Archive for February 2010

The Magic of the Olympics

February 22, 2010

The Winter Olympics in Vancouver have captured the attention of the world. As a former college and professional baseball player (and a lifelong sports fan), I’ve always loved the Olympics and appreciated the incredible athleticism, competition, and passion of the athletes and teams, from a pure sports perspective. However, having been a live spectator at both the Atlanta and Sydney Summer Games, I’ve experienced first-hand the true spirit of the Olympics – which has been on display these past two weeks in Vancouver in a beautiful way.

There’s something truly magical that happens during the Olympics. While many of us are enjoying rooting for our country and we’ve seen some remarkable performances in Vancouver from people like Lindsey Vonn, Shaun White, Evan Lysacek, Bode Miller, and many others – the real magic of the Olympics is way bigger than any individual athlete or even any country. And, if we look deeper, there are so many aspects of the Olympics that can teach us, remind us, and inspire us on our own personal journey.

Here are some of the most important elements and lessons of the Olympics:

1) Ceremony. The Opening Ceremonies in Vancouver were breathtaking and spectacular (as was also true with the Summer Olympics in China in 2008 and with most of the Olympic opening ceremonies of the past few decades). Beyond the amazing technology, creativity, and spectacle of these ceremonies, there is a deeper commitment to beauty, ritual, and reverence. The Olympics are also filled with ceremonies throughout – medal ceremonies, the Closing Ceremonies, and more. For us to live lives of meaning, purpose, and spirit – it’s essential that we honor ourselves, others, and life in a ceremonious way.

2) Excellence. The Olympics, as much as any other sporting event, are all about excellence. The intense training, incredible competition, and extraordinary pressure of having to focus a lifetime’s worth of experience into one single performance, create an authentic sense of drama that is unique and exciting, albeit nerve-wracking. However, when we think of “excellence” in regards to the Olympics or other things in life, we often think about “winning.” While there’s nothing wrong with winning and our culture puts a high value on it (just look at the attention and adulation given to the gold medal winners in Vancouver), there is much more to real excellence than simply winning. Every athlete in Vancouver has made a commitment to excellence – even though the vast majority of them will not win medals and we’ll never even know their names. On our own path, it’s important for us to make a commitment to excellence – to go for it, dig down deep, and give it our best shot – whether or not we end up “winning.”

3) Passion. The Olympics are filled with passion – from the athletes, the host city, and the fans – in person and around the world. The emotions experienced and expressed during the Olympics, as we’ve seen these past two weeks, are intense and passionate. We’ve seen the “thrill of victory” and the “agony of defeat” on display each and every day. It’s this passion that makes the Olympics so intriguing, exciting, and fun to experience. In our own lives and on our own journeys, passion is a key component to growth, success, and fulfillment. So often we hold back our passion – waiting to see how things will turn out. However, to live life with depth, purpose, and aliveness, we have to tap into our passion in an authentic way and use it as inspiration, regardless of the outcome.

4) Play. One of the greatest things about the Olympics is that they are called “games.” This is a wonderful metaphor which reminds us that while sports (and life) can be intense and pressure-filled, they are really just games we are playing. The games played at the Olympics, not un-like in many aspects of our own lives, are played at a pretty high level and are done so with fairly high stakes. But, at the end of the day, they are all just games. Each athlete in Vancouver started in their sport as a child because it was fun, not because they wanted to win a gold medal, be on TV, or get big endorsement deals. This is a great reminder for all of us. We often get so serious and caught up in results, we forget to play. Play is essential. Scientific studies have shown that the same brain waves are generated in a high state of play as in a high state of meditation.

5) Unity. The athletes at the Olympics come together to represent their countries and to compete for something bigger than themselves. I had the privilege of playing for the USA baseball team in the World Championships when I was 18 years old. It was one of the greatest honors of my life and such a profound experience. And although in the Olympics there is a big focus, especially by the media, on individual performances as well as country competition (i.e. medal count), at the deepest level, the Olympics are about a greater sense of unity amongst all nations. There is a sense of mutual respect, admiration, and appreciation that exists at the Olympics – both with athletes and fans. I felt it on the streets of Atlanta and Sydney when I was there and see it on TV whenever I watch the Olympics now. The Olympics provide a stage for the world to engage, compete, and interact with one another in a beautiful way. One of the most important elements of our personal journey is to recognize that we are more alike than we are different. Those whom we compete against, have conflict with, and want to “beat,” are just people, like us, who have similar hopes, fears, and dreams. At the most basic and yet profound level, we are all one. Anything and everything we can do to see, remember, and remind ourselves and others of this innate unity – gives us access to deeper connection and truth.

I love the Olympics! Not only do we get to watch extraordinary athletes complete at the highest level – but we get to tap into something profound and magical that can remind us of our true power, passion, and oneness.

Have you been following the Winter Olympics in Vancouver? What have you noticed about them that inspires you and can help remind you about important aspects of your own life and growth? Share your thoughts, action ideas, insights, and more on my blog below.

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A Deeper Look at Avatar

February 16, 2010

Like millions of people around the world, I recently saw the new James Cameron film Avatar. While I was blown away by the visual beauty, the out-of-this world effects, and the revolutionary technology of the movie, it was the deeper message of Avatar that had the biggest impact on me.

As someone who sometimes arrogantly criticizes “mainstream” culture for being too shallow or not “getting it,” I was both humbled and inspired watching this film – knowing that its direct and indirect messages of awareness and interconnectedness are not only being shown to millions all over the world, but that there is an intense hunger and desire for them (as evidenced by its record-breaking success).

As a culture we are waking up on so many levels. With all that is going on in our country and our world these days, many of us are asking deeper, more meaningful questions about life, work, money, relationships, peace, our planet, and so much more. Many of these important issues were addressed directly and profoundly in Avatar. When I left the theatre, not only did I feel that I’d just seen an incredible movie, I felt as though my life had been impacted and altered in a positive way.

The film is a wake-up call – reminding us of the dangers of greed, unconsciousness, disconnection, insensitivity, violence, and arrogance, both globally and personally. It’s also a bold call for each of us to re-connect with that which is most sacred to us, to focus on what truly matters, and to remember how connected we are to each other, all living beings, and the environment in which we live.

Three of the most important messages we can take away from Avatar and use in our own life, work, and relationships are:

1) Honor the sacred – A central theme of the film is the way in which the Na’vi (the native species of the moon Pandora where the story takes place) honor the sacredness of their land – specifically Hometree (where they live) and the Tree of Souls (where they worship). They have a deep sense of reverence for these important places and for all of Pandora.

How well do you honor your own space? How much reverence do you hold for where you live, where you work, where you eat, the planet, and more? So often we forget that the “sacredness” of any place is more about how we relate to it, than about the space itself. We have the ability to bring a sense of sacredness to anywhere we are, at any time.

2) Connect with Spirit – The Na’vi worship a mother goddess called Eywa. Eywa is the center of the Na’vi’s universe and their reverence for her is displayed in a beautiful and palpable way throughout the film. In all that the Na’vi do, there is a direct connection back to their relationship with Eywa. There are breathtaking scenes in the film showing large groups of Na’vi chanting and praying around the Tree of Souls – as a way to honor, connect with, and access Eywa’s power, wisdom, and love.

How consciously do you connect with Spirit in your own life? We often get so busy that we don’t take the time to connect with Spirit in a deliberate and meaningful way in our daily lives. We also sometimes get too caught up in the external – thinking we have to go to a specific service or gathering, practice a particular form of prayer or meditation, or do something else externally in order to tap into our connection to Spirit. While any of these practices can be important, none of them are necessary – we can connect with Spirit at any time, in any place, and for any reason.

3) Remember our interconnectedness – The way the Na’vi live in harmony with their land and all living creators is one of the most profound and awe-inspiring elements of Avatar. There is a deep respect and appreciation for all living creators and for all elements of nature that the Na’vi truly embody. A great example of this is how the Na’vi warriors bond with their Banshees (the four-winged creatures they fly around on). Once they bond – which they do both physically and energetically – they are bonded for life and work together as one. The first few scenes in the film where we see the Na’vi warriors connect with their Banshees literally took my breath away and had a visceral impact on me as I sat in the theater.

How consciously interconnected do you feel towards other people, living creatures, and our planet in your daily life? It’s so easy for us to get caught up in the illusion of separateness – we think, talk, and are reminded of all the ways in which we are different, disconnected, and isolated from one another, living creators, and the earth all the time. However, most of us have had experiences in our lives where we’ve felt a deep sense of interconnectedness – not just with people we know and love, but with all of life. In those moments, we’ve seen, felt, and touched the depth of our true nature. When we consciously tap into this, we remember that at the deepest level – we are all one.

Avatar is a film that not only broke new ground in film making technology, visual effects, and box-office success – it’s a movie that challenges us in a personal way to remember who we really are and why we’re truly here.

Have you seen Avatar yet? What did you think? Whether or not you’ve seen the film, how can you bring more interconnection, spirit, and sacredness into your life, work, and relationships? Share your thoughts, action ideas, insights, and more on my blog below.

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Love Yourself, and the Rest Will Follow

February 8, 2010

How do you feel about self love?  More importantly, how well do you love yourself?  For most of us, loving ourselves is something we may know is important, but often have difficulty actually feeling, expressing, and embodying.

For me, I’ve spent much of my life – as a student, an athlete, in business, in relationships, and in general – demanding perfection of myself, and of course, falling short and then feeling inadequate on a regular basis. Most people I know and work with have some version of “I’m not good enough” that runs their life, their work, and their relationships.

As we lead up to Valentine’s Day this weekend and think about the important people in our lives whom we love (or the fact that we wish we had more love in our lives), much of our focus tends to be outward and not inward.

Self love is what we’re all searching for – in our work, our relationships, and our lives. Sadly, we spend most of our time thinking that someone or something else can give us what only we can give ourselves. To be truly fulfilled in life and relationships, we have to find the love within us and give it to ourselves. No other person, material possession, or accomplishment can do it. It’s up to us.

Especially when it comes to relationships, self love is essential.  One of the best gifts we can give to the people around us is to love ourselves in a genuine way.  As my mom used to say to me when I was young, “You can’t love anyone else, until you love yourself.”

Here are a few things to think about and practice as you deepen your own capacity for loving yourself:

1) Notice your relationship to self love.  How do you feel about it, how comfortable are you with it, and what resistance do you have to loving yourself?  Being honest about your own relationship to self love is the first step in altering it.  Many of us have not been encouraged or taught to love ourselves.  We have also not seen many healthy models of self love around us.  And, we’re often much better at being hard on ourselves than we are at being kind and loving towards ourselves.  Based on these and other factors, self love can be a bit tricky.  Once we tell the truth about how we relate to self love, we can start to expand our ability to love ourselves in a more real way.

2) Let go of your conditions. When it comes to loving ourselves, if we even put much attention on it, we often do so in a very conditional way.  We love ourselves only when we do “good” things, “succeed” in specific ways, or take care of ourselves in ways we deem important.  While there’s nothing wrong with us feeling good about ourselves in relationship to these and other “positive” things, truly loving ourselves is an unconditional process – which means accepting, appreciating, and celebrating all of who we are, both light and dark. By letting go of our conditions and loving ourselves in the unconditional, like how way we often love babies, animals, or others we have little or no specific expectations of, we can start to deepen our authentic love for ourselves.

3) Start practicing, right now. Do anything and everything you can to express love for yourself – right now, not after you think you “deserve” it. Since most of us have some resistance to loving ourselves, taking any and every self loving action we can think of is important. There are lots of things we can do – both big and small – to practice loving ourselves. Speaking kindly about ourselves, taking compliments graciously, taking care of ourselves, honoring our emotions, pampering ourselves, celebrating our successes (and failures), appreciating our “flaws,” and much more are all simple (although not always easy) things we can do to practice self love. Also, be willing to ask for help and look to others who seem to do a good job at this, so you can get the support and guidance that you need.  Loving ourselves is a life-long, never ending practice.

Self love is the starting point, not the end game, of our conscious growth and development.  For most of us, myself included, it’s much easier to talk about loving ourselves than it is to actually practice it.  However, when we put our attention on loving ourselves in an authentic way, everything in our lives that is important to us – our work, our relationships, our goals, and more – flows from there with a sense of ease, joy, and, most important, love.

What do you love about yourself?  How can you expand your capacity for self love in a way that will positively impact you, those around you, and your entire life?  Share your thoughts, action ideas, insights, and more on my blog below.

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We Don’t Solve Our Problems, We Outgrow Them

February 1, 2010

I was recently reminded of a great quote from psychologist Carl Jung, he said, “We don’t solve our problems, we outgrow them.” As I’ve been thinking about this the past few days, I realize how often my attention is actually on solving my problems, instead of outgrowing them. No wonder the ones I obsess about the most seem to linger.

However, we’ve all experienced this outgrowing process many times. Think back to some of the biggest “problems” in your life when you were a child or an adolescent (or even just a few years or months ago) that are no longer issues for you anymore. In most cases, you simply outgrew these things.

We also experience this phenomenon whenever something intense happens in our life – whether it’s something that is intensely “good” or “bad.” Major life experiences will often put things in perspective – giving us an opportunity to stop and re-evaluate many aspects of our lives. Often, upon further reflection, we realize that most of our “problems” are not that big of a deal.

How can we make this process more conscious and deliberate, and not simply happen by accident. It’s important that we shift our focus, as Jung reminds us, from “solving” to “growing.” As we try to “solve” the biggest problems in our lives – related to relationships, career, health, effectiveness, money, awareness, and more – maybe we can stop trying so hard to “fix” these things and look more deeply at the feedback we’re getting and where we can enhance our growth.

Take money, for example. Many people I know, myself included, are especially focused on money these days. And while the economic environment of the past year or so has both created and exposed a number of money “problems” for many of us – personally, organizationally, nationally, and globally – maybe instead of simply trying to solve our money problems, we could look at how to expand our growth as it relates to money, and in a larger sense abundance, worth, peace, and more. The famous quote from Albert Einstein fits perfectly here, “We can’t solve our problems from the level of thinking which created them.”

Here are a few things to think about as you look to deepen your growth and shift away from the obsessive problem solving mode many of us find ourselves in:

– Confront your biggest “problems.” Tell the truth about the biggest issues in your life and look at what you’ve been doing to either avoid or solve them – neither of which will ultimately give you what you want.

– Look for the growth opportunity. With authenticity and compassion, see if you can look beneath your avoidance or even your intended solutions, and look for the beautiful feedback life is giving you right now about where you can grow.

– Reach out for support. Getting support, feedback, and guidance is an essential aspect of our life and growth, especially when we want to change, transform, and grow into new and deeper places. When we’re looking at outgrowing some of the most challenging aspects of our life and transcending certain problems (some of which we may have been dealing with for quite some time), it is fundamentally important we reach out for help from people in our lives – friends, family members, co-workers, counselors, coaches, teachers, and others.

As we do these three things, with a sense of kindness and appreciation towards ourselves, we can expand our growth, which will ultimately lead us to where we want to be in our lives. Remember, there is no specific “destination” we’re after in this process – growth is really about deepening our experience of life and enhancing our capacity for joy, fulfillment, and love.

Where can you expand your own growth right now? How can you take your attention off of “solving” and put it more on “growing” in a way that will make a difference for you? Share your thoughts, action ideas, insights, and more on my blog below.

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