Blog Page

Summer Tweeting

admin 0 Comments

It’s been several months since I posted my last blog.  That timing coincides with when I started traveling before the start of summer.  I’m still out and about, indulging in various adventures and, while I haven’t been blogging, I’ve been posting about 3 or 4 tweets a day on Twitter.

I used to not like Twitter – I didn’t care to be as informed as it enabled me to be about the details of activities of the people I was following.  But when I started tweeting, myself, I discovered it was a more effective way to wake people up.  And I discovered writing the sort of tweets I write triggered a sort of endorphin high.  Getting big ideas down to 140 characters or less became an art form, a dance with words.

I think you’ll find that reading them is like an interactive dance wherein, reading one at a time, you can get very present, go inside, and engage consciously with what it points your attention to.  In this sense, they are a bit like an Oracle, offering you a window which provides insight into yourself, your life, your choices, your ability to choose.   They invite you to be honest with yourself – intimately honest – and to consider making adjustments to be more in alignment with who you want to be, what you want in your inner experience and outer life, and how you want to effect the world.

Please consider following me on Twitter.  Just press the Twitter button on my website or go to http://twitter.com/#!/jimlehrman.   And I welcome your comments here, as well.

 

Here are the tweets I’ve done so far:

 

Could it be that every individual has a mystical part of them, an adventuring part, and an enlightened one, clouded at times by neurosis?

 

Ponder this for triple the amount of time you’d like to: In what ways is your vulnerability more of a blessing than a curse?

 

Are you “working” at having fun? Fun is more a function of attitude than of activity. Lighten up & take responsibility for what you bring.

 

While the names faces themes & clubs u formally or informally belong 2 can change, are your patterns staying the same? Where are u taking u?

 

Make space for wonder in ur life & in the lives of others. Recognize when it occurs in you or others. Stay with it. Cherish those moments.

 

Treat your insights with respect; explore if & how to translate them into action & into results that honor the significance of the insight.

 

It is valuable to be aware what your virtues are. (eg respectful, generous, fun) They are resources. Explore who these virtuous selves are.
 
Read More →

Getting Out of the Blame Game

admin 0 Comments

With smells of honeysuckle and juniper lofting over the pungent spring mud, a woman is walking her dog down a quiet country road as the day starts to wane. Happy to be taking in the spacious feel of the outdoors, together they stroll past trees and fields, connected by 6 feet of leash and a shared appreciation for the scents, sights, and sounds of the lush green world at the edge of their neighborhood.

They come along a shaded house by the side of the lane, and both of them glance over to see two dogs bolting out a screen door, racing towards them with growls, barks, and teeth exposed. With shock and terror, the woman doesn’t know whether to run or stand firm. Her dog is too big to lift and too old to fight. There is a noisy stand-off, canine threats from both sides, and in no time, a short dog fight.

Just as the woman can pull her dog away, a man comes out of the house and stands on the porch with his arms folded in a defensive manner. The two unleashed dogs run back to the house and stand by their master. The man continues to stand with his arms crossed, defiantly.

The woman’s emotions are raw. Catching her breath, she notices her impulse to scream at this man, to beat him down with her indignance. She wants to hold him accountable, to make it clear that she is the good person who had her dog on a leash and that he is simply a bad person. The urge to blame this person and make him wrong is overwhelming.

She decided to not indulge the urge. Instead, she stood there holding onto her dog’s leash, as the two people stared at each other. She did shout out, but what came from her was “I’m so glad you came out”, and she said it with real appreciation. His response was a simple “You’re welcome. If I’d known it was happening I would have come out sooner.”

In each of us is an immense capacity to blame. It takes a high level of emotional intelligence to see the impulse to indulge situations where that capacity wants to be indulged. Some situations make it easy to find who was at fault and to use that person – and that story – as the focal point of our need to both make convenient sense of the situation and give the emotions a place to treat as their target.

A step in emotional growth is to notice the seductive pull to channel emotions into the blame game. Even when there IS someone at fault and the story lends itself to blame, you can observe the part of you that wants to indulge the opportunity to blame; you can question if this part of you wants something akin to healing or something akin to revenge. Accountability leads to healing whereas blame does not.

Much healing comes from taking responsibility for the meaning we place on the experiences we have. While someone else really might be to “blame” for what happened, it is we, ourselves, who create the world that we experience, triggered by events out there. We create the perceptions, emotional floodings or shut downs, and contractive or explosive responses.

Whenever blame gets triggered in you, it is an opportunity to examine what you use to come up with the meaning you applied to the situation and to explore who this part of you is who wants to indulge the passive aggressive endeavor of blame.
 
 
Copyright © 2014   Jim Lehrman

Where Does the Environment Start?

admin 0 Comments

One way I like to give people an ecstatic experience is with a couple of simple seemingly innocuous questions. They are the sort of questions you’d ask a very young child, yet they serve to deepen our perspective of reality.

I start by standing outdoors with the person and asking, “where does the sky begin?” There are a few answers I typically get, but the answer I’m looking for is “at my feet”.

Then I ask “where does the environment start?” The most common answer, given as a follow up to the first one, is “at my skin”, to which I supportively say that that’s correct, but only if your point of reference is at the edge of your skin; only if your experience of being in the world starts at the edge of your body. And, while we live in the world, on a deeper and more accurate level, we live in our experience.

Sure, you can notice the leaves swaying in the breeze, can feel that same breeze against your skin, and notice the song being sung by the nearby bird, and you can take all that in with awareness and even appreciation of the beauty of the environment. But you can also notice the flow of your breath, the sinking or rising feeling that comes over you emotionally, and the thoughts of wonder or of conviction which seem to blow in and out of your mind like the breeze. These are events that are happening, just like the wind and the birds “out there”.

There are two levels of “insufficient awareness” which can keep you from being fully present to your environment. The first is to not even be aware of the elements going on in your experience. I call this being “lost to the experience”. Walking next to a building that is on fire and not noticing it, or having a surge of anger and not noticing it are examples of being lost TO the experience. In both cases, the person is out of touch with what is going on in his or her environment, regardless of which side of the skin it’s happening on.

The second is to be aware but to over-identify with them. I call this being “lost in the experience”. Taking home a puppy being given away when you don’t have room, or indulging a surge of anger like a surfer on a wave are examples of being lost IN the experience.

But imagine you are able to notice – as it arises – the impulse to take home that puppy, or the surge of anger demanding to be indulged. If you can notice those inner elements of your experience, then your point of reference for what is happening around you is no longer at the edge of your skin but at the edge of your attention.

Imagine noticing your thoughts, shifts of emotion, sensations – all being experienced as simply more of the stuff “out there”. The flow of your experience is… noticing the airplane in the sky, noticing the tightness in your belly, noticing the thought arising “I wonder what I’ll have for lunch”, noticing the smell of the nearby creosote bush, noticing the memory return of a rainstorm a year ago… These are all events, some of which are located out there, some located not out there.

If your point of reference, if where you locate YOURSELF, is at the point from which your attention moves from object to object, then the environment starts at the edge of your attention, not at the edge of your body.

It may be paradoxical but it’s true, that we tend to respond more objectively, effectively, and compassionately to the things we think need attention in the environment around us than to the things that happen inside us. Thus, this shift of perspective may help you treat yourself as well as you treat the world around you.

To the extent that you can allow yourself to engage with the events that unfold in your inner experience as consciously, autonomously, and either responsively or equanimously as you engage with the events that occur “out there”, you are that much more in the natural flow of life and that much more fully taking in the experience of it.

Try this: Take a handful of minutes to sit and allow yourself to notice whatever happens to come into your attention. Regardless of whether your attention is on something from inside you or from something “out there”, acknowledge each thing you notice as simply being more “stuff”. Take it slow, and do this with an awareness of the distinction between the observer and what is observed, between you and not you. Whatever is in your attention is in the environment – you are the observer and whatever is in your attention is not you. This observing “you” is the only thing NOT in the environment. If you keep up this practice over time, your skills of attention will sharpen, and more and more of this observing “you” will become part of the environment. The more “you” disappear, the more spacious your experience becomes.
 
 
Copyright © 2014   Jim Lehrman

Faith and Fear

admin 0 Comments

Do you notice the ebb and flow of your emotions?  The gravitation towards some feelings and the aversion to others?  Hopefully, you know where you stand on the gamut of emotions – what your most and least favored feelings are.  Faith is a force that we don’t often think of as being an emotion, but it is a “felt experience” as much as is fear.

Faith and fear are two poles on a continuum.  At any time you are at some point on that continuum between 100% faith and 100% fear.

When you notice an experience of fear it is good to notice where you are on the continuum.  It is good to remember that your location changes a lot on this continuum, and that many factors influence the shifting location.  A beneficial experiment is to pay close enough attention to your state – whether it be faith, fear, sadness, depression, anger, or anything – that you can notice your actual movement to the right or left on that state’s continuum.

It is also good to remember that neither faith nor fear exist “out there”.  They don’t “appear in nature”.  Faith and fear are what we create within us in response to some thing or situation out there.
 
 
Copyright © 2014   Jim Lehrman

The Piano Tuner of Carnegie Hall

admin 1 Comment

When I was in my 20s I learned of the man who tuned the great and grand pianos at Carnegie Hall.  At his scheduled time, he would walk out of the world of Manhattan and into the stillness of this majestic theater, feeling secure in knowing that the entire hall would be empty.  And he would sit, like a virtuoso, at the keyboard.  In that spaciousness, he would take his time, listening to each string as he tapped on every key.  It was an intimate conversation – a gentle touch here, a knowing turn there.  Quietly, expertly, ever so focused, in his experience there was no passing of time.  So “in the moment”, there was no hurrying and no indulging of distraction.  He was so present to the task at hand that time, itself, was merely a concept constructed elsewhere, not even hinted at there in the hall of his patient ear and the pianos he tuned so perfectly.

The last thing he would do, though, upon finishing a piano and assessing it as being in perfect tune, was to stand next to it, gently and respectfully close it’s lid, and slam his fist down on its lacquered surface as hard as he could, transforming its technical completion to an artistic statement.

He would hear the strings sigh and ever-so-slightly stand at ease, and a small smile would come on his face, in recognition that too much perfection is, itself, out of balance in the flow of things, and therefore grating to the ears of the listener.

Perfection is like that – a fine goal when recognized as being simply a theoretical guideline which, in actual manifestation, is ofttimes a bit grating to the nerves.

And we are like that, too.  We are each like those pianos, having the capacity to be tuned perfectly, but each of us having our own way of pushing our feet against the surface of perfection, like children being obstinate, our obstinance driven by a higher knowing, too deep to understand or recognize.

In childlike blindness, we sometimes indulge the yearning for perfection – driven by some antiquated belief in the salvation of someone’s approval, mythic as that is.  Approval seems sweet, and as children we are drawn to it like candy.  As adults, we can listen closely to our true nature, and can be like the piano tuner at Carnegie Hall, respectful and responsive to the tension our drives place on the natural beauty that is our unique sound.  Oh, what harmonies we sacrifice in striving for perfection and it’s mythic embrace of approval.

Copyright © 2014   Jim Lehrman

The Impulse that Precedes the Action

admin 0 Comments

In my work I often get people to shift into an altered state of consciousness that could descriptively be referred to as “practical ecstasy”.  Even working on the phone, my work is experiential and sometimes so focused as to get people stoned on their own in-the-moment experience.  Practical ecstasy is a state of meta-presence which results from sustaining acute enough attention as to acess information of what is going on between the moments of normal awareness.  Here is an exercise that helps people practice this deepening of attention.  I recommend you do it with your eyes open.  If you’re too distracted, or if the need to blink is frequent, do it with your eyes closed.  Also, have a clock handy which is easy for you to see so you can time different part of this.

Before starting the exercise, take a minute to sit and get relaxed – but not too relaxed.  Allow yourself a little time to get mindful.  That is, tune in to your in-the-moment experience.  Notice your body in your sitting position.  Notice your breath and the particular ease and flow of it.  Notice if your mind is busy or settled down.  Simply notice and allow what happens to be so in your experience.

1.  Now, sit quietly, uninterrupted, not speaking, and for one full minute, notice all the movements you make, with the exception of breath-related movements.  Your legs, feet, head, arms, torso, hands, fingers, toes, eyes, lips – wherever there is any movement at all in you, simply notice.

2.  Now, again, sit quietly, uninterrupted, not speaking, and for another full minute, sit but this time do not allow yourself to move any muscle in your body, again with the exception of breath-related movements.  Don’t move your legs, feet, head, arms, torso, hands, fingers, toes, eyes, or lips.  During this minute, track (notice) all the movement-related impulses that arise.  That is, simply notice every individual desire to move any part of your body without indulging its impulse.

3.  After that minute, take a few moments to feel any pent-up energy that is present in your body, then get up and move around a little, just to let that pent-up energy move and dissipate.

4.  Now sit down again, and repeat that second step.  Except – whenever you notice the desire or impulse to move any part of your body, go ahead and allow yourself to indulge that impulse after noticing it.  Mindfully notice it BEFORE indulging it, and stay in your mindful state even as you consciously allow that individual movement to occur.  Don’t over-indulge the impulse, though, and keep the movement that you indulge very simple and specific.  Then go back to NOT moving so you can again track the next impulse to move, again consciously indulging each impulse after mindfully noticing it.

5.  Now take one more minute, sitting quietly as with the previous steps, and allow yourself to move again as you did in the first step.  Be in your natural flow, allowing whatever movements that want to happen to be carried out.  But this time, see if you can notice each impulse to move BEFORE you make the movements.  This is the level of mindfulness you want to maintain in the course of your day.

If you’re not working with me, I recommend you take a week or two to practice this exercise daily to develop more acute attention.  Enjoy the ecstasy of being present!
 
 
Copyright © 2014   Jim Lehrman

The World Is Within

admin 0 Comments

Moment by moment, one event after another crosses in front of our field of experience.  Our work is to slow down and observe the world that is being created within ourselves as we organize around the event of this moment.

Who are you in this moment?  You are the character who’s experience is enmeshed in the story and state of where your attention happens to be focused.  You are not always THIS character.  There may be a cast of thousands in there!  While we like to think of ourselves as being one stable personality, one or another of these characters, these parts of us, can get triggered simply as a result of where our attention goes.

Here’s an experiment:  focus your attention onto something that you know has some emotional charge for you.  Maybe an incident that left you hurt or unresolved, maybe a gift from a friend, a scar on your arm, maybe your dog.  As an experiment, see if you can sustain your focus on that thing WHILE watching the unfolding elements of your experience.  That is, notice what thoughts arise, what emotions, what you feel in your body, the flow of associations, even how old you feel.  Notice the story that gets indulged, and the state that accompanies it.  Notice all this AS THE WITNESS rather than as the one having the experience.

To turn this exercise into some practical training, see if you can sustain focus – or even choose some other charged thing to focus on if you want – and slow down enough to “locate” yourself securely as the witness (which simply means to be “separate” enough from your experience to be able to study it), staying there long enough to really experience the difference between being this character and being the “witness”.  Then, and this is where you strengthen your skills, shift to being the character who is having the present moment experience, letting go of the witness altogether.  Allow yourself to be enmeshed there long enough to have a conscious awareness that, “yes, this is familiar, yes, I know this character”.  Then (the most strengthening step) step out again and locate yourself as the witness.  Stay present as the witness while allowing this part of you, this character, to stay present as well.

The better you get at being able to step out of your experience and be the witness, and to shift back and forth as described above, the stonger your ability will be to get perspective in situations which in the past may have most “undone” you.  There is much you can do with this skill!

Copyright © 2014   Jim Lehrman

Studying Experience

admin 0 Comments

I like to define “experience” as what happens in the space that defines you. It is made up of two components – story and state. You can think of this graphically as a circle with a line going from left to right across the middle. The top half of the circle is “story”. The bottom half is “state”. Story is anything cognitive – labels, explanations, associations, connotations, stories. State is nothing cognitive – it is energy felt in the body in the moment.

You can locate yourself outside this circle, such that whatever goes on in this space, in this circle is simply part of the environment. This perspective enables you to be in relationship with your experience rather than lost in it. A certain type of freedom grows out of developing that relationship.

Here’s an exercise that can get you started in developing that relationship. It involves breathing, holding your breath, and paying attention.

Lie down, and breathe in a normal breath, then exhale every bit of air that you can. Then breathe in only half as much as the previous breath. Again, exhale every bit of air you can. With your third breath, again breathe in only half as much air as your previous breath. Exhale everything. Repeat this pattern two more times such that with your fifth exhalation, you have what seems like no air at all left to breath out. With that, do not breathe in a sixth breath. Instead, just hold your breath – or your lack of breath – as long as you can.

While holding this, let your attention go to whatever unfolds in your experience. Notice the voices that resist this insult to your need to survive and notice the voices that might support this experiment in letting go. Notice any argument that ensues between these parts of you. Also notice any pulling in of your chest as well as any pushing out. Notice what happens in your head, in your heart, in your arms, in your gut. Notice any memories or associations. Notice the felt sense of panic, or of peace, or of whatever. Simply notice anything, even any judgment that arises in response to what you notice. Hold your breath only as long as you can without hurting yourself and notice the extent to which you are lost in your experience and the extent to which you are the witness. When you can’t hold your breath any longer, give your biological drive the oxygen it so desires. And even as you suck in air, continue to simply notice what happens in these many domains of your experience.

Try this exercise once – with full attention – then try it again a day or so later. See what changes over time with the strength of your ability to separate from your experience and locate yourself as the witness. May this be the start of a beautiful relationship with yourself.

A word of warning – if you have any reason to be concerned about your heart or other relevant aspects of your physical health, treat this exercise accordingly. Be self-responsible.

Copyright © 2014   Jim Lehrman

Paradox

admin 0 Comments

To develop an orientation of focusing on the best in yourself and others, notice the instances when you see the negative in a person or situation. In response to that awareness, see if you can understand your investment in seeing it that way. Then, see if you can let it go, at least just this once, and switch to the positive. Watch yourself doing this. Hopefully with a smile. And if there is resistance… stay present and simply notice. Be the witness of this attachment to negativity rather than fusing with the part of you which is being negative. Allow yourself to learn who this part of you is and what this part needs.

Whether you can do this or not, strive to stay awake and simply be patient with yourself. Self-discovery is the best foundation for self-improvement.

Copyright © 2014   Jim Lehrman

The Nourishment Barrier

admin 0 Comments

Ah, the nourishment barrier… a realm where regardless of surroundings, you find yourself starving at the banquet. In the midst of the feast, you somehow can’t let it in. Whether that feast is food or fun, compliments or community, you paradoxically respond as if that which is nourishing is in fact toxic.

There are people who live at this nourishment barrier. At work, at play, at home, at the movies, in love, even in bed; They have a problem letting in the gifts of life, a problem even letting in what they need, as if something bad would be imminent if they did. Below their level of awareness, they cling to a belief that if they allow themselves to let in something good, pleasurable, or rewarding, that very thing will eventually be taken away or lose it’s thrill, leaving life that much more of a miserable burden to endure. The all too familiar result of their resistance is the collapse into a life orientation of “why bother”.

Don’t get me wrong, these are sweet people – typically even intelligent, endearing and compassionate; very compassionate. Very serving, very loyal, but also not too good at taking care of themselves. This “why bother” orientation can be subtle or severe, depending on how deeply the person is entrenched in the nourishment barrier.

Rather than writing a textbook here, I’ll move into some practical advice and maybe revisit this theme later in my blog. Getting practical is a very good direction to take for people who have the nourishment barrier and its “why bother” orientation.

On the more basic level, it’s good for these folks to start by defining clearly what their needs are. Then, after that preliminary step, to make a longterm project out of studying how they go about the business of resisting getting what they need.

Now as an aside, imagine there is not one of you, but a whole cast of characters in there. These characters started out simply as beliefs, beliefs which served to help you know the territory and the rules of getting around in it back when you were much younger. But after some years, these core beliefs took on a life of their own inside you, where they wait in the wings of the stage of your in-the-moment experience, ready to come out and take center stage upon getting triggered by events that occur.

That, in itself, is not the problem. The problem arises only if, while they are running the show from their position on stage, you think that’s you up on the stage. If you aren’t aware of what’s going on inside you, you identify with these characters and their fundamental beliefs, oblivious to the distinction between them and the adult you.

Your job is to monitor and manage these characters, which requires noticing when any one of them gets triggered. Instead of “getting up on the stage with this character”, which may be your pattern, my invitation is that you take your seat in the front row where you can experience not only the unfolding story of resistance to nourishment, but can get perspective on what this story is really about. You are able to discover what the beliefs are that determine, sustain, and reinforce their existence, so you can choose consciously to indulge their impluses of resistance or not. This, by the way, is some of the foundational work of my approach to self-discovery, Making the Moment Matter (TM).

But let’s get back to the nourishment barrier and see how to apply this perspective there. If you can notice those moments when an opportunity presents itself for you to get one of your needs met, you can shift your attention to study how you organize around this opportunity. This self discovery leads you to see – and likely take – options that you never saw before. Thus, you can stop playing out archaic automatic responses that limit your fulfillment. Letting in nourishment becomes a non-dogmatic conscious act of self responsibility.

My goal for the people I work with is not that they get rid of these often annoying characters who live inside them, but that they develop a more conscious relationship with them. It is through this deepening that the person gets bigger than not only this nourishment barrier but bigger than anything the universe throws his or her way.
 
 
Copyright © 2014   Jim Lehrman