Wednesday, December 24, 2008


7 Steps to Eliminate Manufactured Fear

1. Reality Check. When consumed with fearful thoughts, ask yourself: is this thought constructive or is it of the "worst case scenario" variety? Sometimes playing the "what if" game can be a helpful tool in forward thinking; but, remember: true intuitive messages are constructive, offering direction and guidance, and do not appear in the form of never-ending, run-on dialogue in your head. Terrifying, debilitating thoughts, or those that encourage you to do something harmful, either come from manufactured fear or psychosis (i.e., think Son of Sam). If the latter, please seek medical attention--immediately!

2. Don't be a "Debbie Downer." Saturday Night Live does a crazy skit with a character called “Debbie Downer.” In each skit, Debbie is hanging out with a group of friends or at a social gathering and someone in the group will say something like, “Yeah, I ran 5 miles this morning. It was so hot that I drank 6 bottles of water!” Then Debbie chimes in, “Did you know that bottled water killed 10 million people last year . . .” As the camera zooms in on her depressive face, you hear this sound bite of trepidation and doom. Distance yourself from the rumor mill. People LOVE drama--entire industries are built on it—and they love to repeat as fact things that sound alarming but which may or may not be true. Sure, educate yourself but keep it in perspective! Refuse to participate in the fear-based chatter and drama going on around you.

3. Pull your own strings. Be selective about what you read or watch on T.V. If you are a news junkie, give yourself the gift of intervention. Don't worry--you're not going to fall into the abyss of the uninformed if you skip stories of terror and disaster. And if you can't bear to sever your ties to the news, then find a way to keep it in perspective. Remember, disaster sells. Refuse to manipulate or be manipulated by fear.

4. Be an observer, not a reactor. When you hear disheartening news and you're tempted to engage the fear, pull back and take an aerial view of society. Recognize fear-based patterns in human nature and don't go there; distinguish yourself from the masses. Learn to view world events with discernment.

5. Get to the root. Examine your deepest-held beliefs about what or who God is. Ask yourself some hard questions: Do you really believe that you are being punished by a vengeful God because you are an evil sinner? Why? Are there other possible explanations for why bad things happen to good people?

6. Live in the light. In her best George W. Bush impersonation, my mother once said to me, "You're an inspirator, not a negatator!" Develop your core of peace and happiness--it starts within. Then, as you move through life, you will inspire others simply by being a bright light in the world.

7. Awareness is key. Be the constant gardener of your thoughts and train them on the trellis of awareness. What you allow to take root in your mind will create unruly weeds or beautiful flowers. How does your garden grow?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

What is the Power that Beats Your Heart?

A few weeks ago an announcement aired on every news station and media outlet across the nation: The United States economy "officially" is in a recession. That day, the stock market plunged—down 680 points—as people reacted with fear to the label “recession,” though we all knew that the economy was in jeopardy; it had been for quite some time. What is it about a “label” that makes us fear what we already know?
I laughed as I read the article on CNN Money, not because the state of our economy is laughable—no, indeed it needs help—but because of the predictable, fear-based response that is so common to the human condition.
Then I thought about Y2K—remember that? We all knew that the year 2000 would come. It was inevitable given the forward movement of time. Yet in the months, weeks and days leading up to the turn of this century, people scrambled to stockpile food, medicine and generators, move money around and get everything in order for the crash that would turn everything upside down come January 1, 2000.
Y2K was the hot topic of conversation. Analysts speculated on the expansive reach of the looming disaster—surely it would take over our banks and corporations, cities and states, even our traffic lights and microwaves, automobiles, computers and cell phones. Valuable television, radio and newspaper space was dedicated to the worst case scenario. Caught up in the rumor mill of disaster, people carried this information with them, repeating harsh predictions as fact, spending precious time talking, worrying and stressing about the impending crash over which they had little, if any, control.
We waited with baited breath as the New Year rolled in, surprised that virtually nothing changed. Well, maybe a few burps and hiccups along the way, but no “disaster.” And soon, the whole bit faded into our collective memory as if it never even happened.
And what about the Asian Bird Flu scare in 2005? Remember that one? People were frantic--stockpiling Tamiflu like the world was about to end, buying up gas masks and rolls of duct tape to seal off the windows of their homes, basically preparing for a new world order that would have us all walking around in protective body masks, no longer safe to breathe the air; meanwhile, creating a shortage in Tamiflu that could otherwise help people who actually needed it.
That fall, the sale of hand sanitizers increased tenfold. Government officials speculated on the capacity of our nation to meet the vaccination demands of a pandemic, while news channels reported facts and figures from epidemics past—polio, the plague, and let’s not forget cholera—filling the American people with fear and dread. All the while, rumors swirled that the avian flu was nothing more than a hoax designed to create panic and line the pockets of drug manufactuers. What's wrong with this picture? Are we that easily manipulated by fear?
Well, that was three years ago and I can’t recall the last time I heard anyone speak of it, much less get treated for it. And while, true, some unfortunate souls met their demise in the wings of Asian Bird Flu, life moved on—business as usual—and soon, it was all but forgotten.
Yet here we are again, reacting with fear to the news of the day: A depression may be close at hand—a forecast eagerly supported by fearful images of the 30’s. And, once again, we find people moving money around, stockpiling food, building fall-out shelters, pointing to the “End of Days” and prophecies from the Book of Revelations as the reason for our downfall, while dropping fear-based speculation as fact into nervous conversations with friends, family and co-workers . . . even strangers in line at the market. With this mindset, why would we ever get out of bed?
Have we learned nothing from the past?
I’m all about preparation; as a lawyer I’m trained for it. But consider the difference between preparation and a fear-induced, knee-jerk reaction.
At times our natural, instinctive fear kicks in—an internal warning device—to alert us to real danger or threat of physical harm: fight or flight. Sometimes that fear gets us moving in the right direction and out of harm’s way, like when a run-away truck is racing towards us with no brakes.
Other times, our intuition sends us early warnings--messages from the Universe in the form of persistent thoughts, signs or omens--that can be quite helpful if we're tuned into its wisdom, but fear almost always distorts our ability to discern the message.
With finances, there are real and necessary precautions that we can all take to protect ourselves when the economy is uncertain. Certainly, we can live within our means and structure our holdings to offer maximum protection before disaster strikes—preventive measures, if you will, that generally work best when thought of in advance, like getting your teeth cleaned twice a year.
But we cannot predict every bend in the road--we'll make ourselves crazy trying--so a bit of detachment goes a long way. Then, if disaster strikes, we do what we can to learn from the past, get creative and forge a new path ahead instead of clinging desperately to what was and making our misfortune the "story" we tell about who we are.
Yet when we’re running around reacting to this crazy brand of manufactured fear instead of responding to life, we limit our creative potential--that dynamic spirit within that guides us with supportive solutions--which operates best when fear is absent.
Think about it—everything we think, say or do will be motivated by love or fear. They cannot co-exist. All other emotions are borne from one of these two states. Just try to hold a loving thought and a fearful one at the same time. You can’t do it, can you?
Living with love means that we must eliminate the manufactured fear from our lives and get on with the business of loving--love as a state of awareness, a way of being in the world where we see ourselves as part of a greater plan and purpose, connected to everyone and everything and perfectly equipped to deal with the ever-changing tides of life.
Sure, protect yourself. Be smart. Plan ahead if you must, but do it from a space of love and absolute trust in your ability to handle whatever comes your way. Then let go. Opportunities exist at every turn to try something different and create a new reality, but you'll miss them if you're cowering in the corner with your gas mask, consumed with fears of your worst case scenario.
Either way, it’s a choice.
What is the power that beats your heart?

Monday, December 1, 2008


Integrity is not a conditional word.
It doesn’t blow in the wind or change with the weather.
It is your inner image of yourself,
and if you look there and see a man who won’t cheat,
then you know he never will.
~ John D. MacDonald

Once, on a fabulous travel adventure in Bali, I was introduced to a man I’ll call Franklin. Distinguished by a headful of grey hair and a peacefulness that permeated his being, Franklin had a story to tell and I was eager to hear it.

You see, once upon a time, many moons ago, Franklin had been a seminary student, training for the priesthood. He loved his work and spiritual life and believed that he was on the right path.

Then he met Ana.

At first, he remained faithful to his commitment to the priesthood, but as his friendship with Ana deepened, and the love in his heart grew, he found himself questioning his decision . . . the path that once felt so right suddenly paled in comparison to the color of love. He couldn’t stop thinking about Ana.

He knew it wasn’t fair to continue this way—in limbo. Making a choice, he thought—any choice—had to be better than the paralyzing effect of his indecision. And, not wanting such a monumental decision to be influenced in any way by the presence of a beautiful woman or his raging hormones, he took some time away—from the seminary and Ana—to clear his head and tune into his higher wisdom.

As the days turned into weeks, and the weeks turned into months, something began to crystallize for him; the way forward became clear, as his heart spoke the truth: One can serve God and love a woman, they are not mutually exclusive paths. And there were many ways for him to serve his God, he concluded, without turning from romantic love; yet following the priesthood, by its very nature, would deny his right to live in both worlds.
So after months of prayer and contemplation, he resigned his seminary seat and followed his heart back to Ana . . . only to discover that she, too, had moved on. Ana was married.

Disappointed? Yes, he was; but Franklin remained true to himself and his decision. Breaking up Ana’s marriage was not the way forward, he knew; adultery would never be his path. And having made the decision to leave the seminary, that door felt closed to him. So he did the only thing that made sense: He enrolled in law school, studied hard and graduated at the top of his class. Then he took a job in the law firm where Ana worked as an attorney.

He only wanted to be near her, to have the opportunity to work with her and be in her circle of friends. And there he stayed, a platonic confidant, colleague and friend, for more than 25 years until Ana’s marriage came to its natural conclusion.

Then and only then did Franklin profess his love for Ana, and she for him.

As the story unfolded, I knew that Franklin was a man of great integrity. He knew who he was, what he stood for and what he would never compromise. Even when his path to Ana came to a grinding halt, he remained true to the personal standards by which he lived, never seeking for himself that which was not truly available to him, honoring himself and Ana’s marriage in the process.

Now Franklin provides ethics training for judges-elect, where he speaks to men and women about the inextricable nature of personal, social and professional ethics. They cannot be separated, he says, and he begins each session with this advice: “Before you read the law, you must determine where you stand on an issue—morally and ethically—because you will always find a way around, over or under the law to support your position. It boils down to what you believe to be true about that issue on the deepest level; start with that, and your way forward will be made clear.”

So it is with integrity, which says that when we’re connected with our moral and spiritual truth it cannot be shifted by circumstance. We assert that truth, quietly, through our choices, without self-righteousness or hidden agendas. There is no need to convince others of anything because whether they agree with us or not is of little consequence. No explanation, justification or excuse will do: The fact that no one else will ever know of our behavior or choice does not make it right in our hearts, because whatever “it” is acts as a personal barometer for us. When we act with integrity, we stand undivided; our thoughts, words, choices and actions are aligned, and that comes with its own kind of peace.

Think of integrity as the foundation of who we are and what we stand for (or won’t). When we’re true to it—not because some law tells us to or because we might get caught, but because we know that it’s the right thing to do for our life—we live in balance. From this place we are free and clear to create what we most want, in harmony with the very essence of who we are and what we believe in.

What about you? What do you stand for? Where will you draw the line?