In light of the recent media frenzy connected to the racist and sexist comments made by radio/television host Dom Imus, I have been thinking a lot about my “shadow.” As you know, our shadows are important aspects of our personalities. And, many of us live our daily lives completely unconscious about our shadows (the aspects of ourselves that we hide, deny, and pretend don’t exist). I, personally, struggle with my own shadow all the time. There are aspects of myself that I don’t like, I want to conceal, and in all honesty I am not even aware of in any conscious way. However, if we don’t confront our shadow, tell the truth about it, and do the deep personal work involved with healing, forgiving, and accepting ourselves, our shadows will end up running our lives and will keep us asleep in an unconscious, self-righteous, arrogant daze.
While I thought what Don Imus said was mean, insensitive, unnecessary, racist, and sexist, I find the reaction to the whole situation a little perplexing. On a certain level, I am happy to see a strong statement and a call for accountability, justice, and equality. However, on a deeper level, I think most of us, whatever our personal views or opinions are as it relates to this issue or to racism and sexism as a whole, are being hypocritical in our assessments. While the majority of people I know, myself included, would never say what Don Imus said publicly on a radio or television show, all of us have both said and definitely thought things that are much meaner, more hurtful, more sexist, and more racist than that.
I am a white male, but my experience as someone in this “privileged” position is a bit unique. I grew up in Oakland, CA, was raised by my mother in a single parent household without much money, went to an inner-city high school with only 18% white people, was the only white person in the entire basketball league, and got my college degree in American Studies with a specialization in race and ethnicity. Growing up in liberal, politically correct, Northern California, I learned early on in my life what I supposed to say and think as it related to both issues of race and gender. More importantly, I also learned what NOT to say.
As I have grown and deepened my awareness of both social oppression and also personal and spiritual development, I have gained a greater understanding of myself and of the importance of being kind, loving, and accepting of myself and others. I consider myself to be fair, open, honest, accepting, trusting, loving, and more. I also have always had the ability to get along with all kinds of people and fit in in most situations. And, even with all of this, I know that I have both significant racist and sexist thoughts and tendencies…as well as many other thoughts, feelings, and opinions (both conscious and not) that are mean, hurtful, and not anything that I am proud of.
This dark stuff, our shadow side, is as much a part of who we are as anything else. I don’t see it as “bad,” just dark. I think we need to raise our awareness and our dialogue about this and start telling the truth about it. Most of the political, social, and familiar discussions, conflicts, and issues that we all face have to do with us not owning up to these shadowy aspects of ourselves.
This is not to say that Don Imus (and the rest of us) should be “let off the hook,” or not held accountable for our words and deeds. It is to say, however, that we all have aspects of “good” and “evil” within us. Life is much more complex that it seems on the surface and we waste a lot of time trying to argue for how things “should be” in some unrealistic, fantasy world of black and white. We all have some Don Imus in us. We all also have some George W. Bush, Osama Bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, and Hitler. And, we also have some Dr. King, Gandhi, Caesar Chavez, Jesus, and others in us as well.
If we can be more honest about this and embrace both our light shadow and our dark shadow, we can be truly free. By doing this, we can also have more compassion, understanding, and love for others – even those we don’t like and don’t agree with. By embracing our shadows, we could stop most of the arguments, judgements, conflicts, fights, and wars in our world – on a personal level and on a global level. We have to be willing to confront the truth and be able to love ourselves in the process. We are complex beings, filled with paradoxy, confusion, brilliance, and deep pain, among other things. Looking at ourselves, being honest about it, and being willing to confront the real complexity of being human is not easy. And, it is essential. I continue to practice and both fail and succeed at this all the time. This is one of the most important games in town. Ah…to be human!
If you want to do some great shadow work, I highly recommend all of Debbie Ford’s work. Her book, The Dark Side of the Light Chasers, is amazing. And, her weekend workshop, The Shadow Process, is one of the best workshops I have ever done. Check out https://www.debbieford.com
Last night Michelle and I watched The Celestine Prophecy. This movie, based on the 1995 best-selling book by James Redfield, is incredible. I am so glad that we watched it, for a number of reasons. First of all, I have been embarrassed for many years that I never got around to reading this book, since so many people reference it and talk about it. Second of all, the story spoke to me on a deep, spiritual level. It is all about our true nature, our purpose on the planet, and our connection to the divine.
Today being Easter, I am thinking about my own connection to God. In truth, I have been so busy running around “doing” and taking care of things – my business, our daughter, our house, our finances, planning my book launch, and more – I have not been feeling all that connected to God or to my inner wisdom lately.
In our fast-paced world, it is easy to get caught up in the material and physical realities in front of us. We watch the news, sit in traffic, write emails, make phone calls, worry about our bills, clean our houses, buy new clothes, go on diets, watch movies, and so much more. All of these things, and many others, make up the daily existence of our lives. In and of themselves, there is nothing wrong with our daily activities. However, most of us don’t spend all that much time connecting at a deep level with our hearts, our souls, or with God.
This notion of connecting with God can be tricky for me and many of us. We have many ideas and limits for how we think we are “supposed” to do this – on holidays like today, at a church, synagogue, or temple, with other people at a ceremony, gathering, or celebration, etc. The truth is, we have lots of “rules” for of expressions of spirituality and how we think we should connect with God, if at all.
As I watched the movie last night and sat with myself as I was falling asleep and again when I woke up early this morning, I found myself thinking and feeling on a different level – connecting to my higher awareness and my heart in a way that felt good. I felt God within me and all around, not because I am supposed to or because I was at a religious event, but because I opened my mind and my heart and allowed myself to connect.
Whatever our beliefs are and even if we believe that God does not exist at all, there is a way for each of us to connect with the “divine” within us and around us all the time. As the Celestine Prophecy teaches us, it is about us opening up to the universe and experiencing the magic of life. This magic is all around us, all the time. It is our job to allow ourselves to appreciate it and notice it. When we do this, we are able to deeply connect with God whenever we want.
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,
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,
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.