Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Radical Forgiveness

Forgiveness is the path to happiness. –A Course in Miracles

I led a women’s retreat last fall. The theme of the retreat was four radical spiritual practices that lead to radical joy. One of the practices is radical forgiveness.

What do you think when you think of the word “radical”? Maybe the radical protesters of the 60s, radical fundamentalists, the radical left, radical change, and these days, free radicals. The word comes from the Latin word meaning “root.” It can mean fundamental, or extreme, or not ordinary.

Keeping that in mind, what would a radical spiritual practice be? Well, something that is not traditional. If we think about forgiveness, what does traditional forgiveness look like? If I think of forgiving someone, I probably start by thinking that person did something bad to me. Forgiving that person would mean releasing that person from my judgment, releasing the hold that the transgression has on my heart.

The Bible tells me I should forgive, as do many faiths as well as secular wisdom. But it’s not easy. I can dredge up things from long ago – a best friend who hurt my feelings, a broken promise, a forgotten invitation, a betrayal of confidence – that still sting. A few years ago, someone who was upset with me about something that was happening between us right then, burst forth with complaints about things I had done as a teenager. And while the accusations were valid, all I could think was, Gosh, haven’t I improved at all in the last forty years?

What is the power these wrongs have over us? Why is it that I believe so strongly that forgiveness is a good idea, and yet still nurse wounds long past? I wonder if it doesn’t start with the definition of forgive.

The definitions I found focus on granting pardon, or ceasing to blame or resent. These definitions assume that a wrong has been committed. If it has been committed against me, then I must be a victim.

But what if we question that assumption? What if no wrong has been committed? A Course in Miracles teaches that all perception of attack is based on a mistaken belief that we are separate from each other. Our whole view of the world is a creation of our egos, based in a past that isn’t real. Forgiveness is the miracle that corrects that mistake.

Hmm, I can get my head around this sometimes for a few moments when I am in a very deep kumbaya place of oneness. But much of the time, I am in a world of separate people who sometimes hurt my feelings or irritate me. When I am in pain, it’s hard to shift my world view to erase perceived transgressions as though they never happened.

But what if I could transform them? Not by traditional forgiveness that maintains a wronged victim model, but by radical forgiveness that is based on a victimless model that leads to gratitude. Gratitude...not a word we often associate with forgiveness.

Here’s how it might work.

1. First I have to acknowledge what has happened. Tell my story and feel my feelings about it. I’ll use an example from childhood when my best friend sided with the popular kids at a party, joining them in making fun of me, and excluding me from the group. It still hurts.

2. That hurt can manifest as anger and judgment, and create an obstacle to forgiveness. I can increase my suffering by trying to control what I can’t control. I might want my friend to behave differently. I might want her to be sorry. I might want her to stand up for me and tell off all those prissy little you know whats. So the next step is to befriend my pain rather than trying to deny it. The Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh teaches us to cradle our feelings like a baby.

3. Once my pain is honored and soothed, I can begin to look below the feelings at the underlying facts. Is there another way to look at them? Instead of judging my friend’s actions as selfish and mean, could I consider that she wanted the same things I did – to be popular, to belong, to be liked, to be accepted, to be valued? Might some of my anger towards her mask envy because she was included and I wasn’t? When I start considering other interpretations, my heart softens and I begin to feel compassion instead of condemnation.

4. So far we are still using the model of wronged victim, but here is where the radical part begins. Is it possible that what happened actually benefitted me in some way? For me to consider this, I have to loosen my grip on my victim identity. In what way is my life better because of what happened? What comes to mind is how that event shaped my views about inclusion. I won’t claim to be always compassionate, but whenever I see anyone being left out, being teased or bullied, I don’t hesitate to stand up for that person. And if I am in a group, I am more sensitive to issues of inclusion, making sure that everyone has a place at the table. As a parent, I was more attuned to these issues in the lives of my children, helping them cope if they were the targets, and imposing quick justice and education if they targeted others.

5. Thinking of that long ago event in this light transforms my friend’s actions from an attack to a gift. The pain is transformed into compassion. I am transformed from a victim to a more sensitive friend, a wiser parent, a more aware person. Forgiveness is transformed into the pearl of gratitude. And gratitude leads to joy.

It is a miracle, after all. And all miracles are radical.

You meant it for harm, but God meant it for good. –Genesis 50:20

related posts: New Best Friend; The F Word; Forgiveness, the Final Frontier

Sunday, March 25, 2012

I'm a Finder, not a Seeker

Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened to you. –Matthew 7:7

At our last monthly discussion group, someone said something about focusing on the journey, not the destination. That reminded me of all the “seekers” of the 60s and early 70s. Seeking enlightenment in India, seeking experience in LSD, seeking peace at protests, seeking love in sex, seeking simplicity in going back to the land, sometimes seeking just to be seeking. “I’m a seeker” was a popular phrase.

I was one of them. I traveled the world with a backpack, I marched in Washington, I lived off the land in Montana. Always seeking.

When the topic came up at our meeting, I realized that I at some point along the way, I didn’t want to be a seeker anymore. I wanted to be a finder. The title to this blog, after all, is not seeking your happy place; it’s finding your happy place...and staying there.

So I sought and I knocked. And, as promised, the door opened and I found. I found what Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz found. Home. My happy place. Right where it has always been. Here. Now. In this holy instant. And in this one.

Well, said the person at the meeting, that’s great, but how do you get there? That’s just it. We are here. Everyone. We can block our awareness of it, like clouds block the sun, but the sun shines on whether we see it or not.

Our task is not to seek; our task is to remove, to remove everything that blocks us from the light. Unlike the sun, though, this light is not out there. It’s inside. The eternal flame that burns in my soul and yours. Sculptors say that when they look at a piece of marble, they see the form inside and simply chip away at the outside until the beauty is revealed.

So it is with us. We chip away until we see our own reflection, right there where it always was. So beautiful. So perfect. Shining free.

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face. Now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. –1 Corinthians 13:12

Related post: You Can Go Home Again

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Why Men Are Scared To Be Happy

Today's post is a guest post from Stuart Mills in the UK. You might know Stuart from his site Unlock the Door. He has recently launched a new site Limitless Believing.

Man – the breadwinner, hunter-gatherer, and proverbial ‘tough cookie’ of the family.

Men in today’s world are perceived differently than how they used to be – in years gone by, men were expected to provide for the family, to not show any signs of weakness, and to make all the decisions whilst the wife and/or servants did all the chores.

In present-day society however, men are different. Homosexuality is now widely accepted in the western world, men are no longer the sole breadwinner of the family, and some fashions even have men wearing make-up.

But what is this doing to men?

What Today’s Society Is Doing To Men

Men of all ages are feeling the transformational effects of the society of today, whether they agree with it or not.

It’s now socially acceptable for a man to wear the colour pink, although this would have been frowned upon and laughed at 50 years ago. It’s also OK for a man to stay at home all day and lounge around doing nothing, when 100 years ago, this would be criticised.

A number of other things are OK for men to do or be, and yet if you look back at the Victorian era, or even the World Wars, these things just weren’t acceptable at all. Some would even be shocking.

The effect that the changes in society are having on women is, overall, good – women are earning more in the workplace, whereas in the past they weren’t even allowed in the workplace. Women have more rights as human beings, they’re allowed to dress how they wish, and they’re free to say whatever they choose. The effects of society on men, however, are not as beneficial.

Men, as a group, are suffering from confusion over who they are meant to be. With the ever-increasing divergence of what men can, and can’t do, the role of the man is no longer crystal clear. Like with women, men’s accepted behaviours have widened, but this means that the roles of the two genders are balancing out. Men no longer have ‘power’ and ‘authority’, and this means that they begin to lose their perceived identity.

More importantly, they begin to lose their happiness.

Why Do Men Struggle To Be Happy?

The feeling that men can be happy is perfectly justified – men, like every other creature on this planet that can understand happiness, deserve happiness as a right. However, a lot of men struggle to be happy in the world of today, instead preferring to put happiness aside for the sake of other pursuits.

Why do they do this? One reason is because although the roles of men and women are more balanced today, some men still feel that they need to ‘do it all’, and assume the burden or responsibility alone. Some men need to feel like ‘men’.

These men will work long hours at their job to bring more money, will bring their work home with them (either physically or mentally), and will forsake spending more time with their loved ones for the sake of earning more income for the household. This is the traditional view of men - a view that is now obsolete in today’s society, but which some men still cling to.

Why do they cling to this view? It may be down to the pressure they feel to provide – if some men aren’t providing for their loved ones, they aren’t ‘true’ men.

They will find reasons to criticise themselves for not being ‘man enough’ and taking responsibility, so they may pursue other ‘manly’ things such as drinking at the local bar, or gambling. As long as they are doing something manly, then they tell themselves that what they are doing is ‘right’.

Another reason why men struggle to be happy is because society is asking them to fulfil conflicting objectives. On the one hand, men are directed towards having a successful career and making a lot of money. On the other hand, men are advised to be ‘free’ and spend more time with their loved ones. Women are now also capable of having successful careers, so man’s exclusivity to this role has vanished.

With the role of a ‘house-husband’ being touted, and with a financial economy that is constantly criticised, it’s become apparent that men no longer know who they are, and what role they’re meant to play in society.

In other words, men aren’t happy because men don’t know what will make them happy.

What Can Men Do To Be Happy?

It’s such a shame that men base their identities on what society dictates. I myself used to think that I had to conform to what society told me to do – I assumed that I had to provide for my future family, and gain qualifications which would lead to a successful career.

Today, I have changed my outlooks and think in terms of the individual. I no longer feel pressured by outside influences because I look at everyone as an individual, rather than a mass group of society.

This is what all men can do to be happy – view everyone as an individual. We have all been conditioned by outside forces, such as our parents, teachers, and mass society, to behave in a certain way and fulfil certain obligations. As such, the man’s individuality is lost when he pursues the dreams of society rather than his own.

I’d advise disposing of the 'dream' of society, and what other people expect, and follow each person’s own individual path.

As I discussed in my latest article, other people pass on their limiting beliefs, ‘infecting’ you with limiting beliefs of your own. This stifles happiness and individuality - a large-scale infection has taken place in today’s men, caused by a changing society.

To remove this infection, and embrace happiness, you must remove the limiting belief that you’ve inherited. You must cleanse yourself and learn to love yourself for who you are, rather than what others think you should be.

Happiness comes from being true to you – in order for men to be happy, they must abandon the roles that society expects of them, once and for all. Once this is done and the man is no longer dependent on others to tell him who he is, he is free.

Millions of people worldwide are restricted from living the life of their dreams by the limiting beliefs that control them. If you want to break those limiting beliefs and live life your way, then visit Stuart Mills at Limitless Believing, and subscribe here.

[note from Galen--I will be away from the computer Friday to Sunday, so please excuse any delay in publishing your valuable and valued comments.]

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Curiosity of Not Knowing

I was delighted when Therese at Musings and Photography asked me to write a guest post. I have long admired the matching of her photography talents with her thoughtful reflections on her photos. She suggested that I link one of her photos to some aspect of my blog.

The photo I picked is this one. Click here to continue reading.

Friday, March 16, 2012

She was Never Bored!

I was chatting recently at the breakfast table with daughters Lily and Mia about plans for the day. Mia, my string-of-firecrackers-energy kid is always amazed that I find spending several days at the cabin without phone or internet or cable appealing. Or meditating. Or enjoying a cup of hot tea and a good book. Or being retired.

When I told her my plans for the day, which sounded pretty low key compared to hers, she asked me the question she often asks when she contemplates my life. “Aren’t you bored?” To which I replied with my usual answer. “I am never bored!”

Mia laughed and joked that my headstone should read, “She was never bored!” Lily, bless her heart, was shocked at a reference to my future demise, especially such an irreverent one, and reprimanded Mia. But I thought it was funny and perfect. I made them promise that if I ever had a headstone, they would put that on it.

It’s true. I am never bored.

But the conversation made me reflect a bit more deeply. I tried to remember the last time I was aware of feeling bored. Oh, yes, I remembered right away. It was a time years ago when I was going through a dark spell, which I attributed to the evil doings of someone I had had a serious falling out with. I spent months blaming this other person. I thought about it, wrote about it, and talked about it to anyone I could corner to listen.

Eventually, I settled into a rut. Nothing new was happening. I was just retelling the same old victim story. Over and over. Finally, one day I listened to myself and I thought, “I am so bored! I can’t stand myself anymore. If I hear this story one more time I’m going to ... I don’t know what!” That was the end of that. And the beginning of the path that has led me to now.

I learned two things from that period. One was that focusing on myself all the time is boring. Focusing on my problems all the time is excruciatingly boring. When I tired of my story and started paying attention to other people and the world around me, life got more interesting. My own problems moved to a back seat. Later I realized that my problems were largely of my own making, and that I could make a different choice. So they disappeared altogether. Life got better and better.

The second thing I learned was that my friends are better friends than I am. They stuck by me all those months. Long suffering is the term that comes to mind. They listened to me pick apart all that had happened. Again and again. They listened to me lash out with blame in self-righteous fury. Again and again. They could have read every book on the NY Times bestseller list with the hours they spent listening to me. I am awed and humbled by their patience and compassion. I doubt I could match it.

I love my life now. I play a small role in it. The story is so much more interesting that way. And I am never bored.

Related posts: It’s Not About You; God Bless That Ol’ @#&!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Unkindest Cut

For Brutus, as you know, was Caesar's angel.
Judge, O you gods, how dearly Caesar lov'd him!
This was the most unkindest cut of all;
For when the noble Caesar saw him stab,
Ingratitude, more strong than traitors' arms,
Quite vanquish'd him: then burst his mighty


Have you ever done anything unforgivable? Has anyone done anything against you that you think is forever unforgivable?

Who are our favorite targets of eternal unforgiveness? Perhaps an ex. Parents, of course, are often high on the list. Sometimes political or spiritual leaders who have betrayed our trust. Someone who has committed an act of violence against us or against someone we love. Someone who has hurt our children. Or any children. And, secretly perhaps, ourselves.

If we start our list of those from whom we would withhold forgiveness, we might find that some of those at the top are people we once loved. Maybe we still do. Like Caesar, we are most vulnerable to those to whom we have exposed our tender hearts. From those, we receive the unkindest cuts of all.

Therapists’ couches are populated with legions come to exorcise the demons of childhood, set upon them by well meaning or sometimes not so well meaning parents, by bullies, by best friends gone bad. At some point, forgiveness will enter the conversation, and become the key to freedom and moving on.

Not long after my mother died, I had a dream about her. In the dream she was standing alone chest deep in a small, shallow pond, fully clothed. She looked confused and disoriented. She tried to move to the side of the pond to get out, but wherever she turned, she couldn’t seem to reach the edge. I was standing nearby. Initially, I felt detached, like a neutral observer, but as I watched, I felt my heart slowly soften and I was filled with such deep, sad compassion. I wanted to take her in my arms and lift her up out of the water. I wanted to wrap her in warm blankets and stroke her hair and soothe her with lullabies.

When I woke up, I knew that whatever grievances I still harbored had dissolved. I saw her as she was, as we all are, perfect in her imperfection, loving in her own way, battling her own demons as best she could. A lot like me.

At some point in our lives, most of us find ourselves in our own pond of murky water, not sure how we got in there, not seeing how to get out. There are secrets lurking in the water. Draining the pond will give us a way out but will expose what we want to keep hidden. A tough choice.

A memory that still crushes my chest with shame is something that happened when my son James was two. At that time, I was living in Abidan, Ivory Coast, and I had traveled with him to Dakar, Senagal, where I was scheduled to participate in a panel discussion. Earlier that day, I had taken a ferry with some friends to do some sightseeing. As we were walking onto the dock to head back, I was horrified to see the ferry casting off. Somehow we had misjudged the time. Waiting till the next ferry would cause me to miss the panel. The ferry was still close enough to the dock that people, who like me had apparently thought they had more time, were reaching out and grabbing the rail, and stepping across to board.

Easy enough, but for me to do that, I had to hand my toddler to someone standing at the rail, so that my hands were free to get on board myself. I can remember like I am reliving it right now holding him out across the water while a friend reached out from the boat. I could see that she had him, but still I held on, asking her several times to assure me that she had him. She did. Letting go of him above that dark, oily water was terrifying. She clasped him in her arms while I easily took hold of the rail and jumped on board. I made it in time to the panel, but my mind was still on that dock, that moment of handing him over seared on my soul like a brand.

I’ll tell you I did much worse things than that as a mother. Things I have acknowledged and moved on from. So why is that that scene, even now decades later, now as I dredge it up from the murky depths of my dark pond of secrets to write the words, causes my heart to pound like the tell-tale heart of Poe? In my rational mind, I know James was not in any danger. But in my mother mind, terrorized by goblins of the night, I have a secret fear that in that moment I was more concerned about being late to speak, about letting people down and the attendant embarrassment, than I was about my child.

True or not, it doesn’t matter. I’ll never know. But how do I forgive myself for that? The unkindest cuts of all, the ones that haunt us, are sometimes ones we inflict upon ourselves.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

I Totally Don't Know What That Means

In a TV commercial for DirecTV, Jessica Simpson, in her Daisy Duke short shorts, serves beer to some good ol’ boys at their table in the honky tonk. When one of them slaps her on the derriere, she kicks his chair over and pins him on the floor with her spike heel on his throat. As he writhes, she tells him the wonders of DirecTV using technical jargon like pixels. Then she looks into the camera and drawls, “I totally don’t know what that means, but I want it.”

I never thought I would have anything in common with Jessica Simpson, but I totally get this commercial! As some of you have noticed, I’ve added a Facebook page to my blog. And I’m grateful to those of you who “like” it. I’m trying to figure out how to “like” you back.

Like Daisy, I don’t know what that means. I’ve also added share buttons at the end of posts. I don’t know what that means either. I do indeed like your blogs, and I’m happy to click a button that makes that official. And sharing sounds, well, nice. But I confess I’m a bit lost in all this social media technology mumbo jumbo.

So please bear with me as I take some baby steps to catch up to all y’all racing ahead. I feel a bit like the new kid in school...on another planet! And please forgive me for all the social media faux pas I have already made and will no doubt continue to make. I generally have good manners, but right now I’m not sure what good manners look like or how to practice them in this new milieu. Please don’t hesitate to instruct me in these matters.

I’m going to be tinkering with the blog in some other ways, too, to make it more user friendly and to offer some new things. So please pardon the construction dust.

Right now, I think I will go make some tea and read a book. Now that I understand.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Rise and Shine

The sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being. –Carl Jung

I spend a lot of time reading and thinking and talking about happiness. People sometimes question the value of what might seem to be a self-centered pursuit. How can we focus on happiness when there is so much suffering in the world? Indeed, how can caring people turn their backs on hunger and disease and violence and poverty to seek inner peace and contentment? How dare we close our eyes to the ugliness and terror in the world and go about with hearts full of joy?

Is that what happiness is? Massive denial and self-delusion? A heart hardened to the reality of pain? The refuge of fools and princes?

I’m going to go out on a limb here and make a radical statement. I believe that the most generous, selfless, precious gift we can give the world is to awaken our natural state of calm, abiding joy. It’s always there, just a breath away. It’s where we came from. It’s our home.

We don’t need to kindle a light. It already burns brightly. It always has and always will. If we remove whatever blocks its light, it will shine forth in the darkness.

And oh, how much darkness there is these days. I just finished an historical novel about the war in Biafra. I remember the photos of the starving children with swollen bellies from that time. We see the same faces and swollen bellies of children starving today in so many places, while war and violence spread across borders and through neighborhoods. Fear continues to infect American politics, fear that arrived on airplanes and has spread like cancer ever since. Newsweek magazine features Chinese women billionaires on its cover, while Tibetan dissidents are jailed. Children are killing children in schools. The weight of despair threatens to crush us all.

We want to make things better, but how? Not by doing more of the same. One definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, thinking you will get a different result. Doing more of the same is what blocks our light. Buddha recognized that Hatred never ceases by hatred, but by love alone is healed.

Gandhi exhorted us all to be the change we want to see. What change do we want to see? A world that is safe? Then be safe. A world that is kind? Then be kind. A world that is not driven by fear? Then fear not. A world permeated with joy? Then be joyful. A world no longer shrouded in darkness? Then be light.

One of the lessons in A Course in Miracles says “I am the light of the world.” Although that might sound arrogant, the Course explains that this is not a statement of the ego, but a humble acknowledgment of the purpose we all share – to shower fear with love, to soothe hatred with compassion, to comfort despair with joy.

From one candle burning bright, a thousand candles can be lit.

Arise, shine, for your light has come.... –Isaiah 60:1

Related posts: Put Your Oxygen Mask On First; Look Out...It’s Contagious!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Reflections on Lent

When Marie asked me to write a guest post about Lent, I almost declined. Although my faith community is Christian, I feel unqualified to speak with any knowledge or experience about a church season that often passes beneath my spiritual radar. Wouldn’t someone with better Christian credentials than I have be a better spokesperson? No doubt.

And yet, who better than a person with imperfect faith to speak about a season of reflection, penance, and devotion? Maybe I’m exactly the kind of person that spiritual seasons like Lent are meant to call.

Read the rest at Diary of a Heart in Transit.

Related post: Spiritual Simplicity, There is No Them

Friday, March 2, 2012

You Can Choose Happiness Despite the Obstacles

I’m delighted to introduce my first guest blogger, Ken Wert of Meant to be Happy, winner of The Best Personal Development Blog 2011.

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” ~ Gandhi

Happiness is no arbitrary emotion.

Granted, happiness may often be experienced as a fleeting condition, but it is not due to some unpredictable set of circumstances that spontaneously creates it then equally spontaneously runs off with it.

Happiness is, in fact, the predictable result of the correct and consistent application of certain timeless principles of thought, attitude, belief and behavior.

In other words, human happiness is largely a product of choice. We can simply choose to be happy. But what does that mean in light of the obstacles to happiness that so often get in the way of the experience?

Following, are three of those obstacles that can limit happiness and ways we can grant ourselves permission to be happy anyway.

Obstacle #1: Dwelling on Negatives

Roses come with thorns. Sunshine gives us life and sunburns. People are dual natured with both character strengths and character flaws. Spring indiscriminately brings us flowers and weeds. Cars transport us to our families and they sometimes crash into them. Parents give their children life and they give them neurotic complexes as well.

In other words, life is a mixed bag.

Just about every good has an element of bad somehow connected to it. Almost all positives have a negative flipside. Every silver lining has its cloud. All light has at its outer edge, darkness.

But here’s the thing: We have the power to pick which side to pay attention to. What we choose to focus on determines the level of happiness we experience even as roses prick fingers and sun burns skin and parents parent imperfectly.

It’s our choice to see the flower or the weeds below it. The direction of our gaze determines our view. We can choose to focus on what we love or what we hate at work. We choose to pay attention to the ugliness of the nightly news or the goodness played out everyday in our neighborhoods and families.

The choice is ours and ours alone. It’s in the tilt of our heads, the perspective we choose to look on life with, the condition of our thoughts and the quality of our choices.

And still so many people choose to pick and criticize, complain, whine, moan and groan about all that’s ugly and negative around them. They forget that rain brings more than wetness and cold. It also brings life. They forget that our challenges bring more than pain and sorrow and difficulty. They can provide us opportunities to build character and inner strength as well.

We so often and too easily forget to recognize that there is so much more than the things we don’t like in life. While the rose does indeed have thorns, every thorn is also attached to the branch or stem of a rose. You see, it’s all in the way we choose to see things.

So grant yourself permission to be happy, right now. Simply allow life to be the mess it often is with all its dual conditions of something good associated with something undesirable. We can choose to see the ugly, dirty side of life or the birth of beauty that so often springs out of the muck and mire.

Obstacle #2: Self-Doubt

We may have been raised by critical parents. Or perhaps we were compared to a sibling or neighbor. Maybe it’s the media constantly showing us what we’re not. Or possibly it’s just a part of our flawed natures. But whatever its source, we are very good at doubting ourselves.

The problem, of course, is that self-doubt often leads to immobility. We stop and hesitate and stutter in our steps toward the life we dream of.

But we can give ourselves permission to act in the face of our doubts. We can grant ourselves the right to be human. We can grant ourselves permission to doubt, and then rise above those doubts, letting doubt have its say, then ignoring its plea to remain in the spot we’ve stayed in for too long.

And yet self-doubt seems to keep finding its way back home despite the actions we take and the growth we experience.

We look in the mirror and see flaws while we look at others and see only perfection. We feel uncomfortable, sometimes even within our own comfort zones. We secretly think others are better, prettier, cooler, smarter. Our insides ache to overcome our insecurities and yet they seem to follow us wherever we go.

We look at the facts and see the results and know the meaning of so many parts of who we are and what we’ve done cracked and broken on the sidewalk of our lives. There is a map, a history, an autobiographical reality we can look at and weigh and measure and in each category of life, it’s clear that we just don’t measure up.

And so what!

It simply doesn’t matter. At all. So give yourself permission to be imperfect. I know I don’t look like Brad Pitt or think like Albert Einstein or have the success of Bill Gates!

And chances are that you don’t look like a super model or dress like a movie star or play piano like a concert pianist or have the character of Mother Teresa. What’s it all mean?

Oh yeah, NOTHING!

Grant yourself the permission needed to simply be who you are at this moment! Learn. Grow. Improve. But accept yourself today as you learn and grow.

In the end, we can dwell on what we don’t have and don’t like or on what we do have and do like. Neither attitude will change reality. But the former certainly changes the way we feel about it.

Obstacle #3: Trials and Tribulations

Mom may have hit you. Or maybe dad abused you. Life crashed and pinched you into a corner and just kept beating and beating and beating down on you in a relentless avalanche of adversity. And so no one really understands you. No one can fully empathize with you. Life hurts and is unfair and you feel it just couldn’t care less about you.

And some of that very well may be true. Still, life is full of two kinds of abused people: Those who define their reality by the abuse they experienced and those who tuck it away on a back shelf and create a new reality for themselves that is much bigger and more compelling than their abuse ever dreamt of becoming.

You have permission to live your life free of the shackles of the past. You have permission to stand and punch your way through the challenges of life, no longer letting history predict your future.

Grant yourself the permission needed to discard old, worn-out thoughts and replace them with new, vibrant ones, ones focused on the rose, the warmth of the sun and what is happening here, right now.

See the birds singing, the kids laughing, the music playing. Be filled with gratitude that the heart is pumping, the eyes seeing, your thoughts still, calm, at peace, focused on the moment, on what’s happening now, around you, above you, under your feet, inside the miracle called your body, between you and the person you’re with.

As you focus on now, yesterday and all its disappointments and even its horrors are replaced by a simple joy, a single thread of recognition strung into an eternal point called The Present.

Each present moment evaporating into the next present moment, leaves no room to mourn over a former life no longer directly under your feet.


Obstacles abound. Detours litter the road of life. Some of that road will be washed out, muddy, swampy, precariously dangerous. But happiness is not a prize waiting at the end of the road. It can be carried with us as we travel it, safely tucked away in the chambers of our hearts.

But how does it get there? We give ourselves permission to hold it there by virtue of the choices we make in spite of the challenges we face. In other words, we grant ourselves permission.

Ken Wert is a teacher and personal development blogger at Meant to be Happy where he inspires readers to live with purpose, act with character, think with clarity and grow with courage. Sign up for his free eBook, A Walk Through Happiness and newsletter! Connect with him on Twitter.