Doing the Best We Can

by Mike Robbins – 

Remember That We’re All Doing the Best We Can:
I’m sometimes amazed and embarrassed by how critical I can be – both of other people and of myself.  Even though I both teach and practice the power of appreciation (as well as acceptance, compassion, authenticity and more) when I find myself feeling scared, threatened or insecure (which happens more often than I’d like it to), I notice that I can be quite judgmental.  Sadly, as I’ve learned throughout my life, being critical and judgmental never works, feels good or leads me to what I truly want in my relationships and in my life.  Maybe you can you relate to this yourself?
I’ve recently been challenged by a few situations and relationships that have triggered an intense critical response – both towards myself and those involved.  As I’ve been noticing this, working through it and looking for alternative ways to respond, I’m reminded of something I heard Louise Hay say a number of years ago.  She said, “It’s important to remember that people are always doing the best they can, including you.”
The power of this statement resonated with me deeply when I heard it and continues to have an impact on me to this day.  And, although I sometimes forget this, when I do remember that we’re all doing the best we can given whatever tools and resources we have (and given the circumstances and situations we’re experiencing), it usually calms me down and creates a sense of compassion for the people I’m dealing with and for myself.
Unfortunately, too often we take things personally that aren’t, look for what’s wrong, and critically judge the people around us and ourselves, instead of bringing a sense of love, understanding, acceptance, forgiveness, and appreciation to the most important (and often most challenging) situations and relationships in our lives.
When we take a step back and remember that most of the time people aren’t “out to get us,” purposefully doing things to upset or annoy us, or consciously trying to make mistakes, disappoint us, or create difficulty (they’re simply doing the best they can and what they think makes the most sense) – we can save ourselves from unnecessary overreactions and stress.  And, when we’re able to have this same awareness and compassion in how we relate to ourselves, we can dramatically alter our lives and relationships in a positive way.
Things you can do and remember in this regard:
  • Give people the benefit of the doubt. Most of the time people have good intentions.  Many of us, myself included, have been trained to be cautious and suspicious of others, even seeing this as an important and effective skill in life and business.  However, we almost always get what we expect from people, so the more often we give people the benefit of the doubt, the more often they will prove us “right,” and the less often we will waste our precious time and energy on cynicism, suspicion, and judgment.
  • Don’t take things personally. One of my favorite sayings is, “You wouldn’t worry about what other people think about you so much, if you realized how little they actually did.”  The truth is that most people are focused on themselves much more than on us.  Too often in life we take things personally that have nothing to do with us.  This doesn’t mean we let people walk all over us or treat us in disrespectful or hurtful ways (it can be important for us to speak up and push back at times in life).  However, when we stop taking things so personally, we liberate ourselves from needless upset, defensiveness, and conflict.
  • Look for the good. Another way to say what I mentioned above about getting what we expect from other people is that we almost always find what we look for.  If you want to find some things about me that you don’t like, consider obnoxious, or get on your nerves – just look for them, I’m sure you’ll come up with some.  On the flip side, if you want to find some of my best qualities and things you appreciate about me, just look for those – they are there too.  As Werner Erhard said, “In every human being there is both garbage and gold, it’s up to us to choose what we pay attention to.” Looking for the good in others (as well as in life and in ourselves), is one of the best ways to find things to appreciate and be grateful for.
  • Seek first to understand. Often when we’re frustrated, annoyed, or in conflict with another person (or group of people), we don’t feel seen, heard, or understood.  As challenging and painful as this can be, one of the best things we can do is to shift our attention from trying to get other people to understand us (or being irritated that it seems like they don’t), is to seek to understand the other person (or people) involved in an authentic way. This can be difficult, especially when the situation or conflict is very personal and emotional to us. However, seeking to understand is one of the best ways for us to liberate ourselves from the grip of criticism and judgment, and often helps shift the dynamic of the entire thing. Being curious, understanding, and even empathetic of another person and their perspective or feelings doesn’t mean we agree with them, it simply allows us to get into their world and see where they’re coming from – which is essential to letting go of judgment, connecting with them, and ultimately resolving the conflict.
  • Be gentle with others (and especially with yourself). Being gentle is the opposite of being critical. When we’re gentle, we’re compassionate, kind, and loving. We may not like, agree with, or totally understand what someone has done (or why), but we can be gentle in how we respond and engage with them. Being gentle isn’t about condoning or appeasing anyone or anything, it’s about having a true sense of empathy and perspective. And, the most important place for us to bring a sense of gentleness is to ourselves. Many of us have a tendency to be hyper self-critical. Sadly, some of the harshest criticism we dole out in life is aimed right at us. Another great saying I love is, “We don’t see people as they are, we see them as we are.” As we alter how we relate to ourselves, our relationship to everyone else and to the world around us is altered in a fundamental way.
As the Dalai Lama so brilliantly says, “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”

Everyone around us – our friends, co-workers, significant other, family members, children, service people, clients and even people we don’t know or care for – are doing the best they can, given the resources they have.

When we remember this and come from a truly compassionate perspective (with others and with ourselves), we’re able to tap into a deeper level of peace, appreciation and fulfillment.

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Moving Beyond Struggle

 

by Marlene Buffa – 


Struggling. Our culture believes that emerging victorious from a struggle is commendable. The outcome seems irrelevant, yet many times focus is bestowed on the process, rather than the result. We look at adversity and challenge ourselves to overcome it. We look at adversity and generate respect and honor to those who rise above it, in spite of all odds. 

Struggle seems to have no limitations: if someone reaches a goal through struggle, we rally around him or her as a hero, a triumphant example of perseverance and persistence. When someone is enveloped by struggle and adversity consumes him, we see struggle as the victor and we rally around him or her as a victim. In either case, “struggle,” not the individual, remains the radius around which we measure our personal growth.

Yet as we further examine the outcroppings of “success,” we find the result of success lies in personal fortitude. What is fortitude but a different face of faith? True success and strength lie not in the constant struggle with life, but in the power of knowing that life supports us and the humility to accept the lessons put in our path. 


When I’m faced with a challenge, I take a deep breath and ask myself, “Do I trust God?” Yes. “Do I trust Life?” Yes. God didn’t put me on earth to get beat up by life. I trust that God intends the best for me and the lessons along the way are just means to an end. Sure, I encounter hazards, heartbreaks, even hiccups along the way, but overall, I see these as challenges and choose not to “struggle” my way through them. 


By surrendering the struggle, the worry, the tension, the anxiety and turning the situation over to God for my greater good, my faith rewarded me. I found it a LOT harder to hold faith rather than concentrate on struggle. It’s mental work. It’s work on a soul-level – perhaps the most difficult work we perform. When everything I hold dear screams inside of me, “wait – think of what you must endure to achieve this,” I turn to the most difficult teacher of all, the power of my faith.


I bought a Christmas ornament last year. Just one. A red sequined “ruby” slipper like Dorothy’s in the Wizard of Oz. This dazzling ornament, alone on my tree, sparkles in the light, reminding me I hold the power all along. 
Like Dorothy’s, my slipper represents my ability to use my talents, my mind, my creativity and most of all, my faith to get me through. It’s symbolic of faith and most people carry their own symbols with them all along and don’t know how to use it. 


True strength of your character comes not from struggling. Struggling indicates you do not deserve the good things life offers you. You feel you must do penance in advance for good to come into your life. If good things in your life constitute your desired results either through struggle or faith, then dare yourself to deserve the good without pre-payment!


Faith and trust. Two very difficult concepts for our guarded personas to accept. If you trust God and Life enough to provide for your needs, then struggle is unnecessary. Move beyond struggle. Give it up. Release “struggle’s” hold on you. It doesn’t serve you. Grow into your faith and the fruits of your desires blossom forth. After all, you deserve it! 


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Finding Your True Self

 Breaking Down Belief Systems:
by Nikki Sapp – 
Whether we realize it or not our entire identity is formed off of the relationships that we have with the world around us. In fact, our perception that we even exist at all is dependent upon these relationships to people, places and things, in order to survive. For example, in relation to a tree I am a human, in relation to that man I am a daughter, in relation to that child I am a mom, in relation to that lady I am a friend, in relation to this dog I am its owner, etc.
Our whole existence is formed off of who or what we are in relation to the things around us. With each one of these relationships comes a different personality. We have the personality when we are with our family, we have the personality we are with our pet, we have our friend personality, we have our work personality, and we even have the personality of the voice in our head that is commentating on everything.
Going even further down the rabbit hole, within each one of these personalities we have preconceived notions about the way we should behave, the way others should behave and the way life in general should go.
The friend personality has its beliefs of what it means to be a friend, the employee personality behaves in accordance with its ideas about what it means to be an employee, the spouse personality has its own set of rules and regulations on what it means to be a spouse, and so on and so forth.
With all these different ideas, belief systems and relationships that make up who we are, or at least who we think we are, how do we find out who we REALLY are? How do we go about breaking down relationships into labels down to personalities down to belief systems all the way down to our lowest common denominator?

“As long as you have certain desires about how it ought to be, you can’t see how it is.” –-Ram Dass

Before we can break ourselves down to this level we must first ask ourselves, “What IS our lowest common denominator?” 
The lowest common denominator is us at our first level, our most authentic self.
It is the part of us that has not one concept or preconceived anything about anything. It has no thoughts, beliefs, ideas or judgments of how we should behave, or of how others should behave because it exists prior to all labels and concepts of what is “right”, “wrong”, “acceptable” or “unacceptable.”
It can never be upset or offended because it has no prior idea of how things should happen or how people should act. It is our pure consciousness. It is the awareness that literally is the observer of all the different personalities that show up in our day to day existence. Our lowest common denominator experiences life as it is in the present moment.
When we become in touch with our lowest common denominator we experience life as it is. 
We experience people and relationships as they are without getting caught up in the labels in our head of what we believe someone should be acting like. One would dare to say, it is only when we get in touch with our lowest common denominator that we are actually truly living, because when we are not in touch with this pure awareness we are still operating from our thoughts about a situation instead of the situation itself.
To always be in our thoughts is to constantly be judging which means we are not present. The less we are truly present and living in the moment, the less we are experiencing life in its most authentic form. So now that we know WHAT it is, the question still remains, how do we find and connect with this part of ourselves?
“When there is silence one finds the anchor of the universe within oneself” –Lao Tzu
In order to break down all our beliefs about life and people and become completely anchored in our field of pure awareness, we must turn our attention inward. Once we become focused on what is going on inside of us, we are then able to confront every judgment, criticism, belief and idea head on.

It is only in this confrontation of ourselves that we are able to realize that every single one of our judgments of good/bad, right/wrong, acceptable/unacceptable is based on prior programming, which stems from how we were raised, or where we grew up or what books we read etc… However, our lowest common denominator exists PRIOR to this programming.
Whenever we find ourselves placing judgment on others or on the world we can be assured that we are not operating from lowest common denominator.
We must literally always point the finger back at ourselves anytime we find ourselves becoming frustrated, angry, offended because these emotions are always indicative that there is a preconceived belief of the way things SHOULD be, that is being triggered.
Once we become willing to confront these beliefs we are able to connect with a stream of inner stillness and silence that allows our authentic self to emerge.
Operating from our lowest common denominator won’t always be easy and will definitely take practice at first, especially for those of us who have become very attached to all of their ideas of who they think they are or should be.
When we are brave enough to confront ourselves and question every single belief down to the point that the false self cannot come up with even one more lie to try and make us believe in its validity, we are on the path to our authentic self.
Our authentic self gets to experience the present moment in its purest form, it gets to experience people and situations in their most raw and genuine way, the way they truly are before our thoughts step in with all their judgments and commentary on a situation.
When we start living this way we see the world through brand new eyes, through the eyes of a person who has no prior knowledge or judgment on anything, which means we start to live through our feelings and instincts and consequently the world becomes new and exciting all over again.

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Life in the Present

Now, Without Judgment:

I’ve discovered that I have greater success with living life in the present moment when I remove judgment from what I’m experiencing. Rather than making an event a bad or a good experience, I find myself being in the “isness” of the moment; that is, what I’m feeling is much more helpful than why it isn’t what I think it should be. This is called allowing rather than resisting what is. Even if I wish to change the moment, it’s far more useful to allow it without any judgment and then notice everything I can about it.

The more I stay out of my good-thought/bad-thought routine, the more I’m able to just be with it. 

I love to observe the instant without any judgment. Birds simply allow whatever comes their way, no matter if the wind picks up or the rain comes, and I work at being like one of those fabulous creatures. The way I do so is to ask myself this question: “What’s happening right here and right now, independent of my opinion about it?” Then I notice all that I can take in—the sky, the wind, the sounds, the light, the insects, the temperature, the people, the judgments…everything. I stay free of opinions and just let myself be. In these moments, I don’t need an excuse or an explanation for anything.

Even while I sit here and write, I’m practicing being present and simply allowing the words to flow though my heart to my hand and onto the page with a total absence of judgment. And when I eat my lunch, I work at just being present in a state of gratitude for my food and the experience of eating, rather than using those moments to think about all that I have to do in the evening or passing judgment on the taste, color, or smell of my lunch experience. I try to keep in mind that whenever I react against any form that life takes in the present moment, I’m treating the now as some kind of impediment or even as my enemy.

As a child you knew how to be totally present. I encourage you to become an observer of little unspoiled children. 

Notice how they don’t react to every little disturbance in their world and how they’re in the moment, and then in the next moment, and so on. You can use this kind of non-judgment to practice your new explanation-free identity. Total immersion in the present, without judging—that is, simply allowing yourself to be—is a great way to rid yourself of these long-held thinking habits that I’m calling “excuses.”

Be without judgment and you’ll never feel the need for some tiresome excuse to use up your precious seconds, such as “I’m too old” or “It will take a long time” or “It will be too difficult.” Instead, you’ll be in the now, welcoming your constant present-moment companion, your Source of being, which knows nothing of excuses and doesn’t know how to be anyplace but here, now. As one of my spiritual predecessors, Dale Carnegie, once wrote: “One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon—instead of enjoying the roses that are blooming outside our windows today.”

Become one in the present moment with all of the roses that show up in your life. Stay present: every second, every minute and every hour. Every day of your life is full of present moments of infinite value. You won’t find God yesterday or tomorrow—your Source is always only here, now.

–Dr. Wayne Dyer
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Letting Go Into Who You Really Are

Letting go is a practice of releasing; having let go is a state of freedom.  Letting go into who you really are is the greatest gift you can give the world. As you let go of problems, judgments, resentments and most importantly, all the beliefs and messages that are not your highest truth, you become free to express your authentic self with others and share your true gifts with the world.

Imagine a world where all the people have let go of their old baggage – past conditioning, limiting programming, judgments and resentments – and they are light, loving, accepting and joyful.

Imagine the connection between people and the synergy within groups, communities and nations.Letting go involves releasing the past and starting fresh in the present moment. It means trusting that you are more than your roles, beliefs and stories.

Many are reluctant to let go because they fear they will have nothing justify. They cling to problems, unhealthy situations, and outworn roles and relationships because it feels safe in its familiarity. They don’t know who they are underneath. They haven’t experienced their true, authentic Self bursting with energy, waiting to express its true nature in the world.

So how does one touch into this state of freedom where they can be themselves, uninhibited, light and joyful? 

By letting go, bit by bit. By first noticing where they hold on, where they resist and where they struggle and then slowly, gently, releasing the hold and embracing what’s underneath. 

Get into the habit of letting go of stress, tension, problems, the past, resentments, false beliefs and anything that limits you from feeling free in life. 

Spend at least 5 minutes each day at the beginning, middle or end of your day with your eyes closed, centered within, doing the following:

Letting Go Practices

♦ Focus on simply letting go of your breath. 
 Let your breath fill your lungs naturally and then focus on the breath leaving your lungs. Notice the release, feel the relief. Notice how naturally your lungs refill. Letting go of your breath doesn’t mean you stop breathing, it allows life to continue flowing.

♦ Let go of stress and tension. 
Notice any tension in your body – where are you holding? Simply let go of holding and watch the tension release. Scan your whole body to find another place where you are holding and continue letting go until your whole body is relaxed.

♦ Let go of thinking. 
Listen to your thoughts and then let them go. Watch as they arise, let them pass through, and then tune into the spaciousness that surrounds them and the stillness behind them.

♦ Let go of resentments.
Carrying resentments around is like carrying someone else’s baggage on your back. If there’s nothing useful for you in the luggage, why carry it around? Notice any judgments or resentments you have towards yourself or others and imagine placing them on the ground. Feel the relief from doing this. Now imagine walking away into freedom.

♦ Let go of old stories. 
What stories do you keep retelling that locks you into repeating them in your life? Be willing to explore the depth and expansiveness of who you are underneath past roles and stories. Imagine taking them off like a piece of clothing or stepping out and away from them like leaving a room. Tune into who you are without your stories.

♦ Let go of limiting beliefs. 
 What beliefs hold you back from expressing yourself and living your life freely? Bring them to your awareness so you can let them go. Dig deep into the core beliefs such as not being good enough, not having love, not being big enough and so on. Look at these beliefs and know they are just untrue messages in your space. Be willing to release them and discover your truth underneath.

As you practice letting go your body will be more energized, your mind more peaceful and your soul free to shine through and light your way in life.

Are you ready to let go?

–Gini Grey 
ginigrey.com

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An Unconditional Yes

Acceptance:

by David Richo, PhD

The word yes sums up spirituality and sanity. An unconditional yes to what is frees us from the self-imposed suffering that results when we fear facing the givens of life. Yes is born of trust and heals fear. This is because we are acknowledging that whatever happens to us is part of our story and useful on our path. Our yes to the conditions of existence means getting on with life rather than being caught up in dispute and in attempts to gain control of how things play out.

When things change and end, we become trusting of the cycles of life as steps to evolutionary growth. Yes alleviates our suffering by freeing us from clinging to anything at all. When things do not go according to our plans, we stretch our potential for trusting a power beyond our ego. Our ego’s futile and ferocious attempts to make everything come out its own way give way to letting the chips fall where they may. Yes frees us from the suffering caused by the compulsion to be in charge.

When things are not fair, we evoke our potential to act fairly no matter what. This means trusting a power beyond our ego, with all its insistence on retaliation and its petulant demands for equity. A yes to this third given frees us from the suffering that happens when we are caught up in getting back at people and when we hold grudges. When pain enters our life, we activate our potential for facing it without complaint, and we gain compassion for others who also suffer. A yes to this fourth given frees us from the suffering that comes from useless protest. When people are not loyal or loving toward us, we enliven our potential for unconditional love. A yes frees us from the suffering caused by our need to hurt or reject those who have disappointed us.

Fear is a no to what is. To fear the givens is to be afraid of life, since they are its components. Fear prevents us from experiencing life fully and living in the moment by creating avoidance and attraction. We avoid what is unpleasant and we grasp at whatever makes us feel good. The Buddhist tradition encourages us to take a middle path. The chart below shows the work that installs us in this “golden mean,” as the ancient Romans called it.

The Givens:

Things change and end.

Things don’t always go according to plan.

Things are not always fair.

Pain is part of life.

People are not loving and loyal all the time.

Each of these conditions of existence equips us with a handy skill. Since it is a given that people leave us, it becomes a given that we will be alone, so it is wise to plan for that by becoming comfortable being by ourselves right now. Since it is a given that things do not always go according to plan, it is a given that we will be disappointed, so it is wise to become comfortable with fewer expectations. Since it is a given that things are not always fair, it is a given that we will occasionally feel cheated, so it is wise to become comfortable with grieving losses, with working for justice, and with letting go of the urge to retaliate. Since it is a given that pain is part of life, it is a given that we will do best to become comfortable with bearing it and growing because of it. Since it is a given that people are not always loyal and loving, it is wise to let go of censure and become committed to loving-kindness no matter how others may treat us.

Yes to life’s givens thus combines defenselessness with resourcefulness. Yes means we are open to the events that befall us, defenseless in the face of them. At the same time, we are not bowled over by what happens to us. We are resourceful in dealing with them; we do all we can to handle the givens we face. Then we let the chips fall where they may. Soon we pick them up one by one and place our bets again.

There is a vitality in us, a sparkle—a bonfire, actually—that cannot be extinguished by any tragedy. Something in us, an urge toward wholeness, a passion for evolving, makes us go on, start over, not give up, not give in. To accept the things we cannot change does not mean that we roll over but that we roll on. Openness and creative resourcefulness happen synchronously each time we are confronted with one of the givens. Some people write their best poems when they suffer.

The practice of an unconditional yes is the heart of the ancient spiritual tradition of Taoism. Wu wei is a Taoist term meaning to go with the flow of things as they are. This reduces the friction and stress that arise when we resist reality as it wants to happen. In my view, the ancient spiritual teachings and practices of Taoism form a technology of cultivating an unconditional yes to life’s givens.

The Taoist teacher Han Hung wrote, “The biggest risk is to trust that these conditions are all that we need to be ourselves.” This is a profound realization of the connection between our unconditional yes and our trust that the conditions of existence are precisely what we need for personal growth and fulfillment. The givens of life show us who we really are and help us be the best we can be:

• Only in changes and endings do we find out how we hold on or let go.

• Only in failed plans do we find out about a larger plan afoot that has our best interests at heart, trusting the heartfulness of the universe and discovering our spiritual potential.

• Only when things are not fair do we find our dark side, which seeks retaliation, or our kindly side, which looks for restoration and lets go if it cannot happen.

• Only when we suffer do we find our courage and our depth and learn compassion for others’ suffering.

• Only when others are disloyal and unloving do we find out if we can really love unconditionally.

An unconditional yes is a spiritual victory. There are spiritual practices that help us reach it. These practices make it easier to live with our givens instead of against them.

A useful practice is to see all the events of our lives and all the conditions we meet up with as dharmas, doors into enlightenment, lessons in humanity, paths to virtue. Each of the givens offers a spiritual challenge. When things change or end, we can grieve and let go rather than shake our fist at heaven. When things do not go according to plan, we can open to new possibilities, some from destiny, some from karma. When things prove unfair, we can work for justice and not retaliate against others but focus on their transformation. When suffering comes our way, we can experience it without protest or blame or the demand that we be exempted. When others are not loving or loyal, we can practice loving-kindness. In the face of any given we say yes mindfully, that is, without the mind-sets of ego: fear, judgment, control, and attachment to an outcome.

Loving-kindness is the widest unconditional yes because it is a love that includes the whole universe. Then unconditional love as a remedy for fear of others and all the mindsets of ego. The practice of loving-kindness presupposes that we are all interconnected and helps make that fact conscious and real in the moment. This is the culmination of acceptance: love that is unbounded and abounding.


excerpt from ‘The Five Things We Cannot Change’ © David Richo, Ph.D.

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