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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. 😉

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.

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?

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.

In a really great book, “Finding Your North Star“, Martha Beck talks about believing lies. In other words we often believe things about ourselves that aren’t true. It’s often some variation of “I am (something bad)…” or “I am not (something good).”

Maxwell Maltz in “The New Pyscho-Cybernetics” talks about your mind as a sort of great homing device, that will accept any instructions you give without judgment, and then goes to work getting you to the destination of what it is you put in. Kind of like your own personal GPS navigation system for getting whatever it is you say about yourself or your life.

I prefer Maltz’s view. Thinking of disempowering beliefs as believing lies is not helpful because it makes you think there is something that is true that you should believe. I think it’s more helpful to get that whatever you believe becomes true for you. That’s the power of your mind, and why it’s important that every human being devote him/herself to the study of how the mind works. An essential part of the practice of your life.

Your mind is like a computer, and your beliefs are like the programs that run a computer. In the same way that computer programs determine what is possible for the computer to do, your beliefs determine not only what you can do, but even your very experience of life. Your beliefs determine what you notice, and what you experience.

Most of our experiences of life comes from programming that was put in a very long time ago, and we’ve spent years “improving” on this original programming with newer and stronger releases in much the same way that Microsoft brings out a new release every few years on it’s operating system. Only difference is that for you it’s a very unconscious process.

So why not break this cycle?

As you go through your day, try noticing what are your fundamental beliefs. The big clues will be your feelings about situations that develop during your day , especially about other people and yourself. Just learn to notice your feelings and ask “Why do I feel this way.” Following this line of questioning may reveal some fundamental belief that you hold. Once you see it, the choice is yours to “un-install” the program. 😉

Note to self: Provide an example in a subsequent post as to how this works.

It’s not often you have an encounter with another human being that moves you. I mean really moves you. Someone had that effect on me last night, and the interesting thing is that this person really has no idea the effect she had on me.

I had a brush with purity. Almost the divine. It’s amazing that to a casual observer what occurred would not have been noticed, and moreover might even have been trivialized had I tried to explain it. Almost like, “Wow, you’re being a little dramatic.” But I can’t help what I felt.

Quite simply, a very attractive woman whom I had just met said something to me that touched my soul. She looked into my eyes and said, “Don’t look so hard, you will find it.”

And the message received was, it will come, I am deserving, it is waiting, and I’m blocking it by looking so hard.

In law of attraction speak, I’m too attached to the outcome. Deepak Chopra referred to this as the law of detachment. He explains it something like don’t be too attached to what you want. Believe that you are deserving of it, focus on it while at the same time being OK with not, or in fact never having it.

Interesting mind frame when you think of it. To be focused on something. To know that you are deserving of it and will have it, while at the same time being at peace with not receiving it. Some people call this the practice of allowing.

Well tonight, at a bar with a friend of mine, this very attractive bartender shared what she saw in both of us. She spent most of the time with my friend who is a George Clooney look-alike so you can’t blame her, but when she did share what she saw in me, it spoke to me at the deep level of my soul.

“Don’t look so hard, you will find it.”

I can’t remember what else she said because those initial words struck such a chord that I had stopped listening. The cynic in me is quick to point out that what she said could apply to anyone and the cynic is right.

And this does no justice to the emotional impact of what she said. How much of her impact on me had to do with how attractive she was or the Glenlivit in my hand I’ll never know, but I know what I felt.

I felt that she looked into my soul. In a brief, superficial even trivial encounter she saw me and saw my pain and her words and her being were like a healing balm. (Forgive the drama.)

“Don’t look so hard, you will find it.”

Those words resonated with me at such a deep level that I can’t express. I just feel blessed to have been in the presence of an angel, and I thank her for sharing what she saw.

I am challenged by what relevance this has for your life. Perhaps it’s just to be open to what the Universe or God is trying to tell you. We are all getting signals, even being communicated with by a higher power all of the time. The trick is to look for it, to listen and be open.

Last night it was easy because her beauty got my attention. I did not expect that she had a message for me that would penetrate so deeply. It was like a parent kissing a child and saying, “Don’t worry, it’s going to be all right.”

One is stressful, the other is numbing. The latter type of distraction serves to numb you to the pain of the former. The best example of a numbing distraction is TV. You turn it on and it effectively distracts you (numbs) from all your concerns in the world. It turns your mind off. Other good examples are alcohol or sex.

Did I mention that I do watch some TV? 😉

I hadn’t thought of the first type until the other morning when my real estate agent made a request of me that required me to focus on something that I hadn’t budgeted any time for. This was something clearly important and needed to be dealt with.

It’s just that I hadn’t planned for it.

So this distracted me from what I had planned to focus on that morning and it served to pull me away (distracted me) from my intention for the day.

The fact that these distractions deal with things that are important to my life and that they yell for immediate action creates stress. The fact that they pull me away from other important, and maybe also urgent things, creates more stress.

So here we create stress on two fronts: falling behind on something that is planned and important, and the immediate distress of something that is suddenly urgent. On reflecting on my days, I observe stressful distractions often. Too often.

I know that stressful distractions will always occur. They are part of life, of being human. However my goal is to minimize their occurrence in my life, and this is a function of a vigorous practice of planning. A good practice of planning anticipates breakdowns so that they can either be prevented or prepared for in advance. (Thanks to the Aji Network for getting me to take on “planning” as a practice.)

Do you notice a lot of stressful distractions in your day? A cue perhaps that you don’t have any rigorous practice of planning?

From my bed I can see the Chrysler building through my bedroom window. What a magnificent structure. It seems to blend the best of the old with the new and I’m struck by the paucity of words that I have to describe the beauty of the building. As I look at the buildings around the Chrysler building I realize that there are other beautiful buildings that I know nothing about. I don’t even know their names.

Interesting. My window affords me this wonderful view of one of the greatest cities in the world, and after two years of looking through it I know no more about the buildings that I look upon than on the day I first looked at this view.

Well, that’s not entirely true.

I now know that the apartment building just off to the side in line with the Chrysler is called “The Vanderbilt”. The Croatian beauty that I met at the party at the Turkish embassy last Friday night told me she lived there. I had just told her that I lived at the High Point and she offered that she lived at the Vanderbilt in a way that suggested I must know her building.

Of course I should have, but I didn’t. I knew enough to know that it was one of the buildings close by, but I was ashamed to admit that I did not know which one the Vanderbilt was. I had asked the doorman of my building which one the Vanderbilt was and he pointed it out. Just obliquely opposite my own building.

Right across the street.

From my window I wonder how many other buildings, beautiful or interesting in some respect, do I still not know.

Almost all of them.

My eyes look but they do not see. Isn’t this somebody’s famous saying? Very appropriate to me it seems. I am only now awakening to discoveries in waiting. Right before my eyes, and right outside my window. Is this a metaphor for my life? Why should I care? What does it matter that I don’t know anything about the buildings that I see through my window? What does it matter, for that matter, that I don’t know anything about the people that I see every day? The guys that work downstairs in my building, the old guy that sits in the Starbucks that I frequent, the Chinese lady in the dry cleaning establishment around the corner.

Perhaps because their stories may enrich my life. As an example, I can use the old guy that I see at my favorite neighborhood Starbucks. I actually do know something about him. He’s been in the neighborhood for a thousand years to hear him tell it. He knows everything about the neighborhood and he’s constantly being greeted by passers-by. Often I’ve seen people pass by the Starbucks and turn around and come inside when they see him. He’s very pleasant. He certainly has his opinions but he’s got that certain sensibility that some acquire with old age which he displays by sharing his opinions only within his circle or upon solicitation. I’ve enjoyed his company and he’s made my neighborhood and particularly this Starbucks feel like my “hood”. His name is Jim.

Jim lives just across the street in an old building that is a landmark in the neighborhood. It always struck me because it’s most defining aspect is its windows. The building, one of the Kips Bay Towers on 2nd Ave and 32nd St. in midtown Manhattan, has more windows than any apartment building I’ve ever seen. Designed by I.M. Pei it is one of two towers that are these gigantic rectangular buildings that is unremarkable (to my untrained eye) except for its windows. Windows cover almost all of it’s exterior surface area. Jim is sitting right next to me now as I write this and it occurs to me that Jim lives in one of those windows. One story among thousands of stories, all wrapped up in the giant story of the building itself.

Every window in every building is a story. One of the windows in the Vanderbilt is the story of that Croatian girl I met the other night. My own window that I look out every day is a story for someone else looking in, but for me looking out it’s thousands of stories. It’s kind of like a library that holds thousands of books that I will never read, but I have the choice of picking any one of them at any time and by my experiencing the story my own story becomes more interesting.

From now on, I’ll be more observant of the stories that are right before my eyes, my own windows to the world.

Don’t they make life interesting? I’m tending to quite a few at the moments, and I am finding it interesting to notice where I make life more difficult than it needs to me. My biggest breakdowns are in the area of technology. I was advised that a complete reinstallation of my operating system on a new hard drive was the best solution to my desktop problems. Well this has resulted in a host of new problems not the least of which is the loss of all of my playlists and song ratings on itunes. Can I solve this? Most definitely but at what cost?

I’m reminded of the book “e-Myth” where the author talks about the importance of systems. He could not be more correct. The primary goal of systems should be to allow you to spend as close to 100% of your time as possible on your most productive (revenue generating) activities. This currently is my greatest challenge. I’m spending about 70% of my time on breakdowns, the majority of which are technology related.

Today my brother asked me, “why not just use your laptop?” Hmmmm, for one my desktop is much more comforable to work on, with its 24″ screen and wireless keyboard and mouse. But he’s right. I realize that I could reduce 50% of my technical breakdowns by dealing with only one computer. Perhaps it is time to cave in to my Mac desire and cross over to the white side.

The other morning,as I looked at my rather round belly, which has gotten noticeably bigger over the last 3 weeks, I was reminded that I’ve been ineffective in causing the flat six-pack stomach that I dream of. My exercise practice has been ineffective. Similarly as I was doing some Yoga poses I was also reminded of my goal to be able to touch my toes with a perfectly straight back … you know like those Yoga masters, do. The legs are completely straight and the body seems to fold over at the hip. No bending (curving) of the lower back.

What’s clear is that I’ve lost sight of my goals. Without a clear reminder of what it is I’m creating distractions creep in. Good reminder to take my own medicine. Create visual reminders of what it is I’m up to in life and develop a daily practice of bringing it into my consciousness. This creates the context for my day and helps me to make the choices that are consistent with what I’m up to.

Check up on me in 6 months. My flat belly should make it easier to touch my toes with a straight back.