Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Lessons from the Dying


Dead? Part of my consciousness resisted the notion even though I was moving fast beyond the hunch that it was possible. I remained stuck in space, waffling over what to do. The light continued to draw me to it, not in a demanding way but like a gentle invitation.
“There is as much time as you need,” the voice said with such compassion that I felt completely at ease, which resulted in an outpour of emotion. I didn’t want to cry but there was no resisting. The emotions flowed from me like water from a busted dam as the realization hit home that everything I had known was now in the past, forever separated. The voice reassured me as it said, “Many souls encounter what you’re feeling now.”
I continued to sob, still wanting to hold back but knowing that wasn’t possible. The emotions were set free in a way I had never experienced, slowly morphing into a sound I’d never made before. It was no longer a weeping of only sadness but a release of fear, frustration and resentment mixed with relief, joy, even love. The sounds of all emotions combined into a melody of pure expression. Then they passed and left me as quickly as they had come.
I settled into a peaceful acceptance. I relaxed and focused more clearly on the light source, allowing the brilliant yet soft glow to draw me in.
At last I said, “I’m okay.”
“You are.”
The final thing I said before joining the light was, “I’m surprised I hadn’t thought about this more.”
***
Most of us don’t think much about our mortality. We don’t wake up and wonder if today might be our last. Instead we think about the things on our schedule and in the days ahead. But some people do go through their day occasionally wondering, will I die today? It’s hard for the rest of us to imagine what that must be like.
There are many people who are close to their dying days and conscious of it. Usually we think of the elderly, but this also includes children and younger adults, anyone with a condition that is ending their lifetime imminently. Whether you spend time with people who know they are experiencing final days, or if you research them and read books by hospice workers, it should be noted how often their recommendations and reflections on life contain similar themes. The consistency of their advice should be taken to heart like pearls of wisdom.
What are some lessons from the dying elderly? People who have lived full lives and are winding down typically say things like this:
  • Do what you love.
  • Life is short; appreciate the time you have.
  • Don’t work too hard or worry so much about money.
  • Relationships are everything. Make time for family and friends. Give love.
  • Be honest.
  • Forgive everyone. Forgive yourself.
  • If you owe someone an apology, give it.
  • Be happy.
It’s not surprising that many children and younger adults with life-threatening illnesses speak about similar themes:
  • Be yourself and let others be who they are.
  • Be grateful for your blessings.
  • Time is precious.
  • People matter.
  • Follow your dreams.
Hospice care expert, Dr. Lani Leary Ph.D., has worked with hundreds of patients experiencing their final days. She has found dying people do not fear death; they are more concerned about emotional abandonment, not feeling connected to loved ones or not feeling valued. Dr. Leary says dying people want these things:
  • They want us to listen. Listen openly without judgment, assumptions or comparisons. Be comfortable with silence too.
  • They want us to touch them. Dying people may feel self-conscious, even ugly or undesirable. Physical touch helps tremendously whether it’s holding their hands, embracing them or gently brushing their hair.
  • They want our love and permission to let go, that they may leave this lifetime without feeling like they quit on us, failed us somehow or abandoned us (Leary, 2011).
When you take the advice of those about to pass on and combine that with their final requests from us, it becomes a pretty good recipe for wise living. Imagine if more people in the world:
     Better You, Better Me by Jason Matthews
  • Listened without judging and let people be who they want to be.
  • Touched each other more openly, in a caring way meant to appreciate the other person.
  • Focused on improving relationships, cultivating happiness along with forgiveness for everyone.
This is easier said than done, but wouldn’t the world be a better place if more of us had this philosophy? I knew I needed to improve in these areas, which were among my first focal points in being a better version of me. The focus on the bigger picture is an ever-present theme. We’ll discuss these concepts and others throughout the chapters of this book. We’ll also cover ways to remember and apply the concepts, which have remarkable results.

This book is available at Amazon.

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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A Slightly Better You



I watched my own body as it lay motionless beneath me. I hovered near the ceiling, marveling at how genuine the experience felt. It was real yet completely surreal, examining my lifeless figure on display. While hovering there, the first inklings came that I may have died.
A sense of detachment already existed, knowing it was my body but it wasn’t me. It didn’t define “me” anymore; it had just been my container and “I” was something else. An impulse compelled me to leave the body behind and move toward a light source above that was beckoning me to join it. I can’t explain how it was beckoning me but I sensed it was. As I began floating toward the light, a stubborn resistance held me back, and I remained suspended in the air for what seemed like a very long time.
“You’re safe,” a voice said. It came from the light and had a wavy resonance, like a sound made under water, making it hard to tell if the speaker was male or female.
“I am?” I heard myself reply but couldn’t sense much else except for my mind trying to determine if I was dreaming or experiencing an altered state of consciousness. The first impressions were no familiarity yet a strange feeling of relief.
“Life as you knew it has run its course.”
For some reason, I sensed it was true. The motionless body beneath me confirmed it. My life had ended—it was just over. After a moment to digest the concept, I responded with one word. “Wow.”
***
Imagine something like this is happening. You realize you’ve passed away and it’s a little overwhelming. This is a hypothetical discussion today, but we all know it will happen. It has to happen eventually. Thinking about death isn’t much fun, but it can change your life as it did with mine.
Even if it feels uncomfortable, take a moment to seriously imagine your life has just ended. Perhaps the end came when you were hit by a bus; maybe you drifted off in sleep at a ripe old age; maybe it happened another way. We can leave those details to you and also which version of an afterlife you experience, but for this hypothetical postmortem scenario it needs to be a conscious afterlife, not a total end of existence. Whether you are with a heavenly figure, or bathed in a brilliant light or surrounded by previously departed family and friends, simply imagine you have died and your consciousness is still intact.
Now think about this next concept, one which many survivors of near-death experiences have reported happening to them. During this afterlife, what if you were given the opportunity to reflect on your lifetime? What if you were shown events from your life, like being a witness to it, where choices were made and actions were taken or not taken? How might that make you feel?

Reflections on Your Life

If this were to happen, it seems likely the amount of money you made wouldn’t be the biggest concern. Perhaps how you interacted with family and friends would be. Was I a loving spouse, a responsible parent or even a good friend? Maybe it would be how well you took care of your body. Did I exercise enough and eat well? Did I listen to my body when it gave me signs? Perhaps you’d reflect on choices at crossroads and whether or not you chose wisely. Did I accept that opportunity presented to me? Did I take any risks, or did I act too impulsively? Maybe it would be something else, like allowing a dream or ambition to wither and fade away. Did I follow my heart? Did I give my dream a chance? Regardless of the main focus during your life-review, there might be one nagging thought, a thought I would also have because hindsight is always clearer.
I could have done better.
It’s not easy to think about. This thought brought me to tears when I truly contemplated how I could have loved my family members better or how I could have achieved my goals in life better. Perhaps you feel the same way or can sympathize. When evaluating our past choices in a hypothetical afterlife there is no winning or losing, just an interpretation of what we did and how it makes us feel.
Maybe this won’t happen to you but maybe it will. If you research enough people who have had near-death experiences, you’ll find this pattern repeating (Near Death Experience Research Foundation, 1999).
I could have done better.
The thought even makes me angry. Nobody is perfect. Nobody’s close to perfect so we always could have done better. I understand that and you do too. Let’s not get stuck there, even though it is true.
Instead think of it this way: if there will be a life-review, wouldn’t you appreciate knowing about it beforehand so you can make more effort to be better while still alive? I believe most people would, just as they’d prefer to proudly watch their better version during the hypothetical life-review.
It’s not a stretch then to make a case that this should be a focus of more people’s lives, to be a better version of themselves or even a slightly better version during the time we have left. Slightly better is a smart short-term goal. After all, nobody should expect an Ebenezer Scrooge transformation where you go from being a tyrant to a saint in one wild night.
What do you think—are you willing to give it a try? I hope you will because you’ll be joining me in something that has transformed my life. If you decide to try it, there’s no time like the present. Whether there’s a life-review or not, you probably agree that a better version of you sounds like a fine idea. I hope you are curious enough to keep reading because this book can bring about wonderful life changes.

A New Focus

Better You, Better Me. This concept has become a priority in my life. I went through the hypothetical discussion in a very real way and didn’t like what I saw. At that time I couldn’t bear the thought of my accumulated experiences being my final legacy since there was still so much more I wanted to do and fix, or at least try to do and fix. Whether or not the life-review happens, I’m going to work on being better. It’s good for me and everyone around me. Today, tomorrow, next week and so on I plan to maintain a calm focus, not an obsession, but a calm focus on personal development. Perhaps it’s the greatest thing I can focus on.
Today I will be a slightly better version of me.
This mantra enveloped me once I adopted it. Why write a book about the focus? Because I’ve experienced profound changes and felt compelled to share. The changes began to happen soon after adopting the focus. My attitude became more positive. My reasoning grew clearer. My body got healthier. Relationships felt more meaningful. Work and finances finally started to turn around. Everything in life improved as a result. The daily focus caused dramatic experiences to occur fairly quickly and spread out to each area of my life. I know it can for you too.
If you decide to adopt this mantra and focus on becoming a better version of you with occasional reminders each day, amazing things will happen. It’s not a secret or a gimmick; it’s a set of practices that works when applied. Please continue reading and find out if the ideas within this book work for you too. I can promise this much—it will be worth the small effort.
May I ask a favor? Please read this next question out loud:
“Can I be a slightly better version of me?”
I assume the answer is yes. Did it feel good saying it or make you smile? Now try saying the next sentence out loud with genuine interest:
“How can I be a slightly better me?”
This is where it gets interesting. The responses are different for everyone, even if the answers aren’t readily apparent but are percolating as subconscious blips. When you sincerely ask how you can be better, something within you perks up at the mere question. Maybe you have solid answers already in mind, or maybe you have a hunch of things to come. I hope both are true, because all of that is where we’re heading.
“What can I do to be a slightly better me?”
Simply asking questions like these is a remarkable experience of introspection. It’s shifting from a state of passively wishing for a better life to actively seeking solutions. This is how the transformations in my life occurred. The questions alone inspire greater things that are already within us and waiting to emerge. But hang on; this is a lot more than merely saying a few magic words. This is also living those words, mentally and physically applying them, even when taking baby steps toward the better you.
***

Key Concepts

  • Begin by describing yourself as The New Me. This book is going to talk about you changing for the better; therefore The New Me begins to exist as soon as you start altering the old one. Besides, it feels good. I think you’ll find it a refreshing way to think about yourself.
  •  Better Me and The New Me are powerful daily focuses or mantras.
  • It helps to write it down: How can I be a slightly better me? If it’s in a few places as a daily reminder, it’s easier to keep the focus.
You can use my examples or come up with your own specifics, but phrase them audibly and as questions.

Questions to Focus on Better Me

  • “What can I do to be happier?”
  • “How can I treat my body better?”
  • “What can I do to be better at my job?”
  • “How can I be a better parent?”
  • “What can I do to be a better lover?”
  • “How can I be a slightly better golfer?”
  • “How can I be a slightly better me?”
 Better You Better MeI know this is redundant, but write this one down or write down a few versions because if you don’t have the daily reminder, it’s easy to forget. Then ask the questions out loud to yourself. Phrasing them as questions gets your mind’s creative juices flowing, even at the subconscious level. The answers are often already inside you or within your grasp; questions help to reveal those answers and get results. We’ll discuss this in greater detail in the Affirmations, I AM and Asking Questions chapter.
This daily reminder, which I refer to as the focus, is the cornerstone for positive life change. It helps me to have a few versions of these little notes in places where I’ll see them throughout the day: one in my wallet, a wrinkly one in my pocket and one taped to the laptop. It enables everything else to follow. You might be surprised how soon positive changes will materialize.
Although it’s important to remember any meaningful transformation takes time and persistence to become a permanent part of you. The book is not long, but it contains a lot to think about and incorporate into your life. For that reason it isn’t meant to be read entirely in one sitting. I recommend reading it one or two chapters at a time, or one part at a time, and allowing those concepts to soak in. See if they have a similar influence on your life as they did on mine.
“How can I be a slightly better me?”
 
 This book is available at Amazon.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Prosperity Better Focus than Money


Prosperity or money, which would you choose?
Money, that’s what I want!
The title of the famous song above was written by Berry Gordy and Janie Bradford in 1959, first performed by Barrett Strong (*named misspelled on album to the left, song possibly co-written by Strong, see mention at end of post*). The catchy tune was later performed by The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Kingsmen, The Doors, Led Zeppelin, Stevie Wonder, The Supremes, Jerry Lee Lewis, Cheap Trick, Johnny Lee Hooker, The Flying Lizards, Bruno Mars, David Gray and a multitude of other bands.
What makes this song so popular with artists that don’t need to play covers? One reason is because the lyrics speak to a great paradox that perplexes people when they think about what they really want. Here are some of the lyrics from the original performer, Barrett Strong:
The best things in life are free
But you can give them to the birds and bees
I need money
That’s what I want
Your love gives me such a thrill
But your love don’t pay my bills
I need money
That’s what I want
Let’s get this straight—the best things in life, even thrilling love, are free—but the singer would rather have money? Some might say the words are meant partly in jest but based on the song's popularity, especially as a cover for other bands, there appears to be genuine intent behind the lyrics. The brash statements fly in the face of philosophical teachings from religions around the world like this below, which is one of my favorites:

  • Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. - Lao Tzu (Taoism)
This also gets into the difference between charity and empowerment. Giving a man a fish is like giving him money for one meal. Teaching him to fish is giving him a chance at prosperity and eating well for life.
For some reason, most people are hooked on the thought that they need more money. What’s the cause? Is it a fear of poverty, or keeping up with the Joneses, or buying into a common belief that success equals extravagance? It’s easy to fall into those mindsets; people want money and lots of it in order to feel secure and live a carefree lifestyle with plenty of toys. But do you really think that’s the way it works—that simply having money will solve your problems? Of course it doesn’t work that way.
Simply wanting or needing more money will not help it materialize. It's like putting the cart before the horse. Taking care of the business that is before you in the present time is your work in life, whatever that might be. That business before you now is the metaphorical horse; the rewards that follow are the cart. Those rewards may include satisfaction, higher self-value, recognition from others, increased opportunities and also more money. This is how prosperity works, by doing what you do well and continuing from there.
Let’s step back to money for a moment. Think of the main ways you could acquire large amounts of money:
  • receive it as a gift
  • get inheritance from a relative’s death
  • win a lottery or prize drawing
  •  steal it from another (please don’t)
  • be awarded money in court
  • earn it through your own actions
Notice how the final one on the list, earn it through your own actions, is the one that would bring by far the most personal pride while also creating opportunity for more money in the future. Even though good things can come with money no matter how it’s acquired, earning it would make you the happiest and be in your best interest.
Prosperity is closely related to life purpose. Prosperity comes from doing everything you do as well as you can. It transforms from actions into accomplishment, recognition, expansion, opportunity and also accumulation of wealth. With prosperity, there is an element of:
  • goodness, benefits and well-being
  •  personal growth
  •  improvement and victory
  • rewards on many levels
  • increased opportunities in the future
If you watch interviews with athletes who win major competitions, they never say “I just focused on having that trophy.” They say they focused on performing well in all aspects of their game. In the same way an award-winning actress doesn’t solely practice giving an award speech someday; she practices reading her lines and playing the role as well as she can. The trophy and award’s speech are akin to money; they are by-products of doing other things well.
This is what prosperity is about, taking positive actions in the here and now. It’s a state of mind and a state of physical being. Prosperity is about your unique work and responsibilities, your destiny, personal growth and expansion.
https://flic.kr/p/2qf1i
There’s no need to focus on money. In fact, it may be a hindrance if you solely think about money and your perceived lack of it. Instead, if you concentrate on prosperity (achievement, growth, benefit) and do your present work well, the money should come as a result.
How can you attract more prosperity? To begin, limit any negatives in your thoughts or speech that have to do with needing money, which is a lack mentality. Have faith that your needs will be met even if it’s not in the way your ego would ask for it, like a million dollars materializing in your lap. Next, think and speak about the role prosperity can play in your life. Here are some thoughts that will spur your creative juices for more prosperity:
Will I recognize the opportunities that come my way?
Will I act upon those opportunities?
How can I do my work better?
What am I grateful for here and now?
Will I remember to limit negatives in thought and speech?
It’s interesting how many songs exist about money. These are just a few: Money For Nothing (Dire Straits), Money (Pink Floyd), Take the Money and Run (Steve Miller Band), Money, Money (Liza Minelli), Moneytalks (ACDC), For the Love of Money (The O’Jays) and The Big Money (Rush).
How many songs are there about prosperity? Clearly not enough.
*The first singer of the famous song, Money (That’s What I Want), was Barrett Strong. In an ironic twist of fate that resembles self-fulfilling prophesy, Strong’s name was removed from the original song-writing credits denying him a share of royalties from a hit that would have made him wealthy. Read more about it in this NY Times article.
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