Your Path To The Best Life

Self-love, respect, and inner peace come from learning how to travel through life in the easiest and most fulfilling manner. Finding the path of least resistance requires accepting it is your actions that create your life. Through self-assessment, you identify those aspects of your behavior, beliefs, judgments, and fears that are preventing you from creating the life you truly want.

Confronting your behavior is not nearly as difficult a process as you may believe. Yes, it takes time to be comfortable looking candidly at yourself. At first, what you consider faults stand out under the bright lights of self-evaluation. So you may tell yourself it is easier not to look. Yet, if you do not look at yourself, it is impossible to see what you do like about you. Without self-assessment it is also impossible to identify those aspects of yourself that you do not like but can change.

Getting to the heart of the matter of self-change requires shifting your ego’s focus from the laundry list of what everyone else needs to do to make your life easier to concentrating on what you can change about yourself. To begin moving past your ego’s resistance to change, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you own your behavior, or do you pass the buck for your actions?
  • Do you evaluate yourself and others based on seeking facts, or do you allow reactive ego to jump to judgment?
  • Are you blindly following the beliefs of others, or do you seek to establish your own?
  • Does fear keep you tied up in knots, or have you chosen to walk in faith?

Don’t be upset or judgmental if what you discover by honestly answering these questions is disappointing. There was a time I was not the person I told myself I was. Today I am the person I always wanted to be only because I took time to determine what was not right about me.

Only when you know what needs changing can you change your path, so your life changes for the better. Positive change begins by being truthful with you, about you. Intentionally looking within, you reach the understanding of who you are, what you value, what about yourself is going right, what is not going right, and what wounds need to heal.

Questioning the path you are on allows you to become aware of and eventually break free from unconscious behavior patterns. By honestly looking at yourself, your heart begins to take the lead in creating your best life.

When Love Smells like Orange Blossoms

Early spring in my neighborhood in Los Angeles, California is a heavenly time to lay in bed at night with the windows open. The orange trees in front of my apartment building are blooming.  Orange blossoms, while fragrant during the day, become intoxicating at night. The sweet perfume wafts invisibly in on the light evening breeze and collects heavily within my room.

For such a powerful fragrance orange blossoms are actually very small. This past week I spent thirty minutes picking up many of the tiny, paper thin blossoms that had fallen from the trees. Seeing them from the ground in clumps is deceiving.  Only when I was squatted on the ground did I truly appreciate how little the blossoms are.  It takes quite a number of them to fill even the smallest package.  But I carried on determined and stayed bent over, squatting and kneeling under my orange trees until I’d picked up hundreds, cramming the teeny zip lock baggie full until it was bursting. I found a cheerful greeting card, put the sealed package of orange blossoms inside, and mailed it to my mother.

With everything mother has done in her 96 years, of all the places she’s traveled throughout the world, she shared in a recent nightly telephone conversation, that she has never once smelled orange blossoms.  As I sealed the envelop I felt the excitement of her surprise at opening the card. Of her wondering for a moment what in the world I’d sent her.  Of her opening the teeny zip lock package, and for the first time breathing deeply, taking in the intoxicating fragrance, the smell of my love for her in the form of orange blossoms.

“Knowing” with Emotional Responsibility

I do not comprehend calculus, theoretical physics, string-theory, or quantum mechanics. But there are lots of people who do. So people who understand these things may think that I should be able to understand them too. Maybe some people think I’m not smart because I don’t. The truth is I’m not unintelligent because I do not comprehend higher mathematics, physics, chemistry, cosmology or engineering. My awareness and intelligence lie in other areas. In fact, each of us is at our own level of intellectual and emotional awareness.

This is important to remember since we often get angry with people because we think they should know something because we know something. Just because you and I may comprehend and care about the downside to negative, rude, judgmental, abusive or self-centered behavior does not mean everyone does.

Yes, I intellectually knew stealing twenty dollars out of my dad’s wallet was wrong, but I did it anyway. One day I woke up emotionally. I put myself in his position and questioned how it would feel to have money stolen from me. Asking “how would it feel” connected me to a new level of emotional awareness, that I am personally responsible for the consequences of my actions.

There are those who know on an intellectual level but do not “know” on an emotionally responsible level how their behavior negatively impacts themselves and others. Accepting that some people are emotionally irresponsible does not mean we condone their unconscious or destructive behavior. It means, instead of approaching them with a “you should know better attitude,” we seek higher, heart directed ways to effectively communicate, interact and set boundaries with them.

Put Yourself In Another Person’s Shoes

I often keep the front door to my apartment open in the mornings and my little dog, Ruby, lies in the sunshine. Today a cable TV technician, who I did not know was around, left my next door neighbor’s apartment and startled Ruby who let out one loud super big bark. Startled he screamed, very loudly and with much anger, “SHUT UP!” as he passed.

His tone of voice was so sharp it felt like being hit in the stomach. Had I not stayed in control of myself I would have said something to him. But I did not allow myself to react. Instead I took a deep breath and put myself in his position.

Although Ruby was inside our apartment I would have jumped too had I passed by and she barked loudly. She is and always will be protective. While I appreciate the “doggie job” she does I can understand how startling it is when there’s complete silence and she barks. The same thing has happened to me when UPS sneaks up and I do not hear them approach the door but she does and lets out an ear-piercing warning bark. It sends me sky high. So taking time to relate to the startled man is what allowed me to let go of his screaming harshly at my dog.

I cannot tell you how dramatically life has improved for the better since I learned to stay in control of myself. I really work hard not to react, but to think. I learned that by taking a moment to place myself in the position of another person I am able to see their side. When combined with my own observations I can determine when to say something and when not to say anything. I did get up and shut the door so Ruby and I, and the man stayed peaceful as he passed by three more times. 

Look for Truth

Growing up in the Southern part of the United States I was told, “People who live in California are weird.”  I moved to Los Angeles 17 years ago and it is not at all what I was told.  Like most things in life we only get someone’s biased point of view when they give their opinion.  It takes much more than someone’s opinion for us to know what is true.  To find what was true about my new home I made it a point to get to know as many of my neighbors as possible.

We live together in the second largest city in the United States so we live close to one another.  In my neighborhood there are several apartment complexes along with single family housing. We have business owners with shops around the corner. There are several schools so there are lots of children. We are every color, nationality, religion, and for the most part, we live peacefully side by side.  So I want to get to know them as a part of my neighborhood family.

It is important to feel that connection with one another so we watch out for each other. We take care of one another. We appreciate and respect one another.  My life is so much better because I know my neighbors.  They are wonderful testaments to the peaceful, kind, and compassionate world we are creating. I feel blessed to live where I do.

I am also blessed to have learned that simply because someone believes something does not make it fact. People in California are not weird at all.  Just look at what I would have missed had I believed what I was told growing up. I am so glad to have a rebellious streak – at least when it comes to finding truth for myself.

A Movie to See

 

Last night I watched the movie “The Impossible.” There were three or four coming attractions and a request to support a related not for profit organization then the menu shot appeared. My hand shook as I tried to press play, then I began to sob and could not stop. It was only a picture of a peaceful beach but for about five minutes I was overwhelmed with the sadness I felt coming back into my heart.

I remember December 26, 2004 and the Indian Ocean tsunami like it was yesterday. And, it has taken me years to prepare my heart to go back to that space of raw terror and desperation for those who survived and sadness at the loss of over 230,000 of our brothers and sisters and so much life.

Watching violence or people getting hurt is so hard for me. I watched to be reminded what is truly important in life. I wanted to witness the miraculous and gut wrenching true story of María Belón Alvárez and her husband and three sons. My heartbreak for all those who suffered was tempered by engaging in the love, determination, faith, generosity, and gratitude of the human spirit.

I watched this film because I wanted to remember, to be there in a way, to crack my heart open wider. This film did that, and so much more. I am forever changed, in a very good way.

The Healing Power of our Natural World

During the period in my life when I suffered with depression I kept myself separate from the outside world. Day after day I plodded along doing what I must to survive while on the inside I was totally consumed with my suffering. I was completely focused on how lonely, sad, and miserable I was.

One day I got tired of the drama and went for a long walk around a lake at a National Forest. Immersing myself in nature allowed something within me to shift. Completely surrounded by beauty and the wonders of life for the entire day I hardly thought about my suffering, my aloneness, my depression.

While that one outing did not cure my depression it did open the door to what actions I could take to make myself feel better.  Every day I continued to enter into the natural world.  With each outing I felt freer and more connected to all that is alive.  Simply watching a mother duck and her babies, or a dragonfly, or the sunlight dancing on the lake brought me happiness.  It was a very good start and a wonderfully positive habit that I maintain today.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed if all we concentrate on is instant gratification, technology, negativity, and our loneliness. It’s easy to collapse into ourselves, our problems, and the negativity. Simply taking time to sit in nature is often just what we need to open the door to allow light into the darkness so we remember there is a way out.

Love Yourself First to Love Others Well

Growing up I was taught I had to love God and other people first.  But no one ever told me what that actually looked like.  No one ever answered my question, “How can I love something or someone else if I do not love me?”  Even as a child that logic did not feel right – it simply did not make sense that I could give what was not within me first to give. And, what does love mean anyway when it seemed to be more about control, judgment, telling me how I was wrong, and ridicule.

One day I realized that what I had been taught to believe was not actually possible.  Love is positive behavior like compassion, forgiveness, patience, responsibility, honesty, loyalty, etc. So unless I was compassionate with myself first it was not possible to be compassionate with others. The same is true for all the behaviors of love. I came to the realization loving had to begin with me because unless I loved myself it was impossible to give love to anything or anyone else. I would only be going through the motions but without genuine emotional and spiritual connectedness to the feelings.

That is when I realized loving me first is not selfish but spiritually responsible. I came to this heart-awareness by having courage to question what I was taught to believe about myself, others and the world.  Today I believe God is love. So by loving myself first I am being love and that to me is what loving God looks like.

One of the most important spiritual realizations is accepting that because you are taught to believe something does not make it true. And because you are taught not to believe something does not make if false. Lead with your higher wisdom and take charge of questioning beliefs that do not align with the positive, loving, inclusive behaviors of your heart because often it is changing your view that changes you.

Living Aligned with Love

I am often asked if I ever get grumpy. You bet. Today someone forwarded an email to me that was hate-filled and judgmental. It was one of those things you see passed around the internet with photos of certain groups of people with sickening, ignorant, and disparaging comments. It made me want to scream for two main reasons.

First, the person who sent this did so without thinking that by forwarding this type trash she is actually condoning the message.  If she stopped to feel what it is like to be the people who were the subject of the photo essay she would be appalled with her behavior. Second, there is absolutely nothing positive that is gained from spreading stereotypical condemnations of anyone.  It’s not innocent or funny or cute. Spreading these type immature and unconscious vilifications actually supports the continuance of ignorance and divisiveness.

Ladies and gentlemen we CANNOT create our best life if we do not think before we act. We must ask ourselves how it will feel to be on the receiving end of our behavior, even if that is forwarding an email. We must have the heart to put ourselves in the position of other people. So what if someone is not like us. Thank goodness we have been, by Divine design, made as individuals unlike anyone else on earth.  What we do share is a heart that is connected to each other so we can feel what we each feel.

It is time you and I stop allowing those within our intimate circles to believe it is okay to send us these type messages.  We must set a boundary, not to change the unconscious and unfeeling, but to change us so we lead with our heart to support our fellow human being’s differences rather than blind prejudice. We must treat others as we want to be treated and be the example of how to create our best life by living aligned with love.

Yes I did set a boundary. Yes I was kind when I clearly and directly asked that she never send me anything like that again. No, I am no longer grumpy.

The Upside Of Jealousy

At one time in life I was jealous of other people’s good fortune, physical appearance, career, home, car, mate, etc. It seemed I was always finding something to envy in other people. But jealously made me feel horrible and did nothing to create my happy and fulfilled life. So, one day I intentionally sat down to bravely look my jealousy in the eye.

By taking time to ask why I was envious I realized I was not honestly upset that someone had more money, a better job, a bigger house, or a better car.  I was disappointed in myself for not responsibly spending the money I made. Likewise, I was not envious that other people were more physically attractive. I was upset because I did not value myself enough to appreciate and take the best care of my body.  Also, I was not really jealous of another person’s partner. I was upset because I did not know myself well enough to attract another person with the positive values I wanted in a lasting relationship.

Today I am grateful I had the courage to honestly look at the motivations behind my envy. I learned jealousy is the perfect mirror in which to find a reflection of what I need to look at within myself.