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A Beautiful Life Now

July 12, 2019 by  
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If someone is really rude and totally offends you but then later offers a very sincere apology, most of us would probably forgive that person and move on with our lives. However, when most of us human beings make a mistake or screw something up, in many cases we will not forgive ourselves and so we carry that guilt around for days or years and that can hurt us in so many ways.

Quoting from Pema Chodron’s Living Beautifully, a great book that I’ve quoted before, “Over time, as thinking minds begin to settle, we’ll start to see our patterns and habits far more clearly. This can be an experience. I can’t overestimate the importance of accepting ourselves exactly as we are right now, not as we wish we were or think we ought to be. By cultivating nonjudgmental openness to ourselves and to whatever arises, to our surprise and delight we will find ourselves genuinely welcoming the never-pin-downable quality of life, experiencing it as a friend, a teacher and a support and no longer as an enemy.”

Pema talks a lot about acceptance of ourselves and the world as it is and how we should appreciate it as it is now. She talks about what she calls the “third commitment”, which is key to this kind of acceptance and appreciation. (You need to read her book to find out what the first and second commitment are and how they can greatly improve a person’s life.) To quote her again, “The everyday practice is simply to develop a complete acceptance and openness to all situations and emotions, without mental reservations and blockages, so that one never withdraws or centralizes into oneself.” She goes on to add that, “The attitude of the third commitment is that we live in a world that is intrinsically good, intrinsically awake, and our path is to realize this. Simply put, the practice at this stage is to turn toward your experience, all of it, and never turn away.

Pema talks a lot about being kind to others especially to ourselves. She talks about the process of growing-up and working toward feeling totally relaxed and free. She says, “that process, that transition, is one of becoming comfortable with exactly what we’re feeling as we feel it. The key practice to support us in this is mindfulness–being fully present right here, right now. Meditation is one form of mindfulness, but mindfulness is called by many names: attentiveness, nowness, and presence are just a few.”

Pema Chodron further explains that we need to pay attention to all the details of our life. “The specific details of our lives will, of course, differ, but for all of us, wakefulness concerns everything from how we make dinner to how we speak to one another to how we take care of our clothes, our floors, our forks and spoons”.

I think the bottom line is, if we pay more attention to the details of our lives it will give us more ways to free ourselves and that can help us free ourselves from suffering. So, we need to accept ourselves, appreciate our life as it is now, and pay attention. And we need to do all that, right now.

Always Living Large

June 28, 2019 by  
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So, I’ve been having a bit of a stressful but exciting week as I work on a big real estate deal. Yes, sometimes, even though I’ve been doing this for decades, making deals can be a little taxing but as Mitt Romney, former GOP candidate for President once said to the graduating students at Utah Valley University about experiencing a fulfilling and purposeful life,  “One thing you’re going to have to do is live a ‘large life’”. What great advice. That is something all of us need to pay attention to. We need to go out and do it and do it our entire lives.  I wrote about this some 4 years ago, but I think it’s worth a rerun. So, here’s basically what I wrote in May of 2015:

So many times, we hesitate to “live large”. Why? Because most of the time we fear that we will fail. “Failures don’t have to define who you are,” Romney had gone on to say in that Utah Valley University speech. “Through all my occupations, I have experienced successes and failures. I am asked what it felt like to lose to President Obama. Well, not as good as winning. Failures aren’t fun, but they are inevitable.”

How about you?  Have you racked up a lot of failures or just a few?  It seems to me, from my experience, that the number of failures I’ve had is in direct proportion to how large I’ve tried to live.  So, yes, I’ve had a ton of failures but some of those have led to some huge successes. And the reason for those successes was that I learned so much from my failures.

I remember one huge loss that I learned a valuable lesson from which lead me to some very, very large successes.  What happened was I decided to lend a large amount of money with a restaurant as collateral.  Big mistake on my part! Why? Because I don’t know much about that kind of business so if it failed, I certainly wouldn’t know how to run it. And guess what? It did fail and I lost almost all of what I had loaned.

What did I learn?  Well first I found out that restaurants have a very high rate of failure and second, I learned that I shouldn’t stray from what I know best.  Not that I shouldn’t ever loan money but if I do, I should loan it on assets that I understand as well as being on improved real estate which, ideally, would also be income producing.

I forged ahead and made many millions of dollars’ worth of loans that were backed up by real estate and was very successful.  Later I discovered that I could do even better by owning the right kind of income producing properties. I also, very successfully ventured into the development of condos and warehouses, where the profits were even bigger although they did come with increased risks but in that case, those were risks I was willing to take.  And much, if not most of that success, came from lessons learned from my failures and my trying to “live large”.

Romney’s words are not just for graduating students. They are wise words for us at any age!

Positivity and Compassion

June 14, 2019 by  
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A very critical part of happiness and contentment is training the mind and, yes, that does take time, but is it ever worth the time you take! The authors of the book, The Art of Happiness, which I talked about last week, have this advice: “Everyday, as soon as you get up, you can develop sincere positive motivation, thinking, ‘I will utilize this day in a more positive way. I should not waste this very day.’ And then, at night before bed, check what you’ve done, asking yourself, ‘Did I utilize this day as I planned?’ If it went wrong, then regret what you did and critique the day and decide what you are going to do to correct the negative stuff of the day. So, through methods such as this, you can gradually strengthen the positive aspects of the mind.”

I think this is why the self-talk that the great Paul J. Meyer of Waco, Texas introduced me to is so very helpful. I have about 10 different mantras that I run through my mind almost every day and many times I say them out loud. Here are a few of those

  1. I am strong and worthy.
  2. I am upbeat and positive.
  3. I am happy and healthy.
  4. I live in the present moment.
  5. I love people and I am becoming more and more social.
  6. I try to live big and give big. I make “to do” lists and carry them out.

It’s amazing how I can feel down and out and how running that self-talk through my mind many times can lift my mood and make me feel so much better. The mind has a lot of plasticity in it according to scientists. The book goes on to say something that I know is true and will work for me and you: “Neuroscientist have documented the fact that the brain can design new patterns, net combinations of nerve cells and neurotransmitters (chemicals that transmit messages between nerve cells) in response to new input. In fact, our brains are malleable, ever changing, re-configuring their wiring according to new thoughts and experiences. And as a result of learning, the function of individual neurons themselves change, allowing electrical signals to travel along them more readily.” Scientist call the brains inherent capacity to change “plasticity”.

The Dalai Lama and Mr. Cutler have so many great and powerful things to say about how to achieve happiness and they are so very effective. So here is one more quote from Mr. Cutler talking about the Dalai Lama: “He can see that if someone treats him with compassion and affection, then it makes him feel happy. So, on the basis of that experience, it would help him to realize that other people also feel good when they are shown warmth and compassion Therefore, recognizing this fact might make him more inclined to give them compassion and warmth. At the same time, he would discover that the more you give warmth, the more warmth you receive”.

And that, my friends, will almost for sure raise both the giver’s and the receiver’s level of happiness!

The Positive Path to Happiness

June 7, 2019 by  
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A few days ago, I was going through my library and came across a great book by the Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler, M.D. written back in 1998. I hadn’t read it for a very long time but as I was thumbing through the pages my mind was captured by so many great statements, concepts, and advice that were so motivating so I kept reading.

The book’s title is The Art of Happiness. I’ve always admired this great man, the Dalai Lama, and what he has done for the world and for so many minds. He’s helped lift us to great heights. Years ago, I felt so very fortunate to meet and greet him at his hotel room and escort him to a huge gather of people and I was more than a little overwhelmed and privileged to introduce him to that audience.

I want to share with you, my readers, some of his great ideas and advice on “happiness” for us humans. I’d also like to share some of the wise words and insights that his co-author Howard Cutler added to the book from his own experiences and all the time he spent with the Dalai Lama.

Let me start with some great comments from the great book I mentioned. These are about positive thinking which is so very important to raise and keep your happiness consistently elevated.

The Dalai Lama said, “If happiness is simply a matter of cultivating a more positive mental state like kindness and so on, why are so many unhappy? … Achieving genuine happiness may require bringing about transformation in your outlook and your way of thinking and this is not a simple matter. It requires the application of so many different directions. You shouldn’t have the notion, for instance, that there is just a key, a secret, and if you can get that right then everything will be okay. It is similar to taking proper care of the physical body. You need a variety of vitamins and nutrients, not just one or two.”

He went on to say, “In the same way, in order to achieve happiness, you need a variety of approaches and methods to deal with and overcome the varied and complex negative mental states. And if you are seeking to overcome certain negative ways of thinking, it is not possible to accomplish that simply by adopting a particular thought or practicing a technique once or twice. Change takes time. There are lots of negative mental traits, so you need to address and counteract each one of these. That isn’t easy. It requires the repeated application of various techniques and taking the time to familiarize yourself with the practices. It’s a process of learning.”

Next week I will talk more about the specific practices and mindset that a person needs to work on and develop while bringing you more wisdom from the great Dalai Lama.

A Healthy Re-Start

May 31, 2019 by  
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I’ve been under the weather a bit this week, so I’m taking it easy, but I thought I’d bring back a related link all about your health with some great tips on how to improve your life and your health now.

Below is a link to a YouTube lecture by a Dr. Robert Lustig. Without a doubt, this video dramatically changed my physical and mental being! It honestly lifted my life 2 or 3 levels, which is saying a lot since my life was pretty damn good already. Watch it as soon as you can and see if you agree that his words have tremendous value.

Dr. Lustig’s video lecture gives you a pretty straight-forward goal that, initially, you might think is just a health goal but it’s more than that. Now, you might think “I’ve heard all that before.” Trust me, you haven’t heard all this. I’ll just say it’s well worth every minute of your time to watch, learn and follow.

What I am hoping is that by watching the video, you will be motivated to set some health goals based on what he is saying. I did that and it gave me a super and uplifting change in both my physical and mental life! So, get yourself a nice cup of tea and sit down to listen. Then change your life. Now!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBnniua6-oM

Now that you’ve watched it, I’ll summarize what Dr.Lustig says on the subject of weight loss and exercise. Primarily, it’s good to realize that exercise is not the key to weight loss, but it is one of two keys to great health. The first key is changing your diet by drastically reducing your intake of sugar in combination with a huge increase in your intake of fiber. Do that and you are halfway to excellent health.

The second key is, yes, exercise and by that he means consistent exercise. As Dr. Lustig points out, exercise will build muscle and, in the very long run, it will help you lose a little of the weight because muscles burn calories faster than fat. However, this would only be a little additional weight loss. In other words, exercise should be part of a weight loss plan but is not the key to it. Without the change in diet, weight loss will be slow and the increase in overall health will be minimal.

Not a believer quite yet? Well, I’d recommend going out and getting Dr, Lustig’s book, Fat Chance, so you can read about all the factors that go into healthy weight loss and healthy eating. It’s not that exercise cannot have a tremendous impact on your health, but exercise alone won’t do it. So, for now, just take the simple step of evaluating your sugar intake. You may find it startling just how much you take in and, hopefully, it’ll stir you to do something about it.

A Good Type of Scary

May 24, 2019 by  
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I just got back from an incredible trip to Cuba.  We took a beautiful Norwegian cruise ship from Miami to Havana. As I have said, and preached many times before, if you want to excite your brain and body, do something very unique. That is one reason I love to travel, especially to new countries. Cuba is the 92nd country that I have been so fortunate to visit! There are presently 196 countries in the world, so I’ve got a ways to go to visit them all, although I’m pretty sure North Korea will not be one of them.

On this trip, I added one more thing that excites the brain and body. Yes, it is a little risky but it’s not too big a thing and it is totally legal. It’s not like climbing up the side of the Eiffel tower like that guy did recently, almost making it to the very top before he was arrested. That’s taking the concept a bit too far!

But what is legal and unique is petting and feeding sting rays in Cuba. It was a little scary and I guess the “scare part” is what excites the human brain. I may have been more reluctant to hold and feed a big sting ray if I had read more of the details surrounding Australian Steve Irwin, that big time crocodile hunter who was killed by an 8 foot sting ray back in 2006. As you may recall, he was being filmed underwater when he was stabbed in the heart by a sting ray. I’m not into big risks and our time standing in waist deep ocean water, feeling about a dozen or so big sting rays circling my wife Kimberly and I, softly brushing against our legs, was quite safe. Our guides demonstrated exactly what to do and closely monitored us and assured us that it was much safer than it looked.

The short video below is me holding the sting ray. Later, the guides showed us how to feed those huge guys. Yes, my heart and brain were racing as that big creature ate food right out of my hand and didn’t bite me …yay! It was a great experience and an exciting thing to do and It certainly stimulated my brain and body, which is a very good thing as it enhances one’s life.

Visiting a very different country like Cuba is a real turn on and, wow, driving thru the city of Havana, seeing hundreds of old cars from the late 1940’s and 1950’s, was a great sight to see. I had always thought and had the impression that Cuba was quite dangerous, but Kimberly and I were very pleased to find the city to be quite safe and the people were so nice and friendly. If you have a chance to go there, I would highly recommend it. Go do it for your brain and body!

 

Worthy Destinations

May 17, 2019 by  
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Morro Castle in La Habana, Cuba. Photo by Henryk Kotowski

Cuba has been on my bucket list of countries to visit for some time now and, finally, I made it. We boarded a Norwegian Cruise ship and enjoyed a great visit to that little country and its incredible history. I’ve always loved travel and visiting Cuba makes my count of new countries visited 92. We now are heading back to Florida with one short stop on an island that I’ve never heard of called Great Stirrup Cay.

I was pleasantly surprised how friendly and safe Cuba was. It is a very poor country, but the people seem to be very happy and content. Our guide told us that the average salary in Cuba is only $70 dollars a month. In Havana, we saw some old castles with their huge encompassing walls and moats and were told of all the battles that took place and the attempts of pirates to take over the city.

Our guide was a very nice and pretty 32-year-old lady. Her English was perfect, and her knowledge of Cuba and its history was incredible. She told us how she had tried for years to go to America. She has some family living in Florida, and she had served time in the Cuban military, and yet she still could not get permission to visit the USA. It struck me how lucky we are to live in the great country of America and how good we have it. I think most of us take our great freedom and opportunities for granted.

Traveling to new places and visiting new cultures is so mind expanding. It’s too bad that everyone in the world can’t visit dozens of different countries because if they could I think the world would have fewer wars and global problems as people would see and understand that most of us are so much alike. If we were all able to see that most people are nice, friendly and don’t want to hurt others, perhaps we’d have few, if any, wars.

I challenge you, my readers, to travel to new places as much as you are able and I’m pretty darn sure you will be glad you did. You will experience a mind expansion and appreciate other cultures even though they may be very different than yours.

Well, we’ve stopped now, and they have begun shuttling people from this huge cruise ship to the cute little island in their little shuttle boats, so I had better get to the deck and jump aboard!

The Power Source That is Our Minds

May 10, 2019 by  
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It’s totally amazing to me that the human brain can create so much energy of its own. Just a change of thought can quickly give you a huge burst of energy, and it’s not just when the brain stimulates the production of adrenaline because you have been suddenly surprised by a bear in the woods or get cornered by a stranger in an alley. We know that the brain also gives more energy to the body when it releases serotonin and dopamine, the feel-good hormones. And, of course, we are familiar with how setting a big, exciting goal can stimulate us too, getting us to jump out of bed in the morning and spring into action.

A man named Nando Parrado was able to save his life and 16 others when he set a huge goal, one that was literally a matter of life or death, in his mind, giving him an incredible amount of energy. That energy gave him enough strength and endurance to climb over the top of the highest peak in the Andes after he and 16 others survived a plane crash in those snow-covered mountains. He walked, climbed, and crawled in freezing temperatures for 11 days with virtually no food and lost 80 pounds in the process. His brain kept telling him that he could make it and save many others, which gave him the energy and strength to keep going. He had no equipment or experience in doing such a thing, and yet, he and a companion made it to safety.

You may remember the story. It was the subject of a TV documentary, a movie, and a book, all entitled Alive. The plane that crashed on that glacier high in the Andes was carrying members of the Uruguayan Rugby team to a match in Chile. Along for the ride to see the match were friends and family. On impact many of the 45 passengers on board were killed and others died within days. Still others died later from exposure and starvation and more died when an avalanche came racing down the mountain during one of those tragic nights. Only 16 survived and did so by eating the flesh of their dead teammates. They somehow miraculously stayed alive for 72 days with temperatures dropping below zero at night.

Without the energy created by the determination in Parado’s mind, everyone would have died. That certainly shows us the huge power buried in the human mind. We should never forget this story as it should motivate us to set goals and think about exciting things that stimulate our brain to create energy. These thoughts will, of course, make our lives more productive and exciting and help make the world a better place.

 

Increase Your Energy with Passion

May 3, 2019 by  
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I don’t think there is one of us that wouldn’t like to have more energy. Okay, maybe one exception is little kids. Wow, do they have so much energy!

The older I get the more I long for an increase in energy as there are so many things I want to do. And, yes, I want more than to play tennis better and more often. We all know that we get energy from food that we put in our bodies, but there are other things that can create a lot of energy as well. I’m always amazed when I receive a surge of energy from my mind and the thoughts running through it. I think you might agree with me that average thoughts create average energy, but big and remarkable thoughts can stimulate the creation of a great amount of energy.

I don’t know about you, but there have been times that I‘ve laid down at night absolutely wiped out and ready to go to sleep but I think of some great project or maybe an big event or trip coming up and, suddenly, my body and mind get a jump start from a whole new round of energy that came just from those though. Maybe the key to why goals and new ideas work so well in creating actual physical and mental energy in humans lies in the Buddhist philosophy that says, “Mind is the creator of our world, in every moment.” So, if that’s true, putting an exciting goal in our mind and then putting it on paper is really a mental process and that does something chemically to our brain that transfers energy to the muscles of our bodies.

As you may have noticed, energy, even very high energy, can come from being around others, who are excited, engaged, and forward thinking. My good and super successful friend, Joe Land, who passed away a number of years ago, said to me, “the key to a successful life is to have real passion for the process.” Almost all people “envy the person who is totally immersed in their chosen work or play or their love and relationships” and seem to have tons and tons of energy.

My advice, if you are seeking more happiness and fulfillment, is to go get passionately involved in some process, project, cause, or relationship. And when I say get involved, I mean go get totally immersed in it. I think you will find happiness and fulfillment an automatic by-product of the process. I would also add that, from my experience and observations, you will create and generate lots and lots of mental and physical energy!

Next week, I want to write about a great human being and the energy he created for himself and those around him, an energy which no doubt saved his and his companions lives. That energy he created helped these people overcome freezing temperatures, lack of sleep, and very little food. It’s a great story of how the mind can create great and even lifesaving energy.

Little Notes for Big Changes

April 26, 2019 by  
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I was looking through old books I’ve read that have made a big difference in my life and I came across Susan Jeffers‘ book, Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway. I have quoted Susan before, since she has so many great ideas, helpful hints, and “techniques for turning fear, indecision, and anger into power, action, and love.” And, yes, that is a direct quote from the cover of her great little book.

As I glanced through the pages and re-read my little notes I took back then, the of advice from the book really struck me again and lifted my thoughts and view of life to a higher level. Below are some of my notes from the margins in the book. When I quickly went over the list, I found it very inspiring and I thought that I really should look at this list often. I also thought that sharing the list here might lift your life too, even if it’s just a little lift.

–Do self-talk and make notes at night to program my mind for the next day.

–In the morning, I’m going to wake up happy, upbeat, positive, and energetic.

–Call friends and others and set up lunch meetings. Start with my circle of close friends.

–Whatever the challenge is, say to myself, “I can do it.”

–Surround myself with strong and positive people.

–Use this great tool: act as if you really count.

–Challenge myself to stay on the path of the higher self.

–What’s the rush? Don’t rush – it’s all happening perfectly.

–Don’t punish myself. Be patient with others and especially myself.

–Turn some of my big challenges over to my subconscious.

–Never forget that it takes a lot of practice and vigilance to direct and control my negative chatterbox.

–Instruct my higher self to work to solve problems and challenges as I sleep.

–Never forget the real key to success is ACTION.

–Keep working on being more proactive. Call friends for lunch, dinner, to play cards, play tennis, play pool, travel, and to interview for one of my future blogs.

–Keep pounding into my brain Susan’s great message: Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway!

And here are 6 more of my notes from the margins of Henriette Anne Klauser’s book Write it Down and Make It Happen.

–Write down a list of my intentions, every day.

–Life is a decision; when you believe in a dream you need to take the risk and just do it.

–Writing things down can make feelings become just speed bumps, not roadblocks.

–Write down you biggest fears and then take action to counteract the fear.

–In addition to writing down your intentions and affirmations, speak them out loud to yourself.

–And lastly, never forget that writing things down activates that reticular activating system in your brain, then your brain works overtime for you.

 

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