Risk everything.

Hello! Namasté. I’m back.

I took a break. From social media. From running around and spinning my wheels. From acting out on this strangely addictive desire to share all my triumphs and setbacks, joys and disappointments. Maybe you noticed? Maybe not. A lot is going on in our busy lives. And I got tired of it. So I stopped. Not completely, but mostly. Stopped looking at all your pictures and updates and opinions and requests for donations and memes. Did Donald Trump really become the Republican nominee? Hasn’t anyone seen Back to the Future II? 

Perhaps that’s why I stopped. I’m just not willing to live the way most people live. Not anymore. So I stopped. And went to India. And discovered Kirtan. And had a little romance. And ate chapatis and jelabis and drank chai. And chanted sweet mantras at an orphanage. And bathed in the Ganges river. And danced the night away in Vrindaban — the holy birthplace of Krishna. And moved from LA to Santa Fe. And bought a house in the mountains. And decided to remodel the house. Like completely. And ran into problems. And worked through problems just to find more problems. And grace. 

And here I am sitting in my favorite cafe, listening to "Hari Guna Gao" by Jai Uttal, sipping a lavender mint tea, and thinking of you. Yes — YOU! My friends and family. And people I’ve shared precious moments with. So much has shifted in my life. And now I’d like to share. Not from a place of bragging or complaining. Or from a place of wanting everyone to love or “like” me on Facebook. Not from a desire to teach or preach or soak up your time and attention. 

Why do we share? I think it’s because one of the most primal needs we have is to be seen. And heard. And felt. And touched. There’s a reason we’re connected. It’s important to share our lives with one another. But not just the "good" stuff. We need to share the bad and the ugly too. Otherwise, it's not real or helpful or, dare I say - honest. We're here to support and inspire each other. To uplift and relate and encourage. To travel to that faraway mountain and fight the dragon and learn something about who we are and why we’re here, and to return home and share what we’ve learned. And what have I learned over the past six months? 

To take risks. 

To risk everything.

David Elliott, one of my most beloved teachers, always tells me, “Take risks. Be willing to ruffle some feathers.” What does that mean? What does it mean to truly risk something? To give up what you’ve spent years building? Would you be willing to do that? Even if it means losing everything and hurting people that you love?

The truth is we don’t really have anything. We think we do, and it appears that we do. But we don’t. Just look at the mortgage crisis or Syria or take a visit to a hospital, and you’ll see that whatever we think we have, could be lost in a moment. Within this last year, my family lost all three grandparents and both family dogs. Rupert, my parents’ standard poodle, loved me the most. When I’d go home to visit, he’d get so excited that he’d jump into the pool. I swear his barking literally said, “I ruv you.” But he got a brain tumor and now he’s gone. At least physically. And I miss him. And just to add more fuel to the pyre, recently I've dealt with my share of heartbreak in the dating realm. But that's life. Ups and downs. And as Ram Dass says, "It's all grist for the mill."

So if we don’t have anything, at least not in the way we think we do in our minds, then what do we have? We have this moment. Nothing else. And this moment is an opportunity to get real with ourselves, take a look at what we’re clinging to, and discover who we are. To discover why we’re here. And what we’re here to do.

Maybe you’ve found that. I hope so. I’ve met people who’ve found themselves. And I’ve met those who haven’t. The ones who’ve found themselves are few. But you will know them by the love they wear on their sleeves. By the kindness that emanates from their smile and the sweetness that rolls of their tongue. And by that hug that takes you home.

I was a lawyer with a good practice and a Land Rover and a slick new loft in Marina del Rey, and great clothes (that’s debatable!), and a fridge fully stocked with Whole Foods. And I was unhappy. Depressed. Bored. Slowly dying inside. And for years, I worked hard to keep it all together. But for what? To make my parents proud? To find the most beautiful LA woman? To buy a two million dollar house in the Palisades? Would that have made me happy? No.

And that’s what David Elliott was talking about when he said “take risks.” You can spend your whole life and all your energy and resources trying to Keep Up with the Kardashians, or you can realize, right now, that you don’t need it. And you don’t even want it. I met hundreds of people in India who barely survive on a dollar a day. Or less. But they sing songs of love and devotion and they smile with such joy and bliss that most westerners couldn’t even begin to fathom. Not with our Justin Bieber hairdos or our Justin Bieber problems.

They say happiness is an inside job. It is.

But if you want it, you’re going to have to risk everything.

I think, therefore I am (really confused!)

The power of a single thought

The mind is a miracle. 

And it can either be our greatest tool or our greatest obstacle. 

Have you ever sat down and examined the stream of thoughts that flow through your mind?  Where do these thoughts come from?  And why are there so many?!  Are they true?  Does it even matter?

The answer is yes.  It matters very much.  Everything in our lives is based on the power we give to each thought, either consciously or unconsciously.  Thoughts are a form of energy (as is everything), and whatever thoughts we believe in (again, either consciously or unconsciously), become the seeds that end up forming our physical universe.  

Interestingly enough, most of our thoughts aren’t even ours to begin with.  We inherited them from our lineage and culture, which includes our ancestors, parents, grandparents, great grandparents, teachers, government, public figures, celebrities, colleagues, friends... even the person sitting next to us on the bus talking about how much the economy sucks.

For example, whereas I was born in Los Angeles and believe in the thought that “Peace is possible,” someone who was born in the Middle East may believe in that old negative inherited thought form that says “Peace isn’t possible.”  So... which thoughts are ours, and which ones aren’t?  This is a good place to begin your examination.

If you take a look at some of the most influential people throughout history, you’ll notice that something they all share in common is one or many thoughts that they believed in with all their soul.  For example, Gandhi believed in the thought “Non-violence is the best way to achieve true freedom.”  Martin Luther King Jr. believed in the thought that “All men are created equal.”  Steve Jobs believed in the thought “I can create a better, more user-friendly computer / mp3 player / phone / tablet thing.”  I imagine at some point Jobs must have added, “Yes, and I shall call it the i-Something or other, and every third person on Earth shall purchase it and love it!”  Or not.

Some thought forms are warm and fuzzy.  But not all.  Indeed, a thought doesn’t need to be positive or even “true” in order to be powerful beyond measure.  For example, Hitler believed that “The Aryan race is supreme.”  Ptolemy believed that “The sun revolves around the Earth.”  And the American Medical Association believes “It is unlikely that High-Fructose Corn Syrup contributes more to obesity than other forms of sucrose.”

If a person believes in a thought that goes against nature, love or the higher truths, they are almost certainly going to create a lot of pain for themself and possibly others.  For example, if someone believes that “Gravity does not exist,” then that person may walk right off a cliff and make the evening news.  Or if someone believes in the thought “The ends justify the means,” then they are going to create the circumstances that put this belief to the test.  As you can see, Hitler’s thought created death and destruction the likes of which the world had never seen, and ultimately led to his own death.

As you can see, thoughts are powerful.  They shape our world.  And so the key is to bring awareness to what thoughts you believe in, because if you are not thriving in life right now, it is highly likely that you currently believe in, or give power to, one or more thoughts that, simply put, are bullshit.  You can call these “limiting beliefs.”

Take two artists for example.  Let’s say both of them are equally talented and resourceful.  However, one artist believes in the thought “I can make a great career selling my artwork,” whereas the other artist believes the thought “The marketplace for art is just too darn competitive.”  Both thoughts are true in a sense because both thoughts are going to manifest into physical reality.  

The artist who believes he/she can sell their work will likely end up doing so; and the artist who believes in the limiting thought that it’s just too hard to sell his/her work, will create the circumstances to experience exactly that.  

If you take some time to examine any areas in your life where you feel stuck or struggling, it is very likely that you will find some limiting beliefs in there somewhere.  Some of the most common limiting beliefs include: “I’m not loveable;” “I’m not worth it;” “I’m not good enough;” “I can’t do (fill in the blank)” or “This can’t be done;” “If he/she can’t do it, how can I?;” “I’m alone;” “I won’t find what I’m looking for;” “I’m too old/young/ugly/fat/short/tall/etc.;” “If I try this, I’ll fail and nobody will like me anymore;” “I can’t trust anyone;” “I won’t find the right partner;” “Things won’t work out;” “I’m not safe;” “The world isn’t safe;” “It’s better if I wait;” “I’ll be happy when (such and such occurs);” and so on and so forth.

Byron Katie, author of “Loving What Is,” recognized something about the power of her thoughts.  Katie says, “I discovered that when I believed my thoughts, I suffered, but that when I didn’t believe them, I didn’t suffer, and that is true for every human being.  Freedom is as simple as that.  Suffering is optional.”

Katie created “The Work,” an easy process we can use to investigate our thoughts.  Here is the process.  Trace your emotions to the underlying thoughts, and for each thought, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Is the thought true?
  2. Can you absolutely know that it’s true?
  3. How do you react, and what happens, when you believe that thought?
  4. Who would you be without the thought?

Then turn the thought around (find the opposite of the original thought) and see if you can find a few examples of how the new thought is true in your life.

This work is very powerful.  Examine your thoughts.  Have fun with it.  Hunt down and call out the old thoughts that don’t serve you anymore.  Be free.  And thrive!

Why Meditate?

Finding peace through meditation

How many times have you asked yourself this question?  And how many more times are you going to ask again before you give it a try?

You’d like to, you think to yourself, except it’s probably a waste of time.  Something that’s best left for yogis in India, Zen Masters in Japan, or New Age hippies in LA.  Actually, you think it could be beneficial – of course, you haven’t tried it yet, so you don’t really know… or you’ve tried a form of meditation that didn’t work for you – but the bottom line is right now you're too busy with your “real life” and “real things to do” and so, in your mind, you continue to choose to do anything but meditate.  

Sound about right?  Of course it does.  We’re human.  And we have that complex biological super-computer called “the mind.”  And because we live in the 21st century, that mind is stimulated by 400 billion bits of data every single waking second via the five senses as well as our thoughts and emotions, all competing for one thing and one thing only – our attention.

And since you probably don’t live in a cave in the Himalayas with no responsibilities or worldly concerns, you are totally and completely stressed out.  Gotta pay your rent, car payment, car insurance, health insurance, cable bill, gas bill, electric bill, etc.  Gotta pay for food, fun, your husband or wife, your kids.  Not married?  Well then, gotta pay for the gym, your monthly dues for the “I’m-Unhappy-But-A-Relationship-Will-Magically-Make-Me-Happy-Dot-Com” dating website, not to mention drinks and dinner for all your dates which, by the way, almost always lead to a sense of frustration, emptiness, and the question, “Why did I just do that?”  

Of course, you’ve gotta get a job to pay for all these wonderful expenses.  And not just any job… a good job!  One with a good salary so you can lease that BMW you’re salivating over.  And you’ve gotta work like a slave to keep that job because thousands of other people who are competing for it are just as qualified because, let’s face it, you probably don’t even like your job.  How could you possibly be any good at it?

This leaves you stressed out.  Worried.  Always in some form of panicked state.  You’re putting on weight.  Not exercising.  Indulging in the quick fixes of food, alcohol, drugs, sex, movies, TV, video games, relationships, shopping, etc.  

In fact, the only time you ever really get any real relief from all of this is when you go to sleep.  In other words, the only time you achieve any lasting peace, is when you’re unconscious!

So, I ask you again… Why meditate?

Because.  This cycle must end.  And it can.  It’s actually quite simple.

Here’s the problem.  If you are one of 99.9% of the human population, your mind and emotions currently control you.  There’s nothing wrong with you by the way, this is just how it is living in modern civilization.  We react to virtually every thought, desire, and feeling that pulsates through our bodies.  Like a water-skier who’s just fallen, we latch on to these things while the speedboat rakes us through the water.  We believe that these thoughts, desires and feelings are what define us.  I mean, who are you if not your name, career, body type, age, personality, preferences, and stuff?

Well, this is exactly what you need to find out.  And you begin this process by meditating.  By stopping what you’re doing, sitting down, and breathing for a few minutes.

By doing a basic breathing meditation, you sit and follow your breath.  While doing this, you will notice many different thoughts and feelings that arise.  Observe them and let them go.  Do not indulge them by letting them take you on a magic carpet ride, but you don’t need to fight them either or pretend they don’t exist.  By simply noticing what is happening in your body, you will begin to increase your awareness.

As you practice this more and more, you will notice your thoughts and feelings as they arise in your daily life.  No longer will these things control you.  When your thoughts and emotions no longer control you, a sense of peace arises.  You get in touch with your intuition and inner wisdom.  You feel connected to the universe and all living beings.  

Synchronicity starts to happen.  Things start to suddenly go your way.  The world is no longer the crazy stressed-out place it seemed to be.  Suddenly you find yourself in a world filled with peace, love, joy, and happiness.  A happiness that is no longer dependent on some outer thing or event, but which arises naturally from within.  

And so you wonder, “Can this meditation thing really lead to something as elusive and profound as true peace, joy, and happiness?”

And I say to you, without a shred of doubt…

YES!

Setting Goals for 2012

Last night I couldn't sleep, so I put on my headphones, picked some good music and made a detailed list of my goals for 2012, prioritized them, and then created a sample "ideal day" for the new year. I encourage you to do the same. This is an extremely powerful exercise because we can only manifest what we first envision in our consciousness and then implement.

Wishing you peace, love, prosperity and happiness in the New Year :)