How to Find the Heart of Anger

How to Find the Heart of Anger

I shared a teaching story attributed to Paulo Coehlo in the context of a recent coaching session, and realized that others might appreciate it too. Like all storytellers, I've probably colored the tale with my own experience in the retelling, but hopefully, the essence remains. 

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On a recent outing, a teacher and his students witnessed in the distance a couple angrily shouting at each other.

The teacher asked his students, "Why do people in anger shout at each other?"

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Invite Your Freak-Out to Hum Along

Invite Your Freak-Out to Hum Along

 

When someone comes to me stressed, anxious, upset, and generally freaking out, I do not under any circumstances suggest that this person relax. Having both witnessed and received this response to freak-outs over the years, I have learned that this usually well-intended remark is almost never helpful and often annoying.

Telling people to relax does not engender relaxation, although compassion and listening tend to be welcome. Deep breaths also help.

What is even more helpful sounds a bit weird at first...

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Pyramid Principles for Life

Pyramid Principles for Life

...At times the journey feels awkward or perilous: you're asking questions that everyone wishes would go away; you don't know how to put into words what you're searching for; you're wondering just how big an idiot you really are for leaving what felt sure and safe and comfortable...

Paul H. Ray, PH.D. and Sherry Ruth Anderson, PH.D., The Cultural Creatives

...It is safe to say that men [and women] have been seeking an answer to the riddle of the Great Pyramid for over 4000 years...

When I was a child, I was fascinated by the Great Pyramid. A testament to human ingenuity, the Great Pyramid is the only remaining structure of the Seven Wonders of the World. Believed to have been built in 2600 BC, it was originally encased in highly polished limestone that reflected sunlight, making the pyramid visible from vast distances. According to some calculations, the casing stones of the original pyramid would have reflected light like giant mirrors, so powerful that it would be visible from the moon.

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Questions Worth Asking

Questions Worth Asking

My dear, is it true that your mind
Is sometimes like a battering
Ram
Running all through the city
Shouting so madly inside and out
About the ten thousand things
That do not matter?

Hafiz, Out of the Mouths of a Thousand Birds

Deep in American life lies a dormant soul, almost obliterated by politicians and media that consider it too lowly and weak for serious attention.
Thomas Moore

In my personal and professional development work, I spend a lot of time with questions. My questions. Client questions. Unasked and unanswered questions. Spiritual "meaning of life" questions. Transactional "get the job done" questions. Relational "getting to know you" questions. Easy questions. Hard questions. Rhetorical questions. In the course of all this questioning, I have noticed that the most powerful questions people ask are those that invoke reflection about what they value. I call these questions valuable questions.

Valuable questions are worth asking. They are questions of value that enable us to deepen who and how we are in the world--to grow, to change, to transform ourselves and others. They help us determine what really matters to us and what to do about it. How can I be a better person? What do I want to do with my life? How can I make money and make a difference in the world? How can I have meaningful relationships with people important to me? Valuable questions invoke reflection on how we value ourselves, our relationships, life conditions, and life pursuits.

They are also overwhelming and hard to answer because they take time. Even worse, valuable questions take personal time, and we are busy. We are a nation of people in a hurry, a culture addicted to well-marketed speed. This is not a novel observation. We all know it. Full-speed, speed to market. Fast food, fast cars, fast pace. Quick fixes. Rush hour, rush job, feel the rush. Instant coffee, instant gratification. We don't even read anymore; we scan, skim and surf our way through life.

Ours is a culture of pay per view relationships and substitute experiences, a culture that promotes spending more time with television "Friends" than with friends who really care. Most of us experience fifty to one hundred advertisements by nine in the morning. The entire world is at our fingertips--broadcast into our living rooms, our cars, our offices. Television, radio, billboards, snail mail, email, chat rooms, discussion boards, telemarketing. Even the spiritual has become commercial as corporations compete to sell us souls.

Reaction is better than inaction--and reflection, particularly self-reflection, is reserved for the self-absorbed or people with nothing better to do. Time out is a behavior modification technique for children and time off is regarded with suspicion. Vacations are prescriptions for preventing nervous breakdowns. We barely have time to sleep, let alone time to dream.

We simply don't have time for questions, valuable or otherwise. We want answers--and we want them fast. What am I going to wear today? Are we on schedule? Why am I doing this job anyway? Where did I put the car keys? Am I a good parent? How much is it going to cost? How am I going to make this payment? Why am I so worried? When will it be finished? Is it my turn to drive the kids? When am I going to get to the grocery store? What am I having for dinner? What's on TV tonight? Where's the remote control? When was the last time we had sex? How much sleep do I really need anyway? Is this what I really want? On any given day, there are so many questions competing for our attention, is it any wonder that we tend to neglect the most valuable for the least time-consuming?

Our personal time is in short supply and high demand. Most of us, of necessity, use our personal time to go to the dentist, pick up the dry-cleaning, and buy the groceries. We use personal time to socialize with friends, connect with partners and read to the kids. If we're lucky, we may have time leftover to get to the gym. In our culture, personal time is any time we spend outside of work, however impersonal, taking care of the rest of our lives, taking care of the people in our lives and--oh yes, taking care of ourselves. That too--and more often than not--that last. After all, personal time for truly personal use should be reserved for crises.

Basically, if we have any personal time at all, we should be shopping, cooking, cleaning, and socializing. We should be doing something--certainly not sitting around by ourselves inquiring about the meaning of life. We have Oprah for that--just turn on the television. Watch a meaningful life.

However, if we want to live meaningful lives, we have to occasionally turn off the television, the cell-phone and the computer. Leave the laundry for another day. Decline the invitation and order in. Whatever it takes, we have to take the time to ask ourselves the questions worth asking--value ourselves enough to ask the valuable questions. We have to get personal with our personal time and inquire into our own experience about what really matters.

We must breathe, reflect, be. Greet the moment with a deep sigh and a full heart. Now, that would be doing something.

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