Sweeten Your Inner Voice — Adlerian Psychology and the Four Agreements

I’ve been reading from two books over the last couple of weeks. The first one is a Japanese philosophy book called “The Courage to Be Disliked” and the second is the very well know “The Four Agreements”. These books have both inspired me to listen to my inner voice and hear some of the abuse that it metes out to my psyche. The Four Agreements tells us of the powerful magic we can access when we are impeccable with our word, and The Courage to Be Disliked shows us how we perpetuate our own pathological psychology because we believe it serves us to do so. In my personal case, these two concepts intersect around messages I repeat to myself and that dim my light and reduce my joyful experience of the world. One example is the self admonishment I give myself that “I am too old.” But before I get into my own personal illumination of these negative tendencies, I want to write a little bit about the concepts in the book. Please dear reader remember, that when I write like this, the primary audience is myself. I am not intending to lecture anyone, but instead I am learning as I write for myself.

I read The Four Agreements a long time ago, maybe more than ten years ago, maybe even before I started my spiritual journey in the Santo Daime tradition. The first agreement is to always be impeccable with your word. I had over the years forgotten what the author said about this, and instead remembered it as an admonishment to be strictly and completely truthful in everything we utter. It would, of course, be impossible and disastrous if we tried to implement this in our daily lives. You can start with the obvious example that if the Gestapo knocks on your door and asks if you are hiding any refugees, you say “no refugees here sir.” Other times people pry into our personal lives and a refusal to answer a question about some intimate truth that we do not want to reveal would in itself be an admission.

For example, if I ask you if you ever murdered anyone, you would easily say no. If I then asked if you had every burglarized a house, you would say no. If they then asked if you had ever sold heroine to a minor, another easy no. Then they ask have you ever smoked marijuana? Well if you then say “I don’t want to answer that question” then you’ve just admitted it haven’t you? In that case you have to say “no” even if the truth is yes.

We all have the right to keep safe and protect our intimate selves from the harsh judgments and resulting punishments that wait for us in the world. Throughout Human history–from the inquisition, to police states, to overbearing employers, to prying family members– abusive powers demand the the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Then they manipulate us with guilt for withholding our most intimate selves from those who would use the information only to abuse us.

I was resistant to reading the Four Agreements when my friend recommended me to it, because I remembered the admonition of impeccability as requiring this naive veracity. But when I read the book again I saw that impeccability requires a much more powerful discipline for the voice. What it really requires is that we not use our voice to cause harm to ourselves. The first instance of this is when we say negative things directly about ourselves, such as “oh you are so stupid!” These words form agreements in our psyche that then play out in our lives.

A lot of these negative beliefs we have about ourselves come from experiences we have had in our past. I was told at a young age that I was not good at singing or drawing, and so I believed this, and would stand by mute when happy birthday was sung, and I never attempted to draw. At that young age, I was not aware that both singing and drawing are skills that one develops through practice and love. I thought they were skills one was born with, and as I was told I did not have these skills, I agreed with this, and then never developed them.

It was not until I started in the Santo Daime tradition that I learned that everyone can sing or draw or dance just as well as they can, and if we practice we improve. I learned to accept my abilities as they are, and then give my best to develop them through practice. This is how we grow. Michelangelo did not start out by painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Rembrandt’s early drawings were awkward and lacking in perspective. Even the masters had to start somewhere and improve over time with great effort. Sure some people are born with a very sensitive ear, and that makes it easy to learn to sing. Some people are seven feet tall and that gives them an advantage in basketball. But that does not mean we cannot develop our own abilities. How cool is it when we see a relatively short person with amazing skills hit three pointers one after another?

The next case of impeccability of the word involves gossip and saying negative things about others. The book warns us strongly against this spreading of poison. The Santo Daime tradition teaches the same thing–that gossip and speaking badly about one’s brothers and sisters is a grave sin. There is one teaching that says the death of the body is on the tip of the tongue. Another says that if we speak badly about our brothers and sisters we are inviting our own demise. If I say something negative about someone else, then I will inevitably believe that person does not like me. I will create a negative opinion in the person I’m talking too, and thus poison spreads.

The second book, The Courage to Be Disliked, talks about how we hold onto our pathological psychology because it serves us to do so. This is Adlerian psychology and it is contrasted to the psychology of Freud. In Freudian psychology, the basic premise is that our present personality and our neurotic behaviors come from traumas that we have experienced in our past. In this view traumas we have suffered in the past make an indelible imprint upon us, that cause us, for example, to be unable to form lasting relationships in adulthood. Under this understanding, the only way to heal is to delve into past traumas and reconcile them.

Adlerian psychology, on the other hand, says we hold onto traumas and negative behaviors because it serves us to do so. Someone close to me used to always say they were terrified to fly on airplanes, and would have panic attacks every time they got on a plane. They blamed this on the trauma they experienced when they were on a flight that ran off the end of the runway. But it turned out that the truth was that this person really did not like to visit their family which was full of drama after an ugly divorce and some other issues. One day when an opportunity to take a fabulous trip arrived, suddenly this person was no longer afraid of airplanes. Another example we have all seen is people who constantly complain about being sick when they are not really sick so they can get the attention of their parents.

There are extreme cases of post traumatic stress disorder which can really interfere someone’s ability to enjoy a happy life. It is not for me to discount the reality of their situation or their suffering. In those cases a panic attack might prevent the person from going into a crowded street where before they were subjected to grave danger. In Adlerian psychology the remedy would be more to focus on learning that the behavior is no longer necessary, that the streets are safe, while in Freudian psychology, the remedy would be to delve into the trauma. Recognizing the difference between the two modes of psychology does not discount the suffering of people with intense mental illnesses. For them we should only have compassion and offer help.

In my own case I have formed an agreement in my own mind that I am “too old.” This started for me when I first went through my divorce and found myself single. I was about 43 years old when my divorce was final, and the first thing that came up on the radar as I started to form new relationships was that I did not want to make a fool of myself by being attracted to people who were significantly younger than me. This was kind of awkward for me, because at the time, many of the women who were “age appropriate” for me were at the stage of their life where their primary interest in relationships was to have children. I already had four sons, and a vasectomy that I had not intention of reversing. Women who were a little younger than my judgment about “age appropriate” on the other hand, were more likely to not to be focused on having kids.

I was visiting friends in another city one weekend, and there was a woman that I found very attractive. It turns out that at the time she was about 33 years old. A sister of mine noticed that I had taken interest and she smacked me on the arm and said “no way! you are way to old for her”. I internalized this. Sometime later someone in their early twenties called me a geezer, and so I started to believe that I was too old.

But now I am going to break that agreement. I’m not too old for anything. I just am what I am. In actual fact, I’m in better physical shape than I have ever been in. I am at my best weight, I have my lowest resting heart rate, and after a couple years of intense physical training, my body is strong and balanced. I do not drink or smoke and I eat a healthy diet. I’m in the best shape I have ever been in, and my mind is as sharp as it has ever been. What exactly am I too old for? Nothing.

I used to carry forward this belief because it would prevent me from making a fool out of myself through attraction to younger women. But now I am happily married and have good relationships in my life, and I no longer need this protection. There is nothing good that comes from the self perception of being old and so I do hereby reject that notion, and resolve to change my self speak to be impeccable with my word in this respect.

Over the next weeks we have several spiritual works in our tradition of the Santo Daime. In this tradition our first instruction is to examine our conscience and then to correct ourselves. I am going to dedicate my spiritual work for the next phase to examining my conscience for negative thoughts I have about myself that form these pernicious agreements that limit my joy and happiness in life. One by one I am going to identify and reverse them. I am definitely not too old to start this process. I hope you can help yourself with this practice too.

Peace.

Easter Letter to Myself

Do you ever get stuck in a funk of feeling unappreciated or ignored? Does it sometimes happen to you that people want to tell you there problems, but not listen to your solutions? That should not come as a surprise, because most people who tell you their problems are not really looking for your opinion as to how they can make their situation better. Most are just looking for some level of understanding that they are dealing with a situation that they find frustrating or difficult. So instead of offering them some sort of practical solution, a better response would be to say something along the lines of “wow that is a challenge. I hope you work it out.”

You are naturally a problem solving type of person, and it can be difficult for you when people do not want your advice. It may sound to you like people are complaining about situations without really wanting to improve them. A lot of the time, it might seem to you that they are dealing with the same basic pattern over and over again, and falling into the same traps of ineffective responses. Maybe it seems clear to you how they could improve their situation. But the hard to understand truth, is they really don’t want to hear about that. What they really want is to talk about their situation to someone who will listen, and if you are the one who is listening, the best you can do is lend a kind ear and hear them out. You are not going to fix anything for someone who does not want a solution.

This is an important lesson for your new voice, the voice that was born again on Easter. In the past, you have always thought that the value of your knowledge was to share it and help people to move forward in their lives. This was especially true for you as a father, because you raised four sons, and it was in many circumstances, up to you to guide them. But your sons are not children anymore, so now it’s time to respect their independence and let them figure things out on their own.

But sometimes something special might happen. Sometimes, if you let someone struggle with their situation long enough, they might grow tired and actually seek advice. This is a process that you need to let happen. It is the real life experience of trying over and over that will eventually either lead to a solution that they find on their own, which is best, or lead them to seeking advice.

But the key for you is to not want to give the advice. There is some part of you, that is in your ego, that wants people to listen to you. That wants people to do as you suggest and that wants them to follow your advice and then be successful. You see that in yourself do you not? After all, if you give someone advice, and then they follow it, and become successful, then some measure of their success can be credited to your smart idea. You can see how you can become attached to people doing as you suggest and then become attached to the outcome of their venture. This is the source of a lot of entanglement on your part in the affairs of other people, and this is likely as not to end badly. And when it does, if you imposed your advice, it is not credit that you will receive, but blame.

This can even be in very minor situations, like when you suggest a move to an opponent in a backgammon board. If they go on to win, then you have robbed them of some measure of their success, and if the move goes bad, then you are responsible for the bad outcome. They have a hymn for that. It says “You should not give advice to people who do not want to listen”. This is not a negative statement. The hymn goes on “to you we give this instruction, leave them be!”

It is important in learning to use your new voice that you learn not to use it, and to not use it happily. Sometimes you say “fine I’ll just shut up if nobody wants to listen to me.” There is a little bit of a hurt tone underneath this, like you are going to go pout in a corner and say “nobody wants to listen to me.” Well you are just exaggerating when you say that, because it’s not “nobody” that wants to listen to YOU, it’s simply that most people want to figure out things for themselves, and that YOU are really no kind of master. So take your refuge in humility.

Don’t you remember that clear instruction that you have received so many times over and over? Humility is a refuge not a personality trait. When you have hurt feelings because people do not recognize you as wise or smart or knowledgeable, and you take that personally, you are looking for affirmation from other people that you possess these characteristics, when you yourself should know perfectly well what you know and what you do not know. And you, being as you are, fully incorporated in this world, are no better than a fish in a fishbowl. Perhaps you are a very smart fish, but you are still in the fishbowl and have extremely limited perspective. You do not know what is going on in someone else’s head. You do not know what is going on in their lives or what challenges they are facing. So to you, a piece of advise might seem obvious or helpful, but really you might simply bet telling a fish how to go about climbing a tree.

Remember A Course in Miracles. Remember The Manual for Teachers. Remember that it is up to God to bring teaching and learning together, and that all teachers learn exactly what they teach. So if you are blessed with a teaching situation, do not forget that it is you who are the student. You are never superior to anybody. Any lesson you have to offer to even the smallest child is a lesson you really should heed yourself.

Do you remember that T-shirt that you were shown a long time ago that a man was wearing in Coconut Grove…. it said in big letters “Always Lead, Never Follow.” You laughed when you saw that and you thought “does that apply when you are with a group of people in a city that you have never been in before? Does that mean that you should lead and not follow even when you have no idea where you are or where you should be going?” Well that’s the case in most people’s personal problems.

First off, they are only telling you what they want you to hear. They are likely only telling you the part that will provoke the response that they desire from you. One such response might be for you to think highly of them. Another might be that they want you to feel sorry for them. Another might be that they want you to tell them that they are perfectly justified. Another might be that they simply want to feel loved. But it does not matter, because you are only seeing a part of the picture, and then that small part is interpreted by you according to your reactions, experiences and desires. So you are seeing a small portion of the truth through distorted glasses and then you are going to offer advice on how to proceed? It is just like that patently ridiculous T-shirt telling you to always lead and never follow.

You see, if ever there were a strange city that you do not know your way around in, it is someone else’s psyche. The inside of someone else’s experience is no place for you to be a leader. So what can you do? You can offer your experience perhaps. Like in backgammon, don’t ever tell somebody what they should do even if you think they would benefit from your advise. If they ask you for your advice, then you can tell them what you would do if you were in their position, and then let them decide what they want to do. Do you see the difference in the energy there? It’s not about what they “should do.” It’s up to them to decide that. All you can say is based on your understanding of the situation, this is what you would do.

Backgammon is a light example, but sometimes you are talking about people’s finances, and you can get yourself into some trouble if you start telling people how they should invest their money. You have no idea what their true appetite for risk is. You have no idea what they will do when they have an emotional response to market turmoil. And you have no ability to direct their actions in the future. So, instead of telling them what they should do, be careful to offer what you would do based on your understanding of the situation. Let them be the one to take responsibility for their decisions, and then they will be responsible for the results.

But the best advice for you is this. Do not be attached. It is not for you to seek to be large. It is not for you to seek a following. It is not for you to publish a book telling other people what they should do to have a happy life. The spotlight is not there for you. What is there for you is a path by which you may learn to lead a good and happy life for you and your family. The people who come into your life are there to teach you what you need to learn. It’s not the other way around.

So that is a key lesson for you with your new voice. The power of your new voice is not to tell others what to do. The power of your new voice is to speak with humility and learn what it is for you to learn.

Peace.

The Audience of the Ego

Is it a common human trait to want popularity and recognition? I think it must be, and if I do just a little bit of honest introspection, I can see that I share in this craving for the attention of others. Certainly anyone who is reading this is aware of the ego and it’s need to feel important in the eyes of others. We hear so many spiritual seekers chastising themselves and others for “coming from ego.” It is my ego that wants recognition, and this is somehow bad, right? Like a truly enlightened spiritual being would be free of ego and would simply be without needing the validation from the outside.

I would like to suggest a little kinder treatment of the ego. For me the ego is the part of my consciousness that identifies as “me,” and this is the student in the spiritual school of life. It would not be much of a spiritual school if its whole purpose was to be rid of all the students. It’s not as simple as that. We cannot escape our ego to attain enlightenment. We can console ourselves so that we do not crave what we do not have. We can remind ourselves to be true to ourselves and not to depend on the approval of others. We can accept when others do not want to hear what we have to say, or when they do not recognize us for our knowledge or achievements. But we cannot be rid of our egos. We must be kinder to ourselves than that.

I think my ego is about seven years old. Really. I know how to act in life to avoid making a fool of myself. I have learned to bite my own tongue when I want to clamor for attention. But the truth is, deep down, there is a part of me that has the emotional maturity of a seven year old boy, and this part of me wants to be popular, wants to be picked first, and wants to get recognized by the teacher. If someone does not like or respond to me in the way I want, then this bothers my inner 7 year old. I naturally then strive to attain their approval.

This comes up a lot in the spiritual path. There are so many people who are so famous for presenting their spiritual truths. Some of these are quite profound and some are quite common. It really does not matter, because each has its own audience. I remember the time in my life when I first read a spiritual book. It was A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle. The wisdom contained in that book about the ego and inner peace was a huge revelation to me. I had never considered that before. I had never looked at myself from a higher perspective. I did not even know where the path that started there would lead.

This experience reminds me of another experience. I remember when I was young and I read my first “grown up” book. It was The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlam. I was amazed by the character of Jason Bourne. Steel blue eyes, master of martial arts, cool under any circumstances. Wow. It was the first time I had ever encountered such a character, and I was riveted by it. And as I continued to read more, I started to see that all of the heroes in all of the books were human superlatives. The first time I encountered this, I was amazed, and as I continued, I saw that it was really very common.

And so it is in the study of the spirit. That first encounter with topics like the ego, and setting boundaries, and finding the divine within were so profound. And once I developed a conversational familiarity with these topics, I developed the capacity to share them with others. I could share the new knowledge I had, and the people who I could share it with were the people that did not have it yet.

So to being a good teacher is not really so much about having the highest knowledge. It’s about finding and communicating with those who are thirsty for the knowledge. So maybe in this life I have advanced beyond the elementary stage, or at least I’ve gone far enough to have dipped below the surface. Yet I do not have a large constituent of followers. There is no one outside my door clamoring for me to deliver to them pearls of wisdom.

I almost went in the other direction, which is equally egotistical. I almost was tempted to say “nobody wants to hear what I have to say” But that’s really not at all true either. There are now 16 people who will receive notification of this writing, and some of them will perhaps read this, and maybe even relate to it. There is a small group of people in my life who I share wisdom with, in both directions. The ego wants to either be a million or zero. It’s not very comfortable with ordinary success.

And so with spiritual truths, it is really not so much about who is presenting them. Most of them have already been presented over the several thousand years of spiritual study in our society. Some of most profound interactions I have had come from people who I met from indigenous cultures of the Amazon. It’s so interesting to me to hear from them. They have such profound wisdom to share.

One is “there are none so small that they have nothing to teach and none so great that they have nothing to learn, sometimes we are the great, sometimes we are the small, and it is in the balance that we walk our lives.” That was a good one from one of the few people I have met in my life who was actually a shaman. She was explaining why it was so important to always have the mind of a child and not think we know everything. She continued, when we think we know something, then we are blocked from further knowledge. Did not Christ also speak of having the mind of a child?

Another pearl I received from that was how to listen. I was talking with my friend and she was bowing her head with her eyes closed and not responding to me at all. I feared that what I was saying was not interesting and that she was simply suffering my boorish talking until I was finished. Not at all she said. She said when you truly want to listen you have to bow your head and close your eyes so that the words come into your ears and drop right down to the heart without going into the mind first. If they go into the mind first, then the mind immediately starts thinking of responses and of how the information fits into the mind’s view of the world. But if you can let the words travel straight to the heart you can connect with the heart of the person who is sharing with you, and after they are done speaking, you can take this gift from the heart up to the mind and then you will maybe have something to say about it or think about it.

She also told me, Spencer, in your world, in your life, you can go where you want. If someone or something is not to your liking, you can be done with them and simply move on. You can go away. But here in the tribe, in our culture, there is no away. There is only the tribe and the jungle. If you go “away,” or into the jungle by yourself, well death waits for you there. Certain death. There is no “away” for them, and so it’s very important to learn how to get along with your 50 or so tribe mates in your village. So profound.

I see so many people today selling some version of shamanism, and I can’t help but react with some contempt. It seems that there are so many people offering shamanic healing and practices. Some part of me resents this, but in honesty, that is only the part of me that is envious of the recognition they receive. I (my ego?) would protest that I am not like that, but is that true? Am I really not like that, or am I simply not very successful at that?

It’s so important not to judge, but it’s hard not to as well. Maybe someone who holds themselves out as a shaman is able to access some people who really crave an introduction to the spiritual path, and maybe the title of shaman gives another person a justification or reason for listening to the wisdom that is being offered. I might have to exercise discernment to make a decision for myself about whether I want to follow such a person. But it’s not at all appropriate for me to judge them. But I do anyway right? Some part of me puts them down. There is part of me that says “oh another California Shaman”. I might even joke, how can you be sure if someone is a shaman, well one clear sign is they are not from California. But really that’s just me wishing I shared in their popularity. What harm are they doing to me?

Is it the same with celebrity? I have met a few celebrities in my life. I always feel this strange desire to be seen by them. Is that familiar? It reminds me of an old Saturday Night Live bit where Martin Short dreams of meeting Pat Sajak on Wheel of Fortune. He has this fantasy world where he and Pat Sajak are best friends. Isn’t that the appeal? Don’t they have their fame because we all want some of what they have?

And they do have something special. It has been called the “it factor”. It’s a larger than life energy that draws us to them and gives them power. Some use it for good, some for their own self destruction, and some seem not to be able to control it at all. The famous people I have had good fortune to meet all seemed to me to have their lives very well put together, but this is not what I see in the news. What appears in the news usually looks more like a train wreck. Maybe that’s because as soon as we build someone up we want to tear them down.

And so that’s were we find ourselves. I have the knowledge and experience that I have, and the truth, or lack of truth, speaks for itself. I can speak my truth and maybe only 16 people will have the chance to read it. Others might speak and have hundreds of thousands of followers hanging on every word. I can’t really seek followers, that would be a lot like a dog chasing its tail. But I can seek the truth, and maybe there will be someone who benefits in some small measure from something I have shared. But to continue, it really has to be me that learns from what I am writing. It has to be enough for me to write what I need to learn.

Peace.

Four things you can do in thirty seven seconds to improve your life

Would you like to know four things you can do in 37 second to improve your life?

First, look at this picture of the waning Moon and take a deep breath. That’s seven seconds.

Next, take another deep breath and resolve that you are going to finally start feeding your body the nutrition it needs to survive. Truly accept what you already know, that food is medicine and what you eat is the foundation of your health and well being. It might take a little while to identify all the changes you want to make, but you can affirm the importance of it and start walking the right path in the span of a single breath. That’s ten seconds more.

Third, you can commit to ridding yourself of toxic relationships. Are there people in your life who always provoke drama, make you feel guilty or like you should have done more, or fail to honor commitments and show up on time? Resolve to evaluate your relationship based on how they actually make you feel. Spend more time and energy where they feel good and less where they feel bad. Guilt is not a reason to do anything.

Fourth take another deep breath. Hold it one moment, and on the exhale give up smoking tobacco and drinking alcohol. There are so many people out there talking about how hard it is to beat addiction. That it can take years of effort to give up addictions, and that you have to go to long twelve step programs and stay in them the rest of your life. That’s simply not true. You can just not smoke or drink anymore, starting…. RIGHT NOW.

So that was 37 seconds, which is what I read in this article from The Art of Blogging is the amount of time an average reader spends scanning a blog post. When I started to read this very insightful article, I resisted. I thought, I don’t want to write articles for people that only have 37 seconds of attention! That’s the attention span of a gnat! But then I realized that I often spend 37 seconds or less on a post, unless it catches my attention. When it does catch my attention, I read the whole thing. So maybe that happened to you.

So these are three topics that can really make a difference fast, and if you have read this far, maybe it’s because you want to read more. Back in about 1997 I found myself tipping the scale at my lifetime maximum weight of 213 pounds. I was comfortable in size 38 pants. I followed the advice popular at the time, which was “don’t count calories, count grams of fat.” The rage was low or zero fat, so you could eat as much sugar as you wanted. I actually went on the “Slim Fast” diet, which were chocolate drinks in a can with some supplements. The number one ingredient on the can (I confirmed) is sugar. And so I starved myself slowly losing weight.

My father was also losing weight at the time, and he introduced me to a book called Protein Power. This was 1998. I read it cover to cover, and it was full of hard science about the impact of sugars and processed starches on our metabolic system. Basically, the Slim Fast type of diet provoked a massive insulin response, and insulin causes your body to turn sugar into fat and then store the fat in your fat cells. To lose weight under this regimen, you literally have to starve yourself one calorie at a time. And so was born the American obesity epidemic.

I followed the advice for a diet of limited carbohydrates and lots of protein, and the weight just fell off me effortlessly. By 2000 I weighed 172 pounds. Now, 22 years later, I weight 168. I have studied diet and nutrition on my own for the twenty years in between, and the best way I can think of it comes from the Paleo diet movement. This is so easy to follow because you basically only eat things that look like food looks in the wild. You can eat whatever you find in the produce section and around the edges of the grocery store. Pretty much anything with no ingredients… whole foods are their only ingredient. Fish is just fish. Broccoli is just broccoli. If you follow this diet, then you body will naturally return to a healthy state, and then your own appetite will tell you when and how much to eat.

Imagine that! Your own appetite will tell you what to eat. It seems so strange because we are so controlled now days by terrible cravings that come from addictions to food additives and processes that our body simply never learned how to handle. Starches like crackers or breads break down into pure glucose in seconds. These kinds of foods simply were not available to our ancestors. So really all you have to do is make a mental shift, an upgrade in your consciousness, and all the sudden your body will start working for you and you will start feeling better now.

Second is toxic relationships. I have a friend who was always going to therapy with his girlfriend. They were always working on their relationship. Because relationships take work right? Well sure they take some work. I’m very happily married and have been for 9 years (I was previously married for 21 years), and sure we take very good care of our relationship, and this positive effort could be called work. But let’s be really clear. For it to be a good relationship, it has to be at least 80% good. That means 80% of your interactions are naturally positive and joyful, and 20% give opportunities for “work” and improvement. But if you are always trying to “work” on things with a boss, or a lover, or a friend or a relative, and you are never really happy with that relationship, then PUNT!

A good test is notice how you feel when they phone rings, or when someone texts your or calls out to you, or when you see them. Does your skin crawl? Do you wish you could dodge the call but answer it anyway because you feel guilty? Your life is made up of the moments of life all strung together. Don’t waste them in relationships that make you feel bad inside. They might tell you that you deserve to feel bad because you don’t behave as you should. Well maybe you don’t behave as THEY want you to behave. But if you want to be happy, hang out with your kind of monkeys. Hang out with people who you actually enjoy being with, not those who make you feel bad.

This is especially true in romantic relationships, which we often hold onto even when they don’t serve. If such a relationship makes you feel angst and dream of freedom, then recognize this truth and hit the road. I can refer those of you from a younger generation to a very helpful manual contained in a song called “Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover”. Slip out the back Jack!

And next, cigarettes and alcohol. I know nobody wants to talk about alcohol because it’s the only mind altering drug approved by our society. It is because it actually just dulls your consciousness and lets you cope with the pain of living a messed up life. Alcohol numbs the pain of existence, and makes things that are not fun, seem like fun. Try it. Go to a bar in Milwaukee and don’t drink. I tried this after I quit drinking. Sitting at a smoke filled bar in the afternoon while you don’t drink really sucks. Drinking is not the answer. Go do something actually fun.

And further, if you want to alter your consciousness, which is a basic human right that has been practiced for thousands of years, there are so many better ways to do it than alcohol. There are consciousness expanding plant medicines that work a lot better, and they don’t wreck your life.

Same story with nicotine. It’s actually very very easy to quit smoking. I did it this way. One day I spat up a glob of black mucus and thought oh my god, my lungs. I resolved not to smoke anymore. That was January of 2011, and I haven’t had nicotine since. The cravings peak at about five or six days. If you can make it over that hump, then simply resolve never to smoke anymore. Beware of lapses at 7 minutes, 7 hours, 7 days, 7 weeks, 7 months and 7 years.

And back up to the top. Enjoy the moon. Go outside and look at Jupiter in the evening and see Venus when it starts to rise in the morning sky now that it has transited the sun. We get such a spectacle every night if we just look at it. The firmament is the universal treasure.

I hope you enjoyed if you made it this far.

Peace.