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Relationship Self-Mastery

10 Natural Laws #10: Give More and You Will Have More

John Owens

10 Natural Laws #10: Give More and You Will Have More

Nice guys finish last. The early bird gets the worm. It’s a dog eat dog world.

We’ve all heard these quotes, and there is a measure of truth in them. They reflect a perspective or belief that life is a zero-sum game, that your gain is my loss. When we take on an identity of me versus them, or us/them (us being a team, religion nationality or other identity), we create a duality where there are winners and losers. It is a reality that is based on measurements and limitations. I measure how much I do or have against another. We measure how well our American economy is doing against the Germans or Chinese, or how well Americans are doing in educating our children against the South Koreans or Japanese. When we put on the lenses of this perspective our hearts are not generous and open toward the “other.” There is that sense that those “dogs” out there are eating us alive, or the other way around. From this perspective, giving more means having less. Giving, from this state of being, is an act of calculation that you’ll get something valuable in return for your investment. This world of limitation and measurement is not where giving more and having more applies. When you are in this state of being, it will seem that the phrase is stupid and meaningless.

Of course there is another belief perspective from which ‘Give more and you will have more’ makes perfect sense. I call this perspective the one of Possibility. This is the belief in an abundant universe, where what is real and truly important is not limited. Love, energy, creativity, and resources exist in abundance, and the greater we give these away, the greater they are present in our lives. Just as the world of Newtonian Physics and its Laws of Motion is contained in the Einsteinian Physics of General Relativity, so is the world of Measurement contained within the world of Possibility. I liken it when our family plays Monopoly. From the belief that I must win to show my worth, and thus everyone else must lose for me to succeed, I take certain actions to maximize my ‘wealth’ and resources at others’ expense. Now if I hold the belief of Possibility, the paper money is no longer of any value, nor are the ‘properties’ on the board. What is important is the sharing of the experience, the lightly-held role of land baron I may choose to act out for the purpose of the game, the interaction of all the family members with each other. I’ve already won, not the money in the game of measurement, but the wealth of love and connection that happens in play.

I belong to a local chapter of Business Network International, a network and referral group. Their motto is “Givers Gain.” The idea is that we create the conditions where others want to give us business referrals when we give them referrals. It’s not a numbers game (though all sorts of statistics are measured and reported), but it is essentially a place to build relationships of mutual respect, trust and support. Those that give referrals to others are well-thought of, and tend to get referrals from the rest of the group. Those that don’t give referrals to others tend to drop out of the group because it is not “working” for them.

I’d like to touch on another aspect of giving, its shadow side. All of us, in our wounded parts, have some unfilled needs, be it for attention, acceptance, respect or approval, etc. What is different about these wounded needs is that they can’t be satisfied for any length of time or with a sense of fulfillment or accomplishment. These are our social addictions (read my blog on Natural Law #9). You may have recognized people in your life who are like vampires, needing something from others and sucking energy and resources from you or from a group. Such people will never be satisfied because giving to them feeds their addiction, not the person. Giving more in this sense will not create abundance because your giving is only helping their wound, their dependency to survive. There is not fulfillment in that. One must give to the part of others that is wholly human for there to be creative abundance and Possibility. Wound worship and feeding addiction is like playing a scratched CD that endlessly repeats itself and slowly degrades to extinction.

If instead of trying to fill up the endless pit of our wounded neediness we recognize that wound in the world and try to heal it, we are transformed. If I stop running the internal tape of my wound of being abandoned, for example, and instead give my loving connection, loyalty and commitment to others in need, the universe of Limits and measurement gives way to Limitless Possibility. And in the process, my wound begins to heal, and my capacity to love is manifested greater.

Giving for gain, you see, does not work, for it co-creates a universe of limitation. Giving from abundance acknowledges the universe of Possibility, and from here we get to have it all: a rich and fulfilling life lived with others whose lives we enrich and support, in virtuous upward spiral.

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A Wink and a Smile…For Me!

John Owens

A Wink and a Smile…For Me!

I’m aware that for me, at least, a lot of my internal dialogue has a tendency to run myself down. In the morning, I often find inner “Mom” telling my inner CEO all the things I’d left undone yesterday (and the days before). I start to plan my day out, and another voice (the ‘bad manager’) starts in about how terrible a time manager I am, and I can’t get half of what I planned done even on a good day. There’s chatter inside me about relationships, not being worthy or likeable enough, or diplomatic enough. Bleah!

Over the years, I’ve learned to tone down this negative chatter from my internal gremlins, and I can often tune it out entirely for a few hours. Every morning I practice centering with yogic breathing (pranayama), and radiating out my abundance of love and compassion to the universe in my meditation. When I catch myself rehearsing angry thoughts, I re-center, relax, and re-create myself. This practice works for me, even if it is not a once-and-for-all permanent solution to my ‘stinkin’ thinkin’’.

I was recently talking with my cousin Max on one of our monthly calls, and he mentioned to me how we winks at himself in the mirror as a way of expressing self-love and acceptance. I thought that was a great idea, and for several days, kept reminding myself I want to try that and see what it’s like for me. I had an image in my head about what it would feel like, and what the impact could be, but it must have been my gremlins that held me back from doing more than just a thought experiment. Finally, yesterday, my lucky stars aligned, and I winked at myself in the bathroom mirror. I reflexively smiled back at my image (and image returned the favor…imagine that!). I experienced a sense of self-acceptance that was deeply intimate, tinged with humor and mischief. I felt a sort of loving attraction that had nothing to do with vanity, and everything to do with someone who is up to something in the world, living values fully, and who was not going to be put down today under any circumstances. Life is Good.

I winked again at myself today, enjoying the inside…’joke’ is not the word for it, it’s more like ‘knowingness.’ I find it a way to instantly recall in the present moment the joy of being alive and being me. I feel momentarily released from the tension and heaviness of getting caught up in the culture of doing-ness, and measuring up to arbitrary standards that oppress me, and suck away my connection to my natural happiness, exuberance and sense of anything being possible, my joy.

Now just a second…I’m off to wink once more. I’ll be right back…

Yep, still works like a charm! Thanks Max!

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Accessing the Power of Gratitude

John Owens

Accessing the Power of Gratitude

I have been noticing the fall changes lately, enjoying walks filled with breathtaking colors and warm sunlight, and eking out those last few bike rides in mild weather. Sujata and I are also making our Thanksgiving plans, and I’ve been noticing just how much there is to be thankful for, not just in this season of feasting and friendship, but every day as well.

The practice of gratitude as a tool for happiness has been in the mainstream for years. Long-term studies support gratitude’s effectiveness, suggesting that a positive, appreciative attitude contributes to greater success in work, greater health, peak performance in sports and business, a higher sense of well-being, and a faster rate of recovery from surgery.

While we may acknowledge gratitude’s many benefits, it still can be difficult to sustain. So many of us are trained to notice what is broken, undone or lacking in our lives. And for gratitude to meet its full healing potential in our lives, it needs to become more than just a Thanksgiving word. We have to learn a new way of looking at things, a new habit. And that can take some time.

That’s why practicing gratitude makes so much sense. When we practice giving thanks for all we have, instead of complaining about what we lack, we give ourselves the chance to see all of life as an opportunity and a blessing.

Remember that gratitude isn’t a blindly optimistic approach in which the bad things in life are whitewashed or ignored. It’s more a matter of where we put our focus and attention. Pain and injustice exist in this world, but when we focus on the gifts of life, we gain a feeling of well-being. Gratitude balances us and gives us hope.

There are many things to be grateful for: colorful autumn leaves, legs that work, friends who listen and really hear, dark chocolate, warm jackets, tomatoes from a home garden, the ability to read, roses, our health, butterflies, the stars on a clear night. What’s on your list?

Some Ways to Practice Gratitude

  • Keep a gratitude journal in which you list things for which you are thankful. You can make daily, weekly or monthly lists. Post your gratitude and share with your friends on FaceBook (my friend Tanya does this, and I feel grateful seeing her posts!). Greater frequency may be better for creating a new habit, but just keeping that journal where you can see it will remind you to think in a grateful way.
  • Make a gratitude collage by drawing or pasting pictures.
  • Practice gratitude around the dinner table or make it part of your nighttime routine.
  • Make a game of finding the hidden blessing in a challenging situation.
  • When you feel like complaining, make a gratitude list instead. You may be amazed by how much better you feel.
  • Notice how gratitude is impacting your life. Write about it, sing about it, express thanks for gratitude.

As you practice, an inner shift begins to occur, and you may be delighted to discover how content and hopeful you are feeling. That sense of fulfillment is gratitude at work.

Author’s content used with permission, © Claire Communications

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On Carrying Curses

John Owens

On Carrying Curses

This day being Halloween, what could be a better time for a blog post on curses?

Have you ever felt like your life was cursed? Don’t reject this idea too quickly. While you may never see anyone boiling toads and eye of newt in a big black pot with whispered incantations to bring bad luck to somebody, often our self-doubts can lead to negative beliefs that hobble us. My definition of a curse is that it is a belief held by the self that one is somehow destined for a significant and repeated failure. When you think of curses in that way, could that apply to you? It certainly has applied to me for many years, and after decades of working on my “problem,” I have learned some secrets of dispelling curses that we carry to our great detriment.

For many years, I carried a belief that there was ‘something wrong with me’, and that because of it, ‘I would be abandoned’ by those I loved. Never mind where I picked that assumption up; it is just not important to resolving the problem. Over time the assumption became a judgment, and finally a self-belief. Now I was stuck with a belief that made people leave me in hurtful ways, and it sapped my confidence.

For many years, I carried a belief that there was ‘something wrong with me’, and that because of it, ‘I would be abandoned’ by those I loved. Never mind where I picked that assumption up; it is just not important to resolving the problem. Over time the assumption became a judgment, and finally a self-belief. Now I was stuck with a belief that made people leave me in hurtful ways, and it sapped my confidence.

Of course, one’s belief in the curse is a crucial part of what makes it “true.” Voodoo does not work on those who don’t believe in it somehow. I think part of the curse’s effectiveness is that we are unwitting participants in co-creating the reality, the same way, generally, that our attachment to misery and victimization helps to ensure that we will be miserable and victimized. It’s like “The Law of Attraction” in reverse. With time, wearing the curse can actually shape and change our bodies. I have seen curses lifted from people while doing deep process work, and along with the curse goes years of bent posture, wrinkles and lines, and deadness of eyes. It is as if a part of one’s passion and aliveness was stored away from availability by the curse.

I also carry the image of a curse being sort of sown on to us. It can be removed, but the stitching has to be removed first, bit by bit. It all starts with awareness of the belief that gives life to the curse. It is important to see clearly how the curse shapes one’s life and thought. There must also be a desire and commitment to lifting the curse from one’s life. Beliefs are rarely given up in total just by deciding. Making a commitment to lift the curse requires an affirmation for oneself that will fill the void once the curse is lifted.

I am also a big believer in a ritual burning or burying (or drowning, or other disintegration) as necessary to inform the whole being that the curse has been removed and is gone for good. Curses have different ways of staying attached to us. For me, I buried part of my curse, and still some remained. Part of the curse was sewn onto me. I found it helpful to tear some cloth and then bury that to remove the last traces.

Do you carry a curse you are ready to get rid of? Get some help in doing so. Human connection is a great antidote to curses that separate us from our fellow humans and ourselves. Therapy can help, as can working with a certified life coach who has experience with this sort of process.

Halloween may be over now, but if goblins and alien creatures are messing with your life, today is a great time to chase them away for good!

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On Assumptions, Judgments, Beliefs

John Owens

On Assumptions, Judgments, Beliefs

We all love a good story, especially the ones we make up. Other stories we buy retail from a respected authority, like our parents, teachers, or church. Stories become our assumptions, judgments about ourselves and others, and our beliefs. There are the some strong similarities among assumptions, judgments and beliefs. All of these entail some interpretation and summation of Reality in our minds. They can be ‘negative’ or ‘positive’ in perception, like the glass half empty or half full. We appear to need them to help us negotiate our world. If I assume some neighborhood is not safe for me to be in, I’ll look for an alternative route, for instance. In fact, (it is my belief) that the human, and many animal minds create mental maps based on assumptions, judgments and beliefs that we use consistently not just to get around physically, but to guide or regulate our relations with others (“I better not talk to her now, she’s crabby in the morning”) and our own behaviors (“I don’t think I can do that”). I have often watched my cats very cautiously slink up to some new object that they have not ‘mapped’ into their territory, like a plastic garbage bag that blew into our yard. I assume that they sense possible threat or danger in anything out of the ordinary. After investigating by smelling, vision, and whacking at it a few times with her paw, my can maps the new object “not harmful or threatening, and this is where it lays”, and the bag can be ignored.

The old reptilian part of our brains is much the same as an animal’s. The unknown evokes in us a fear response. With practice, we can learn to pay less attention to the “flight-fight-freeze” response, and use higher-functioning regions of our brain to create greater possibility and choice. It is as if we can use belief to overpass our original, subconscious assumption that something new is a threat to our survival.

So what makes assumptions, judgments and beliefs different from one another? It seems to me that there is a sort of hierarchy here among these. When I make assumptions, I don’t have a lot of specific information to interpret to create a thought. I assume things based on my past experiences, and extrapolate out to the present moment. I also don’t have a lot invested in my assumptions. For instance, I assume that a stranger I meet socially in a safe place, like a hotel lobby or grocery store, is willing to help me with directions if I ask them politely. If I get a scowling response from him, and hear, “Don’t bother me, I’m busy”, I can easily abandon my assumption of willingness. Assumptions are often our default starting place, and any new information that we receive that contradicts our assumptions can help us let go of them, because assumptions are held lightly. So, when we clear our assumptions about our relationships, it can help greatly to get on firmer footing with the person we hold the assumption with. One way to do this is to clear it directly with the person by asking if you can share an assumption you hold with them. If they answer ‘yes’, then you can respond with something like, “A story I make up about you is that…(you are smarter than I am) “. Notice how this wording makes me the owner of the assumption, and there need be no response from the other person. What often happens when we state our assumptions aloud is that we can let them go. At the least, being conscious of the assumptions that we hold makes the relationship much easier by not being subconsciously guided along the rails of the assumption, and thus opening up more possibilities in the relationship.

Not so with judgment: judgments are held at a deeper level than assumptions. They are more persistent. When I hold a judgment about someone, I have interpreted data I have received by witnessing, hearing from others, or reading about the other. I have more of my ego involved, and it is harder to let go of the judgment thought. I make choices in my behavior both consciously and unconsciously to minimize the ill effects to me and maximize my own position. An example: I hold a judgment that my boss doesn’t like me and has it in for me. I might thus avoid her, and keep conversations with her to a minimum. I might also say things to my coworkers to put her down in others’ esteem. Interestingly, such behavior, based on judgment, will often bring about events that give further evidence that the judgment is held ‘correctly’, like when I get passed over for a promotion because (from my boss’s perspective) I am aloof and a rabble rouser. To me, being passed over will reinforce my original judgment that I am being victimized. How much things might change if I were to ask my boss, “Can I check something out with you? Do you have any performance issues with me?” Or, “Is there something I can do to help your program succeed?” Even if I get a negative answer to my questions, I have communicated a desire for a better relationship. That is a step toward loosening my ego’s hold on that judgment.

When we hold judgments that don’t serve us well, like the example above, it takes some work to let it go. Contradicting the judgment with an investment in relationship is the best way, but not always possible. Another approach is to say or write your judgment, along with words that release it, like “I have held a judgment that I can’t trust Carl. I let go of that judgment now”. Say or write it every day, and put it into practice in your behavior until it no longer has power over you. Note that you will want to do this if it serves you and the relationship. If Carl is, for instance, a compulsive gambler, you won’t want to be loaning him money until he gets help to change his behavior. It still makes sense to visualize the whole person, the trustworthy Carl, who stands behind the compulsive behavior.

Beliefs are thoughts that we don’t just hold, we identify with them. Typically, beliefs relate to how we see ourselves and the world; they are the foundation of our concept of reality. We invest heavily in them. Like monetary investments, we receive dividends from them, and occasionally we feel the acute pain of loss when they lose their value for us. You might recall your childhood when you learned there was no Tooth Fairy. For most of us, giving up that belief was not easy. When my children got the knowledge, they continued for several years to put their teeth under the pillow and write earnest notes to the Tooth Fairy. They required a transition period, where the new knowledge was received that better fit with observed Reality, but there was not yet enough evidence that the new or updated map of reality could be trusted.

When we hold self-limiting beliefs, such as, “I don’t have the self-discipline to be able to run a successful business on my own,” all I can see is the evidence that this belief is true. The belief filters my reality. When I see clearly how this belief is limiting my choices and fulfillment in life, I still need to get enough contradictory messages that I am capable, before I am truly willing to let go of the chains that bind me with my belief. The only way I know to get these new supporting messages is to begin acting from the new belief or paradigm, and to be open and curious about what happens when I do so. That means stepping into unknown territory, parts of the map that are yet unmapped. It’s scary, and always worth it. And so much easier to do when we have a reliable guide as we traverse virgin territory on our life’s path.

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Self-Management

John Owens

On Self-Management

I’ve written extensively on the Ten Natural Laws (see my earlier blogs). Each of these laws relates to an insight that can give a more meaningful and fulfilled life by aligning your thoughts and actions with what is inherently authentic and real about us as humans and about how the world works. It is easy enough to read and understand in your intellect what each of these laws means and how they work at a high level. But to put our learning and insights to practice is often the most difficult and elusive of things we ever attempt to do. I know this because it is true for me. My old habits seem sometimes to have a life and intention of their own, and continue to assert themselves independently of our decisions, commitments and vows. What is with that? Why is this piece of self-management so hard for so many of us?

One reason that getting started in a new direction is so difficult is that our responses have gone down the old pathway so many times that it becomes a highway, a default selection for our brain. Even if it no longer serves us, the brain desires efficiency, and holds to its habits. Quitting that habit, even for a long time, does not close off that neural pathway. I remember years ago I quit smoking for three years, and in response to feeling sorry for myself, got my habit back in less than two days.

A second reason for difficulty in self-management is what many coaches call the Saboteur, or the Gremlin. This is that part of us that works (very hard, often!) to maintain the status quo. The Saboteur hates any change, even if it is fulfilling. This will show up with some messages that tend to keep us small, safe, and ultimately miserable. Phrases like: “Who do you think you are?”, or “You can’t do that”, “I don’t have the time”, or “They will hate me for that” are some examples of how our saboteur can get our attention and prevent us from doing the things that will bring meaning and joy to our lives. The Saboteur seemingly works to keep us safe and secure, but life without risks is not a life worth living.

Often there is a payoff for not changing that blocks our way even when a part of us desperately wants to. Most of us have our small pleasures, be they reading the paper, surfing the web, eating sweets or shopping, and what life (real life, fulfillment) calls us to be means we have to give up all or part of those pleasures of dependencies. Often we wait, un-self-managed until the pain of continuing far outweighs the pleasure in continuing. My father being told he’d have to quit his three-pack-a-day cigarette habit or lose his legs comes to mind.

Changing a habit or style usually means going off in an unknown direction. There’s discomfort in that, be it feeling incompetent, or not feeling we are not up to the task (Saboteur’s territory!), or we just don’t know what’s going to happen. We start feeling that fear or discomfort of not seeing the entire path, and the temptation to return to our small world of little pleasures and what is known and comfortable looks mighty tempting.

What can we do that works to self-manage? Here’s a few suggestions that I use to get me going. Try them out and see what works for you:

  • Schedule it on your calendar. If you don’t use any sort of calendar (except in your head), that may be a good place to start. Writing down your intentions and assigning them a specific time (and place) helps to focus and work with your whole brain.
  • Reward yourself! Set something to honor your completing all or part of your desired action. Be careful of using food for a reward, but giving yourself permission to splurge in a small or even large way can act as an incentive. I like to reward myself with a new music CD or a massage.
  • Get conscious of what it will take. Taking on something new almost always means that there are things that we have to say “No” to and leave behind, in order to make room for the new “Yes”. List those things. Write them down on paper. Then take the new step:
  • Take a vow. Do it publicly or privately as you see fit. Making decisions and promises are actions that comes from our heads. That frequently is not enough to move us through the discomfort of the unknown or hard feelings of embarrassment. So step it up to a level of commitment. Mentally (or for real) draw a line in front of you. Feel the change from stepping out of the land of decision and into the land of commitment, a place from your heart. Recite what things you are saying “NO” to and what you say “YES” to in making this change.
  • Celebrate your success! I have brought this up often in my blogs. As a culture, we just don’t celebrate using our large muscles in motion enough. Dancing, drumming, cycling, doing a victory lap around the back yard and consciously feeling good about yourself start to wear a new groove in your noggin, one that will serve you well for life.
  • Hire a life coach to help you in being clear in your commitments and as a source for accountability in following through. Click here to find out more about how coaching can help you get your life moving from frustration to fulfillment.
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On Resistance

John Owens

On Resistance

A few months ago, I had decided that it would be in my best interests as a professional life coach to facilitate a tele-class on the subject of committing our hearts to be open and at peace. The topic is near and dear to me as an area that I have been exploring and growing in for a long time. Doing an hour-long class was neither a technical nor intellectual challenge for me. I frequently use internet phone bridges to make conference calls. I had plenty of resource material at hand to write a script for what I wanted to say and how I would involve my audience. But I hadn’t done a tele-class before, and I had not stepped out of my comfort zone to expose myself as a coach into a larger circle of people.

I stalled. I set a date for the call, and then cancelled it. Not just once, but several times. Every time I vowed to spend time to write my script, I found other things that I “had” to do first. I was resisting, and I knew it. I also felt powerless to will myself into doing what I had committed to accomplishing.

We all commonly have feelings that we resist. It could come in the form of a nagging resistance to fear of an unwanted situation. Or you might resist feeling sad about a loss. You may even feel resistance toward anger, trying to avoid that uncomfortable and unpredictable emotional state.

When it comes to the realm of human behavior, I find the question of “Why is that?” much less useful than the question, “What do you get out of behaving that way?” ‘Why’ is about looking for causes and justification. Often that inquiry does not point us in a useful direction. ‘What do you get?’ points to the benefit we receive from a behavior like resistance to feelings. Understanding the benefits and the impacts of resistance on ourselves and others is a useful way toward arriving at a commitment to change an equation that is not working well for us and those we care about.

So what was it that I got out of my procrastination? I was so badly stalled that I found someone to coach me on just this one topic. Through my coaching sessions it soon became apparent that staying stuck did two things for me: 1. If I didn’t do the tele-class, I could stay small and maintain my status quo. Even though I “knew” on another level that I wanted to do this tele-class, my inertia was winning out. 2. If I facilitated the class in this more public sphere, I would need to face an old and deeply held belief that I’d be judged harshly leading a group. I was resisting feeling the fear and the threatening sensation of a potentially hostile crowd.

What were the impacts of my resistance? I was stuck, and not moving ahead in a direction that would surely benefit me professionally. I was not giving my gifts of communication, open-heartedness, truth-telling and community building. I was cheating myself and others. Still, this was not enough to get me in gear and moving. I needed to do one more thing: stop resisting, and see what was really there behind the wall of my resistance. I dropped the resistance I was exerting, and let in the fear and discomfort. It felt hard for a moment, like a plunge into a pool of cold water. And then came the shift. I didn’t so much feel the cold fear. I felt some invigoration and aliveness. After a few minutes of experiencing the fear it was no longer overwhelming; it had transformed into something more open and freeing: Possibility.

From that moment on, I was able to move forward on my plans, and facilitated the class. I am ready to do another one, eager to go forward. All because I faced my resistance and let in what was on the other side of it.

When you are feeling resistant to something, the following are tips for moving through it. Consider hiring a certified professional coach who has experience with helping people with moving through resistance to facilitate and assist you in this process:

  • Notice first that you are feeling the resistance. Feel where the energy of resistance resides in your body. Notice if it has a shape or color or texture, like tightness or spikey or abrasive.
  • Breathe in whatever way your body wants to, and notice your breath. Let your body assume the posture that expresses your sensation. It’s okay to slump down or crawl under a desk for a while, if that’s where your body wants to go. The idea is to fully experience what is going on, not just rehearse it in your head.
  • After feeling the resistance in this way, invite it in. Open the door to it and actually welcome this part of you. Know that you can go back to resisting if you need to, that this is your choice to welcome whatever is there into your conscious space. Keep breathing!
  • Sit or stand with the feeling. Usually in a short while it will transform to another sensation. Notice what that is, and be curious about that.
  • You may need to repeat the above steps several times to get the shift. Don’t give up on yourself or the process. You can come back to it later if you find your resistance comes back strongly.
  • When the shift in sensation happens, there is often a new thought or belief that comes with it. Notice that, and write it down. Take time to breathe in the new message and anchor it in your body. Touch that part where the new energy lives. Notice its characteristics. Remind yourself that this is part of you, and you can access it at any time.
  • When the shift in sensation happens, there is often a new thought or belief that comes with it. Notice that, and write it down. Take time to breathe in the new message and anchor it in your body. Touch that part where the new energy lives. Notice its characteristics. Remind yourself that this is part of you, and you can access it at any time.
  • From this new state of being, a new commitment to action can be made. Choose some resonant action that comes to mind.
  • Follow through on you actions, and celebrate your success!
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On Environment

John Owens

On Environment

Does your environment—the places you work, play, sleep, and relate to others—nourish, sustain and inspire you? Sometimes we may feel unhappy and out-of-sorts, not aware to the fact that our environment is the cause of our discontent. I worked for many years in a factory, actually a food processing plant. For decades that environment nourished me with close relationships, good camaraderie, and a space for me to be creative and part of functional work teams. There were other elements that did not nourish me, like the noise and the rigidity of the work hours, yet it was a place where I was happy and supported by a great boss who encouraged me to take risks and pursue the things that interested me. Over time, it changed. My boss retired, and I was reassigned under someone much younger than me who did not care about me. Work rules got much stricter, paperwork and documentation (stuff I do not care for much) increased tenfold. Trust and communication were going down the tubes companywide. I was moved from an office with a window to ever-shrinking cubes that were subjected to piped-in white noise. Like the frog in the pot of cool water that is on a burner, I barely noticed over the stretch of years that the environment I was in was killing me. I knew I was not happy. What I did not realize was that I would never be able to enjoy a sustaining environment with the changes that had taken place. One night I had a dream that told me that if I stayed there I was going to get cancer. I woke up with a start, and resolved to plan my exit. I would not die a slow death of being eaten alive by cancer or suffocated by an airless workplace.

That realization brought me to coaching, which I love immensely. My environment, where I do a lot of my work, is filled with inspiring photos and drawings, and images of people who I adore and who love me. I love the technology that I use; it works for me with little or no frustration. It’s a little messy, usually, and I enjoy the clutter until it is too much, and I put things back into order. My work as a coach inspires me to love people deeply, and to continue to heal my own old wounds in order that I can be of greater service to others. I am nourished by the place, in my home, of my own creation, and I am not confined to an office chair to do my work. The difference between now and just over a year ago is like the difference between a night blizzard and a warm spring dawn. This environment nourishes, inspires and sustains me!

So here is a question for you: Does your environment (work, home, or another) nurture, sustain and inspire you? Do you feel you are your authentic self, your body relaxed and heart open where you are? Are you stimulated to be engaged in relationship, intelligent discourse, or physical activity? Do you feel alive, vibrant, and empowered?

If not, what is missing? What values that you hold in your heart are not being honored or expressed? What is it that does not let you breathe deeply, and exhale deliciously? What is absent that could nourish you to toe-curling fulfillment? Write down what comes to you, without editing anything. Let yourself really want that perfect environment for yourself, so that you can express it for yourself.

And when you feel complete in stating your wants, ask yourself: What needs to happen for me to have this environment for myself? What actions can I take today to bring some piece of what nourishes, sustains, and inspires me into my life today? Perhaps it’s a walk in the woods, or getting your hands into soil to garden, or maybe an art museum.

What might you do to bring more of that into your life in the next few months? And what can you do to co-create and maintain your ideal environment over the next few years? There are parts of our environment that may not be changeable in the short run, but all of us are able to get up and move to a place or be in circumstances that feed us deeply.

Now put those ideas into action. Let yourself come alive. The world needs you to be fully alive, vibrant, nourished and inspired. The world needs your passion, and your gifts and your purpose. If you want an ally to help you in creating that nourishing environment, rediscovering your passion and articulating your purpose, a life coach may be just the thing for you.

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Self-Mastery

There is No Such Thing as Overwhelm

John Owens

There is No Such Thing as Overwhelm

What? No such thing? In this age where we are multitasking to meet all the demands of job and family and health and technology and…Am I crazy? There’s no such thing as overwhelm? Then what are we all feeling so much of the time? You might be feeling the author here has a screw loose. We’ve all felt it; how could it not be real?

So what is overwhelm? I wake up this morning with immediate thoughts flooding my brain of having to write a blog today, getting my tax info prepared, cooking dinner, meeting my clients, paying my bills, preparing to leave for vacation, and a half-dozen other items. I feel that I’m not enough, I don’t have enough (time, money, support) and I am responsible for more than I can possibly manage. It is not fair, but all this stuff is mine to do: that is overwhelm for me. Underlying it are some beliefs, feelings and sensations that create this perspective of overwhelm:

  • I am not enough
  • I am fallen prey to circumstances
  • I have to do it all myself
  • I am alone; I am not supported
  • Something bad is going to happen to me or those I care about
  • I feel afraid
  • Shallow breathing (or hyperventilation), tension in head or stomach, irritability
  • Need to escape OR need to get busy and stay busy OR sensation of being frozen / stuck

The sense of overwhelm also has impacts on you and those around you. Because your state of being is in distress and fear, you will tend to create more of the same around you. People will notice your state of being, and either move away from you because your energy is so hard to be with you, or they move toward you, trying to ‘rescue’ you from the overwhelm that is persecuting you by providing comfort or trying to guess what will be helpful. This is caretaking, may be another way for them to take care of their internal distress. (Contrast this to care giving, which comes from the abundance of the heart.) Other impacts of overwhelm are increased blood pressure, stress hormones that cause aging and oxidation of body tissues, and a host of other physical conditions due to stress that can shorten life.

The result of these impacts is that the sufferer: a) gets stuck and fails to do anything (frozen), b) denies responsibility and dumps everything (flight), or c) grits their teeth, puts their head down, and bulls their way through as much as possible, denying themselves sleep, food, reasonable breaks or any sense of fulfillment, just to get it done and checked off the list. Which one sounds like you?

At its core, the overwhelm syndrome is a state of victimhood that seems to have either oneself or else no one to blame as the perpetrator. Now let’s go back to my title statement that there is no such thing as overwhelm. It’s made up. You are not a victim of circumstances, but just fallen into a perspective that may not serve you well. You are free to choose another set of beliefs. One that has more life, energy and resource for you to actually do what needs to be done and feel a sense of fulfillment rather than dread.

Here are some tips to try the next time you feel overwhelmed. Some will work for you, some may not. What is key is to find out a strategy that works for you and follow it. You can try these:

  • Breathe easily, deeply, and with your diaphragm. Your stomach should distend with each inhalation. Do this for several minutes (yes, you have time to do this, because you will be so much more efficient when clear-headed). Now notice what is true in this moment: you are safe. You are enough. You have everything you need to get through this day. Breathe.
  • When you have centered yourself, write down all the stuff in your head that is overwhelming you. The appointments, the To Do list, the calls, what you have to remember, along with all the messages floating around in your head (“can’t do it”, “not gonna make it,” “there is no time,” etc.). Get it all down on paper so it is out of your head. Now consciously let go of holding these things. Say it out loud, “I am letting go of these messages. I am letting this list hold them for me.”
  • Cross out each item that does not serve you or that you will say “NO” to. Start with those negative messages. You can even write in some messages you want to tell yourself. Cross off at least one thing you choose not to do today.
  • Prioritize: what is important and urgent? Do these as soon as possible. Click here for more of my ideas on prioritizing.
  • Delegate and out-source: don’t put artificial restrictions on yourself that make you responsible for running the universe. Some things can be hired out or delegated. Be specific about what you need and when. Make requests of family or friends commensurate with their abilities, or find help from the yellow pages or web, if it involves fixing, cleaning, or cooking. Even if it costs you money, it will be well-spent if you feel empowered to do more and be more.
  • Hire a certified life coach: These people are experts in helping you to get past the blockage that overwhelm creates to your fulfillment. For more info, click here.
  • Celebrate each completion: it may be a fist pump or victory dance. Move your body to celebrate so you anchor that good feeling in your body. Breathe it in. Then move on!
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Relationship Self-Mastery

Grounding Charges with Others

John Owens

Grounding Charges with Others

Do you have dealings with people that leave you feeling really angry, scared or sad? Do you feel an inclination to blame that person for leading you to where you feel these intense feelings that set your heart at war? I think most of us experience that from time to time, and today I’d like to explore with you how those intense emotions towards another can be a gift for you. You can learn these simple steps toward grounding your charge, much the same way a lightning rod can ground the electrical charge without causing damage to property or people.

I recently traveled with some men to a cabin ‘up North’ in the Minnesota lake country. We had a small ad hoc gathering of men for an I-Group meeting, a type of support group for men. (Note: For those concerned with confidentiality, I am reporting this with their knowledge and permission.) It turned out that two of the men there had known each other through a working relationship that had ended with conflict and hurt feelings and negative judgments. The feelings were still there, on both sides, and that became apparent when I facilitated the part of the meeting where I asked the question, “Does any man have a charge with another man in this circle?” After hearing men’s affirmative answers, we did a process for these charges that led to both men successfully grounding their charges, hearing each other’s truth, and gaining real healing of hearts. I felt my own heart release its tension at the conclusion of this process, and then fill with a sense of peaceful, loving, hopefulness.

Men who do the ManKind Project™ training learn this process, so it is practiced by many people. I have used the same process in my family to heal wounds and improve communication. This is not the only way to ground emotional charges, certainly, but it is a way that works. It is so effective, I want to share it with you, so you have a chance to make this work for yourself.

Step 1. Create a sacred space. The idea is to create a space that will have minimal interruptions, and a commitment by all parties to stay engaged until completion of the process. Turn off all distractions like phones and radio, keep pets where they won’t interfere. You may enlist witnesses, bring in a sacred object, like a picture or wedding ring, light a candle, use smudge or incense. You want to create a space where there is a strong and loving focus on the healing process that is unfolding. It is not necessary, but if you have a staff or rod, you can use this to help keep the focus and literally ground the charge.

Step 2. Identify who has the charge, and with whom. One person may have dozens of charges with another. That person in turn may have a charge(s) with the first. Choose a person “A” who is to start and go through to completion first. That person will do most of the talking, and the other most of the listening. If Person “B” is not available, I often use an empty chair to represent them, or ask someone to stand in and hold the energy for the person who is the object of the charge.

Step 3. Enlist support and facilitation. Choose a third person who is neutral to facilitate the process (the Facilitator). Person A holds the staff (if available) with one end on the ground at all times. Person B holds the staff with their hand above Person A’s. Person A and B are asked by the facilitator if either wishes support from someone else. The Facilitator’s job is to ask the questions, keep the focus on the question at hand, interrupt the process if it becomes abusive, and help to set it back on track.

Step 4. State the objectives. The Facilitator speaks to Person B first, telling them that, though it may seem that “A” is directing their talk to “B”, this is not about “B”, but about grounding “A’s” charge. “B” is a mirror for “A’s” charge, and will be asked at times to repeat back what they heard from A. Person A is informed that this is an opportunity for their healing, and the purpose is to withdraw their projection on B and claim it as part of their disowned self (shadow). Under no circumstances is this an opportunity for A to spew on (abuse) B, and the facilitator needs to be watchful of spewing, and interrupt it if it happens.

Step 5. Relate the data. The Facilitator asks A to choose a single incident (combining multiple incidents creates generalities where facts can be blurred. We want to relate data as purely as possible.) Data is what was seen, heard, acted out or written. Just the facts: “I saw you go in my closet and come out carrying my sweater.” It is what a video camera might record of the incident. Saying “you stole my sweater” is not data, it is a judgment, an interpretation of the facts. It takes a little practice to start seeing the differences. Person B is then asked to repeat back or paraphrase the data to A, making sure to avoid judgments while doing so.

Step 6. Speak the judgments. When the facts of the case are completed, A is asked by the Facilitator to say their judgments. Judgments are interpretations of facts. I encourage the participant to get out of their intellect and speak from their internal seven year old: “You stole my sweater; you’re a thief.” Person B will again mirror these judgments back to A: “I heard you say I stole your sweater and that I am a thief”. Notice that B need not own what A is saying as true for him, just true for A. Once the judgments are completed, they might be summarized. If there are many, the Facilitator can ask A to name the two or three biggest ones.

Step 7. Identify the emotions. We get confused in this culture about feelings. We confuse them with judgments: “I feel you were lying to me” is not a feeling. Emotions come in the primary colors of Afraid/Fear, Happy/Joy, Sad/Grief, Angry/Rageful, and Shame/embarrassment. Often anger is a cover for another emotion that is resisted by the person feeling it. “I feel really angry about that, and underneath my anger I feel afraid” is a clear statement of emotions. Again, B reflects back to A: “I heard you say you are angry and under that you feel afraid”. It is useful often to stick with or close to these primary emotions so they are clearly understood and felt.

Step 8. State the wants. Person A then is asked to say what he wants to happen. “I want you to give back the sweater and to apologize for stealing”. B reflects back what was heard. The facilitator informs A that s/he is speaking her truth, and that is welcome, and that it is possible she may not get what she asks for.

Step 9. Own the shadow and withdraw it. After the data, judgments, emotions and wants are all related and reflected, it is time for Person A to name the shadow that was projected on B, and to withdraw it. A says something like, “What I own about this is how I sometimes disregard other’s rights and take what I want.” There is always something in the charge that is in shadow (hidden, denied or repressed) for A, or there would not be a charge toward B. The facilitator may need to help A with this. Often what is in shadow is a repressed, disowned part of the self. If I never lie, it is likely that my disowned part in shadow is the lying manipulator. Hard for me to see, but I can own the possibility of that, at least.

Step 10. What needs to happen for completion? The Facilitator asks this question to Person A, who says aloud what it is that they want for the process to feel complete for them at this time. Sometimes it is nothing, sometimes it’s a hug from B, or something else.

Step 11. Completion. The Facilitator asks for the actions for completion to take place, either now or in the definite future. If it is something like a hug, and Person B is unwilling, the Facilitator can honor intentions by saying something like, “A would like to give you a hug when you are ready to receive one from her. Would you be willing to accept that when and if you are ready?” Or perhaps a counteroffer from B can be made, for example, to shake hands as gesture of peace. The facilitator then can acknowledge the work of both participants, take the staff, and then ask if both feel complete. If B has a charge with A, then this process is repeated with the roles reversed.

I’d love to hear your comments on this procedure for grounding charges. If you give it a try, let me know how it went. Did you get stuck somewhere? Did you successfully heal an emotional wound? Would you like more information or training on this process?

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