Archive for March 2007

Appearance vs. Substance

Hello…

Just last week I heard a statement I have heard from time to time in my life from someone in one of my seminars. He said, “It’s better to look good, than feel good.” I understand this sentiment and have felt it many times myself. However, as I think about this and the implications of it in our lives and in our culture, I am deeply disturbed. It really isn’t better to look good than feel good, but many of us live as this were true.

For me personally, concerns about my own appearance – both my physical appearance and other people’s perceptions of me – have caused me a great deal of pain, suffering, and stress throughout my life. More often than I would like to admit and even to this day, I waste a good amount of energy worrying about how I look physically, wondering what others think about me, and spending time and even money in an effort to appear as positively as I can on lots of superficial levels.

From listening to many people, paying attention to the messages in the media, and noticing the state of our culture, I know I am not alone is this appearance obsession. Why do we do this? I suppose the answer to that question varies a bit for each of us. However, fundamentally it comes down to an issue of appearance vs. substance. Many of us would rather have a nice house, a nice car, a great body, a lot of money, and all the outward material signs of happiness, wealth, and success…rather than actually being truly happy and fulfilled, feeling a sense of abundance and gratitude, and genuinely creating success and peace in our lives. I don’t know that we do this in a malicious way or that we intentionally sabotage ourselves, I think we mostly don’t know any other way to do it and do much of this unconsciously.

The challenge for me and for all of us is to go deeper, tell the truth about who we are, how we feel, and what our motives are…and, to alter our thoughts, beliefs, and actions. Like many things in life, if we put our attention on what we actually want (i.e. to feel good about ourselves, to create a true sense of fulfillment, and to experience a deep level of peace in our lives), the other stuff often takes care of itself. And, even if it doesn’t, who cares, we have our attention focused in the direction of what is true and real for us anyway.

In other words, if we first stop and appreciate how great we already are and how wonderful our life already is…and, we focus on the true SUBSTANCE of who we are an what we want to attract into our lives (not just the superficial APPEARANCE of those things), we will create a grounded sense of trust and gratitude for ourselves and our lives. In so doing, we will be able to take our energy and attention back from those things that do not matter (like how we look, what others think about us, our material obsessions, etc.) and put them on the things that are more important (like loving ourselves, loving others, being grateful for life, and more).

With Love, Truth, and Appreciation,

Mike

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Appreciating Our Money

Hey there…

I want to talk about one of the most “taboo” subjects in our culture, MONEY! It seems ironic to me that this topic is so taboo, since almost everything we do, much of our work, and a lot of our lives are focused around making money, saving money, having money, not having enough money, worrying about money, etc. We talk about it, think about it, see it, and know about it…but we rarely REALLY talk about it or share our fears, doubts, confusions, or anything else about money in an authentic way. And, most people will tell you all kinds of personal details about their lives before they will ever tell you how much money they make, what their net-worth is, or how much debt they have.

I think that money is especially on my mind this week as I have a meeting scheduled with my CPA on Thursday to get all of my tax info together. While I am pretty organized, every year at this time, I find myself feeling stupid, unprepared, and embarrassed. I feel like there was some class in school about money, taxes, and keeping things in order that I must have missed. And, no matter how much I learn each year, it seems that the whole tax thing is a complete mystery to me. It points to a deeper issue for me about money…that I don’t “get it,” will never have enough of it, and even that I don’t deserve it. The irony is that I am making more money now than I ever have in my life…and these thoughts and feelings are still there, sometimes with more vigor than ever before.

I think that most of us suffer from a lack of appreciation about money, among other things. Rarely do I hear people say, “I have plenty of money, I am grateful for it, and I don’t worry about it at all.” Most of the time we think we are failing financially, comparing ourselves to others who we assume have more, and feeling as though no matter how much (or little) we make, it will never be enough. However, even for someone like me who grew up in a family with little money and who has never considered myself “rich” financially…I have to acknowledge that there has always been more than enough money in my life to do the things I wanted to do – eat, stay warm, grow up, go to college, live in pretty nice places, start my business, buy a car, buy a house, go on trips, and so much more. For most people in our culture, this phenomenon is true.

Instead of worrying so much about our money, thinking we don’t have enough, and spending our time and energy judging ourselves for what we think we should be doing about money, what if we took some time to appreciate the money that we all already have and all that it has allowed us to do and have in our lives. If we have enough money to pay the rent or mortgage, buy food for ourselves and our families, and go about our daily lives in the way that we do, we are more fortunate than the majority of the world. What a waste if we are not able to appreciate and enjoy it. As with anything else, by us appreciating all that we have, we will not stop in our pursuit of moving forward, striving for success, or even manifesting more. Ironically, it is when we stop to appreciate the wonderful aspects of our lives that we tap into the creative and magical power of appreciation that can help us attract more of what we want – money, peace, love, joy, health, success, fun, or anything else.

Regardless of how much money you have, I bet you have enough – more than enough – to live your life, be comfortable, and to think, feel, and do most (if not all) of what you want to. I know this is true for me. If you stop and think about it, that’s pretty cool for all of us. The challenge is for us to focus on that and appreciate what we have all the time. The more we appreciate our money, the more freedom and abundance we will experience.

With Love and Truth,

Mike

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Stop Worrying

Hey there…

When I was a kid my mom used to say to me, “95% of what you worry about never happens.” She recognized that I was the “worrying type” and was trying to help ease my mind. Although this rarely worked, I appreciated her sentiment and know now that she was right. For as long as I can remember, I have been a worrier. I continue to work on this, let it go, forgive myself for it, and choose different ways of being in the face of my fear. And, I still find myself worrying all the time – about money, about the future, about how things will turn out, about what people think about me, about the well-being of my loved ones, about the state of the world, and much more.

No matter how much we worry, it never works. And, as we look deeper at what worrying really is…it is a set-up for failure, a negative attractor, and a denial or avoidance of feeling our true feelings. When we worry, we are really getting ourselves ready to be upset or angry…assuming something will not work out in the future. Based upon the law of attraction, our worrying not only creates stress, it has an impact (usually negatively) on what we create and manifest. More deeply, worry is really a superficial emotion, like stress, it is something that we are all familiar with, can share with others in a way that will garner sympathy and empathy, and is easy for us to go through day to day life experiencing. Underneath our worry, are usually deeper emotions like shame, fear, guilt, hurt, or anger, many of which are much more difficult for us to feel and express.

If we are able to tell the truth, face our deeper feelings, and go down into this darkness, we will not have to waste our time with worry, we can deal with the root of the issue, not the superficial impact of it (which is what worry usually is).

There is nothing wrong with feeling scared, angry, hurt, and even “worried,” in and of itself. These emotions, like love, gratitude, excitement, joy, and others are very important to our human experience. Emotions that are felt deeply and expressed appropriately are positive and give us power (regardless of what they are). Emotions that are not felt deeply, that are denied or avoided, and are note effectively expressed, are negative and can be damaging.

Worry is always a sign that there are some deeper feelings and issues for us to address. It is a good reminder for us to get more real, take better care of ourselves, and pay attention. The best things for us to do when we get worried are:

1) Ask ourselves, what is underneath my worry (i.e. why am I really worried)

2) Face, feel, and express these underlying emotions – get support from others in this process if we need it

3) Once we have felt and expressed these emotions, choose how we want to feel and what we want to create

4) Appreciate ourselves for the courage to be honest and to deal with our emotions

5) Focus on the good stuff in our lives (i.e. be grateful for what we have, who we are, and what we are going through)

If we can bring this level of awareness and consciousness to our worry and to our lives in general, we can create real freedom and power for ourselves.

With Love,

Mike

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The Secret

Hey there…

By now most of you have probably heard about, seen, or read The Secret, right? It has been all over the place. In addition to many people, like me, writing about it, emailing people about it, and talking about it for the past year since it was released, it has now become a “phenomenon.” Featured on Oprah twice, Larry King Live three times, Ellen, the Today Show, CBS This Morning, on the cover of Newsweek, and many others, The Secret is being talked about and shared all over the world. This is very exciting on so many levels.

For those of you who are not familiar with The Secret, it is a documentary film and a book with information from many speakers, teachers, authors, and philosophers all about the universal Law of Attraction. Simply put, the law of attraction states that “like attracts like.” And, in this case, it has to do with our thoughts, feelings, and beliefs. Essentially, The Secret asserts that what we think about, focus on, feel, and believe will manifest everything into our lives – good and bad. I agree with this completely and have seen it work this way throughout my life. My wife Michelle and I have been practicing the law of attraction – through the teachings of Abraham-Hicks, Lynn Grabhorn, and others – for the past 5 years. We have seen incredible things happen in our lives and in the lives of so many around us…again, both “positive” and “negative.”

All of this being said, there is some controversy surfacing about The Secret and a few concerns I personally have with both the movie itself and the resulting controversy. The critiques of The Secret I’ve heard are 1) It focuses too much on material things (money, cars, houses, etc.) and is therefore simply part of American middle-to-upper class greed. 2) There is not enough focus on action, it seems like people are being encouraged to just sit on the couch, think about what they want, and that these things will magically appear. 3) The notion that only “positive feelings” are important seems to be short sighted, unhealthy, and unrealistic. We are all human and we have the total range of emotions – light and dark – and if we try to deny the dark ones we can create more harm than good. 4) The creators of The Secret have just re-packaged age-old wisdom and are now benefiting from lots of “suckers.” 5) This is all new-age, woo-woo, BS. 6) It is insensitive and harmful to teach people that they attract everything into their lives…even the bad stuff. 7) It is not true that people can have anything and everything they want, the world does not work that way.

The list of critiques goes on, but these are the main ones I continue to hear. While I love The Secret, agree with the principles of the law of attraction, and think this movie and book are doing an enormous amount of good in the world, I think some of these critiques are valid and require us to take a deeper look not only at this movie, but at the law of attraction itself and the way we interpret it.

First of all, it is important to remember that The Secret is not the TRUTH. It, like so many other wonderful things in life, is just one interpretation of how things work and how we can be empowered in our lives. As one of the people on Larry King Live said the other night about it, if it works for you, great, use it. If not, don’t. I agree with this. We have a tendency to think in a black and white way with stuff like this. It either has to be all “true” or all “false.” Well, as we know and if we are honest, life is much more complex than that, especially as it relates to things like this. There is truth in The Secret and it is valuable, in my opinion. However, it is not the TRUTH or the ANSWER…just an approach that gives many people access to power in a new way. If you don’t agree with it or believe it, that is fine, you don’t have to. I also think it is important to remember that we are so complex as human beings that no matter how aware, educated, or evolved we are, we will never come close to understanding how life works and the mysteries of the universe. People have been thinking, talking, feeling, writing, reading, teaching, learning, and asking these questions for generations. We will continue to do this until the end of time and this is an essential aspect of being alive.

I do believe that we create 100% of our reality and that we attract everything to us…even the bad stuff, even the baby who dies after a week of life, even the people who were in the World Trade Center on 9/11. I think it is a choice at some deep, unconscious level. I am nervous to say this because I think it may be insensitive or untrue. At some selfish level, I don’t want to admit this for fear of people thinking I am insensitive. I cannot “prove” it, it just resonates with me and if I do believe that I create my own reality and manifest things into my life (which I do), I can’t imagine that it works sometimes and not others. And, I think that we will never fully understand how and why the things that happen in life happen. The best we can do is to understand them more deeply and become more conscious about them all the time. As is discussed in The Secret, most of the time we are manifesting unconsciously.

The Secret is something that allows us to engage in this discovery. I think the problem with The Secret is that people are focusing too much on it as an entity and phenomenon, and not enough on what it is teaching us. It is something that is taking new age, meta-physical concepts and putting them into a mainstream culture that may not know what to do with them. The law of attraction is not a quick sound bite or even a shallow “concept,” it is a deep understanding and awareness of how reality is created. We all have different understandings and interpretations of this. And, this dialogue and inquiry address the root of many of our core values and beliefs about how life works, why we are here, and our role in the Universe. For many people, myself included, who agree with and resonate with the teachings of The Secret, it is important that we not either use it as some kind of evolutionary ego trip (i.e. thinking that we are better than other people because of it) and also not assume that we can just “think good thoughts” and that everything will turn out in our lives. This is both damaging and incredible shallow.

I think it is awesome that The Secret is out there and that people are both benefiting from it and getting activated by it. I recommend that you check it out and see for yourself what you think. http://www.thesecret.tv

Ah…to be human, arrogant, confused, powerful, critical, and wanting to make sense of it all. I love it. Check out The Secret and see if it helps you and your life. If so, watch it or read it often and share it with others. If not, forget about it.

With Love and Truth,

Mike

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Tragic and Magic

Hello!

For the past two months I have had a hard time posting to this blog. As per some of my previous messages, the death of my dear friend Richard Carlson has been heavy on my heart and dominant in my mind…especially when I think about writing anything. After my posts, emails, and newsletter about him, his life, and his death most of what I have thought to write or post here has seemed irrelevant or insignificant. Not that appreciation and gratitude are not important…they are, and Richard constantly told me to be even more BOLD with my expressions of appreciation and with my work. One of the last times we got together, when he was giving me feedback about my manuscript as I was in the final editing process for my book, he said to me, “Mike, you have to be even more passionate and clear about how essential appreciation is to the quality of one’s life. It is not just some nice thing you do once in a while or when you feel like saying ‘thank you,’ it is a way of life and one of the most important aspects of happiness and fulfillment. People have to realize this!”

That being said, in light of Richard’s tragic death, I have found it difficult to write much of anything that seems to have value or importance. With that in mind, I decided to sit down late tonight and write what was on my mind and in my heart about death. Death seems to be both tragic and magic at the same time. There is the tragedy of the loss, the finality of it, the sadness, grief, and loneliness that come along with the passing of a life. When someone dies who is young, vibrant, and so full of life, like Richard, it seems that much more tragic and perplexing. Why would God take someone who seems to have so much to live for, so much left to give, and so many people who love them and count on them?

And, simultaneously there is so much magic in death…even with its sadness and confusion. Our hearts open up, we remember what is truly important, we momuntarily let go of most of the bull shit that we allow to run our lives, we get in touch with the deepest parts of our soul and spirit, and we are reminded of all there is to be grateful for in life. Death reminds us of the gift of life. Richard’s death has been one of the most tragic and at the same time most magical experiences of my life. And, I have learned so much about him, about me, and about life these past three months. I would give back all of these lessons and all of this magic for him to be here on earth with us right now…and, I know somewhere deep down in my soul that there is a reason for everything that happens, there are no accidents, and that Richard’s time on earth was done and he chose to go home. Well, at least I want to believe that.

What I do know for sure is this…If each of us lived our lives on a daily basis a little more aware of our own death and the deaths of those around us…we would all live very differently.

There is so much magic, even in the midst of the tragedy that is death.

I am grateful to be alive. I miss Richard.

With Love and Gratitude,

Mike

P.S. The memorial website for Richard continues to be updated…it is beautiful http://www.richardcarlson.com

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