Thursday, November 30, 2006

Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Men -- Do you see "shopping" in there anywhere?

Christmas is theoretically a time of peace, generosity and goodwill to our fellow humans. The American way of Christmas, however, paradoxically creates Scrooges. We are programmed by retailers and the media to shop at the sound of the bell which signals the end of Thanksgiving dinner, and to continue doing so for about a month. (In fact, retailers know that after the weekend after Thanksgiving, not much holiday shopping happens till around Dec. 15.) But shopping and spending may actually create stress, stinginess, reduced cooperation and distance instead of peace on earth and goodwill to our fellow humans. Consider the following:

Money issues cause the most stress during the holiday season, according to a recent poll by the American Psychological Association (APA).

The survey of over 1000 people found that 61% of Americans listed lack of money as the top cause of holiday stress followed by the pressures of gift giving, lack of time, and credit card debt. Survey results also show that younger Americans are more worried about lack of money and gift giving compared to people over the age of 35.

One in five Americans are worried that holiday stress could affect their physical health and 36% say they either eat or drink alcohol to cope with holiday stress.

So holiday gift-giving creates holiday stress, especially through lack of money. Then there is this research:

Psychologists from several universities found that subconscious reminders of money prompted people to become more independent in their work, less likely to seek help from others, taking 70% longer to do so. They became reluctant to volunteer their time, twice as slow to offer help, and twice as cheap when asked to donate to a worthy cause.

Having money on the mind even caused the students who were their subjects to put more distance — literally — between themselves and others. Instructed to place two chairs together to meet another student, they put the chairs about 47 inches apart, compared with 31 inches for the students who had not been prompted subconsciously to think about money.

(For the whole story, see

So shopping makes us think of money, which makes us stingier, less likely to help others, more likely to put distance between ourselves and others. Doesn’t sound to me like it’s creating peace, generosity, harmony or goodwill. This year, consider nixing the shopping, and giving of yourself and your time instead. If it doesn’t give you joy to do it or give it, don’t!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Follow your heart?

Just a few nights ago, I listened to a friend bare her soul about how hard it is for her to follow her heart professionally. She knows, on a very deep level, that she has a major contribution to make to society, by reshaping how people think about spirituality. (This is not grandiosity on her part, because she’s done it before.) The problem is that in following her deepest truth about the world and herself, she would be stepping away from the majority of others, and offending many of her closest friends, who believe passionately what she used to believe. This causes her great pain, partly because she really does feel for them empathically, and partly because she’s afraid of being outcast, of losing her friends.

I’ve heard this story, this song, before, many times before. Perhaps it’s a woman who is afraid of what opening up psychically is going to do to her relationship. Or a man who worries how his personal changes will affect his job. The details change, the words change, but the song remains the same. In every case, the singer needs to remember a few things:

- If your “friends” cast you out because you have changed your beliefs, ignoring all that they supposedly love about you, and all the history you have, then they aren’t truly your friends, and they never were. That may be a hard thing to find out, but wouldn’t you rather find it out now than later? True friends stand by you while you change; they love you even if you’re making a mistake, and they love you if you teach then a better way, rather than being in their egos, offended by your change.

- If they cast you out because you have changed your beliefs, it is generally more about them than about you. Maybe they are heavily invested, at a personality level, in being right, or in being seen to be right. Do you really want to spend more time with someone who is more interested in being right, or being respected, than in learning the truth?

- There are other people out there who will accept the “new” you. That’s the point of change — you are changing others by changing yourself. This is authentic leadership, from the inside out.

- How will you feel if you sacrifice your highest knowing, your true path, your calling in life, for the feelings of other people? It may feel safe and comfortable now, but in the long run, you will know that you cheated yourself and the world. Letting go of your own truth to satisfy others never serves you, and because we are all one, it never serves anyone else, either.

So for my friend, as well as everyone else, the question remains — what’s more important, your truth or your short term comfort?

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Vote for change... your own

Have you voted yet (if you live in a state that allows that)? Are you planning on it? If so, have you kept up with the races, and read any propositions on the ballot? Have you made your choices yet (if you haven’t already voted)? Do you know how you’re getting to the polls? What will you do if you have to wait in a long line to vote? What will you do if your vote gets recorded wrong? Are you bringing a camera?

(Quick aside for non-Californians: We in CA are blessed by a statewide proposition system that puts many items directly to the voters, and a state government which prints and mails to every registered voter a hefty pamphlet with each candidate’s statement, and a very complete and balanced discussion of each proposition, including their text. Even better than that, in my county we are allowed to be “permanent absentee voters” (and over 30% of us are), so that we can vote in the comfort of our own homes, surrounded by all the information we could possibly want, for several weeks before election day, and then mail in the ballot, or deliver it to a polling place.)

I suspect that your attitude toward voting is related to how you make choices in other areas of your life. If you are someone who thinks carefully about each option, and then picks one, I’ll bet you’ve followed all the races, maybe even voted already. If you normally just “go with your gut”, you’ve probably paid some attention to the upcoming elections, but haven’t really planned how to vote, either electorally or logistically. If you tend to say, “If it’s mean to be, it’s meant to be...”, then you’re probably registered, but haven’t given the election a lot of thought. If you typically put off making a decision, and put it off and keep putting it off, until there’s no more decision to make, you probably aren’t even registered yet, and if you are, you probably don’t vote regularly.

You can change yourself from the inside out (using NLP, hypnotherapy and countless other techniques) or from the outside in (behavior modification, etc.). Change from the inside out works by changing you at a very deep level, usually beliefs or identity, after which you automatically begin to act differently. Change from the outside in works by changing your actions first, so that you have some new neural paths, and so you see yourself differently, and then change your beliefs and/or identity.

Here’s a thought. Use the election to change the way you make decisions, from the outside in. If you typically don’t vote, or don’t think much about it, pay attention to this election, and GO VOTE! You’ll thank yourself later, on a lot of levels. And remember, if you don’t vote, you don’t get to complain for the next two years.