First impressions- ignored at my peril

“You hang on too long in a conversation in the hope you’ll find a connection, when there is no connection to be found.”

“Then you get in a friendship that you eventually realise doesn’t serve you but are too afraid to get out of it because it might result in confrontation.”

Ouch, the truth is often hard to swallow. (My Spiritual teacher delivers it from a place of compassion though and I can feel it’s not done with any intention to impress or bedazzle)

How does it feel when someone can sum up many of the ills of my life in 2 sentences?

I actually found it funny; perhaps laughter was the only response I was capable of! It was so simple and cut to the heart of it all.

It all comes back to one of the most simple of rules that I pay for dearly when I breach. The payment takes the form of lost time and energy, plus much angst.

The rule is simple; “My first impressions of someone are right.” No amount of analysing or synthesised open mindedness changes that.

If I look back on my life and all my first impressions of all the people I know, it’s been uncannily correct, often when I reach a point of being disappointed by people I can look back to the first meeting and recall that whatever behaviour turned out to annoy me was evident on some level in that first meeting.

Do I have a better intuitive ability to accurately judge people from a first impression? I actually believe that yes I do. Everyone has have talents and that is one of mine.

Sometimes though it’s not encouraged. “Be open minded”, “Make new friends”, “Network”, “don’t judge people.” All of which are virtuous ideas that are sometimes given too much value.

This little rule also makes some sense to me; “the first 3 minutes of meeting someone will indicate how the relationship will be.” In other words if someone takes no interest in you or doesn’t listen to you then the chances are that will be the predominant experience in the relationship. Again on review I can think of no experiences to the contrary.

Ultimately for me it doesn’t matter if everyone else thinks someone is wonderful or what position they hold, I’ve got to trust my gut feel about them whether there is intellectual or rational evidence or not.

What are your experiences with first impressions?
Been burnt for ignoring them?

My favourite Personal Development/ Spiritual books

Although I haven’t finished The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks it’s so good it got me glancing toward my book shelf  pondering the best personal development/ spiritual books I’ve read. It’s good to share such things; I wouldn’t have read any of the below if it wasn’t for others recommendations.

The reason I found The Big Leap so inspiring was because it made so much sense and was such an easy read. Let’s face it there is a million and one personal development books out there which reduce life to one simple thing but this one has real substance. I have to admit there are a couple of chapters I skimmed through but the 60 odd pages I enjoyed are real quality and paradigm shifting. If you ever wondered why some people who are seemingly no smarter than you seem to do so well with money and relationships, well this goes a long way toward explaining why. It also offers great explanation around the strange and frustrating behaviour that is self- sabotaging.

First published in 1946 Autobiography of a yogi is a spiritual classic. Written in a charming old world kind of way, this is a must for anyone who’s had spiritual/peak or esoteric experiences and has struggled to understand and integrate them.  Paramahansa Yogananda has incredible humility and grace, his commitment to the process of journaling and writing his personal epic is also astonishing. George Harrison’s said of this book, “I keep stacks of Autobiography of a Yogi around the house and I give it out constantly to people. When people need ‘regrooving’ I say read this, because it cuts to the heart of every religion.” It probably won’t float your boat if you are not on a spiritual path, however if you are it shows just what’s possible in the human experience.

7 habits of highly effective people was written in 1987 by Steven Covey and has sold more than25 million copies and with good reason. It’s really practical and just makes a lot of sense; it has a genuine capacity to make you a more responsible person. I read it well over a decade ago and instantly stopped wasting time on so many peripheral things I had no control over or influence on. The title is apt as it simply makes for more effectiveness in all aspects of life. It doesn’t matter if you are a climbing the corporate ladder, a house wife, environmental activist or student this book is the work of genius.

The lady who lent me Conversations with God couldn’t actually finish it because it was too challenging to her Greek Orthodox beliefs. If you want some answers to the big questions around religion, re-incarnation, sex, life on other planets and just about everything else between this is the book for you. Massive concepts are addressed, it’s the type of book that takes months to read and then you’ll find yourself going back to for years. Other information can come up from other books or means which can flick the mind back to how that same idea is covered in this unique read.

In summary it is the result of an American homeless man’s despairing plea for answers from god, who answers through this man’s writing hand. ‘God’ then delivered a further 2 books through Donald- Walsh’s pen. Truly astonishing stuff and will challenge just about everything you’ve believed or at least for those with pre-existing esoteric beliefs it’ll refine them.

Understanding Jung Understanding yourself is certainly not a well-known classic but a favourite of mine due to my interest in Jungian Psychology and in particular the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (a personality typing method ever-evolving since its inception in 1962, which is based on Jung’s work). Not a large book but rich in quality. I found it fascinating to learn how Jung came about many of his methods through deep introspection of his own life. I so admire this man and on another note loved the recently released film A Dangerous Method about his tumultuous relationships with Sigmund Freud. Back to the book- Australian psychologist Peter A. O’Connor has made a weighty topic very readable and condensed it nicely, one day I’d like to read his best known work- Understanding the Mid-Life Crisis. An issue which he does sheds some light on in Understanding Jung Understanding yourself. My clear bias toward Carl Jung should be observed in this glowing description but he did have a wonderful ability to integrate symbology, spirituality and psychology.

So there you have my hastily compiled list, which will no doubt change in coming years. What are some of your favourite reads?

Lessons about the intention behind my speech and taking responsibility.

I was hurt and confused.

The details of the story itself don’t really matter. Truly when you remove the drama, most squabbles are boring to hear about and energy draining. I’ll just say that in a social situation I felt disrespected.

I went home that night frustrated and within a few hours I had my perception of why the woman transgressed clear in my mind.

Here is my head talk around what had happened; “She felt small due to my playing big by expressing what was really going on for me and for being authentic. It was her unconscious minds way of dealing with her own discomfort.”

Furthermore the next day I realised part of the reason I felt hurt was because just when I’d resolved to speak my truth I’d been punished for it. So it all felt so unjust.

A friend of mine took me through an Emotional Freedom Technique (more explanation of what that is in a future blog) session which made me realise I could have reacted in a different way and in fact always have choice (usually numerous) about how I react. That was liberating, as was the realisation that the woman I’d placed in the position of transgressor was probably doing her best even though from my point of view it didn’t feel like anyone’s best!

When I broke down the issue further I was reminded of some advice I was given by my spiritual teacher; “check the intention behind your speech”. In having a good honest look at my intention it was apparent that there was an element of needing to show that I was smart to the woman. Additionally I’d arrived at the occasion with an expectation around not only what should be discussed but how deeply. As I’ve learnt on more than one occasion expectations and creating mental constructs of how things should be often results in disappointment and resentment.

It can be tough to look at the intention behind my words with true honesty. I have to admit a considerable amount of my communication has been with the intention of placating people or impressing people. Both intentions are manifestations of the ego i.e. fear driven.

I also started reading a great little book called The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks. It suggests that if both people in conflict take 100% responsibility for their own part, the conflict simply won’t continue. In effect it takes away the capacity to stay in the position of victim.

I realised once I’d looked at both the intention of my speech and that I could have reacted in a different way I’d in effect taken 100% responsibility. The effect of that was that I shifted out of the position of victim which also co-incided with being able to forgive, which is usually very healthy too.

The position of victim is disempowering and de-energising yet in conflict we essentially often argue for our right to be the victim.

Within a few days I’d had a complete paradigm shift around the whole event in addition to a big shift in how I view conflict.

It doesn’t necessarily mean that people will all of a sudden like what I say when being my authentic self as I can’t control how people react due to whatever issues or biases they are carrying around but it sure does allow for greater inner freedom for me.

Watching the intention behind my speech and taking full responsibility for any conflict I experience is going to be a great challenge but one I suspect that’ll be energising and rewarding.

Why being stupid and silly is good for you

I travelled interstate last weekend for a mate’s 40th birthday party. As soon I stepped off the plane and into his car it was on…… the stupidity that is.

Silly voices, accents, far fetched ideas, old jokes (in fact very old, very tired jokes).

My mate is a lunatic, and I mean that in the nicest possible way and as a term of endearment. (Apologies to any actual lunatics who may take offence).  He is an actor and the world truly is his stage. There is fun, drama and humour at every available opportunity.

We both slipped seamlessly back into the old repartee which has been 33 years in the making.

In the morning before the party we moved several van loads of furniture and rubbish around. Often a mundane and trying exercise, potentially made even more mundane by my mate’s lack of planning and practicality. I just surrendered though and willingly hopped on his caravan of fun.

We called each other by every conceivable name other than our actual names and shifted from dodgy accent to dodgy accent. We re-told old sporting stories and travel anecdotes. We shoulder charged and wrestled one another like 14 year olds.

We did what needed to be done yet it was far from a chore. I had a ball- the activity was irrelevant, it all became fun because we just immersed ourselves in silliness. I can’t detail the silliness more than that, it simply wouldn’t make sense to anyone beyond us and actually I’m not sure it’d make any sense to us. To label our behaviour as juvenile would be unfair to juveniles.

The party itself was good, the highlight for me though was probably just the one to one time we had being stupid. I got home a little tired due to both lack of sleep and from overindulging a little in the food and drink. In spite of that I was energised and as light as a feather.

Monday morning while still uplifted I reflected on why; I realised just being really silly and stupid really does boost energy levels and is quite simply really good for you. We don’t need a study showing us it boosts immunity- how could it not?!

Unstructured, spontaneous, immature stuff with no regard for how you look is probably a long way from how many of us spend the majority of our adult lives dominated by schedules and responsibilities. Some stupid time can be an invaluable break from all the ‘virtuous’ things we must do.

Even mainstream medicine is recognising the benefits of silliness in the healing process. Clown doctors are becoming more common place in children’s hospital wards.

Laughter yoga is growing around the globe as laughter has been shown to raise serotonin (feel-good hormone) The old saying “laughter is the best medicine” has gained more credibility.

A great addition to my life in the last couple of years is Kundalini dancing. Defining that isn’t relevant to the thread of this story, what is relevant though is how unreservedly self expressed I am while dancing. It is an incredibly non-judgmental atmosphere; you can laugh, you can cry, you can scream, you can jump and down. In fact I and others do all of that and more, the wonderful thing is though that no one bats an eyelid.

The release of energy and change in state from the dancing is immense.

It’s all a great reminder not to take myself so seriously- the chances are nobody else is taking me so seriously!

So I urge you to join me and sing in the car, dance in the shower and wear really bad clothes that don’t match.

It just might be the best thing we can do for ourselves.

Pleasure boosts the brain

I’m reading a fantastic book at the moment; The brain that changes itself by Norman Doidge. Basically it’s about how plastic and adaptable the brain is, which has implications for solving problems too numerous to mention here.

A part that really got my attention was a process called globalisation.

When the pleasure centres in the brain fire it makes whatever we experience feel great. We are enthusiastic and optimistic about everything. This is connected to dopamine release. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter involved in reward and movement, amongst other things.

The process of globalisation also makes it harder to experience pain and displeasure. This is thought to be because the pleasure centres in the brain are near the pain centres.

As Doidge explains by citing the example of falling in love, “Things that normally bother us don’t. We love being in love not only because it makes it easy for us to be happy but also because it makes it harder for us to be unhappy.”

Unfortunately when we fall out of love there can be an equally powerful depressive effect. Just as occurs to an extreme degree with the withdrawal of something like cocaine- another powerful cause of the globalisation effect.

What are the positive implications of this information though?

Well the book goes on to explain that the pleasure centres can be fired by novelty. Thus variety and finding new pleasures are important in maintaining a buoyant state of mind.

What I see simply through common sense is that the type of activity which induces globalisation is vital too. The more wholesome the choice the less downsides there will be. Exercise for example is more likely to be sustainable and less harmful than cocaine or continually falling in love.

Apparently foods that contain tyrosine can do the trick. These include almonds, avocados and bananas.

Unsuprisingly sex also works.

Perhaps individually simply being aware of what really brings you pleasure in life while injecting some variety into it is the smartest way of going about creating the globalisation effect.

To my way of thinking 20 minutes of exercise at a reasonable intensity with an element of fun and variety is a smart great way of inducing it. 20 minutes of exercise is fantastic for a whole host of other reasons too.

An understanding and awareness of globalisation can be beneficial for not only depression but enhanced motivation and fulfilment. The same goes for many of the exciting findings presented in this great book- The brain that changes itself.

Why ‘treating others as you’d like to be treated” is madness

We’ve all heard it, “treat others as you’d like to be treated.” Nice idea but it doesn’t work.

Let me explain. When I state ‘it doesn’t work’ I assume the motive is to get people to treat you as you’d like to be treated. That doesn’t always happen. Most people are creatures of habit and running on old, conditioned programs. If they are generally nasty, obnoxious, domineering or a poor listener and your response is to be really nice in the hope they can read your mind and intuitively get that the right thing to do is treat you nicely, you’re going to be waiting an awfully long time!

They won’t get the message because on the surface there is no message. In fact your continued pleasantness may be invitation for an avalanche of thoughtless and domineering behaviour. It can be akin to laying down the red carpet for those who suck your energy.

A wiser approach may be to “Treat people as they deserve to be treated.” That doesn’t mean nastiness has to be your first approach, you can still come from a place of kindness the majority of the time. What it does mean though is that you are going to tolerate less nonsense from others.

Treating others as you’d like to be treated isn’t clever or virtuous it is energy sapping and ineffective.

Strive to simply treat others as they deserve, in spite of what your forbearers may have believed it’s best for everyone.

Acceptance- new understanding, new challenge

Acceptance is a word I’ve heard a lot lately.

It meant something different when I heard it yesterday though.

I’m not sure if it’s just me, but sometimes I need to hear of something in a different way with different words or from a certain person at a certain time to have more impact.

Maybe acceptance has shifted for me from a concept to an understanding.

This definition is what caused the shift;

ACCEPTANCE IS THE DESIRE FOR THINGS TO BE DIFFERENT TO THE WAY THEY ACTUALLY ARE.

As I read it again I’m again impacted by the gravity of the statement.

What a challenge it is for me to accept.

I quickly realised how much of my suffering has been caused by lack of acceptance. In fact the degree to which acceptance is lacking causes the degree of the suffering. Well, almost; a lack of action around the issue can cause and extend suffering too.

I know some people who seem to use acceptance as a means of not acting (which I, in my state of enlightenment, of course have never done!!!)

Acepting the current reality can be a triumph but often action is needed to change that reality. The most reliable way of changing the reality is to start with our own behaviour, as ultimately that is what we have the most control over.

It can be tricky sometimes to know which and what to act on and which to let sit. I guess that is where the development of wisdom helps.

I think much of my problem with acceptance is linked to expectations and control. An attitude of how things should be sometimes prevails.

How my family should behave, what Christmas should be like, how my health should be, how others should be socially. Plus all the messages I ingest from advertising and media around what happiness is actually like. Perhaps even an expectation of happiness itself is problematic.

One of the big challenges I’ve got at the moment is to accept others suffering and allow them to have their experience. While I can empathise and there are some things I can do- ultimately their degree of suffering will also be linked to their level of acceptance.

The saying ‘what you resist persists’ is ringing in my head now. A little light has gome on about that and I get that on a deeper level as well.

I’m also beginning to see that in accepting something I still don’t have to like it and in fact by virtue of it being something I have to accept it’s probably not very likeable!

On reflection though the things in the past I’ve managed to move to a level of acceptance with have then usually become less irritating. Not allways though- some things are just plain annoying, there’s no point kidding myself.

This acceptance game sure is going to be challenge but at least I now get most of the rules….