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encouragement

successWelcome everyone to part three of my nine part series on the Enneagram. Click the links to see parts One and Two.

Today, I will be interviewing the Three, also known as the Motivator/ Achiever. Welcome.

Thanks, Livewithwonder. I’m really glad I was able to move my schedule around for this interview. At first, I didn’t think I would have time, but I told my secretary I’d just skip lunch again to do it.

Wow! Aren’t you hungry?

No. It’s alright. I always have a few health shakes handy for this very reason.

You sound like a very busy person.

Ha. You have no idea.

Okay, well since time is limited, let’s get down to it. What do you believe?

Ha! I like the way you think! In short, I believe in not being a loser. That probably sounds harsh but let me explain what I mean.

Go right ahead.

“Losers” are the kinds of people who don’t take any responsibility for their lives. They think because they had a terrible past or because mommy didn’t love them, that defines who they are. Losers are either lazy, stupid, or too caught up in little “moral dilemmas” to do what it takes to succeed. People can have all the toys they want, everything they could dream for, if they had the same work ethic, intelligence, and finesse as myself.

But somebody has to lose, right?

Of course. And they “lose” for the reasons I mentioned above. Look, it’s true that some people start off in those categories and then change for the better, but most of them don’t, and that’s the way of the world. Even if someone did get as good as me in all those things, they still wouldn’t knock me off my roost, because I’d find a way to be better. I don’t let myself lose.

What about morality and ethics?

What about them? Look, morality and ethics are all fine and good, but they are an invention of society. They have no place in the business world. Also, news flash: people like me tend to change the laws to what we see fit anyway. If you rely on the law to guide your morality, well let’s just say there’s so many “immoral” laws on the books, so many loopholes that it all sounds like a joke.

What about those who get their morality ideas outside the law?

Oh, you mean idealists? They’re on no higher ground. Say an idealist manages the impossible and gets a good, solid, “moral” law on the books. It means nothing. No matter how tightly written the law is, smart people will find a way around it or work it to  their advantage.

So all you care about is your own success?

I don’t think I’d go quite that far. I care about my own success first, then I help others. Doing the “right thing” is a trap if that’s all you aim for. Ideally I prefer win-win situations.

I mean, it’s not like I’m some selfish jerk hogging all the success at others’ expense. They chose their fate and I chose mine. I once read this book titled “Who Moved my Cheese?” It’s an allegory about these mice in a maze. The mice get used to finding their cheese in the exact same spot at the maze everyday. One day, the cheese moves. Some mice sit around lamenting, “Who moved my cheese? Wah! Boo-hoo!” The smart mice waste no time, turn around, and start looking elsewhere.

So you’re saying people who aren’t successful don’t use their time efficiently.

Or they don’t care, or they get distracted by their emotions, or they don’t network, etc. There are many reasons people don’t succeed in life, but people who do succeed in life do so because they do all the right things, and yes, some of that involves being a little selfish. It’s fine to care about others and even help others (Plus, it makes you look good. Reputation is vital to success,) as long as you follow two rules. 1) Be selective about who you help, lest that person drags you down. 2) Make sure you’ve taken care of yourself first.

Some would argue that you do more than just take care of yourself.

Why? Because of my nice car? Or my $100 hairdo? Or my sleek clothes? People who say that don’t get my reasons behind all those things. A huge part of being successful is constantly projecting the image of success. That’s why I spend top dollar on something like business cards, which may seem silly to some, but to me they are vital. My whitened teeth make me look more successful, which makes people more willing to listen to what I have to say. Dropping a couple hundred bucks in a fancy restaurant with some business associates is worth the investment. It’s not like I’m dropping random money on solid gold jacuzzis just to know what it feels like. That’s Seven’s department. For me, there’s a method to the madness.

What would you say to the people who say success isn’t everything?

I would call them deluded. How could success not be everything? Without some level of power and influence, you’re doomed to be miserable. I would hardly call living on the streets a happy existence. Life is like a game, and the object of games is to WIN.

Would you say you’re happy now?

Well…I’m better than the alternative, that’s for sure.

I sensed a little hesitation in your voice. What would you say are your flaws?

Well, I’m Three, so I don’t have any. That said, there are a few things that bother me.

Shoot.

Well, when you’re me, you have to be different things to different people. You have to wear masks, and your personality has to have a certain flexibility. I don’t even try to do it, I just sort of naturally do. It’s all part of playing the game. The thing is, when I’m alone, it’s like I don’t even know how to take the masks off anymore. I really don’t even know what it means to be me. I know that seems a strange thing to think about, but it’s like the only real personality I have is the personality people want me to have. It’s such a weird feeling…I mean, it’s not all bad. Like I said, better than the alternative. Better than being a loser, but still, it’s weird. It’d be nice not to worry about that all the time.

Are there any personalities that you don’t get along with?

Well, it’s not so much a matter of getting along, but Six just annoys the crap out of me.

Why is that?

You know all those little bullshit rules and policies I make to look good and keep my competitors busy? Six reads them and follows them all to the letter, ALL of them.

How is that bad for you?

It’s not just that he obeys them, it’s the extent to which he obeys them. Every meeting, if there’s the slightest contradiction between two policies, be sure that Six will bring it up, and then I’ll have to make up some bullshit policy ABOUT my bullshit policy just to settle the matter. The guy is taxing, and frankly, he wastes my time. If I go against my own rule in even the slightest way, Six acts like I’ve personally betrayed him.

The worst part is, it’s not like he even does this to get ahead or eek out some advantage. At least then, I could respect him. He’s like this little lost puppy that needs to be told everything to do. I mean, sure, One does his fair share of rules mongering as well, but at least he has values. Six just follows the rules without questioning them (or alternatively, questioning them nonstop to make sure he understands them perfectly,) because “That’s what he’s supposed to do.”

I could tell Six to walk off a cliff right now, and he’s look at me unsure. I would reassure him and then he’d walk right off! No questions asked. And then, if he somehow survived, he’d be bitter at me for “misleading” him so. Well, no duh, you idiot! What were you expecting?

It’s like Six is completely oblivious to the whole “game” aspect of life. When I inevitably mislead him, about something (because that’s what you have to do to get ahead), it just wrecks him completely, and well come on , I don’t need that on my conscience.

Tell me about your friends, Two and Four.

Two is very social and very warm. Her only real ulterior motive is for people to like her, so I like to visit her to get away from the usual “Pit of Vipers.”

“Pit of vipers.” Don’t you kind of create that for yourself with your philosophy?

Maybe, but I own up to that. Like I said, it’s all part of playing the game. Still, it’s nice to be able to take a break and let your guard down now and then.

And Two let’s you do that?

Yeah. I also like that she cares about her appearance and social standing. I really get that. She may not have a “winner” philosophy, but we both like to help and give back to the community. I just prefer to have a camera near me when I do it.

How about Four?

You know, Four is unlike me is so many ways, and I think that’s what I like about her. She takes all that stuff I say about competing, appearances, and masks, throws it all out the window and does her own thing. She acts how she wants, dresses how she wants, and doesn’t care who she offends. That’s got to be liberating, and I certainly respect her for it. Is it successful? Not always, but she fails beautifully and gracefully. When she succeeds, she wins big, but more often than not, she fails, because that’s what happens when you tread new ground and do controversial things. I’d almost be jealous of her if it wasn’t for that little fact.

Is there anything else you’d like to say before we wrap up?

Yes. Don’t let anyone talk you into thinking there’s something wrong with being successful. There isn’t. If you care as much as I do, and do what successful people do, there’s no reason you shouldn’t deserve to succeed in life.

Thank you for your time today Three.

My pleasure. Speaking of time, I think I have a meeting I need to get to. Goodbye.

Goodbye.

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livewithwonder

“Totem animal” is one of those spiritual topics that I think some people are quick to dismiss. On the surface, it seems as though the concept is a little out there, at best a flight of fancy, at worst an ego trap.

After all, who wouldn’t like to imagine themselves as having the spirit of an animal? In a weird way, it’s empowering to think about. So are those who claim they’ve found their spirit totem or guide just indulging themselves, or is there something more to this?

I’ll be honest, for the longest time I thought it was the former, because I tend to have a different perspective on spirituality than most. My usual philosophy is “If it helps you grow as a person, it holds spiritual value, and if it helps you grow in power, or creates the illusion of it, then there’s a good chance what you are looking at is rotten apples.” Granted, this doesn’t always hold true, but it makes for a decent makeshift spiritual compass. If someone claims that they can help you speak with the deceased, (at the low, low price of $100 an hour) then it seems best to tread carefully. I had always just filed away the concept of “animal totems” away in the similar area in my mind, but lately I’ve been rethinking it.

The Power of Symbols

flower of life

I hear this one’s pretty well known.

There is no denying the power of symbols. The longer a symbol exists, the more meanings it can take on to different people. There is a reason countries choose national flags, national flowers, and national animals. Likewise, there is a reason corporations spend millions of dollars on their brands and logos. In literature, symbols are excellent devices to tell stories, and they have potential to give characters further depths and personality. Symbols have the power to deeply impact our subconscious quickly and flawlessly. The ability of our minds to associate external symbols with internal suffering is remarkable.

In the more recent Batman films, for example, it is the symbol of Batman that strikes terror into his foes. Batman himself is just a person, but the “idea” of Batman makes him more threatening, larger than life even. The reason Batman’s symbol is so powerful is that it held personal meaning to him first. In fact, Bruce is terrified of bats, and usually when we’re afraid of something, it’s because that thing reminds us of a part of ourselves we don’t want to come to grips with, to accept as part of who we really are. In Bruce’s case, the part of himself he kept hidden away was the scared little boy, alone at the death of his parents. The bats were already scary, but the additional layer of trauma at the death of his family left him impressionable. Bruce associated the bats with everything else he had already gone through. Mastering a symbol like that? How could it not be a powerful weapon?

This of course, is just an example from a fictional movie series. However, this kind of thing happens to us in real life all the time. It’s where fiction writers get their ideas. It’s just that usually, in real life, the revelations are less linear. Where in a video game, for example, a character may go into the fire dungeon and fight the powerful fire monster and come out of it with a new found passion and inner strength (not to mention cool stuff), in real life a person may undergo countless exposures to a subtle stimulus that stretches throughout their life before they “get it” and rediscover that little piece of their soul. I think that may be how it worked for me.

How I Discovered my cutie mark Animal Totem

spaelotis-clandestina-713564For the longest time, I have been absolutely terrified of moths. Since I was a little kid, there was always something about them that unsettled me. I used to come to live with my parents during the summers in between college. At the time, I told them I wanted to be a writer, and that I was going to use the time there when I wasn’t working my part time job to get some writing done. Instead, I procrastinated heavily. As I slowly worked on one mediocre short story, I found myself switching to flash games and movies, literally surfing the net for any kind of video game related distraction I could. Whenever my mom would peek in to say hi, I treated it like a huge invasion of privacy. I would freeze up, minimize the window on my computer (there was absolutely nothing worth hiding on there, but I did anyway) and act like I was guilty of something when I wasn’t.

During this time, I saw a lot of moths. I’m not sure how, but they kept on getting into my room. It was almost as though they were drawn to me, and they always made this disgusting sound when they would hit the light bulb in my room over and over. It didn’t help if I turned out the lights, they’d just fly over to my computer. I’d go out of my way to try and get rid of them. After a while of this, I started thinking about it, so I came up with a list of reasons why I hated moths so much.

1. I didn’t like the awkward way they fluttered, as though they are always in a panic. A moth will fly right into your face and not even care, because of their panicked, alien way of moving.
2. I saw them almost as parody of butterflies. Like butterflies, they go through metamorphosis, but instead of turning into something beautiful like butterflies, they merely just change into something equally mundane and hideous.
3. It always bothered me the way they lived in darkness yet craved the light. A moth will immolate itself in fire just to be a part of the light, but it can never be so. When daylight comes, the moth hides. A moth will fly to the first artificial light it sees, even if it kills it.
4. Have you ever swatted a moth? When you do, dust comes out. I couldn’t honestly think of a better reminder of our mortality. It’s like a little Biblical reference. From dust he came…etc.

Fast forward years later and I overhear a conversation online about animal totems, and I ask out of curiosity how you go about finding one, and how you know it’s not just an ego trip. The very first piece of advice I’m given is to look at an animal that scares you the most, especially if it’s an irrational fear. Sure, it’s entirely possible that when a person is afraid of something external, it’s just because, and there is no underlying explanation, but how often is it the case that we project our own internal fears or the things that we dislike about ourselves on external things?

I’ve come to realize that I’ve always been afraid of moths, because they remind me of me, or at least of parts of me. It reminds me of parts of me I’m not always proud of. Like the moth, I too flutter awkwardly, and I too move as though I am in a panic. I hide my panic, but it’s still there. I too expected myself during that time to transform into something beautiful, but what actually happened is that I simply transformed into something different, something that I saw at the time as ugly and dysfunctional. I expected myself at the time to change the world, inspire people, write beautiful things. Instead, I found myself wasting both my time and society’s time, contributing literally nothing positive to the world.

I wanted to be a part of the light, but I always feared what that meant, and as much as I envied the light, I never trusted it. At the time, still confused and pseudo-Christian, I wasn’t even sure what I believed “the light” to be. In the dark, I at least felt at home.

One of the things I learned about the moth recently is that it actually uses moonlight as a guide. It’s just that when it sees a campfire, or a bug zapper, it gets confused and cannot tell which light is from the moon and which light is the “false” light.

I knew that by not hoping in things, I wasn’t setting myself up for failure. How I ever wanted to step into it though. The sun was just too big, too proud, and I wasn’t deserving enough. I didn’t realize at the time all the false light out there, and I found myself burning again and again, just so long as it was light.

Finally, the dust metaphor. I found myself wrestling with existential issues at this age, constantly wondering what the meaning of life was if we were just going to die anyway. Life seemed short and pointless and I couldn’t find a way out.

Is it any wonder then, that moths kept appearing to me to remind my mind of the things I was hiding to myself? And is it any wonder that their presence filled me with an irrational fear and rage, to the point that I would spend 15 minutes trying to hunt one down when I heard it, only to not find it, sit back down, and be interrupted by the flutter again?

The moth has taught me many important lessons. It taught me how to discern true light from false. It taught me that just because the person I am now isn’t who I thought I’d be it doesn’t make me awful. It taught me of my own mortality, but not to live in a panic. The moth is really a beautiful creature actually, at least I think that’s what the most peaceful man in the universe would say. I think the most powerful lesson it has taught me is that it takes a beautiful, whole soul to recognize beauty for what it is, and this world, it’s filled with it. For that, I’m proud to call the moth my totem.

Until next time, may the sides of you hidden away be exposed to the light.

I have been thinking lately about those who criticize spirit science. I’m not talking about the critics who are skeptical of certain ideas we have. To be fair, some of the ideas we offer do seem to be pretty “out there”, and each person is entitled to their own opinion. Those aren’t the brand of critics I’m talking about.

I’m talking about the group of people who come from a place of deep pain. People who have experienced traumatic experiences in their youth and who snort at the idea of these happy-go-lucky so called “spirit people”. I’m talking about the people who see us as naive because our bright and sunny outlook doesn’t match the horrible experiences that they have witnessed in their lives, who cynically laugh at the idea of “All our pain is an illusion.”

I’m not going to lie. Life is painful. Anyone who says otherwise is either trying to delude you or is deluded. The mere act of being born brings pain to the mother. Pain is an honest fact of life. You are not responsible for your pain. It often comes to us whether we want it or not.

However: you are responsible for your suffering.

Perhaps you’re thinking “hold the fort, what’s the difference?”

To answer the question, I’m going to once again rely of the words of my Buddhist friend Barking Unicorn. “To see the difference between pain and suffering, bring a puppy to a cancer ward. You will see many people in pain, but no suffering.”

The story of Viktor Frankl

Stephen Covey in His Bestseller “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” writes about the story of Viktor Frankl, a man who spent three years in various concentration camps including Theresienstadt, Auschwitz, and Dachau.

According to Wikipedia Frankl’s  “best-selling book, Man’s Search for Meaning (published under a different title in 1959: From Death-Camp to Existentialism, and originally published in 1946 as Trotzdem Ja Zum Leben Sagen: Ein Psychologe erlebt das Konzentrationslager), chronicles his experiences as a concentration camp inmate based on his psychotherapeutic method of finding meaning in all forms of existence, even the most sordid ones, and thus a reason to continue living. Frankl was one of the key figures in existential therapy and a prominent source of inspiration for humanistic psychologists

In other words, the guy was both a badass and an inspiration. It’s not often you get both in one person. Here’s a quote from Frankl about his time in the Nazi prison camps.

“We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked throughout the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken away from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

Even when every thing else in your life is out of your control, even if you become a slave, you still have the right to choose your outlook.

We are not Pavlov’s dogs

The human mind is a powerful thing, and a key to achieving that power is awareness. There is a chain that is frequently mentioned in the psychology of behavior. That chain is:

stimulus – thought – result.

The stimuli is the initial thing that happens, the “cause” if you will. Thought is how you individually process the stimuli. Result is what happens because of the chain. Sometimes, we have control of all three, but we always have control of “thought”, provided we are aware and stubborn enough, and humans are good at being stubborn. 🙂

Most of the time, we get caught up in these stimulus – result chains without even giving thought to what control systems are in place that make us live the way we do. That’s where awareness comes in. If you are aware that someone’s putting you into a Skinner box, so to speak, then you become empowered to resist it.

Take Ghandi for example. Here is a man that willingly starved himself to fight for a higher cause he believed in. If he had the mere awareness of a rat, he would never have been able to accomplish what he did. He would have begun to search for food in a panicked state. But Ghandi used the ability that all humans have, or at least have the potential to have. He used his thought (and stubbornness) to ignore the stimulus of hunger, to ignore the stimulus that he was starving to death.

At the end of the day, suffering comes from what you think of the pain. Suffering is related to thought, and thus can be controlled. With meditation and focus, you can transmute the pain in your life to something different, something beautiful.

Until next time, hang in there, and know that I’m right there with you.

If you have never heard of the Enneagram, I highly suggest that you check it out. It is a personality test initially developed by a man named Oscar Ichazo, who developed his theories from a variety of sources, mainly the jewish Kabbalah and “Neo-platonic philosophy”, according to the book Personality Types: Using the Enneagram for Self-Discovery by Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson. Riso and Hudson are the contemporary researchers on the Enneagram. Most of the information for this article I gained from that book. The symbol for the Enneagram itself actually goes back to ancient times.

But more relevant than that information is the question of what practical use the Enneagram has. The answer is that it is very useful indeed. What is unique about this personality test, in my humble opinion, is that it provides valuable information to help individuals develop their spiritual and psychological health. The gift the Enneagram provides is increased self-awareness.

The Theory of the Enneagram.

The basic theory is that there are 9 basic types of egos. Each person has one of those types. Each of these 9 egos, the theory states are formed by a basic “trauma” in childhood, which in turn creates a basic fear. Understand, that when I say the word “trauma”, I’m using a much more broader term than the traditional definition. For some children, the trauma could indeed be something as horrible as abuse, or witnessing a death at an early age. For other children, however, that trauma can be something as simple as the child’s first run in with a bully. For whatever reason, the trauma is imprinted in the child’s mind, and that’s how their ego forms.

For more info on how the ego is formed, read Osho’s Ego, the false center. I may have linked to it before, but it is totally worth reading again.

Generally speaking, from my experience, the greater the trauma is, the stronger and more noticeable the ego is. The healthier the ego, the less noticeable. If you are having trouble pegging someone’s ego, then that’s a good sign. The important thing to know is, if you listen to the Buddhists, then they say this ego is not your true self.

Essentially, the value of studying the Enneagram is learning the nine basic ego traps and which one you are most vulnerable to. Doing this will increase your self awareness and ability to say “oops, I’m doing it again.”

The Types

I’m going to list each type, along with their basic fear and basic desire. If you want to learn more, check out the works of Riso and Hudson, which is where these stem from.

Type one, the reformer. – Desires to be good, have integrity, and be in balance with everything. Fears being corrupt, evil or defective.

Type two, the helper – Desires to be loved unconditionally. Fears being unwanted or unworthy of being loved.

Type three, the Motivator – Desires to feel worthwhile and valuable, or to disappoint others. Fears Being worthless.

Type four, the Individualist – Desires to find themselves and their significance, (to create and identity out of their experience. Fears that they have no identity or personal significance.

Type five, the Investigator – Desires to be capable and competent (to have something to contribute). Fears being helpless, useless or incapable.

Type six, the Loyalist – Desires to find security and support (to belong somewhere). Fears being unable to survive on their own, of having no support.

Type seven, the Enthusiast – Desires to be satisfied and content, to have their needs fulfilled. Fears pain and deprivation.

Type eight, the Leader – Desires to protect themselves by controlling their own life and destiny. Fears being harmed or controlled by others.

Type nine, the Peacemaker – Desires to have inner stability (peace of mind). Fears loss and separation (impermanence).

If you want to know which type you are, you can either take a test at this site, or you can look at that list of fears and see which most resonates with you.

The Process of Integration

The nine enneagram types at a dinner party. Nine begins at the top.

The basic idea with each personality type is to integrate to a complete person or self. The more you fall into the particular habits and pitfalls of your individual personality type, and the more you allow your basic fear to rule and control you, the further you move away from realizing your true self. What’s more, by sucumbing to fear and becoming more neurotic, a disintegrating personality begins to bring about as the truth the very thing they’ve feared all along. That’s right, the law of attraction applies to the Enneagram too.

For example, a disintegrating one begins to increasingly put himself in situations where he is tempted to do wrong as a way to test himself, or may go the vigilante route and actually try to hunt down and hurt “wrong doers”. In this way, by fearing that he’ll become corrupt, the one becomes corrupt. Similarly, a six, by fearing that others don’t have his back, begins to drive others away with accusations and distrust.

I will take an educated guess and say that the more integrated a person is, the harder it will be to tell which of the nine types that personality is. The reason I think this is because integration is about transcending the ego a becoming a complete person, so a well integrated personality doesn’t stand out as much. On the flip side, the more a personality disintegrates, the more that personality becomes a caricature of himself. It’s much easier to spot an unhealthy one or an unhealthy eight than a healthy one or a healthy eight.

How to integrate

Thought this was interesting. There may be some mystical math on the horizon to tie all this together.

Each personality has a direction of integration and a direction of disintegration. When we disintegrate, which seems to be our natural tendency if we don’t work on ourselves, we start to pick up some of the negative attributes of another personality type on the enneagram. We we integrate, we pick up the positive traits of another personality type. Our goal then, is to work on ourselves in such a way where we improve on the traits our personality is most likely to naturally resist. For example, fives grow by picking up the positive traits of the eight. This is because fives often feel they aren’t ready to lead, make important decisions, or act until they have enough information. (Fives rarely ever “have enough information). To break this pattern of info hoarding, fives have to stop and say “I have enough information now, I need to act on what I got, even if it’s not perfect.”

Eights on the other hand, have no problem leading. Where they need help is in learning to care for and do things for others. Since eights are constantly focused on their own survival and success, they actually need to integrate the positive qualities of the two. They need to learn to use their natural abilities to help other people out and not just see the world as dog-eat-dog.

Here is a second list for you showing the direction of integration and disintegration for each of the nine types:

Ones: Disintegrates to four. Integrates to seven.

Twos: Disintegrates to eight. Integrates to four.

Threes: Disintegrates to nine. Integrates to six.

Fours: Disintegrates to two. Integrates to one.

Fives: Disintegrates to seven. Integrates to eight.

Six: Disintegrates to three. Integrates to nine.

Seven: Disintegrates to one. Integrates to five.

Eight: Disintegrates to five. Integrates to two.

Nine: Disintegrates to six. Integrates to three.

Okay, now you have a map of where your soul stands and how to make it grow. The rest is up to you. Next time, I plan to see if I can find some mathematical connections between the Enneagram and “raising your vibration.” I won’t guarantee this though, because I haven’t researched it yet. For those who are wondering, I also am still researching for the team up article with Ryan. (Yes, I’m a five, in case you were wondering.

Until next time, choose your path wisely, and I hope to see you grow.

Livewithwonder can be contacted though email at livewithwonder@thespiritscience.net, his blog at livewithwonder.wordpress.com, or on twitter at @mrthejazz1.

The following is a guest post from Steve Pavlina’s website. It is posted with his permission. If you don’t know who Steve Pavlina is, check his site out. He’s a personal development guru and is also very knowledgeable about spiritual matters. ~ Livewithwonder

What part of your life always seems to be on the back burner? Is it a certain relationship? A hobby you’ve always wanted to enjoy? A spiritual pursuit?

Do you tell yourself that someday this part of your life will move to the front burner and become a priority? How will that actually happen?

Back burner items tend to remain on the back burner indefinitely. They rarely make it to the front burner on their own. The reason they’re on the back burner is because you put them there, probably because you deemed something else more important.

At one point you may have put your career first. Or your health. Or a particular relationship. But are those priorities still right for you today? Are your current priorities still correct?

If you ask this question in a cursory way, you’ll almost always answer yes. If you told yourself a year ago that your finances must be your #1 priority, they’ll have a tendency to stay there. Whether you’ve made measurable progress or not, you’ll have a tendency to stick to essentially the same priorities year after year.
A True Priority or a Distraction

If your current prioritization tends to be self-perpetuating, how do you know when it’s time for an adjustment? You probably won’t figure it out just by asking if anything needs to be adjusted.

Generally the way you’ll notice that an adjustment is needed is that you’ll notice a nagging feeling that something isn’t right with the way you’re currently living.

Another clue is that you won’t seem to be making much progress in your top priorities. If you look at your actual results in those areas, you’ll see evidence that you’re drifting or even declining.

Often this happens because we like to assume that we can improve some area of life by making it the #1 priority. For instance, if you feel that your finances are weak, you may decide to focus on making more money for a while. But then a few years pass, and your finances don’t seem to be that much better. Overall you feel more stressed too. The main reason you failed here is that making money wasn’t a true priority. It was actually a distraction from a deeper, more important part of your life.
Blocking

When false priorities are mistaken for true priorities, some blocking is bound to occur. You’ll feel resistance when you try to move forward on priorities that seem to make logical sense but which don’t connect with your true desires. No matter how hard you push against that resistance or what techniques you try to use to get past it, it will still be present. That’s because your mistake was further upstream. Your priorities weren’t aligned with your true desires.

When you realize you’re in a blocking situation, give yourself some time to pause and reflect. Even if you didn’t explicitly write down your priorities, what do your thoughts tell you about what’s most important to you?

If it’s convenient for you, jot down a quick list of your top mental priorities. Maybe you’ll come up with something like this:

1 Making more money
2 Improving my overall health and fitness
3 Spending time with my significant other
4 Being more focused and productive at work
5 Learning new skills

But if you were to actually look at your actions as an objective observer might do, you may see that you’ve been prioritizing your day very differently in practice:

1 Communication (email, texting, phone calls)
2 Social networking
3 Consuming information (blogs, news, videos, etc)
4 Doing urgent work
5 Being entertained

These aren’t complete lists, but I think you get the idea — your mental prioritization and your real world actions are not in sync.

If you discover something like this, don’t panic. It’s quite common for people to have two lists that are clearly not aligned. Fortunately this is a fixable problem.
The False Belief You Must Release

The reason for this dichotomy is a common false belief. It’s the belief that prioritizing is a logical affair, that it’s something you can achieve with your logical mind.

In fact, an equally mistaken approach is the belief that this is something you can discern intuitively. That approach will also fail.

Your logical mind is the part that comes up with solutions like: If my finances are the weakest part of my life, then I should make that my top priority for a while. Giving my finances more attention will surely improve them, and then when things are going really well in that area, I can make something else a priority.

This sounds very believable. So it comes as a real blow to the logical mind when this seemingly sensible solution doesn’t actually work. This throws the logical mind for a loop because after all, it should work, right?

Actually it shouldn’t work. There’s an error in the logic here. The assumption that turning a lagging area of your life into your top conscious priority will cause that area to improve is a false assumption. Much of the time, it turns out not to be true.

Many times when you take a lagging area of your life and make it your top priority, that area will continue to stagnate. Sometimes it will even get worse.

And sometimes you can ignore an area of your life, and it will improve all by itself.

We could go really deep into this, but for now I just want to plant the seed in your mind that turning a lagging area of your life into your top priority may in fact be a mistake. Sometimes it’s the worst thing you can do. You’ll see why this happens a little later in this article.
Why the Logical Mind Cannot Prioritize

If you try to set priorities in a logical manner, failure is guaranteed. This is because logic cannot provide a context for prioritizing.

There’s a special class of brain injuries whereby people cannot feel any emotions, or they’re unaware of their emotional states. Interestingly, these people cannot function well at all. They might spend a whole day deciding where to go for lunch, evaluating all sorts of irrelevant details such as the lighting conditions in each restaurant or which table they might get. Such people may brush their teeth 20 times a day, thinking it was a reasonable thing to do. They don’t have a context for separating the relevant from the irrelevant.

Some companies claim to make data-driven decisions, but that’s a misnomer since there must always be an emotional context behind the usage of data. There’s no logical reason for why a company must grow or why it must sell more products or have more impact. It could just as easily shut down, and the people could go do something else instead. Even the choice to make data-driven decisions is an emotional one. The emotional brain provides the context for feeling that it’s good to grow a company; then the data can be logically analyzed to determine what avenues may support that growth better than others. But ultimately the whole decision chain begins with an emotional context, and even data-driven decisions are normally littered with emotional checkpoints.

If you were to try to prioritize your life on a purely mental/logical level, you’d find the task impossible. You cannot logically evaluate and sort the infinite possibilities available to you. In fact, if you try to go that route, you’ll surely experience bouts of analysis paralysis, where you get so caught up in analysis that you hardly get anything done.
Let the Heart Lead

The solution to this trap is simple: Let the heart lead. Use your emotions to prioritize.

This may sound like a cop-out, but there’s a more empowering way to look at it.

First, you’re going to do this anyway. If you try to use the logical prioritization approach, some part of you won’t cooperate. Your mental priorities may look great on paper, but you won’t actually follow them. When have you ever prioritized your life logically and even come close to sticking to your priorities?

The closest you’ll get will be to use drugs like coffee to try to throw your hormones out of balance and overstimulate the logical mind, but your emotions will still reassert themselves from time to time, and the signals will only be more scrambled. In the end your emotions will make you feel worse when you try to graft a logical prioritization onto your life by force. This approach will take you further away from genuine happiness, and it’s ultimately counter-productive.

Maybe someday there will be a better substitute for your emotional brain, but for now you’re stuck with it. Fortunately that isn’t such a bad thing. Your emotional brain is much older than your logical mind, being subjected to many more cycles of evolutions. Your emotional subsystem is a finely honed instrument, far beyond the capabilities of even our most advanced supercomputers.

The logical mind is good at certain things, but prioritizing the big picture isn’t one of its strengths. This is, however, a major strength of the emotional mind. These two aspects of mind complement each other beautifully, but in the Western world we often have the relationship backwards. We need to learn to prioritize with the heart and the emotions, not with the logical mind.

Physically speaking, your emotional brain is mostly in your head, but it’s also partly in your chest. Your heart actually has its own tiny brain consisting of about 40,000 neurites. It’s primitive compared to the brain in your head, but it’s also loud. The communication channel that sends signals from heart to brain is like a firehose, whereas the channel going from brain to heart carries much less bandwidth — more like a thin straw. Essentially the heart functions as a state controller for the brain. The heart can easily tune out the brain, but the brain cannot easily tune out the heart. When you feel strong emotions, those emotions will take over your thinking, determine the types of thoughts you can or can’t have in those moments. But you may find it very difficult to think your way out of strong feelings.
Heart-Centered Prioritizing

When you prioritize with the heart, it’s important to get a clear signal. I recommend that you consume no drugs like caffeine or alcohol for at least a week just to be safe. Otherwise your nervous system is likely to be out of whack, and the heart-mind communication won’t work as well. If you really want to amp it up, eat all raw for a week, or try fasting, juice fasting, or mono meals for a few days first.

You’ll want to achieve a state known as coherence, where the heart and brain synchronize their communication patterns. This is the difference between listening to music and listening to noise.

To achieve coherence, you need to focus on creating a certain emotional state. Once you’re in that state, your brain will sync to your heart. This can be physically measured with the proper equipment. Perhaps the most significant change is in your HRV (heart rate variability). When you’re out of coherence, your HRV bounces around chaotically. When you’re in coherence, your HRV looks like a smooth sine wave if you were to graph it over time. Your heart actually speeds up and then slows down in a very flowing pattern, almost like music.

Emotionally this state of coherence can be described as: unconditional love, compassion, appreciation, and gratitude. If you’re feeling these emotions, you’re there. If you’re not feeling these emotions, you’re not there. Feeling neutral or okay or fine is not coherence.

Coherence has many benefits. It feels good emotionally, but it’s also good for your health, your mental performance, your social life, and beyond.

While the heart is the loudest voice in heart-brain communication, the brain can still influence the heart. So you can create this coherence state by holding thoughts in your mind that are congruent with these feelings. You can recall positive memories or use visualization. Another method is to listen to music that evokes these emotions. I like the song One by U2.

Play around to find a method that works for you. You can do it all in your mind if you want, such as by visualizing a positive scene, but you can just as easily induce coherence through external means, such as by cuddling someone you care about.

The reason to put yourself into a state of coherence first is simple: incredible clarity. Once you’re in this state of coherence, you can trust that your heart-brain communication will be at peak efficiency. You can still attempt to prioritize outside of this state, but the results won’t be as reliable.

Now while you’re enjoying this warm, glowing heart-centeredness, ask yourself what’s most important to you in life. Create your prioritization list by focusing on your feelings. I expect you’ll find this pretty easy to do.

You’ll probably notice that the way your heart prioritizes is very different from the way your logical brain works. For instance, when you’re in coherence, it’s pretty obvious that making lots of money isn’t that important, and it may not make it onto your priority list at all.

You may come up with a list that looks something like this:

1 Feeling connected
2 Helping people
3 Serving the greater good
4 Being kind
5 Sharing my gifts and talents with the world

Please do try this for yourself. Don’t just read this article and skip this exercise.

You’ll probably notice that heart-centered prioritizing is actually faster and easier than logical prioritizing.

The heart-centered approach is also more consistent. When you use the logical approach, you’ll get different answers each time. Every month you apply hard logic to set your priorities, your answers will keep shifting, sometimes radically. But with the heart-based approach, you’ll find that your answers remain remarkably consistent. You may use different words to describe your priorities and shift the ordering around a little, but you’ll be struck by a feeling of coming home to a delightful sense of clarity each time you do this. It may feel like remembering rather than prioritizing. The answers flow with little effort.

When you’re in coherence, your logical brain will function better too, and it will work harmoniously with your emotions to help you create what you desire.

We can also see why it doesn’t work to prioritize based on logic alone. Even prioritizing based on intuition doesn’t work. The reason is that these approaches ignore the importance of coherence. Each time you try to apply your logic or intuition to a problem, you’ll be in a slightly different emotional state. That emotional state will dictate what sorts of solutions you come up with. And if the emotional states don’t match from one month to the next, your solutions will be discordant, and you’ll find it hard to create plans that stick. It’s like listening to music where each track keeps drifting off key — it may still look like music on paper… but not when you listen to it.

We can also see why turning a lagging area of your life into your top priority will often backfire. If focusing more attention on that lagging area makes it harder to achieve coherence, your results will suffer. So if you feel a sense of financial lack and then try to push yourself to make more money, you’ll probably be more likely to induce feelings of stress and overwhelm instead of appreciation and gratitude. And so your emotional brain will lead you to procrastinate. It’s actually trying to get you away from those negative feelings and nudge you in the direction of coherence. This is why you may find yourself addicted to email or social media, which may help you feel better than stressing yourself out with work you don’t enjoy. A better solution is to enter the coherence state deliberately and then decide what to do from there.
Taking Action

When you’re ready to take action on your priorities, start by returning to coherence again. Use your favorite method to create feelings of unconditional love, compassion, appreciation, and gratitude. This way you’ll be syncing to the same state you used to create your priorities, so you won’t have the feeling of second-guessing yourself.

In this state, the right actions will tend to emerge fairly easily. For me it was the desire to write and publish a new article on this beautiful Saturday morning while sipping a banana-coconut smoothie. My desire is to help you gain more clarity and experience more flow and happiness in your life.

Returning to this state of coherence when you set priorities and when you act on them is better than trying to prioritize while you’re in one state and then taking actions in discordant states. Don’t expect good results if you prioritize from a state of desperation and then try to take action from a feeling of stress. Sync your emotions to the coherence state before you prioritize and before you take action. With practice you can do this in a matter of seconds. This is a high leverage practice that makes a world of difference.
A Global Perspective

Imagine how the planet would change if more people began each day by syncing to coherence first. Imagine if governments and corporate boardrooms took a couple minutes to sync to unconditional love before they made key decisions. How many problems could we avoid with this one simple practice?

Wouldn’t this be more impactful and consistent than having each person show up with discordant feelings such as fear, greed, overwhelm, etc?

You can try this with your family and friends as well. The next time you have a disagreement with someone close to you, pause for a moment and see if you can get yourself and the other person to sync to coherence first. Then see what becomes of your disagreement.

Syncing between multiple people is like playing in an orchestra. Each individual may have a different instrument and may play different notes at different times, but their output can flow together harmoniously. When multiple people sync with coherence, they create beautiful music. When they’re out of sync, they create some form of noise.
Consider a 30-Day Coherence Trial

If you want to make syncing to coherence a habit, consider kicking off a 30-day trial. It’s really not that difficult to do, and the potential benefits are huge.

To start the trial, take a few minutes to sync to coherence, and then jot down a list of your top priorities in life. It doesn’t have to be a long list, and the exact ordering isn’t that important. Just write down whatever comes to you.

When you’re ready to begin the action part of each day, pause again for a moment and sync to coherence. Then get started by taking the next action you feel inspired to take.

This synching step only takes a few minutes at most. It can be as simple as playing a song that makes you feel appreciative and loving. Then proceed from that state as you move forward. Try to hold onto it as long as you can.

When you notice that you’ve lost touch with the coherence state and you’re drifting into discordant feelings and losing clarity, take another time-out to re-sync to coherence. Again, this doesn’t take long at all. Recall a happy memory. Play some inspiring music. Or send a quick text message to someone you love: I’m really grateful you’re in my life. I deeply love and appreciate you.

Since I completed my 30-day music trial this week, I’m kicking off this new 30-day trial today. My commitment is to sync to coherence at least twice per day. I started this morning by syncing to that state and feeling inspired to write and share this article with you. I hope you find it helpful. Have a beautiful day!

This is fantastic for a children's book. Read it if you get the chance.

I wanted to do today’s post a little differently. I wanted to write on the topic of luck. I’m sure with the economic crisis, friends and families at war, and all other kinds of problems weighing on the backs of people, that it is easy to lose sight of the sheer joy and unpredictability our lives have to offer us.

Feeling a little unlucky? Then I have a short story from you. It is taken from the children’s book Zen Shorts by Jon J. Muth. These stories are all based on Buddhist and Taoist tales, and all I can say is that I never felt as enlightened and weightless reading a children’s book as I did reading this. I hope you find encouragement from it.

The story is called “The Farmer’s Luck”

The Farmer’s Luck

There was once a farmer who 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. “Maybe,” answered the farmer.

The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it two other wild horses. “Such good luck!” the neighbors exclaimed. “Maybe,” replied the farmer.

The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown off, and broke his leg. Again, their neighbors came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune. “Such bad luck,”  they said. “Maybe,” answered the farmer.

How many clovers will it take?

The day after that, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army to fight in a war. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. “Such good luck!” cried the neighbors. “Maybe,” said the farmer.

After the story, a little boy replies with “I get it, maybe good luck and bad luck are all mixed up. You never know what will happen next.”

The parable of the vending machine and the two dollar bills

I was at a college debate meeting once and needed a caffeine fix. I went to the vending machine. I

grabbed the crispest, straightest dollar bill in my wallet and fed it to the machine, only to have it spit it back out, over and over and over.

Exasperated, I threw up my hands in annoyance. I was about to walk away when I stopped and a little impish smile grew on my face. I fished back into my wallet, grabbed another dollar bill, crumpled it into a little ball, uncrumpled it, and fed the wrinkled bill into the machine, you know just to see what would happen. Low and behold, I got my soda. All praise the Discordian goddess Eris. 🙂

The moral: Sometimes, when you embrace the absurd, random, whimsical, chaotic, nature of our world and just roll with it, only then does fortune smile on you, unless of course she thinks you’re trying to game her or something. In other words, sometimes you win only when you stop trying to win.

Who can say how the pendulum will swing?

Do you feel lucky punk, well do ya? Because if you don't, that could change at any time so I wouldn't worry about it. Regardless, I have a gun and I'm not happy here.

The other day I had the insight to watch a video interview of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, and I found something curious about it. Do you know what I saw? The man was nervous. He was sweating and awkward with the media cameras put up to him and I thought. “Here’s one of the men who run the world, and he’s terrified in his own little way, just like everyone else.”

Behind his eyes, I didn’t see someone greedy, I didn’t see a stoic face, I saw the face of someone who looked scared and guilty, as though he was trying his hardest to maintain a sense of responsibility and vision, and no matter what he did, he knew he was letting someone down. It’s the face of someone who created a monster and doesn’t know how to stop it. I suspect a lot of powerful people are like that, human.

So is luck the only real thing that distinguishes us for them, and with that sickening sense of trying to be responsible when you are at the helm of a thing like a corporation, and knowing you can’t live up to any expectations, even your own at times, would you really be able to call yourself fortunate or lucky if that were you?

I guess what I’m really saying here is: Try to strengthen your awareness of your true situation before you ask why you are in such and such a difficult situation, because your bad luck may very well be good luck. You know that saying in the Bible “The meek shall inherit the earth”? Maybe that’s not saying the powerless will be given power. Maybe it’s saying that the powerless are the truly blessed, because the powerful can own the earth while experiencing not one drop of true joy from it.

Until next time, let the chips fall as they may.

Livewithwonder can be contacted on twitter at @mrthejazz1, email at livewithwonder@thespiritscience.net, and his blog at livewithwonder.wordpress.com

Note: Following is a guest post by Shalini Bahl, CEO of iAM Business Consulting, a consulting agency that focuses on mindfulness practices in the workplace. This post is copied in its entirety, with permission from Bahl, from her website. Feel free to pay her site a visit. ~Livewithwonder~

We all experience jealousy or a variation of it from time to time in our lives. Just to clarify jealousy includes feeling envious, covetous, desirous, and fearful of being replaced by a rival or competitor. Whether you run your own business or are an artist or an employee, at some point or another you must have felt jealous or envious of someone who in your mind is better than you. How about when everyone around you seems to be doing so well, especially when you read people’s tweets and Facebook posts of how absolutely awesome life is for them? Or how about when you think you have the most creative idea only to find out that some one else not only has that idea but also has introduced it and is already successful with it? It is ironic when we state our goal is something noble like lets say enhancing mindfulness in the world or empower others and yet when someone else does the same and does it better, our initial reaction is, darn, they did it before us. It is funny how our minds work…

How Do You Feel?

When you feel jealous notice how you feel in your body. If you can’t remember how your body feels when you are jealous, try this out. If you were a statue of a person who is jealous, what pose would you strike to display jealousy?  Notice the posture your body takes and how does it make you feel inside? Don’t you feel closed, constricted, blocked, anything else?

If you really think about it, what is the premise for jealousy? Jealousy is rooted in the fear of being replaced and that there is not enough for everyone. It is based on notions of scarcity and lack of faith in one self.

Mindful Ways To Deal With Jealousy

So how do you deal with jealousy? Most of us, especially if we are on a spiritual path or mindful people, may use our spiritual ego to push these jealous thoughts away or pretend that we are not jealous to begin with. But if we have felt it, it exists in us and it is good to acknowledge. True mindfulness is not avoiding it nor judging ourselves for it, but noticing it with affectionate curiosity, “hmmm…I am feeling jealous…very interesting.”

Here are some questions to ask when you feel jealous and you may add your own questions below that help you explore jealousy in a mindful way:

1)   How do I feel in my body when I celebrate this person’s victory in promoting a common goal instead of closing down?

2)   What happens when I open up to the exciting things others are doing – do I feel more expansive?

3)   Can I feel inspired by the creativity in others? Notice if instead of closing down, you truly appreciate the dynamic nature in others, do you catch on their spirit of innovation as well?

4)   How does your body feel when you move away from notions of scarcity to believing in abundance?

5)   Next time you feel jealous, instead of treating it as an unwanted guest, what if we met it as a close friend letting us know something about us that we had not noticed. Jealousy is only a symptom of a deeper issue within us, a belief that perhaps identifies with scarcity or lack of faith in ourselves or something else.

So next time jealousy knocks on your door, let it in and find out what it is telling you about you. Be curious about your Self and open up in a playful manner to the possibilities within you, now further stoked by the creativity in others.

And tell me, how do you deal with jealousy?