honesty run riot becomes brutality;
Truth run riot becomes self-righteous;
Freedom run riot becomes lazy;
Kindness run riot becomes self-serving;
Ambition run riot becomes domination;
Adventure run riot becomes frivolity;
Strength run riot becomes caustic;
Humility run riot becomes self-sabotage;
Leadership run riot becomes controlling;
Willingness run riot becomes overcommitted;
Diligence run riot becomes dogged;
Assertive run riot becomes aggressive;
Tolerance run riot becomes self-neglect;
Patience run riot becomes procrastination;
Silence run riot becomes withholding;
Solace run riot becomes isolation;
Concern run riot becomes criticism; and
Love run riot becomes suffocation.

And, of course, this is just a sampling. The list could go on and on.

The Energy Signature of Acceptance

The Energy Signature of Acceptance

Acceptance of our limitations or circumstances does not mean that we will remain stuck in them forever. Interestingly enough, it is only by accepting them that we become able to grow beyond them. But let me caution that acceptance and resignation are not the same thing! Acceptance is a big lofty word that seems to be open to this wide chasm of interpretation. And, to some extent, I think this wide-openness precipitates confusion just as much as it allows for for freedom.

So what is acceptance and what is it not? Let’s first look at what it is not because most of us are guilty of practicing the ruinous side of this coin much more often than the virtuous side.

Acceptance is NOT

throwing a tantrum; pouting; judging or spreading ill about other people; plotting revenge; replaying or projecting conversations in your head; repeatedly telling everybody you talk to about an incident in which you were wronged; and accepting unacceptable behavior, just to name a few.

This last one is a biggie! There is a train-wreck at the end of accepting unacceptable behavior. How often do you allow someone to dictate your actions, either because they are overtly forcing it on you as if you’re their captive (and you buy into the idea that you deserve it) or because you are choosing to allow someone else to take up free rent space in your head? Their words permeate your actions, not because you want them to, but because they are already embedded deep in your thoughts. You find yourself doing or allowing the same thing over and over again and wondering why you can’t change that part about yourself or your life. And then you resign. You resign yourself into a deep abyss and call it acceptance.

Just as acceptance and resignation are not the same, acceptance and tolerance are not the same either.

It’s like this: Acceptance run riot becomes resignation. Tolerance run riot becomes self-loathing.

So what is tolerance, then?

Tolerance is temporary and external. It is allowing someone else the grace of poor behavior and not taking it personal or making it your personal quest to rake thru sorting it out with them. It is giving someone the dignity to take ownership of their own poor behavior by telling them the truth, by setting boundaries, and by not going back for more. It is honoring your own self-worth, while letting others to choose to destroy their’s.

Acceptance, on the other hand, is more about an internal state of being. It is a mental, emotional and spiritual resolve; an energy signature. Acceptance and tolerance (in its virtuous side) go hand-in-hand. Acceptance is what makes tolerance possible.

Striving for Failure

Striving for Failure

I wonder what would happen if we changed our idea about ‘failure’ to simply mean a milestone for having tried something big?

And if we try something big and fall short of the goal, does that really mean we failed? If failure means not having met the goal, then yes it does. But I’d offer that our definition of failure is flawed. Shouldn’t the objective always be to do something bigger than we believe ourselves capable? Isn’t life about stretching ourselves, taking risks, embarking on adventure?

Where did we get this idea that the point in life is to be comfortable? Seeking a comfortable, easy life is analogous to striving for planned complacency–and doing it on purpose!

We’ve been programmed to believe that failure is bad and should be avoided, but what if we strived for failure on purpose? And I don’t mean planning for failure; I mean striving for failure. There’s a difference!

Planning for failure is using this idea as a means of justifying and explaining your failures in some kind of twisted logic where failure becomes the new success. “Well, the point of the exercise was to fail, and there I failed, so I succeeded.” No!

Striving for failure, on the other hand, is deliberately choosing projects or goals that are bigger than you, that feel scary, that are beyond our capability to handle and that have an element of unknown. Of course, when we do this, we are likely to fall short of our goal; but more importantly we will have tried something big. We will have stretched ourselves. We will have expanded our consciousness. And maybe, just maybe in the process of trying something bigger than ourselves, we can make a difference in the lives of people around us–in our families, our communities, villages, towns, cities, etc! ‘Bigger than ourselves’ by definition will have a ripple effect even into the lives of people we don’t know.

It’s like this: If it isn’t scary, it’s not worth doing. If at first you don’t succeed, then you were not challenging yourself enough. No one ever achieves something big by being grandiose. We accomplish big things by being willing to risk failure, by not being afraid to put our heart and soul into something that just might not work, by being willing to try. Trying is not dying; trying is the opposite of hiding (1).

(1) Thanks to Seth Godin for the perspective on trying.

The Insanity of Resentments

The Insanity of Resentments

I wonder why we persistently continue to insanely begrudge other people with our resentments when it never works, yet we stubbornly refuse, or at best hesitantly attempt to rely on a power greater than ourselves–a Divine Source that can actually help us?

Priceless Dyer Commentary on Blame & Resentments

Priceless Dyer Commentary on Blame & Resentments

I was reading Wayne Dyer today and came across this wise & priceless commentary, which of course sparked a Wonderment:

Removing blame means never assigning responsibility to anyone for what you’re experiencing. It means that you’re willing to say “I may not understand why I feel this way, why I have this illness, why I’ve been victimized, or why I had this accident, but I’m willing to say without any guilt or resentment that I own it. I live with, and I am responsible for, having it in my life.” Why do this? If you take responsibility for having it, then at least you have a chance to also take responsibility for removing it or learning from it.

If you’re in some small (perhaps unknown) way responsible for that migraine headache or that depressed feeling, then you can go to work to remove it or discover what its message is for you. If, on the other hand, someone or something else is responsible in your mind, then of course you’ll have to wait until THEY change for YOU to get better.

The doozie with resentments is that it relegates us to be dependent on someone else changing for us to feel better.

The thing I wonder is why we persistently continue to insanely begrudge other people with our resentments when it never works, yet we stubbornly refuse, or at best hesitantly, attempt to rely on a power greater than ourselves–a Divine Source that can actually help us?

Setting Intentions Different Than Planning

Setting Intentions Different Than Planning

Setting an intention is totally different that planning.

Setting an intention establishes the WHAT, but it leaves the HOW up to a power greater than yourself to conspire on your behalf.

Plan(ning), on the other hand, is usually an attempt to grasp an understanding of HOW things will work out.

If we all had to know HOW it was going to work before we started, we’d never get started!

Set the intention; surrender the plan!

Intentional Life Legacies

Intentional Life Legacies

I spend a great deal of time thinking about the impact of my life. I once had the very powerful experience of writing my own funeral eulogy as a coaching exercise and it was unforgettable. At first blush that may sound morose, but the point is to project what you would want people to say and feel about you, how you impacted their lives when you still had clay feet; and to let this be a governing light by which you can live your life now.

I’ve also heard it put another way, which is to write a 200-year life plan. Again, at first glance, this seems ridiculous; the vast majority of us don’t live to be 100, let alone 200 years old! But that is precisely the point—the impact of our lives reaches well beyond the limitation of our physical existence.

While it’s impossible to always live our lives congruently with our own long-term projection of ourselves, that doesn’t mean the projection (or plan) isn’t worth having. And having a plan certainly doesn’t alleviate our lives of friction and conflict. Actually, I’d suggest having a planned legacy might create more collisions, because when we’re working toward (or on) that which is part of our soul work, the obstacles are a necessary and essential part of the process. If it weren’t for the obstacles, we would have no milestones—nothing over which to triumphantly prevail!

I read this recently in an issue of Backpacker Magazine:

We make choices, and nearly all of us start out incubating some grand, youthful ambition. We want to write novels when we grow up, or scale unclimbed peaks. But then we do grow up and we become practical. We choose [paths] that are easier, more conventional. We limit our adventures to what fits in the vacation schedule. (Bill Donahue)

WTH? Personally, I can’t stand the idea of getting to the end of my life (whenever that may be), looking back and living with the realization that I didn’t do anything that mattered, that I didn’t make a difference in the people’s lives that intersected with mine, that I didn’t live my life authentically to the best of my ability, that I didn’t stretch myself beyond what I thought were my limits; that I lived a wasted life, squandered my gifts, skills, abilities and opportunities, and that the only legacy I might leave behind is bitter resentment and bad memories for all the things I could have done better or differently and instead chose only actions in service of myself and my own immediate gratification. Yuk!

This is not to say that I have the expectation I won’t ever violate these ideas in the course of my life, and it’s certainly not to say that I am above situational regrets or having to fight on the battleground of my own frailties and weaknesses; BUT it IS to say that somehow in the grand sum total of my life as I lived it, I want the fact that I had one to have made a difference! And the only way I know how to do that is to have spent some time purposefully contemplating what I want the end to look like, so that I have a guide for the middle.

Living a life guided by an intentional legacy is not an easy life , in fact, it may be harder. But it’s fuller and purposeful. And if my choices are to pay the day-to-day price of a purposeful life now or to live a careless, unguided one—well everything comes with a price and I’d rather pay the price daily than the balloon payment at the end!

Commanding Power (in the name of love)

Commanding Power (in the name of love)

Commanding power is not the same as demanding it. -Ixchel

Demanding is that childlike tantrum while commanding comes from that place of inner self-sovereignty and is based on the sure and steady knowledge of one’s self.

Commanding comes from a place of love, both for one’s self as well as for others. I once heard that one of the measures of love is the extent to which I am willing to be inconvenienced–both by myself and by others.

Do I love myself enough to walk thru the uncomfortable feelings, tend to my responsibilities even when I don’t feel like it and honor the commitments I’ve made to myself? And do I love others enough to make myself available when they need help, perform acts of unsolicited kindness and be willing to temporarily shoulder a burden that might help them reach a personal triumph?