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Big Things From Little Changes or How to Have a True “Identity Shift”

Why is it so hard to make big changes in our lives? We all seem to want things to be different than they are. We’d like to lose weight, make more money, be more organized, eat better. In this talk I point out a couple of ways to help bring lasting change.

One of the ideas many people hold is that we change once. People often feel we’ll make one large switch, and then things will be different. I’ll go on a diet for a little while and THEN I’ll be the way I want. I’ll learn a new investment technique and THEN I’ll be wealthy. I’ll clean my whole house and THEN I’ll be organized. But in reality those changes rarely stick. To make changes stick we need at least two understandings.

First we need to realize that it is not one big change. It is a commitment to little choices over time that affect our lives in the long run. It’s not one diet, it’s choosing different foods over and over again. It’s not working out for two months for beach season, it’s committing to being healthy and fit going forward. And while these things may sound big and difficult, they are actually only done right now, and in small ways. Big change comes from little choices over time, not one big switch.

The other understanding we can use to make big change is to align our values with our goals. A diet is something we do temporarily. It isn’t who we want to be long term. Instead, learn to think of yourself as a healthy person, or even better, an athlete. Once you change your mindset like that, supporting that idea of yourself makes all your food choices easy. It becomes a way of life rather than a temporary fix. Rather than seeing yourself as a disorganized person who needs to be organized. See yourself as a deeply organized person. Instead of seeing yourself as a month to month pay-check person, see yourself as an investor.

By aligning our values with our goals, and realizing that it’s little changes instead of one big switch, we can make massive change in our lives, and those changes can last. These little changes lead to a total, transformative “Identity Shift.”

Song: The Changeling by The Doors

Means to an End

In this podcast we have a fist fight at a gun show. Two men, both deeply interested in safety, take very different stances on how to achieve that goal. One, having been mugged and beaten before feels as though having a gun will offer him safety. The other man, losing his son to a gun accident, feels that guns need to be banned. From those different stances, a fight ensues. If they had been more clear on what they really wanted, which is ultimately safety, they would have been able to avoid conflict.

Conflict often arises between people that have the same end goals, but very different means goals. An end goal is a goal that once accomplished is finished. A means goal is a goal created to help achieve an end goal, but isn’t an end unto itself. We often get too attached to a means goal, missing opportunities to achieve the end goal in different ways.

I explain that even what we normally think of as end goals, are really still means goals for what we all really want. Our true end goal is really the ability to manage our own states of consciousness. As an example, we don’t really want money, we want the feelings we think money will give us. That may be security for some, and bliss for others, but it’s the state of being that we want, not the abstraction of money. It turns out that everything we do is in relation to managing our states. Knowing this can breed wisdom and allow us to navigate conflict, and the world in general, with much more ease.

Whenever we come to inner frustration or external conflict, we are at the edge of one of our own attachments, or means goals. Taking the time to be introspective in those moments will help us gain clarity to what we really want (state management) instead of the thing for which we might be fighting (a means goal).

This Path is Not Easy

Everyone listening to a podcast like this is trying to better themselves. I want to commend all of you for trying to do that. This work is difficult, and not enough teachers say that’s the case. Many sell this path as an easy fix for people. It can often be very difficult. Meditation is hard. Being authentic is hard.

The big point of this talk is that learning to be authentic brings up difficult things to deal with. You end up seeing that there is potentially a lot to change in your life. Our unconscious lives leave large patterns and situations that we see are not authentic. Examples include: relationships that are codependent and messy, the tools we use to deal with life can be destructive, our work may be dissatisfying, etc. It can be very scary and difficult to deal with these situations once they arrive.

So why do we choose to do the work? One reason is because we have to do it. There is something in you that is searching. You wouldn’t be listening to this podcast or reading this blurb if that weren’t the case. Something in you knows that there’s got to be more. Once we start looking at ourselves, our belief systems, our own inner becoming, we notice that on some level there’s a lack of authenticity in our lives. So truths begin to open up to us. We can’t go backwards. Once we’ve seen that our life isn’t authentic, we can’t unlearn that.

Other reasons we do this work is because we find our joy in different places now. We learn not to fear “bad” situations or “bad” emotions. We become courageous. We become whole. However, you may not get the same pleasure from old things: TV shows, drugs, drinking, overeating. In fact, that lack of satisfaction may have started happening before you knew you were beginning this work. That dissatisfaction is what ends up making people search more deeply.

Disconnect, which is a huge tool for dealing with life situations, may not feel the same. It may not bring the same “peace” it once did. You will, at times, miss it. It has been what you’ve used to deal with many of life’s problems thus far. Instead, you’ll now rely on presence, and being true to your feelings.

Teachers often imply that this path is simple and natural; and that the now is always available. That is true, it is easy, but it also can be hard… to find the easy. It’s not a long path to this moment. It’s always right here, and yet we still miss it. Being authentic can be hard. Be courageous. Keep working. You might find there’s not much else to do.

Why We Can’t Hold On To Stillness

In this talk I want to discuss what might be our biggest challenge. To find a state of stillness, and remain productive in the world. How do we accomplish, while remaining present.

Why are most of us unable to hold on to stillness? Many of us can find stillness, but why isn’t it easier to just stay there? This talk assumes that you know what I mean when I say stillness. Some call it big mind, or a state of presence.

I did a talk before called Stillness in Motion. While this talk is similar, it will differ in the level we’re talking about. Stillness in motion was a talk about the feeling of holding stillness while we do things.

I’ve heard Ken Wilber say things like you can’t be in a non-dual state and in a state of duality at the same time. I’d be interested to speak with him about that because I have a deep sense of being still, or in a non-dual state while still seeing and being aware of, and able to function in the world full of duality.

This talk will discuss, and point out that we definitely still have the desire to accomplish and do things. We may drop the attachment to that desire, but we still discern.

At the base of our being is a function of judgement. This judgement leads to most of our discomfort. It puts us on the treadmill of time. Judgement says this situation isn’t as I would like it to be, so let’s change it. It leads to inner becoming. I’m not enough, etc. Many spiritual teachings seem to imply that this is a bad thing. But it’s important that we don’t vilify this idea. We need this function to survive. It’s the same impulse that tells us we’re in danger. It also allows for us to better the world.

We don’t lose the ability to judge when we’re still. I usually begin to describe this judgement as “discerning” to show that there is a difference. It isn’t a lost, deeply judgemental, place that we come from, but we can tell what our preference would be. We do chose to walk, and eat, and talk, etc.

Many stereotypical representations of meditation imply that the meditator is unable to discern when in a deep meditative state. That’s just not accurate. I mentioned before the Burning Monk, who had gasoline (or some flammable liquid) poured over him and lit. Then there was a picture taken of him not moving. While his experience of that might have been different than yours or mine, he still was aware that he was burning. The amazing thing is not some otherworldly state of mind he found, but rather the choice to stay. The discipline to stay.

The trick is going to be to learn to remain still while we judge and think. Can we remain aware while we judge? We need to learn to watch our judgements. The subtle distinction is this: A frustrated meditator learns about a pleasurable state of mind and then catches themselves thinking and discredits all the stillness they achieved. Whereas, a centered meditator finds himself or herself in a thinking state and watches it, thereby remaining centered.

In this world, we have things to accomplish. There is work to be done. In every moment we look at the world and have opinions about how it could be better, things we need, things we want to have, or do, or give. None of that is wrong. It’s really important that we allow for that. There is such a thing as growth. There is betterment.

So is stillness in conflict with betterment? Doesn’t stillness imply that we’re done? While it is an appreciative state, we can be aware of movement, and the need for change while holding on to stillness. Stillness is a state of awareness. One that is realized and awake to the truth of a situation. If there is betterment to be done, do it, but try to remain aware.

Our innate ability and need to create and judge is what’s impairing our ability to remain still. And that’s a wonderful thing. The work we’re here to do is to marry the two. We’re here to blend the duality. We can engage in both experiences, and do our best to remain aware of where we are and what we’re doing.

Referenced: Ken Wilber, and Burning Monk

How Committed Are You?

Making any kind of change is very difficult when we aren’t truly committed to it. So what is commitment and how do we find it?

I see people use meditation and become spiritual all the time to feel better when they are sad. But they often drop the practice once things get better. Finding commitment is hard to do, but we don’t want to get caught in the common loop of: being in pain, working to escape it, forgetting we were in pain. We can’t really escape pain fully until we learn to stay committed to change through all seasons.

Can you practice stillness when the world is good too? Can you “sacrifice” to try to stay awake at all times? This is not meant to imply that being awake isn’t fun. It’s only meant to show that commitment is necessary for lasting change.

How can we stay committed? We can use anchors. We can surround ourselves with books and podcasts and ideas that support our goals. We can commit to practicing meditation. But what is the thing underneath? It might just be our pain itself. Finding your reason to stay committed is really important. What happened to you that got you started down this road? What pain happened to you? Make a point of holding on to that.

People often mention that we can’t change other people. I disagree. We are all connected and intertwined. A change from you affects me. So if there is learning, if there is change, then we can point to something. We can find the “ah ha!” we can turn on a light switch for people.

In this talk, the light switch is the idea that being committed makes change easy. Finding commitment can be hard, but once we find it quitting smoking, eating differently, losing weight, meditation, all become simple. So what’s your reason to stay committed? Make that an “ah ha!” for you. Create new grooves of thought. Be awake to your pain. Change.

You Don’t Have to Fix It

As we grow and consciously evolve, we will find wisdom in many situations.  However, we should watch how attached to those opinions we become.  We often will want to tell other people how to be, and get very attached to what is “supposed” to happen.

The main point of this talk is that once you find yourself with strong opinions, use that as an anchor to wake up.  Even if you are morally correct, once you are attached to an idea, you start to become just as lost as someone doing wrong.  It is much more important to bring presence to a situation, than the right action.

New-agers often get lost here.  It’s not about getting to the right beliefs, it’s about seeing all your beliefs.  It may be right to not want war, but as we fight for that idea, we begin another war, or argument, or conflict.  That’s when the idea of being right, or fixing the situation breaks down.

We may have opinions about how other people should live, eat, and behave.  All those opinions can come from a deep caring, and our advise can often be sound.  However, when we get too attached to our idea we’ve gotten a little lost.  Learn acceptance instead of righteousness.

Referenced: Joel Goldsmith

Show Music: Building the Bass Castle Vol. I by Voltage

To Think or Not to Think

When is it okay to think?

When something makes you angry, there are two healthy ways to deal with it. You can become still, or you can investigate the situation using your mind. So at what point should you use your mind or thoughts to work with a situation? You should use your mind when you are aware you are using your mind.

What I am trying to convey is that thought is okay, it just needs to be conscious thought. So what is conscious thought? Thought that sweeps us away into a busy mind is an example of unconscious thought. Working out a problem, finding patterns, working with logic, setting appropriate boundaries on certain levels, using judgment to discern things are all good uses of the mind, as long as we are aware we are doing it.

Challenges will not stop. Neither will “good” and “bad” emotions, feelings, situations, etc. When we change, the world still comes, but we can deal with the world differently. By being detached from the ego, we can free ourselves of being upset that we are sad. So sadness doesn’t stop. Instead, we become okay with sadness.

Depending on how deeply in the world I’m going to live, the more things tend to define me. And hence, the more I need to protect. Be aware of what you are protecting. Be aware of what you are attached to.

Two sides of being alive can be described as thinking/experiencing, or thinking/being, or mind/body. Philosophers have discussed mind and body for ages. The goal is to have mind and body in the same place (here) at the same time (now). We could call the act of accomplishing that a higher state of being.

We don’t want to avoid things through meditation. The act of dropping thought is used to learn about thinking, and to show that thinking isn’t all there is. It is not used to abandon thought entirely. Krishnamurti’s book “Think On These Things” was mentioned to point that out. It was also mentioned that Krishnamurti often suggests “looking at things deeply” which implies using thought.

To sum up, it is okay to think when you are aware you are thinking. Thinking is a tool, and we need to learn to use it as such.

Referenced: Krishnamurti

Stillness in Motion

How can we “achieve” when stillness seems to oppose goals, the future, etc.?

Mentioned that many people were interested in this talk. That seems to be because we are much more interested in how the achieve things, rather than being interested in stillness. However, that misses the point. We need to learn stillness first.

Three things this talk tries to accomplish: Show that there can be stillness in motion. Discuss the seeming paradox of stillness vs. accomplishment. And I’m hoping to point out that bringing stillness to actions we perform allows for the best performance possible, in all things.

Discuss what stillness is. It is a mind free of time. It is a quiet mind. It is the expression of meditation in action.

Why are goals okay? Doesn’t that contradict with being “free of time?” Literally it does contradict. Having intention is a sane goal. That differs from having an obsessed mind, bent on achievement. Time exists on some levels, but not all levels. It is always this moment. However, the practical aspects of life remain.

What is excellence? Our exterior is a reflection of our interior. When we change internally, that change will begin to show itself in our achievements and outer life. Sports figures talk of “being in the zone” when referring to peak performance states. The zone is achieved when we pay attention to the process rather than the outcome of a situation. It is the focus on the moment fully that allows for our best performance. When we are “still” our entire brain and being can be put to work toward our goal. Simply put, we perform better at everything when we are present with what we are doing.

Discussed what being present feels like by telling a story about my plants. Mentioned ways to begin bringing stillness to achievement through watering those plants. Also discussed that stillness can be an attribute of anything we do, no matter how complex.

Stillness is the goal, so it better allow for goals. Achieving stillness in motion will be the beginning of a new way of being for you, and the world. As an immediate side bonus, our performance in all things will increase as we learn stillness in motion.

Referenced: Eckhart Tolle