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Personal Development Mastery with Agi Keramidas

The great myth that many people fall for, is that we have to be victims to the realities of life.

But good news – We have much more control over our experience than we realize.Our thoughts and beliefs are often the driving factors for how we perceive reality and the events that happen in our lives.

Unfortunately, what we want and what we believe to be true are often at odds.

If you can gain awareness over when your thoughts are altering your meaning, you’ve discovered what might be the most valuable skill there is. It’s a major step towards regaining control in your life.

It can be difficult to discover this. The reason is, our beliefs, what we know to be absolute “truths,” are living outside our conscious mind.

I was asked recently to be a guest on the Personal Development Mastery Podcast.

Agi Keramidas, the host, asked me some really powerful questions and we had a revealing conversation… about how our minds create meaning, why our biggest limits are sometimes invisible, and the steps to shift your meaning making in a profound way.

It was a great conversation and I’m really grateful I got to be on the show. I love what Agi’s mission is. If you’re looking for insight on exactly how to manage your thinking the meanings you’re creating for yourself, please check this out.

Part 1 went live on Tuesday, and Part 2 was just released today.

If you find this podcast valuable, please support Agi by liking and subscribing to future episodes. He’s got a ton of interesting guests and puts out really relevant conversations.

A Bit About Relationships

This talk is about being in relationships with others. It describes mistakes we make that end up leaving us hurt and confused. It also describes successful relationships and what we should strive for when we come together.

Often when we enjoy being with others what we’re enjoying is the presence that arises. Being with someone can take us out of our heads, out of our thinking space, and into being. One of the mistakes we make is thinking that the person we’re with was the reason for the joy, instead of the stillness that arose. We may begin to think something like “I can’t feel this way unless they are with me.” This type of thinking can lead to feelings of dependency, and even addiction toward the other person.

We need to realize that we are responsible for our own happiness, that we can only manage our side of the street. Once we look to others to make us happy, we are in trouble. Co-dependence is something that is subtle and hard to get free of. We need to learn that our needs are deeply important, especially to foster positive relationships. Once we sacrifice ourselves, ironically something we do in an effort to better the situation, we always end up hurting the relationship.

In good relationships, we foster synergy and emergence, which is when the whole ends up greater than the parts. We learn to appreciate the differences others bring, because they are what help us learn and grow and become more than we are. We foster taking the other person’s perspective in a healthy way so we can communicate properly and understand one another with empathy and compassion. We allow the joy that others bring us to be experienced fully without being dependent on it. We do our best to bring a full healthy self to relationships instead of damaged, needy, partial selves.

We are always in relation with everything. Even when we identify ourselves as separate individuals, we are still in relationship with everything else. Let’s work hard to understand and foster healthy relationships.

Reference: Stephen Covey

Song: My Baby Just Cares For Me by Nina Simone

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

Mastering Perspectives

This talk is about mastering perspectives. It assumes that someone capable of seeing more perspectives is better informed, and more able to act appropriately, happily, and well.

There are many perspectives to any situation. Every moment there is your point of view, someone else’s point of view, and third person perspective as well. There are also historical perspectives, we perspectives, singular and plural perspectives, inner and outer perspectives, emotional perspectives, and even imagined perspectives. To simplify, there are many ways to look at things.

So the practice then becomes to relate as fully as possible to the moment by being aware of as many perspectives as possible. Learn all the different perspectives, and work to integrate them into your life. It may sound like a lot of work to do this, but it becomes very natural. Also, in the beginning, it may be useful to apply this only when in conflict. It’s a great tool to use when you’ve hit a wall.

I suggested learning about Integral Theory for a deeper understanding of perspectives. I also mentioned that “Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you” is really just an ancient perspective teaching. We’re not all aware that there are many perspectives, and we certainly don’t often act from more than our own point of view. Learning about and applying perspectives can help us grow.

Referenced: Integral Theory

Goals That Make Us Happy

This show references an article in American Psychologist titled “Mental Balance and Well-Being – Building Bridges Between Buddhism and Western Psychology”. The idea of this talk is that goals, in and of themselves, are not bad things; but that choosing goals wisely is very important. When a sense of dissatisfaction is our reality how do we choose what goal to shoot for? What will make us happy and what will not?

What we are really looking for in life is stimulus free well-being. Science is proving that stimulus driven happiness doesn’t last. This is due to both the transient nature of things, and also our own mental imbalance and lack of understanding. Science is starting to see that true well-being comes from a state of mental balance that can be cultivated. We cultivate well-being in many ways, but the one idea that primarily fosters it is self knowledge and self awareness. Choosing to make well-being, and ultimately self awareness, our goal ends up being the goal that makes us happy.

This talk tries to explain the motion of desire, and our two choices. One choice is to satisfy the desire, and again science is showing us more and more that that doesn’t work in a lasting fashion. We always want more. The other thing to do is to make well-being our real goal. Once we realize that well-being comes from self awareness and mental balance, we can choose to examine the dissatisfaction when it arises. This doesn’t mean we don’t accomplish things or have external goals. It means we understand more and more clearly what really makes us happy and what does not.

Stimulus driven goals can be meaningful, but don’t lead to lasting happiness. Understanding this is a huge step toward greater wisdom and compassion in our lives. Examining our goals to see if they are stimulus driven can be an amazing exercise in helping us find happiness.

Referenced: American Psychologist

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.

The Pleasure Pain Treadmill

Basic ideas:

  • Seeing that good and bad, or pleasure and pain are in all things.
  • We can use pain to promote change.
  • Ultimately, we can get off the treadmill of pain and pleasure.

Our desire to avoid pain and experience pleasure tends to push us around if we are not paying attention. When we use introspection to learn about the mind we see that we all try to avoid pain and move toward pleasure in everything we do. This is a huge thing to understand fully.

Pain tells us something is wrong, but we tend to overreact and begin to avoid all pain and discomfort. This creates a treadmill of pain and pleasure. Where we are constantly trying to manage our states of mind by moving away from pain and toward pleasure.

We can deal with this three ways:

  • Do nothing.
    • How does this hurt us? Well, if we’re unconscious of it we end up not being very durable. We end up running from any and all pain we see. We might think we deserve no pain, and so whenever it comes up, we feel like we’re cursed or unlucky.
  • Secondly we can learn to use pain effectively.
    • Think of someone who’s life situation is fine, versus someone who is in pain. The person in pain is motivated to change. The person who is fine, may want to change, but will often not go through the bother or work to change because there is really no motivation to do so. This is the first way to use pain effectively. Become aware of it.
    • We can also use pain for gain. This is a way to develop in a worldly sense. It can help us do things like lose weight, or perform better at sports, and evolve spiritually or behaviorally. We can learn to associate pain to things we’d like to change, rather than where they happen to fall. Examples of this might be associating pain with being out of shape, or associating pain to not meditating.
  • Lastly, we can get off the treadmill of pain and pleasure.
    • Pain is inherent in all things. The duality of being shows us that there is both good and bad in all things. Good and bad are facets or opinions of things and situations. So it is unwise to try to always get the “good.” It just won’t work. Seeing this truth is a huge teaching.
    • Learning to accept pain as a part of the experience is a great teaching of meditation. Pain/pleasure treadmill response is the normal human response to being. What would an exceptional response look like? How can we achieve that state? Meditation is one way.
    • We place ourselves in an accepting mode, and train that response to stimuli. Boredom and frustration, and even physical pain can come up during meditation. It is training to learn about the nature of our relationship to pain and pleasure, and ultimately have the ability to get off that treadmill.
    • We learn to stay through different painful events and not judge them. That lack of judging gives us a different, and better, experience of both pain and pleasure. Then we are off the treadmill.

Learning about this allows us to wake up to the understanding that this is how we’re built. We also learn that we can use pain to grow. And lastly, we learn that not fearing pain or being attached to pleasure allows us a deep freedom. Those experiences are a part of the oneness of being. We can learn to relate to them differently.

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Making Changes – Intention, Hypnosis, NLP, Goal Setting

On the level of self and accomplishment, as we learn how our mind works, we can begin to use tools to achieve change and betterment in our lives. We can learn to focus better, make more money, lose weight, eat better, etc. Not only that, we can use the same tools to further our meditation and connection to being. There are many facets to living an optimal life.

We do want to be careful that we don’t get too attached to that betterment. Self and ego are attached to these wants, so we need to watch how we apply the tools I’ll be talking about today. But the tools are very useful nonetheless.

Today’s show will be a brief overview of the power of Intention Setting, Hypnosis, Neural Linguistic Programming, Hemi Sync, Goal Setting and Positive Thinking. All of these “technologies” affect our opinions and beliefs, and hence our perception of the world.

Referenced: Tony Robbins

The Pressure We Create

We create pressure in our lives unconsciously that can end up making us very unhappy.  Some of these pressures are deeper and some are more superficial.  One person creates a “have to” situation with accomplishments he/she wants to create at work.  Someone else on a daily basis sets up to-do after to-do and then feels bad for what they didn’t accomplish rather than good about what they did accomplish.  Jobs can be self created pressure.  So can houses, cars, and salaries.

We often aren’t able to appreciate our success once it comes, because it tends to move.  I’ve been with successful people and watched them accomplish goals, and rather than enjoy the accomplishment, they immediately and unconsciously create new goals.

So what pressure are you creating?  This talk points out that we can spend time working on, or watching, what pressures we create for ourselves.  The exercise we could do would be to learn to find your self created limits, or pressures.  Once you see what yours are, you may choose to soften them, or you may not.  It’s nice to learn that you can lose your job  You can move.  Your life could be different.  The other side of that is the fact that a conscious goal is a powerful one.  We can choose to work harder for our pressures if we really want to hold onto them.

External pressure is often actually created by us, and thus is internal pressure.  Watch when pressure is created in your life and see if it’s really external pressure.  An interesting point is how unconscious these things become.  We sit and think “Of course I have to do these things…”  It’s good to realize that we can live in the smaller house.  We can drive a cheaper car.  The kids can go to public school.  But they also may not have to.  Becoming aware of our pressures allows us to support them or put them down as necessary.  It’s up to us.

The Different Meanings of To Be

I want to clarify what I mean by “to be” because it is actually more than one thing. It is both “to be – still” and also “to be – what you are.” This may be hard to stomach because these seem to be in opposition, but they are both really important. It’s actually many many layers, and facets of things to wade through. So let’s look for more language around this issue.

“To be still” implies working with the mind through concentration and space to “still” the busy mind. You might think of this as the Buddhist way of practicing meditation. It implies a lot of things: Peace, but also difficulty in finding that peace. It has a sense of carrot and stick to it: I’m not still now, and I want to be still. So time is implied. “I’m not what I want to be.” There is a part of us that is trying to grow. This is the part that realizes that need for growth. This type of practice is important. We could call this discipline.

“To be what you are” implies a looser idea, of “I’m OK” in any situation. So if you are busy, be busy. If you are still, be still. You could think of this in a more Taoist sense, or more “zen” if you will. Up is down, right is wrong, everything is OK. This sense is much less rational, but also very important. It’s being gentle with who we are. It’s also dropping expectations about what we are supposed to be. This is the state that has no conflict, even when “conflict” is there. Meaning, in this state, you are not trying to be anything but what you are. This is the awakened state. This you might call freedom.

So the discipline allows for the second freedom, in a sense. The discipline is hard, and the freedom is soft. They are two ends of a spectrum. The Buddha talked about the middle path, and this is what he meant. You can’t leave your mind too loose, it needs some discipline. It also can’t be too rigid, or you never actually sit in the space of freedom.

A mystical Christian might say that since everything is God, each moment is the expression of God right now. We should learn to be in alignment with that, and it takes forgiveness (being what you are) and a bit of discipline (learning to be still) to align with that expression.

So the practice of meditation is working with your mind to still it. But it is also the practice of forgiving, or allowing to be whatever is. You may sit and have a busy mind. That’s OK. You may sit and fall into a lot of freedom, that’s OK too. If you feel too loose, bring some discipline. If you find you’re being too rigid, loosen up. That’s the middle path.