When I was a child I used to equate love with the feeling of warmth. Being cuddled and appreciated.

When I was a teenager I used to see love as a special gift from God, as a power to influence the life of others.

As a young adult, I saw love as a power of transformation. I was able to discriminate between falling in love and being in love.

When I got married I understood that love was a choice.

When I became a mother I understood that love was responsibility.

My understanding of love has evolved a lot over the years. However, it was only when I have become a mother that I looked deeper. In all the years I have seen love as a relation. And in a sense, it is.

Love is a relation with myself. It begins inside.

Love is self-acceptance.

Let me explain.

In the famous 1st letter to the Corinthians, in the Bible, NIV, we read:

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

Think about this now.

If I accept myself, who I am, without any pride or disgrace, I have no need to prove myself to others. I don’t need to gain respect from others or please others. Love (self-acceptance) sets me free. I give myself permission to be the way I am, odd or weird, either norm or deception. It does not matter.

I do not bother if others like me or reject me as I do not need the approval of others. It is nice to have it but if I appreciate myself, I am OK with life. As I am content with who I am, I stand for the truth.

When I accept myself I become responsible for who I am. It is about knowing myself, all my sides, the glorious one and the ugly one.

I can love (accept) another person if I am free to give and receive. I used to see love as a relation to another person, my kids, my mother or my countrymen, but this aspect is secondary. The primary aspect is to know whom I am and accept myself. When I do this, I become mature.  The love to another emerges naturally from the love to self, as I am capable to stand up and create a partnership relation.

This sets me free from dependencies and conditionals. “I love you, because …” , “I love you, but …” This sets me free from expectations. “If only you do this or become that…”

This gives me personal power in any relation, because my relation is a reflection of my relation to self. So, if things do not go well, I am in charge to change myself in order to change the relation. So, to love means to accept myself, and to love means to accept the other in my co-operative relation.

When we read another famous quote from Mark 12:30-31, NIV:

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.”

So I am to love God, accept the graceful hand in my life, and I am to accept my neighbors as myself.

Once I accept myself I am able to take responsibility for myself and my decisions. So, indeed, love is a choice, a transformational power.

It is also worth to say that in this context a child cannot love, simply because he is not shaped yet to be in a position to take charge of who he is. Of course kids fall in love with parents. He is nice, sweet, cute and adorable. It is great to give them cuddles and receive them. But in reality kids are dependent on parents, the social must’s and do’s, school life and so on. The child is not free to take responsibility of who he is. Not yet.

But a child is growing in love to learn what love is. It is therefore of a paramount importance for a parent to radiate own self-acceptance and create an environment of trust for the kids to grow.

Kids do things to please themselves, please their parents or sometimes because they are afraid of punishment. At some point, with age, they will get angry about the dependence they hold to the parents. They will rebel the norms and attempt to establish their own identity. This can be a painful process, as we know, where the Self is vulnerable to be heavily influenced by peers and external circumstances.

The crisis so prevalent nowadays with low self-esteem of kids and young adults reflects the lack of role models who loved themselves and the others.

Let us appreciate who we are. Let us be the role models for kids to learn to love.

 

 

 

 

vegan_recovery

Photo credit Heather Kennedy available on Flickr under Creative Commons.

 

I have been on and off short bursts of vegetarian / vegan / raw food diets in my life. The longest, 100% vegetarian dedication lasted for about a year. Nevertheless, I do understand the arguments about the slaughter of animals, bred for food in horrible conditions.

I also know that eating little or no meat will enhance personal changes for those who are willing to take them. This is not necessarily about the motivation or moral aptitude but the fact that a plant-based diet asks for a different type of digestion, providing body with different fuel.  This, as a result, will lead to specific thoughts and emotions being awaken. Such a path is or might be beneficial for spiritual leaders, thinkers, writers and others who live from their thinking skills.

I know from my raw food  journey that raw food has been very demanding to digest, against the initial expectations. While the arguments to eat unadulterated plants sound very compelling, our digestive system does not deal well with breaking up the cellulose walls of leafy greens. Raw food stirs raw emotions up, leading a person to deal with all kinds of feelings buried deep and perhaps dark. Not everybody is ready, or prepared to work on them in such an intensive way.

I personally believe that vegan/vegetarian/raw food diet is special and suitable for some people or perhaps at specific times in life to help with personal transformation or a learning journey. Despite the ethical arguments I don’t think that vegetarianism is for everybody. Some people do need grass-fed meat (or fish), not necessarily the muscle meat, but more importantly the organs such as liver, kidneys, gelatine broth made from bones and so on.

I know that the arguments in favor of vegetarianism / veganism seem sound for many intelligent people. At least, human omnivores/carnivores need to question their motives for indirect killing for food. I am also aware of studies, such as the China study, by Campbell and Campbell, which argues that cancer, heart attacks and other diseases are caused by animal protein. There are hundreds of various correlations presented in the book, but again correlations are not causations. There is also a strong criticism of the validity of this research, e.g. here. It may be useful to study both views.

I personally think that a diet rich in muscle meat may lead to health problems in a long term perspective. However, the situation changes dramatically when one eats a varied diet, including majority of fruits and vegs and a substantial amount of glycine (gelatin) or taurine available from organ meats. Offal is of course what poor people used to eat: lard, tallow and broth, and in generation after generation they have been healthier than the rich ones (who mostly ate muscle meat). When glycine is consumed in abundance, a person will enjoy a good health, I think. This asks for another post 😉

***

The choices between lifestyles and diets can easily lead to emotional disputes. This is not my intention is here. We all make choices based on what we find appealing, convincing or informative at the given time. As long as we develop and make progress long term, the choices make sense.

The point, however, is to be open-minded and think for yourself. It’s easy to subscribe to a dogma, especially when a particular choice becomes a daily habit or practice and we really want it to make it work. Once a choice is being made, say to be a vegetarian or omnivore, one can stick to this for decades. Yet, even good morals are not enough to justify a self-chosen perpetuation of the approach.

How do you know whether you have become dogmatic? When you feel very emotional about your choice and uneasy to respect others with their different choices.

My approach to life is to test everything. I periodically question my own assumptions and test them anew. Only then I can encourage good progress and shed the skin of beliefs which don’t serve me any longer. I do encourage you to test your beliefs too.

***

Since I am interested in health and nutrition I read many books on the subject. I know many people who are inspired to become herbivores, but I only know a few who did the other way around. I find it truly interesting when a long-term vegan/vegetarian starts to eat meat. There is usually a profound understanding or a new perspective when such a breakthrough takes place. And I’m all ears to learn Why.

Joey Lott is one of such people who:

After 17 years as a vegan, Lott knows all about the fear, shame, and guilt that can go along with wanting to quit being vegan. But having come out the other side, wiser and healthier, he shares his perspectives on life and what it really means to “do no harm.” With compassion and plain old good sense, this book will appeal to both your emotions and your intellect. As Lott points out, “we might seek to take our place in the cycle of life rather than trying to step outside of it,” which is precisely what veganism attempts to do.

If you are open to a fresh perspective on the both moral and health sides of veganism, I recommend you read his kindle book, Vegan Recovery. It is cheap, short and to the point. And above all, it may intrigue you if you have committed to the vegan/vegetarian path.

For me this book proposes an interesting view on ethics and life cycle, certainly the points which deal with killing animals. I am well informed about the benefits of eating a full spectrum of animal proteins, so the health concerns were never mine. I wonder what you will think.

Enjoy the book. Let it be inspiring!

***

what_are_problems

Do you love your problems?

It would be helpful, really 🙂

Problems are … difficulties, possibilities, opportunities

A problem is a perceived gap between the actual state and a desired state. This may present itself as either a difficulty you face in life, or a question, puzzle or dilemma to be answered or solved (including homework tasks or math or engineering questions).

I love the definition above because it touches the core of what a problem is. It says about perception and the gap. A problem is therefore in the eye of the beholder. It is personal. Hence, problem solving is personal too and requires an action to close the gap.
 
We will focus here the first type of the problems.

Life difficulties

Some problems are natural and easy challenges in fact. They are the next step on your development path. These are usually small variations of the obstacles that you successfully overcome in the past. They require a stretch but within your possibilities.

Some problems are real difficulties that you have not yet learned to handle well. They may lie far outside your comfort zone and/or require either a personal change or a change of circumstances (family, home or work). Solving these types of problems is a key to life mastery indeed.

Some problems strike hard. These are usually the sudden and unexpected blows or turns in life. They can become a sudden illness, death, reallocation or loss. They may evoke fear, panic or terror. Your heart may feel squashed and you may feel contracted. You are terrified, overwhelmed and lost.

Ultimately you will go through the dark hours and let the emotions flow freely. In doing so, you are down to your true power and perseverance. Only when the emotions are released, you can approach the problems at hand.

Some problems (read: areas of growth) are your good “friends”. They have been with you for years but you avoided to take the responsibility for a change to happen. Your challenge is to become ready first. Ready, to arrive at a breakthrough moment in which you cannot handle the problems any more.

This is usually a moment of Self-realization in which you discover that the path you are on is not the one you would like to follow or when the when the consequences of the given behavior (say, from the lack of change) are more profound than the value of this behavior.

Such an inspiration may go about small things.

It can be an email from a friend telling you how much he appreciated your sound advice that makes you decide to quit your job and start a consulting business.

It can be a time when kids are particularly cheeky when you simply feel it’s enough for you to be a stay-at-home mum.

It can be a brief look into a mirror to realize how bad your posture is in order to subscribe to the regime of posture correcting exercises (BTW: the Egoscue’s health trough motion ones are super good indeed).

Whatever.

***

The real difficulty problems are the ones to tackle. 

Why?

Because if you know how to solve them, all other types of problems will ultimately arrive at this phase and can be tackled as well.

The problems aka real difficulties

These problems are caused by perceptions from your Conscious Self dwelling outside your Operational point of Action (or Power). If you perceive a problem, it means you are living with a situation without holding an intention or possibility of taking the action in the Now to tackle it.

The real difficulty problems arise because you

  1. don’t sufficiently understand the issues
  2. don’t accept the facts and/or the change to happen
  3. don’t take the right decision
  4. don’t take the right actions

When a problem occurs, resistance usually hits with a full blow.

Why?

Because you are confused, overwhelmed, insecure or simply afraid at the presence of Unknown. Ultimately, one of the three scenarios is usually there:

1) You don’t understand the issues and don’t know what to do (or how to do it). You are often paralyzed by uncertainty and afraid of the unknown. As a result, you avoid taking action.

2) You don’t know what to do but you keep taking arbitrary actions for the sake of feeling that we are doing something to maintain the illusion of progress (instead of being still).

3) You know what to do but you don’t like the actions involved (the lack of decision) and are afraid of the consequences of these actions (the lack of will to proceed).

Whatever the scenario, you can move past your doubts or inaction. You need to use strategic problem solving approaches. As these form a necessary skill of any intelligent person, learning them will only bring you benefits. Anybody can master the related process, I believe.

***

Love your problems

Do you love your problems? This would be helpful, indeed.

In the end your problems, are yours. This means they are a part of who you are and whom you are becoming. When you accept to love your problems, they are not enemies neither alien creatures anymore. They will start to work in your favor, and, as a result,  you will focus on the solutions with breeze.

There are two great approaches to solve your personal problems. And what is best, they are highly effective, once you know how to use the techniques well.

I will write about them in the next post 😉

 ***

Photo courtesy Fe Langdon, available under Creative Commons on Flickr.

***

 

open_questions
 Photo copyright by CJ Schmit available under Creative Commons on Flickr.

***

There is a saying:

Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day.
Show him how to catch fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.

The message is really simple. When you teach a person a skill it will serve him better than a direct response to his momentary needs. This is what we want to believe is true.

But …

Is it really?

Reality check

Have you ever given your whole heart to help a friend to end a toxic relation or quit an alcoholic (or other) abuse?
Yes? … (I have.)
All in vain, as you found out that the land of desperation was too attractive for them to leave.

Have you ever done your best to teach a friend strategies for personal growth when she was really a worrier and complainer?
Yes? … (I have.)
All in vain, as you found out that no matter your efforts she choose to complain.

Have you ever spent a huge amount of time to teach your friend a framework of healthy living (English / math / driving / whatever)?
Yes? … (I have.)
All in vain, as you found out that despite the initial progress he was worse off than before.

The willing

All these experiences taught me something deeply profound.

Love and compassion go hand in hand with frustration.

You can do everything what’s in your might to teach a person a skill, but it is not in your power to make him change. You cannot help someone who is not accepting this help. A person may follow your teaching for a while but unless it is fueled by their own desire to change, a transformation will not happen.

Despite the sincerity of intention you can’t help someone who is stuck in their perspective and refuses to take the obvious steps. Why? Because as long as they maintain their Self-perspective, your beliefs, arguments and methods will have no effects whatsoever, or little, at best.

They need to become aware of their own situation. This is the first ingredient. But there is another one, even more important. That is ….

The change simply comes to the willing. It omits the ignorant ones.Tweet: The change simply comes to the willing. It omits the ignorant ones. via @ElaPekalska

Indeed, the second ingredient is willingness. This is not the wishy-washy thinking, but an inspired action.

There has to be an inner drive for a change to happen. Even if you make a change possible – provide the right circumstances, share your resources and supervise the whole process, an unwilling ground will inhibit the growth. The planted seed will die even if well watered, nurtured and provided with sunshine.

Why?

Because it lacks the will to grow.

Simply …

Enabling change doesn’t lead to a change by default.

The will to change can be encouraged, e.g. when the consequences of the given behavior (say, from the lack of skill) are more profound than the value of this behavior. It still doesn’t guarantee the change, but it provides a spark in the awareness. Only then a person may develop their will.

As long as the behavior suits them even for secondary gains, they will remain without fish.

The act of giving

When you are willing to teach someone a skill or offer help, it’s important to check your motivation as well.  Are you offering your help to exercise your power or control (“I’m smarter/better off than you and …well.. I can mercifully teach you this…”)? Or, are you teaching a man to fish because of your compassion?

If you choose to help, do your best and let it go. If you give, give generously and allow the person to do anything with your offering: the learned skill, your time or the resources.

They may use it, abuse it or even abandon it. It’s up to them.

Even if you teach them to find the best fish, catch it and cook it, they may still choose to do it differently.

They may choose to catch the fish, make a photo and release it (as many Dutch people do ;)), while staying hungry. They may also wait to be served, or expect angels to come and provide them with food. Until one day their hunger perhaps outweights their laziness or whatever else that stops them from catching the fish and eating it.

Just give what you can give and let them be free to do whatever they choose to with your gift. Only then, in freedom, they can exercise their power to receive and become responsible. I know it can be painful at times to see your own resources being wasted but a true gift is free. Really. The receiver has no obligation towards you.

So, if you now think that all your efforts may be wasted, there comes …

The power of open questions!

Open questions have an important role to play.

Why?

Because the mind doesn’t like openings and holes. It strives to close the gap of the lack of knowledge or understanding. The mind will search for answers.

Therefore, a powerful question is your bait to encourage a person for a change.

So …

When you choose to give, give generously. Either feed the man or teach him how to fish. At the same time, however, leave him with powerful questions.

These are the open questions that start with the words: “what?”when?” or “how?” and touch the important issue. The purpose of the questions is to make a person think.

How do you recognize a powerful question?

Well, …, it’s usually such when a person says “oh, this is a good question”, or something along these lines. (I’ve tested this hundreds of times and a powerful question will always make a person to admit that.)

Example questions are:

  • How would you know if it were the time to go fishing / eat the fish (i.e. change / learn the skill)?
  • What can you do to feed yourself (i.e. improve your current situation)?
  • What is the easiest / fastest step that can move you forward?
  • What keeps you stuck in your situation? How can you overcome it?
  • Whom can you ask for help to overcome your inertia / lack of funds / confusion?
  • What could you do if you had all the resources/ money / time / help  available? (Would you open a fish restaurant? … just kidding)
  • What does it need to happen for you to make you to change (go fish and feed yourself)?
  • How can you use your skill of X to make Y happen?
  • What do you want to achieve in a 5 -year time? Whom do you want to become? What does it need to happen to be at that point?
  • If you are 95 and look back at your life, what would you like to have achieved? Whom would you like to have become? How can you ensure that you are going to reach this?
  • What would it be like if you could do  X or had Y?

The point is not to ask all these questions. Perhaps not even these questions. Just one question or a few questions, relevant to the issue at hand that are open-ended and will inspire creative thinking.

A powerful question will stay with this person for much longer than you may expect.
It will reach beyond the surface, pass their inner critic and the doubting mind.
A good question will keep sounding in the mind as a gong. Long and pervasive.
A good question will penetrate the person to the bones. Until they dissolve the resistance.

And, indeed, a will to change can be inspired by such open questions.

***

Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day.
Show him how to catch fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.
Ask a man a powerful question, and you ignite his desire for transformation.

That’s your task for the next week.

***

Note

Be very careful with asking WHY.

The why-questions are big spoilers. They are often subtly perceived as a form of accusation or telling off, where you call the other to explain himself. This is especially true when you put the emphasis on why. E.g. Imagine what type of feelings evoke in you when you hear: “So, why do you do that?” or “Why did you decide to go in this direction?” You can ask the same/similar question in a different way.

Use WHAT instead. Say “What encourages you to do that?” or “What was your motivation to go in this direction?” You notice the power of curiosity behind the what-questions, don’t you? Choose to ask what-questions.

This is what coaching is about!

***

 

 

hope

I am nostalgic at times and it is happening right now.

I observe how fast our world changes. Daily.
I observe how stability is an illusion. Daily.
I observe how fickle our economy is. Daily.

Time of transformation

This all reminds me about the transformation years back in Poland, when Poland was to become free. These were the times of illusion of stability, brotherhood and equality. Life seemed peaceful at a surface but it was boiling and steaming underneath. There was a huge desperation for the freedom of expression, freedom of choice and freedom of being.

Even as a child and a teenager I could sense tension, unease and delusion. The parody of various layers in life was ever present. I felt uneasy. I had a strong impression of more important things beneath the surface yet I could not grasp them.

In the late 80′ the change was in the air. The raise of consciousness was in your breath. You could nearly touch it. It was to come.

In the times like this, music helps you to express what seems inexpressible: fears, hopes and expectations. Music helps because it touches you in simple words, tunes or metaphors. Music can be like a sword piercing you fast and deep, straight to your essence of being. It is shocking sometimes but overall, if in effect, you go through a catharsis. You are purified. The emotions are acknowledged and released. There is a flow.

In the times of fears, you only whisper what you believe. Or you keep silent. You are afraid to speak too loud about transformations, as if somebody will overhear it and push things away. You want to touch these intensive feelings in yourself, but you are afraid to face them as if they may not become the reality. Music makes it happen.

One of the songs that kept me hopeful as a teenager was “Don’t give up” by Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush. It is written at time of a high unemployment in Britain and the unstable economy in the country. It is about fears and hopes, lack of work, being a looser and rejections. But the message is universal and it is strong:

There is a place where we belong.

There is a place for us to evolve and become who we really are.
There is a place for us to live and work, to develop, to cherish, to contribute and to grow.
And this place is a place of friends. Of deep connections.

We can create this place.

And I have played this song back for the last few days. Kate’s vocal is fantastic. Listen to it.

 

Don’t Give Up

in this proud land we grew up strong
we were wanted all along
I was taught to fight, taught to win
I never thought I could fail

 

no fight left or so it seems
I am a man whose dreams have all deserted
I’ve changed my face, I’ve changed my name
but no one wants you when you lose

 

don’t give up
‘cos you have friends
don’t give up
you’re not beaten yet
don’t give up
I know you can make it good

 

though I saw it all around
never thought I could be affected
thought that we’d be the last to go
it is so strange the way things turn

 

drove the night toward my home
the place that I was born, on the lakeside
as daylight broke, I saw the earth
the trees had burned down to the ground

 

don’t give up
you still have us
don’t give up
we don’t need much of anything
don’t give up
’cause somewhere there’s a place
where we belong

 

rest your head
you worry too much
it’s going to be alright
when times get rough
you can fall back on us
don’t give up
please don’t give up

 

‘got to walk out of here
I can’t take anymore
going to stand on that bridge
keep my eyes down below
whatever may come
and whatever may go
that river’s flowing
that river’s flowing

 

moved on to another town
tried hard to settle down
for every job, so many men
so many men no-one needs

 

don’t give up
’cause you have friends
don’t give up
you’re not the only one
don’t give up
no reason to be ashamed
don’t give up
you still have us
don’t give up now
we’re proud of who you are
don’t give up
you know it’s never been easy
don’t give up
’cause I believe there’s the a place
there’s a place where we belong

 

The double message

What is really curious about this song is the title, “Don’t give up”, which becomes the repeated phrase or the motto. Interestingly, we know that our subconsciousness has difficulty to process the don’ts. (Check out a great explanation by Paul on why negativity turns your subconscious mind against you.) Basically, in order to imagine the lack of something (the don’t) we have to first imagine the exact thing we should avoid. This comes back to the famous “Don’t think about pink elephants!”. Of course you need to think of pink elephants before you can start thinking about everything else. This is the basic knowledge of NLP, i.e. neurolinguistic programming in which values, beliefs and the use of language determine the quality of our lives. Learn more if this is new for you.

So, actually when we keep repeating this very message “don’t give up” in the song, our subconsciousness reads like “give up” , “give up”, “give up”. This means “stop or  “cease making an effort”.

Despite that the song had a very positive effect on me. I felt energized, accepted and powerful. I was a believer in the transformations to happen.

How is this possible despite the negativity statement (don’t)? There are two important observations.

1. Being non-native

If you are a non-native English speaker like me, “giving up” with the added word “up” is not naturally perceived as a phrasal verb with the meaning it conveys. “Giving up” sounds cheerful and positive thanks to the little word “up”. This combination of words suggests progress or improvement. And at first the meaning that one reads in it is of “submissing” [your problem/challenge] “up” [i.e. high to God or a higher authority] [with the faith that it is going to be solved]. So, even though my subconsciousness gets imprinted with “giving up”, I perceive it as a positive message.

2. The hope of letting go

On the other hand, another effect comes into a play. When you keep fighting for freedom or you work very hard to solve an important problem, you get tense, overdo it and become fixated on a single path to the solution. The problem becomes then like a hunted nightmare.

At such times, the right way is to stop actively participating in the problem; the smartest choice is to give up. What happens is that you relax and stop forcing things to happen in a limited view you have. You need to leave some freedom and handle uncertainty to allow more space for things to sort themselves out. This is especially important when you did the initial work and the time is ready. Giving up is then about honoring your own feelings, accepting what is and letting go (and letting God take care of events).

And there was indeed the time in Poland when the ground was fertile, the season was right and there was raining. We stopped to fight for a moment. We let things happen and a miracle has occurred. It was a prepared miracle, of course, nevertheless it comes back to the basic principle:

“Focus intensively (prepare the ground) and let go.”

I find it pretty cool. Despite the message my subconsciousness “should” have perceived about giving up and loosing hope, the message has become double powerful. All thanks to my non-nativeness.

On the emotional level, the words sounded positive and energized me, while on the logical level I saw it was OK to stop the fight and let things go. I was reassured that there was a place for me. A place where I am accepted, appreciated and where I belong.

There is a place to live in a freedom of choice.

Yes, I’ve created it!

What about you?

***

Photo courtesy Cobalt123, available under the Creative Commons license on Flickr.

***