Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Aperture and Opening up to Relationships: Interview with Couples Therapist Kathryn Ford

Couples Therapist Kathryn Ford
Relationships are hard. Even if they may look easy to others, there is often a lot of work going on behind the scenes that we are not aware of. At the same time, things are not always what they seem. A relationship that may look perfect to others on the outside may in fact be in a deplorable state and shape as it may be crumbling from within. It is like an iceberg, where most of it remains hidden below the surface, and, in many cases, it can be hidden from the eyes of your partner, whereas parts and pieces might be even invisible to yourself.

I have been privileged to talk about these matters with relationship expert and couples therapist Kathryn Ford. Kathryn has been working with couples for the last twenty years, and she has developed a system and a strategy that is very impressive. In fact, she can provide you with the strategies and tools to deal with the usual and normal ups and downs of healthy relationships and give much-needed help and support to not only deal with various issues and problems at hand but to enable and empower the couple to forge a happier and more resilient path into the future.

Depending on the situation and the specific case histories of couples, different problems may be at the root of it all. It is not uncommon for people to either lack or have underdeveloped self-knowledge. The way we treat ourselves and think about and view ourselves is going to shape and mold the relationships we have with others, especially when it comes to significant others in an intimate relationship.

When you are entering a close and intimate relationship with someone who is interested in you, they will have a front-row seat into your life and the other person will see and observe things that you do not necessarily realize within yourself and that you may not even know about yourself.

This can cause potential friction at worst and be the source of uncomfortable feelings in your relationship. The best way to approach the relationship would be with openness and the awareness that self-knowledge is not fixed and static but rather, in the words of Kathryn, a changing and ever-unfolding trajectory.

It is true that the better you know yourself, the more comfortable you would be in any given relationship, but even so, you want to be a very curious and self-compassionate student about yourself and try to demonstrate patience and show affection to yourself and to the other person. That includes and entails forgiving yourself and the other the necessary missteps and mistakes that will occur on your path and to allow growth and happiness to show and manifest itself.

Being a couple is the amalgamation of two previously separate and independent beings who find themselves in a new and often unfamiliar life system. It includes a necessary process of integration with various adjustments and alignments here and there. And yet, the process of coming together is not about losing your identity, as Kathryn reminds us, but it is important to maintain your autonomy.

Instead, you want to view your relationship as an ambitious project or a promising adventure that both of you are willing to engage in; you want to let it unfold and develop in front of and with each other. The aim is to turn it into a well-integrated system via continuous conversation and feedback between two autonomous caring and loving beings.

It is a delicate and affectionate interplay and compromise of mindful moments of give-and-take that then gradually and consistently form a system that is something else entirely, namely a couple. Being a couple is like a full-fledged forest made of various ecosystems, and yet, they all work and blend together, while the sum of it all is even greater than its individual parts as it is based on a complicated and ongoing learning process that emerges as a high-order life system.

To get to the point where the couple can work like magic, there are many pitfalls to watch out for, avoid and circumvent alongside many deep valleys and mountains of challenges to climb and overcome so that you can come out more united and with a closer bond on the other side.

Apart from being open and responsive, you also want to become real to the other person. That means you would have to let your guard down, become vulnerable and let the other person see you as you are. You may be projecting a (slightly) different persona to the rest of the world outside, at work and with acquaintances, and even with some family members, but in a close relationship, it ought to be who you really are. You may have tried to impress and win over your partner at the dating stage, but once in a close relationship, you would need to have the courage to become vulnerable and show yourself, warts, and all.

When you are genuine and vulnerable, the other person can actually feel it. It is not an analytical process nor a thought but a true emotion that can be transmitted, received, and perceived by the other caring person, the other member, and the other side of the relationship. If you are holding back or not responding fully to the other person, they may perceive you as not quite caring, empathetic, nor gentle.

In fact, as Kathryn points out, real empathy does not necessarily consist of putting yourself in their shoes, which would be a more thinking-oriented process but rather to feel the resonance of the other person, just like you would feel the vibrations of a struck drumhead or the strummed chords of a guitar. If you want a real empathetic response, then you can only receive it when you yourself take the first step and risk putting it out there instead of damping down, closing off, or keeping things tightly screwed down.

But it takes two to tango and your dancing partner would need to have the necessary dancing skills to harmonize with you in tandem. This is where mindfulness can come to the rescue. We all carry beliefs and assumptions based on the past, and they may be or may not be valid vis-à-vis previous conversations, discussions, and disputes we may have had with that person. But we need to also get away from what we think we are going to see and stop prejudging the other person based on information from previous conversations and situations.

If not, we will end up at the same place. It will be an unfortunate case of self-fulfilling prophecy where we are predicting what is going to happen in advance, and without being aware of it, we start sending things in that particular direction and endpoint. Put differently, our beliefs, assumptions and thoughts have gotten the best of us and are going to get in our way as opposed to trying to figure out and tuning into what your partner is saying or communicating to you.

We must both arrive in the present moment and see the person as they are in front of us and under the current light and circumstances, that is, our unfiltered actual awareness and perceptions of our partners right now at this very moment in time. Active listening and clear communication to the best of our abilities are going to be key here.

If both parties cannot do so, then we will not be able to understand each other and would start closing down. At this point, it would become futile to continue with the conversation. Nonetheless, this may not be the end of things and may only be a signal that the other person or that you yourself are not open at this precise moment.

This is where aperture awareness becomes such a paramount and important life skill. According to Kathryn, aperture is connected to the realization of whether the other person is open or closed to us at a given moment. We all have moments where we open up to others and other moments where we shut down emotionally. It can be shown and transmitted through gestures, signals, and in some cases even directly communicated by words. Aperture is about being aware of and reading those signs as well as putting mindfulness into practice.

In fact, Kathryn gives a first-hand example of a couple she was coaching where the wife kept on talking louder and faster, while her husband retreated more and more into silence. In fact, the less he said and communicated, the more she took over the conversation. This is not an uncommon sight in relationships where both partners are essentially non-communicative with each other, hence both are closed to themselves and to each other.

But it may not be just a lack of awareness. In this case, the woman was perfectly aware that her husband was closed off and unresponsive, but she simply did not know what else to do and her only default strategy was to keep on talking, faster and louder. It comes down to not knowing what to do in certain situations and how to deal with this type of stress and tension within the relationship.

That is when both would benefit from the advice of experienced others, be it couples that they confide in and trust or a professional coach like Kathryn who can teach you how to correctly interpret the signs and provide practical and insightful strategies and action plans for both parties involved.

In fact, we often do not know what the life of a couple looks like and what really goes on behind closed doors and within the privacy of the couple’s lives, which is often a closely guarded secret of some sort. Most of our information about relationships may be tilted, slanted, biased, and may simply not be applicable to our current situation and circumstances.

So what should you do? The first step would be to notice when the other person is open and when he or she is closed. Pushing on where the partner is not open would not only be futile, but it might add to a repertoire of negative feelings and build up resentment over time.

Effective communication would happen when both are open to the discussion, but they are also honest and vulnerable. In most cases, intimate relationships have a head start because both are interested in the other person, and both usually want the relationship to succeed and hence are looking for ways to improve and are willing to do the necessary groundwork.

The mindful approach of seeing apertures, openings where one can proceed, and closure when it is best to wait and show patience, is utterly brilliant in my view. You would not want to drive on when the lights are red and the same would apply to relevant conversations and discussions with an intimate partner.

It is like the gates of electrical circuits, and our brain works in a similar manner when it comes to memory. For instance, we gate general information about answering our phone when it rings but also with conditions and strings attached of not doing so when we are driving on the road. Depending on the context and where we find ourselves, we can opt for answering or not answering the call.

If the other person is never emotionally available or consistently fails to become open and vulnerable, then the relationship would not be able to proceed to a more intimate close bond between the two persons involved. Many couples fail to see that relationships are not contests and competitions, and love is not about being right or having the last word in an argument. In fact, in most cases, both views are correct, yet what we want and need to always look at is the big picture in front of us.

It is so easy to get into a debate of either/or and who is right, but whenever you find yourself in that space, you might intuitively sense that you are not in a good conversation there. But if you treat both views as equally true and valid and look and walk past the ingrained need to be right, then you can be more productive as a team or as a unit. There are many things that will evolve and that will make you grow as a couple if you are willing to take the exploration and make discoveries together.

Yet you cannot force the other person and if they are unwilling to take the journey with you, you would have to make a difficult and necessary decision that would be for the benefit of both parties. In those moments, you would need to be open to your wide array of choices and possibilities. If either or both of you are not committed or dedicated enough, then you would have to ask yourself, what is the next step to take.

If you have a partner who is closed-minded and prefers being right over being happy, if he or she is not willing to compromise and does not realize that it is not only about them but rather about both of you embedded in a sophisticated but emotionally and spiritually enriching and resonant high-order system of two autonomous beings, then it may be better to break off the relationship and to move on and close that chapter of your life.

But when both are innovative and are thinking outside of the box, when both parties want to succeed in that adventure and promise and want to fulfill the potential of their relationship and take it to unprecedented heights; if they find, they are compatible with each other and enjoy the other person’s company, if they want to understand, love each other and get the most possible loving connection with the other person, then the best path would be to keep their eyes and hearts open and to take the mindful path together hand in hand.



It was a pleasure and absolute delight to talk to Dr. Kathryn Ford, who has perfectly and beautifully combined three approaches that I am very fond of and passionate about myself: psychotherapy, Buddhism, and neuroscience.

I was not able to include all the wisdom and insight of that interview in a limited blog post but highly encourage you to check out the full interview either on YouTube or on my podcast.





Friday, August 27, 2021

Own your own Learning: Mindful Thoughts for Students Book Review

Mindful Thoughts for Students
Being a student, especially during these unprecedented times of upheaval, fear, and uncertainty marked by this ongoing pandemic, is not an easy task. Yet it is at the same time a very beautiful thing as learning not only expands the mind but gives it sustenance, nourishment, and joy. We are all life-long learners and the more readily and mindfully we approach our learning together with the increase in skills and knowledge alongside their subsequent applications and fruitful consequences, the more we will enjoy the process.

I have been a student for half of my life, and it includes some of my fondest memories, while for the second half of my life, I have found myself on the other side of the fence by teaching students. Learning has become my life-long passion and addiction, and while I was somewhat driven by academic results and necessities in my younger years, nowadays, I learn on my own, out of my own free will, and for my own joy and pleasure. Academia, knowledge, and wisdom in all their beautiful shapes and forms are ingrained into and enmeshed within my very core being, the heart of my heart.

It does not matter at what stage and position you are with your learning experience, whether you are a student at high school or university or someone who embraces learning on the fly or if you are as lucky as I am where it comes directly attached to your job description, learning can and should be fun for everyone. Here are some mindful tips for turning your learning into a more positive journey and making it a less negative experience taken directly and indirectly from a beautiful little book entitled Mindful Thoughts for Students: Nurture your Mind, Flourish in Life by Georgina Hooper.

First off, the book may be small in size – about the length of your smartphone and twice its width - but it is filled with wisdom as well as beautiful, colorful, and inspiring drawings. It fits into your pocket so you can carry this learning guide with you anywhere you go; it is a handy companion to remind yourself and to refresh your memory of being mindful in your studies, and by extension, in your life.

For starters, do not feel intimidated at the onset and during your journey. When you approach learning, it will require both time and effort but try to be less concerned or worried about the impending outcomes via tests, evaluations, and academic results. When I go over the syllabus of the course, a requirement to set the tone and to give an overview of the course at the beginning of each semester, I can feel the nervous energy and palpable worry amongst my students.

Many of my students seem already overwhelmed about the upcoming challenges, whether it is the reading materials, the pronunciation, vocabulary and grammar of a new language or the various assessments spread over the whole semester, which includes and culminates in final exams, group presentations, and essays.

But think of it as a road trip. You want to make sure you have all the necessary documents and items with you, but the fun and enjoyment lie in both the path and the destination, and it is not a matter of getting there as fast as possible but to have specific checkpoints in mind so that you do not fall behind in your schedule.

In other words, you want to be present-minded and -focused and worry less about the future of those exams, assignments, and presentations that are described in your course syllabus and are looming ahead. You also want to start fresh on a new page by unpacking and unloading all the baggage of the past, the old failures, and disappointments that you may have previously experienced in your learning and that you may be now re-attaching to your present experience. Once you clear the past, it should become easier not to feel overburdened by the potential burdens of the future.

As Georgina explains, the word for mindfulness in Japanese and Chinese consists of and is represented by the characters of “now” and “mind”; you want to have a now-mind as you are entering the new semester or the next school year, that also means that you want to be aware of and pay attention to your body, your environment, and your mental activity throughout your days of learning and studying. You should also keep in mind that the same way you are unique in the world, not every tip or technique may work for you, so by being aware of your own body and mind, you can refine, customize, and personalize your learning experience as well as study habits along the way.

I remember - both with nostalgia as well as with a certain amount of dread - the immense workload and reading that would come my way. But it is important to plan ahead of time and to manage time and tasks so that you will not experience overload. Take it as one step at a time, the same way Lao Tzu’s journey of a thousand miles had to start with the first step at some point, you would open the book and start at the first page of your learning experience. It can be reinforced by small and consistent practice in the present moment and by focusing on important bits of knowledge and skills, especially those that resonate most with you.

But do not press on too quickly. Learning is not about sprints and the faster and the better, but it is more like a marathon that would test your endurance, planning, discipline, and execution. The challenges on the way should not be avoided, feared, and least of all shunned; one should be aware of them, expect them as well as embrace them with open arms when they appear.

Over the pandemic, I gave myself a new learning challenge. I set myself the goal to learn very basic ASL (American Sign Language). Certainly, my years of learning and teaching help and aid in this matter, but still, many of the challenges are still the same with or without background knowledge and experience. First off, I would have to learn new information and skills. Using my hands instead of my mouth for speaking was something I was not very familiar with nor accustomed to.

But I knew that the best approach would be to break my ASL learning into small chunks of signs before moving on to the next batch of information. I would learn a handful (pun intended) of expressions for the day before moving on to the next signs. I would keep using and practicing them with my son or in front of the mirror so that they are committed to memory. Then, these small building blocks like Lego bricks can be used to build your own personal structures and create longer strings and messages of communication.

You can also compare it to piano scales and individual notes that you practice at first so that you can later use them to play - or even compose your own - musical pieces. At any rate, by focusing on now, the series of present moments that make up your day, you can practice the small stuff that would then lead to great heights and accomplishments in the near and far future.

As Georgina puts it quite succinctly, try not to time travel towards future outcomes and instead plant your feet firmly on and within the present moment. Awareness of your body, mind, and the current environment is key here, while an agenda and a calendar with daily and weekly steps, goals and achievements can come to your aid as well.

Try to limit and circumvent distractions both internally as well as externally. Both are challenging to control but by being at the same time disciplined and compassionate with yourself, you can certainly achieve this. The external distractions come in the form of your smartphone, which you want to keep on silent for the duration of your task at hand. The internal distractions can range from boredom to later plans for the evening and try to find and negotiate a well-balanced and gentle but firm compromise there.

As you are experiencing stress and discomfort in your learning, be reminded that mindfulness is about not always doing what you want to do nor about what feels good all the time. There are going to be days where it will be more difficult for you to engage in and connect with your studies. This could be due to natural fluctuations, the ebb and flow of motivation. Although you do not want to push too hard, you also do not want to let go completely or become too lax in your academic endeavors.

One of the most important lessons in learning and in life is to accept responsibility. This is the realization that passive learning will not get you very far in your studies, in your career, and in your life as a whole. You want to own your learning and be responsible for it and stand on your own feet. Your teacher and instructor are at best guides and facilitators, and they are temporary helpers on the path of your learning, but you must do the learning yourself.

That includes showing up. This is not only physically and mentally showing up in a face-to-face or virtual classroom but to do so wholeheartedly. You want to be all there and not let your mind be hijacked or led astray by unrelated concerns, desires, or wishes. You would want to take your learning into your own capable hands and communicate with your peers and teachers with courage and authenticity.

As teachers, we are often good at reading certain cues and signals, but we are not mindreaders. As a result, you want to ask questions when something is unclear to you or if you want to know something, or if something is troubling you and of concern to you. If you are stressed, let your teachers know. No one can offer you help if you are not showing your hand, and if we do not know what is ailing you, we cannot help you or show compassion.

Stress is part of life, and it is essential how you deal with it. As Georgina illustrates, the Buddhists use the symbol of the lotus flower to show how humans evolve, learn, and thrive and become resilient and beautiful even when or rather especially because of the mud that can serve as sustenance for our emotional, mental and spiritual development. In fact, the Chinese word for stress is made up of two characters meaning “strong” and “pressure” and it is this jolt of energy that can move and arouse us and wake us up to the challenges in front of us.

There will be setbacks, failures, and bad grades, but how you approach it and deal with it is of the utmost importance here. It goes back to owning your learning. You want to be honest with yourself and see it as helpful feedback on where to improve. In fact, you can ask your guide and facilitator, your teacher on where and how to improve. What you do not want to do is to give away control and externalize responsibility by blaming your teacher, your school, or your circumstances, rather you want to use any feedback as constructive criticism and adjust and readjust certain ways of learning and studying to achieve better results next time around.

But keep in mind, a bad grade is temporary, and it is not a death sentence. The assessment in question is designed to test and evaluate what you know at one specific moment in time. As teachers and instructors, we are cognizant and aware that learning is gradual and procedural and will involve missteps and mistakes along the way. As a result, evaluation and assessment are spread out over time, and there will be various occasions for growth as well as second chances and opportunities if the student indeed takes responsibility for their learning.

In fact, you can use mindfulness to stop you from internalizing and catastrophizing some of your bad grades and the perceived negative feedback that you receive. You want to release and let go of the weight of unrealistic expectations that you carry around with you both consciously and subconsciously as this can be the cause and precursor of a great deal of unnecessary stress. First off, it is your inner critic that sees it as negative when it is in fact helpful and useful for your learning. In fact, you want to be gentle with yourself and in many ways and manners, you could often be harsher on yourself than any teacher could ever be.

Give yourself space for errors and room for improvement and be ready to modify your learning and studying as necessary. Moreover, see the relationship between things and do not assume that teachers are out there to get you but rather build on fostering self-belief and agency. The reason you did not do well was most likely because of not paying attention, not asking questions, not giving your studies the time, focus, and energy that they deserve and merit; these realizations can often lead you to better time management and improved study habits.

Be aware that learning does not occur in a straight line and your experiences will be filled with many moments of detours and uncertainty. Yet feeling discomfort does not necessarily mean that you are on the wrong track. Sometimes these feelings may even have little to do with you and your efforts but are the symptoms and sensations that accompany growth.

Mindfulness can help you stay on track as it teaches you that whatever you might be feeling at this moment, will pass. For certain events, you just have to summon up patience, perseverance, and faith, while other events and circumstances may ask you to redirect and forge new paths. Sometimes, you will not feel in control, while at other times, the necessary actions and solutions are within your reach, at hand, and at your disposal.

Above all, and most importantly, learning is curiosity. It is you at play in your most playful state like children who approach new tasks with passion and enthusiasm. But even in the best of circumstances, play can wear you out, so you want to listen and be attuned to your body, mind, and environment and know when it is necessary to move on and when you are due for much needed and most deserved rest.

It is important to do everything you do mindfully and with a whole heart, so when you are studying, be there and ensure to be doing that. When you are not studying, be there too and immerse yourself in that experience without worrying about your studies and without carrying the looming and impending pressure of tests and assessments with you wherever you go.

The final advice both Georgina and I would like to give you is that learning does not occur in a vacuum, and it is not a solitary effort nor activity. Whether you are in an in-person or virtual classroom, your actions and behaviors influence others and the behaviors of others will influence you and your learning experience. 

Show and embody respect to yourself, others and your teachers, and the whole community as we are all part and parcel of a multidimensional community of learners. Take the path of learning both seriously and with a playful positive attitude and know that we are all building blocks towards a better future and a better life for everyone involved.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Buddha-Love and Words from the Wise: An Enlightening Interview with Robert Thurman

Robert Thurman

All you need is love. The Beatles got it right, but to set us on the path of enlightenment, wisdom must play an essential and significant role as well. And no, ignorance is not bliss; we have more than enough of our share of ignorance in the world today, and it is certainly not bringing about bliss. Quite the contrary, in times like these, what we need most and more than ever is reason and wisdom to guide us through our own dark ages.

And wisdom is not repeating and merely uttering the words of others, nor is it blindly following dogma, religion, or philosophy. What we need instead is - in the words of Robert Thurman, Tibetan Buddhist scholar, ex-monk, a personal life-long friend of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, enlightened activist, and just wonderful and amazing person overall - is a reasonable Buddha-empowered faith. I had the amazing privilege and honor to talk to “Buddha Bob” not only about his latest mind-blowing and -expanding book Wisdom Is Bliss: Four Friendly Fun Facts That Can Change Your Life but also about happiness, psychoanalysis, and yes, Buddhism.

The latter - which is more a way of life combined with science and philosophy and certainly not a religion to convert to or fall into - was actually not the main motivation for writing his book. Instead, he wants to ignite and stoke the joyful flames and fumes of happiness, compassion, science, and enthusiasm to push for a radical - and much-needed change – across the globe to save the climate, the animals, ourselves, and all our future generations and incarnations.

When the house is on fire, you cannot and will not extinguish the flames of destruction by ignoring them and by doing nothing, the same way you cannot solve deep-seated issues by looking up to the sky and pray for a miracle to come; you yourself would have to make things happen. And with this book in hand, you can have the necessary guidance to do so, and then some.

Although I am not new to Buddhism myself, the book by and even more so the conversation with Robert Thurman and his cleareyed clearlight views on life and Buddhism put things into perspective for me. I was comforted by the fact that in his youth, he had gone through somewhat similar trials and tribulations and he clarified the concept of ego and nirvana to me alongside the conception of authentic and realistic living.

First off, the ego is an illusion in the sense that it is the relative and limited experience of a larger and more encompassing Self. It is the illusion and the paradox of mountains being mountains. They are, and at the same time, they are not. The sky is blue to our eyes and perception, but it is not blue but purple. When we hold onto a limited concept of the self and do not see the forest from the trees, we tend to suffer. But life is definitely not suffering even though we may perceive and experience it as such.

In reality, life is joy. And so, to me, Buddhism was confusing as it seemed to imply, in my naïve and misguided understanding of it, that life was indeed suffering. But it is far from it. Buddhism presents the option of freedom, of freeing yourself from suffering through awakening to enlightenment. In other words, by awakening, you realize that what you took for reality up to then was merely a dream, or rather a nightmare. Once that occurs, you can and will experience bliss.

Religions often fail to foster that sense of life-affirming exuberance and enthusiasm. Instead, you are presented with heavy muck of sin and suffering and that you are meant to go through hell in this life so that you may have a shot at paradise in the afterlife. But what good is it to postpone and delegate bliss and happiness to an uncertain and potentially non-existent place and time when you could have it all right now, in this moment of your life?

Your paradigm shifts, and suddenly, what you took for mountains were not mountains after all, and they become transparent. And yet, you realize that they are mountains but thanks to this experience, you now have the superpower of switching between two worldviews, one of relative truth and an absolute one.

The same happens to the perception of oneself, one’s ego alongside the infinite array of potential energy and possibilities of being. For instance, as Bob explains, we see ourselves in the mirror, but it happens in a distorted way. Left is right and right is left, while the writing on your shirt becomes gibberish.

And yet, we correct this in your mind, and we can see it wrong and see it right simultaneously. This is the non-dual worldview where logic must accept the fact that two opposing views can be both applicable to a given situation, the same way, light in quantum mechanics can be represented as either as a wave or as a particle, whereas both mutually exclusive assertions would be equally correct. 

This is not unlike optical illusions that play with two ways of focusing, perceiving, and looking at things in which either one can be applied, and neither is wrong nor right on its own. Yet the ability to switch back and forth between mountain and non-mountain and limited relative self and all-encompassing absolute Self is a truly magical feat and miracle.

When this occurs, you become transparent to yourself. Transparency can be used and understood in different forms and manners. On one hand, it can be an invisible glass shield/filter through which you see the world. We may forget that it is there, but it is always see-through. But transparency can also be conceived as being exactly who and how you are, in other words, a synonym for authenticity and the deepest form of self-knowledge and self-acceptance possible.

And when you are at that stage and point, you gain freedom and you have the freedom to engage with things and others as you see fit, and yet, at any time, you could see through it all, if you wished to do so. By being transparent to yourself, you can simultaneously identify with other persons. You see it as a mountain but at the same time you know it is not a mountain, and this frees you to observe it much more empathically like a CAT scan, as Bob says, as clear light of the void or with Superman vision bathed in a bath of infinite energy.

And we all have this inherent power of Superman within us just by belonging to the human race. Yet, due to our experience of the world, due to certain fixated ideas propagated by - undoubtedly necessary and important - acts of language, we have fixated and very limited and restrictive ideas of who we are, who we were, and who we think we should be.

It does not help that everyone tells us how to think and behave, while religion is filled with dogma, rituals, and prescriptions of how and what to think and what to believe. This is why blind faith will not get us anywhere; contrary to what we are often told and led to believe, the enlightened beings would not ask this from us and have never done so.

On the contrary, they have asked us to not take their words as pure gold, but rather as the goldsmith in Bob’s example, not to accept and buy it at face value but to test, melt, cut, and rub it on a touchstone to check and confirm whether it is gold or merely shiny glitter. This is what the Buddha means when he says if you see the Buddha, kill the Buddha, not inciting us to an act of murder, of course, but rather stating if you see the Buddha outside of yourself, you have not yet fully attained Buddha-nature.

Both sweet Jesus and the Buddha were and continue to be fun-loving rebels. Both objected to the spirit of the times, the zeitgeist that restricted and constrained spiritual growth and development. The Buddha rejected the caste system and the patriarchy and military paradigm of his era and accepted everyone as his mendicants, his disciples, including women, whereas Jesus protected and surrounded himself with the poor and the destitute, the sick, prostitutes, and children. In the eyes of the wise, everyone can potentially attain enlightenment regardless of their status, gender, occupation, religion, or what-have-you. As Bob states in his book, “you are already a ‘relatively enlightened’ person just by virtue of being human”.

Moreover, the Buddha and Jesus were fully aware of the limitations of language especially when you are trying to express something that is both inexpressible and inconceivable, an almost impossible double challenge. So the Buddha reminded and encouraged us to be skeptical of his teachings and to follow his footsteps instead of just mindlessly following his words, no matter how beautiful and eloquent they may look and appear to us.

On the other hand, Jesus himself spoke in parables to express his insights and teachings. The same language that gives us restrictions and bounds up our imagination could at the same time free it from the shackles by using poetry and allegory. Art and poetry give us new angles and ways of seeing, feeling, and understanding the reality of everything, but they never exhaust it; they become the tender and magical balancing act that tries to express the inexpressible and inconceivable to the best of abilities.

As Bob himself explains in his book, a person’s life, like that of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, can also be expressed as an illustrious work of art. For those who perceive and appreciate this – and the main thing here is to understand as there is no need to convert and there is no agenda to be worried or suspicious about - it can motivate and inspire us to seek experiential awakenings.

In fact, enlightenment is awakening and blossoming as Bodhi means awakening from sleep and blossoming like a flower. It is not static but dynamic, and it embraces everything including ignorance in a loving and liberating way. At the same time, those infused with wisdom intuitively know that being authentic to your true core self is the path of enlightenment. Nirvana is not far away or way out there. Nirvana is, in fact, closer than you may think both in space and time. But it is also involved with serious soul-searching, meditation and reflections, doubts and skepticism, and a Buddha-empowered faith.

Like the Buddha, Robert Thurman is giving us a manual on how to proceed. He has done the soul-searching, he has studied, lived, struggled with, and relished in Buddhism for over sixty years, and although he cannot hand over enlightenment, he can show us the map, the path as well as where to look and how to proceed to find inner and outer freedom, wisdom, and bliss.

One of the most astonishing realizations for me was his humility and passion for life. In my interview, he could have introduced himself in many different ways enumerating his uncountable accomplishments and successes. He could have gloated about his close bond with His Holiness. And yet, he chose to speak about his family first - wherein he did not mention his famous daughter - and then briefly mentioned the work he does academically, professionally, and personally.

Throughout the interview, he showed energy and zest for life that I do not often see in much younger people. Publishing a book is a feat but doing so at the robust age of eighty is close to a miracle. His passion and enthusiasm for political affairs and his concern about the future of our lives and of all sentient beings as well as the life and wellbeing of our planet are admirable and most noble. A Buddha does not only speak, they act as well. And it is done by opening your heart and mind to the world around you and to see and spread love wherever you are and wherever you go. To come full circle here with another Beatles quote: And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.


If you would like to access the full-length interview (and I highly encourage you to do so!), you can see it on YouTube or listen to it on my podcast.


I would like to thank His Holiness the Dalai Lama for his beautiful being, teachings, and blessings, Robert Thurman for honoring me with his time, light, and wisdom, and for his amazing publicist Beth Grossman for making it all happen! With great love and gratitude!


Wednesday, August 11, 2021

On Authenticity and Breaking Free from Codependency: An Interview with Mary Joye

Mary Joye
Two phrases of self-help that we hear tossed around on a regular basis and often indiscriminately are the adages of being yourself and keeping it real. They are not mutually exclusive, and one might even say they are indeed one and the same. To be yourself, you would have to be authentic to who you are. Being authentic comes with complete honesty and transparency and the unflinching look at who you are as opposed to who you think you are, should be, would like to be or even who you used to be.

Put differently, it is an impromptu snapshot without any poses, fake smiles, filters, artificial lighting and without any alterations and modifications. In fact, this natural snapshot will most likely not be the photo of yourself that you would use on a job-searching site or even post on social media since in both spheres and domains, and for good reason, very few of us would always present and represent ourselves as who we truly are, warts and bad hair day and all.

This raw and unfiltered view and sense and experience of self is also devoid of any roles that you play during a day of your life. It is the essential you in all its shining glory, irrespective of the many changing, evolving, and revolving hats you tend to sport and wear during the day as you are interacting with different people and relationships in various contexts and diverse situations. It is not just the son/daughter, parent, sibling, co-worker, boss, friend, lover, and spouse, but rather it is the distilled essence and the very core of you, at the same time and equally devoid and filled with each and every role that you play and do not play in your daily life.

How does all this tie in with codependency? First off, what exactly is codependency? For a satisfying and insightful answer, let us turn to Mary Joye, psychologist, trauma specialist, and author of Codependent Discovery and Recovery 2.0: A Holistic Approach to Healing and Freeing Yourself. The short one-sentence answer is: you lose yourself while caring for others. You may even consider yourself to be too nice and be driven by excessive kindness and compassion, but your main relationships with others as well as with yourself would be unbalanced and one-sided.

When it comes to codependency as well as narcissism - and we will see how the two are linked and can go hand in hand - there is a spectrum. Yet one of the warning signs is when you are giving to others up to a point of resentment or when you constantly feel like others are taking advantage of you, of your kindness and your generosity.

To find out whether your friendships and relationships are codependent or not, to put them to the test, so to speak, ask yourself initially the simple and basic question: do my friends and relationships give me satisfaction and happiness? If the relationship is not based and calibrated on equal give and take – to quote the Beatles and in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make - but it is, on the contrary, one-sided in which you receive little or nothing in return, you might want to re-evaluate and reconsider the whole dynamics and the situation.

Chances are that you may be dealing with a narcissist – they are more common and prevalent than you may think – and they are not only notorious for taking advantage of others and of taking without giving anything in return, but they will also belittle and gaslight you and make you feel guilty for not giving them your all and your very best. In fact, in the twisted and distorted mind of a narcissist, whatever you do or whatever sacrifices you make for them is never going to be enough, and they will criticize you and get angry with you and even hold against you that you are not going beyond the humanly possible.

When you fail to please others - and keep in mind that narcissists are never pleased and never satisfied, which is their nature and way of being - then you would feel guilty. But you should not. Just like you would and should not supply your friends and loved ones with drugs and alcohol, you should refrain from giving narcissists their sought-after narcissistic supply.

As Mary astutely explains in our interview, codependency is a form of narcissism in reverse; instead of being hyper-focused on yourself as the narcissist is, the codependent would be hyper-focused on everyone else but themselves. This would be a twisted sense of selfishness, in which one derives vicarious pleasure from meeting the needs of others and never or rarely one’s own. Of course, one may also be driven by a savior syndrome where you have the false and mistaken notion that you can help and change someone even though they are resisting and sabotaging all your efforts.

This brings us to the root and cause of codependency. Why do many people fall for it? The answer, as is often the case, is much more intricate and complex than you may think. On a personal and individual level, codependency stems from an insecure attachment combined with the emotional need and desire of being liked and accepted by others.

There is a subconscious fear of abandonment at play, and we may feel compelled to re-enact trauma as Freud observed with his repetition compulsion. Subconsciously, we may be attracted to people who would be cruel and abusive to us. Again, this is not a conscious choice or action, but we may feel compelled to repeat childhood trauma and harmful patterns of interacting and reacting to others.

On a social level, we may also be confused about the norms and teachings that our parents and society provide to us, which creates a kind of cognitive dissonance within our belief systems. For instance, as Mary points out, as children, we are told not to take candy from a stranger but are encouraged to do trick or treating during Halloween.

At the same time, we are told to be ourselves and yet also told to be nice to everyone, to give to others, and not to judge other people. This ingrained idea and habit of always helping others can be cruelly abused by psychopaths and serial killers like Ted Bundy. When he showed up in an arm sling and asked for help or requested a ride, many young unsuspecting women would fall into the trap, both against reason and their better judgment. Although it is important to help others, one should be aware of healthy and safe boundaries even among people we trust and love.

Many families, I would say most of them, are dysfunctional in nature but one should never have any family secrets. Families are not Las Vegas, and what happens there does not and should not stay there. As a result, when you perceive or are a victim of family abuse and transgressions, you would need to share this with a trusted individual. Child abuse often occurs within the family network, and one should have and develop a clear understanding and conception of healthy and safe boundaries, that is, of what is allowed and permitted, and what is not. At the same time, you should always feel free to talk about any concerns or confusion to someone that has gained your love and trust.

Although codependency is about relationships we have with others, we should also not forget nor overlook another vital relationship, which is, in fact, the most essential, significant, and lifelong relationship you will ever have with anyone: the relationship with yourself. From the moment we are born to the moment when we die, it is this personal and intimate relationship that will carry us through (and past) life. If this sense of self is based on and rooted and embedded in knowledge, understanding, compassion, empathy, and most importantly love and kindness, then the relationships you create and foster around you will tend to be made of the same ilk and fabric.

On the contrary, if you are angry and unhappy with yourself, the bonds, lassos, and relationships you create and have with others will be tinged and influenced by those elements and factors. It is important to keep in mind that codependency is not a disorder per se, and yet, it significantly affects one’s perception and experience of life quality.

Codependency is driven by the need to please others to the extent that this eschews healthy borders and boundaries. Its main driving force is an insecure attachment that has its roots in childhood experience and trauma, and codependents find it hard and are afraid to say “no” to others as they fear losing the connection, bond, and attachment in their relationship with the other person.

Often, to prevent and compensate for this fear of abandonment, codependent people always say “yes” to everyone and everything, and as a result, they overburden themselves and keep giving until they are burned out. They often find themselves in cruel and abusive relationships - whether it is their own parents, their friends, and partners - that take advantage of the overly generous and giving personality of these anxious and insecure people. And yet, the lack of boundaries is what leads to living in an invisible prison and where one is completely out of touch with oneself and one’s own needs and happiness.

Codependent relationships are not dissimilar to the circumstances and challenges of addiction. The need to please others and to fill an emotional and psychological void within oneself becomes a habit that is not easy to shake off and which cannot be done without significant effort, help, faith, and persistence. This is also why many people who have endured abuse or have grown up or lived in toxic and abusive environments cannot heal themselves overnight. They are often not giving just out of the pureness of their heart but are driven by a need, an obligation or fear, or guilt.

The very first step is awareness and recognition of the problem. It is the realization that there is a problem that one is willing to address and solve. One would need to recognize the trigger and pay attention to one’s tension before being able to effectively deal with the issue. Without this initial step, no healing can take place. People who constantly blame others or victimize themselves are blocking themselves from the opportunity of overcoming these problems and of healing themselves.

It is important to start at the beginning and to heal the inner child within oneself. Then, one would detoxify oneself from one’s trauma and negativity that take hold of us and burden our body, mind, and spirit. Mary’s holistic approach looks at all the different facets of one’s self and one’s overall well-being and does not utilize or promote a single approach that is fit for all and applicable to all situations. There is variation in the complex interactions of yourself and others, including your past and present as well as decisions and actions projected and taken into the future.

In fact, as Mary explains, one must own one’s problems and take concrete action. These actions can be compared to the twelve steps of recovering alcoholics. At the top and root of it all is the brilliantly expressed and conceived Serenity prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr, in which you recognize your inner and outer boundaries and know the difference between what you can and what you cannot change.

You cannot and should not change others nor are you responsible for them. Although codependency is not a disorder, codependents tend to be involved or they would take care of others who do have a disorder, and who often do not accept that they have a problem. And if they are narcissistic, you will always be the one having problems, and not them.

This desire to help and change others is a trap and fallacy that many codependents fall into, especially when they are driven by a savior syndrome. Anyone who does not want to be healed and saved cannot be healed or saved, no matter how much effort and energy you put into the whole endeavor. And it will not have any health benefits neither for you nor for others. In fact, the opposite will be true; you will deplete yourself of energy, joy, happiness, and time, and you will do serious damage to your own health and well-being in the process.

Apart from a holistic approach, Mary also bases her healing transformation on neuroscience. An important part of this is cognitive dissonance. This is where you fail or purposely choose not to look at information that is incongruent with reality. For instance, we would like to avoid certain situations, distort reality, or ignore vital aspects so as not to feel discomfort and pain. But it is a case of deceiving oneself and others and of failing to be authentic. It is indeed important to try to recognize certain thoughts and feelings that you may not like as a latent desire and potential means for change that could put you on a more honest and healthier path in your life.

All of this is rooted in personal experience. Unlike many health practitioners who have only a theoretical and academic framework and understanding, Mary has not only experienced this type of trauma, but she has also liberated and healed herself from it. And she is the perfect example and advocate of authenticity as she walks the walk and speaks and writes not only with inner confidence and conviction but also with warmth and compassion.

In her personal life, she had to deal with narcissists both in her family as well as in her marital relationships. In her professional life, Mary had her own career of singing until at one point, she realized that it took too much of a toll and a strain on her health, both mental and physical. The idea that “the show must go on” was inbred and ingrained into the fabric of her existence, so she would push herself and even force herself to the extent that it was hurting her. At the same time, her experience with toxic people and dynamics around her, both with her family and with her abusive husband led her to the realization that it was indeed time not only to move away and to move on but to forge a new path towards healing and self-fulfillment. 

Then, these healthy and safe boundaries, of feeling free to say “no” when one feels like it without feeling guilty and of saying “yes” with inner conviction and passion to her own life and to life, in general, has not only healed her, but it has made her whole. And it is in that process that she has also managed to reconnect with herself, the wonderful, true, and authentic being that she is. And yes, so can the rest of us.

You can access the full-length interview on YouTube as well as on my podcast. It has additional information that is not included in this article and you got to meet Mary Joye as well!

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Spiritually Speaking: It’s all the Same to me Book Review

It's all the same to me by Moshe Gersht
What meaning do you give and assign to your life and to life in general? Regardless of how much or how little a role spirituality, religion or philosophy may play in your personal life, the way you view your life and that of others will profoundly affect the way you act and interact with yourself and others. It does not matter what religion you profess, practice, or follow, nor whether you are an agnostic or an atheist; whether you notice and acknowledge this or not, you have a mindset that will shape and mold your views and experiences.

There are many self-help books out there and many books that contain spiritual outlooks, guidance, and guidelines, and yet, they tend to have a specific agenda. This is why in many cases and situations, people grow wary and suspicious and move and turn away from organized religion as it seems to be a carnival or a fair of toothpaste vendors vying and competing with each other on how and why their brand is the better, superior, and the best for your teeth, i.e. soul.

Their feelings and experiences may or may not be in earnest, they may or may not have an authentic connection to spirituality, and yet, we always feel or find it hard and challenging to shake off the feeling that we are being sold something or, even worse, that we are being tricked and conned in one way or another. This feeling is much stronger nowadays where state and religion are not as distinct and segregated as it used to be and where the realms of politics and government have been intentionally and heavily politicized for different reasons and purposes.

And it is rare to find a book that talks plainly and openly about God and does not feel dogmatic and does not try to sell you something or to convert you to their side. In fact, when reading Moshe Gersht’s outstanding book It’s all the Same to me: A Torah Guide to Inner Peace and Love of Life, I felt like entering a holy space of profound understanding and living. The space did not feel unfamiliar to me; it resonates with me, and I can vouch for its truth, honesty, and integrity, and yet, although our destination is the same, my path has been a very different one.

As the book shows and tells us, there is a point at which all things converge and where spirituality emerges in one and the same flowing river. Moshe uses the wisdom of the Torah and brings out and crystalizes its light and holiness, whereas my path is a bit more eclectic consisting of an odd, personalized mix and hybrid of religion, philosophy, and psychology, and yet, the end result and experience are one and the same and ring as true as gold.

But what is spirituality if not one common state and experience that deep inside we all share and agree with? We may not know what it is and perhaps not even agree why it is, but we all know on a deep intuitive level how it is: It is one of those things where we say to ourselves, I know when I see it, and I do see it and recognize it in this wonderful little book. 

Moreover, I respect the author’s eclectic experiences and path: It is written by an ex-member of a punk band who decided to first wet his toes and then fully immerse himself in a spiritual bath of some sorts by studying closely and then living and practicing intimately the Torah, Kabbalah, Chassidus, and Spirituality in the quest for Divine inspiration and clarity.

It is part and parcel of a collective unconscious or consciousness that brings to light our essence and true self in all its glory, brightness, and shining colors. This also comes with profound joy, a joy that is not based on ephemeral things that do not matter in the grand scheme of things but that is rooted in the innocent, profound, and knowing smile and laughter of a child. 

It is the infinite light that shines through all and everything and that reminds us that despite our differences, we are all connected and the same. Different and yet the same was a mantra I remember from Buddhist teachings, and it is chiseled and filtered out brilliantly and diligently in this book.

The eternal truth flowing through all of existence cannot be owned and possessed, nor modified nor changed, but it is as it is; it is indeed patiently and lovingly waiting for you to recognize it and to connect to it regardless of your religious and cultural background or experience of life. 

It is the ultimate reality that is beyond physical, mental, and emotional reality. It is a life lived to the fullest that is devoid of negative beliefs and frames of mind. It is a spiritual mindset shaped within the oneness and stillness of God’s/Buddha’s mind.

Enlightenment is the state of light and weightlessness. You lighten the load by becoming empty, the way Meister Eckhart speaks of the empty vessel to be filled with the loving essence and nature of God. Enlightenment is two-fold, the divine spark il-luminating itself to vivid and vibrant light, and it is, at the same time, becoming light in terms of weight, so you can float three inches above the ground in everything you say or do, including seemingly mundane activities like doing the dishes or brushing your teeth. This epiphany will lead to inner peace, lasting joy, and endless and boundless love.

In this peace and understanding, you will not trick or delude yourself but rather see and accept the world as it is; you will be able to express, in Moshe’s words, “conviction without anger, strength without negativity, and confidence without arrogance”. It is also a life lived and experienced and transformed by ideas that emanate from a divine source, pointing and reaching toward a truth that is beyond reason and an essence that is beyond one’s limited ego.

It may start with the question of why but must look beyond the answers that are provided by dramatic narratives; those ego-infected stories accentuate pain and suffering, while the negative energy associated with them will drive us further away from the wells of happiness already contained deep within us. According to Moshe, the answer is based on the here and now and begins with Hishtavus - close kin and ally to the Tao - a state of nonjudgmental awareness in which we accept reality as it is without labeling it as something or other.

It is a conscious alignment with a higher order of the universe that is based on harmony in accordance with all life and all sentient beings, a life that is “God in action” aligned and connected with living in the presence of God: It is Ekyeh Asher Ekyeh, which stands for “I am that I am” or “I will be Who I will be”. Our mind and our senses can only see, perceive, and conceive of a fraction of life and truth, but an inner knowing can guide us in the direction of this unspoken and unseen truth.

Hishtavus comes with allowing ourselves as well as things to be and unfold as they will and do and surrendering not by giving up but by letting go of expectations of how you think things should and ought to be. This does not mean repressing oneself or one’s emotions, and it certainly is not a form of denial. As Moshe observes, emotions are real, but they are not reality itself. In fact, they often lead to the distortion of reality.

By not putting artificial labels on our experiences, by resisting that ingrained habit and temptation, we can become free of them. Hence, they cannot influence and sway us into negativity or into negative and repetitive patterns of thoughts and behavior. In other words, this can be best expressed and defined in the words of Judith Orloff as emotional freedom.

It comes with an attitude, an affirmation, and a profound piece of wisdom, an inner yes. It is an all-pervasive and all-inclusive attitude of nonattachment and nonresistance to the ever-flowing flow of life. It is a deliberate and willful choice and one that values peace and acceptance over denial and resistance. 

By seeing and processing life’s events through and with a different lens, you can gain a perspective that is devoid of anger, resentment, and negative energy. Instead of cursing your life or luck, you can see and transform life’s difficulties into a challenge, an opportunity for growth and understanding - and for empathy.

As Moshe astutely observes, this will lead you to not only feel better about yourself and the whole situation, but it will also help you to make better decisions, which will have repercussions not only for yourself but for everyone else within your circle. Your anger and anxiety would diminish or even vanish completely, and you will not see problems but rather situations.

A problem is simply something that did not go according to plan, or rather, your perception of how things ought to be or should have been. A problem can be something you do not wish to happen, or you feel anxious that it may be potentially happening in the future. Yet in a spiritual mindset, you do not see failure as limiting and debilitating, rather you see it as empowering; you take advantage of the chance and opportunity that come with it by harnessing and channeling its potential towards greater success.

But it is more than a mindset as it is based on higher consciousness. For instance, Moshe’s personal experiences of being a lead singer in a rock/pop-punk band eventually ended up paving the way toward a spiritual path that would bring him peace and joy in his life. It was a steppingstone that led him and moved him forward in aiming and reaching for his spiritual potential. Life, he claims, is not happening to you, but it is happening for you.

There is no escape here; it is built on full acceptance of the pain and suffering that comes with it. We must not evade or run away from our feelings but fully experience them. It is being mindful of everything that comes our way, including our emotional and physical pain. And yet, this stance, attitude, and willingness will help us deeply embrace and love all of life.

The voice of the ego, the Yetzer Hara, the creative force that is undeveloped and immature, is the false and deluding sense of self, and it is the disconnect between us, life, reality, and God. By freeing oneself from this limiting and limited view of oneself, one can gain independence, freedom as well as peace and joy.

Here is where Buddhism and the Torah intersect again: the Buddhist saying of “If you see the Buddha, kill him” is mirrored and reflected in the Torah’s “What should a person do if they want to live? Kill yourself.” It is the conscious decision of not desperately holding onto a drop when there is an endless ocean all around you embedded within the richness of the sea of life.

It is pure humility and living sameness; it is all the same once you can look past the narrow limits set by the ego’s attachment of wanting more, needing to be always right, complaining, always being on the run and rarely pausing to engage in rewarding and energizing wu-wei, the Taoist act of non-doing.

There is much more to cover and explore in this book, but instead, I shall provide two alternate ways of dealing with one common issue and problem: traffic. Let us assume that you have an important meeting coming up and that you have planned everything in advance and have given yourself ample time and legroom to make it on time.

You even got up an hour earlier than usual and are confident that nothing can get into your way now. And yet, there was a car accident that brought traffic to a complete standstill, and you will be at least half an hour late for this important and essential meeting of yours.


Scenario 1: The (more common) Angry Route

You curse your luck. Why does it always have to happen to you and why does it happen on the day where you have an important meeting! It seems that the universe has conspired against you. Now you must face your controlling boss and all your co-workers, and they will think that you are an irresponsible and unprofessional person.

As you are inching forward at a snail’s pace, you swear left and right at all the cars and drivers around you. You arrive at work and walk into the office complaining about the traffic. The meeting goes badly, and you snap at everyone around you and want to give your boss the finger.

Then you go home, and you are so angry and upset that you do not play with your son; you have dinner and only complain about your crappy day. You also get into a fight with your wife while you are at it, and it is all about trifles that did not matter yesterday and will not matter tomorrow. You cannot fall asleep and are worried about the next day.


Scenario 2: The Hashtivus Way (or the less traveled path of least resistance)

You tried but nobody is perfect. There is a traffic jam. Now you can listen to the Arash’s World podcast you were always curious about. As you are inching your way ahead, you note all the angry faces and all the instances of road rage.

You arrive and the first thing you do is apologize for being late. You thank everyone for being patient with you, and with a smile, you give your presentation. In fact, you do a slightly better job because you were relaxed all the way and you had a bit more time to practice and rehearse it in the car before arriving. Even your grumpy mean boss cannot help but be impressed with your stoic demeanor and stamina.

You arrive home and know that there was really nothing and no reason to worry or feel angry about it. You can do without that extra shroud of negativity. You listen carefully to what your son has to tell you, and then you tell your wife at dinner that despite the cards seemingly stacked against you, you managed to do a relatively impressive job at work. You go to sleep with a smile anticipating the next day.


It is certainly not easy to pick the second route. In fact, it takes a lot of practice, willpower, and discipline. But it is worth it because anger and worry will certainly not help you. You know that nobody is perfect and that there are some things that are simply not in our control. You know that failure is necessary for growth and that it is “better to try and fail than fail to try”. Moreover, stress waves will appear, but you remain a beacon of inner stillness and joyful confidence, the stillness of the bottom of the ocean that remains unperturbed by the splashing waves above.

The universe is saying to you: “I will be whatever you want me to be. I’ll treat you how you treat me” because the place upon which you stand is holy ground. You have a spiritual mindset and tune into the loving vibration of the universe, and deep in your heart, your emotional epicenter, you know that cosmos means order. All roads may not lead to Rome but there are indeed various paths that can lead to the same outcome. Whether you opt for Hashtivus or the Tao, Zen, Sufism, or Christian mysticism, spiritually speaking, they are all the same to you.