6 Second Moments

A low self-image is usually not based on fact but on mismanaged memory. – Orrin Woodward

The phone rang in the middle of the night. It was the Veterans Administration Hospital calling to inform my mother that my father had passed away. I was 7 and where I slept and where the phone was located were in close proximity. After my mother received the news, she began calling family members and made the comment, “What am I suppose to do with a 7-year-old boy?” Overhearing that, I processed her words to mean I was a burden.

That one comment, when uttered, lasted all of 6 seconds, but my decision to let it define who I thought I was lasted for decades.

I often use this example to show the power of what I call 6 Second Moments – a few seconds worth of words from another which can have the power to shape our identity and what we feel we are capable of for the entirety of our lives.

In adulthood, that memory came flooding back and I realized how I had loyally lived out...

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The Mule Rule

You cannot perceive beauty but with a serene mind. – Henry David Thoreau

 The Mule Rule

 A mule is the offspring of a female horse and a male donkey. A horse has 64 chromosomes and a donkey 62. The mule has 63. This one chromosome change has a strong influence on the general character traits of the mule. Its demeanor is noticeably patient and the animal is extremely intelligent, gathering the best features of its parents. Ranchers will often place a mule among skittish horses in order to bring a sense of calm to the corral.

As humans, we may share the same number of chromosomes, but we do not share a singular character trait. We carry within us the polarity of high strung or calm behavior. The predominant one expressed depends on the one we allow ourselves to choose.

Choosing serenity and calm comes more readily with understanding who we are at the most fundamental level. We are expressions of the Divine. The degree in which that divinity expresses as us on an...

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Paralysis of Analysis

When one suffers from cold and congestion there is a system we use in order to facilitate the cold to run its course. We rest, drink fluids, alter diet, take a medicinal agent. No one questions such a system and many rely on it to return to wellness.

When one suffers from the congestion of overthinking is there also a system to use?

Overthinking is a universal challenge that causes many to become paralyzed around decision making. We fear making the wrong choice and so we stall taking an action due to over analyzing what could happen if such a flawed choice occurred. Overthinking clouds our judgments, promotes anxiety and prevents us from moving forward by chaining us to heightened negative scenarios. Overthinking has been credited as being the art of creating problems that aren’t even there.

A system for relieving mental congestion caused by overthinking starts with awareness.  To be aware that I am suffering from the paralysis of analysis allows me to redirect my...

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Icarus

Never regret thy fall, O Icarus of the fearless flight. For the greatest tragedy of them all is never to feel the burning light. - Oscar Wilde

Icarus, from Greek mythology, has often been associated with youthful carelessness. Donning wings of feather and wax, his demise came from flying too close to the sun. Not paying heed to caution, he became enraptured by the sensation of flying and ached to go higher. Rising too high, his waxed wings begin melting, sending him plunging towards the sea.

But what if Icarus was more a pioneer than someone filled with childish hubris?

The world can be harsh to pioneers in the midst of their exploration. A pioneering spirit surges within each of us. It is an inherent propulsion that tugs and invites us into mystery and discovery. Left unexplored, we might never leave the radius of what’s familiar.

It is critical to discern what behaviors are childlike - a pure willingness to be available to discovery, and what are childish. Childlike does not...

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Do The Thing You Think You Cannot Do

Anyone who has never made a mistake, has never tried anything new. – Albert Einstein

We are not born with a tentative stride. In our infancy, we are fearless, ceaselessly pulling ourselves to stand even after we repeatedly fall. We scramble across the floor with innate curiosity and start running with reckless abandon.  Acquired experience teaches us to pay heed to the reckless part but it does not teach us to stop running, cease exploring, or to end our curiosity all together. Fear does that.

Fear chips and carves away at our trust. Left uninterrupted, we lose faith in others and in ourselves. We become lowly survivors in a land of plenty. Yes, it is fear that keeps us tentative in an arena of boundless exploration.

In her book, You Learn By Living, the great Eleanor Roosevelt wrote, “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, 'I have...

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Certainty

If your knowledge of fire has been turned to certainty by words alone, then seek to be cooked by the fire itself. Don't abide in borrowed certainty. There is no real certainty until you burn; if you wish for this, sit down in the fire. ~ Rumi

 

In the metaphysical classic, The Science of Mind, writer Ernest Holmes shares, "An idea has no real value until it becomes an experience." This, as well as the instruction from the Sufi poet Rumi, ask us to look at something called borrowed certainty.

Borrowed certainty is equivalent to borrowed opinion. We may catch hold of some public discourse, read an article on the internet, or remain steadfast to some inherited dogma and never venture away from those borrowed beliefs to do our own experimentation.

Do we live from these borrowed systems of collective opinion or do we go out and explore what feels true and relevant for ourselves?

The poet Rumi’s words are a challenge to move beyond public theory into embracing active...

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In The Bag

Long ago the first lapidaries or gemcutters used primitive methods to polish the exterior of rough rock material. They would fill rough textured bags with raw unrefined pieces. 

Shaking it vigorously, twisting and kneading this bag between the palms of their
hands, they would create a sort or organic, primitive friction inside. This contact would help shed surface pieces and reveal the crystal within. After much repetition, what was produced was a polished gem.

Much like this process, when we are willing to be with the "unrefined" parts of us, when we can be with our limitations and coarse behavior and take time to earnestly examine them, then those behaviors are able to be smoothed.

Throughout our lives we repeatedly come face to face with unrefined ideologies of separation and limiting beliefs. If we do not self examine or participate in a process of shedding them, we give these ideologies power - a power generated solely from a refusal to face them....

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Praghbodhi Cave

Northeast of Bodhgaya, India is a terrain of rocky hills and brush populated by slums. Situated inside one of these hills is the Praghbodhi Cave, the place where Siddhartha Guatama was believed to have lived for 7 years among ascetics who fervently believed that poverty was the pathway to enlightenment. Here he subsisted on little, becoming emaciated and ill before departing that way of thinking and traveling towards the Bodhi Tree, his eventual experience of enlightenment.

If you time it correctly, arriving in the predawn hour, you can actually enter and spend alone time in the tiny candlelit rock chamber before the daily masses of Buddhist pilgrims arrive for worship in the monastery that now surround it.

I’ve been captivated by the energy of the small cave on my visits there. I’ve often wondered what happened within the heart and mind of Siddhartha on the day he determined, “Enough.”

What motivated him to end his allegiance to this chosen path of...

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Beginner's Allowing

On a friend’s invitation, I signed up for a deep-sea fishing expedition off the shores of Corpus Christi, Texas prior to returning for my sophomore year in college.

Far into the murky waters of the Gulf, I discovered we were booked on a commercial charter with professionals. I knew nothing about the intricacies and best practices required for this kind of fishing. The dozen skilled fishermen began perching themselves circularly along the railings and casting their lines.  My friend and I mimicked their preparation and cast our lines as well.

Within a matter of minutes, a hard jolt started pulling my nylon cord. Gripping the handle, I begin to pull and buck the line to gain control but the weight on the other end felt enormous.

Grunting and gasping out, “Excuse me,” I started frantically crawling over and under the rest of the fishermen that encircled the deck as the catch began zigzagging around the circumference of the boat.

On the sixth revolution around,...

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Our Life Reflects Our Loyalty

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It was painful to watch. Activist and celebrity chef Jamie Oliver visits a family in Huntington, West Virginia – a town given the label as the unhealthiest in all of the United States. On his new television experiment, Food Revolution, part reality show, part educational programming, Oliver explains to the mother that the freezer full of processed frozen pizzas and continual trips for fast food are killing her, her truck driving husband and her already obese children. He quizzes and informs her with hard-hitting questions and health based facts about diabetes, heart disease and other related issues that await them. Does she deliberately want to usher in a life time of health problems and shorter life spans, all for the sake of current convenience?

Manipulative perhaps, but you can’t help but agree with his assessment and concerns. The mother tears up as most mothers would, and agrees that something has to change. He teaches her new ways of grocery shopping, meal planning...

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