Tag Archives: relationship skills

Regaining rapport when someone is upset with you

Introduction

Podcast_Life_Tools

In our last two podcasts, we discussed various aspects of creating rapport with others. We talk about this topic a fair amount in Seishindo because we feel it is an important life tool. If you are not having good relationships with others, you will not be enjoying your life and feeling emotionally fulfilled.

One of the things we have noticed along the way is that, no matter how good a relationship is, occasionally there will be a rough patch that needs to be addressed. So today’s podcast and my Musings below will discuss how to regain rapport with someone who is upset with you.

When you are ready to listen to the podcast click the Listen button below. Note that you will see an outline of the key points discussed.

Please share your opinions and insights in our Google Plus community. Tony and I are always happy to hear from you!

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Musings…

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I always find it unsettling when someone I care about winds up getting upset with me. At such times it can be all too easy to descend into internal dialogue about what I might have done “wrong” or what the other person could do to be more understanding. It is rare that such internal talk gets me the results I desire, which is to get the relationship back on a secure footing.

One of the most important keys to regaining rapport with someone is to listen intently to what the other person has to say when they are upset, with the intention of really understanding them. So when listening intently it is important to not be considering how you might want to critique what your counterpart has said. Listen with an open heart and emotionally digest what the other person has just communicated. When someone is upset, the last thing they want to hear is that you think what they said is somehow overblown or ill stated.

So in the early stages of a conversation with an upset person, do your best to refrain from correcting them, unless the whole premise for their being upset is totally off the mark. Give the person the opportunity to let off steam. Trying to discern “right from wrong” will rarely if ever help to get the relationship back on track. Also, trying to explain why you did what you did (if they are upset with you specifically) in the beginning of the conversation, usually doesn’t help.

Another point point in regaining rapport is this:
Keep in mind that you can’t go back and redo what you did or didn’t do, and this is especially important if you have done something that might have been lacking in forethought. Personally, I find that offering an apology will go a long way towards beginning to resolve most issues. And yes, be willing to apologize even when you feel that the other person had a role in what transpired. Make your apology without any conditions and without feeling the need for your counterpart to apologize in any way. Again, what is important here is not “right or wrong” but rather that you are truly sorry that your counterpart is upset with you and that you are empathizing with them.

In some instances, you might need to understand and appreciate that your counterpart’s model of the world is different than yours and thus find a way to embrace and understand these differences rather than get upset by the differences or try to counter their arguments with your arguments. In Aikido we say “It takes at least two people to start a fight. Your job is to not be that second person!”

Keep in mind that when a person is feeling angry or hurt, and they communicate their anger to you, it is actually a sign that they feel close to you and want the relationship to be better, and that is something positive! Does this point make immediate sense to you?

When you think about the relationships people tend to get the most upset about, I think you will agree that it is the relationships that are the most important to one or both person’s involved. Child-parent, intimate partners, long time friends, and yes business relationships as well, because often a lot is riding on the quality of a business relationship. That is why I say, consider this- If the relationship had little meaning or little importance to the other person, chances are they would be a good deal less upset with you or their “upsetness” would be short lived. So it is crucial to keep in mind that “this relationship is really important to my counterpart, otherwise they would not be so upset.”. When you are able to sense the importance of the relationship, you will be much more likely to respond in a way that honors the other person and the relationship.

Please keep in mind that your counterpart wants you to be able to really hear them without judgment, and they are also likely wanting you to feel, acknowledge, and share the pain they are feeling. When you are able to let them know that you do truly feel and care about what they are saying, the relationship will definitely begin to mend, and you will find yourself regaining the rapport that you desire.

The podcast shares a good deal more about this important topic. Please have a listen.

In Community,
Charlie_Signature_Final

Regaining rapport with someone who is upset with you

Play

Life ToolsEven in the best relationships your counterpart will likely become upset with you from time to time. This tool will help you to successfully resolve such situations, regain rapport and rebuild the relationship. You might even find that successfully dealing with the situation will make the relationship even stronger than it was before.

Episode Outline:

Important Points:

  • This tool will be used when the issue at hand is not a clear cut, “right or wrong” situation that can be easily rectified.
  • When listening to someone explain why they are upset is the difference between letting them know that you have indeed heard them, as compared to pointing out some of the possible differences in opinions you have in regard to what they just said. When people are upset, usually the last thing they want to hear is that you think what they have to say is somehow overblown or ill-stated.
  • You can’t go back and redo what you did or didn’t do, and this is especially important if you have done something that might have been lacking in forethought. What you need to focus on is making things better from the present onwards.
  • When a person is feeling angry or hurt, and they communicate their anger to you, it is actually a sign that they feel close to you and want the relationship to be better, and that is something positive!
  • In most instances when someone is upset with you there is some kernel of truth in what they say. The veracity of a criticism is often just a matter of degree rather than a matter of right or wrong. Within reason, look to say and do whatever will help to resolve the situation rather than getting into a discussion about right or wrong.
  • If you are ever feeling stumped about how to reply in the moment, or if you are definitely feeling upset by what was said, you might want to reply in the moment by simply saying something like: “Ok, thanks for this feedback. Let me take it to heart and then I will get back to you shortly with a well thought out responsible reply.” And, then revisit the person using this tool once you are in a calm, positive mindset.

Steps:

  1. Listen, nod, and acknowledge what your counterpart has to say. You nod “yes” while they are talking and when they pause you might say: “I can definitely understand why you are upset”.
  2. Apologize for having upset your counterpart and let them know that the relationship with them is important to you. This is very different than saying “I am sorry that you are upset.” because when you say this you are not taking responsibility for having upset them.
  3. Acknowledge that you could have done better. This acknowledgement can be part of your apology.
  4. Pause, take a deep breath, and see if your counterpart wants to say anything further. And if they are still upset, you need to let them vent until such time that they finally “run out of gas”.
  5. Ask the other person what they think will be the best way to make the situation more acceptable to them.
  6. State what you will do going forward, and make sure you keep to your commitment.
  7. Think about what you have learned from this situation and how you can use what you learned going forward.

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How to create rapport when meeting someone new

Introduction

Podcast_Life_ToolsToday I will be talking and writing about the best way to start a new relationship with someone. Whether you meet one new person a month or ten new people a day, the way you begin a relationship with someone will go a long way towards determining how the relationship will unfold in the future.

In our last newsletter, I said that we will do best to establish relationships based on shared feelings, interests, and experiences. Today I want to look at what you can do starting out when meeting someone new for the first time, regardless of whether you are shy or outgoing.

Please scroll down to the “Musings” section of this newsletter to read what I have to share concerning meeting someone for the first time, and also be sure to have a listen to our podcast.

If you go to the podcast on the site, you can see an outline of the key points of today’s podcast. Some people like to read the outline before listening as it gives them a clearer roadmap to follow.

When you are ready, have a listen to today’s podcast and hopefully it will lead you to feel more at ease when first meeting someone.

And please do join us in our ever-growing, new community on Google +. The details about our community are just below. A lot of interesting conversations going on!

Podcast - how to change careers

Musings…

Newsletter_rockOver time, what I have discovered about myself is that I sometimes have an “agenda” in mind when meeting someone for the first time. I might be looking to brag a bit, and I might be hoping the person I meet would like to somehow further engage with me in the future.

At other times I find that I simply wing it and talk about whatever interests me at the moment. In both instances I am mainly focused on myself and what Iwant out of the relationship, and thus I don’t take the time to really get to know the other person. Not the best way to begin a new relationship!

Most Asian cultures, on the other hand, go about making a new relationship in a very different way. They take great care in discovering who you are and what is important to you. You might know very little about your new Asian counterpart after meeting them for the first time, but in most instances you will feel listened to and appreciated. All of which has led me to think about how I can be better at starting up relationships, and what I can do differently.

I think the more we are open to learning about the other person and simply exploring possibilities the better chance we have of creating a good bond with the other person. Realizing this after many years of being mainly self-centered has been an important learning for me.

Let me share with you now some of the specifics of what I have discovered along the way. When starting a new relationship, you tend to do best when you start out by calming yourself and entering into the relationship with as little concern as possible about how the relationship might possibly benefit you. This might not always be an easy task, but it is important nonetheless.

It is best to begin by creating a context or environment that will tend to make the other person at ease with you, themselves, and the conversation in general. When the other person feels that you are totally there, without distractions and judgments, this lays the foundation for rapport and makes a high quality collaborative relationship all the more likely.

When you really take the time and effort to gain rapport with someone and understand them better, it might just wind up changing some of your opinions, and the way you act. You see, often when you really get to understand another person and their model of the world, it changes your understanding of yourself and your model of the world. So the more open you are to the possibility of changing and learning, the better a new relationship will tend to go.

Do you best to find a common ground with the person you are engaging with. Look to find the similarities between your beliefs and opinions rather than dwelling on the possible differences.

This step might seem trite if you and the other person share many of the same opinions, but obviously along the way we all meet various people who hold opinions that are different than ours. So, focus on finding a common ground more so than looking to point out where you disagree or looking to make your opinion clear to the other person.

Be open to the unknown and don’t look to move too fast. Meaningful relationships develop over time. Trusting each other, learning from each other, and appreciating each other are important dynamics that can’t be rushed.

The more you believe yourself to be a kind, caring, interesting person, the more you will make it likely that the other person will feel the same about you. Trust in yourself and trust in the goodness of the other person. When you do, a collaborative relationship is very likely to follow.

The podcast shares a good deal more about this topic. Please have a listen.

In Community,
Charlie_Signature_Final

Creating rapport when meeting someone for the first time

Play

Life ToolsMost of us tend to feel a bit awkward or uncomfortable when meeting someone for the first time. In this episode, we give you a 7 step tool to help make that first meeting go smoothly and increase the chance of creating a good relationship. When talking about how to gain rapport with someone, we are talking about creating a friendly, supportive relationship that will lead to something good taking place for both you and the person you are meeting.

Episode Outline:

Important Points:

  • There is a lot written by many different people about how to “influence” others and often they are teaching ways to manipulate the other person to get the results that YOU want. What happens when you influence a person mainly based on the results that you want is that you usually wind up with what is known as “buyers remorse”.
  • In Seishindo, we don’t believe in gaining rapport with someone as a way to take advantage of another person or to get someone to do something they normally would not do. If you wind up trying to get your counterpart to bend to your will, it is likely that people will consider you to be unethical or unkind.
  • If you really take the time and effort to gain rapport with someone and thus understand them better, it might just wind up changing some of your opinions and the way you act, as you develop an awareness of what the other person wants, what the other person is currently capable of, and what the other person considers important.
  • Another important point about relationships is that sometimes “circumstances” get in the way, regardless of whether or not the other person might otherwise be someone you could easily get along with. So don’t go ahead and assume that something is wrong with you, or you did something wrong, and that is what led to the relationship not working out.
  • For this episode, we are going to assume that you are meeting someone for the first time, and that you have a definite desire to form a good relationship with them, but you are not entering into the relationship with a grand plan in mind. We are talking about meeting someone at a social event or meeting new people at work or meeting a potential new client for the first time. Today we are just going to be talking about what you can do to create a good first meeting and a good first understanding between the both of you.

Steps:

  1. Respect the other person and be open to having a positive experience and enjoying yourself.
  2. Do you best to find a common ground with the person you are engaging with. In other words, while you are talking with the other person, look to find the similarities between your beliefs and opinions rather than dwelling on the possible differences.
  3. Encourage the other person to talk, and ask them questions to keep them going.
  4. Check for your understanding of what was said by re-phrasing or paraphrasing what you think they said.
  5. Adopt the same basic posture and gestures as your counterpart, and nod your head from time to time to show you are understanding them.
  6. Pick up and use some, but not all, of the key words and phrases your counterpart uses.
  7. Match the energy and emotional tone of your counterpart.

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An introduction to the art of rapport

Introduction

Podcast_Life_ToolsIn today’s podcast and newsletter I talk and write about how to gain rapport with a wide range of people.

When we truly gain rapport with another person we “bond” with them. We establish a relationship based on shared feelings, interests, or experiences, and in Seishindo we believe that bonding with other individuals is a crucial element in being emotionally healthy and feeling a sense of belonging in the world.

Please scroll down to the “Musings” section of this newsletter to read what I have to share concerning rapport, and also be sure to have a listen to our podcast.

If you go to the podcast on the site, you can see an outline of the key points of today’s podcast. Some people like to read the outline before listening as it gives them a clearer roadmap to follow.

When you are ready, have a listen to today’s podcast and hopefully it will lead you to better learn from your past.

Podcast - how to change careers

Musings…

Newsletter_rockWhen you truly have rapport with another person, you are engaged in a relationship of mutual understanding, agreement, and trust. To me, nothing could be finer!

It is wonderful to be with someone who looks to communicate in a collaborative manner, someone who strives to understand rather than to critique. And I am guessing that most everyone I meet feels the same.

One point I find of great importance when considering forming a good relationship with someone is that you first need to have a good relationship with yourself.

In order to honestly and collaboratively communicate your thoughts and feelings to another person, you will first need to be appreciating and accepting yourself. Being open and receptive to what others have to say begins by being open and receptive to yourself. What I have found over time is that the more a person has negative thoughts about themselves, the more they will tend to be judgmental of others. When you are in a respectful, positively-oriented relationship with yourself, you will be that much more open to the opinions, beliefs, and frailties of another person.

I will admit that I find it important to watch over my tendency to be judgmental. Living in Japan for so long has really given me a great opportunity to be mindful about this. I think it is rather common for Japanese people to judge foreigners concerning some of their “crude” habits, and I also find that myself and other “gaijin” can easily get into complaining and judging Japanese people. Many folks are often just not comfortable with the differences they experience in others.

For me, one significant thing to note when making a relationship with a new person is this: I don’t need to genuinely enjoy being with another person in order to make a good relationship with them. What I need to be able to do is respect the other person and find some appreciation for their point of view. I have learned over time that if I have a difficult time appreciating another person, it says more about me than it does about the them. Sometimes my judgmental nature gets in the way!

I think that, from time to time, we all wind up meeting someone who seems to have a professional level of skill when it comes to annoying and offending others. When I meet such a person, I do my best to understand that the person is likely frightened and thus wanting to keep others at bay. I believe such people exhibit annoying, offensive behavior in spite of themselves. They don’t truly want to be separate from others but being separate seems to create a sense of safety for them. Or better to say a false sense of safety.

So when a person acts in way that leads you to feel offended or upset, first check to see if perhaps you are feeling a bit oversensitive and judgmental and if you feel this is not the case… you will do well to appreciatively consider what the other person might be afraid of or insecure about, and what kind of relationship they would have with you if they felt safe to express their inner feelings. As the Beatles used to say, “Love is the answer and you know that for sure. Love is a flower you got to let it grow.”

In my mind, a life devoid of respectful, loving relationships would be a life not truly worth living. And thank goodness I can’t even really imagine how that could ever happen. Playfully, I like to sometimes say that my desire to have good relationships with others is really a selfish act on my part, because I gain so much by having good relationships!

In Seishindo, we understand that a good deal of what goes into making rapport with another person has to do with the somatic connection you make with the other person. And when I say somatic connection I mean moving, breathing, talking, and adopting a posture that allows both you and the other person to feel safe and invited to share feelings with each other. And making a somatic connection with someone is the main focus of today’s podcast. Tony and I talk about how to use our mammalian consciousness to bond with others.

So when you are ready, please have a listen. And remember, if you go to the site you can read a synopsis of the podcast.

In Community,
Charlie_Signature_Final

How to gain rapport with others by starting with yourself

Play

Life ToolsWhen we bond with another person we establish a relationship with them based on shared feelings, interests, or experiences, and in Seishindo we believe that bonding with other individuals is a crucial element in being emotionally healthy and feeling a sense of belonging in the world. And perhaps what is most interesting and important is that when wanting to create rapport with someone else, you need to start out by creating rapport with yourself first. You need to feel comfortable in your own skin, in your own shoes. And the way you do that is to begin by calming yourself and becoming receptive to everything taking place in and around you.

Episode Outline:

Important Points:

  • When you have rapport with someone, you are engaged in a relationship of mutual understanding, agreement, and trust.
  • Rapport is a two way street – you can’t have rapport with someone if they are not feeling a sense of rapport with you.
  • In order to be able to communicate your thoughts and feelings to another person and have them hear you in an accepting manner, you will need to first establish an emotional bond with them, otherwise they will not be open to listening to you. And this holds true in the other direction as well.
  • You don’t need to genuinely like someone in order to gain rapport with them, but you do need to respect the other person and find some appreciation for their point of view.
  • In Seishindo we understand that a good deal of what goes into making rapport with another person has to do with the somatic connection you make with the other person. By somatic connection, we mean moving, breathing, talking, and adopting a posture that allows both you and the other person to feel safe and invited to share feelings with each other.

Steps:

  1. Breathe in an expansive manner, and give your primary attention to maintaining expansive breathing as this will help you to stay calm and aware.
  2. Adopt a posture that will seem inviting and non-confrontational to your counterpart, and be aware of your facial expressions and gestures.
  3. Nod your head yes from time to time, as a sign that you are taking in what they are saying, and that you are not looking to differ with them.
  4. When it your turn to speak, speak somewhat slowly, and in a calm friendly voice.
  5. Slow down the interval between hearing what was said, and inhale before responding.
  6. Begin your conversation having a clear intent of wanting to understand the underlying beliefs and emotions that are important to your counterpart.
  7. Check to see if you are understanding the other person, by paraphrasing what they just said, and asking questions. Sometimes this is called reflective listening.

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Achieve greater clarity and purpose by resolving inner conflict

Introduction

Podcast_Life_ToolsI believe that “life is a series of challenges.”

And when I write that, I wonder if you perceive me as having just communicated, “Life is a series of struggles,” or if instead the message you get is something more like, “Everyone faces numerous challenges in their life and it is crucial that we are able to face our challenges in a positively oriented manner.”

I believe your interpretation will depend a lot on whether or not you find yourself needing to frequently deal with inner conflict. Inner conflict leads one part of you to say “Yes” to a desired outcome, while another part of you says “No.” (We discuss this type of conflict in our Anger Management video which can be found here on our website.)

For instance, you might likely encounter inner conflict when having made a clear commitment to yourself to lose weight. Things go well for the first few days, and then you go to a friend’s house for dinner, and they offer you “the best chocolate cake on planet earth.” How can you say “Yes” to the cake, while also saying “Yes” to your weight management goals? Even as I type that question now, it seems like it might be a zen koan – a question that has no logical answer. Indeed I believe that often the most important issues we face in our life are paradoxical in nature.

Today’s podcast focuses on resolving your inner conflicts so that you are better able to act with clarity and purpose – in other words, resolving or solving the paradoxes you are faced with. Not necessarily an “easy” task, but certainly a task that you are definitely capable of accomplishing, and we give you the steps to help you do just this.

If you go to the podcast on the site, you will see that we have started to include an outline of the key points in each podcast. We started to do this as a result of feedback from some of our listeners. If you are in a hurry or just want 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 inner conflict.

When you are ready, have a listen to today’s podcast and hopefully it will lead you to act from a place of greater clarity and purpose.

Podcast - how to change careers

Musings…

Newsletter_rockAs “one” individual, we often tend to cast competing votes when it comes to important issues that we face in our lives. For instance, one part of us says “Yes” to wanting to get in shape and exercise more, and another part votes for postponing our exercising regime until the weather gets warmer. This “self competition” is somewhat like being a politician who needs to satisfy two voting blocks that have very different outlooks on life. There is the challenge of needing to craft an initiative that will please both the liberals and the conservatives. Certainly not a simple task and perhaps even a task that can seem impossible at times.

My friend Stephen Gilligan likes to playfully say that many of us seem to have an evil twin that shows up at all the wrong times with the intent of sabotaging whatever plans have been made. So what to do?

I believe that a crucial life skill is having the ability to listen to, appreciate, and synthesize the seemingly competing goals and voices we all have at times. We need to understand that our emotional self often wants immediate gratification with little understanding of the long term consequences of our actions. At the same time, our logical self tends to make goals that don’t take the needs of our emotional self into account. In my life, “the trick” seems to be having the capacity to listen to my emotional self from the perspective of my logical self and vice versa. To craft goals and actions that take into account both voices, both selves. Only then am I able to gain an intuitive understanding of the paradoxes I am faced with, dissolve my internal conflict, and act with clarity and purpose.

When wanting to act in a more decisive, life-affirming manner, I think you will do well to step back and consider how much you find yourself arguing with yourself, and how much you attempt to achieve solutions that are either black or white, rather than achieving goals that are fashioned from a more collaborative point of view. In regard to weight management, I have been working on listening to “Mr. Slim” and “Big Boy”, the names I have given to two of my personas in regard to self-image and weight management.

Big Boy likes to eat pizza and drink beer and finds that the opportunities to do so are somewhat limitless. Mr. Slim on the other hand is very much into the importance of being at a healthy weight and has disdain for anyone who does not see the “obvious” benefits of following his plan of action. Having lost around seventy pounds over the last two years has necessitated me teaching these two guys how to have a collaborative, respectful conversation with each other. Helping each persona to find the similarities and common ground in their seemingly disparate views of life. The results have been highly rewarding, and I believe that you are also definitely capable of crafting new “self-relationships” that can serve you well.

The more you are able to respect and appreciate the synergy your various internal competing points of view offer you, the more energy you will have to successfully meet the many challenges you face. Living a life that offers you significant emotional fulfillment is one of the many benefits you will receive!

Have a listen to today’s podcast, and let me know what both of you think!

In Community,
Charlie_Signature_Final

Creating great relationships by modeling others

Introduction

Podcast_Life_ToolsI believe that the ability to create high quality relationships with the people I meet is a very important and highly rewarding skill.

To me, life seems to be all about “relationship, relationship, relationship.” How about you?

I think that most of us move from one relationship to the other numerous times every day, and the type and quality of these relationships also changes many times. Whether it is being with my daughter, talking to a client (long-term or brand new), or meeting a friend for dinner, without high-quality varied relationships, life would really be a drag!

For today’s podcast we are going to learn from (a.k.a. “model”) people who do an excellent job of creating and maintaining relationships with others. I am hoping you find this podcast to be of definite interest, and remember if you let us know your opinions, both positive and negative, Tony and I will do our best to create podcasts on topics that interest you the most.

If you go to the podcast on the site, you will see that we have started to include an outline of the key points in each podcast. We started to do this as a result of feedback from some of our listeners. If you are in a hurry or just want 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 relationships.

So when you are ready, have a listen to today’s podcast and hopefully it will lead you to have better relationships in the future.

Podcast - how to change careers

Musings…

Newsletter_rockWhen it comes to describing individuals who are excellent at creating relationships with others, I believe Alex Noble does a wonderful job of describing what is important. Here is what he has to say:

“There is a quality in a few unique individuals which I can only best describe as acceptance. In the presence of such persons, I feel safe, at home, and eager to share and learn. Their attitude toward life is gentle and affirming, and this in turn brings out the best and the deepest in me, and makes me feel somehow capable of all the good I have ever hoped to accomplish.”

Alex perfectly encapsulates the type of person I strive to be in my everyday life, even though I often fail miserably at doing so! Indeed I would be very interested in hearing from anyone who does not ascribe to the ideal he sets forth. Parents, coaches, bosses, friends, prison guards… Is there a job or relationship in life where being kind and supportive does not work all that well? To me, I would think not. As long as we don’t equate “being kind” with a person who easily gives in to the dictates of others. Being kind does not at all need to mean “being soft and weak”!

When I first started out as a coach many years go, I thought that my job was mainly to help people get clear and take action. It didn’t take me all that long to realize that in order to help people get clear and take action that I first needed to help them feel safe to share and talk about subjects that were delicate for them.

Next I realized that in order to help them feel capable of change, I needed to be gentle and affirm the good I saw in them. When I was able to do this, my clients wound up feeling much more capable of achieving the goals they had been struggling with.

When working with others, whether in a corporate job, or as a parent, life partner, or friend, there is often a task that either one or both parties want to accomplish. My experience has taught me that the best way to complete the task at hand is to build and maintain a high quality relationship with one’s counterpart. I find that this principle is even more important when the task at hand seems daunting. Two people working together in harmony tend to be much more able than two individuals working separately. Sometimes I like to say that 1 + 1 can equal much more than 2.

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

In Community,
Charlie_Signature_Final

How to create high quality relationships by modeling excellence

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Life ToolsDo you find it challenging to create and maintain high quality relationships? Are you wondering how others have an easier time in doing so? We give you insights into creating better relationships by asking 9 questions.

Episode Outline:

  1. Identify the person you want to model for learning how to create and maintain good relationships and arrange access to that person (i.e. your role model).
  2. Make the path forward clear to your counterpart – let them know how long you need and what your intent is.
  3. Ask the following questions:
  • In general, when making relationships with others? Do you have an overriding belief  that leads you to engage in the friendly manner that you do?
  • Do you tend to reflect and carefully analyze each of your relationships?
  • Which way of interacting do you find to be the most beneficial when wanting to make a good relationship with someone? Are you mainly a talker or mainly a listener?
  • Do you make it a point to ask the other person questions about themselves and how they are feeling, or do you tend to lead with your own thoughts and beliefs?
  • What do you do when you are in a relationship that has conflict or the potential for conflict?
  • When faced with a challenging situation or a challenging deadline: Do you give the most attention to getting the task done at the short-term expense of your relationship with the other person or do you focus on maintaining the relationship while easing up on the task if necessary?
  • If you find that at times you struggle in a certain relationship, do you have any tried and true strategies that you use to improve the relationship?
  • What do you do when, regardless of your best efforts, the relationship just doesn’t seem to improve?
  • When faced with a disagreement with someone: Do you strive to first make your opinion known or do you strive to first make sure you fully understand exactly what your counterpart is expressing?
  1. Take your notes and turn them into something clear and concise. Then get back to your role model, show them your notes, and ask them if they want to modify or refine what you wrote down.

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How to respond to criticism

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Life ToolsHave you ever received criticism and was not sure about what to do with it? Did you just get upset and shoot back an unpleasant response? This tool will give you an alternative way to respond to criticism which can lead to better relationships and self-improvement.

Episode Outline:

Stage 1: Digest what was said and do some self reflection

  1. Ask yourself what your usual level of appreciation is for the person who gave you negative feedback.
  2. Ask yourself how what was said in some ways matches your appraisal of yourself.
  3. Ask yourself if how this person criticized you at all matches the way you tend to criticize others in general.
  4. If needed, ask a friend for their appraisal of you in regard to the criticism you received.

Stage 2: Prepare a response to the criticism you received

  1. Uncover the underlying, unspoken statement that your counterpart didn’t consciously express.
  2. Regardless of how negative the criticism seems to be, uncover and name the positive intention your counterpart might have had while keeping in mind possible unspoken statements from the previous step.
  3. Restate to yourself the criticism your counterpart gave you in a more positive manner than it was initially made.

Stage 3: Engage in a constructive conversation that addresses the criticism you received

  1. Present your reworded positively oriented statement to your counterpart.
  2. After making this statement give the other person an opportunity to respond, while making sure that they appear to understand what was just said.
  3. At some point in the flow of the conversation, make a statement to your counterpart about your positive intention in regard to them.
  4. Ask your counterpart if they would like to suggest any specifics in regard to how they would like you to act or perform differently in the future.
  5. Make a clear commitment to your counterpart.
  6. Follow-up with your counterpart when and if you find it necessary.

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The act of forgiveness is an act of self love!

Introduction

Podcast_Life_ToolsWe have just launched a completely redesigned website, as well as finishing up our new stress management program offering-Traditional Japanese Stress Management. We will send you a message in a day or two announcing this program, so stay tuned! You can go to the new site now (it has the same address as always) and you will see that everything is completely different and for the better.

The whole site is now searchable and you can easily find articles and podcasts relating to specific topics. Hover over the menu items at the top of the site and you will see what I mean. Please do send up any feedback you may have about the site.

As it turns out, our scheduled podcast on “Forgiveness” is our offering for today, and there is perhaps no greater role model in this regard than Nelson Mandela, who recently passed away. The world has lost a great leader and a great human being. Please read a little bit about Nelson and the topic of “forgiveness” in the Musings section further on down the page.

If you have already subscribed to our free podcasts via iTunes or another podcast player, open your player and today’s podcast will 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_rockLet me start off by saying that Nelson Mandela is a man I have had great admiration for, for many years. He is my #1 role model in regard to forgiveness and all the wonderful things that can happen as a result of forgiving others.

Nelson Mandela was in jail for 27 years, so he could have easily stood up and announced that he was righteous in wanting to punish the people that wronged him. But instead, he chose a path of reconciliation, and the whole world has benefitted from his example. If Nelson had remained angry, there is no telling just how bad things could have gotten in South Africa and the rest of the world after he was released. His path of forgiveness was a gift to the entire world.

Here is one of MANY examples of what Nelson did in regard to forgiving others- He invited his jailors to his inauguration, and he introduced them to the audience as honored guests. What a heart he had!

What I learned from Nelson is this- In order to free ourselves from the pain of anger and resentment we need to be able to forgive others. The longer we dwell on hurtful situations from the past, the longer we keep ourselves from living fully in the present, and in the process we often bring about further pain and suffering. Forgiveness is an act of kindness. An act of kindness to yourself, as it will release you from the pain you have been suffering and lead to new possibilities in your life and in your relationships.

Many people struggle, asking themselves if they “should” forgive someone, or telling themselves that they don’t want to forgive the other person… all the while feeling anger, resentment, and pain. I believe that deep down in each person’s heart of hearts they do want to forgive, and they just need to find a proper way to go about doing so.

Often, my clients say “I don’t want to forgive the other person for what they did in the past. What they did was and is still wrong, and therefore I will not forgive them.”

When I hear such a statement I talk to my clients about the important difference between “forgiving” someone for what they have done and “condoning” what they have done.

Forgiving someone for what they have done, does not at all mean that you have to condone what the other person has done. In other words, you don’t have to feel that what the other person did is okay in order to forgive them. I am fairly certain that Nelson did not condone what was done to him and his compatriots, but that did not stop him from forgiving.

Here is the proposition I set forth in our podcast– What if as a totally selfish act, done simply for your own personal happiness, you decided to let go of the resentment you had towards another person. If you did so you would no longer have resentment clouding your life. Would you be willing to forgive someone if it led to you being happier?

You would not be saying that what was done to you was OK. You would simply be letting go of the resentment so that you could move forward in your life. Would you want to let go of your resentment if it meant you would feel greater happiness overall?

I am guessing that for many of you reading these words now, there is someone in your life that you would do well to forgive. And if you do so, I believe it will improve the overall quality of your life, and the lives of all you are in active contact with. Give it a try!

If you would like to further explore the topic of forgiveness, please have a listen to our podcast.

In Community,
Charlie_Signature_Final

How to forgive someone

Play

Life ToolsWe talk about how to forgive someone who has wronged you in the past. Moreover, we will talk about how to use Positive Intention to understand the potential reasons why this person did what they did, and how to the concept of positive intention to let go of your resentment towards that other person. In the Seishindo way of thinking, holding resentment towards someone really doesn’t help us in our daily lives and can actually be detrimental in living a healthy and positive lifestyle.

Show Notes:

Episode Outline:

Caveats:

  • Using this tool will not necessarily require that you make a statement of forgiveness.
  • We assume that you have some form of personal relationship with the other person.
  • You might not find that each and every question in this tool speaks directly to your experience.

Steps:

  1. Name how you were wronged in as simple a manner as possible.
  2. Name and note the positive qualities of the person you have resentment towards.
  3. Ask yourself what the positive intention of the other person might have been when they wronged you.
  4. Consider if you might have done something to make the wrongful action by the other person all the more likely.
  5. Ask yourself: “Does my continued resentment towards the other person add to the overall quality of my life or detract from the overall quality of my life?”
  6. Ask yourself: “Does remaining resentful in some way keep you tied to a limiting version of the past where you feel like a victim? Does maintaining your resentment make it less likely that you will have the future you truly desire?”
  7. Ask yourself: “What benefits have accrued to me because of my experience with this other person?”
  8. Ask yourself: “Deep down, in my heart of hearts, would I not like to have a better relationship with this other person?”
  9. Ask yourself: “What if as a totally selfish act, done simply for my own personal happiness, I decided to go ahead and let go of the resentment I have towards the person that wronged you? What will I actually do to go ahead and forgive them?”

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Appreciating people who are different than you to create stronger relationships

Play

The idea behind this tool is that when someone behaves in a way that is different than our normal behavior we often wind up judging them, rather than appreciating the value that this different behavior can bring to the relationship. And this judgment leads to negativity and negativity leads to a loss of faith in the other person. This tool will help you assess another person in a positively-oriented manner while maintaining faith in all they are capable of. And you might also learn a bit about yourself as well.

Build better relationships with people who are different than you

Introduction

Podcast_Life_ToolsThe purpose of today’s podcast is to help you better understand and appreciate people you might find challenging or “different”, in a way that leaves you ill at ease. We offer today’s podcast because we feel that good relationships are a crucial aspect of everyone’s life.

Today’s tool is based on five fundamental questions you can ask yourself as a means to help you get clear and create the possibility of a better relationship.

Please do get back to us and let us know what you think about the podcast. Your feedback will help us to serve you better in the future.

When you are ready, scroll down to the Musings section of this newsletter and I will share some of my further thoughts on appreciating difference in others.

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

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_rockLiving in Japan as a “gaijin” for about 30 years now has really given me the opportunity to better understand how to make the most out of relationships with people who are significantly different than me.

“Gaijin” literally translated means “outside person” which to the Japanese, means anyone other than a Japanese person. And there is another related term that is often used, “henna gaijin” or “strange outside person”. In fact I often jokingly say to my Japanese friends that most every “gaijin” is a “henna gaijin” because almost all of us tend to approach the world much differently than the average Japanese.

A number of years ago during a break in one of my seminars, my students started commenting about how strange it must be for “gaijin” to have intimate relationships with Japanese people. After a bit of give and take one young Japanese lady in her late twenties said, “Well, I have no idea what it is like to be married to a “gaijin” but when I got married a few years ago I must say it felt like I had all of a sudden moved to a foreign country. My Japanese husband had, and still has, such unusual habits. Even today, I can’t make much sense out of much of what he does!. Maybe marrying a “gaijin” wouldn’t have been as strange as marrying my Japanese husband!”

Hearing what she had to say made me chuckle, and it also made me think some. I felt she had said something profound, even though the sense I got from her was that she was just complaining a little bit.

One thing that gets clearer and clearer to me as my life continues on is that each and every one of us has a model of the world that is different than anyone else on the planet. Sure, Japanese people have many cultural similarities with each other, but what is dissimilar is also of definite importance. Why? Because I think it is at the interface of “the difference between us” where many people get stuck in their relationships. Likely people of all nationalities face this challenge. No matter how homogeneous a culture might be, I think each culture has many “henna gaijin”, and often it is the unusual person, the eccentric person, that is not held in high regard by others.

You see, much of our thinking, beliefs, and habits seem to be “only natural” to each and every one of us. And when something appears as natural, we often don’t have positive thoughts regarding a person that goes against this natural order. We tend to have judgments about this person and their “strangeness”. So what to do? Well, that’s some of what Tony and I talk about in our podcast. We lead you through 5 specific questions to help you understand and appreciate the difference between you and someone else.

So, if you would like to make better relationships by appreciating the differences in others, please have a listen to our podcast.

In Community,
Charlie_Signature_Final

Everyday Anger Management

Introduction

I hear from many people that they see ever increasing expressions of anger in their everyday work life and personal life, and certainly we see lots of evidence of this in the news. So I think that understanding more about anger is an important topic for all of us to take a closer look at.

When you are ready, scroll down to the Musings section of this newsletter and I will share some of my thoughts on the topic.

And when you are done reading…

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 this link. Everyday Anger Management

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!

We would love to get some feedback from you concerning the podcasts. The more you let us know what you do and don’t like, the better we can hone our offering. We are also very open to suggestions for future topics. And as always, we would be grateful if you would forward this email to anyone you feel might benefit from what we have to share!

In Community,
Charlie_Signature_Final

Musings…

If you take the time to delve deeper into the emotion known as “anger” I think you will find that the angrier someone is over a long period of time, the more difficulty they have in expressing their full range of emotions. Their anger overwhelms them and blocks out the possibility of their feeling emotions like sadness, happiness, and love.

So even though angry people often abuse others, they also seriously abuse themselves. And if you think along these lines you will be able to feel compassion for someone when they express anger.

I am not suggesting you should accept or condone outbursts of anger, but rather take a moment to realize how the angry person is abusing themselves and limiting their ability to feel accepted and loved.

Also, if you happen to be pretty hot headed yourself, then think about how your anger keeps you unhappy, and unfulfilled emotionally. No matter how “right” or righteous you might be, it is rare for someone to feel that they got what they wanted by expressing their anger. Indeed, if you find yourself getting angry, you will do well to ask yourself, “What am I really wanting to express here, and what is the response from the other person that I am hoping for?” If you ask yourself such questions you just might find that what you really want to express is sadness and or emotional pain.

As mammals I think we all very definitely need a heartfelt connection to other human beings if we are to maintain an emotionally healthy life. I believe that being able to experience intimacy with others is a necessity and not just a luxury. When we feel hurt, disrespected, abandoned, or sad, we often tend to cover up these uncomfortable feelings and lose touch with what is really driving our behavior. The result that often comes to pass is that we express anger or resentment instead. And after expressing your anger it is likely that you and your counterpart will feel a greater emotional distance between each other, which is likely not the result you are hoping for.

By consistently expressing only one segment of our entire emotional range (our anger), we limit our ability to give and receive love and feel happy.

These are some of my musings about anger. If you listen to our podcast Tony and I discuss this topic in much greater detail. So please have a listen!

In Community,
Charlie_Signature_Final

Defusing Potential Conflict: Part 2 – Strengthening your appreciation for your counterpart

Play

We discuss how you can further defuse potential conflict with someone by appreciating that their model of the world is different than yours and by developing a sense of “we-dentity”.

Building better relationships

Introduction
Today’s podcast will help you learn how to build better relationships, and become a more cooperative, understanding partner. I think this is a need that we all have from time to time. You can build better relationships by learning how to understand and appreciate the perspectives of others. In fact I would say that many of the challenges we face when in relationship are due to the fact that we don’t truly understand the other person, and because of this we wind up judging the person as somehow being “wrong”.

If you would like to listen to today’s podcast on our website (and you can download it as well), then please click on this link: Building better relationshipsIf you are already subscribed to our podcasts via iTunes or another podcast player, the podcast should already be showing up in your feed. You can find our back catalog of podcasts by clicking on this link: Life Tools.

Please scroll down and read my “Musings” in the main section of this newsletter. Hopefully you will find that what I have written resonates with you.

And please do drop Tony and myself an email, letting us know what you think about this podcast and any of our previous podcasts as well. Your feedback will help set the direction of what we do and where we go, in the future. So beyond feedback, please let us know about whatever topics you would like to hear us discuss in the future. Please email us at life-tools@seishindo.org.

We look forward to hearing from you!
In Community,
Charlie_Signature_Final

Musings…
If you have been following our newsletters of late, you know that I recently spent some time in Ecuador and Peru. The trip was rather arduous and also very rewarding. I have included again today, a few pictures from my trip.

On_the_river_2Part of the reason I went to Ecuador was to see if I had interest in moving there. As much as I found the countryside very beautiful, I was left feeling rather lonely. I only know enough Spanish to get in trouble, and since the average “gringo” does not fit into local culture all that easily anyway, I realized that in order to move to Ecuador, I would need to drag at least a couple of friends along with me. Having this realization brought me a new understanding of my life.

For me, having friends to interact with is crucial to my sense of self, and indeed my friends are part of my identity. Is the same perhaps true for you?

Now to be clear, I do have some wonderful friends, but mostly my friends are spread out around the globe, and I desire more than interacting with them via the internet. Realizing this has really changed my thinking about where I would like to move next. Good that I realize this now, rather than moving and feeling lonely afterwards.

More of the riverI have been sitting quietly lately, asking myself, “What do I really want from my life going forward? Who do I really want in my life going forward?” When asking myself such questions I am not at all expecting the “right” answers to quickly pop up, and in fact I find that simply asking myself these questions is comforting. I sit in a state of “not knowing” and realizing that I don’t know is quite alright for me at this time. The important point being that I am asking. I am certain that being present with these questions will little by little lead me where I want to and need to go. Simply taking the time to ask, listen, and feel, is a wonderful gift.

And how about you? Do you take the time to contemplate who you are and what is truly important to you? I hope so, because it can be way too easy to just stay busy and never get around to thinking about such things. As one of my friends likes to say, “I find that I have tended to spend 99% of my life worrying about the 1% of my life that is in front of me now. Instead, by being mindful, I am spending more and more time considering the 99% that has been left unattended for all too long.”

These are my thoughts for today, and I hope these thoughts resonate with you and help you to redirect yourself some. Please have a listen to this week’s podcast and find out about how you can build better relationships. Healthy relationships with friends, loved ones, and colleagues will make your life that much more emotionally fulfilling.

In community,
Charlie_Signature_Final

Creating a self-fulfilling prophecy

It was Friday night and the class was full. Over in the far right corner of the dojo, two students were giving each other a hard time, and I knew this was going to upset Sensei. Sure enough he growled at them a couple times telling them to lighten up, but if anything they only became more aggressive. Finally Sensei had had enough and he called the class to a halt.

“Go to the front of the room,” Sensei said to the two aggressive students. “I want you to perform for the class.” Once they got there Sensei turned to the rest of us, gave a wink, and said “Now let’s see which one of them is better than the other.” He then told them to perform a specific sequence of moves.

Immediately, it looked like they were involved in a mud wrestling contest rather than Aikido. Both of them moved awkwardly, neither one of them had good footing, and it was hard to discern who was the attacker and who the defender.

After a couple minutes of watching, Sensei told them to stop and sit, as he moved to the front of the room. “There are so many things wrong here it’s hard to know where to begin,” he said. “The two of you perform as if you were identical twins. You look alike and have the same bad habits. I wouldn’t be surprised if you told me you grew up in the same household.”

“The first point that sticks out is that both of you act like righteous victims. Acting as if you’re better or more correct than the one who’s attacking you. With the mind of a victim, you’re focused on getting attacked, rather than correctly focusing on nothing in particular. As I’ve tried to tell you many times before, you energize and strengthen whatever you focus on. So with your focus on the attack, you make the attacker stronger than he’d normally be. Needless to say this leads to your self-fulfilling prophecy of performing poorly.”

“Next,” Sensei said, “Convinced you’re not as good as you think you should be, you set about proving your various dojo partners are even worse. When attacking neither one of you attacks correctly. In fact, you both usually do the opposite of what you’re supposed to do. When a specific technique calls for the attacker to overextend themselves by leaning forward, both of you under- extend and wind up leaning backwards. This makes the called for response to the attack more or less impossible to perform. You’re not proving the incompetence of your partner, you’re only proving how foolish you are.”

“The last point I want to make for today is the following. It’s amazing and sad to watch how strongly both of you critique each other, while at the same time neither one of you seems to have the ability to properly critique yourself. You each strive to increase your self-image, by demonstrating how much more you know in comparison to your partner. You both have a strong desire to prove the other person wrong, as a way of proving yourself right. This leads me to understand that both of you have little self-confidence, and low self-esteem. Not only is neither one of you learning anything by practicing, you’re instead strengthening the bad habits and lack of self-confidence you both had when first entering the dojo. I ask you now to bow and apologize to each other, bow and apologize to the entire class, and then please leave. Don’t bother to come back again unless you’re ready to change your mindset and cooperate.”

Positive Intention: With yourself

Introduction

Our transition to podcasting is now pretty firmly underway, and today you are receiving the link to our third podcast relating to “Positive Intention”. Today’s podcast walks you through how to use the concept of positive intention to forge a better relationship with yourself.

Read through my “Musings” further on down the page, and also our offer of a free digital version of my book.
And then when you are done… Please listen to today’s podcast- 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!

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: Podcast 3: Positive Intention- With yourself

If you missed either one of our first two podcasts you can listen to them, and or download them, here:
Podcast 1: Positive Intention- Introduction

Podcast 2: Positive Intention- With others

We have received some wonderful feedback that leads us to believe we are on the right path, and both Tony and I would love to hear from more of you! The more feedback we get from the Seishindo community, the more we will learn about what you are really wanting to hear us talk about and teach. We look forward to offering you tools that will help you to live a more fulfilling life!

If you are interested in Japanese culture, intercultural issues, and mindfulness, you will likely find my book to be of special value. Click here to have a look inside my book.

Musings…

These last couple of weeks have really given me a lot to think about, and a lot to feel into and absorb. Because so many of you have been receiving my newsletters for a number of years now, I want to share my recent experience with you, rather than simply talking about theory.

Whenever a loved one passes away a lot of memories flood up from the past. One of the things that intrigues me the most about this process is that memories just seem to appear on their own, without any prior conscious thought on my part. I am sure you have all had a similar experience numerous times in your life. When this happens the most is during what is sometimes called “twilight times”. Just before going to sleep, immediately upon waking, while sitting on the train, or any other time when we are not thinking about anything in particular. I would love to know more about how this process takes place. Where are these memories stored, and what is the trigger that leads to one memory and not another? So much of life is mysterious and unknown!

In a wonderful act of serendipity, as we put out our podcasts on “positive intention” I have been drawn to give this concept a lot of thought in regard to my dad. My dad was a courageous New York City fireman for many years, and he saved numerous lives in the course of his work. My dad also had a number of personal demons he struggled with during his life. This led him and me to not always have the best relationship, even though we both tried our best.

So I have spent a good deal of time over the last couple of weeks, coming to a heartfelt understanding of what my dad’s positive intentions were, and also my own positive intentions in regard to being in relationship with him. Lots of food for thought, and lots of emotions to somehow sort through.

You see, I do know that my dad always had a positive intention when disciplining me and criticizing me. Intellectually, I can understand this fairly easily. What takes a good deal more work though is coming to an emotional understanding of what this means. There are two points we have been talking about in our podcasts on positive intention that are important to consider here:

1. Even though our intentions are positive, we often engage in less than stellar behaviors or strategies when attempting to fulfill our positive intentions. Keeping this point in mind I have found it important to appreciate that my dad did indeed have positive intentions, even when his behavior seemed to suggest the opposite. The more I am able to keep this in mind, the more I am able to appreciate my life with my father. It has led me to the realization that he did indeed always want the best for me.

2. Forgiving others for what they have done, is not the same as condoning what others have done.
I think this is a point where people often get stuck when they have been involved in challenging relationships.

In this regard, I have found that it is again important to separate out my dad’s positive intentions, from the behaviors and strategies he used in attempting to fulfill his intentions. When I do this, I can appreciate what his positive intent was, while at the same time forgiving him for the hurtful things he said and did. And I can do this without needing to try and condone some of what he did. The better able I am at doing this, the better able I become at liberating myself from many of the negative emotions I have carried with me over the years.

In sharing my thoughts and feelings with you today, I hope that you will be able to benefit going forward in your own life!

And we would like to ask for some help please…

The more positive reviews we get for our podcasts on iTunes, the better we will show up in the iTunes search results. Better search results leads to more people joining the Seishindo community, and benefitting from what we have to share. So, if you are enjoying our podcasts, we would really appreciate a favorable review!

If you already have iTunes installed on your computer and you have an iTunes account then please use this link to leave a review-
itms://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/seishindo-life-tools/id639589158

It will open iTunes for you and then you will want to click on the tab for “Ratings and Reviews”

And as a way to thank you for your review, we would like to offer you a gift. The pdf version of my book, “Pure Heart Simple Mind- Wisdom stories from a life in Japan.”

After leaving a review on iTunes send us an email at life-tools@seishindo.org with “Podcast review” as the title of your message, and please tell Tony what country you are in, so we can keep track of where people write from. After receiving your email Tony will send you a link to the book.

For those of you who have the time and interest, thanks so much for helping out!

Positive Intention: Part 3 – With Yourself

Play

This podcast explores how we can have a better relationship with ourselves, and in the process, wind up having better relationships with others by leveraging the concept of positive intention.

It’s a new day, a new dawn – Positive Intention with others

Introduction

I entitled today’s newsletter, “It’s a new day, a new dawn” because on May 9th my dad passed away at 10PM, just two hours before my birthday. So for me, life is very much starting a brand new cycle.

I have been very blessed in the last few years. My mom passed away three and a half years ago, and I was there with her in her closing moments. The same was true for me and my dad.

My dad was 93 years old as he headed out of the building, and I have already had someone seeking to identify me, ask if I was Charles Jr. I replied that perhaps at the age of 65 I was now just Charles, or Charlie.

Everything is fine as I sit here in Atlanta Georgia, but since I have been writing to the Seishindo community for more than 12 years now, I wanted to share this transition with you all.

Please cherish life.

It truly is a gift!

In community,

Seishindo Life Tools

Sensible solutions for life’s everyday challenges

Life Tools Cover Art 1400 x 1400 v1Today’s podcast starts up where we left off last time, discussing the concept of “positive intention”. This podcast talks about how to improve your relationships with others, by assuming that people really do want to be involved in relationships that serve all parties involved.

A pretty radical concept!

The death of a loved one can really get you thinking about what their overall positive intention in life was. When I think about my father-Both his good points and the inevitable flaws that we all have-I have found it very important to “remember” that his positive intention has always been to love me and protect me, even though at times, I didn’t fully understand the methods he used.

You see, when we assume that people act from a place of positive intention we assume that people have life affirming reasons for doing what they do, even when their behavior would lead us to believe the opposite. Understanding this life affirming principle can truly be a blessing. Both for you, and the people you are in relationship with.

To listen to our second podcast please click below. We look forward to offering you tools that will help you to live a more fulfilling life!

You can find the podcast here:
http://seishindo.org/podcast-002

A description of our Life Tools podcasts

(Since the podcasts are still brand new, let me give you some of the same information I posted last time out.)

Our free bi-weekly podcast is designed to give you straightforward, easy-to-understand solutions, for the challenges life brings your way. During each episode, I will offer step-by-step instructions on how to help you solve a particular everyday challenge that most people face. From these podcasts, you will receive insight on how to improve your relationships with others, maintain a solution oriented outlook in life, and feel more emotionally fulfilled.

Each podcast episode is between 15-25 minutes in length depending on the topic. You can listen during your commute to work, your workout at the gym, before you go to sleep, during your lunch break, or whenever and wherever you find the time. We hope that our podcasts will enhance your overall “Seishindo experience”.

You can subscribe for free and little by little you will come to live a more solution oriented life. One tool at a time, one podcast at a time.

So please do join us in this new endeavour! You can add to our podcasts via iTunes by clicking the following link: Add to iTunes.

Or, if you are using another podcast player, you can copy and paste this RSS feed directly into your player:
http://feeds.feedburner.com/Seishindo-LifeTools

And if you are totally new to podcasts and want to learn more, just continue reading!

Do let us know what you think! Feedback from you will help determine the future course of our podcasts.

We’ve created a Life Tools community forum

When wanting to give us feedback go to the link just below and scroll down the page a little bit and you will see the Life Tools section of our forum.

In case you are wondering what a podcast is

Podcasts are audio files you can listen to on a computer, smartphone, and audio player. In essence, they are like individual radio shows that you can listen to on demand. In fact, you can also listen to them directly from our website as they are published (we will give you a link to our website for each new podcast in future newsletters).

However, it is even more convenient if you subscribe to them with iTunes or a podcast player application on your computer or audio device. Every time a new podcast is released, iTunes or your podcast player will automatically download the next episode the next time you open the application.

If you are new to this and using a computer, we suggest using iTunes since it is the easiest way to get each episode and the application is available for both Windows and Macs. (If you don’t have iTunes, you can download it at http://www.apple.com/itunes/download. If iTunes is installed on your computer or device, all you need to do is click on the iTunes button below which will take you to our podcast on the internet. From there, click “View in iTunes” which will take you to our podcast in iTunes, and then you can simply click “Subscribe” and all of our previous podcasts will be delivered to your iTunes player while future ones will be delivered, without your needing to do anything. Just go to your iTunes app and listen whenever you like. And did we mention, it is completely free!

So…
If you haven’t add the podcast yet yet please click on this link, and let this new journey begin!

Once again…
If you use something else other than iTunes, you can also subscribe by copying and pasting our RSS feed into your podcast player application:
http://feeds.feedburner.com/Seishindo-LifeTools

Enjoy!

In community,

Charlie_Signature_Final

Positive Intention: Part 2 – With Others

Play

This podcast explores how we can have better relationships with others by assuming that they have positive intentions – in other words, by assuming each person really does want to be engaged in relationships that serve all parties involved.

Positive Intention

Introduction

For some time now, I have been working on simplifying the concepts we use in Seishindo so that more of our community can derive the same benefits people get when they engage in coaching with me.

My long time friend, Tony Padgett, kickstarted my thinking a few months ago, and the two of us started reworking and repurposing the concepts and tools we use in Seishindo.

The outcome of our work is a brand new podcast series entitled:

Seishindo Life Tools

Sensible solutions for life’s everyday challenges

I am thrilled to present you with the very first of our podcasts, which you can listen to today, at your leisure. It is entitled “An introduction to the concept of positive intention”.
You can find the podcast here:
http://seishindo.org/podcast-001

Positive Intention

Positive intention is a fundamental concept in Seishindo, that you can use to improve your relationship with others, and also to improve your relationship with yourself. Our definition of positive intention is- An intention or goal that is meant to bring about beneficial results for everyone involved. No one is hurt or demeaned along the way.

When we assume positive intention we assume that people have life affirming reasons for doing what they do, even when their behavior would lead us to believe the opposite. Or, I can even say, We especially want to assume positive intention when a person’s behavior would seem to suggest the opposite.

Going forward…

The both of us are really excited to present our podcast series to all of you and we are hoping that you will derive great benefit from what we have to offer.

So in the foreseeable future, our podcasts will be my main offering to the Seishindo community.

Just as always, this newsletter will still come to you twice a month, and beyond letting you know that a new podcast has been served up, I will share some of my thoughts about the things in life that intrigue me and get me energized.

A description of our Life Tools podcasts

Our free bi-weekly podcast is designed to give you straightforward, easy-to-understand solutions, for the challenges life brings your way. During each episode, I will offer step-by-step instructions on how to help you solve a particular everyday challenge that most people face. From these podcasts, you will receive insight on how to improve your relationships with others, maintain a solution oriented outlook in life, and feel more emotionally fulfilled.

Each podcast episode is between 15-25 minutes in length depending on the topic. You can listen during your commute to work, your workout at the gym, before you go to sleep, during your lunch break, or whenever and wherever you find the time. We hope that our podcasts will enhance your overall “Seishindo experience”.

You can subscribe for free and little by little you will come to live a more solution oriented life. One tool at a time, one podcast at a time.

So please do join us in this new endeavour! You can subscribe to our podcasts via iTunes by clicking the following link:
Add to iTunes

Or, if you are using another podcast player, you can copy and paste this RSS feed directly into your player:
http://feeds.feedburner.com/Seishindo-LifeTools

And if you are totally new to podcasts and want to learn more, just continue reading!

Do let us know what you think! Feedback from you will help determine the future course of our podcasts.

We’ve created a Life Tools community forum
When wanting to give us feedback go to the link just below and scroll down the page a little bit and you will see the Life Tools section of our forum.

In case you are wondering what a podcast is

Podcasts are audio files you can listen to on a computer, smartphone, and audio player. In essence, they are like individual radio shows that you can listen to on demand. In fact, you can also listen to them directly from our website as they are published (we will give you a link to our website for each new podcast in future newsletters).

However, it is even more convenient if you subscribe to them with iTunes or a podcast player application on your computer or audio device. Every time a new podcast is released, iTunes or your podcast player will automatically download the next episode the next time you open the application.

If you are new to this and using a computer, we suggest using iTunes since it is the easiest way to get each episode and the application is available for both Windows and Macs. (If you don’t have iTunes, you can download it at http://www.apple.com/itunes/download. If iTunes is installed on your computer or device, all you need to do is click on the iTunes button below which will take you to our podcast on the internet. From there, click “View in iTunes” which will take you to our podcast in iTunes, and then you can simply click “Subscribe” and all of our previous podcasts will be delivered to your iTunes player while future ones will be delivered, without your needing to do anything. Just go to your iTunes app and listen whenever you like. And did we mention, it is completely free!

So…
If you haven’t subscribed yet please click on this link, and let this new journey begin!
Add to iTunes

Once again…
If you use something else other than iTunes, you can also subscribe by copying and pasting our RSS feed into your podcast player application:
http://www.seishindo.org/category/seishindo-life-tools/feed/

Enjoy!

In community,
Charlie_Signature_Final

 

Positive Intention: Part 1 – Introduction

Play

This podcast introduces the Seishindo view about positive intention and how it can help people live more fulfilling lives. Positive Intention will be a key and fundamental tool we will use in future podcasts.

The Circle of Life

Introduction

My mom passed away on December 11, 2010.
I wrote this newsletter then to commemorate her passing.

I am publishing it again today, with the hope that it will help you to ponder the circle of your life.

Christmas is sneaking up on us. Please don’t overdo yourself! In Japan, the average person, child or adult, only receives one, or two gifts at the most. I really like it that way!

Regards,
Charlie_Signature_Final

The wonder of a beautiful morning!

From_a_distance

The Circle of Life

Shortly after being diagnosed with late stage brain cancer, my mom began to lose her ability to communicate in words. She went from saying “I’m thirsty, please give me a glass of water.” to eventually only being able to say, “Water!”. Her ability to understand what was being said held up well, but the brain power necessary for her to craft a verbal response lessened day by day.

I wasn’t about to let the decline in my mom’s verbal skills, hinder our ability to “talk”. I created and taught her a simple series of hand signals, and most importantly a “secret” winking system, so we could continue to communicate just as we always had. This was particularly important when my mom wanted to say something private to me when others were in the room.

A wink of the right eye by either one of us, meant everything was fine.

A wink of her left eye meant my mom didn’t care for what was happening, or that she was in pain. Once, when a friend brought her some homemade food she didn’t particularly care for, she blinked her left eye at me twice, and then winked once with her right eye as she turned and smiled at her friend.

I deeply enjoyed how clever and playful my mom was being, and I was reminded of when I followed a similar learning path with my daughter.

When I first began to teach my daughter Marina to wink, it was the same pattern you notice with most children. The first thing she did was blink both eyes and then look at me a bit confused. She knew she hadn’t accomplished a wink, but she had no idea what went wrong. I winked at her again, and she gave me back another double blink. At this point I felt like I could literally see the wheels turning inside her head, and I was fascinated to engage my daughter in such elemental learning.

As you might have already discovered for yourself, in many ways aging is the mirror opposite of growing up. When growing up, we develop and hone new skills. As we age, some of what we’ve learned fades away, and we wind up being more childlike once again.

As my mom’s condition continued to decline, she lost her ability to wink with one eye and could only manage a two eyed blink. In most instances I could still understand the meaning of her communication, based on whether or not she was smiling.

In the last hours of my mom’s life, keeping her eyes open was more than she could manage. She laid in bed with her eyes closed as she gave every ounce of remaining energy to simply breathing.

Holding my mom’s head in my hands I told her over and over again that God was waiting for her. As I kept up a steady breathing rhythm to help support her own breathing, I said, “Now is the time… Now is the time… This is the perfect moment… I can hear God calling your name… He’s calling you to come back home.”

At the very end, my mom’s laboured breathing calmed down a bit and she opened her eyes and blinked twice. At that moment I clearly knew she was giving me a “Yes” signal. Letting me know she was OK, and ready to leave.

Upon closing her eyes she took one last breath and gently released herself into the ocean of life.

For me, her passing felt very similar to the wonderful energy that filled the room when my daughter Marina was born. I felt very blessed to be so fully immersed in the circle of life.

Regards,
Charlie_Signature_Final

A Description of the Seishindo MindBody Coaching – Part 3

1. Introduction

This is the third newsletter in a series that describes the process of Seishindo MindBody Coaching. I am offering this series as a way to support you in being a “change agent” to others who need help. If you have yet to read the first two articles in this series, please go here.

In the last newsletter I said that I wanted to find the most artful way to talk about the process of coaching others, and I asked for some advice. Thanks to those of you who wrote! Your wisdom is very much appreciated. Taking the advice offered, in this newsletter I am going to “talk” to you as if I was taking you through a session with me.

Once again, please let me know what you think about the process, and please offer me feedback!

For those of you fairly new to my writing and style…
The process I describe below, I would only engage in once my client and I had a good comfortable feeling for each other. I would only be suggesting any of what follows if my client was happy to explore such a process with me.

Regards,
Charlie

2. Life as art–A description of Seishindo MindBody Coaching- Part 3

As we begin today, I would like to borrow a concept from Self-relations Therapy, and invite you to use each and every event and experience you encounter, to awaken to the goodness and gifts of the self, the world, and the connections between the two.

So rather than slipping into a place of dismay and frustration because you feel stuck, you can take the role of my client, and imagine you are in the midst of creating a movie about your life. You can consider yourself to be the lead character in this movie, the director, and even the composer of the sound track that will eventually be selling as a CD!

As you begin to approach your challenge as an artist would begin a new project… Slow down and notice the finer points that will lead to creating something heartfelt and poignant. As you begin to try out the lines of your script, speak in a way that allows your words to resonate and fill the space we are in. I encourage you to imagine we are sitting in a theater that has great acoustics. The only audience being just the two of us. I invite you to imagine this theater as a safe environment that is much bigger than your perceived problem. At some point in this process you will begin to hear the difference between when your voice is held back and constrained, and when your voice is resonant, clear, and filled with spirit. When you voice is held back and constrained, the same will be true for your creativity and problem solving skills. When you voice is resonant solutions will start to become more apparent.

Next, attune to the rhythm of your words, as you listen for and feel how your expression reverberates both within you and out into the space around us, both logically and emotionally. I gently encourage you to breathe, relax, and “speak your soliloquy with a calm presence”. I will move with you as a way to better feel the cadence of your words. Then after a short while, please slow down the tempo and simplify what you are expressing. Say and do “just enough”. Less will get you more.

Little by little, as you slow down and simplify, you will begin to move closer to your solution. Little by little, as I get in rhythm with you, you will begin to realize you are not alone in this world. As we build a sense of harmony and trust between us, I will likely offer you some accompanying lines, to enrich your script.

Now is a good time to modulate the outpouring of your energy, and to lessen the intensity of your presentation. I am suggesting that you stay within a certain threshold of expression, so you can keep your whole self engaged, and not feel overwhelmed. This will allow you to tap into resources that are outside of your everyday awareness. The idea is to get energized by the challenges you face, rather than contracting, and tensing your muscles and your thinking mind. You will be able to recruit and utilize more and more of yourself, as you educate and retune your nervous system over time.

At this point I also want to invite you to notice “negative space”. The space between and around the main topic of your conversation.

In photography, negative space is the area which surrounds the main subject in a photo, with the main subject being considered as “positive space”. Negative space defines and emphasizes the main subject as part of a larger whole. It provides “breathing room” and allows for a more balanced perspective. Negative space gives your eyes somewhere to rest and prevents your subject from appearing overly large or out of proportion. Notice how you can change your reaction to your challenge, as you place it in a spacious setting. (See the photos below.)

Here is a close-up picture of a bug with almost no background (very little negative space)
Bug-large

Below is a picture of the same bug, with lots of background (negative space).
Which picture do you prefer?

Even though it is the same bug, does it appear at all different in the two photos?
Bug-small
Photos: Ruben Alexander

At this point you have once again accomplished a lot. So now it is time to rest. You can begin to have a sense of how important it is to express your challenge in an artful manner. Realizing that the way in which you perceive, conceive, and express your challenge very much changes your sense of what is possible. Please, don’t make your challenge any bigger than it needs to be!

Regards,

Charlie_Signature_Final

A Description of the Seishindo MindBody Coaching – Part 2

1. Introduction

In my last newsletter I began describing the principles I use when engaging in Seishindo MindBody Coaching. If you did not read the last newsletter you can go here to read it now.

What I want to make clear, is that anyone who is wanting to help another person change can use the principles I describe. A parent, a spouse, a manager, a friend. Indeed, most of the “change conversations” we engage in do not take place in a professional coaching setting.

Not being certain of the best way to describe a process that can take place in many different contexts, I use the terms “your counterpart”, and “the other person”. I would prefer to use something friendlier in nature, but I have yet to find the right term. Please do suggest something if you feel you might possibly inspire me!

Regards,
Charlie

2. Describing Seishindo MindBody Coaching- Part 2

I invite you now to consider, how the principles I present, can help you to become a more effective agent of change.

Imagine that you begin by believing your counterpart is a highly competent person, who is very definitely capable of living a fulfilling life. The fact that they are experiencing some difficulties in one or more areas of their life, does not take away from all that they are in the world. Be certain to not lose sight of their magnificence! Please consider or even take for granted, that the person you are wanting to help is at least as intelligent and capable as you are. That they already have available to them, all the resources necessary to live the life they truly desire.

Believing this, you might want to take some time to just be present with the other person. Observing them in a respectful, curious manner, breathing with them, appreciating them, and helping them to little by little find their way. Much like a shepherd who keeps his flock moving in the desired direction. If you begin like this you and your counterpart will likely feel at ease with each other, and it might just happen, that the both of you will find a place within yourselves where you feel confident that something generative will transpire.

One “truth” that will likely become more and more obvious to you over time is this– The more you focus on determining the exact details of the problem at hand, the more the hoped for solution will tend to become obscured.

You see, both science and the field of magic have proven over and over again, that we really can only attend to one thing at a time. Magicians use this knowledge to engage in  “mis-direction”. They get you to focus your attention away from the sleight of hand that is taking place, and thus you are baffled by how they make things disappear and reappear. In the everyday world, only being able to focus on one thing at a time is known as “a one track mind”.  When engaged in helping someone change, in most instances your counterpart will strive mightily to mis-direct you towards their problem. If you allow them to do this, neither one of you will have enough attention left over to also pay attention to the solutions that exist on the other side of the coin.

So when someone is struggling… Gently interrupt the way they access and present their problem, so that they don’t get overwhelmed and lose sight of what they dowant. While focusing on the problem will rarely help achieve a solution, the reverse of this is also true. People are not able to access and dwell on their problems, while actively engaged in discovering the positive actions they can take. The more someone dwells on a solution, the more the initial problem will recede into the background of their awareness. You can call this process “re-direction”.

If you pay close attention, you will likely find that the solution your counterpart is desiring, is hidden amongst the words they speak. You will begin to understand that your interaction with your counterpart is a kind of “hide and seek” game, and it is important to not proceed too quickly. In fact, the slower you go when engaging in a change process, the sooner you are likely to achieve the desired goal. So In the beginning, take your time and clear away all of the unnecessary and potentially confusing, words and gestures your counterpart is likely expressing. As you both slow down and simplify, you will both become better able to feel into and emotionally digest all that is being communicated.

Now would be a good time to take a deep breath and congratulate yourself for having gotten this far! You are actively engaged in creating a generative context for change, and now you can both rest easy for a while, as you let the world unfold around you.

Regards,
Charlie

A Description of the Seishindo MindBody Coaching – Part 1

1. Introduction

My recent teaching trip in New York City proved to be one of my most enjoyable and productive times ever! I want to especially thank Joel Elfman for all his hard work, and his great marketing and organizing. Working with Joel has proved to be a great blessing for me. I also want to thank Marje Palmieri for putting forth the energy and effort to launch a new round of my Performing with Passion series. Through her I had the opportunity to work with some truly gifted opera singers and other performers. Martha Eddy and I shared the stage for an enjoyable mini-workshop entitled “Movement and Flow- Essential Components of Change”. Martha and I have been friends and colleagues for many years, and it was great to work with her for the first time in a long time.

Last, but certainly no least, I had the pleasure of co-presenting with Melissa Tiers, a new friend and colleague who is a talented hypnotherapist and coach. Melissa and I explored “The nature of change” and along the way I learned quite a lot. Based on what I learned with Melissa I will now be presenting you with a series of articles describing Seishindo MindBody Coaching, and then I will cap the series off with an interview of Melissa that I recently read and found quite interesting.

I hope you will find the next few newsletters to be thought provoking and informative.

Regards,

Charlie_Signature_Final

2. Describing Seishindo MindBody Coaching- Part 1

I am always thinking about how to best describe and teach Seishindo MindBody Coaching. You see, much of what I do when coaching has developed with a certain amount of serendipity, along with a good deal of both formal and informal learning. I started out with concepts from NLP and Ericksonian Hypnosis, and then I added principles from Aikido, Noguchi Sei Tai, Gregory Bateson, and Self-relations Therapy. Along the way I developed a method that usually proves to be rather effective, and yet I more and more realize that what seems “obvious” or even “natural” to me, at times comes across as somewhat mysterious to those I teach. Actually what I realize now as I write this, is that my process of teaching others very much mirrors the process of my clients wanting to teach me the essence of their challenges. My clients start out describing what seems “obvious” and even “natural” to them, and yet along the way we both usually discover that I am not able to fully follow what they are saying. Having not lived the same life as my clients I find it necessary to ask them to clarify what to me seems like “fuzzy logic”. Thus I often say, “I hear what you are saying, but somehow I can’t quite understand what you are wanting to convey. Can you please somehow restate what you have just said, in a simpler fashion?” Less words leads to greater clarity.

The process I am going to follow in clarifying my coaching process with you now, is to “talk” to you as if I am your client, while striving to keep my explanation as clear as possible.

When engaging in Mindbody coaching, what I say and do is always somewhat different, because I strive to join with the flow of information being presented. I find it crucial to begin without a preconceived notion of what should take place, and instead I fully engage myself in a search for meaning. I look to first understand my client’s model of the world, while also checking in to ensure they are fully understanding what they present to me. You see, the points that seem fuzzy to me, often turn out to be fuzzy to them as well. Thus they might say, “I feel a lack of confidence.” And I might reply, “What exactly does a lack of confidence mean to you? How specifically does a lack of confidence feel to you?” Such questions lead to a search for answers that usually aren’t considered, as I look to foster a style of communication that makes sense both logically and emotionally.

I find the best way to achieve clear, simple communication is to begin by becoming fully present in the moment. I call this process, achieving a “still pond” experience. When a pond of water is buffeted by the wind, we can’t clearly notice the ripples created by each stone we toss in the pond. When a client’s description of their circumstances is buffeted by their emotions, it is difficult to understand exactly what they are wanting to convey.

The task of calming the waters begins by calming the body. Soon we become aware of how a relaxed balanced body and ample amounts of oxygen, leads to a simpler more direct description of the changes desired. I engage in this calming processwith my clients. We slow down our breathing, and breathe a bit more fully than usual, as we also give some of our attention to everything we are seeing, hearing, and feeling. The belief being, that the information that leads to solutions, is being communicated everywhere in and around us, and not just in our heads. When you straighten and align your posture, and breathe more fully, you calm your body. When you calm your body you also wind up calming your thinking mind. When you calm your thinking mind you “throw less stones in the pond” and thus there is less verbal information to process. When you say less, you can better notice the effect of each stone, each idea, each belief that you express.

Reaching this point in my description I become aware of the next important concept in MindBody Coaching – Not trying to accomplish “too much” in any one session. Taking part in coaching is similar to eating a tasty meal. No matter how good the food, the more you eat in one sitting, the less you will actually taste what you consume! So I will stop here for the time being, rather than feeding you too much at one time. Let’s consider today’s newsletter to be “one session”. Please take the time to mull over and digest what I have written.

I’d love to hear what you think and feel, about what I have written so far!

We will continue with this discovery process in my next newsletter, so please stay tuned for more.

Regards,

Charlie_Signature_Final

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?

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.

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.

The Web of Life

The web of life is always there, ready to teach us a “special” lesson of some sort or another, if only we would notice.

One of my very first days visiting Katmandu Nepal, a shopkeeper and myself sat drinking tea on the steps of his shop, and a beggar soon appeared. He looked to be anywhere from thirty to one hundred years old, he had long scraggly grey-brown hair, and he was barefoot and wearing a filthy garment that looked like a bed sheet that had not been washed for an awfully long time. On top of this garment he was wearing a suit jacket! He had beautiful piercing dark brown eyes, and he smiled in an inviting manner as he asked us for alms. The shopkeeper gave him the equivalent of about one cent. The man smiled and bowed, made one last gesture towards me, just to make sure that I did not want to add to his riches, and then he was on his way.

“Do you know about “karma” the shopkeeper asked?

“In the West, perhaps you call it destiny. We are all connected to each other in some way and the life we are living now is the result of how we have lived in other past lives.” I nodded and said I was familiar with the concept.

“If you give alms of any significant amount to beggars, you intertwine your karma with theirs, and their fate will be dependent on your fate. If you do give, only give a cent or two so that your karma and their karma remain separate. If you give more than that, please know that you are not performing a random act.” I nodded and thanked him for his sage advice.

A week later, walking with a Nepali friend, we came across a woman squatting alongside a very busy road, as she prayed and begged. Her face showed obvious scarring to her eyes and ears. Such scarring usually takes place for various religious reasons, and is not totally uncommon. I was attracted to the energy of this woman and we stopped to converse with her. It turned out that she was totally blind and partially deaf, and my friend had to scream in order for her to hear him. Without her asking I gave her about one dollar and we were quickly on our way.

After that I saw this woman almost every morning and I started giving her two or three dollars each time we met. When I left Nepal for the first time I sought her out with my friend, and had him scream to her and tell her I was leaving, but that I would be back some time in the future. I gave her about twenty dollars that day to help tide her over.

On the last day of my second stay in Katmandu I brought my friend with me again, to tell my beggar friend I would be leaving the next day. There she was crouched down on the noisy, crowded street as she prayed. We approached her, walking amongst boisterous children, busy adults, and livestock with clanking bells around their necks. When we were still about ten feet away she turned towards us, smiled with her scarred eyes and as we reached her she said “Namaste.” Before we could crouch down and scream a reply, the woman asked my friend to thank me for my kindness. “How did you know it was us?” he asked.

“I can always feel the warmth of a kind hearted person.” she said.

I think of her now, and hope in some small way, I might have eased her suffering, if only for a moment, as much as she has eased mine.

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.

Is it finally time to forgive?

In order to free ourselves from the pain of anger and resentment we need to be able to forgive our self and others. The longer we dwell on hurtful situations from the past, the longer we keep our self from living fully in the present. Forgiveness is an act of kindness. An act of kindness to your self, as it leads to a sense of personal freedom.

Recently I had a client who had a lot of resentment towards her mother for many things that she had done to her in the past.
“I don’t want to forgive my mother for what she did in the past.” my client said. “What she did is wrong, and she has never apologized.”
I hear this very same statement from many clients who are living with resentment, whether it be towards their parents, their spouse, or their boss.

I asked my client if she felt that anyone other than herself, was responsible for, and capable of, making her happy. After a rather long and convoluted discussion, she said that when it was all said and done, she realized that she was indeed the only one that could make herself happy.

We sat there together for a while, and then I took a deep breath and suggested that my client do so as well. Here is an idea, I said. “What if as a totally selfish act, done simply for your own personal happiness, you decided to go ahead and let go of the resentment you had towards your mom, so that you would no longer need to have resentment clouding your life. What would that be like?” “You would not be saying that what was done to you was OK. You would simply be letting go of the resentment so that your own life would be happier. Would you want to let go of your resentment if it meant you would feel greater happiness?”

We sat there together for a while and my client’s face softened. She said that if she was able to let go of her resentment, it would be like lifting a weight from her shoulders, and removing a dark cloud from her heart.

“With all you have been through,” I said. “With all of the pain you have suffered, wouldn’t it be a wonderful gift to yourself if you could lift this weight from your shoulders and remove the dark cloud from your heart? Would it not be wonderful to be freed from your hurt and resentment?”
She sat there for a while, as tears formed, and she said very softly “Yes, I want to feel good. I want to feel love. I want to feel free.”

“So” I said, “In order to free yourself from pain and open your heart to love, you would be willing to go so far as to forgive your mother if this is what you felt was necessary for your own personal happiness?”
She was somewhat hesitant, but said “Yes.”
“Remember” I said, “I am suggesting that you do this purely for selfish reasons. Not because you want to actually forgive your mom at this point in time, but because you want to free yourself to live a happier life.”
My client said “Yes, when it is said like this, I have the resolve to forgive my mother, in order to free myself to live a happier life.”
“Good I said. “Hold these thoughts and feelings in your heart for a while and then we can talk about how to actually accomplish your forgiving.”

How about you? Are you holding onto any resentment? Are you ready to recapture your happiness? Would you be willing to undertake the radical act of forgiveness in order to free yourself? I certainly hope so.
And if not today, maybe tomorrow.

I hope you are not too proud to learn from a dog

My German friend Kirsten has been volunteering at live-in facilities for older people. She goes to visit these people with her dog “Charlie.”

Recently, Kirsten visited a woman of 87, who was lying motionless in her bed, suffering from both Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. The woman had a totally blank look on her face, and did not seem to respond at all when Kirsten and Charlie entered the room.

Slowly and gently, the dog was placed on the bed next to the woman, and after being told the German equivalent of “Good girl” a few times, the dog settled in next to the woman, seemingly quite content.

Then little by little, almost as if watching a movie frame by frame, the most extraordinary change came over the woman. Very subtly her breathing softened and became more rhythmical, and the corners of her mouth started twitching, as if she was at the very beginning stages of learning how to smile again. In fits and starts, her cramped hand with her fingers drawn and stiff, began to move towards Charlie. There was a fascinating series of actions that took place in a divinely orchestrated manner. The woman’s face and mouth twitched, her hand inched forward in a lurching manner, and her fingers also twitched as they softened and opened back up. Finally after more than five minutes of effort the woman touched the dog and her hand came to rest alongside his back. At this stage the dog made a sound and a movement, like he was entering into a sleep state, at which time the woman let out a sigh of exhaustion, and upon exhaling her face became radiant with a beautiful smile. Indeed it was hard to recognize that the woman was the same person who was lying in the bed when Kirsten and Charlie had entered the room fifteen minutes earlier. The woman was not able to express herself verbally, but she had certainly expressed her feeling of contentment nonetheless! The staff at the home told Kirsten that the woman slept in great comfort once they left.

Next week, Kirsten went back to visit the woman again, but this time Charlie had little interest in laying next to the woman. So, feeling a bit disappointed, Kirsten took the woman’s hand and stroked her arm as if she was lovingly stroking her dog. As Kirsten sat there with the woman, she breathed in a deep, relaxed manner, and she rocked herself back and forth ever so much. Slowly but surely, without really thinking about it, Kirsten began to tell the woman about walking with her dog on a beautiful spring day. She talked about the sparkling sun, the smell of flowers, the radiant colors, and the wonderful feeling of inhaling cool, fresh air. Little by little, once again, a fascinating series of actions took place. The woman’s hand and face twitched, and Kirsten followed an impulse to duplicate the movements the woman’s hand and arm had made during the first visit. Finally when Kirsten rested the woman’s hand on her (Kirsten’s) stomach, once again the woman took a deep breath, her entire body relaxed, and once again a beautiful smile appeared on her face. “Oh” Kirsten thought, “Isn’t it nice to know that I can help the woman, just as well as my dog can!” She thought to herself, “It really is just a case of slowing down, opening one’s heart, and feeling into the connection we all have as living beings.” A simple yet profound truth. Such is the nature of healing – working to help people have an experience that comes before words, before thinking, before judgment. Without words, we cannot separate ourselves from others. Without thinking there is no pain. Without judgment there is no right and wrong, good and bad. When you are only here, only now, you will “only” experience your core self, and feel at peace.

Feeling Beneath Our Fears

Listening deeply to your own mammalian nature has the power to profoundly enrich your life.

Several years ago I made the acquaintance of a new friend named Tara. She is as beautiful a Shetland sheep dog as I have ever seen. Like many of us human beings, Tara had a sad tale to tell. When just a pup, the first time she was taken for a walk she came upon a horde of kids who suddenly started shooting off firecrackers. Tara was frightened beyond belief and she escaped from her leash and bolted into the far distance. Perhaps never to be seen again her owner feared! Several hours later though, Tara made it back to her house on her own and in one piece.

When I first entered Tara’s house for a visit, she was up on the third floor where she normally hid when guests arrived. Tara’s owner told me that ever since the firecracker incident she had difficulty getting Tara to go out for a walk. Tara confined herself to the tiny backyard for her exercise and toilet activities.

Tara’s owner needed to run out on an errand. I asked for a piece or Tara’s favorite biscuit, broke it into several pieces, and set the pieces out well in front of me. I waited quietly for about ten minutes, before finally hearing the patter of little feet upstairs. Upon hearing Tara gathering up her courage and her curiosity, I began to intermittently make some playful sounds as if I was a tiny firework, showering its brilliant colors in the distance. Psss, Pahh! I concentrated on being a beautiful firework, and not a loud one. Then with my colors expended I sat quietly again and waited. It took an additional fifteen minutes for Tara to finally show her head at the top of the stairs, and then she immediately ran all the way back up to the third floor. From there it took another ten minutes before she made her way down to the ground floor, ate one piece of biscuit and then bolted upstairs again, with no intention of returning in the near future. I marveled at her braveness and was exceedingly pleased with the development of our relationship.

Starting the next day our friendship developed rapidly. This time I sat on the floor and waited with the biscuits closer to me. After a couple of fitful starts and stops, Tara was sitting on my lap. Next I introduced the leash, but didn’t try and put it on her. By the third day she was making her way down to my bedroom in the basement, wondering why I hadn’t gotten up yet. Finally, we were walking around together out in the neighborhood, and passing by the very place of her initial horror.

Tara’s friendship has been a sacred gift to me. She has helped me to better understand my own fears, and the fears of my clients. She has also helped me to understand that beneath our fear there is a longing to be reconnected to life, and to loved ones. A longing to be out and about with a friend on a mild spring day. Whenever I have a client who seems frightened, I always start out by telling them about Tara. It is amazing that a couple of cookies and a cup of tea can calm a new human client as much as Tara’s biscuits helped to calm her.

Both fear and love have specific and different organizational patterns within each of us. The electrochemical network of fear and the electrochemical network of love, as well as the network of muscle usage for the two, are quite different. Once we learn how the body communicates to us we can begin to interact and affect change on the limbic level of primary experience. Deep breathing, stroking by an appropriate other, hugging and physical closeness, all help us to know that we are not alone, and that we are protected. With our limbic-emotional system taking in such sustenance, we can relax, expand our spirit, and be in the world with a sense of belonging, comfort, safety, and excitement. What more could we really ask for from life?

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?

Where do “I” begin and end?

Today, I am inviting you to explore the boundaries of “self.” I ask you to ponder where “I” begins and ends. What is part of “me” and what is outside of “me”? Who and what is “you”? What is “us” and what is “them”? If I was to show you a picture of “me” standing in a crowded room of friends and family, and ask you to draw a line around “me” how would you do so? Would you simply draw an oval encompassing my frame from head to foot? What if I showed you a picture of me out in nature. Would you draw a line around “me” taking in as little sky as possible?

When you think of “your self” does your definition of self include sunlight, potable water, food, a certain range of temperature and humidity, and air to breathe? Most likely you don’t think of your “self” in quite this manner, but why not? If any of these all important elements are not present, “you” will soon cease to exist. You can’t live without sunlight and water, but sunlight and water can live without you! Man needs nature. Man’s very life depends on nature. But nature does not need or depend on man for life. Unless we say in this modern day and age, that nature depends on man to not destroy it, and man so often seems like he could care less.

When we say that an action/corporation/product is ecological we refer to how it supports the interdependence of all living organisms within an environment, which is itself a living organism. When we destroy any part of our natural environment we destroy a part of ourselves, because our personal ecology is fully dependent on the ecology of the natural elements that surrounds us.

I ask you again, “Can you live without potable water, oxygen, food, and sunlight? Can you live if the temperature and humidity of the earth’s atmosphere was to change by more than about 15% on average? Can you live without depending on the natural elements for your life? Why is it that people in the industrialized world tend to label as “primitive” those cultures that teach that man and nature are inseparable, when indeed this is the case?

All of life requires an ecology, a balance, a conservative and corrective interplay between elements and energies. Every living system needs to be able to self correct, and every living system depends on elements outside of “itself” in order to maintain “itself.” None of us live as separate entities depending only on our own will and intelligence.

Lately most human beings tend to treat the natural environment as a disposable item like a paper napkin or a pair of shoes. We use nature as a convenience item, or we use nature as a way to make money, and then we move on when we deplete the natural resources in a given area. Some people even treat their relationships with other people in a similar manner, and it is not all that surprising, if you really think that “me” is fully contained inside the boundaries of your own body.

When we disrespect nature we disrespect and misunderstand “me.” When we are confused about who and what “me” is, it is that much easier to disrespect and misunderstand others. Just like human beings, no country is separate and complete unto itself. I hope that we will come to understand that caring for nature means caring for “me.” That caring about “me” means caring about you. That caring about my country means caring about your country. That caring about “us”, adds to the quality of all of life.

With a little help from our friends

The quality of one’s life to a large extent is determined by the quality of our relationships with others. When we feel we have no choice but to face the world alone, we suffer emotionally, physically, and spiritually, and no degree of outward success can replace or repair the lonely feeling in our heart. No matter how talented, wealthy, or trim and fit we might appear to be, without supportive relationships it is a difficult challenge for any one of us to maintain physical and emotional health. Children, pets, loved ones, mentors, colleagues, and teachers, can all help us fulfill our need for connection to other sentient, limbic beings.

Our nervous system is an “open loop learning system” that draws on energetic connections with others in order to continually adapt and hopefully flourish. This concept of “open loop learning” is very much a part of the theory of Aikido. When being attacked in an Aikido class we are hoping to move towards “joining with” our adversary and creating the energetic connection that can lead towards stabilization of both parties emotions, and a sense of physical and emotional completion. We come to understand each attack as a physical expression of loneliness and alienation, and the desire for connection. A sense of separation from others leads to fear, and fear can easily lead to feeling like you are about to be attacked, and thus attacking others preemptively. In Aikido we gain a direct understanding of how a physically and emotionally healthy person requires ongoing enrichment, stabilization, and support from the nervous systems of others.

When we talk about the interaction of nervous systems amongst mammals, we are pointing to the fact that the nervous systems of two people in relationship very definitely communicate with, inform, and change each other. Our emotional connection with others clearly affects our moods, emotions, hormonal flow, digestion, body clock, and even the structure of our brains. Without conscious direction and without the need to think, our nervous systems are always learning from and adapting to our interactions with the nervous systems of others. Not all that surprising once you think about it. At the very least, for millions of years mammals have had the need to intuit which other mammals are safe, and which are predators. As mammals we have a limbic-emotional connection with each other that leads to procreation and family structures, and these relationships do not necessarily require the capacity to think, analyze, or rationalize. Emotional understanding of our self, others, and our relationships, comes prior to thinking.

We can easily find numerous examples of the importance of supportive limbic-emotional contact with others. It is fascinating to note that baby monkeys who have lost their mothers at an early age, not only wind up with various developmental problems, but they also find it hard to live successfully with the rest of their community. The same tends to be true for children forced to grow up in harsh, sterile conditions. Indeed with children growing up in orphanages that show little in the way of human contact and emotional bonding, the mortality rate of the children is dreadfully high. High quality health and emotional well-being requires supportive limbic relationships. Our nervous system needs to locate and be nurtured by other nervous systems in order for us to have a sense of stability and completion. A limbic connection with others helps us to develop a deeper sense of safety, calmness, and dignity. Our need to live our life in supportive limbic relationships is very much a wonderful fact of life, and not at all a weakness to be overcome. As mammals we all require “a little help from our friends.”

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?”