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Spiritual and relationship expert, teacher, counselor, advisor, speaker, and writer James Gray Robinson

THE POWER OF KINDNESS

          We are social beings. Even though we strive to detach and be powerful individuals free of negative emotions, we still enjoy and thrive in a community of like-minded individuals. If you find yourself in a community of people who do not support you and criticize each other, it is time to find a new community. There are usually two things that may be present when you realize that the people you have surrounded yourself with are negative and critical. First, we have to realize that people who are in our lives mirror aspects of our self that we need to heal. If we have surrounded our self with critical, closed-minded people, we need to open our hearts and minds to understand that everything we experience is in divine order and exists to help us grow into enlightenment. While we may not engage in negativity on a regular basis, there is some reason that we experience this in our lives, and it usually is a signal that we have to shift to a higher plane of consciousness. Second, it is when we recognize that we no longer resonate with people who are negative it is a signal that we are ready to grow into a more loving and supportive role in our world.

          The larger issue is trust. We can’t make friends and shift our reality unless we are trustworthy and cultivate trust in others. We do this with kindness and compassion. Manipulating, lying and being out of integrity only serves to alienate people and we send signals to the world that we are untrustworthy. When we are behaving in a way that destroys trust, we will suffer and eventually realize that we do not even trust our self. When we can’t even trust our self, we lose confidence, self-worth and our moral compass. The only way to cultivate true friends and surround our self with support and love is to practice senseless acts of kindness. If we want to shift the planet, more people have to get on board with this simple principle. Self-confidence fosters honesty, truthfulness and integrity.

          When we practice kindness, honesty, truthfulness and integrity, we also become transparent. What that means is we don’t have to hide anything from any one. When we are in service and tell the truth, we also do not have to have a memory. Only people who lie have to remember what they said. The gift of transparency is peace, joy and abundance. When we let go of negativity and controlling others, we can relax and simply enjoy what we are receiving in the moment. When we are playing God, we are stressed and anxious and can’t relax. The ultimate reward for playing God is suffering. God is not on vacation and there are no job openings. When we practice kindness, we also shift our perspective from the head into the heart. Kindness does not exist in the ego, only control and fear exists in the ego. To access kindness, we have to go into the heart.

          When we live in the heart, we find our self. We do not have to be anyone other than our self because we don’t worry about how other people think about us. When we are in our hearts, we only seek to serve others, we do not want anything from them. If you are in a relationship crisis, simply repeat to yourself, “be kind”. Most people who have experienced fear and pain in relationship forget how to be kind because they are in survival mode. We have to shift out of survival mode and be compassionate, which leads to kindness. This is also known as getting out of your head and into your heart. The easiest way to get out of our heads and into our heart is to repeat the mantra mentioned above, “be kind”. We instinctively know how to be kind, but what is usually missing is we try to do it from our heads, and it doesn’t work. What we have to do is get quiet and simply repeat, “be kind” until we relax. And we will.

          Kindness is a virtue they say. It is a virtue because “virtue” means “moral excellence”. Interestingly enough a “virtue” is also the highest kind of angel. So those who believe in the power of angels, being kind is the highest form of angelic energy. If you want to be a living angel, practice kindness, for that is how you will be known. Instead of getting angry, send kindness to the person that cut you off in traffic. Instead of revenge, send kindness to the person that hurt you. Instead of resentment, send kindness to the person that doesn’t act the way you want. Kindness heals all wounds. Pour it liberally on each and every wound you have endured and watch them heal. If you want to be powerful, be kind.

 

Spiritual and relationship expert, teacher, counselor, advisor, speaker, and writer James Gray Robinson

NO MUD NO LOTUS

          There is a brilliant Buddhist saying: “no mud, no lotus.” What this means is that the greatest beauty often comes out of our greatest pain. This is because the lotus flower usually grows in water that has deep mud at the bottom and the lotus flower sends its roots deep into this mud that oftentimes is ill smelling and may contain the refuse of the civilization that lives along the banks of the body of water. Yet an entire consciousness has been described as being contained in a lotus flower. The flower looks exquisite and pure, especially in the backdrop of a filthy pond. Three separate spiritual mythologies have chosen the lotus to represent purity and beauty; Hinduism, Buddhism and the Egyptians.

          In each of these cultures, the blooming of the lotus blossom arising from the filth and murky waters each day was compared to spiritual awakening. Due to the fact that the flower closes each night and sinks below the surface to be reborn clean again in the morning, it also symbolizes enlightenment. Furthermore the reappearance of the beautiful flower out of the murky water every morning symbolizes the detachment from desire and reward, the goal of any spiritual aspirant. Probably the most relevant aspect of the lotus is that the effort that it takes to rise above the muck and mire of the waters of its birth to spread its petals as purity and cleanliness symbolizes the effort that the spiritual seeker must make to rise above the symbolic muck of existence. This not only means the physical challenges of life, but it also means the challenges of freeing ourselves from the illusions and delusions of our minds.

          The mud from which a lotus grows is compared to the struggle and suffering of humanity. However, we must accept the fact that suffering is an essential part of human existence that makes us strong enough to rise above that suffering to gain enlightenment. When we stop habitually thinking negative thoughts and accept our innate birthright of joy and happiness we rise above the muck and mire and open to the beauty of enlightenment. It is this struggle that defines who we are and trains us to choose the path of righteousness over easiness. There are many comparisons to this in nature, as if nature understands this principle much more than we do. Many plants have the ability to persevere and break through solid concrete and asphalt through sheer determination and will to live. They do not need prophets and gurus to teach them how to overcome their worldly condition; they just grow. We have that same genetic urge to grow, that is why so many of us want to understand and rise above what appears to be senseless waste around them.

          The lotus also symbolizes rebirth, whether being reborn into another lifetime or a symbolic rebirth that happens after great grief, loss or intense suffering. Humans have a great tenacity and resiliency to survive great odds. It seems that the more we have to suffer and overcome, the more wisdom and grace we can obtain. This is the message of the movie “Unbroken”, the story of an Olympic athlete who survived being a Japanese prisoner of war. His greatest triumph came in the afterwards of the film which stated that he suffered great PTSD until he let go of his pain and resentment and forgave his captors. He even went on to be one of the runners of the Olympic torch to the Olympics in Japan when he was 80 years old. It is this greatness of the human spirit that reminds us of the lotus flower that thrives best in the foulest of conditions to bring us such great beauty. We can be reborn simply by changing our mind and behavior and becoming a different person. We can bring peace and serenity where we once sowed conflict. We can offer a smile or a kind word where we may have sowed indifference. Each one of us is a lotus flower who must rise every day out of our circumstances, that may be quite tragic, to become a beautiful expression of the divine. When we are knee deep in alligators, it is difficult to remember our initial objective was to drain the swamp. It is also a human condition that we do not realize that our difficulties make us better people. While we don’t want to seek difficulty, we do not have to fear or be traumatized by difficulty either. It is like an exercise to make us more athletic or better looking. The crap sometimes makes us better.

 

Spiritual and relationship expert, teacher, counselor, advisor, speaker, and writer James Gray Robinson

BEING AUTHENTIC

            I read all of the time that people need to be authentic; they need to be who they “really are.” In thinking about these principals, what does it really mean to be authentic? I mean how can you be someone other than you “really are”? I think in the bigger landscape, being authentic means telling people how you really feel, don’t sugarcoat what is going on inside your head. Being authentic also has to do with having integrity, say what you mean and mean what you say.

            Here are some suggestions on how to be more authentic.

1.              What everyone else thinks about you is none of your business.  We quickly lose ourselves in the trap of being someone we think will be popular with everyone else. It is a never-ending cycle, trying to figure out who you have to be to please others, and then abandoning yourself to be that illusion. It never works. We only make ourselves miserable trying to be someone we are not. Be the best person you can be, that is the only person you can be.

2.              Don’t hold grudges. When we resent something, we let that tape play over and over in our minds and instead of focusing on being the best person we can be, and being authentic, we are always suffering because we can’t figure out how to change the past. If something doesn’t work out, either the time wasn’t right or the desire you were grasping for wasn’t in your highest and best good. Let (inhale) it go (exhale). When we keep trying to relive the past, we are doomed to keep repeating the behavior that caused it. Change the behavior to change your results.

3.              Think for yourself. Peer pressure will always rob you of your integrity and authenticity. If it doesn’t feel right for you, go in a different direction. You may look back and find everyone following you. Many times we sacrifice ourselves to avoid conflict. Never, ever give up on yourself. It is through our struggles to be our self that we discover who we truly are.

4.              Let your yes, mean yes. Sometimes things don’t work out, but never say yes without a commitment to follow through. The foundation of integrity is to be dependable and never say you will do something that you don’t want to do or don’t know if you can do it. You can say, I will do my best, or say “I don’t know”. People who are not dependable are untrustworthy and untrustworthy people are not authentic. So if you mean “yes”, say it. Everything else is “no”. If you make an agreement, make a note of it. It is no excuse to forget. Forgetting to do something that you said you would do is out of integrity. Make sure that you allow enough time to accomplish what you agreed to do. Finally, if you discover you can’t deliver, let the others know immediately so they can make adjustments. If you are inconsistent, undependable, frequently late or change your mind repeatedly, you will lose whatever credibility you may have and people will start avoiding you like the plague.

5.              Kindly adjust. A popular saying in India when circumstances change is “kindly adjust”. It is similar to “go with the flow”. The point is that authentic people are not stupidly inflexible; they know life happens and can change plans when necessary. They are not afraid to ask for flexibility, nor are they afraid to change their plans when necessary.

6.              Put yourself first. Authentic people have to put their health and well-being first. Without health and well-being, you can’t help others. Your well-being is the platform from which you serve others. Your personal health is your greatest possession; the most significant foundation of any future you will have. Make your body your prized possession above all physical things. Spare no expense, re-prioritize and invest in your health. Your health is a long-range investment that will pay-off when you need it most.

7.              “No”. Everyone has the right to say “no” if “yes” is inappropriate. Say “yes” to ideas and processes that are in your best interest. Say “no” to those things that are not in your best interest. So what if you lose a relationship or job. There is nothing more valuable than your integrity. Selling out your principles to keep a friend or job is disempowering yourself and will only cause problems in the long run.

            To be authentic means to follow your own drummer, and to think for yourself. Do not be part of the crowd or go against your instincts and principles to influence or manipulate people. It may have some short-term advantage, but eventually people will discover you have no principles or integrity. Then you will be lost. Head up, keep walking and breathing, and do what you know is right. You are braver than you know and stronger than you think.

 

Spiritual and relationship expert, teacher, counselor, advisor, speaker, and writer James Gray Robinson

HATE TO LOVE

            I read an article about how one college’s students hates another college and its rival student body. This arises out of a sports rivalry spanning over one hundred years. My initial reaction was wondering how in the world we are going to have peace on this planet when even simple friendly sport competitions provokes hatred in the Bible belt. This is not merely a frivolous academic animosity; it breaks into violence from time to time. I observe with great compassion that there is something seriously ignorant and misguided if is this is what the institutions of higher learning are creating. It is rather obvious to anyone that looks that both sides to this emotional violence acts and behaves like mirror images of each other. When one side loses, the other side is “obnoxious or poor losers.”

            If one were to add family, ethnic and religious resentment to this emotional soup, it is no wonder that there is genocide occurring on this planet as I write this and you read it. I wonder if I am contributing to this suffering. If I believe the ancient wisdoms and teachings, if I can perceive it, I am creating it.

            When we say “I” followed by an emotion, we usually follow it with an object of that emotion. If we say “I love”, we usually direct that towards another person or idea, such as “I love you” or “I love America”. Similarly, when we say “I hate”, we direct that emotion towards someone or something, such as “I hate you” or “I hate intolerance.”

             The truth is there is no object for our emotion outside of us, because ancient wisdom states that all perception is projection. We perceive that there is something “out there” to project our emotions at, when it is only us projecting that emotion at us. In other words, when we say “I love you”, we mean “I love me.”  When we say, “I hate you”, we mean, “I hate me.” There is no “you”, there is only “me.” When we say, “I miss you,” we mean that “ I am missing me.” When we say, “I want/need you,” we mean “I want/need me.”

            We have to understand that what we project out into the world will manifest. When we get into the whole “I want…” manifestation illusion what we are projecting out into the world is our lack. When we buy into the “Secret of…” nonsense we are only creating more of what we are attempting to fill, i.e. unhappiness. Grace only comes to those with open and happy hearts, not to those who are trying to keep up with the Joneses. When we say, “I will not be happy until I have [fill in the blank]”, we project unhappiness and lack into the world. When we say “I don’t like [fill in the blank]”, we project rejection and denial into the world.

           The ultimate truth is there is no “you.” When we say, “I love you,” we mean “I am love.” When we say, “I hate you,” we mean “I am hate.” This, of course, is all an illusion that we create to make us realize that we are everything, there is nothing that is not us. The Muslims have a powerful prayer, “La ilaha ilallah,” which means, “There is nothing that is not God.”

            If we want peace, we have to apply it to our lives. It can’t start somewhere else; it has to start in our hearts. Whenever we think unkind or violent thoughts about someone or some situation, someone dies in a far away land on the other side of the planet. This is known in quantum physics and metaphysics as the “butterfly effect.” Thus, when a butterfly beats its wings in Japan, a hurricane is born in the Atlantic. Everything is connected, and to deny this is to live in ignorance. So when we think that someone is an “asshole,” this will have a very real consequence somewhere in our world and ultimately will come back to us, because we are really labeling ourselves with this epithet.

It would be so amazing if we stopped competing with each other and started cooperating instead. Peace might actually break out all around the planet.

 

 

Spiritual and relationship expert, teacher, counselor, advisor, speaker, and writer James Gray Robinson

PRACTICING NON-VIOLENCE

             I had an experience with another driver several years ago. The driver had tailgated me for miles, and then passed me on the right of a four lane local road and cut me off at an intersection. I blared my horn at him to let him know how much I did not appreciate his aggressive driving. He got out of his car and started screaming at me and I actually thought I might have to defend myself. The traffic light turned green and he got back in his car and drove off at a dangerously high speed.

            Why did I create this event for my own enlightenment?  Ah, now there is the interesting question. I have to take responsibility for the fact that I create conflict with others in order to create attention. I did not have to blare my horn. The karma of that driver’s aggressive driving would catch up to him sooner than later. My superficial purpose was to help him see where he might need to look at his behavior. That is the superficial rationalization of a lot of my behavior. In fact, I was failing to realize that people I claim to want to help are only mirroring back to me what I need to change about my behavior.

            When we were children, we quickly found out that if we didn’t get attention by getting good grades and behaving politely, we could get attention by acting out, throwing temper tantrums, and eventually behaving in an anti-social manner. I am guilty of all of the above. I am an over-achiever with a guilt complex. Being a very clever fellow I have reduced my anti-social behavior and only occasionally throw temper tantrums in the privacy of my head. Instead, I subtly create conflict so that people have to pay attention to me. I could pass it off as being a type-A Leo, but hanging around spiritual teachers has forced me to look at my behavior and motivations more closely.

            It has been pointed out to me that one of my subtle forms of negative behavior is telling inappropriate jokes and making inappropriate comments that on some level I know will offend others. Up until now I rationalized this behavior by thinking I was helping people see where their issues were, known as pushing their buttons. I even thought I was being funny. Actually I was engaged in a very subtle violence towards people I said I loved. At times it became an art form of emotional terrorism. Now that I am aware of it, I have stopped this. This doesn’t mean that I will stop telling jokes. What it means is that I have to raise my level of self-analysis regarding the appropriateness of my behavior and my motivation.

            Another means of unconscious violence is gossip. When we pass judgment upon others with another person, we are conducting a violent campaign against the energy of that person that is really just a mirror of ourselves. I make every effort not to gossip about others, but sometimes I fall into the trap of character assassination. I rationalize it by pretending concern about the other person or “gathering information.” I know instantly when I realize that I am gossiping because I get a sick feeling in my stomach. Maybe I am starting to understand that I am talking about a reflection of myself.

            The piece that was missing was the realization that I was actually committing the violence against myself. I did not realize that when people state that my articles, behavior or jokes offended them, I was actually talking to myself.  I did not understand that when I was talking about someone else I was really talking about myself. There is the subtlest form of self-destruction, committing violence against myself and not even realizing it.  I kept missing this aspect of my behavior.  Spiritual principles state that what we become aware of will change. What we are not aware of will not change. I am truly aware that this behavior must change. The only way to take advantage of spiritual teachings is to apply them. Applying them means ending violence against myself. Then I can go on to the next issue.