The Power of Love

Life is the most valuable gift that any of us will ever be given. Yet,  how much of it do we fritter away in needless worries and petty concerns? One thing the world has never yet truly comprehended—in spite of all the positive messages of love, peace, and harmony that are sent out—is this simple truth. An end to suffering and the beginning of healing will only come through love.

We relegate love to the compartment of romance or measure it out to our family members and those friends who are closest to us. But must we give out love as if it were no more essential than the salt and pepper with which we season our foods? Is it not more than something to add flavor to our lives?

Indeed, love is much more than that. It is the very essence of humanity. It is the one emotion that is powerful enough to defeat  the pain, anguish, sorrow, and suffering in this world of ours.

When I finished my article “A Quest for Sublimity”, I was faced with criticism and opposition from those who believe that suffering is not a key component of our lives . . . that we can somehow limit the pain we experience by denying that it is “suffering” or by defining suffering as “complaining” instead of what it is—a genuine experience.

There are several things about this invalid reasoning and the lack of logic behind it that I wish to address. Suffering oftentimes is used interchangeably with the word “pain”. Although we may differentiate between the two words, since each word we write or speak is nothing more than a string of letters that each of us defines in our own terms, it is important to keep in mind that the words we use are part of our subjective reality. And, so are the concepts we attach to those words.

It may be that pain and suffering are both difficult concepts to focus on. But when you release yourself from the need to escape from them, you will find within yourself a new level of serenity.

In the words of Eugene Kennedy, psychologist and meditative thinker, “We cannot run away from this pain without running away from ourselves. We are ashamed of it only if we misunderstand it .  .  . In this same way, this existential pain is ‘our’ pain, the proof of our being human together.” Is there any reason why we should make ourselves ashamed of any emotions we feel, whether positive or negative? Must we be happy all the time in order to be worthy of love and respect? Are those of us who are the tortured souls branded with the words “pain” and “suffering” upon our brows? Are we to hang our heads in shame over acknowledging our suffering?

I will leave you to answer these questions. Your replies will indicate how deeply you have experienced life and how intensely you are willing to continue your life experience. When we speak of healing, if there is no pain, no sadness, no anguish, and no suffering, what is there to heal? Why is there such a need of love, kindness, and compassion in the world if there is not so much trauma connected with simply being human?

If we take a moment to remember the monumental tragedy that occurred on September 11, 2000, in New York City at the World Trade Center, we will understand that bad things can happen to good people. And we are yet again reminded of Harold Kushner’s purpose in writing his wise, touching, and insightful book called When Bad Things Happen to Good People. Whether you want to acknowledge it or not, they do.

Never deny the obvious, hoping you will miraculously make it untrue. Hard truths don’t disappear just because we don’t like them or because we don’t want to accept them as part of our lives.  There may be many paths to wisdom, but when we fail to discern that which is true from that which is not, the path we are on will only lead us to ignorance.

When I say that love will heal us, I am not speaking of the kind of love that brings about sexual union or the kind that exists merely between ourselves and those who are closest to us. The love I speak of being so powerful is that love that can bring all of us together—if not as one, then at least as joined links in a world that is well on the road to self-destruction even as we speak.

Love and life are two words that have always been intertwined. And when we cease to love or close ourselves off from giving and receiving love, we cease to be entirely human. Even though we may believe that we are protecting ourselves from being hurt or from experiencing pain, we are actually cutting off  ties with those around us. Indeed, we are creating barriers around our souls from which our body and mind cannot escape.

The psychologist Erich Fromm once said, “Love is the only sane and satisfactory answer to the problem of human existence.” Why is it the only sane and satisfactory answer? Quite possibly because all other answers would only exist as part of our own subjective realities. Yet love binds us together and brings us into a spirit of oneness, of connection with our fellow men. Even when we’re deeply wounded and fear that opening up our hearts will only end up injuring us further, understand that the wounds we  already have will only heal by loving and through receiving love.

One does not have to be religious to appreciate the fact that the core essence of all of the most important religions have been founded upon the doctrine of loving one another. In Christianity, when the Law passed away and the Old Testament of the Bible was no longer relevant, the one command that Jesus gave is to be found in I John 13: 33-35, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” What could be more antithetical to this command than the legalistic, self-righteous attitude of many of those who call themselves Christians? How is it that people are able to justify the perversion of religious texts that they say they subscribe to? What is so difficult about persons obeying the command of a God whom they say they worship?

Whether you are an atheist, a Christian, or subscribe to another faith, it seems impossible to get away from the simple truth that love has the power to heal, to bless, to strengthen, and to transform life itself. Where love is lacking, there is ugliness, pain and misery. Yet, where is there not a lack of love? We complain, judge, criticize, argue, and debate—but, we hesitate to love. Why? There are many possible explanations for the thoughts of fear that some of us begin to attach to love.

Aside from being afraid that we will be hurt, some of us have a tendency to regard love as a subject fit for poets and sentimental writers. Love is such a universal term that rather than acknowledging the many different ways that it can be expressed and received, we choose to make some futile attempt to define it. Perhaps, defining it makes us feel more in control of whom we let ourselves give love to or receive love from. It also enables us to justify our behavior when we fail to demonstrate love to another person. The need to define it is often directly correlated to the need to judge, restrict, repress, and withhold.

I did not grow up in a household where I felt loved. My childhood was such that I also was unable to express freely the love I felt for others. Because I was young, I was not able to comprehend the reasons behind the lack of love and affection that I experienced. I was inclined to take the unloving words and actions personally. I believed that there was something deeply unlovable about me—that I was somehow not deserving of being loved and that the love I wanted to show others was not good enough for them.

It has only been later, as I have been able to detach myself from the psychological scars of my past, that I have seen that those who withhold love and affection from us are usually coming from a place of personal fear. As difficult as it may be to fathom, even a lack of love that takes the form of cruelty, manipulation, and abuse is rooted in fear. Does fear excuse these things? Certainly not. But, it does give us some understanding, however tenable, of the behavior of those who either cannot or choose not to love us.

There are those individuals who are so damaged that, at a certain point, it is no longer possible for them to love anyone. Oftentimes, we imagine that such people love themselves. But the reality is that what appears to be ego-driven or narcissistic behavior is oftentimes the product of hatred that is primarily directed inward. Although this hatred may be exhibited towards others, too, the negative image that these damaged people hold of themselves in their own minds prevents them from being able to love or accept themselves. In viewing others as not being worthy of their love, they also see themselves as not being worthy of self-love.

It is not always easy to discern when genuine self-hatred exists. Sometimes it is disguised by haughty and even bombastic declarations about specific gifts, talents, and abilities. Yet, in spite of all of the grandiloquence, there is usually no definitive sense of self-worth. Thus, the inability to love is part of an attempt to reinforce what is a negative and dysfunctional self-concept.  One of the problems that has come about is that as time has gone on and  people have become more obsessed with having and less focused on being, the inability to love has become not an occasional or even general problem. It has become a tragic epidemic.

The type of narcissism that is spreading through our world now is the very opposite of the dignity and acceptance of the individual. It clings to the accumulation of things, the concept of achievement and success, and the desire for mass-conformity, all of which make it impossible for each person to hold onto his/her own sense of self-worth.

Thus, rather than less pain, less misery, and less suffering in the world, these things are all flourishing. And as long as we continue to promote commercialism, materialism, and conformity, these things will continue to proliferate. Why is that we do not see what is right before us—namely, that things will never bring us lasting happiness?

Please realize that I’m not saying that things are bad in themselves. In fact, having certain things undoubtedly makes our lives a great deal more comfortable. But when we end our lives, our use for these things will have ended, also. What will be left is the impact that we had on the world and on the lives of other people. So, as long as our lives are centered around things instead of values such as love, compassion, kindness, and empathy, we will remain unfulfilled. That is the message I am conveying.

Money and material possessions are not to be despised within themselves. It is the importance we give these things that determines whether or not they have a positive or negative influence on each area of our lives. A love for material objects, no matter how lavish or exquisite they may be, must never replace the love we feel for our fellow human beings.

Even author Oscar Wilde, who was known for his taste for the finer things in life asked, “Who, being loved, is poor?” It may not always be easy to see that wealth and abundance can come from love when you barely have enough money to buy your most basic necessities. But once you awaken to the powerful impact that love can have, you will see that its value exceeds that of anything else. 

Through my own personal challenges, I have seen the difference that love can make. I have seen it bring about miracles. And I have seen the lack of it create a level of grief and anguish that words are incapable of expressing. Although the possibility of there coming a day when suffering and sorrow do not exist is difficult to fathom, there is only one thing that gives us even the slightest chance of bringing an end to the physical, spiritual, and psychological devastation that people throughout the world are experiencing. And that one thing is love.

What is harder than many of us will ever conceive of is the capacity for forgiveness that many of us must reach in order to begin loving. For, it is not simply anyone who has ever hurt us whom we must forgive—it is also ourselves. Perhaps, you don’t think that you need to forgive yourself for anything. But you do. Whether you are aware of it or not, there is some part of you that blames yourself for the wrong choices you have made and the people whom you have hurt, whether intentionally or not.

And, until you forgive yourself for both your mistakes and your perceived mistakes, you will not be able to forgive others. “How do I know?” you may be asking. Well, I have lived with self-blame for much of my life.  And the weight of this burden has brought me nothing but unhappiness. No matter how much we might want to go back, we cannot erase our past mistakes. The words we have said that were unkind or the choices we have made that were foolish are all part of a closed chapter or chapters of our lives.

In order to move forward, the past must remain where it is. Bringing it into the future will only trap us in the cycle of pain, doubt, fear, and bitterness. In Buddhism, it is believed that we create heaven or hell in our lives through our own responses to the circumstances that life brings us. If this were so, how much more aptly can we create a hell on earth for ourselves than by continuing a cycle of emotional and psychological anguish? Suffering is real, and pain is genuine. But that does not mean that we are incapable of diminishing both things in our lives.

To incorporate forgiveness, love, and self-acceptance into our daily lives is an excellent place to begin. The remarkable author and Jungian psychoanalyst Polly Young-Eisendrath summed up the subject of suffering and what can come from it very eloquently when she said, “When suffering leads to meanings that unlock the mysteries of life, it strengthens compassion, gratitude, joy, and wisdom. When suffering leads to barriers and retaliation and hatred, it empties you of hope and love.”

It does appear that there is a clear choice. You can either choose to allow your pain, fear, sadness, and suffering to close you off from being loved and from loving others or you can let it make you more willing both to give and receive love. The wounds and scars from your past can either serve as a way for you to experience life on a deeper and more profound level or they can hold you back from ever experiencing anything other than shallow emotions and superficial satisfaction.

Do you see how, yet again, it’s entirely up to you? Your life is yours. You can either relish it, appreciate it, and make the most of it or you can cast it aside like a useless present.  What choice will you make?

Love and blessings,

Alexis, your SuccessDiva

(for Tracey Fielder, with lots of love)

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This message and all written material at the SuccessDiva pages is written by Alexis Wingate. (C) Copyright 2010 by Alexis Wingate, the SuccessDiva. All Rights Reserved

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Creating Your Vision

I’ve spoken about vision in earlier blog articles, but as I look upon life as a laboratory and as myself as a scientist in this laboratory, I want to look at vision from two different perspectives. There is the vision of our outer world, which may involve the plans we hold for our future, and the vision of our inner world, which pertains to our thoughts, feelings, and ideas. Although it may not be immediately obvious that these two kinds of vision can work together, I’m going to look at the possibility that they can.

Before any type of plan can be created do you not have to form a conception of it in your mind? And without seeing yourself clearly, what sort of plans will you create? If you see yourself as a loving, kind, caring, and giving individual but, in reality, you are self-centered, insensitive, and critical, how can you possibly design a plan for your life that will ever be achievable? The opportunities that you will expect to find will never come your way and any romantic relationship that you pursue will never be successfully sustained. Even friendships may dissolve almost as quickly as they began. Of course, if you are living with an inaccurate self-concept, you will find yourself asking in bewilderment, “Why don’t I ever seem to have any luck?”

Without self-honesty, there can be no genuine success or fulfillment because even if the rest of the world holds you in high esteem, you’ll never be happy with yourself. And how can any amount of public approbation replace self-respect? The problem is, that no amount of my encouraging you to look within yourself and acknowledge your true self will ever do any good until you are so dissatisfied with how your life is going that you are willing to do so on your own. How are you going to reach that point? This is something that only you can answer.  I suppose it may depend upon whether you want to continue to live in a world of half-truths or whether you wish to experience a genuine awakening.

When I mentioned enlightenment in a previous article, it was assumed by a few people that I was speaking of the type of “enlightenment” that comes from religion. Unfortunately, our society encourages us to attach labels to things as quickly as possible. Thus, rather than taking the time to consider the various ways in which a word, term, or phrase can be meant, we immediately label it in some way.

Perhaps, labels give us a sense of security.  After all, don’t we oftentimes find ourselves reaching for the name-brand products at the grocery store? Why is this? Because being able to attach a brand name to something gives us a sense of reassurance. Similarly, attaching labels and names to people and ideas enables us to move on without having to spend a lot of time in reflective thinking. Once we decide someone is “neurotic” or “dysfunctional” or “hot-tempered”, we’re able to save ourselves the effort that would be involved in trying to understand them.

I think that intuition has its place, but I also think that most of us don’t engage in nearly enough thinking. And, when we do think, we are usually so quick about it that we reach conclusions that are only partially valid, at best. No wonder so few of us have been successful in creating an outer vision that empowers us. We take no time to create an inner vision that is clear, accurate, and empowering.

Society encourages us to judge things by appearances and on a scanty amount of valid evidence. And we allow ourselves to be swept into the mindlessness and insanity that this generates. The beliefs and opinions that we claim are our own are as original as clothes bought at a secondhand clothing store. Yet, we opt for the security of our limited ideas and views because the amount of risk-taking that would be involved in throwing them away fills us with fear.

Fear . . . Vision. Do you see how strange it sounds to put these two words together? The two words and the concepts beneath them are incongruous. In order to create a vision for yourself and for your life that empowers you, you have to let go of fear completely. Lord Byron is, by all accounts, one of the most popular and widely read poets in the history of poetry. I have always enjoyed reading his work, but it wasn’t until I read his masterpiece, Don Juan, that I found myself falling under his spell.

What’s ironic about this is that Don Juan was a departure from Lord Byron’s other work. It is witty, satirical, and utterly engaging in a way that astonishes me. It has been speculated that this side of Lord Byron was there all along but that he felt he needed to repress it to make sure that his poetry was popular. However, most critics agree that Don Juan is Byron’s most impressive and innovative work. So, what would have happened if Lord Byron had been more fearless and cared less for public approval at an earlier time of his life? None of us will ever know though I, for one, will always wonder.

Vision, both inner and outer, is something not only that you need to find the courage to create but also that you must hold on to no matter who or what attempts to thwart  you. I have always been struck by the cutting perspicacity in playwright George Bernard Shaw’s thoughts. He may be known for his wit, but the wisdom beneath the wit is what makes it work so effectively. Shaw once said, “Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

How can you expect to be fulfilled unless you allow yourself to take your own personal journey? You can’t follow the rest of the world and be uniquely you at the same time. You must make a choice. And depending on what you choose, you’ll have to sacrifice certain things. To choose conformity you sacrifice individuality and to decide upon individuality you may have to give up popularity. It’s like being in a restaurant and choosing dishes off a menu. Choosing one entrée means you don’t choose something else. 

Many things in life come down to what is most important to you. That’s why achieving both outer and inner vision is a crucial aspect to designing a life that brings you fulfillment. The famous Swiss psychologist, Carl Jung, said, “Your vision will become clear only when you look into your own heart.”  As painful a process as self-examination can be, there will come a time when you will either choose or be forced into engaging in this process.

Life sometimes has a way of bringing circumstances into our world that force us to take a long, hard look at who we are. We can run from everyone, including ourselves. But what we will never be able to do is hide our true nature from both ourselves and the world indefinitely. From a chance word or a thoughtless action, we give ourselves away more times than we could ever imagine. But only when we find ourselves faced with the consequences of our words or actions do we regret not having faced the truth about ourselves before.

Every day I engage in the process of self-examination and analyze my motives behind my actions. I make plenty of mistakes, but analyzing them helps me come to terms with them and also helps prevent me from making them again. I’m committed to living in an awakened state—a state that will enable me to sustain both inner and outer vision. Vision is more than merely a spiritual or inspirational term that is supposed to define a “game plan” for your future. It is actually another form of seeing. It is a type of eyesight that incorporates the art of observation and reflection.

A new pair of glasses or a pair of contact lenses can improve how well a person sees. But he/she still only sees what is readily visible unless he/she engages in reflection and observation. The difference in seeing and observing is similar to the difference in hearing and listening. You can hear many sounds every day, but you only listen to the ones that capture your attention.

In Kate Chopin’s novella, The Awakening, the heroine, Edna Pontellier, has a sexual awakening. But she also has an awakening of the spirit. She struggles to release herself from the confines of the society that she lives in. Her spirit is suffocated by the repressive atmosphere of her world. Yet her attempts to pursue her own desires cause her to be rejected by those around her. There are some of us who let ourselves remain almost as much a prisoner of society and of other people’s expectations of us as Chopin’s legendary heroine.

We feel obligated to find a boyfriend/girlfriend or wife/husband because society tells us that being single isn’t as desirable as being in a committed relationship. We have children not because we’ve chosen to but, rather, because society tells us that having a family is more acceptable than choosing not to. Dreams such as writing a great novel or creating a brilliant work of art or starting our own business are discouraged in favor of jobs that give us financial security. Rather than individuals, we become just another member of an essentially meaningless society where everyone is so much like everyone else that even though we talk about out-of-the-box thinking we rarely, if ever, engage in it.

Have I gone too far yet? Have I pushed things over the edge and thrown out ideas that are forcing you to step outside your comfort zone? Would you prefer me to tell you that pursuing the dreams that other people have for you is perfectly all right? I can’t do that because if I did I would be compromising my personal integrity. Instead, I’m encouraging you to let go of every dream that doesn’t belong exclusively to you that you’re holding in your mind and heart now. If you’re in a job or relationship that you know doesn’t match up with your outer or inner vision, either walk away from it now or begin creating a plan to do so in the near future.

Until recently, I was addicted to the approval of other people. In fact, for most of my life,  I was constantly feeling as if I had to behave a certain way or do certain things so that others would love and accept me. Then, one day,  I realized two things that I should have been clear to me years ago. First of all, no matter how hard you try, you will never gain everyone’s love or approval. Secondly, when you come to the end of your life, if you have allowed yourself to be influenced by other people’s opinions and have followed their dreams for you instead of your dreams for yourself, the regrets you have will be enormous. For, in not taking control of your own destiny, you’ll have put it in the hands of other people and outside forces. So, you’ll never  know what you might have accomplished because you’ll have let others make your choices for you. How appealing does that sound?

I’m not going to ask you to write down goals or plans. Why? Well, I’m a very spontaneous person, and the moment that someone tells me to start writing down things, I usually cringe. I prefer to think things through and toss ideas around in my mind as opposed to writing down structured plans. This may change for me, in time. I am an experimental thinker, which means that I am always willing to shake things up when they aren’t working.

Thankfully, I don’t believe there’s any  need to write down anything to tune into your inner vision or to create your outer vision. However, you can simplify things by asking yourself a few key questions. What are the things about my life that I want to change? How do my personal goals, dreams, and wishes differ from what other people are telling me that I should do? And perhaps most importantly: are the choices I’m making on a daily basis moving me further or closer away from my long-term goals?

Capturing your outer vision may be crucial to accomplishing what you want to achieve. But tuning into your inner vision is a necessary step in creating your outer vision. Whether you’re ready to decide what you want out or your life or not, to remove the veil that’s shielding your gaze from your true self will guide you towards the path that will eventually take you where you want to go. And, unless you’re content exactly where you are, I hope that you’ll let my words enter your soul and persuade you into letting go of everything in your life that’s preventing you from being honest with yourself. My mentor Denis Waitley has said, “Life is the movie  you see through your own eyes.”  Let us all work on developing the eyesight that will give us clear vision.

Until soon,

Alexis, your SuccessDiva

(I dedicate this article to my close friend, the extraordinary Laurie Elle, who constantly inspires me to continue creating my vision)

This page and all written material at the SuccessDiva pages is written by Alexis Wingate. (C) Copyright by Alexis Wingate, the SuccessDiva. All Rights Reserved.

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Reclaim Your Power!

I think that sometimes we must experience the deepest misery in order to give birth to a renewed self. Self-renewal is not a concept that has merely been promoted during the past couple of decades, when the self-improvement industry has overwhelmed the world with a plethora of books and audio programs that have been both worshipped and ridiculed. Renewal of ourselves—of our souls, our bodies, our minds, and our spirits—is a concept that dates back to both the Bible and the ancient philosophers of the past. German author extraordinaire Johann Wolfgang von Goethe once said, “We must always change, renew, rejuvenate ourselves; otherwise we harden.”

In a way, I think that life attempts to force us to renew ourselves when we rebel against the idea of doing so.  Why doesn’t it occur to us when we experience the tempests that overwhelm our spirit that if we but hold on and ride out the storm we may well sail more smoothly than we ever have before? At the moment when our souls seem to be screaming in pain, we have the ability to either fight the turbulence or to find a way to use that tidal wave of grief, depression, and/or unhappiness to rediscover ourselves. You can either reclaim your power or you can give it away to those people or circumstances who attempt to take it from you. Unhappiness is, in many ways, a circumstance. It can also be a choice.

I know I have a reputation of being somewhat controversial in many of the ideas I share and promote. But I want you to stop for one second and see if I may not be onto something here. If we have the ability to choose our thoughts and we’re feeling unhappy, is it not possible that we are making a choice to be unhappy? Don’t be upset with me if I’m rocking your boat or turning your world upside-down.

I was recently told by a friend who is a Carl Jung devotee that she is uncertain that we choose our thoughts at all. Well, being a deeply inquisitive person by nature, I couldn’t help wondering . . . if we don’t choose our own thoughts, who or what is choosing them for us? Is it a reincarnation of us? Or is some unseen force putting various thoughts in our head at random? And, if you think any of these scenarios is a possibility, I must ask you this:  how will you ever be able to take control of your own life? If you don’t possess the power to control your thoughts, then you must not have the power to control your actions. Thus, you are at the mercy of a mysterious “fate” . . . or of  The Fates . . . or of mere chance . . . or of other people and unforeseen and unexpected circumstances.

For me, the idea that I do not have control over the thoughts that enter my mind is unacceptable. But hey, if you want to believe that somebody else is putting those thoughts in your mind, that’s obviously your prerogative. However, I do question whether or not you will ever be able to design a life worth living. I also think that reclaiming your power won’t be possible since you are already giving away a large portion of it to unseen forces and random events. But still, the choice is yours.

When I think about circumstances, I tend to remember the words of the witty and brilliant playwright and author, George Bernard Shaw. How do you like this quotation? “People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and if they can’t find them, make them.”
I realize that it is much easier for us to lie to ourselves and blame other people, past experiences, and events in our lives for the fact that we are miserable, unsuccessful, and/or unfulfilled. But what possible benefit comes from not accepting responsibility for ourselves? I don’t know how it would work for you, but taking ownership of my life has given me more strength and power than I have ever experienced before.

One of the first steps in reclaiming your personal power is letting go of your dependence on the approval and acceptance of other people. In my opinion, this may be the hardest accomplishment of all, and yet I suspect it’s the most crucial. The world really is made up of a lot of foolish and ignorant people, and, if you allow these people to mold your thoughts, your actions, and your decisions, you will be living someone else’s life instead of your own. People actually choose to remain ignorant of that which they do not choose to understand. Such manipulation has been used by those in power for centuries, and, even now, conformity is encouraged as opposed to seeking knowledge and forming our own individual views and opinions. If the opinions of others are more important to you than truth and wisdom, then you will find yourself receiving the approval of others yet living without the approval of yourself. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

What saddens me a bit is that nearly everyone has the power within himself or herself to transform his/her life and to create an authentic self that he/she is content with. However, many people get into the habit of giving their power away and/or denying that they have it in the first place. Thus, after a while the power seems to diminish and, at least, that little spark of energy is lost amid the ashes of conformity and mediocrity.

Although, the legendary phoenix bird rose from the ashes, it is very hard to resurrect your spirit and soul from a heap of what is essentially dust. Do your realize that, in a way, those who are living the lives that others tell them they should be living are already half-dead? They are only one step away from being cremated, and, rather than living freely outside of a box, they are enclosed in a vase of their own ashes. Have you allowed the divine essence of you to be turned into ashes?  If you have, would you prefer to continue to exist only partially from now on ? Or do you think you might consider taking a lesson from the phoenix bird who resurrected itself from its own ashes? It’s your call, and I suspect you know that.

I enjoy reading philosophy, as you might have gathered, and I have noticed that some of the concepts that philosophers promote are antithetical to the very idea that any of us can achieve happiness. I both agree and disagree with this theory. I don’t think that happiness can be achieved. Rather, I think it is a choice. I did caution you that you might not like what I was going to be telling you. The situation is, I would prefer to upset those reading this blog post than to compromise myself by not sharing my true beliefs.

While I was nursing my mother through advanced stage ovarian cancer, I happened to pick up a book by Barry Neil Kaufman called Happiness is a Choice. If you wish to stop reading this article now, go right ahead. I promise I won’t morph myself into some familiar spirit and try to cause chaos in what is undoubtedly already a rather miserable life.  Whether or not you subscribe to any of my ideas is  your choice alone. At the same time, if you wish to be challenged to examine your life and your vantage point towards life, you might want to keep on reading.

Barry Neil Kaufman’s book is not for those who wish to remain in their comfort zone. At one point, he actually is straightforward enough to say, “We become our beliefs. We get stuck in our heads.” He even suggests that we do not have to be miserable to be intelligent. Now, this will come as a blow to the intellectuals who believe that faith and hope are only possibilities within the minds of those who do not “understand” life. If we want to be “smart,” we are told that we must be atheists and existentialists. Science transforms faith into merely “wishful thinking”, and those who reason are supposed to see that hope, rather than being “that thing with feathers that perches in the soul” (as Emily Dickinson so eloquently put it), is on the same par with God, whom I recently heard referred to as “the pixie in the sky”.

So, what are we left with? If there is no God and we don’t have power over ourselves, who does have all the power? Could it be the politicians? But, wait, being human, like us, they wouldn’t have the power to control their thoughts, either. Goodness, I really don’t know who has all the power on this planet, but I am suspecting it could be Santa and his crew of frisky elves. No wonder people do all they can to convince children that there is no Santa Claus. If the truth came out, where would any of us be? Speaking of Santa, I think that December is the ideal month for us to be examining all these things since it’s the last month of the year and so many people like the idea of making New Year’s resolutions.

I have just one quick question about those resolutions: what happens between now and the first day of January? If you wait until then to reclaim your power, won’t you have a few extra pounds to lose and a few more unwise choices to bounce back from? I realize that we’re nearing the end of December, and many of you probably don’t think a few days of letting other people and outside forces control you could possibly do much harm. However, if Santa has all the power in the world, won’t he be at the height of his power on December 25? If so, it seems that reclaiming your power right now might be the smartest move on your part.

Even though many of us have a habit of putting off what should be done today until tomorrow . . . or next week . . . or  next year, I tend to think that taking action now is still the best policy. I was listening to portions of Jim Rohn’s audio program, “The Art of Exceptional Living” over the weekend, and he says that a combination of faith and action is what will give us a life that is fulfilling and satisfying. Yes, I realize that the word, “faith,” is going to make  you cringe if you’re an atheist and/or an existentialist, but if you convert the concept of faith in a God or a “Higher Power” to faith in yourself, I think it still works out. 

As I said before, I’m not here to “fix” your life. Even if I wanted to do that, I wouldn’t be able to for we are the only ones who can “fix” ourselves. If our wounds require stitches, we are the ones who must make a choice to get those stitches. And this is true whether we are speaking of physical wounds or psychological injuries. Applying bandages is not what I’m here for. If you want bandages, you’ll have to fetch some from the store and apply them yourself.

I’m here to offer you my thoughts and ideas, and you make the decision as to whether or not you’re open to receiving them. It’s sort of like a spiritual conversion, in many ways. When someone converts to Christianity, for instance, they make a choice to do so. God doesn’t tap them on the shoulder and whisper in their ear, “Believe in me.” Nope. He has better ways to spend His time. And even though I’m not comparing myself to God or even a goddess (all right, I’ll admit that is a beguiling idea, and I recently blushed to my heart’s content when someone referred to me as “The Goddess of Facebook”), I also have better things to do than to ask you to believe what I’m saying. As Barry Neil Kaufman so aptly points out, “No one can be inside our heads pulling our strings. We do that for ourselves.” To me, this is encouraging news as the idea of some invisible puppeteer pulling my strings for me makes me feel like I’m nothing more than a wooden marionette.

What I do have time to do is to challenge you to think through the beliefs and thoughts you are holding in your head right now. Which ones were adopted by you from other people and outside sources? If you had spent all of your life on a deserted island out in the middle of nowhere, how many of the thoughts that you are currently subscribing to right now would have ever entered your mind in the first place? You understand my point, I’m sure. In order to reclaim your power, you’ve got to be willing to be honest with yourself. Even if you lie to everyone else, the one person you need to be completely honest with is you. Are you willing to do it? Is reclaiming your power worth it to you?  Food for thought, is it  not?

Until soon. . .Live Without Limits, SuccessDiva style!

Your SuccessDiva

I dedicate this blog post to my friend, Kate Anderson, who has given me the support I have needed to reclaim my own power. Thank you from the bottom of my heart, beautiful Kate. ~your Diva

This page and all written material at the SuccessDiva pages is written by Alexis Wingate. All Rights are reserved. (C) Copyright by Alexis Wingate. The SuccessDiva

Looking within

I was recently browsing an on-line forum at which I read a post by a young female acquaintance who has been spending time in India helping a woman take care of children at a makeshift orphanage. This young woman related details about one boy, who appears physically to be about seven years of age but is actually closer to thirteen, who has been the victim of a brutal rape. Although she clearly offered a certain amount of solace to the boy by holding his hand, helping him bathe, and spending time with him for several hours, she scoffed at the idea of being anybody’s savior. “I have a whole problem with the thought process that assumes somebody needs saving and I’m the one to do it,” she declared.

But wait, I wanted to say, isn’t the truth of the matter that half of the world’s population at least feels that it needs saving? Even those of us who have the advantage of a comfortable home to live in and plenty of food to eat oftentimes allow ourselves to succumb to feelings of hopelessness and despair. In fact, one of the problems is that not only do many of us feel that we need saving, but also there are some of us who actually do. Yet, inherent in this problem is also the means of solving it.

The renowned Danish physicist Niels Bohr once said, “Every great and deep difficulty bears in itself its own solution.” The solution to this problem is simple. We have to accept responsibility for our lives and, in a sense, be our own saviors for there will never be any one person who will manage to fulfill us on every level. One of the reasons that our world is overcome by such a sense of disillusionment is because so many of us have looked towards presidents and other leaders to guide us out of the tunnel of darkness and despair and into the light of hope. We want to feel that there is someone who will help us bear the heavy burden of our personal crosses. And when we are let down by these would-be saviors whom we have turned to in our hour of need, we feel bitterness, resentment, and sometimes even a certain amount of hostility.

If you’ve turned on the news at all these past several days or picked up a newspaper, you’ve probably heard about the scandal involving golf legend Tiger Woods. From all indications, Woods would have seemed like a man who had everything he could possibly desire—an opulent lifestyle, a beautiful wife and two healthy children, and a golf career that has continued to be incredibly successful. What more could anyone ask for? Well, Woods clearly wanted a great deal more. Yet, instead of giving any significant amount of thought to what issues might have led Woods to shame himself and his family by behaving in an inconceivably reprehensible way, most people are content to simply label Woods a “wife cheater”, a “womanizer”, and “an adulterer”.

But let’s stop for a minute and consider this situation carefully. Is Woods that different from many other people who have found, after reaching what others would consider to be the apex of success, that they are still hungry for more?  What Woods seems to suffer from is an insatiable desire to fill the emptiness within himself. The fame and all the accoutrements that have come along with it haven’t been enough for Woods. There’s still been a void inside him. 

Rather than facing his inner dissatisfaction and taking appropriate measures to deal with it, Woods opted for the easy path to contentment— short-term gratification that involved little commitment on his part and even less critical thinking. Like those who pursue the objective without carefully considering the possible consequences, Woods blithely carried on affairs with multiple women over the course of his married life, apparently never imagining that his escapades would at some point become public knowledge.

At this point, Woods has become fodder for the gossip magazines, and his wife undoubtedly feels humiliated. But as much as anything else, I suspect that the public who so adored Woods feels betrayed by the fact that he tainted the glowing image that they had of him. In a way, it takes us back to the days of the Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky scandal, a time when Americans both snickered and wept at the realization that their president was every bit as human as themselves.

Why is it that so many of us seek a role model to place upon a pedestal and naively expect this role model to conform to our idealized standards of acceptable conduct? In a way, we are setting ourselves up for disappointment and disillusionment, for, alas, no matter how famous or renowned someone is, he or she is every bit as much a mortal as you and I are. Thus, that person is capable of the same mistakes and privy to the same vices. While I’m not saying that there is any justification for the conduct that Tiger Woods has demonstrated, I am challenging us to examine why we are so utterly bewildered and shocked at his indiscretions.

Rather than pointing fingers and casting aspersions on Wood’s character, let’s stop to figure out what our reaction to his behavior says about us. Is it possible that we are almost as disappointed in ourselves for idealizing Woods to such an extent as we are with him for his reprehensible actions? Do some of us, on some level, feel that we have been made a fool of? And if so, when are going to cease to regard our fellow mortals as objects of hero-worship and adulation? When are we going to see that celebrities and those in positions of power and/or leadership are only presenting to us the sides of themselves that they want us to see? Much of the time, if we ripped off the masks that people wear and looked beneath them, we would be appalled.

One of the last blog articles I wrote, “The Authentic You”, was about the masks that so many of us hide under—the masks that prevent us from revealing our authentic selves. When I look at Woods, who presented the sugar-coated family man image to the public while  leading the life of a promiscuous playboy on the sly, I cannot help but think of how important the concept of authenticity is. Although Woods will have a difficult time living down the scandal his behavior has created, I believe that in order for him to ever grow into the person he has the potential to become, the details of his private escapades needed to be disclosed to the public. How will those of us who are living a lie ever cease to do so unless we’re exposed for the frauds that we are?  Oftentimes, it takes what some people call a “defining moment” for them to gain clarity about themselves and the personal issues they may never have taken the time to come to terms with.

In my SuccessDiva work, I have already traversed many paths, all of which are leading to the same destination, but with many twists and turns . . . and, yes, even a few roadblocks. I started this blog with the intention of instilling hope in those who felt like giving up. Since I have felt like giving up so many times in my life, I felt that I might be able to speak with a voice that others could relate to and perhaps even find to be a source of strength. Yet, somewhere down the road, I realized that I needed to refine my objectives and be honest with myself about how much it is possible for me to do.

When you are only one person, you must always remain aware of the fact that your influence is going to be vastly limited, no matter how committed your efforts may be. This undeniable truth has frustrated me so greatly at times that it has taken a considerable effort for me to push forward. However, I never forget what Helen Keller once said, “I am only one, but I am still one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.”

I suppose, to a certain extent, each of us, who wants to make a difference in this world, must have faith that what we do will create a ripple effect. And that our willingness to look outside of ourselves and our own personal lives will inspire others to do the same. Although we should never regard ourselves as being more successful or better than we are, what we also must keep in mind is that to be all that we can be we sometimes have to believe in our ability to accomplish things that we haven’t yet done.  In order to pursue anything wholeheartedly, we must have some faith in ourselves.

A life without passion and a sense of purpose is only an existence, and, when we limit ourselves in our own minds, we are actually removing the possibility of doing all that we can. We’re deciding how the game of cards is going to end before we even start playing. This being said, perhaps it was better that I overestimated what I would be able to achieve at the start of my SuccessDiva work. Maybe it would have been difficult for me to withstand the amount of criticism and ridicule that has been lavished upon me if I hadn’t had an innate belief that I was doing something meaningful and purposeful.

At this point, I don’t need critics to tell me that trying to fix people’s problems isn’t ever going to work. The young woman, whom I spoke of earlier who finds the idea that people might need “a savior” to be personally distasteful, admitted to me that she had the impression that I was trying to heal people’s wounds with Band-Aids (TM) when what they really required was stitches. What I happen to know is that many of those with wounds that require stitches actually prefer to wrap bandages around them so that will not be forced to deal with the harsh reality of their situation. If this were not so, why would people be drowning their pain in drugs and alcohol? Why would people need to take sleeping pills to get adequate rest? Why would so many marriages be ending in divorce?

We are a world in which the quick-fix option is what we turn to first instead of as a last resort. Rather than true faith in an all-powerful God or Divine Creator, many people use religion as a way to escape the chaos in their souls. They are so afraid of having to face their inner torment, that they will latch onto anything that brings them some feeling of security. But, is this any way to live?

Rather than naively imagining that nobody in the world needs a savior, what we need to do is realize that the majority of the population feels a desire to be saved, whether that desire is consciously acknowledged or not. At certain times of our lives, we may have experienced this desire, too. And, until we can separate a desire from an authentic need, our perception of reality will be much more real to us than actual reality ever is.

The brilliant psychologist Carl Jung once admitted, “The whole world has a savior expectation; you find it everywhere. The savior complex is certainly not a personal motif; it is a world-wide expectation, an idea which you will find all over the world and in every epoch of history. It is the archetypal idea of the magic personality . . . and image of the collective unconscious. ” Doesn’t this explain why we look towards everything from food, drugs, and alcohol to celebrities and material possessions to bring us personal fulfillment?

We want to be saved from the void that exists within us—we want to find some way to bear the emptiness we feel inside. If we can find someone or something to cling to in our hours of doubt and despair, perhaps we’ll manage to get by. But what happens when we give up drinking or using drugs or overeating? What happens when the person whom we’ve been looking up to does something completely unforgivable? How do we go on then? In a way, aren’t we worse than we would have been if we had simply taken responsibility for ourselves and used our own inner strength to make the most of our lives?

It’s important that I make it clear that I’m not suggesting that merely visualizing our “ideal” lives or adopting positive thinking patterns is going to change anything. These concepts, though widely promoted by those in the self-help field, are only as reliable and/or effective as the person making use of them wants them to be. What I do believe, though, is that each person has the tools within himself to create a life that is at least reasonably satisfying. Even if years of therapy and/or psychoanalysis are needed, a person still ultimately chooses whether he or she lives a life that is meaningful and fulfilling. There is no psychiatrist or psychologist in the world who will be able to provide more help to someone than that person is willing to accept.

Gandhi may have summed up a profound truth when he said that we must be the change we want to see in the world. But what he neglected to mention is that we have to want to be that change. Nothing will ever change in your life unless you want it to. So, you can either continue looking for salvation from some outside source or you can turn your vision inwards and accept the knowledge that nobody besides you can transform your life. Which choice will you make?

Until soon . . . Live without Limits, SuccessDiva style!

Your SuccessDiva

This page and all written material at the SuccessDiva pages is written by Alexis Wingate. All Rights are Reserved. (C) Copyright by Alexis Wingate, the SuccessDiva