It is quite amazing what music does to me; how it makes me move, sing; how it brings up emotions … no, how my emotions respond like they are in a dance with the music. The music calls and my emotions answer – in an instant. And then the dance begins, often literally. I am compelled to move once the music speaks to me. Sometimes with poignant emotion, sometimes with just an infectious rhythm that I feel compelled to express myself to. I want to answer it’s call. And so if I don’t move my body, I drum … on something – much to the chagrin of some people around me. Too bad for them I think. On the other hand, I often meet people who are amused and intrigued by my spontaneity.

No question, music is our easiest access to transformation. Without music most of the movies you’ve seen would not have had the emotional impact they’ve had. Take a look at the video clips that I posted on July 11th and 17th of this year. Do you think either of them would have been noteworthy without the music?

Music literally transforms how you feel in an instant, and for The Practice of Your Life I would like to bring this to your attention, because how we feel – our mood, our attitude towards things – directly influences what’s possible for us. Music transforms our mood, how we feel in a particular moment. Music can literally transform who you are being while you are listening. Want to feel aggressive, happy, sad, angry, determined, passionate, anxious, fearful, terrified, proud etc., etc. There’s a song out there that will do the job.

The power of music comes from it’s ability to bring up the entire range of possible emotions in us. So why not bring attention to the music that you listen to? Consciously categorize the music you listen to by the mood it brings up for you, and use it to transform negative emotions to positive ones, to transform down moods into up moods.

(Disclaimer: I’m not saying that there is anything bad or wrong about down moods or negative emotions. Human beings are meant to experience the full range of emotions, and you’d never know which way was up if you’ve never been down. I am saying that your mood does influence how you think, what you say and what you do. Up moods tend to open up more possibilities in your thoughts, words and deeds, and down moods tend to shut down possibilities. I am saying that you can consciously choose to change your mood and when you do music can help.)

Happy music for me comes from the Caribbean and South/Latin America e.g. Soca, Zouk, Merengue, Salsa, Samba etc. Most of the songs of these types lift me up and I want to grab a woman in dance.

When I want to feel powerful I listen to Sinatra and sing.

When I want to feel or express sorrow, there’s no one artist for me but there are several songs that bring up a sweet beautiful sorrow like, This Old Man (Kenny Rankin), This Woman’s Work (original by Kate Bush and a really great interpretation by Maxwell), A Day in the Life of a Fool (done by Kenny Rankin and really emotional rendition by Patrick de Santos).

Some songs like And So It Goes (Billy Joel) and Yesterday When I was Young (Charles Aznavour) make me reflect on my life.

Songs like Drown in My Own Tears (Ray Charles) bring up a cheerful, sad, wise optimism about life. Ray Charles by the way covers the whole gamut for me. In fact if I were to have only one Artist’s work with me on a deserted island it would be his.

Lounge music creates a great atmosphere for sensuality, and when I want to work out I look to Rockitwave 8.

So why not take an inventory of your music and start using it for effect. In the same way that you might use music to artfully engineer a seduction, or produce a max calorie burn, you can also use music to set the stage for thinking, reading, reflecting and simply managing how you feel. I highly recommend using music in the practice of your life. And you get to create what that looks like.

Tip: Use whatever feels. 😉

A very special friend was recently confiding in me that she had not been intentional around creating her company; she had let several several months go by and was now staring into the dragons mouth of her financial obligations without a knight in shining armor; not that she was looking for one. She knew that she could easily take care of her financial concerns. It was the though of having to put her dreams on hold to deal with the dragon that was upsetting.

So what to do?

As if I should know. I really wish I was the oracle of Gales, and this time – as you’ll see – I clearly was not.

In my manly, and practical “wisdom” I advised her that she had to deal with the reality of her circumstance in order to move forward. Therefore, she might have to face the “karma” of her prior inaction and get a temporary job. She was not very happy, yet she acknowledged that this might be the only way.

Lucky for her, I’m not the only oracle she consults.

She called me the other day, all pumped up and bursting with enthusiasm, to tell me that she was focusing 100% on her business. She had abandoned any search for a traditional, albeit temporary job, as a solution to her current financial dilemma.

This revelation, from her “other” oracle – I know I’m not the only one – got her to see that giving anything less than 100% to her dreams was a sell-out, and would not only delay or derail her dreams but would make her miserable.

It’s funny when you know something is right for you how you feel inside, and it was clear that my friend was bursting with joy. Deep inside she already knew following her bliss was the only course for her, and was only looking to have it validated by someone she trusts. Not hearing it from me, she turned to someone else to get that validation. This was all she needed to really cast off from all that she knows and sail into the uncharted waters of her future.

I was and am very happy for her, and especially that someone else was there to focus her on what her own soul was telling her. She also shared a particularly fitting quote which I’ll share with you here:

“One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time.”

Adre Gide

Through this experience with my friend I learned a valuable lesson for myself:

It is a gift to have a dream, and there is no greater expression of love for yourself and life than to follow that dream.

Hmmmm! That may be quotable. 😉

And a lesson for you: Always have your back up oracle. Always get a second opinion when it comes to medicine and matters for the soul.

I want an iPhone so bad it hurts. I recently spent some time alone with one and maaan, …. it was hot. The way it responds to my every touch. A gentle caress and I’m invited into worlds I never knew were available for me to explore. And they’re oh so exciting.

I can geographically explore anyplace in the word, I can listen to my iPod, I can look at YouTube video clips and I can surf the net. I mean really do those things. And it’s good in any position. If I turn it on it’s side it orients itself to me.

Ooooooooooohhhh.

I have to curb my enthusiasm though. You see I’m currently in a relationship with a Curve. And it’s sitting right next to me as I write this.

It’s a Blackberry Curve. You know the type. I’m sure you’ve seen them around. Attractive and functional, it takes care of my needs – email, contacts, calendar, handles all of my calls very well. But something has gone out of the relationship.

I’ve been through this so many times before you’d think I’d be past this by now, but I can’t seem to get over that initial heat. When they first come out they’re so sexy; everything you want, especially all of the stuff you already have with your current phone, but somehow this new model does it better. And then there’s the new things that my current model can’t do, and it’s slimmer smaller than the Jenny Craig posterchild I currently use for a phone. Oh God! I just have to have the new model.

And then you get the new one, and the first initial synch is scary, but then it fully replaces your old model and it’s great. Everybody’s staring at the two of you and life is wonderful.

A few months go by and you notice that you don’t much care for the new things that it can do. Doesn’t work as well as the hype and so you go back to only using the old reliables that you used on your old model, except in a slimmer version. After a few months, you start taking it for granted, and you start looking at other phones. You’re just looking, you’re not searching for a replacement or anything shallow like that, you’re just … well… looking.

What lesson does this have for my life I wonder? Well I’m still single so ….. hmmmm. Wonder what’s the lesson? 😉

No. I won’t go there.

Sticking to technology I do notice that this is a good exercise in practicing restraint. I really do not need the iPhone and it’s certainly not a practical time for me to make such a switch, especially given that I’ll have to change carriers, and pay a penalty to get out of my contract. A hassle(hof).

For me this crazy lust is here to teach me that feeding it isn’t the answer. Responding every time a craving shows up doesn’t make me happy. (See my post on 30 July 2008.) All it does is distract me from my path. It doesn’t mean I stop feeding my desires or that there’s something wrong with them. It just means that I should control them and not the other way around.

I’ll get an iPhone – just not now. With conscious practice the anticipation becomes part of the enjoyment.

“This is a gel Sir. And you’re not allowed to take more than 3.4 ozs of gel on board,” said the security officer as I avoided his gaze. I could feel the irritation rising up within me. After all, I had gone through several airport security checkpoints with said gel and had never been questioned. Now this bozo was “doing his job” and taking away my expensive hair gel.

“Then why was ….” I stopped myself. “Never mind,” I said and focused on his continuing rummage through my toiletries. He finished and told me I could go. As I repacked my things I was aware of the familiar tenseness in my body. That rigidity that comes from being angry or really irritated at some perceived injustice. Then I remembered a discussion I had with my friend Natalie only the night before.

We were discussing our reactions to things that go wrong when we’re in nature vs. when we’re among people (in man-made settings). We both acknowledged how angry we tend to get when another human being does something “stupid” or “irresponsible” like cut us off in traffic. Contrast that reaction to the reaction we have when something goes wrong in nature, particularly when it’s nature who is the perpetrator.

For example, you’re hiking up a trail and discover a landslide blocking your path. How do you react? Natalie and I both agreed that in that situation we just deal with it. Turn around, find another path etc. We do not get angry at the landslide.

I do not have a lot of experience camping but I know lots of campers, and I expect that their reaction to things that thwart their intentions in nature are markedly different from their reactions to things that thwart their intentions when they’re back in the city.

I prefer the nature reaction myself. Getting irritated, angry or otherwise upset solves nothing except ruin relationships and damage my health. In extreme situations people do physical harm to each other. And for what? A tube of hair gel? A raised eyebrow or middle finger?

In any given situation, or moment in time, people will do what they do. Their actions and responses are beyond your control. Just like a landslide occurring or the rain falling. When I think of it that way I realize it’s just as inappropriate to get upset with the guy that cuts me off in traffic as it is to get upset at the landslide. I just take the appropriate action to honor my original intent – get to work, or the top of a hill – and deal with the changing circumstance that is not directed at me personally.

And this last has really been interesting to observe in myself. When something interrupts my plans, my first reaction is to take it personally. I can no longer do what I want, go where I want, have what I want. After all it’s all about me isn’t it? 😉

I remembered this conversation as I walked away from the security checkpoint and took a deep breath. I could let my hair gel go, and acknowledge that this poor guy is doing his best to keep us all safe and his biggest challenge is less with terrorists and more with selfish assholes like me.

A little further I almost walked into a woman who had suddenly stopped to check for something in her bag. In a millisecond I felt the surge of irritation begin, and then I remembered the landslide. I smiled and let it go.

Below was sent to me as a joke. I think it’s brilliantly funny. Brilliant in the way Ernesto breaks bad news. Funny in the response to the news. Enjoy.

At dawn the telephone rings, ‘Hello, Senor Rod? This is Ernesto, the caretaker at your country house.’

‘Ah yes, Ernesto. What can I do for you? Is there a problem?’

‘Um, I am just calling to advise you, Senor Rod, that your parrot, he is dead’

‘My parrot? Dead? The one that won the International competition?’

‘Si, Senor, that’s the one.’

‘Damn! That’s a pity! I spent a small fortune on that bird. What did he die from?’

‘From eating the rotten meat, Senor Rod.’
‘Rotten meat? Who the hell fed him rotten meat?’
‘Nobody, Senor. He ate the meat of the dead horse. ‘
‘Dead horse? What dead horse?’
‘The thoroughbred, Senor Rod.’

‘My prize thoroughbred is dead?’

‘Yes Senor Rod, he died from all that work pulling the water cart.’

‘Are you insane?? What water cart?’

‘The one we used to put out the fire, Senor.’
‘Good Lord!! What fire are you talking about, man??’
‘The one at your house, Senor! A candle fell and the curtains caught on fire.’

‘What the hell?? Are you saying that my mansion is destroyed because of a candle??!!’

‘Yes, Senor Rod.”But there’s electricity at the house!! What was the candle for?’

‘For the funeral, Senor Rod.’

‘WHAT BLOODY FUNERAL??!!’

‘Your wife’s, Senor Rod’, she showed up very late one night and I thought she was a thief, so I hit her with your new Taylor Made Super Quad 460 golf club.’

SILENCE……….. LONG SILENCE……….

‘Ernesto, if you broke that driver, you’re in deep shit!!

What’s a uniquely human ability? We are very likely the only animals on the planet that can create a space between stimulus and response. Actually I don’t know if this can be proven, but it most certainly is a major aspect of being human.

Human beings have the ability to choose what their response will be for any given stimulus, and yes even fight or flight ones like the response to being burnt. But a focus on extreme life or death responses is not helpful for what I’m pointing to here. I’m talking about the everyday “normal” stimuli that we are exposed to.

Every one of us has the ability to consider an incoming stimulus (something happens), think about it (make it mean something) and then respond (take some action or ignore the stimulus).

Creating that space is for many of us a lost art. Of course we can’t consider every possible stimulus that we receive in any given day, but there are many that do deserve this space, this consideration, because our response will either work to build our relationships and the life that we want …. or not.

A practiced consideration of what is happening around us, and to us will afford us the ability to assess the appropriate response for a positive life experience or a negative life experience. For the most part, I’m speaking here of a cumulative life experience.

Think about this in your average day. You’re late for work and your 7 year old is nagging you about being poked by the 10 year old and you explode. No space.

You’re driving to work and someone cuts you off and you explode. No space.

You’re being interviewed for a job and you cut the interviewer off even before she finishes asking you the question. No space.

In each example there is an unintended consequence. A price will be paid.

I love the last example. Have you ever noticed people who are uncomfortable with silence? All you have to do is be silent and they will talk themselves into a corner, out of a job, or (you) under the table. That’s a good sign of someone who has completely lost the art of creating this space between stimulus and response.

Creating this space is a great practice in the practice of your life. When people speak to you take a couple seconds before responding to really consider what they are saying or asking, and then respond. Your response is then more likely to be aligned with your goals, and commitments. Maybe even compassion.

Now this will be no benefit to you unless you develop an associated practice of choosing meaning and assessing situations and character. I’ll post on these at another time, but for now consider that when you create the space you must use that space (time) to choose what meaning you attribute to what someone says, and/or assess a situation.

This meaning you choose, or assessment you make is always within the context of what your goals are and how the person or situation in front of you fits in.

For now just think about the space. Where in your life would you benefit from a practice of creating that space?

What is it about last minute that focuses the mind?

I recently had the experience of planning for a move and I gave myself sufficient time. However, two weeks before the move it dawns on me that for a whole host of reasons a later moving date would be preferable to the one I chose. By then of course the original date was locked in with at least one of the players involved and this caused upset and breakdown. Angry people.

Why is it that I only really focus my mind on an important event when it’s too late to make any changes? Or the changes then come at great cost. What causes this and how to deal with it?

Can it be avoided?

Probably not completely. Information becomes richer the closer to a deadline, and things always become clearer. Also, new and unforeseen situations arise the closer to the deadline.

Nice to know, but how to deal with it?

I would say that the process of making changes to a plan/agreement should be agreed by all parties involved. A period of “tentativeness” should be agreed to, and a “point-of-no-return” should be stuck in the ground. In my particular moving story, this point-of-no-return was two weeks out, but because this was never discussed all parties (including me) felt that the date communicated six weeks out was the firm date.

Changing it because “Ooops, I just realized it’s my cat’s birthday,” just doesn’t cut it with people who have made their own arrangements.

What’s my point? Well, living your life as a practice involves practices of planning, as well as exercising integrity. If you don’t plan well, you’re going to pay a price. While breaking your word may be expedient, in the long run it will ruin people’s willingness to work or even play with you. Better you suck it up, and stick to your original agreement. Let the pain be a reminder to you of the importance of bringing your FULL attention to planning.

There’s the great and not-so-great (sorry famous) religions, there’s mysticism, shamanism,the new age movement, quantum physics, positive thinking etc., etc. (Smarter people can list much more.)

Educating myself about as many of the above and unmentioned as I can reasonably handle is part of my life practice. So when my friend Julia invited me to come learn about Kabbalah at a free introduction seminar I jumped at the opportunity.

My focus here is not about Kabbalah, a subject that has great interest for me, but about my observation of the people in attendance.

(If you’re fortunate enough to live or be in New York city and are at all curious to learn about Kaballah, consider visiting the Kabbalah center on E 48th between 3rd and Lexington.)

I arrived late and was greeted by a very attractive cadre of Kabbalah volunteers several of whom guided me to the already packed seminar room. As I took my place in the very back I could scan my surroundings.

To my untrained eye, the room bore some resemblance to a place of worship with pew like benches and a very high ceiling. (The presenter later stressed that Kabbalah is NOT a religion.) The walls of the room were intersperced with columns (I should take an architectural class) that jutted out a few inches. They were remarkable because of the black painted design that adorned them that gave a not-so-subtle indication that we were in a room devoted to something very ancient and wise.

And …there were the people. Not the very young or very old, but every stripe in between.

Standing room only. Maybe they thought Madonna was giving the seminar, but I think these folks were genuinely curious to learn about a new interest, or find answers, or both. There were definitely a lot of people looking for solutions to their life issues as evidenced by the questions asked.

This surprised me a bit. I mean, … given all of the other “more famous” disciplines/religions/philosophies you would expect that people had enough answers to your run of the mill “How can I be happy and fulfilled?” questions.

But apparently not.

After the main presentation about this very esoteric and profound subject the questions began. It was clear that several people wanted immediate answers to their life issues. And it occurred to me that they were looking for the cliché “quick fix” that would make their life better NOW! or at least asap.

We’re all so trained to keep looking for THE answer. People are stuck in the thinking that there’s something they can do or know that will give them the life they can’t seem to get. Once they find IT they will live happily ever after.

The religion they were born into isn’t working for them, all the self-help books and courses seem to help, but … no cigar. The Secret was exciting, but the focussing and the believing is not working. They still don’t have the life they want. They’re still not happy.

So lets try Kabbalah. Maybe this will be it?

Kabbalah undoubtedly will provide answers to many people. So my point is not to rain on Kabbalah or any other system of knowledge. My point is that until people get that there is no quick fix, and no ONE thing (answer) to do or know that will unlock the key to happiness and a great life, their experience of life will be less than it could be. (How’s that for a safety statement).

Life is about the choices you make every day, it’s about bringing what you’ve learned from Kabbalah, or Buddhism or Tony Robbins or (fill in your belief) into your daily life, day in and day out. Bringing attention to your thinking and actions based on the best available knowledge at your disposal with an eye on where you want to go.

So by all means do or study what calls to you. Incorporate the best of everything into your life. This way your experience will get steadily better, but still with downs to accompany the ups.

And that’s one crucial “answer” that sadly is left out of today’s Western conversations. The downs, the falls, the breakdowns and heartaches are part of life. They are crucial to our life experience as teachers and reference points to living our lives fully and on purpose. Trying to eliminate them from this life is NOT POSSIBLE, or even desirable.

In my last post, I wrote about naming the voice in your head. You know the voice. The one that’s always got a running commentary on whatever is happening, happened or will happen.

Well, turns out there may be several different voices that we listen to (Big Mind, Big Heart) and my main point is that you don’t have to listen to any voice that insists on telling you stories that don’t support you being your best possible self.

If you’re not one of the millions of people that listen to the voices in their heads like it’s the most exciting news channel, then bully for you. (Never understood that expression.)

But you know people that do, and you probably have noticed that they have no idea that they have a choice in the matter.

Whenever people ask me about this I use the analogy of your mind as a living room. Every morning you get up, and when you go into your living room (of your mind) you have these creeps that are sitting there. No one invited them. They just are always there. Like deadbeat cousins telling you stuff like, “You look fat,” “You’re getting old,” “You look terrible,” “Work sucks, you’ll never get out of this dead end job.”

Now in real life if you had guests in your living room that said things like that to you, you would throw them out.

“Get to f.. out,” you might say, “… and never come back. “You’re not welcome here.”

Completely appropriate response.

But because these are just voices in your head, (and you think they’re real, or you) your response to this stream of insults is more like,

“Coffee?”

“You can’t even make good coffee, you fat pig,” they respond.

You return with the coffee, and while sipping it they continue, “You’re a fraud, and when they find out at work you’ll be fired.”

Your response,

“Sugar?”

“Milk?”

Silly eh? It’s not far off though. The point is that you can choose whether you give those negative voices (thoughts) your attention or not. You can kick them out of the living room of your mind just like real people in your actual living room. In fact, you have to.

The good thoughts can’t show up as long as those creeps are hanging around.

If you haven’t noticed the voice in your head by now you probably have never tried to meditate. In my life practice I have some fun with the voice in my head by giving it a name.

Once I realized that this voice usually has nothing really great or insightful to say to me, and that this voice is not me (very deep), I realized that I could have some fun with it.

During a course at Landmark Education called the Wisdom course, it occurred to me to give IT (the voice in my head) a name.

Now what name would be appropriate for a voice that is rude, dis-empowering, looks for the worst in other people, expects the worst possible outcome, and is intent on being heard.

Hmmmm, I thought, and then I had it.

DICK!

From that moment on I would refer to IT (that voice in my head), as Dick.

It fits so perfectly. Whenever I listen to Dick, I often act like one and so I can explain any behavior that doesn’t work and causes breakdowns by saying. “Sorry, I was being (a) Dick.”

it makes it so much easier to dismiss thoughts that keep me small and separate. Try it. Give your voice a name.

Legal fine print: I’m not advocating blaming something else for your actions. I’m just pointing to a fun way to stop beating yourself up for the many negative thoughts that you don’t yet know how to control.