Friday, 25 September 2020

A Spiritual Prescription for Perfecting Your Life

We were taught that there are two things we should try to remember and two things we should try to forget. The two things to remember are the bad we've done to others and the good others have done for us. By focusing on the bad we've done to others, our egos are forced to remember our imperfections and regrets. This keeps us grounded. When we remember the good others have done for us, we feel humbled by our need for others and our gratitude for the gifts we have received. The whole idea of this project is for the children to be in control. The adults don't mention money, but that doesn't stop the children. Marleena Stolp from the University of Jyvaskyla in Finland spent six weeks watching the theatre production, recording the children's conversations and then analysing them. The children knew they were creating something with a market value; They were only six years old, but far from viewing the play as simply an entertaining experience, they were already thinking about how to market and monetise it. There was no doubt that they loved the idea of making money. They even discussed how to select a ticket price that people would be prepared to pay, well aware that the market would not allow them to overcharge and that they risked having no paying audience if they did. So these children already had some comprehension of money, pricing and the idea of the market. Where does this understanding of the value of money come from? SAVING FOR A LUTE Make it your mantra. Whether this feels like a powerful spiritual practice or simply something to mutter under your breath, make it a habit. Before you begin something that feels stressful to you--giving a speech, talking to the boss, standing up to a friend or family member--close your eyes for just one moment, take a few deep breaths, and repeat the motto slowly with each breath. When you adopt the NO FEAR motto, you are making a commitment to the first letter of our acronym map: facing fear. Ironically, the only way to activate the NO FEAR motto in your life is to move directly toward the fear.

Don't expect to fully comprehend this all at once anymore than you would expect to simply exorcise all fear from your life. It is progress we seek, not perfection. I, like you, am a work in progress. As a clinician, teacher, writer, and human being, I claim to be no more than that. In fact, the self-help gurus who write and teach from a position of Once upon a time, when I was as screwed up as you are have always gotten on my nerves. Stay busy to keep from thinking or talking about an event Suffer memory loss about a painful event Isolate or require a significant time alone Feel disconnected to others Avoid seeking help Emotional numbing Loss of interest in prior activities Hyper-arousal is the state of being on high alert and agitated. A person experiencing this type of emotional hypersensitivity: Is always looking out for danger The two things that we were told to forget are the good we've done for others and the bad others have done to us. If we fixate on and are impressed by our own good deeds, our egos grow, so we put those deeds aside. And if others treat us badly, we have to let that go too. This doesn't mean we have to be best friends with someone hurtful, but harboring anger and grudges keeps us focused on ourselves instead of taking a broader perspective. I heard another way of thinking about this from Radhanath Swami when he was giving a talk at the London temple about the qualities we need for self-realization.

He told us to be like salt and pointed out that we only notice salt when there is too much of it in our food, or not enough. Nobody ever says, Wow, this meal has the perfect amount of salt. When salt is used in the best way possible, it goes unrecognized. Salt is so humble that when something goes wrong, it takes the blame, and when everything goes right, it doesn't take credit. In 1993, Mary Johnson's son, Laramiun Byrd, was just twenty years old when, after an argument at a party, he was shot in the head by sixteen-year-old Oshea Israel, who served more than fifteen years in prison for the killing. In a study conducted in Hong Kong, a group of five- and six-year-olds were given the word `money' and asked to free associate. They had plenty to say on the subject. Not surprisingly, they mainly associated it with the ability to buy things they wanted (similar studies in the US and Europe have found the same). They didn't tend to have views on the virtue or otherwise of money. Which is not the case with adults. When the same researchers gave adults questionnaires about whether money was good or bad, different groups took different stances. Students in particular had negative views about it. They believed it to be less good, less interesting and, strikingly, less powerful than business people did. It was just there, and they knew it was something desirable and useful, something you wanted to have, ready to spend. The notion of saving is something children learn about and appreciate even when they're quite little. Actually, anyone who denies the essential subjectivity of individual experience by claiming to have the answer for all of us, gets on my nerves. Long ago I gave up on the idea of completion when it comes to personal growth. One of the Nutshells reads: All things in turmoil in and around you are evidence that you are still alive. There will always be more to do, more to learn, and, as we will explore in a later article, each of us has certain themes that will recur in the progression of our life lessons. Fear is frequently--if not always--at the center of these lessons.

And by learning to transform our relationship to fear, we set off a powerful ripple effect that just might change everything. My goal, which certainly includes sharing my personal experience and my work helping others, is ultimately to inspire you to think and feel and explore for yourself. We all have little voices speaking to us. And if I can assist your little voice in moving you into your next growth spurt, I will have a success on my hands. On the morning after, the day I was scheduled to give my own lecture, I put on my brand-new NO FEAR motto even before I put on my eyeglasses, before I brushed my teeth. Is easily startled or frightened Suffers insomnia or non-restorative sleep Has difficulty concentrating Is irritable and angry Unable to deal with the pressures of working, many PTSD suffers must live on disability income or social services. Some end up homeless. As the inability to move past their trauma can be very distressing, PTSD sufferers are prone to self-medicating through drug and alcohol addictions, or calming their high anxiety through smoking, obsessive/compulsive disorders or eating disorders. Post-traumatic stress disorder is treatable through a combination of psychotherapy and medication. If you believe you may be suffering from PTSD, please seek out psychotherapists and psychiatrists who specialize in treating it and can help you manage your symptoms. Complex PTSD Johnson probably had the most valid reason any of us can imagine for hating someone, and hate Israel she did. Eventually, it struck her that she wasn't the only one hurting; Israel's family had lost their son too. Johnson decided to start a support group called From Death to Life for other mothers whose children had been killed, and she wanted to include mothers whose children had taken a life. Johnson didn't think she could deal with the mothers of murderers unless she truly forgave Israel, so she reached out and asked to speak to him.

When they met, he asked if he could hug her. She says, As I got up, I felt something rising from the soles of my feet and leaving me. After the initial meeting, the pair began to meet regularly, and when Israel was released from prison, Johnson spoke to her landlord and asked if Israel could move into her building. Unforgiveness is like cancer. It will eat you from the inside out, says Johnson. That said, before going to school, when children do save, the main motivation is usually the pleasure of collecting money, piling it up and counting it. It's only as children get a bit older that they begin to save for a particular item they want to buy. In my case, the cherished item was, rather bizarrely, a lute. I'd seen one at a craft fair at Hatfield House, the Tudor mansion in Hertfordshire where Elizabeth I was supposedly sitting under an oak tree in 1558 when she was given the news that she was to become queen. More than half a millennium later I became determined to save up enough to buy a lute. In order to track my progress, I carefully drew one of those fundraising thermometers. I also opened a special savings account at my favorite building society. I was extraordinarily, and rather sweetly, tenacious about my saving. After five years I had accumulated L187. Which was a good effort, but not nearly enough loot to buy a lute. I delivered my speech to a mixed crowd of students and faculty. I saw some old friends from my college days, who remarked on how much I had changed since then--they were referring to my lecture on self-compassion and personal responsibility, not my waistline and hair color. What they didn't know was how much I was only just beginning to change, thanks to my new personal motto: NO FEAR. Later that day I was joking with one of my psychology professors about a recurring dream I had had ever since leaving college. In the dream I am distressed because I have forgotten to check my campus post-office box.

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