Who Do You Appreciate?

Remember being in high school and sitting at a football game.  The cheerleaders would try to get the crowd excited and hungry for a victory.  A line from one of the cheers went something like this:

Five, Six, Seven, Eight…Who do we appreciate?

I suspect that the word “appreciate” was used because it rhymes with “eight,” but this line is a great reminder on how to live a joyful life.  Because the one person you should be appreciated the most is…YOU.

Have you ever noticed that you have to perceive something first, before you can notice it in the world?  Before you can emotionally resonate with another person or thing, you have to have seen it in yourself.  It is your decision about yourself that determines your world.

For example, if you wake up and immediately think of the millions of tasks you have to accomplish, and wonder how you are ever going to get them done, don’t you feel a sense of anxiety – even dread? If you see yourself as a “person-who-has-too-much-to-do-and-how-in-the-world-am-I-going-to-get-it-all-done” then that is how you will be in that moment.  If you hold onto that thought, there is no doubt that you will “be-come” that thought as you move about your day.

Who wants to live in a state of anxiety or dread?  Certainly not me…or you either, or else you would not be spending precious time reading these words.  Since you stopped by and you reached this far, stay for a bit longer, O.K.?

Let me ask you a question: How do you see yourself in this moment? Who are you in this drop of time as we share our thoughts?  Has your opinion about yourself colored how you perceive and interpret the meaning of these words? (O.K., that was three questions…)  Some people may doubt these words, others will embrace them.  Whatever your reaction, you can trace it back to how you perceive your place in the world.

If you see yourself as a seeker of truth and an adventurer in this game of life, you will read this article much differently than someone who feels that life is a struggle and asks, “Why is it so hard?”  Either way, the filter of your self-perception determines your world.

Remember, the first relationship you ever have is with yourself.  Love yourself and you will see love in your world.  Hate yourself and you will see…well, you get the idea.

So the first step in changing your world is to first identify how you see yourself in it.  Write down your thoughts about yourself for a day and you will have taken a momumental step towards a better life.  For once you identify how you define yourself, you can take steps to change that definition.  Be on the lookout for judgments you make about yourself.  Write those down too, because they cement your ideas about yourself.

After one day of recording your thoughts about yourself, look on what you have written as if it came from your best friend.  Treat yourself with compassion and love.  You do not need to judge what you have written (which also contains judgments!)  Your answer is your answer. There is no right or wrong.  You own your perception of yourself. You created it and you “be-come” it as you move about in the world.  And here is the secret to a happy life:

No one can change it but you.

But remember this…your answer is your answer.  It will determine how you see the world.  For what you see in yourself, you see in the world.

Which brings us back around to the high school cheer.  Who do YOU appreciate?  If your answer is not YOU, then you will not see your place in the world as secure, joyous and loving.  Instead, you will see fear, lack and competition.  If there is lack of appreciation of yourself, you will see lack in your world.  Think about it, and then change how you think.

Now…stand up and say it with me…One, two three, four — Who are you fighting for?  Five, six, seven, eight – Who do you appreciate?


Forgiveness is Easier than You Think

Forgiveness: The Real F-Bomb
When you think of forgiveness, is it usually with a slightly superior attitude?  You may decide to forgive because it is the “right” thing to do, or because that is what your religion teaches.  External forces compel you to take action, instead of an inner compulsion or desire.
So what is true forgiveness?
It is so simple that most people miss it, or don’t believe it. It has become over-complicated, over-analyzed and over-done.  Forgiveness has morphed into a concept of manipulation and purpose, instead of it’s true reason d’etre.
So what is true forgiveness?
Forgiveness is the simple act of release. You release the other person from your story and as a result, you release yourself from the effects of that story.
Let me give you an example.  When I was just a kid, I used to ride my bicycle around in circles on the driveway.  Usually I would sing and dream while the world swirled around me.  One day, my older brother decided to stand in front of my path and when I stopped, he took my bike away from me.  Crying and screaming did nothing to change the immediate situation (until our Mom got involved).
Even though that incident took place many  moons ago, I carried that strong feeling of unjustice, anger and resentment with me for years.  It affected my adult relationship with my brother, as well as forming the basis of a material possessiveness of which I am not proud.  I finally realized that by carrying my anger and resentment with me for years, I would project it onto someone or something else in an effort to get rid of it.  My projection had the opposite effect – it bound me even tighter with my anger and resentment.  Subconsciously, I tried the same thing over and over, and I kept getting the same results.
The only way out for me was to break the cycle of anger/resentment/projection/anger/resentment.  Since I was the cause of the cycle (because I held onto my anger), I was the only one who could break it.  My brother did not hold the key – it was my decision to give my energy to those strong emotions.  And every time an incident popped up that was similar to the original one…I let loose with all of the pent-up anger that I did not realize I had!
How did I get out of this vicious pattern that caused me distress and disturbed my peace?  Were costly therapy lessons involved, sitting in a chair and reviewing every detail of the original incident? No, it was much simpler than that.I decided to just let it go.                                        
Forgiveness is really about releasing yourself from your imagined burdens, injustices or wrongs.  It has nothing to do with the other person or what they may have done to you.  It has everything to do with yourself – and finding peace.

As Gerald Jampolsky noted, “Inner peace can be reached only when we practice forgiveness. Forgiveness is letting go of the past, and is therefore the means for correcting our misperceptions.”

Look over your life and see the areas where forgiveness will release you from the grip of the past.  Sit quietly and imagine what you would feel like without your “story” about that incident, then choose to release it.  Breathe the peace into your heart and mind and feel it settle over you like a soft blanket.  Relish in this feeling and carry it with you after you open your eyes.

Forgiveness is as simple as what I just described.  If you do not believe me, then prove it does not work.  But to do that, you have to try it!

Forgiveness is the Door to Happiness

Forgiveness is the door to happiness.

That statement is contrary to popular belief and cultural norms.  We are so focused on who is right that we have forgotten our greater purpose…to forgive so we can be happy.

The opposite of forgiveness is judgement.  And in every moment we take a breath, we have a choice between the two.  They cannot co-exist in the same space and time.  They are mutually exclusive…and available to all of us in every single heart beat.

As Rickey Minor noted in his book, There is No Traffic on the Extra Mile,

“What does not have truth or integrity to it has nothing to feed on but itself.”

Judgement feeds on itself.  It fosters and encourages anger, resentment, pain and intolerance.  It separates us by pointing out differences.  Judgement is a path we choose and one that eventually leads downward to destruction.  It feeds on itself.

Forgiveness creates more.  It does not tear down but builds up.  Forgiveness based on acceptance and love encourages more acceptance and love.  It is the other path we choose and one that will lead upward to happiness and a much closer relationship with God.

Ask yourself today, when faced with a situation that upsets you, whether you would rather be right, or happy.  If being right is important to you, then judge away.  But if you consider the other times in the past when you have made the same choice, did it ever bring happiness?  If the answer is no, then you might want to consider the other choice – forgiveness.

Chose to be a creator, not a destroyer.  Chose love and forgiveness instead of judgement and fear.

And when you make the choice to forgive, start with the one person who needs its the most.