Tag Archives: executive coaching

Would you like to handle criticism better?

Introduction

Podcast_Life_ToolsReceiving criticism from others can often be a painful experience, but it doesn’t need to be that way. And, as we go through life, we are bound to get criticized.

So have a listen to today’s podcast and hopefully it will lead you to respond to criticism in a more generative fashion in the future.

Once you get to the podcast on the site, you will see that we have started to include an outline of the key points in each podcast. If you are in a hurry or just like to read what the podcast is about, this should help.

Before you listen to the podcast you might want to scroll down to the “Musings” section of this newsletter and read what I have to say about criticism.

Podcast - how to change careers

Musings…

Newsletter_rockWhat I have learned over time is that giving and receiving criticism is a scary task for many people. Often in giving criticism we worry about the possibility of offending the other person, and in receiving criticism we often feel unappreciated or hurt.

Let me share with you here some of what I have learned in regard to receiving criticism, and then in today’s podcast I will delve into this topic in greater depth.

  1. The more I tend to criticize myself in a given situation, the more I struggle when receiving criticism from others.  At such times I wind up saying something to myself that goes like this, “Gee, I knew what I did wasn’t perfect, but it can’t be as bad as this person is saying!” In such instances what I find is that the criticism I receive actually matches what I thought and that I should have worked some more on the project at hand before asking someone to critique what I have done.
  2. Usually it is not a good idea to ask for criticism on a task or project that you are not fully pleased with. If you are going to ask for criticism on some work that you know still isn’t fully complete, then you will do well to create a clear context for your counterpart. For instance, you might want to say “I know this article is not yet written as well as it could be, but I want feedback on is whether or not you find the main concept to be well thought out.” When you create a clear context like this you make the task of your counterpart a whole lot easier and you will likely find what they have to say, easier to take in.
  3. You might want to let your counterpart know what style of critique will serve you best. Here is a high quality way to ask for critique. You write or say the following to your counterpart: “I would like you to critique the writing I have just done. What would help me most is if you start out telling me what, if anything, you like about the writing, and then let me know about everything and anything you think could be better or different.” Once again, if you ask your counterpart to follow the method you just laid out to them, I think your counterpart will feel more comfortable giving you critique, and you will be much better able to take in what they have to say. If your counterpart leads with a bit of praise, it makes their eventual criticism much more palatable.
  4. Keep in mind that in most instances your counterpart is wanting to be helpful and not hurtful. Most of the time when someone gives youcriticism their intention is to help you, and it is important to keep their positive intent in mind. In receiving criticism, it is good to realize that there is a positive (perhaps hidden) message in even the most stinging critique, and that often strong criticism is a sign that your counterpart feels close enough to you to speak their truth, but they might not be able to deliver it effectively or as gently as we would like. So be thankful for the critique, rather than feeling devastated by the critique.
  5. Ask yourself, “What can I learn from this criticism that will help me to do better in the future?” Uncover the positive learning the criticism offers you, and then focus on how you will use what you have learned the next time you face a similar situation

If you take these five points to heart, you will respond to criticism in a more positive manner in the future.

If you would like to learn a good deal more about what I have to share on this topic, please have a listen to our podcast.

In Community,
Charlie_Signature_Final

A good method to help you change careers

Introduction

Podcast_Life_ToolsWell, after nine days in Chiang Mai, Thailand, I must say it is a bit cold here in Tokyo!

Like I said in the last newsletter, this is a good time of the year to think about the direction your life is moving towards. And that is why I was in Chiang Mai, to see if I might like to move there. Not sure yet, but it seems like a good possibility.

How about you? Thinking about making any changes in your life? In today’s podcast we interview Nick Corcodilos, a professional career coach. We are doing two podcasts in a row involving possible career changes because we believe that having a career that is right for you will go a long way towards helping you to feel at peace with your life.

Nick offers some great advice on how to go about changing your career, and I think the advice he gives can help anyone wanting to make a significant shift in their lives. So have a listen and hopefully you will benefit from what Nick has to share.

Before you listen to the podcast you might want to go down to the “Musings” section of this newsletter and read what I have to say about considering the life changes that will benefit you most.

If you have already subscribed to our free podcast via iTunes or another podcast player, open your player and today’s podcast should show up automatically. If you would like to listen to today’s podcast on our site (and you can download it there as well), then please click on the button just below.

Podcast - how to change careers

Musings…

Newsletter_rockIn the course of my life I have come to realize that “change” is an ongoing, never-ending process. We move from childhood into being adults, and then we age over time. Along the way, everything in and around us changes. Our work, our relationships, and our concept of self, others, and life in general. And if you have looked in the mirror lately you will likely have noticed that a few wrinkles wind up showing up here and there as well.

Sitting here now, I remember a warm summer day when I was nine years old. I had just been given a prize after getting off a ride on a truck that used to come around our neighborhood during the summer. And what a prize it was! A large Davy Crockett tattoo showing my hero Davy slaying a wild bear. But then the worst of all possible things happened… In the course of transferring the tattoo to my chest, my dad got the tattoo all wet and the ink smeared and the image was no longer an image – unless you were into deciphering Rorschach ink blots. And this was the first time in my life I can remember crying, and cry I did, because I was devastated.

But guess what? Looking back at this event now from the age of sixty-five, I can realize that it did not change the course of my life, and the “disaster” did not prove to be nearly as severe as I felt it was then. Lucky for me that is!

I think the “meaning” of the events and relationships that take place during the course of our lives has a lot to do with our perspective. I was nine years old when my tattoo disaster took place and Davy Crockett was a bigger than life hero for me. Thus when Davy got washed away I felt that an important part of me was also washed away. But now, having matured considerably, I can see that both Davy and the tattoo were figments of my imagination, much like the rest of my life both before and after.

I think that this feeling of being “washed away” shows up especially when we are not prepared for what winds up taking place. I can think of several more times in my life when I had this same washed away feeling of devastation, and yet somehow I not only survived, but I wound up thriving. You see, I think the hard times I have faced have been the catalysts that led to me becoming resilient and learning how to take “the good” along with “the bad”. I believe that we learn much more from our perceived failures than we do from our successes. And yes, I will be the first to say that being successful feels a heck of a lot better than facing up to our failures. But facing up to our failures is really what determines are life going forward.

In order to give ourselves the best chance of having a healthy perspective about life in general and our place in life, we will do well to take the time to be mindful. You can achieve a lot by simply being mindful of what you are doing in the moment, rather than thinking about other things past and present. You can also be mindful by unplugging from your everyday life and concerns and focusing on nothing in particular and everything in general. Listen to, see, feel, and hear, everything taking place in and around you, and notice how even in the wildest times of change, you can experience stillness in the eye of the storm.

I would be remiss to not mention that the experience of being mindful is an experience you can cultivate by engaging in our stress management program! 🙂

In today’s podcast, Nick suggests a path you can take when considering a career change, and I think that what he offers can be a good formula for the many changes you might be considering. In my way of thinking, he suggests a way to align your heart with your head. When you are able to do this your path forward will become clearer, and you will feel that you do indeed have viable options.

If you would like to further explore whether or not you might like to change the course of your life, please have a listen to our podcast. And, if you’d like to know more about Nick, you can find him at http://www.asktheheadhunter.com/.

In Community,
Charlie_Signature_Final

Are you on the right career path?

Introduction

Podcast_Life_ToolsWell, once again we are launching into a new year, and I am wishing everyone the best.

To me this is a good time of the year to think about what direction your life is moving towards and what you might like to do differently this time around. I am not talking about making a bunch of lofty resolutions, but rather I suggest thinking about what actions you can take to do some things differently. Little baby steps that will lead to “different”, life affirming results.

Slow down, breathe more, and take one step at a time in a positively oriented direction. If you do so the overall quality of your life will improve and you will feel more empowered. Little by little, baby step by baby step.

Along the line of thinking about what changes you might want to make in your life, today’s podcast is meant to help you decide if you are on the right career path.

I present a tool that I often use with clients, and my clients have told me they also find this tool to be quite useful in deciding on whether or not they are in the “right” relationship with a significant other. So have a listen and hopefully you will benefit from what we have to teach.

Go down to the “Musings” section of this newsletter and read what I have to say about deciding if you are on the right career path.

And as you scroll down, please take a moment to notice that my book “Pure Heart Simple Mind- Wisdom stories from a life in Japan” is now available and on sale in electronic format (PDF). Many people have written telling me how the book has really been nourishing for them, and you might find that the same is true for you.

If you have already subscribed to our free podcasts via iTunes or another podcast player, open your player and today’s podcast should show up automatically. If you would like to listen to today’s podcast on our site (and you can download it there as well), then please click on the button just below.

Listen_Newsletter

Musings…

Newsletter_rockIn the course of my work, I meet many people who feel trapped in their current job. Sometimes they don’t care for the company they are working for, sometimes they no longer have interest in the field they are working in, and some people feel like they don’t have the skills to be doing anything else. And thus people wind up feeling trapped.

I can tell you from my work that a lot of people have a lot of pain around the issue of what they “should” be doing work-wise. It can be really horrible going to work everyday when you are unhappy with what you are doing. Because of the suffering I see people going through, Tony and I decided to do today’s podcast.

You will have the best chance of excelling in a career when it is suitable, appropriate, and agreeable to your whole self. Fairly often I find that my clients are engaged in a career, or wanting to engage in a career that really doesn’t fit who they are, and thus they struggle. They have one foot on the gas and their other foot on the brake, and when they struggle they tend to think they must be doing something wrong. But their problem stems from their attempting to engage in a career that really isn’t a good fit for who they are and what they want out of life.

The way I see this situation usually play out is for every reason a person has for wanting a different career, they have at least one other reason why they feel they “can’t” change. Financial reasons, family reasons, or simply because they don’t have any other clear skills that they feel they can use in order to forge a new career. The outcome is that people feel trapped and they wind up with the feeling that their is out of control.

In today’s podcast we suggest a path that we often suggest- Working with one of our tools to see how you can align your heart with your head; your thinking mind with your emotions. When you are able to do this, the path forward will become clearer, and you will feel that you do indeed have viable options. And yes, viable options does not mean your path forward will be “easy”. Few things that are really worth accomplishing in life are “easy”. It is the ongoing effort you give that makes your goals that much more satisfying when you get to the other side.

If you would like to further explore whether or not you are on the right path in life, please have a listen to our podcast.

In Community,
Charlie_Signature_Final

Say yes to success

Introduction

Today’s podcast is in a different format than usual. Today you are going to start out by listening to a coaching session that I did during a teleclass for my friend Molly Gordon. Molly is a coach and savant for entrepreneurs. Her work is life affirming and her website has many great resources.

To set the scene for today’s podcast, I ask for a volunteer to coach, and a lovely lady by the name of Pam steps up. During the course of the coaching I help Pam develop a clearer sense of what “being successful” means to her, and how she can more fully live her success. After the coaching session is over Tony and I debrief the session and give you further insights.

We believe that offering you a live coaching session will be a good way to illustrate how Seishindo Life Tools can be used in the “real world”.

I hope you will read through my Musings further on down the page, and when you are done reading, please have a listen to our podcast.

If you would like to listen to today’s podcast on our site (and you can download it as well), then please click on this link: Say yes to success.

If you have already subscribed to our free podcasts via iTunes or another podcast player, today’s podcast will show up automatically the next time you open the application you use. That is the beauty of subscribing to a podcast!

In Community,
Charlie_Signature_Final

Musings…

What happens for many of us is that without realizing it, we often have competing goals and desires.

We say that we want to be successful, and or emotionally fulfilled, and yet we find ourselves not fully agreeing with our stated intention.

So in order to properly prepare yourself to truly fulfill the desires you have, it is important to make a simple statement about what it is you truly want, and then sit with that statement and feel into whether or not your stated intention really resonates with you. Can you set a goal and then not internally quibble with yourself about what your goal means to you, and whether or not you truly want to do what it takes to achieve your goal?

As always, I suggest that you set a simple goal that focuses on the positive results you want to achieve, rather than getting caught up in contemplating what you are wanting to do away with. The simpler your stated goal, the better. When you focus on the positive you keep your thinking mind and spirit moving in a positive direction. When your whole self says “Yes” to your goal you will be that much more likely to achieve what you desire.

My suggestion is this- Make a simple statement of intent, and then sit there quietly and notice whether there is a part of you saying “No” or “Maybe”. If there is a part of yourself that questions or disagrees with your goal, it is crucial to appreciate what this part of you is wanting to communicate. Rework your stated intention as many times as necessary until you finally make a statement that your whole self says “Yes” to. When you do away with any and all internal conflict you will find that you are much better able to utilize all of the many resources you have available to you.

So take your time, and sit gently with yourself. Is your initial goal perhaps a goal that you no longer truly desire? Is your initial goal perhaps driven by what someone else wants for you, rather than what you want? Is your initial goal perhaps based upon a set of values that you no longer really believe in? Is your initial goal really something that will help you to live the life you truly desire?

Keep listening to yourself and keep feeling what your whole self has to say. If your rational mind says “Yes” but your emotional self says “No” then you need to delve deeper, to find the statement that truly satisfies all of you. Sit, wait, listen, and feel. When your whole self winds up saying “Yes” only then are you ready to finally move forward.

These are my thoughts for today, and these thoughts mirror what you will hear in today’s podcast, so please do have a listen!

In Community,
Charlie_Signature_Final

Say Yes to Success – Live Demonstration of Seishindo Life Tools in Action

Play

This podcast features a live demonstration of Charlie working with a person during a teleclass. It shows how to implement the tools of Positive Intention, Goal Setting, and “I am” statements. Charlie also expresses his ideas about what it really means to be successful.

The Risks and Rewards of Personal Freedom

Introduction

Today, I am re-publishing an article I first wrote about eight years ago. Recently a Japanese textbook publisher found this story on the internet and published it in a textbook for learning English. I got my complimentary copy late last week, and it was sweet to see the story set up in textbook format, with various vocabulary words underlined and defined. It is always wonderful to have someone show appreciation for my work, and it always brings a smile to my face when one of you writes telling me you appreciated a story from this newsletter. Thanks so much for letting me know!

Have you signed up for our complimentary stress management course yet?

If you are wanting to live a life that is more emotionally fulfilling, you can sign-up here.

I also want to invite all of you to visit the Seishindo Community Forum. We have a wide range of interesting articles and other information and we are waiting for you to visit, interact, and share with us. The more of you who sign up, the greater the pool of wisdom.
Please visit us by going here. http://www.seishindo.org/forum/

One way or the other, I would love to hear from each and every one of you!

In community,
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YOU too, can be a superhero!
The boy in a costume of superhero

2. The Risks and Rewards of Personal Freedom

One of the first things I noticed about my new parrot was that he couldn’t fly. Chico’s wing feathers had been trimmed and thus he was earthbound just like us humans. Once the weather turned nice, I took Chico and sat him on a branch of a tree in my backyard to make him happier.

At first he seemed upset. He walked back and forth on the branch looking like an anxious father walking back and forth in a maternity waiting room. I was surprised to see that he didn’t flap his wings and try and fly. Somehow he just seemed to know he couldn’t, and I always wondered how he knew such a thing.

One day while Chico was walking on the branch of the tree, he seemed even more anxious than he had been when I first took him outside months ago. He was moving back and forth and talking a lot. Then all of a sudden he stopped walking, made a deafening screech, and started madly flapping his wings for the first time ever. About three seconds later he lifted off from the branch like the space shuttle at Cape Canaveral! I was amazed and shocked. I didn’t know he had been waiting all this time for his feathers to grow back. It now seemed obvious that he had been cagily biding his time.

Chico made his break for freedom on a Monday afternoon, and by late Monday night I was pretty sure he was not going to return home. Finally on Tuesday evening Chico returned, but he stayed up on a high branch where I couldn’t reach him. I talked to him softly and showed him some food, but to no avail. Then I took his cage inside so he would not think that coming back meant getting caught again. Finally I made him a promise that if he did come back I would let him out every day when the weather was nice. Shortly after making my promise, he flew onto my shoulder and I took him upstairs.

From that day on, when the weather was good I would always let him out early and he would fly around and be back home before dark. His routine continued like this for about two months and then suddenly Chico became ill. The vet said that he had caught a disease from the pigeons in the neighborhood. Within a few days he died, and I felt conflicted and sad.

I kept thinking that if I had not set him free to fly every day, he would still be alive. But then after a week of torturing myself I realized that the quality of one’s life is much more important than the number of years one lives. After all, what does it mean to be a bird if you can’t fly?

Chico made his first flight for freedom on a Monday afternoon in April. When will you make yours? You too can take a chance when the conditions are right, knowing that in your own way, you also were born to fly. If you don’t set yourself free, what will be the purpose of your life?

It is my thought now, that the quality of your life is dependent on feeling your essence, and living the design that is you. If you are a fish your life needs to be all about swimming. If you are a bird your life needs to be all about flying and spreading your message of freedom to all you meet along the way. What is your essence? What were you put on this earth to do? If you don’t let yourself be free and express your heart you won’t be fulfilling your reason for living.

3. My Offer

If you would like some help in better understanding yourself and reinventing you life, I can likely help. You can go here to see what others have said about my coaching. http://www.seishindo.org/about-us/kudos/ Send me an email at charlie@seishindo.org and I will send you some information. If you like what you read we can have a complimentary “chemistry check” conversation so you can get a feel for how we might work together.

Regards,
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Suffering and happiness

1. Introduction

Today, I would like to introduce you to a new friend of Seishindo, her name is Melissa Tiers. Melissa is a talented hypnotist and coach whose work nicely dovetails with mine.

Melissa and I will be doing an evening presentation in NYC on April 27, entitled “Exploring the nature of change”. 

I would also like to introduce you to my long time friend and colleague, Dr. Martha Eddy. Martha has an amazing background in many different somatic modalities and Martha and I will be doing a presentation in NYC on April 28, entitled “Movement & Flow – Integral Components of Change”.

And last but not least, I would like to again remind you about the two day workshop I am doing in NYC on May 5, 6, Seishindo Mind Body Coaching”.

I am looking forward to seeing some of you in New York!

Regards,
Charlie

2. Suffering and happiness

A paradox is a kind of puzzle or riddle. A paradox is a thought, belief, or statement that appears to be contradictory or absurd but in reality expresses a truth.

From time to time we all get caught up in the paradoxical differences between “What we think and what we feel”, or “What we think is best and what we actually do.”

You’ve come face to face with this paradox if you have ever said to yourself, “I know I really should be doing X (fill in the beneficial behavior of your choice), but for some reason I just can’t get myself to do so.”

Why is it that your thinking and your doing; your thinking and your feeling, sometimes seem to contradict each other? What is this contradiction about?

I ask these questions now because I believe the answers you give can help you suffer less and be happier overall.

It seems to me that in the course of living our lives most of us lose touch with what will truly bring us happiness. We come to think that our happiness depends on other people, our accomplishments, and the wealth and power we obtain. We get a good job, marry a nice person, and perhaps even buy a new house, but often, something is still missing, and something or other feels “off”.

I believe this is so because we have yet to understand what the conditions are that lead to our truly feeling fulfilled. Indeed, it’s often our current concept of happiness that winds up preventing us from being happy!

Borrowing from the concepts of Buddhism I offer you the following thoughts to ponder:

1. Suffering is inevitable.
There’s no way around it. From time to time we all suffer.

2. Suffering has causes.
The more you can understand and take responsibility for how it is you create your suffering the more you’ll realize you are not a victim of life.

3. The more you try and avoid suffering, the more you will suffer.
A plain and simple truth!
When suffering knocks on your door, invite it in for a cup of tea. Like any other guest, after being courteous, you should kindly say that you need to attend to other matters.

4. Happiness is indeed possible, and perhaps even inevitable.
It might not always be “easy” to be happy, but happiness is always a possibility nonetheless. And no matter what, you will not be happy all the time. Neither will anyone else!

5. Happiness is one of many paths you can choose.
You discover and travel on your path towards happiness, every time you are mindful of your experience and thankful for what you do have.

6. The path of happiness is rarely a straight line.
You will invariably find that you sometimes need to follow the path life offers you in a given moment. Regardless of whether or not this path leads you straight ahead.

7. No matter how intelligent you might be, your intellect is not enough to help you understand who you are and what you truly need.
The wisdom of your body, your emotional self, and your heart, also need to be listened to and respected.

8. Nothing stays the same.
Suffering and happiness are both ephemeral. Both will come and go many times over the course of your life.

9. The reason why you’re suffering has little to do with the circumstances of your life, and everything to do with your beliefs.
The longer you believe your emotional state is due to the current circumstances of your life, the more elusive you’ll find happiness to be.

10. Cultivating happiness leads to the discovery of who you truly are.
Self-discovery and peace of mind go hand in hand.

11. The better you understand who you truly are, the more you’ll feel at home in the universe.

12. Everything is just as it should be. Nothing more, and nothing less.

I wish you all the best, in your pursuit of happiness. Many wonderful experiences await you, and from time to time, a bit of suffering as well!

Regards,
Charlie

Courage in the face of perceived failure

1. Introduction

I had a wonderful time teaching in New York City, and as always I also enjoyed the opportunity to meet some of you through private sessions while I was in town. I want to take this opportunity to thank Joel Elfman and Anson Mau for sponsoring and managing the workshop, and I also want to thank my long time friend Stephen Roger for his support of my work.

As I mentioned last time out, my forthcoming book is at the printers. We are trying to create the possibility to have it for sale by Christmas. Not sure yet, so stay tuned!

Today’s story involves work that was done at one of my previous workshops. It is common for one or two people a day, to come up and have me work with them individually in front of the group. The results of these sessions are often beautiful to behold.

In sharing this encounter, I want to let you know that- I have changed the name of the person I worked with in order to preserve her privacy, and I have also asked her permission to share her story. She was very happy to say “Yes” as she hopes that others in the Seishindo community might learn from her experience.

Charlie

2. Courage in the face of perceived failure

The fear of failure is an emotion that knocks on everyone’s door at one time or another …

Here is what “Karen” had to say about failure, when I worked with her in the front of the room at a recent workshop.

Karen and I start out as I often do, talking about various topics, as we wait for the right thread of conversation to emerge.

I have no idea what the right thread of conversation will be, but I’m confident we will find it, if we engage each other with open hearts and minds.

At some point Karen states she’s been doing a lot of meaningless work for quite some time. She says she’s been doing the work no one else in her company wanted to do. As a result of this, she says she’s lost touch with herself and her dreams.

In a heavy, dark voice she says,
“Fifty two years old, and look at me, I’m a failure!
“A broken marriage, a broken career, and nothing to show for all my suffering.”

Her words touch me deeply, and I take a deep breath to help center myself.
Then I thank her for having the courage to share such a powerful message.

“Failure or no failure,” I say, “it’s very special to be with someone who is able and willing to expose and express their pain. Standing up to one’s perceived failures, is an act of great courage.”

I take another deep breath and look around the room some, wanting everyone to know it’s OK to gently respond if they care to.

I look back at Karen and begin to tell her about some of my own failures.
I don’t have to reach too far, to recall a number of disappointments and disillusionments.

Little by little, spontaneously and honestly, most everyone in the room shares some of their failures as well.

Getting fired … A broken marriage … A broken friendship … Trouble with one’s children …
Rather quickly the list grows long, and it soon becomes apparent that no one in the room has been “only successful”.

At some point I ask the group if anyone would be willing to share their definition of “failure”.

There is silence …
And then Karen, all of a sudden looking inspired, says, “Failure is when you try to make believe you are someone other than who you are.

“Failure is when you come to believe there aren’t any viable alternatives in life, to the way you’ve been living.

“Failure is when you don’t share your experience with others because you’re convinced it’s only you who is suffering. That somehow all the madness has occurred because something is wrong with you.

“Failure is feeling you are incapable of finding satisfaction and love.”

Karen takes a deep breath, looks around, and adjusts her posture, before finally saying, “Failure is sitting slumped over as I tend to do, and feeling like you are powerless.”

Tears begin to ebb down Karen’s face, and the entire group is touched by her courage and pain.

People transition from listening with their ears, to ‘someone else’s’ experience,
To feeling with their hearts, how Karen’s words and sorrow are shared by all of us.

Such is the power of a supportive, caring community.
The courageous sharing of any one group member, can lead to the healing of all who are present.

“I” becomes “We”,
And it is this “we-dentity” that gives us the courage to stand up and face our greatest fears, and seeming shortcomings.

At such times, “failure” is transformed into a triumph of human spirit.

Simplicity

1. Introduction

Today I would like to further introduce you to the concepts of Seishindo.
It’s my hope that what you read will lead you to better understand yourself and help you live a more solution oriented life.

Please pass my newsletter on to others you feel might benefit.

Charlie

2. Simplicity

Prior to seeking solutions, look first to simplify

What I’ve learned over time, is that high quality solutions are invariably simple.

Conversely, when people feel incapable of finding a path forward, they invariably formulate their challenge in a way that’s overly complex. It’s the complication they’ve built up in their mind, that obscures their solution.

When people come to me looking for help, I carefully listen to how they describe their challenge. When looking for a needle in a haystack, the smaller the haystack the better! When you simplify your challenge, you will simplify the task of finding your solution.

Thus the first steps in a Seishindo change process involve slowing down, breathing more fully, pruning away all unnecessary complication, and feeling the emotional impact of the words spoken.

In Japanese culture, simplicity is a virtue, It’s considered to be the ultimate sophistication.
In Japanese art forms, one is meant to strive for simplicity. To do so, requires an unwavering soft focus, and clear, unfettered awareness of self and ‘other’.

When creating a bonsai,
The master simplifies and prunes away all but the bare essentials
Exposing a beauty that was previously obscured.

When we take off our masks, and share with an open heart,
We expose our beauty and free ourselves to express our hidden truth.

At such times the essence of who we are can shine through,
And find its rightful place in the world.
As we return to the innocence of childhood,
Yet bringing with us the wisdom we’ve discovered along the way.

Keep your whole self open to experience, and your connection to the many resources life has to offer you,
By gently expressing your truth, while striving to understand the hopes and fears of others.

You can find your connection to life everywhere, and at any time.
By pausing and letting your vulnerability resonate out into the world.

An open heart will lead you to the experiences and understanding that cuts through illusion.

Follow your heart,
It will guide you to a place of love, acceptance and fulfillment.

The meaning of Seishindo

In my years of study and practice, and in my everyday life, I’ve had the opportunity to experience the importance of ‘purity’ and ‘simplicity’.

What I’ve learned along the way, forms the basis for the human potential discipline I’ve created, called Seishindo.

Here’s an explanation of the kanji (Japanese pictograms) that make up the word Seishindo.

The first kanji is “Sei.”
The most basic meaning for “sei” is “refined”, but the meaning extends further to include, “spirit, energy, vitality, semen, purity, excellence, and skill”.

In Seishindo, I have chosen the meaning “refined and pure”.

The middle kanji is “Shin”
The meanings of “shin” are “spirit, heart (in the metaphorical sense), and mind”.
If you ask a Japanese person where their mind is, they will point to their heart.

When we combine “sei” with “shin” we have the poetic interpretation, “Pure heart, Simple mind”.

The third kanji. Is “Do”
In everyday parlance it means street, or road.
As used in the Japanese arts, “do” refers to an artful path of study.
As in Judo, Aikido, Chado (tea ceremony), and Shodo (calligraphy).

Seishindo is thus “An artful path for discovering your pure heart, simple mind”.

The path that leads to solutions
When striving to find solutions, look first to simplify,
By pruning away all that obscures your vision,
Your understanding.

In the process of creating ‘less’,
You’ll illuminate the inherent beauty of the essential.

Work hard, don’t worry

“Kinkenrikko” Hard work and frugality

There’s a shop in my neighborhood that does laundry and ironing, that I have been using for more than twenty five years now. Over time the master and I have become friends, and I do need to emphasize “over time”. Ishibashi-san works such long hours it was hard to get the opportunity to talk with him.

You see, there was something about his smile and tone of voice when he welcomed people into his shop, that led me to want to know him better. But he was always busy ironing clothing, and I didn’t want to interrupt his work flow. So I had to create a strategy that would induce him to take a few minutes to talk.

I bought two cans of ice cold beer on a hot summer evening, and dropped by his shop just before closing to pick up a shirt I had left with him.
“Would it be bad manners?” I asked, “If I offered you a can of ice cold beer?”
“Well no, it wouldn’t be,” he said, “If you wouldn’t mind me opening up a package of squid, for the both of us to snack on.”
And thus the conversation began!

“We only work six days a week now, but for about thirty years after World War II my wife and I worked seven days a week, usually at least fourteen hours a day. We got up 4AM every morning, had a simple breakfast if we had enough food, and worked until late at night. Our time off consisted of one five day vacation a year. We were happy to have the work, because the work allowed us to have a constant source of food and shelter, and the work made it possible for us to afford having two children.

“When you spend so much time working, you don’t have the time to worry about the future. The more free time people have, the more selfish and self indulgent they tend to become. I must say, I look at young people today and I’m not surprised that Japan is having so many problems. My parents taught me the importance of “kinkenrikko” and I must say I find hard work and frugality to be two of the pillars of a happy life. When people had less they complained less. When people lived within their means, they were much less afraid of losing what they had. Nowadays so many people are frantic and worried, and few people have the time to truly nurture their family.

“The trouble these days is that people build a lifestyle they can’t easily support. If they lost their high paying job and had to work in a laundry like mine, they would feel their life had collapsed. Their children would be devastated if they weren’t able to buy the next generation of game console. People have lost touch with the essentials, and they’ve lost touch with the value of hard work. Hard work is the glue that keeps your life together.

“One more important point is this,” he said. “I think any job where you sit all day, weakens your spirit.

“I sit when I eat and lay down when I sleep, but other than that I stand and move all day. Standing and moving, makes you strong and builds your resilience to adversity. When you stand, you use your whole self, and thus you feel more in control of your life. My father worked until he was 73 and I’m already 79 and still going strong. I want to die standing up, rather than live my life sitting down. Easier is not better!

Problems First – Toyota

1. Introduction

Today’s story is an updated version of a story I often share with my Executive Coaching clients. I think the wisdom of the Toyota approach has a lot to offer you in the day to day living of your life.

Charlie

2. Problems First

Do you find it hard to feel satisfied with who you are and what you’ve accomplished so far? If so, please consider adopting the following perspective.

Toyota is one of the most successful auto makers on the planet. A fact that’s painfully obvious to its competitors.
Having studied Aikido for a few years before first meeting grandma, I could see a definite similarity between the way she bowed to me, and the way I was taught to bow to my sensei.

There’s a phrase used in Toyota that helps them stay focused on striving to be the best they can be. The phrase is “Problems First” and it leads them to look for what can be improved upon in the future, rather than being satisfied with what they’ve already accomplished.

Such a phrase could quickly lead one to feel negative and unappreciated if not framed in the right context. At Toyota they have three suppositions that help to flesh out their credo and give it a positively oriented meaning:

• The hard work and good intentions of everyone in the company is highly appreciated, and each and every worker is meant to be treated with respect.
• No matter what stage of development they’re currently involved in, they realize the concepts of “success” and “achievement” are “moving targets” that will change as the day to day success and achievements of the company continue to evolve.
• They freely acknowledge that everyone makes mistakes.

These suppositions extend up to the CEO, and down to the person emptying the waste bins. Once you really “get” these three suppositions, you can stop trying to make believe you’re “unnaturally perfect”, and instead, acknowledge and appreciate who you are.

Rather than striving to be perfect, at Toyota they share a communal aspiration of “always being capable of improvement”. This is a goal everyone can approach every single day of their life with humility and dignity. It’s also a goal they’ll never be able to say they’ve fully accomplished, and that makes it all the more fulfilling to pursue.

The quality of your work life will significantly improve once the “I have to be perfect.” monkey is off your back. You’ll be free to ask for help, and no longer need to cover up your mistakes and the imperfections you mistakenly perceive yourself as having. Rather than yearning or pretending to be someone else, you can free yourself to simply be perfectly imperfect YOU! Isn’t this the work life you yearn for?

At Toyota, instead of striving to achieve lofty yearly targets, they prefer to set their sights on humble daily and monthly goals they’re likely to accomplish. They set “small” goals that they regularly achieve, and build upon these small successes the very next day. Rather than having their eye on the future, they are focused on today. You can do the same in your own life.

In actuality, if you look closely at what they’re doing at Toyota you’ll understand that “Quality Control” and “Improved Efficiency” are not really goals, but rather idealistic pursuits with no beginning or ending. You never sit back and bask in yesterday’s achievements, as this would only make you fall behind in reaching the goals you’ve set for today. You don’t try to improve because you think something is “wrong”. Instead, you strive to improve simply because you know improvement is something you’re capable of. Holding yourself to high standards can be very gratifying when you start from a place of already appreciating and respecting yourself and your accomplishments.

If you don’t value yourself as you are now, then whatever form of self improvement you undertake in the future you’ll inevitably miss the mark. You won’t find long term fulfillment by striving to be perfect and never making mistakes. You can though discover a deep sense of satisfaction by striving day by day to fulfill your infinite potential.

In the process, you’ll find it paradoxically reassuring to know you’ll never achieve your goal!

Never underestimate the power of your original self

1. Introduction

Although there is still a tremendous amount of uncertainty regarding the nuclear situation up north, for the most part life in Tokyo has settled back down. Because of the nuclear plants no longer generating power, we will be faced with some extra challenges this summer, but such is life!

The people close to the devastated area in the north are still suffering tremendously, and any further help in the form of donations, is still greatly needed.

Thanks again for all the support people have been offering me.

Regards,
Charlie

2. Never underestimate the power of your original self

As part of my process of writing this newsletter, I have lots of nuggets of information stored in various locations. Today’s newsletter brings together thoughts and experiences I’ve been ruminating on for a while now.

We increase our suffering by failing to appreciate the opportunities and learning our current challenges offers us. There is no life without challenges.

When we attempt to escape from what we find unpleasant, we miss out on the possibility of learning life affirming lessons, and achieving what we most desire. Attempting to move away from what we don’t want leads us to settle for the scraps of life instead of feasting on the meal.

Indeed the more you try to avoid suffering, the more suffering you’ll wind up experiencing. The same is true of illness.

You’ll improve the quality of your life by striving to better understand what’s confusing you, rather than looking to escape from your turmoil.

“Solution” and “problem” are two sides of the same coin. With a solution in hand, there is no problem. Look for the solutions inherent in your current situation, rather than looking to fix what you perceive to be wrong.

Instead of fighting against the seeming competing desires you have, use your whole self to stay cooperatively engaged in your struggle and you’ll find something within you shifts Over time your struggle will be transformed into a life affirming lesson.

Wanting to experience peace of mind is a fine goal to have, if you also realize you’ll sometimes have little choice but to feel distressed. In fact, much of life happens in between the two.

Nothing stays the same forever and thus change is inevitable. Today’s suffering will turn into tomorrow’s happiness, and eventually you’ill surely suffer once again. That’s just the way life is.

Accepting that change is inevitable helps you move with life rather than attempting to hold onto either the “bad” or the “good”. As you open up to the need for change, you’ll find yourself suffering more effectively. Peace of mind is sure to follow!

In Aikido we understand that if we follow the direction of an attack without impeding the attacker, the confusion being expressed will be fully expended and a new, more life affirming relationship can then begin to emerge.

You need some silence and solitude in your life so that you can begin to hear the inner voice of your original self. This is not the voice of your internal dialogue. This is the voice that’s hidden in the depths of your soul, and it speaks to you without words.

It’s your internal chaos that destroys your capacity for inner peace, and not the world around you. Its your internal chaos that weakens the root energy of your life force and the wisdom of your original self. You need to strive to know yourself as you were in the beginning of your life. Know youself as you were as a very young child- Filled with amazement and curiosity.

A happy life is not built upon understanding why. A happy life requires that you live in the midst of uncertainty and do so gracefully. When you’re graceful there’s a beauty that exudes from the way you move and carry yourself, because you do only what’s necessary. Nothing more and nothing less. When you’re graceful there’s a sense of proper proportion, an ideal relationship, between yourself and the rest of life. Between your happiness and your sadness. You sense your life is “just right” as it is, and thus there’s a stillness that permeates your being.in the midst of the unknown.

When you experience grace in the midst of illness, defeat, or other suffering, you’re able to appreciate the small pleasures of life, and each challenge you face serves to strengthen the dreams you hold in your heart.

Mushin – A concept of innocent simplicity

1. Introduction

There is a lot still going on here, but at this point it seems that barring something unexpected in regard to the nuclear reactors, we should be safe in Tokyo.
Still though, there has been aftershocks every day, and the ones that occur in the middle of the night, are the most unsettling. Oh well… It offers me a good opportunity to practice Seishindo!

I would like to once again offer everyone the Seishindo coaching tool
“Eight Essential Questions- Focus on the Life You Desire”. More than 400 of you have downloaded it since last month, with many people already writing back saying the document has been very helpful.

All too often in our lives, we speak, without really hearing and feeling what we are saying. The Eight Essential Questions” are meant to reconnect your words to your feelings, so you can begin to live with greater clarity and purpose.

If you would like the Questions document, please contact me.

Regards,
Charlie

2. Mushin- A concept of innocent simplicity

From time to time I get to meet exceptional teachers in Japan. Often what happens is I go to visit a friend and it turns out that one of the other guests is a highly regarded sensei.

Recently I had the opportunity to meet a man that works as an architect. Here is what Okamoto sensei had to say about his work.

“Charlie-san, our host said you have an interest in architecture. She suggested I tell you about the concepts that influence my work, and thus I’ve taken some time to think about this topic. In Japanese culture, and particularly in Japanese architecture mushin is an important concept to understand. In relationship to my work, the two ideas I hold in regard to the meaning of mushin are “innocence” and “free from obstructive thinking”. I strive to make all my work as simple as possible, without any visual, emotional, or physical obstructions.

What I’ve found over the years is, the simpler you make something, the more obvious the obstructions in your thinking appear. Rather than being bothered or constrained by the relationship between simplicity and obstruction, I find it very energizing. In the early stages of each new design, I look forward to discovering the weakness in my thinking. This leads me to understand I sometimes try to hide my weaknesses by obscuring them with complexity. The more simple the design, the less there is to hide behind. I must say that each time I discover this I am humbled. It’s only by being willing to own up to my many personal flaws, that I can little by little do away with the flaws in my designs.

In both my personal and professional life, I attempt to discard all extraneous actions and thought. I strive to be economical, ecological, and graceful, and follow a path of least resistance and optimal effect. I’ve found that I am most likely to embody this way of being prior to reflecting on what I’m doing. At such times, which still only happen rarely for me, I’m in a state of open focus relaxation, and my thoughts and actions occur simultaneously. Nothing comes between my thoughts and my actions, and neither is anything left over, or left undone. When I’m able to embody such a state I feel better both physically and emotionally, and I consider my work to be a reflection of my soul.

Sensei paused to make certain he still had my attention. “If you don’t mind,” he said, “let me please say one more thing, at the risk of filling the space with too many words.

Tao de Ching, the classic Chinese text of wisdom says the following,

A door and windows are cut out from the walls, to form a room. It’s the emptiness that the walls, floor, and ceiling encompass, that allows for the space to live in.
Thus what we gain is Something, yet it’s from the virtue of Nothing that this Something derives.


If you’ve ever been in a traditional Japanese room or Zen temple you’ll see that these spaces are filled with the same emptiness as described in the quote I’ve just read. Space is filled with “nothing”, as a way to allow for the infinite potential a room encompasses. This is an important part of the Japanese design aesthetic. The experience of “emptiness” is an invitation to empty one’s thinking mind, so that a new, innocent reality might appear.”

3. Seishindo Offer

If you would like to return to a simpler way of living, engaging in some coaching sessions might be just the thing to get you started in the right direction.

Beyond the “Eight Essential Questions” I will give you a series of mp3s that will help you regain your emotional balance, and reduce the stress you’ve been feeling.

Just email me at charlie@seishindo.org and we can engage in a “chemistry check” conversation to see if you would like to explore further.

Charlie

A crisis of faith

1. Introduction

Blessings and thanks to all in the Seishindo community during a time of great upheaval in Japan. And yes, upheaval is exactly what it’s been!

Likely at least 15,000 people have perished, and more than 500,000 people are homeless. Apparently many of the homeless are living in weather that goes down to around freezing at night, and since they fled their homes on a moment’s notice, they have little in the way of blankets etc. Heating fuel and food in the public facilities is scarce, so people are facing some tough times.

So please, do what you can financially, and also very importantly, please send your prayers and positive energy in this direction.

Tokyo is basically still fine, and our main concern is the nuclear facilities. Let’s work to transmute all that nuclear energy into an energy that serves humankind and the planet! There have been many many acts of kindness and bravery, and I shed some tears last night when I turned on the TV and saw rescue crews arriving from around the world to help.

I am posting several times a day on the Seishindo Fan Page on Facebook, and many people have been replying with their support. Please come and join us!
I find Facebook to be a positive environment, so if you have to sign up to see the page, rest assured that it will not wind up being a hassle in the long run.

http://www.facebook.com/seishindo/

All the best to all of us!
Charlie

2. A crisis of faith

The moment sensei walked into the dojo I could tell he had something specific to say today. Here’s the lesson he presented us with.

Many of you come to class not realizing you’re suffering from a crisis of faith. The less you recognize this, the more it winds up affecting everything you do.

With some of you I get the feeling you’re sitting there while dreading what might go wrong, Dreading that you might show up as being incompetent or uncertain. When I look around to gauge how everyone’s feeling on a certain day, many of you look everywhere else but at me. It’s as if you’re saying “Please don’t call on me sensei!”, and yet supposedly you’re here to learn. What this tells me is your body’s in the dojo, but your thinking mind is somewhere else.

Take an inventory of yourself now. Is your posture open and expansive? Are you breathing freely and easily? Is your muscle system relaxed and at ease? If not, you’re almost certainly not feeling confident.

What are your afraid of? The attack of your counterpart who is simply performing his half of a training task? The judgment of people watching who might say you’re clumsy and unskilled? Or perhaps without realizing it, what you’re fearing most is the attack of your own negative self judgments. Your lack of faith in yourself as a competent learner.

What would your life be like if you believed you were a fine person, an intelligent person, an overall good learner? In other words, what would your life be like if you didn’t think something was wrong with you? Many of you would be quick to reply, ‘Oh no, not me.’, if someone said you were a wonderful person, and ‘Oh yes that’s me.’, if someone said you had a lot of problems that needed fixing.

I talk to you over and over again about the importance of being fully present in class. I tell you that just as you take off your slippers and leave them outside the dojo, you also need to do the same with your limiting beliefs. I know that isn’t easy to do, but ‘easy’ isn’t what we’re concerned with here. What you need to be concerned with is trusting in yourself, and noticing if you go inside your head searching for negative memories, when you don’t have immediate success.

The principles of Aikido are actually rather simple, but simple does not equal easy. In fact I have found that doing things simply usually takes a good deal of hard work. A good deal of practice. I think part of the reason for this is that we think too much and make things more complicated than they really are. If you start out with a lack of confidence you will expect difficulty. When you expect difficulty it means your head is already filled with thoughts before you even begin. The more thoughts you have filling your head, the less you’ll be able to notice what is. The less you’ll be able to notice the simplicity.

Every accomplished artist, whether a ballerina or a boxer, performs with grace and ease. They can do this because they’ve pruned away everything that’s not essential to their performance. They snipped and trimmed until all of the complications and difficulty have been removed. With less to pay attention to they can give much more attention to what’s left. Being confident in their ability, there’s no separation between thinking and doing. There is only One.

Take an inventory of yourself now. Is your posture open and expansive? Are you breathing freely and easily? Is your muscle system relaxed and at ease? If so, you’ll have overcome your crisis of faith!

Lessons learned from hard times

1. Introduction

Hi to all!

In my part of the world, the sun is shining a bit longer than it was a few weeks ago, and the temperature is rising in fits and spurts. All of this gives me hope, that indeed there will be another spring!

It’s my wish for all of you, that even in the coldest days of winter you’ll feel the call of spring in your heart.

In Community,
Charlie

2. Lessons learned from hard times

I have many fond memories of sitting in a small room in my wife’s grandmother’s house, sipping tea, and giving “obaachan” the space to say whatever was on her mind.

When I asked her about World War II here’s what she had to say.

“The death of loved ones, natural disasters, wars, and divorces. All of these events give us cause to stop and reflect on our lives.

World War II taught me a lot. It seems to me that in all wars, both sides tend to be correct in standing up for their values, and quite short-sighted in denying their shortcomings.

I think this is also true in personal relationships that aren’t going well. People fail to realize and acknowledge their own shortcomings, and this prevents them from recognizing there are always two people responsible for the failing.

When the war ended I was grateful to still be alive and I was ready to redirect my life. Having withstood the war I was pretty certain I could withstand everything life had to offer.

A lot of precious lives were lost and many people died at a very early age. The war broke my heart and caused me to reexamine everything I thought I knew. I was pretty certain my heart would break a few more times before I died, and I needed to take the time to better understand how life is full of suffering and joy, love and hate.

I found myself wondering what all the killing had accomplished. What truths had the war revealed? What lessons were to be learned by every Japanese person? Surely our culture needed to redirect itself, and I wondered how this would be accomplished, and if indeed it would be accomplished. Before the war life had a certain familiarity that felt comfortable. Up early every morning to start the day, and work well into the evening. All with a sense of an endless rhythm and flow, with one day leading to the next. By the end of the war, everything had been turned upside down. Everyone was so busy rebuilding shattered lives and attempting to make up for lost time, that few people took the time to sit and reflect.

I realized I was going to have to let go of great sadness in order to begin the next stage of my life. Having seen so many people die, I found it important to place the focus of my attention on the newborn babies in our neighborhood. Watching them grow, and flourish, under the gaze of a loving mother. Life was indeed continuing to spring forth and I knew it was important to focus on the positive.

The war led me to understand the world is being destroyed by the anger and resentment that is stirred up by our leaders. Beneath all the bad feelings lies a deep fear that is big enough to destroy all of life. When our fear, anger, and resentment overflows into war, it squeezes the love from our hearts and there are no winners. Only survivors.

God is the Spirit that lives within each of us and gives us life. Who we are, depends to a large extent on how we love. We need to nurture our fear and our anger with kindness, so that hope, health, and compassion will spring forth in each of us. Regardless of the country we were born in, or the values we hold dear.

There is a great deal of fear and anger in the world today. Please consider how you can nurture with kindness all those you meet and enter into relationship with.

The Clock is Ticking

How do you react to deadlines? How would you feel if someone said “Hurry up, the clock is ticking and we’ve got to get this completed!”? How well do you cope with stress? Isn’t it amazing to notice how radically your experience of passing time changes depending on the circumstances, with little correlation to the steady flow of time as shown on a clock.

Have you ever sat in a waiting room with a clock on the wall that went “tick tock, tick tock” over and over and over again, until such time that you either wanted to run out of the room, or throw the clock out the window? This kind of experience is especially excruciating when you are waiting for something that you really are not looking forward to, like a treatment from your dentist. In particular, when you are feeling stressed out you experience time distortion. In some instances like when waiting for your dentist, one minute of clock time seems to take forever. At other times when you are working towards a deadline, time appears to slip away without your knowing where it went, and you are left wondering why you are accomplishing so little.

Waiting for a train that is twenty minutes late, when that train is bringing your loved one back to you, is very different than getting to the train station early with your loved one and waiting twenty minutes for the same train to take your loved one away from you. The train is the same, the station is the same, your loved one is the same, and the time on the clock is the same, but somehow, your emotional experience of “twenty minutes” is quite different.

It is important for each of us to understand how the fixed passage of time as measured by a clock, has little to do with our emotional experience of time. Rather than being under the illusion that time rules our life, we will do well to recognize that it is our emotional experience and our mindset that determines how we relate to the ticking of the clock. Restrict your breathing and tense your muscles and time invariably will appear to speed up. You relate to time according to your expectations of what will transpire. Expect that you will be successful and the clock on the wall appears to offer you a bit more time. Expect the worst and you will have difficulty keeping up.

What can you do to have a healthier perspective in regard to time? The first thing you can do is breathe slowly and deeply. When you slow down your body clock, the clock on the wall appears to slow down along with you. The next thing you can do is check in with your body. If you create a feeling of expansion in your body, by aligning your posture and releasing your muscles, time will appear to expand somewhat as well. Furthermore, you can notice your surroundings and extend your awareness out into the space around you. When you extend your awareness to take in the wide range of sights and sounds taking place in your local environment you will also extend your concept of time. Lastly, realize that with any luck, you will have tomorrow to accomplish what you were not able to accomplish today. Every new day, brings new opportunities for appreciating your life and the people you care about.

Correctness, Profound Truth, and Paradox

Our usual and “correct” ways of explaining the world, who “I” am, and where “i” am going, are often severely tested in today’s world. This is particularly true at times when we feel disrespected, angry, confused, or demoralized, and we do not yet understand what will constitute “right action”. At such times our current understanding of our circumstances is not all encompassing enough to understand the paradox that envelops us. Usually at such times a search for only one answer or understanding is simply not enough.

Niels Bohr, the 1922 Nobel Laureate in Physics has been quoted as saying:
“The opposite of a correct statement is an incorrect statement. The opposite of a profound truth is another profound truth.” Bohr used the word “complementarity” to characterise the relationship between apparently contradictory phenomena. It is only when seemingly contradictory phenomena are “understood” or appreciated as a whole, that we can begin to offer a temporarily complete description of what is, or what needs to be. In order to feel into the profound truth we need to somehow comprehend, we need a larger less opinionated understanding of the world, our relationships, the environment, and the universe. In short, we need a way of knowing that embraces paradox, and goes beyond what “I” know or believe to be true. This is a form of wisdom that welcomes diverse, complementary concepts of what is “correct.”

Such knowing involves a discourse between our emotions and our intellect. A discourse between self and other. A discourse that is much more comprehensive than a dialogue about right and wrong. A discourse that invites a softening and opening up to the complementarity of what initially appear to be polar opposites. A discourse that requires passion, compassion, and commitment. A discourse that embraces differences, as integral parts of the whole. A discourse that can at times feel dangerous, but yet holds great potential.

In Seishindo we strive to open up our discussions, and our hearts, to the possibility of feeling into profound truth. The paradoxical nature of deep truth is what the Zen student is meant to explore in their practice. In order to make progress, the student is implored to think and do less, and simple “be”. Not at all a simple task, but a task that can be highly rewarding.

Have you been holding onto certain beliefs in your professional and personal life that have been holding you back? What would happen if you surrendered your beliefs and left yourself open to discovering something new? You just might be very pleasantly surprised.

Perfection

I want to talk about the importance of “not-knowing”. Learning something new about ourself, and the world we live in, often requires that we first un-learn what we have learned in the past. We often get taught very powerful yet incorrect lessons as we go through life. For instance, a child incorrectly gets “taught” by a screaming adult, that he is careless, lazy, selfish, or just plain dumb. When the child naively believes what the screaming adult is “teaching” him, the likelihood that the child will learn new and life affirming things about himself in the future, will tend to be seriously impeded. In order for the child to free himself up for new learning, he will need to first “not-know” some of what he has learned in the past. Another way to say this could be “What will I need to unlearn, before I can learn something new?” When wanting to understand the truth, we have to return to our true nature and let go of our opinions, our current condition, our understanding of what is right and what is wrong. When our mind is clear, talking, words, and thinking are not necessary. The truth is just like this.

What we learn in the course of our life, determines the purpose, importance, and outcomes, that we extract from our experience. Whatever we feel we learn about ourself over and over again winds up becoming part of our identity. Our identity sets the foundation for our beliefs. Our beliefs determines how we will be predisposed to act and react in the future. Learning-identity-beliefs go hand in hand. In order to learn something new and life affirming about yourself and the world around you, you will usually have to change your personal sense of identity, and some of your long held beliefs.

Perhaps you say “This all sounds reasonable. Now tell me how I can go about changing what I am learning, my identity, and my beliefs!”

One possible answer would be the following words from a Sanskrit mantra: “Om. This is perfect. That is perfect. From the perfect, comes the perfect. If from the perfect the perfect is taken away, Only the perfect remains. Om, peace, peace, peace.”

Such is the sense of perfection we get when holding a baby. This sense of perfection, is the inherent blessing that exists as the essence of everything. This sense of perfection is present at all times and doesn’t require any healing or change to take place. This sense of perfection is dynamic rather than static, and welcomes the necessary ongoing changes of life. You are invited to simply notice what is, rather than attempting to correct what you believe needs to be different.

In Japanese flower arranging it is common that one of the branches in the arrangement is bent or broken, to signify that the arranger has attempted to present the flowers in a “natural” state. It is the “imperfection” of the broken branch that leads us to understand that the arrangement is potentially “perfect.” We encourage you to look for and appreciate your “broken branches” as a sign of your uniqueness and perfection.

Each one of us, no matter how seemingly evolved we might be, has imperfections and personal ego attachments. These imperfections and attachments are not something to be overcome or transcended, but rather something to be understood, appreciated, and accepted in the course of our life journey. If we do not honor and appreciate our individual shortcomings, then a part of us will always be feeling that we are somehow needing to be fixed.

Some Thoughts and Ideals to Ponder

Pondering the following thoughts and ideals can likely benefit you in many ways.

  • The meaning of your communication can be understood by the response it elicits in others.
  • The “map” that you use in order to help you “navigate” through your life should not be confused with the actual territory that the map is meant to represent. The world that you believe in, is very different than the world that many others believe in.
  • Everyone lives in their own unique model of the world. What we each individually perceive and understand is our own unique version of reality and is not duplicated in any other living being. Rest easy with this knowledge and you afford yourself the possibility of many new and wonderful learnings that are not available to people who believe that their version of the world is THE correct version.
  • No matter how poor their performance, people always do the best they are capable of, given their unique model of the world, their currents skills and abilities, and the situation at hand.
  • People have all the resources necessary to make any desired change. Actually activating these resources can be another whole story.
  • Hold the positive worth of each individual as a constant, while sometimes questioning the value and appropriateness of their behaviors.
  • “The Problem” is, that you do not fully recognize the true magnificence of who you really are, and in the process of not fully recognizing your own magnificence, you will tend to devalue both yourself and others.

The tyranny of “What if…?”

What you worry about determines the course of your life. Free yourself from the tyranny of your negative “What if…” scenarios, and you will discover that you have both everything to lose, and everything to gain!

A number of years ago I had a client who came to me in a really bad stressed out condition. He came for one session, and then the next thing I knew I was told he had had a nervous breakdown. When I visited him in the hospital, I was quite surprised to see that his face had a certain radiance to it. I asked how he was doing, half expecting to hear a litany of bad news. Instead, the man smiled and said the following. “I feel very lucky right now. Very blessed. I have let go of nearly everything I was trying to hold onto and I finally became aware of the mantra that I had been repeating to myself over and over again.”

“What happened to me was so surreal.” he said. “I was sitting in an unemployment office and I was feeling more and more agitated. Then all of a sudden I passed out. Or at least they told me I passed out because I don’t remember that part. What I do remember is waking up in this bed, and for the first time in my life, there was this deafening quiet inside my head, and a great calmness in my body that touched my soul. For the first time in my life, for at least a few minutes time I had no internal dialogue. This was a very amazing experience.”

“You see,” he said, “When I first came to see you I was afraid of losing my job, my wife, and my house. I was relentlessly repeating various ‘What if” mantras. What if I lose my job?’ ‘What if I lose my wife?’.As it turned out I did lose my job. And upon getting fired, because my finances were already totally frazzled, I soon had to hand over ownership of my house to the bank. And upon learning about the foreclosure on our house my wife immediately left me. And now I feel like a bright and energetic fourteen year old starting all over again! I have new dreams, new ways of thinking, a whole new life ahead of me now, and perhaps most importantly I have a new mantra.”

“My only sadness is that I wish I would have had my nervous breakdown much earlier in life, so I could have much sooner gotten into living from a place of enthusiasm rather than a place of fear. I just didn’t realize how fantastic a nervous breakdown could be! I have lost everything, but in the process I have gained a completely new way of being in the world. It is such a joy to know that I no longer need to live in fear.”

In the process of finally being released from the tyranny of “What if” this man attained great wisdom and peace of mind. After chatting a bit longer I finally got ready to leave. My ex-client said “One more thing if you don’t mind me suggesting it. When a client comes to you stressed out and fearful, tell him to take a moment, and take a deep breath. Then suggest that the best thing he can do is to have his nervous breakdown right then and there. Invite him to have his breakdown on the spot, so that he can get back into living a full life again, free from stress and fear! Believe me, the sooner you can completely let go, the better. In math, ten minus ten equals zero. In life, if you take everything that you have and minus all of it, you wind up with much more than you ever dreamed of!”

Learning From Life

Do you ever find yourself thinking, “Life has taught me some tough lessons, and the scars do not heal easily.”? What I would like to suggest in this article is that you can learn valuable lessons from the past, rather than allowing the past to limit your future.

The quality of the life we live, is based upon the learning we derive from our experiences. I know that for myself, it is sometimes easy to feel that “Life has taught me some tough lessons, and the scars do not heal easily.” When I find myself thinking like this it means that I have fallen into the trap of believing that “It is ‘only natural’ that an ‘X’ type event or relationship, will lead to a ‘Y’ type response.” At other times it becomes apparent that if I had somehow learned something different from a particular challenging situation, the quality of my life would be much more rewarding.

In working with a client struggling with alcoholism, we spent our first session with the client telling me in detail how he had come to live such an unhealthy debilitating life. In short he said: “Both my parents were alcoholics, and both of them were physically abusive to me. I grew up never knowing what bad thing would happen next. I learned from my parents that the best way to not have to feel the pain and uncertainty of life was to escape into an altered state of alcohol induced euphoria.” When listening to a client tell such a sad story, it is easy to believe that their situation was all but preordained.

As fate would have it, a week after beginning to work with this client, I went to a business luncheon to hear an inspirational speaker discuss how we can live our life fully, and succeed in times of hardship. Indeed, the speaker was truly inspirational. When the talk was over I waited around to thank him.

After introducing myself and thanking him, I asked him how he had come to lead such an exemplary life. He looked around to make sure no one else was listening and in a low voice he said the following: “Both my parents were alcoholics, and both of them were physically abusive to me.I grew up never knowing what bad thing would happen next. I learned from my parents that the worst possible way to deal with the pain and uncertainty of life was to escape into an altered state of alcohol induced euphoria. My parents taught me a difficult but very important lesson. I learned from them that staying present in the moment is the only real chance we have for living a fulfilling life.”

What a truly great example of embodied spirit the motivational speaker offers us. The quality of our life is not dependent on the circumstances we encounter. The quality of our life is dependent on what we learn from the circumstances we encounter. Perhaps the greatest example of this wisdom is present in the life of Nelson Mandela. He is a man that suffered great pain and hardship, and somehow his suffering seasoned his soul in a way that has led him to be compassionate and caring.

In the course of exploring how to live our life more fully we can consider pondering one question over and over again, “What can I learn from the difficulties I am experiencing, that will actually ADD to the quality of my life?” At the very least we can begin to entertain the fact that: We can derive a wide range of learning from any single circumstance, event, or relationship. When we get the most stuck in life is when we believe that the one thing we did learn is the only thing that can be learned.

Appreciating your exceptional learning abilities

Over the years, have you perhaps lost sight of the fact that you are a brilliant learner?
“Huh?” you might ask. “Are you talking to me?”
Here is a story to illustrate my point.

I was sitting in a restaurant talking to a Japanese boy in the first grade. I asked him how he was liking school and he quickly exclaimed that he hated school. I asked him why he hated school and he said, “Two reasons. One you have to sit still all the time, and two, there are too many things you have to remember.”

I told him I agreed that being required to sit still was really “dumb”. On the other hand I said “I think you remember much more than your teacher realizes.” This remark caught him by surprise and I felt like he didn’t know whether to agree with me or ask me if I was crazy.

Speaking in Japanese, I asked the boy if he was learning some English. He said he was, and that English was really difficult. I told him that English was actually quite easy to learn, and that most every American child can speak English prior to entering grammar school.

The boy sat quietly for a moment and then replied, “But Japanese children can speak Japanese prior to entering school!”

“Yes.” I said, “Since you have already proven how smart you are in learning Japanese, I am sure you will also do great with English.”

Once again the child was at a loss for words.

The restaurant we were at had heavy paper covering the tables and there were crayons for children to draw with while waiting for the meal to arrive. Noticing the boy had a toy replica of a “MIG” fighter aircraft with him, I picked up a crayon and drew a simple picture of the plane and said, “This is a MIG” as I drew the letters MIG. Next I drew a pig and said “This is a PIG.” as I wrote the word “pig.” Then I drew a branch and said “This is a “TWIG” as I wrote the word “twig”.

Next, I drew a very simple picture of a PIG sitting with a TWIG in its mouth, while flying a MIG, and I said, “See, the PIG is in the MIG, with a TWIG.” feeling like I was replicating Dr. Seuss.

The boy laughed, picked up a crayon, and began quickly drawing all sorts of things. Each picture that he drew, I labeled in English, and he was quite willing to repeat the English words after me. “Wow he said, if school was this much fun I wouldn’t mind going!”

How about you?
Were you forced to learn in a specific manner in school? Are you perhaps today forced to learn in a specific manner at work?
Does anyone acknowledge that you are a talented learner?

Every teacher, parent, and leader, needs to realize that each human being has their own unique way of learning and excelling. When we lose sight of this, children come to dislike school, and adults come to dislike their jobs, partly because they come to believe that something is wrong with them. What a great disservice to humankind!

Wouldn’t it be great if we were able to foster school and work environments that adapted to people, rather than forcing the people to set aside their natural learning abilities!

Please take a moment and consider…
You have your own unique and high quality way of learning.
How can you better support yourself to be all that you truly are?

One person’s garbage can be another person’s good fortune

Do you ever feel somewhat depressed because your life isn’t working as you would like? Here is a wonderful story that can help you to understand that life is always presenting you with opportunities to succeed.

Horinouchi Kyuichiro is a Japanese man who went from being a complete business failure, to becoming the president of a $100 million business empire.

While still in his early thirties, Horinouchi ran his family’s business totally into the ground. Bankrupt, shattered, and ashamed, he got in his car, drove away, and deserted his family and his creditors. For months he lived on the streets amongst other homeless people, and spent many hours pondering his seemingly sad fate.

With lots of time to think, he came to realize three things:

1. He previously had no concept of what would bring him joy in life.
2. “Quality of life” was a term he hadn’t understood.
He had been obsessed with “success” and he thought that with enough money to spend, the quality of his life could be purchased.
3. The more he strove for material wealth, the more he found himself to be spiritually bankrupt.

With winter fast approaching, Horinouchi was wandering about aimlessly one day and came upon a broken kerosene heater left in the garbage. Horinouchi had always enjoyed fixing things and he impulsively decided to take the broken heater back to his car and repair it. By the time evening rolled around a ration of kerosene had been bought and he and a small flock of his homeless friends basked in the warmth of the rejuvenated heater.

As Horinouchi sat there, he realized not only had he enjoyed doing the repair work, but he also very much had enjoyed giving the heater a chance at a second life. In that moment he vowed to give himself a shot at a second life as well. Little did he realize that his personal desire to start all over again, would spawn a wonderful rebirth for many others as well.

If you stay in Japan for some period of time you will be amazed at the quantity and quality of household goods that get discarded. You can easily find working TV’s, heaters, toasters, CD players, and computers. People used to believe that the Japanese would never buy such discarded goods because they would feel that they smelled strange and seemed dirty. Horinouchi proved everyone wrong!

He rekindled his entrepreneurial spirit by focusing on doing what he truly enjoyed – fixing things, and recycling goods rather than adding to Japan’s already huge mound of garbage. This time around he realized that by focusing on quality of life and job satisfaction, he would likely achieve financial stability as well. Slowly, he built up a business of collecting, repairing, and reselling merchandise that had been thrown in the garbage.

As fate would have it, Horinouchi established his recycling business at the perfect moment – just as the Japanese economy began its meltdown. As numerous businesses failed, “all of a sudden” people became quite open to saving money by buying second hand goods. With Horinouchi having made the vow to reclaim his life, it seemed like the Universe was pitching in to fully support him.

Eventually he was able to save enough to open his own store, and the rest as they say, is history. Today he has more than 200 franchised stores, with gross sales of more than $100 million a year, and a whole raft of new businesses in the early planning stages.

How about you?

Would you like to reprioritize and recycle your life, by focusing on what brings you the greatest joy?

If you stay sensitive to ALL of life’s offerings, you just might find the key to your success lays hidden in a pile of high quality “garbage”!

Can a truly happy person ever really be “unsuccessful”?

We-dentity – As compared to “I” dentity

Have there not been times in your life when you felt separate from much of the rest of the world? Many people report having felt very much like an outsider during various portions of their high school career. Developing one’s identity during puberty can be a truly excruciating experience at times. Perhaps it was the sudden onset of acne, or the fact that your folks would not allow you to get your ears pierced like ALL of your friends.

Being “different” is just not cool unless all of your friends are being different in the same way as you. In Japanese culture, many of the activities people take part in during the course of a day are designed to train people to intuitively think, feel, and act, with a “group consciousness”. Feeling like you belong to the group gives one a warm sense of what I playfully call “we-dentity”. Having you own separate way of doing things may give you a sense of independence, but it leads to a somewhat more lonely sense of being, that in the West is called “I-dentity”. Let me give you a sense of how this process of “we-dentity” is fostered in an Aikido dojo.

Everyone is meant to show up on time for class. The slippers each person wears are neatly lined up at the entrance to the dojo, just like the fresh fish that are lined up one next to the other in the local fish store. If necessary, when you enter the dojo you tidy up any of the slippers that are askew. When the slippers are all in place it means the class is ready for instruction. One of the senior students will be sure to check that everything is just right, prior to the sensei arriving.

When the sensei enters, everyone stops what they are doing and bows to the sensei while offering a greeting. All of the students are meant to bow in unison. Group action leads to group mind and a sense of fellowship.

When the sensei is ready to start the class he bows, and each student is meant to start and stop their reply bow at the same time. If the rhythm of the group is off, the sensei is likely to bow again, thus requiring the students to better attune to each other, and better attune to the sensei.

When warm-up activities begin each student moves in unison, and voice is added to further meld the group together. “One, two, three, four. One, two, three, four.” Little by little the group mind starts to coalesce. When the voice is added, the group starts to breathe in accordance with the rhythm of the counting. People that breathe together tend to think and act alike. Group breathing leads to group mind and a sense of safety.

At some point, with everyone standing more complex movements are initiated. Specific placement of the feet and soft circular movements of the arms are joined together with the counting and the breathing necessary to fuel all that is taking place. One, two, three, four, the voice counts as the feet and arms move. Everyone moving together, counting together, and breathing together. Everyone modulating their individual activity to match and meld with everyone else. As the energy of the group coalesces the mind of the group becomes one. “One, two, three, four, one, two, three, four.” Movement, stillness, inhale, exhale, movement, stillness, inhale, exhale.

Each student begins to sense that:

“My energy feeds the others, the energy of the others feeds me.”

“When I am whole, powerful, and in harmony with the group, the group is whole, powerful, and in harmony with me.”

The boundary line between “self” and “other” softens and “I” become an integral part of “we.”

“Your training adds to my training.”

“I cannot improve without you.”

“The spirit of your life adds to the spirit of my life.”

At such times, there is no one left in the room to attack, because attacking another would be the same as attacking myself.

Having achieved this frame of mind, we begin to practice the art of self defense. Looking to protect “I” and “We” at the same time.

My advice will be simple. I suggest that you notice the movement and flow of people around you. Be it commuting to work, in your work environment, or when meeting up with friends. Notice the times when people move and breathe together in harmony, and when the flow of the group seems to be more helter-skelter. Experiment with moving and breathing with other people, while noticing when you feel a bond to the group, and when you feel separate. Maintain a soft focus on yourself, while also noticing what you need to do to flow with those around you. Talk less and notice more. Feel how the emotion of the group you are in at any one time ebbs and flows. Write to me and tell me about your experience.

Perfect Imperfections

Have you ever caught yourself sitting around thinking that if you were “just” a bit different when it comes to this or that, you would be so much more desirable, wealthy, or good looking? Such conversations can seem so believable while actually being so destructive. What would your life be like if you appreciated your imperfections as the signature of your soul?

On a recent afternoon I went to a pottery shop outside of Tokyo, and happened to meet the potter who had stopped in to check on her staff.

After looking around the shop I invited the owner over and we chatted. The first thing she talked about was how a potter never knew what was going to wind up coming out of the kiln. Each kiln opening she said, was somewhat like Christmas morning. Sometimes you got many wonderful gifts, and sometimes you wound up with coal in your stocking. Like when most of the pieces explode in the kiln due to severe changes in atmospheric weather conditions. It is the serendipity she said, that makes the work so magical. “It helps you to stay humble, and you learn to surrender to and accept the unknown,” she said.

Next, she talked to me about design and functionality. Topics important to most all potters. “No sense in having a good looking piece that is awkward to use, and no sense having a boring looking piece that is highly functional.” she said.

Since I was definitely going to buy something, I picked out six pieces to choose from, set them on the counter, and asked the lady to tell me a bit about each piece.

“Let me share with you how I recognize the hoped for imperfections in my work,” she said, “By talking about three of the pieces you have interest in.”

“Notice with this first piece how the glaze is not of consistent thickness over the inside surface. I tried the best I could to smooth out the glaze,” she said, “But this is a very tough glaze to work with.”

“Nonetheless, for me, it is the inconsistency of the glaze that makes this piece so interesting.” she said. “It is the inconsistency that makes for the range of color that the glaze exhibits in this piece.”

“With this next piece you notice that the bowl is not fully round in shape. I am a small woman, and this is a large piece for me to throw on the wheel. In fact it is the biggest piece I am currently able to throw. I love making some this size, because these bowls really test my limits. There is a certain tension present when the shape goes out of being fully round, and this is what draws me to this piece.”

“Finally” she said, “With this third piece you will notice that the price is considerably less than the other pieces.”

“It is a good piece of work,” she said, “but I feel it is a bit ‘too good’ and thus looks like it could have been machine made. That is why the price is considerably cheaper.”

“The shape is perfectly round, and the glaze flows evenly over the entire pot, and thus the piece does not have a sense of uniqueness. I have stopped making this shape and size because I know how to make them all too well. When they come out this perfect I feel like the soul of the pots get left in the kiln.

She bowed ever so much, and said “Would you like some tea? I have some locally grown strawberries, and it is always best to eat them at this time of year, with a warm cup of tea.”

Whether you consider yourself to be “perfect” or not, is an important topic for most anyone that would like to live a happy life. It seems to me that many if not most people, feel they are somehow lacking or imperfect. Because of their belief, they spend a lot of money, a lot of time, and a lot of anxiety, trying to achieve a goal that moves further away with every accomplishment.

For instance, you lose quite a lot of weight and now you feel that the skin on your face seems to be hanging in a strange way. Or you finally get enough money to buy a new wardrobe, only to find that the fashion for the upcoming season is radically different than what you just bought at a discount. I have a young friend who got his hair cut short for a job interview as an in-store male model, only to find his potential boss sitting there with his hair in a pony tail.

Is it really that life is unfair, or is the problem simply that we are often chasing an image of ourselves that is somehow not all that real or realistic?! Do you try to make it appear like you have no flaws? Or do you relish how such flaws add to your uniqueness? I find in my own life, it is so important to go beyond the oppositional thinking of right or wrong, good or bad, and in the process, accept, and fall in love with, who I really am.

For example:
I truly believe that I have a fair share of people friendly qualities, and yet I know that I still also can be harsh at times. I know that I can be entertaining and intriguing, and that does not stop me from also being boring at times. I am a little bit of everything, and not all of any one thing. I try to understand myself as both/and, rather than either/or. I try to understand myself from an aesthetic that comes from my own heart, and not from the advertisements I see on TV.

The more I stop trying to be perfect, the more I discover just how perfect I already am. Does this sound a bit egotistical? I am talking about the perfect imperfections that the potter sees in her pots. She strives to maintain the soul of what she is making, by insuring that her pots don’t become so perfect that they appear machine made.

I remember watching not too long ago, an interview with Robert Redford. The interviewer wondered out loud, since Redford was getting older, wouldn’t he want to have some cosmetic surgery. Redford looked a bit surprised by the question. He looked intently at the interviewer, and then said, “Cosmetic surgery? Oh my god no! I wouldn’t want to erase my soul from my face. I would rather like to think there is something about me that is somehow unique. I don’t want to look like who I used to be. I want to look like who I am. ”

How about you? Any chance that you are sometimes trying to cover up your perfection, in an attempt to appear perfect?

There is nothing more special than simply being yourself.

And realizing that any subtraction OR addition,

Would simply take away from who you really are.

Your soul has a signature.

Don’t erase it and replace it with someone else’s calligraphy.

Are you able to say both “Yes!” and “No!”?

I hear from many people that they see ever increasing expressions of anger in their everyday work life and personal life. Understanding the process of anger is an important topic for all of us to take a closer look at.

If you take the time to delve deeper into your own anger or resentment, you will often find that you are seriously limiting your ability to feel and express what you truly feel. In the process of limiting yourself, you become the victim of your emotions. You might, for instance, be angry because you feel that someone else should be punished or held accountable, but in the long run your anger will only wind up punishing yourself. You might wind up resenting the way you are treated at work, but if you take a look you will usually find that your resentment limits your ability to get the kind of treatment you truly desire.

If you feel stuck in a situation where you can only say “Yes” then your response will not come from your heart, and your response will not be supported by your emotions. When you feel unable to say “No” then you will likely find that no matter what you say verbally, “No” becomes the default response you want to give to others. You will likely find yourself even more frustrated as you understand on an emotional level that you are never sharing your true feelings and opinions. When you are able to speak the truth of both your “Yes” and your “No” in a calm manner, you will find that you experience a sense of emotional freedom and well-being. Wouldn’t it be great if you felt it was safe to express your true opinion at work, and with all your significant others?

When it is all said and done, when we delve deeply into our emotions, we almost always find that our strongest and most habitual response is covering up other feelings that we are not fully aware of. When we feel hurt, disrespected, abandoned, or sad, we cover over these feelings and lose touch with them, by expressing anger or resentment instead.

When we find ways to tap into our deeper emotions we invariably find that we have been neglecting some form of pain or discomfort. When we neglect or simply don’t notice our deeper emotional reactions, we lose the ability to express our full range of emotions. In the process we find that by consistently expressing only one segment of our entire emotional range, we limit our ability to be happy and feel at ease within ourselves and with those that we interact with.

It is important to remember that our emotions emanate from the body. When you are feeling angry, your body generates a specific set of reactions that inform your rational mind of your emotional experience. When you are feeling respected or loved your body generates a very different set of reactions. With Seishindo you can explore the process of how your body generates your emotional state and you can come to understand how at times you say one thing with your body and something rather different with your words. You can come to understand how you wind up confusing yourself when you say one thing with your heart and another with your logical mind. If you do wind up confusing yourself on a regular basis, you will find that your overall health and vitality suffer in the process.

Only when you feel like you have the right to say “No” can you truly engage your heart in saying “Yes.” This is very important for leaders, parents, and spouses to keep in mind. Only when your body and your rational mind communicate the same message in a congruent manner, will you find yourself feeling empowered and at ease. Take the time to gently explore your feelings and you will find that your emotional well-being resides deep inside yourself, waiting to be touched and acknowledged.

Be sure to see our video about Anger Management to get the full insight!

I’m always busy, but nothing much gets done!

I decided to finally clean out the shed in our back yard recently. My wife left the house early on a Saturday morning to run some errands and I knew that my cleaning the shed would please her greatly.

On the way out the door to fulfill my noble task, I take a quick look at the morning mail and notice a past due bill so I run upstairs to write a check.

Upon reaching for the checkbook, I see there is only one check left, so I call my mom in Georgia and ask her to send me more.

My mom tells me my uncle Fred is not doing well, and she makes me promise to give him a call, so I ring him as soon as I get off the phone with her.

He’s happy to hear my voice, and reminds me that I still haven’t sent any recent family pictures. When I get off the phone, I run downstairs, get the pictures, run back upstairs, and put them in an envelope.

I wake my computer up to get my uncle’s address, and the phone rings. My neighbor’s on the line asking me if I can move our bicycles so he can get a delivery. As I move our bikes I see another neighbor taking out their garbage, and realize I need to quickly do the same.

I run in for the garbage and the phone rings again. This time it’s my daughter’s piano teacher explaining the upcoming monthly teaching schedule.

Needless to say, by the time I get off the phone, I wind up just missing the garbage truck, and I slink back to the house knowing my wife won’t be pleased having to keep the garbage for another two days.

At this point in time I realize that I need to establish my priorities and stick to them, or the day is really going to spin out of control.

I sit down to sort myself out, and after a bit of time spent thinking, my wife comes back home and cheerfully asks me what I have accomplished so far today.

Upon hearing her question I suddenly feel the beginning of a panic attack coming on. I missed getting the garbage out in time, I still haven’t written the check for the overdue bill, I haven’t yet addressed the envelope with the pictures for my uncle, and of course I have yet to begin cleaning the shed.

Soon the day will be half over, and not only am I not making headway, but I am losing ground!

Recognizing the emotional pain, I am in my daughter pulls me over to sit on the couch and climbs up on my lap.
“Daddy,” she says, “Why don’t you do what you told me to do the other day when I was upset? ”
“Take three deep breaths…”
“Look around you and notice that indeed the world is NOT falling apart…”
“And give thanks for all that you have, and all of the people who love you!”

Better advice has never been given.

When you find your life spinning out of control, take the time to breathe and feel into the emotional experience you are creating. Regardless of the task at hand, if you maintain a clear concept of who you are and what you are wanting to accomplish, you can stay on track and feel OK with all that transpires.

Teaching others to be kind, and positively oriented

In many different circumstances that life brings our way, we need to learn how to join with and utilize a person’s current “bad” behavior in order to induce them to act in a more positively oriented manner. Sometimes we might call this “leadership”, sometimes “parenting” and sometimes it means being a supportive spouse or partner. Rather than telling a person they are doing something “wrong” and demanding they act differently, if we validate the other person’s beliefs and opinions, change will often occur “on its own.” Nothing taught me this better than my time spent with my parrot!

Many years ago my parents gave me a parrot. The first thing I learned is that parrots can be dangerous to be around. They can do major damage to your fingers and other body parts. At the time, I was living and working with my friend Reeves Teague. He understood animals from a “country boy” perspective having grown up in the mountains of North Carolina. Here is the process for modifying negative behavior that I learned from Reeves, and modified over the years.

1. Invite an attack with an open and loving countenance.

The parrot is going to try and bite you no matter what, as a natural act of self preservation. Instead of trying to stop him from biting you, utilize his current behavior and encourage it. Wear something to protect your fingers, and invite the parrot to bite you.

Welcoming and utilizing the parrot’s current behavior even if it is violent, is very much in the spirit of Aikido and Ericksonian Hypnosis.

In Ericksonian Hypnosis you utilize the client’s “bad” behavior and join with and validate their current model of the world, rather than trying to change the client and give him the message he is doing something wrong.

In Aikido when you encourage your counterpart to express themselves physically, and they attack you, they are actually following your directions, and doing what you have asked. At such times the attack becomes definitely less violent, as the attacker unconsciously realizes that on a deep level they are cooperating with you.

Whether the activity be Aikido training, parrot training, rearing children, or dealing with an angry person at work, when you welcome the attack, the attack winds up being a lot less vicious, and it lasts for a much shorter amount of time.

2. Encourage violence and tenderness at the same time.

Leave your finger in the cage and encourage the parrot to gnaw on it. With your free hand gently rub the parrot’s head much like you might do with a dog or cat. When you and the parrot are tender and violent at the same time, you are beginning to engage in the act of play. This is a tricky path to navigate at times, but the results you can get will often be nothing less than amazing.

3. Reward the negative behavior and thus reframe the meaning of the behavior.

When you reward the “bad” behavior, the behavior is no longer bad. The parrot bites your right hand and you reward him by giving a snack/reward with your left hand. The relationship is circular in nature. It doesn’t take long before the parrot loses his enthusiasm for biting you. He still very much wants the snacks you feed him after each attack, but he would rather not have to do all of the biting to get the goodies.

4. Blur the starting and stopping points, blur the difference between good and bad.

The parrot has been biting one hand and you have been nuzzling the parrot and feeding him with your other hand. Now take the hand that has been doing the nuzzling and feeding and present it to the parrot for biting. When the parrot takes a playful nip, you nuzzle him with the hand he was previously gnawing on.

When you encourage the parrot to bite the hand that feeds him, his confusion will be obvious!

5. Change the reason for the reward.

After the “break in” period you only give a snack (reward) when the parrot is gentle and playful. Little by little you thus change the reference behavior for getting the snack. Usually at this stage, anyone that moves slowly can play with the parrot with little concern about getting bitten.

I have found the above method, to be by far the fastest, easiest, and most humane way to tame a parrot, and calm down children and adults that appear to have a violent streak. Take some time to think about what I have written here, and how you could implement the same basic process with someone you have been struggling with. With a bit of creative thinking on your part, you will wind up having much better relationships with people who have tended to be harsh and negative in the past.

Are You Feeling in Control?

When it is all said and done, do you feel like you mostly stay on an even keel emotionally in your business and personal life? Here is a story about how easy it is to lose one’s emotional balance.

Recently, I was coming home from an evening business meeting in Tokyo. I walked a block, and like all good citizens do in Japan, when I got to the corner and the light was red, I stopped and waited for it to turn green before crossing.

Just as the traffic signal turns amber, to warn drivers to slow down and stop, a motorcycle and its rider slowly grind to a halt. The guy has on a backpack, there is a huge bundle tied to the back seat of the bike, and he has other stuff hanging from the bike handles. He looks like a homeless person who still has enough money to own a bike.

With the bike stops the man uses his feet to balance himself, just as riders always do. The only thing different in this case, is that the man and his bike are leaning quite heavily to the left, as if he has no sense of straight up and down, and can’t feel the pull of gravity.
He wobbles once… he wobbles twice… and then swoosh… .
The man, his motorcycle, and all of the stuff he is carrying with him, slide down to the ground.

My first thought is “Wow, this guy must really be drunk, I better get him off his bike and make sure he can’t drive for a while.” As I weigh all the variables that might be involved, I notice that everyone else is simply crossing the street as if nothing has happened.

As the guy struggles to get back up, the light turns green and now cars start to whiz by, and I get worried that he will get hit. So as fools often do, I rush in where wise men fear to tread.

I say hello in a loud voice to let him know I am nearby. As he turns to look, I reach out and take the handlebars and right the bike, and walk it over to the side of the road. As I had hoped, he follows along after me, dragging his belongings.

I put the kickstand of the bike down, and the guy starts apologizing profusely, while also thanking me and pointing out how clumsy and foolish he is in general. This act of contrition is a lovely art form in Japanese culture. And I must admit, for the average Westerner, it takes quite a good deal of trial and error practice to reproduce.

I smile at the guy, and playfully ask him if he has had a tough night, and a bit too much to drink.

“No, no, nothing at all to drink.” he says. “My girlfriend just broke up with me, and I am broken hearted. We divided everything up as equally as we could. I kept the bike and all the rest of what I am carrying. She kept her belongings and the sidecar for the bike, which she always rode around in with me. I guess it’s going to take a while to get used to no longer needing to balance her weight.”

I nod my head and smile, to signify that I understand what he is talking about, and indeed, what he says, somehow really touches me.

We look at each other for a moment or two with a sense of brotherhood, and then his face suddenly livens up and he says, “Now that I think about it, maybe I’m the lucky one. I can still get around, but she’s left sitting all alone by the side of the road!”

As human beings we have an emotional system, a physical system, an intellectual system, and a spiritual system all working together (hopefully!) at the same time.

Homeostasis comes about when the dynamic range that a person’s multiple systems operate in, create a harmonious balance, and flow together at their optimum. Take in enough food to fuel the system, but not enough food to overburden the system or give yourself a negative emotional image. Take in enough oxygen to fuel your creativity and all of your physical activities, but not enough to hyperventilate. Depend on a friend, loved one, or colleague to support you, but not to the point that you lose your own sense of balance, and self. Life is a balancing act, and as long as we are alive, the need to maintain, lose, and once again regain our balance, goes on constantly. We don’t so much maintain our balance as a constant. Much more so we need to lose and regain our balance over and over again.

What will you want to do, to regain and maintain your emotional balance? Take a moment and notice if you feel “off” or not. If you are feeling unbalanced, then please consider how you might need to alter your relationships and your activities, so that you can once again feel like you are on an even keel.

What is your primary identity?

About a year ago I was giving a demonstration of how I facilitate postural adjustments with clients. At the end of the demo a woman in the audience said: “I really loved watching what you do, and it was so obvious that you have worked with animals in the past. Can you please tell us more about your training?” I saw a look of confusion on some of the faces in the audience, but I was very pleased by what the lady had to say. I have learned a good deal about working with people, by the years I spent learning how to train dogs.

As a young boy I had the opportunity to train with a man who was a master at “obedience” and guard dog training. On my first day of study he took me to an industrial site. Behind the fence of one warehouse yard was a madly barking dog who seemed intent at ripping us to pieces. My teacher handed me the keys to the fence lock and said “This is the first time I have seen this dog, and I have been asked to tame him down some. Open the gate and let the dog loose.” I immediately started to think that raising tropical fish would be a better hobby than training dogs.

“I am new to all of this.” I said, “Why don’t you open the gate and show me how to do it?”
“I tell you what” he said, “Either I kneel down about ten feet from the gate and you swing the gate open so the dog cannot get to you, or we will do it the other way around, with you kneeling down out in the open.” It didn’t take me long to start putting the key in the lock, as my teacher moved to an open space and knelt down.

Low and behold, the dog raced out, seeming to ignore my teacher on the one hand, but running around in large loping circles that my teacher was the center of. My teacher was calm and slow to move, and eventually he reached in his pocket and pulled out some doggie treats. Within a minute or two he literally had the dog eating out of his hand.

“The lesson is,” he said, “Every dog that’s been trained in a violent manner barks and growls and appears to be genuinely mean when they are behind the fence. All the dog is really doing is showing you how frightened he is. The dog is expecting to be mistreated by you just as he has been mistreated by his trainer, and thus he is simply trying to protect himself and not the premises. When you open the gate on such dogs they invariably run out of the yard. Mistreated animals have no real ‘home’ to protect because there is nowhere in the world where they feel safe, loved, and protected. If your dog does not feel protected BY you, he will not protect FOR you.”

Intuitively this made a lot of sense. I thought back on the kids that were the most violent in my high school. The ones from my neighborhood, I knew came from violent families. Their outward violence in school was actually a preemptive strike. Just like the mistreated guard dog, these kids were expecting to get mistreated by others, and thus they went into attack mode as a confused form of self defense, NOT as a form of offense. “The louder the dog barks,” my teacher said, “The more frightened he is. The primary identity of a beaten dog is one of fear.”

When you are feeling misunderstood or at risk in a relationship with another person, or when you are having difficulty understanding your own behavior, it is suggested that you pause, take a deep breath, release any excess tension, and ponder this question: “What is the primary identity being expressed here?” Asking this question will help you to have better appreciation and understanding, for how to respond. When we ponder the catalyst for behavior it is common to discover that a problematic behavior is usually generated by a primary identity of fear, isolation, or lack of abundance. The barking guard dog lunging at passers-by is considered mean and violent, when indeed the dog is trying to protect itself from further mistreatment. The primary identity of the dog is one of fear. The same can be seen and understood in human beings. Aggressive and or violent people are expecting attacks from others, and they therefore often mount attacks on others in a confused attempt to protect themselves. Each time the forceful behavior of a frightened person draws a violent response, the person feels as if their “defensive” behavior has been vindicated. Violent responses from others feed a person’s primary identity of fear.

The concept of “primary identity” or what we sometimes call “core identity” is an important part of the philosophy of Aikido. In Aikido we believe that when a person is spiritually, emotionally, and physically balanced they will experience their “true” primary identity. This is an identity in which they feel connected to their emotions and their body, supported by others, and protected by the benevolent presence of Spirit/God/”The Force.” I know to many this might seem like a notion that is meant only for dreamers, and not for those that actually have to be active participants in the world, but indeed it forms the basis for a highly effective and pragmatic martial art.

Aikido is not suggesting that we should trust the ethics and honesty of everyone in every occasion. What Aikido IS saying is that a person who attacks another human being is a person who is disconnected from their “true” primary identity, and is thus reacting from a perspective of fear, isolation, and or a believed dearth of resources. The best way to “counter” such an attack is to remain aware, relaxed, and emotionally balanced, while also being concerned for and connected to the well being of your seeming adversary. We are meant to inhale the “true” primary identity of our counterpart, and exhale our connection to them physically, emotionally, and spiritually. The Aikido experience shows us that our feeling of connection and caring for our counterpart is definitely felt by them on a somatic/unconscious level. When “the attacker’s” feeling mind is touched by a benevolent presence they subconsciously realize that danger is not immanent, and thus their fear and their need for attack, is lessened.

I can say from my twenty plus years of Aikido practice, that responding to aggressive fear with connection and calmness, is a very transformative experience for both parties involved. There is something so special about being in a highly challenging situation, and “poof” prior to thinking you find yourself taking a deep breath, and feeling your muscles respond by relaxing. You notice that your eyes soften ever so much, and that the sounds in the space somehow become more mellow. At the very least, you notice your counterpart becomes somewhat confused, because you are “replying” to their aggression by embracing and absorbing what they are putting forth, rather than by mounting a counterattack. Such interactions sear the memory of my soul, and give me greater faith in life.

The next time you meet someone with a guard dog mentality what will you do?

Keep them barking and lunging behind their self imposed fence? Or let that out to play, so that you can eventually become friends?

Recipes For Stress

It is within your power to reduce the stressful reactions that you have, and a key to changing your reactions is being able to track the way in which you generate stress.

Recently, a coaching colleague told me a story about his client “Jim” who gets into many arguments and confrontations with others. After each altercation Jim spends a good deal of time attempting to convince my coaching colleague as to how the other person’s behavior was the catalyst for what took place. One of his favorite expressions is “I hate it when people jump to conclusions without first getting all of the facts.” In return my colleague has spent a good deal of time trying to show Jim how his behavior and thinking play a key role in creating his many problems.

Recently, Jim asked my colleague to accompany him on a business trip. On the second day of their trip they are walking down the street together late at night, having just finished a marathon business negotiation. They are both feeling a little bit ill at ease because they are not familiar with their surroundings, and they are concerned they might be targeted for violence since they obviously are not part of the local population.

All of a sudden they hear another set of footsteps walking behind them. Jim wheels around to see who is following them, and as he does so the man behind them quickly places his hand inside his coat in the area of his breast pocket. Fearing the worst, Jim wheels back around and dashes out onto the street in an attempt to get away from the gun he believes the man is pulling out. Boom! Jim gets hit not by a speeding bullet, but by a speeding car.

The man who Jim had been frightened by runs towards him as he lays bleeding on the street, and uses the handkerchief he already has in his hand, to stem the flow of Jim’s blood. It turns out that luckily for Jim the man is a doctor. Fairly soon the bleeding is stopped and it appears that Jim will need some stiches and a cast for his broken left leg, and after about thirty minutes an ambulance arrives to take Jim to the hospital.

Once Jim is on the stretcher and before being hoisted up into the ambulance he thanks the man for his help, and then asks, “Excuse me, but do you mind if I ask you what you were pulling out from under your coat when I first turned around to confront you?” “Why the very same hankerchief I used to stem the flow of your blood.” the doctor says. “I have been having my usual spring allergy response, and I was just ready to have a violent sneeze when you all of a sudden dashed out in the street and totally distracted me. My goodness, just now I am realizing that this is the first time today I have gone more than ten minutes without sneezing!”

“Now please let me ask you a question.” the doctor says. “Why in the world did you jump out in the street immediately upon seeing me?” Jim quickly replies “Well, we were in a dangerous neighborhood, and all of a sudden out of nowhere you were following us, and it seemed clear that you were reaching for a gun or other weapon. How would you expect me to react?”

The doctor smiles and says “Well, my friend, it seems to me that you jumped to numerous inaccurate conclusions. First you thought that the neighborhood was dangerous when in fact it is one of the safest neighborhoods in our city, although most likely a much poorer neighborhood than where you come from. Since you thought you were in a dangerous place you were predisposed to something dangerous taking place. I am guessing the fact that it was late at night, only added to your sense of fear.” “Yes” Jim said, “All of what you say is true.”

“And the fact that initially there was no one else walking on the street except for the two of you, most likely made my footsteps sound much louder and more ominous. Is this not so?” Jim slowly nods “Yes.”

“So” the doctor continued, “With those kinds of thoughts and fears running around in your head, when I stepped out of my house to go visit a patient you immediately thought that I was following you although frankly I hadn’t even really noticed you, as I was beginning a build up to a big sneeze.” “The only thing that made sense to you in the frame of mind you were in, was to believe that I was a criminal pulling out a weapon.” “I’m sorry.” Jim said.
“No need to be sorry.” the doctor says. “You have not caused me any harm.” “Indeed you have helped me to have a much clearer understanding of how my clients create stress for themselves.”

The doctor pauses for a moment and then says, “Let’s imagine that you and your friend were walking down this very same street, but at two o’clock in the afternoon instead of late at night, and there was one or two people already walking in front of you, and one person already walking behind you at a comfortable distance. How do you think you would respond to my coming out of my house in such an instance?” “Hmm.” says Jim. “I might not have even noticed you!”

“And here is another idea the doctor says. “What if everything initially happened just like it did this evening, but you had taken some self defense training and felt confident in your ability to defend yourself, and also perhaps partly because of your training, you had the tendency to be both relaxed and aware. How do you think you would have responded then?” “I can’t say for sure since I never had such training.” Jim says, “But pretty much guaranteed at the very least I would not have jumped out in front of the car.”

“And since you have been so kind so far.” the doctor says, “One more thing if you don’t mind.” “Your fear of being in dangerous surroundings led you to block out the only real danger that was present – A car speeding down the street. Perceiving danger all around you, you jumped in front of the only danger there was, and thus you created a self fulfilling prophecy.”
“Yes” Jim says, “I feel quite humbled. This is a difficult way to learn a very important lesson. But better that I learned this lesson today rather than continuing to struggle for many years to come. Now I can truly understand what happens when one consistently jumps to conclusions without having all of the facts, and assumes that something terrible will take place. Thank you for all of your assistance.”

Does this story have any special relevance to you and how you sometimes react to what is going on around you? In any one circumstance there can be many possible responses. and many possible outcomes. Have a different set of beliefs and you will respond differently. Have a different set of capabilities and training and you will respond differently. Change the way you use your body and you will respond differently. Change the environment that you are in and you will respond differently.

To learn to track the way in which you generate stress, try one of the classic Seishindo Practices – “Body + Language = Emotional Experience”.

Stress is a particular emotional state. Emotion consists of language AND body. Emotion is a system that is coherent at a deeper level than language or body taken separately. When your emotional state changes there is a concurrent change in your body, and in your use of language (including your internal thought processes). When your emotions truly change, you will notice a change in the way you use your body AND a change in the way you think about and describe your experience. When your emotions truly change you will feel better about who you are and what you are capable of. Greater self awareness leads to a more relaxed and creative use of your entire system. When you feel better, you think better, and new solutions begin to become apparent. All of which leads to a greater likelihood that you will meet the challenges you face with great success.

Trust in the moment, and trust in yourself

Do you often get yourself upset and feeling less than fully confident, as part of your preparation for facing a daunting challenge? You can improve your performance if you let your somatic intelligence lead the way.

“You move too much to be effective.” Tamura sensei softly shouted at me. “You need to give your opponent a clearer target to strike at.”

We were in the middle of studying how to defend ourselves from multiple attackers in an Aikido class for senior students in Japan.

Five young college students rushed at me once again, and once again I struggled to cope with them.

“OK, take a break.” Tamura sensei said. “In order for the five attackers to actually hit you they have to first reach you. Your job is NOT to run away from them. You need to create a spacing that leads them to all try and grab or hit you at the same time. Think of the attackers as needing to pass through a gate. If they all try and rush through the gate at the same time they will block each others efforts. Move less, do less, and be calm. Give them a clear target that they all reach at the same time.”

I had heard similar remarks in the past, but accomplishing this in the heat of the moment requires a moving calmness that takes a while to get the hang of. You know in your head what you are supposed to do, but once your heart starts beating faster and your opponents are bearing down on you, you find it really hard to believe in what you are being told.

“Think of it this way.” sensei said. He pulled out a cloth that he used to wipe away his sweat and said, “Here, take this away from me.”

As I grabbed for the cloth, he more or less handed it to me. Just as I was beginning to get a good hold on it he let go of the cloth and grabbed onto my wrist and placed me in a painful hold. I immediately let go of the cloth, and he picked it back up with one hand as he continued to keep me subdued with his other hand.

“You see.” he said, “I am not defending the cloth, I am defending myself. Better to give you the cloth, and then I have both hands free to do as I need.”

“When you move less you offer your opponents a clear target. When you offer them a clear target you will be able to understand how they are wanting to attack. They will attack you in the same manner you reached for my cloth. Confident they will accomplish their mission, because you have made it easy for them. At the last moment, just as they begin to strike or grab, take the target away from them. They will be surprised, and you will have the opportunity to do whatever is necessary.”

He got up and invited the five students to attack him. He moved very little, and it was as if he was making each one of them thread themselves through the eye of a needle. Just ever so much of a movement made by him, made them just miss their target.

“This is what happens often in our every day life.” he said. “You feel like you are faced with a daunting task, and you make your task harder by moving about needlessly and losing your composure. Breathe deeply, be calm, and know the right moment will present itself to you if you have the faith to wait. Don’t force the issue, and don’t force the timing. Trust in the moment, and trust in yourself. Take the initiative by doing nothing.”

You ARE capable. Give yourself the opportunity to excel by trusting in the moment and trusting in yourself. Wait calmly, and you will find that the necessary answers appear before you. Little by little… with lots of practice… and endless patience. Only move when the moment is right. Breathe deeply and begin at the beginning.

A small piece of carpet can add to your self-confidence

Although many human beings might feel miffed by the thought, there is a profound set of similarities amongst all mammals, and especially between dogs and humans.

Have you ever noticed how the way you feel about yourself sometimes depends on whether or not you get an external confirmation of your value? The same is true for dogs. Dogs and humans both have a “primary identity” that determines perception of the world, behavior, and one’s sense of self worth. Let me explain how my teacher nurtured a positive primary identity in the dogs he trained.

My teacher’s first rule was to “Treat your students with firm yet gentle kindness and endless patience.” No matter what the dog did (especially with puppies) he would calmly and gently, without any trace of annoyance, let them know when their behavior was not what he wanted.

His second rule was “Consistently foster and support a primary identity of love, acceptance, and protection.” My teacher used to say, “Never tell the dog that s/he is “bad” or “stupid”. If you tell your dog he is bad, he will start to feel bad. Once your dog is feeling bad, he will start to act bad. And all the dog will really be doing, is confirming what you have been telling him!” “Don’t confuse the primary identity of the dog, with the dog’s behavior. No matter what happens, your dog is a “good dog.” And sometimes your “good dog” will have lousy behavior. “Good boy, good dog, don’t gnaw on the table leg.” “Good boy, good dog, don’t you dare lift your leg on those curtains!” “No matter what happens, it is very important for your dog to know that his primary identity never changes, regardless of his behavior.” “If you think in terms of “good dog” now “bad dog” later, your affection for your dog will change like the weather and he will become confused, and not know who he really is.”

The third important rule in dog training is to “Teach by example.”
If you want your dog to be strong and calm, then you must be strong and calm in your dealings with him. If you want the dog to love you and live for the opportunity to protect you, then you need to teach love by example. You don’t ask the dog to love you, you don’t expect the dog to love you just because you feed him and give him shelter. The dog winds up loving you as a natural reaction to your love for him. The dog comes to understand his own heart, through the experience of your heart.

The fourth rule he called “The length of the leash.”
In the beginning, it is very important to not let the leash be either too short and restrictive, or too long and overly allowing. You need to be able to gauge and sense the dogs understanding of what you would like him to do, in relation to what he would like to be doing, at any given moment. Too restrictive and the dog feels coerced. Too loose and the dog has no idea what you want. And it is important to occasionally let the dog do what HE wants to do, even when this is somewhat counter to what you would like him to do. This is crucial to building relationship. In the end, you want to take off the leash completely, and let the dog be, with his own sense of right and wrong.

The meaning of any act or verbal communication, can only be fully understood by taking into account the specific context that such behaviors are performed in. Does this make clear sense? If we take the phrase “I love you.” the meaning of these words will vary greatly depending on whether I speak them to my wife, my daughter, my parents, or the woman that lives next door. If I stand up and start undressing in my bedroom, this will be considered completely normal behavior. If on the other hand I stand up and undress in front of the crowd during the Rugby World Cup, I am likely to be arrested and escorted away. The act of “undressing” has no clear meaning, unless we identify the location/environment/context, where the undressing is done.

Our “primary identity” on the other hand, is considered to be the identity we have regardless of the context we are in. It is the identity that we carry with us everywhere. Our primary identity doesn’t change with the weather, and it doesn’t change depending on praise, criticism, or being ignored. When you can bring a self affirming primary identity with you as you enter into various new and challenging situations in life, you will discover that you live with a greater sense of enjoyment and fulfillment.

My dog training teacher had a very fascinating way of helping the guard dogs he trained, to feel respected, protected and loved, regardless of the situation/context they were in. Here is how he accomplished this. First of course, he started out by treating his dogs with love and respect, and by showing them an infinite amount of patience as they were learning. This of course is crucial. Then, the next thing he did was a true stroke of genius. He would cut a small piece of carpet for each dog he trained. He would place the carpet in the dog’s sleeping area, for him to lie on each night. He would also take this carpet during the day and set it down in various locations, and sit the dog on the carpet, as he praised the dog for being good. Whenever he moved to a new location, he would have the dog stand up, and he would pick up the carpet and carry it to the new location, set it down, sit the dog down, and again, praise the dog for being a “good boy.” Soon the piece of carpet took on the distinct odor of the dog, and my teacher said that this led the dog to feel “at home” when sitting on the carpet. Next, my teacher would teach the dog to pick up the piece of carpet himself, and carry it to wherever they were going. The dog would then set the piece of carpet down when they stopped, and sit on top of it, with my teacher all of the time praising him for being a good dog. Now my teacher said, “The dog begins to feel that he truly belongs in every place that he travels to, and no matter where he goes, he receives my love and appreciation. Soon the dog takes on this love and appreciation as the core of his primary identity.”

And I ask you now, if this strategy works so brilliantly with dogs, would the same basic strategy not work just as well with human beings? Ask youself, “What is the small piece of carpet you carry around with you wherever you go?” “Would your life not be very different if you changed your piece of carpet to one of love and appreciation?”