Archive for April 2014

Forgive Yourself

April 30, 2014

nothing-changes-until-you-do-pintrest38In December of 2011, I decided to head up to Calistoga for a few days. Calistoga is a small town in Napa Valley, about an hour from where we live. For the past few years, Michelle and I have each gone up there occasionally by ourselves for some personal retreat time. It’s been a great self-care practice that has benefited us both individually and as a family. It’s amazing how taking just a few days away can help me put things in perspective, recharge, and reconnect to what’s most important in my life.

That December was an emotional time for me. It was the end of what had been a tumultuous year, filled with big highs and big lows. My mom had died in June, we did the short sale on our house in August and moved, and life had changed for us in many significant ways. Even with the difficulty and intensity of the year, a lot of really good things had happened, too. It felt like life was moving in a really positive direction for us.

As I took some time to reflect and go within, I realized I was carrying around an enormous amount of resentment, most of which was directed at myself. I took with me to Calistoga some old cassette tapes of an audio program called “Forgiving Yourself,” which I’d actually never listened to when I’d purchased it many years before. The tapes talked about being hard on ourselves, and being critical and harboring resentment toward ourselves—all things that I’d done quite a bit throughout my life. Based on the suggestions of this audio program and my own insight and awareness, I spent a lot of time over the course of those few days writing in my journal and meditating, all with the specific intention of forgiving myself.

I started to write down a long list of things that I wanted to forgive myself for—being harsh and critical of some of the people closest to me, being annoyed and unkind to my girls at times, worrying about all kinds of superficial things, doing harm to my body over the years, not taking good care of myself, making mistakes in my business and with our finances, not practicing what I preached in my work, and on and on the list went.

As I wrote these things down in my journal, initially I was concerned that it was simply just my gremlin taking over and listing out all the things that were “wrong” with me and all the reasons why I was “bad.” But as I allowed myself to engage more deeply in the process, I realized that what I was doing was simply telling the truth about all the things I’d been judging myself for. This was my attempt in some way to let go of the resentment I was holding toward myself. I was trying to move into a place of forgiveness and, ultimately, freedom. And while I wasn’t sure if I knew exactly the “right” way to forgive myself, I decided to simply ask, in my writings, my prayers, and my meditations, to be forgiven. Before I went to bed at night, I would ask for the weight of this self-criticism and negativity to be lifted off of me.

By the time I left Calistoga, just a few days later, I felt 50 pounds lighter. Just a few weeks after that, I had my very first session with my counselor Eleanor. As Eleanor and I began to work together, which we’ve continued to do over the last few years with wonderful results, she began to explain to me the nature of growth and change.

“Mike, as you grow, change, and evolve, here are the basic steps involved in the process: recognize, acknowledge, forgive, and change. First,” she said, “you must recognize what’s going on and what you’re doing. This is about seeing and about authentic awareness. Then you acknowledge the impact of what you’re doing with compassion and without judgment. This is about feeling your emotions and owning the impact. Then,” she said, “the most important step in the process is forgiveness—a willingness to forgive yourself. Self-forgiveness isn’t about letting yourself off the hook, it’s about caring enough to take a deeper level of responsibility. And when you do that, you’re able to forgive yourself authentically. The fourth step,” she continued, “is change. However, if you genuinely recognize, acknowledge, and forgive, the change pretty much happens on its own, and you don’t have to—nor do you get to—control it. Change is the result of authentic forgiveness and authentic forgiveness is about releasing the past and all the stories you have associated with it.”

Then she followed up with the kicker: “Unfortunately, what you often do, Mike, and this is true for many people, is recognize, acknowledge, punish, and repeat—instead of forgive and change—which keeps certain negative patterns in place in your life and causes you a great deal of pain and suffering.”

The truth of what Eleanor taught me resonated deeply and we continue to talk about it in our sessions today. Since that initial conversation, I’ve been consciously focused on forgiving myself as well as releasing the past and all of the stories I have connected to it. Given that I’ve got many years of experience of not doing this and still have a tendency to be hypercritical of myself, as many of us do, self-forgiveness continues to be a challenge for me, although it’s getting easier. It’s a practice, and like any practice, the more we do it, the easier it is and the more effective we become.

The more willing we are to take an honest look within—to recognize and acknowledge our self-sabotaging ways and to forgive ourselves for them—the more likely we can begin to change in an authentic and powerful way. Self-forgiveness makes it possible for us to forgive others and to live our lives with a genuine sense of freedom, peace, and love.

This is an excerpt taken from Nothing Changes Until You Do, by Mike Robbins, with permission. Published by Hay House (May 2014) and available online or in bookstores.

Comment on This Post

Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously

April 23, 2014

nothing-changes-until-you-do-pintrest6I have a tendency to take myself a bit too seriously at times, especially when I get stressed, irritated, or scared. I’ve noticed that sometimes these feelings not only make me less effective in dealing with a difficult situation, they actually cause the difficulty itself, or at the very least exacerbate it. I also find that in these moments of taking myself too seriously, it’s easy for me to become self-important and to think that the weight of the world is on my shoulders (which is often a bit of an overreaction and almost never helpful). As my friend Theo and I like to say in jest to each other from time to time, “Do you have any idea how important I think I am?”

When we take ourselves less seriously, we’re able to see the humor in situations, find the silver lining when things don’t go the way we want them to, and navigate through the ups and downs of life a bit easier.

When I was up in Seattle for a speaking engagement a few years ago, I saw just how important finding humor is. I’d flown in the night before the event and was scheduled to speak early the next morning. When I got off the plane I was hungry, so I decided to grab a piece of pizza as I waited for my bag. A few months prior to this, I’d taken a bite out of a frozen strawberry and cracked my left front tooth, which had originally been damaged when I was playing baseball in high school. Due to the initial injury, coupled with the trauma of the frozen strawberry episode, I ended up having to get my front tooth removed, and I was in the process of having an implant (i.e., false tooth) constructed for my mouth. This process actually takes a number of months, and in the interim I was given a non-removable temporary tooth so that I wasn’t walking around with a big hole in the front of my mouth.

As you can imagine, this posed some challenges, both in terms of eating and in terms of self-confidence. I’ve long struggled with issues of insecurity related to my appearance, so all in all this tooth problem was pretty traumatic for me.

Anyway, there I was in the airport in Seattle eating my pizza and, although I’d learned how to maneuver my food around the temporary front tooth (since I couldn’t really use it to bite with), I took a normal bite without thinking about it. The next thing I knew, I looked down and the tooth had fallen out of my mouth and into my left hand. Although it was a nice catch, I immediately panicked and thought, Oh my God, it’s 7 p.m. and I have to speak at 9 a.m. I’m in Seattle and I now have a missing front tooth. What the heck am I going to do?

With the tooth in my pocket and my mouth shut tight, I got my bag and made my way to my hotel as fast as I could. I was pretty freaked out. Thankfully my dentist, Shaya, happens to be a friend of mine; we went to junior high school together and she’s really cool. I was able to call her that night and tell her what happened. She told me not to worry and to put the tooth in some water to soak. After that, I needed to find a drugstore and call her back from there. Luckily there was one just around the corner from my hotel. I called Shaya back as I walked into the store with my heart racing. She directed me to find the aisle where there was denture adhesive and told me which one to pick out. I followed the instructions on the box and did what Shaya told me to do the following morning—basically stick the false tooth back into my mouth using the denture adhesive. While it wasn’t something I’d ever done before (and never thought I’d do in my life), it seemed to work and looked okay, although it felt really weird and made me talk with a little lisp.

I took a few deep breaths, said a prayer, and made my way down to the hotel ballroom. As you can probably imagine, I was quite nervous as I stood up in front of hundreds of people to deliver my keynote speech that morning. Being nervous before and even during a speech wasn’t new for me; however, being specifically worried that my tooth might fall out of my mouth or that I might spit it on someone in the front row was definitely a new and odd experience.

As I was speaking, I could hardly pay attention because I was so preoccupied with my tooth, how I sounded, and my fear of what might happen. So after about 20 minutes, I had the audience pair up with each other to discuss something related to what I was talking about—I often do this because it allows people to relate their own experiences to some key theme of my speech; it also gives me a moment to catch my breath. On that particular morning, I really needed a moment for myself. As I was watching everyone talk, I thought, This situation is so ridiculous that it’s funny. I hope my tooth doesn’t fall out, but if it does, these people certainly won’t forget me or my speech anytime soon. Plus it would make a great story. I laughed to myself, gathered the group’s attention, and went on.

While I decided not to let the audience know what was going on inside my mouth (and my head), I was able to embrace the ridiculousness of the situation and not take it so seriously. Thankfully, my tooth stayed in my mouth and the speech went well. I was able to make it back home and then back to my dentist’s office the next day without too much humiliation. A few months later, I got my permanent implant, and, thankfully, I don’t have to worry about my tooth coming out anymore.

There are clearly times in life and certain circumstances that are genuinely serious. However, far too often we add unnecessary stress, pressure, and negativity to situations with our attitude of “seriousness.” One of the best things we can do is laugh—at ourselves, at the situation, or in general.

I got a call from Michelle a few years ago and she was laughing pretty loudly on the phone. She had a funny story about the girls she wanted to share with me, as she often does. This one was pretty good and quite poignant.

Samantha was four and a half at the time and Rosie was two. It was late summer and Michelle was just trying to run some errands and she had to take the girls along—not a big deal on the surface. But keep in mind that this involved a two-year-old. As anyone who has ever dealt with a two-year-old knows, even the simplest thing can become a major production, and that’s just what was happening with Rosie. She was going through a phase where she did not want to get into her car seat.

Michelle got the girls dressed, out the door, and to the car that morning; however, when they got into the car, Rosie threw a big-time fit—screaming, yelling, flailing her arms and legs, and throwing her body on the floor of the car—all to avoid her car seat. These types of fits can be challenging to say the least, and when they happen out in public, there’s an added level of embarrassment and helplessness that can kick in, which was happening for Michelle that morning. Even though Michelle had quite a bit of experience with this, she said she was incredibly ineffective that morning in dealing with Rosie, and she found herself getting more and more frustrated.

At that particular time, with Samantha being four and a half, we were starting to teach her certain things that were appropriate to her age. One of the things that Michelle had been talking to Samantha about just the day before was what to do in case of an emergency and how to get help if she or someone around her needed it. So Samantha was sitting there quietly in her booster seat. She had buckled herself in like a “big girl” and was waiting patiently as Mommy and Rosie struggled through this conflict. Samantha, sensing Michelle’s frustration and escalating panic, decided she wanted to intervene and help out. She calmly turned and said, “Mommy, I can go inside and call 911 if you want.” As soon as Michelle heard this, she burst out laughing. She said she could hardly control herself and thought she actually might pee her pants. In the midst of her laughter, she stopped paying attention to Rosie for a moment. Once she gathered herself and calmed down a bit, she turned around to find that Rosie had crawled into her car seat and was ready to be buckled in.

As Emily Saliers from the Indigo Girls said, “You have to laugh at yourself, because you’d cry your eyes out if you didn’t.”

Laughter is actually important on many levels. Clearly, it helps shift our perspective and alter our mood, but research shows that it also has quite a positive impact on our physiology—relaxing our muscles, boosting our immune systems, releasing endorphins and decreasing stress hormones, and increasing blood flow to the heart.

I’m not advocating that we laugh ourselves into denial or avoid dealing with the serious aspects of our lives—as we all know, sometimes laughter can be used as a way of deflecting, or in other unhealthy and harmful ways. However, being able to bring lightness, levity, and laughter into our lives and relationships in an authentic and healthy way is one of the best things we can do to take care of ourselves and keep things in perspective. Teeth will fall out, kids will throw fits, and all kinds of frustrating things (both big and small) will occur in your life—find the humor in the situation and your outlook will change.

This is an excerpt taken from Nothing Changes Until You Do, by Mike Robbins, with permission. Published by Hay House (May 2014) and available online or in bookstores.


Comment on This Post

Watch More Sunsets

April 16, 2014

A few weeks ago I led a weekend workshop at Esalen. It was wonderful! On Saturday evening after our dinner break, one of the workshop participants suggested that we delay the start of our evening session so we could walk out on the deck and watch the sun go down over the Pacific Ocean. We did and it was spectacular.

This sunset watching experience reminded me that I don’t often watch the sunset. There are so many incredible, amazing, and beautiful things happening around us all the time – if and when we choose to pay attention to them. In this week’s video blog, I talk about how we can take more time to “watch sunsets” in our lives all the time.

Feel free to share your thoughts, insights, or questions about this with me and others on my blog.

Comment on This Post

Create Miracles Now

April 9, 2014

My friend Gabrielle Bernstein’s new book, Miracles Now, has had me stop and think more deeply about my own relationship to “miracles” and also how to create more of them in my life on a daily basis. As Albert Einstein said, “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” This is so true!

In this week’s video blog, I explore this idea of miracles and share a few things you can focus on to create more miracles in your life.

Feel free to share your thoughts, insights, or questions about this with me and others on my blog.

Comment on This Post

You Are Enough

April 3, 2014

I had a powerful conversation with my counselor Eleanor a while back about insecurity. She said to me, “Mike when you’re feeling insecure, it’s important to understand which aspect of yourself is feeling insecure. The child within you is asking, ‘Am I getting enough?’ The adolescent within you is asking, ‘Am I good enough?’ And, the young adult within you is asking, ‘Am I doing enough?’ Your insecurity often comes from one of these three places – erroneously thinking that you’re not enough.” Eleanor then said, “However, the wisest part of you, the ‘spiritual adult’ within you, answers these three questions by simply saying, ‘Yes!'”

In this week’s video blog, I explore these three questions and how we can let go of our thoughts and feelings of not getting enough, being good enough, or doing enough… ultimately remembering that we are enough just as we are right now!

Feel free to share your thoughts, insights, or questions about this with me and others on my blog.

Comment on This Post

Get Mike’s Free Email Newsletter: