SZEN ZONE
Reaching a State of Positive Change

Depending on the mood and the inspiration of the day, the stories you find here cover the gambit from interesting to profound. Hopefully you will feel the pleasure I get from sharing with you every week. The general overarching theme has been on change and all of the aspects of it. Creating change, surviving change and managing change with the goal of recognizing the power we have to become what we choose, both when we’re in control and how to deal with it when we’re not.

Started this in September of 2006 and after 400 stories or so I’ve observed how change can come right at you and in an instant move your world and also that some changes seem to take forever. The later for me has been getting the Second Book of Szen finished. The writing was easy, but all of the editing and organizing has taken some time. That said, there is no Second Book of Szen. The title changed along the way to the Szen Zone.

I’d like to add you to the book. If you have a comment or observation in general or on any particular story, let me know and we’ll add it to the reviews. Time is running out. This is the last phase before publishing. Thanks for all of your kind words over the years. It’s kept me enthused and helped turn my Sunday afternoons into something special. Here’s a recap:

Book of SZEN – When I’m not sure of the category
Szenabling File – Feeling like giving some advice
Szen Short – Usually fiction
Szenippets – My starting point
Now & Szen – Memories recast
Common Szense – Something I need more of
Biszeness – Sharing my day job
60 Word Szen Story – Stories as a set up
The Szend of the Story – Not there yet

Szenippet: If I told you that change would be easy, you may not believe me. But if I said that it’s possible, you would cast your doubt aside. Once we see “it”, we can be “it.”

Hero of the Days

A Sixty-Word SZEN Story:

Just one more chapter and Bret would be finished. The story was reaching its climax. The villain had the upper hand, and our hero was enmeshed in delays and doubt. Would he be able to save the day, and rescue his love in time? Well maybe, yes eventually the hero would win, but not now, Bret had emails to answer.

And more…

Good intentions and clear thinking on how to achieve the end result is great. We have to have a view of the end game. We have to know exactly what we seek. We have to know, like Bret, what the ending will be, and the fate of our hero. We have to be able to see around the bend and mostly we have to be committed to the outcome. Then what? Yep that’s right. We have to act.

Like standing on the edge of a diving board, we stop to measure the impact of our actions and pause. So many times, good intentions are overridden by delays, distractions and doubt. We might have the vision thing all aligned, and even a plan to achieve it, yet often it just doesn’t happen. The reason is we’re afraid to move, to change. Change takes some getting used to and can disrupt a perfectly nice comfort zone. So rather than act, we wait for a sign, or the perfect time, or even permission to make our move. And while we’re waiting, there are emails to answer, texts to respond to and that favorite TV show that’s about to air. There are about a zillion more things that call to us to get done, that steal our attention away from what we seek.

The sum of all of those distractions we face everyday costs us our time and eventually if we don’t act somehow, the dream fades, buried by responsibilities and the shuffling of events all designed to maintain the status quo; yes designed. We feather our own nests and prepare our own bed to sleep in. We, no one else, are telling us what to do. We have our own attention and direct it accordingly. We design the space and we move in. We replace our vision for a better, more exciting, life with familiar, repetitive and predictable routine. We get stuck and too comfortable.

Why this happens is the subject of the human condition and our need to join in, be welcomed, somehow belong, and wait our turn. And with that kind of thinking, waiting seems appropriate and so we rationalize that “what is” is okay and our elusive vision of “what if” will somehow happen eventually. The problem with “eventually” is it’s out of our control and we think we need control to change. Not true. Change by its very nature takes away control and sets in motion the disruptive, status quo shattering notion that anything is possible. It’s ignited by action. Any step we take out of the comfort zone, past the daily disruptions and distractions of our current life creates the framework for our new life – A life where it’s our turn to be the hero and not just save the day, but all of the days from now.

Szenippet: The status quo is often the most comfortable place on earth. And when we visit there too long we close the door to the hero within and our own greatness.

June in the Room

A Sixty-Word SZEN Story:

“What are you staring at Riley?” The question broke the silence and the wave of calm that Riley was feeling. He was looking out the window of the 3rd floor of the school library, fixated on summer vacation and the sheer joy of leaving all of the books that now surrounded him. “Nothing much,” he said. “Just contemplating my options.”

And more…

Sometimes the season on the outside is in alignment with our own personal season inside. The weather calls and the heart responds. With summer just around the corner, change is in the air calling for a break in the action for anybody that has the time and disposition to take advantage of the age-old concept of “vacation.” It’s billed as the yearly, relaxing break from the routine. It can be a time for rejuvenation, exploration or self-discovery and sometimes all three.

We’re not sure where Riley’s mind has taken him, but it’s probably not anyplace close, literally or figuratively, to where he is now. Vacations tend to take us away because it’s the distance that provides the all-important perspective. Away from home we see things differently. Away from routine we see change. Away from commitment we see opportunity.

What about this June? It’s a good bet that the concept of vacation and summer has already arrived in whatever room we’re in right now. It’s probably visited that room in our minds many times before the date actually arrived. So what are we waiting for? Let’s take advantage of the season and our disposition, like Riley, to explore the options.

In order to determine which option is right for us, we simply play it out in our mind and if it generates a broad relaxing smile simply thinking about it, that’s the one. May your reality surpass your dream.

Szenippet: We really don’t take time off on vacation; we simply reapply the time we have to something we want to do, not have to do.

Dealing With Defeat

A Sixty-Word SZEN Story:

The horn sounded and the referees blew the whistle indicating that the game was over. No more time. No more chances. No more hope. Done, finis, complete, unchangeable; the end. Arthur picked up his sweater and headed to the exit door along with the thousands of other disappointed fans. Their team had failed them and it hurt… Maybe next season.

And more…

Whenever defeat greets us, we have a chance to determine its ultimate impact on our psyche and decide what should happen next. Sometimes, in a moment, we know the answer and just as often we struggle with our options moving forward. Erasing the mark of defeat, be it a bad grade, a failed course, a lost client, or a broken relationship we are presented with options. Positive or negative, short term or long, the moment after a loss typically allows us to process a response. In that processing moment we get to choose our view of the world moving forward. This act of choosing our next disposition is one of the greatest gifts we all possess. In one simple, and sometimes elegant transformation we can emerge from defeat with a new sense of purpose and destiny, free to engage what’s next.

Leaving a loss behind is like shedding an anchor. It frees us to navigate new waters and new destinations. It opens our minds and eyes to new vistas and opportunities. A loss is often the propellant we need to see real gain and growth. The key is in how quickly we shed the weight of disappointment. Disappointment, if allowed to linger, is often the nadir that follows a defeat and that traps us in ennui and a sort of listless inertia. It’s a thick and debilitating time, that if not managed, will occupy our mindset and slow our heart’s next journey to what could be the flip side of defeat: victory.

Dealing with defeat, like Arthur in our story requires a true and sometimes elusive sense of hope. “Maybe next season,” is hope’s internalized metaphor for whatever we face and it can create a fire that negates defeat and fuels the win we seek, leaving disappointment behind and filling us with a sense of “I can do this.”

Szenippet: Defeat is an event and a catalyst for victory. Every loss has a corresponding gain and every doubt seeks an act of faith.

Encouragement

 

A Sixty-Word SZEN Story:

 

“Come on Emma, you can do it!” The reluctant toddler repeatedly fell back on her rump without a whimper. Dad was filming the event, hoping her first step would be forthcoming and cheerleading every small advance. After a while Emma resumed the crawling position. Oh well thought Dad, not today. Later with the camera off, Emma walked into the room.

 

And more…

 

To encourage someone is to inspire them with the confidence they need to succeed. It’s not giving them the tool sets, or the training, or the talent, it’s giving someone the elusive something they do not possess, the internal courage to believe they can achieve.

 

Encouragement has no shelf life. A kind word, a pat on the back, a good grade on a test or a smile can take hold years later when the student is ready. Encouragement is a gift that anyone can give and everyone can use. It is, in its purest form, one of the most loving and useful powers we humans possess. We all can, anytime or anywhere offer the assistance or approval that another may need to take appropriate action. That action is most often a resolve to try, and embedded in the effort, like Emma’s first steps, is the magic that encouragement ignites.

 

All of us can remember the power of encouragement in our life and often years later point to an event, and a person that helped get us going in the right direction by imparting a “yes we can” resolve. Teachers, bosses, friends, siblings and parents are often sought out years later and thanked for believing and demonstrating a faith, that at the time, we couldn’t recognize for its power to transform. With time however, we all come to remember those moments and even the years, when someone who loved us, never waivered in their belief that we could become exactly what we wanted to be. Thanks Mom.

 

Szenippet: A single word of encouragement has the power to erase doubt, instill confidence and change someone’s world. And we can give it for free.

The Challenge of Change

 

A Sixty-Word SZEN Story:

 

His Dad was driving a bit slower now, barely moving down the street, craning his neck to see, certain he was in the right place. After three trips around the block, his son asked him if they should stop and ask for help. “No,” said his Father, “I know it’s around here somewhere.” “You sure Dad?” “It’s been a while.”

 

And more…

 

I think we’ve all been in a place that seemed familiar and we were sure we could find it again. We hesitate to ask for help because it may be right in front of us and that would be embarrassing or worse yet, the shop, or the store or bar or whatever that saw us enter its doors so many times before is just gone. Gone from the place we recall and gone from the greater reality of life – things move, they die, they go away and what was, is now changed.

 

The challenge with so much of change is that it happens and we’re completely unawares. And with the absence of knowledge of whatever changed we continue to act as if all is working fine; things are just as they were and acting according to the established status quo. The status quo of the mind however is often lacking huge pieces of reality, either because: 1. We just couldn’t possibly know something, or 2. We could possibly know something has changed, yet we just choose to pretend it hasn’t and sometimes we fight and ignore the change we see coming right at us. Think of Kodak selling film, ignoring the mass adoption of the digital camera.

 

So in the #1 example, like Dad looking for a place he remembers that is no longer there, we discover that time has taken a toll on our memories and shifted the present. In the 2nd example, we simple shut out change. The expression that “I never really saw it coming” is really an expression of “I wasn’t looking.” Or better said, “I don’t want to know.”

 

We get to decide what we let in or not. And many people live very happy lives by ignoring the signs of change or anything that might disrupt their version of the world. It works, but it is out of sync with the bigger reality and the issue with the bigger reality is that it ultimately trumps everything. This leads to a convenient adage of sorts and a mantra that I’ve found useful: “Change your thinking, change your world.” And just as true is that if we change our world, our environment, relationships etc. it will change our thinking as well.

 

The ending of the story above is that Dad was right; the place was a couple of blocks away. Go figure.

 

Szenippet: Life is like taking a course on dealing with change. We study but we’re never totally ready. The point is that we never will be because we too often wake up and forget the simplest premise: It’s a new day.

Open for Business

I’ve been lucky enough to know quite a few business owners – People who started something, some small and some large, that became a real on going business that gave them income and pleasure. I’ve started a few myself with varying degrees of success in traditional terms like market dominance and positive cash flow and profits, but they always had a high degree of personal satisfaction. For many entrepreneurs there is no substitute for ownership, and being one’s own boss.

Being the boss means you get to set the hours you work, the vacation time you spend, the clients you seek and keep and the overall quality of life. Most new start-ups learn pretty quickly that the hours are 24/7, there is no vacation, you’ll take the clients you can get and keep them all if you can and the quality of life often comes down to a word or comment about a job well done. Being the boss means there is no one else to blame for whatever happens: the good and the bad. That ultimate control component turns out to be the biggest motivator and the barometer for gauging and achieving success. Control lets you fail and succeed at will. So why take a chance and do it at all?

People do it because they are driven by something inside that tells them that they were destined to lead, destined to be a player and destined to realize their dreams. Anytime I’m asked by anyone that is thinking about starting their own business I remind them that there is no safety net, guarantee and rarely a second chance. Most new ventures fail. And they fail within the first year or so. But for those that make it to year two or three and beyond, the future can be hopeful and they tend to share a common trait: confidence, and it’s often mistaken for stubbornness and even foolishness.

Confidence, self-assuredness, will power and often, good luck is what makes a business go. The good luck will usually arrive the moment the decision is made to try and often will remain a constant companion for the business owner that stays true to their course. There is something about striving for a dream that creates serial entrepreneurs and women and men on missions to prove that they can do it.

I’m here to tell you that you can do it too and here’s what you need to get started:

A Vision – What and how do you see for yourself and for the people your business serves? Understanding the relationship between what you can bring and what is needed is the critical key. All visions come to fruition when they serve the customer first.

A Support Team – Family, friends and even investors need to see what you see so they can help. They may help with investments, contacts, loans or even prayers. Whatever they want to give to help the cause is HUGE. It means they believe too.

A Chance – The best ideas need a place to germinate and take hold before they blossom. Whatever your idea might be, there has to be a place or a situation where you can test it and nurture it and prove its success. This could be a client that follows you, an inheritance that buys you time, or a loved one that believes that you’re the hero no matter what happens.

Yes it’s a leap, but mostly one of faith. If you believe it. If you see it, and want it enough, it has no choice but to come true. If you need a cheerleader, let me know. Good luck.

Gary

Szenippet: Being open to the possibilities means opportunity will knock until you listen. And options will never fade.

 

 

One resolution that lasts forever… We all know when we’re at our best and we all know when we’re not. We are the only ones that know when we try our best and we are the only ones to know when we secretly give up. There is a you inside of you that is stronger and wiser and more forgiving and generous and patient and it is waiting for you to turn the key to activate it. It waits for you to be ready and it knows that you know you can do better. It knows that you have more to give. It knows that you sometimes just go through the motions. This inside being is the essence of all of the talents and gifts that God gave you. You have all of the software to achieve absolute greatness and the blessings of all of those that you love and love you. The better, greater you awaits and now is the time.

My wish for this next year is to get beyond the transient resolutions of not eating too much or eliminating some bad habits to uncork the power you have always had to make a difference but maybe were afraid to use. Now is the time and you have never been more ready to seek your higher self. I pray you find the strength to let it fly; after all, it’s why you’re here. Happy holidays and all days – may they never be the same again.

Something New to Believe In
From the Szenabling file:
The past is gone and we have records and data and examples and pictures and files plus years and years of memory to show us, remind us and illuminate us on the power of the past to hold us up in the present. What I mean is that our dreams and goals for the future can often be thwarted because we are fighting our own history. We wrongly assume that whatever is going to happen next is based on what we know has already happened before, because that’s all we know about how to make things happen. And when this is the truth we live by, we will and we do repeat the patterns and the practices from the past and then wonder why things stay the same.

Our essential change-making toolbox is our belief system. And thus only new beliefs create change. If we rely on beliefs from back then, and try to apply them to the up and coming we’ll get stopped in our change-making tracks. If we’re not growing or moving into the space and direction we seek, it’s because we don’t believe we can, or should, or deserve to achieve it. If we look inside and check under the hood of our psyche we’ll probably find some limiting beliefs that are holding us back.

These limiting beliefs are tough customers. They have staked a claim on our thinking and they will dig in and fight. They are content with the consistency of our life and predictable patterns and any change is to be avoided, especially change that would unseat them and strip them of their power. But we must try and regain the power and the freedom we were given when we arrived. We need to organize a belief coup. Here’s what we’ll need: Courage, conviction, and consistency.

Courage: Courage is not the absence of fear but the ability to work through it and overcome it. Fear is what holds those old limiting beliefs together. There are just a few ways to attack our beliefs and one way is to simply dismantle it; that is to explore why we believe something and ask our self, does this serve us anymore? If not, let it go and we can either change the importance of that old belief and push it down in significance or better yet, replace it with a brand new belief; One that mirrors our future view of life and how we want to see it unfold.

Conviction: Conviction is a firmly held belief in a vision. It is the fuel that can ignite new thinking and create dreams that really come true. Conviction trumps most everything and it can only be catalyzed by a clear vision of how we ultimately see ourselves.

Consistency: To establish new patterns we have to get our brain to make new connections. By repeating thoughts that support our conviction, the brain will fire new synapses and allow neurons to form new links and thought patterns. Repetitious thinking to change future events based on new beliefs is like learning to juggle. At first we can’t do it, but with practice we eventually create the rote brain patterns we need to juggle life’s challenges.

If all of this seems too easy or too good to be true, it’s because we still don’t believe it. So here is a new belief to get us started: The real truth is that the old axiom of “I’ll believe it when I see it” is old thinking and needs to be replaced right now, this very second to “I’ll see it when I believe it.” Believe me now?

Today’s Szenippet: We are what we believe we are. So if we want to change, we need to get something new to believe.

In Stall Mode
How to leap frog what’s holding us back…

From the Szenabling File:

Life is not linear by nature, it is more holistic and tends to let us have contact with multiple aspects of time and space and other pieces of the world simultaneously, meaning that we really are never untouched by the moves and motions of all of those around us. We are connected and we can create and cause events and outcomes to happen and just as surely events and outcomes will happen to us.

What about the non-events? You know those things that were supposed to happen, that we need to happen and if they don’t happen, nothing else can happen kinds of things. It’s the stuff that is required before we can make a move or a plan or any change in our life. It’s the “once I get my new raise, I’ll be able to buy that _____(fill in the blank).” It’s the “I can’t commit to that plan until he/she approves the budget.” It’s the wedding date never gets set until “we’re really financially ready.” Non-events are self-imposed obstacles masked as milestones and they are as common to human nature as the cold.

Non-events stop events; that’s their power. When we think in linear terms as in this will net this, which begets that which creates whatever etc. we easily end up in a stall position because some link in the equation isn’t ready or able to happen just yet. And thus we wait. In a stall mode we give up control and lose precious time and if we’re not vigilant, we’ll miss opportunities for something different or even better than what we originally wanted in the first place. Being stalled is the worse kind of ennui. It is the nothingness and nether world of dreams on hold.

Feeling stalled? Here are some ideas to get moving again:

– Examine the plan. Are all of the links in the chain really necessary? Is there a way to eliminate one step and can we get there another way? By questioning our path we may begin to find a better way.

– Set the timer. Whatever we are waiting for should have a deadline. If we rethink the time we need, our impatience may help accelerate the process.

– Think like a dreamer. Rather than laying out a methodical approach, ask ourselves if we had a magic wand, what would we want to happen. Sometimes this is where a dream can truly be ignited because we shift our focus from the process to the goal.

Remember that the shortest distance to reaching our dream may not be a straight line. Smooth sailing…

Szenippet: The path to greatness has forks, alternatives and options. No direction will be as certain as the way our own internal compass will point.

A Sunday Short
FROM the SZEN NOIR file:

He walked into a bar on Hollywood Boulevard next to the Pantages Theatre where the theatre crowd liked to meet before ShowTime. The music was loud, playing Sweet Judy Blue Eyes and no one was paying attention. The bartender waved with recognition from the other end of the bar, but took his time getting close enough to hear him shout his order. “Shot of Vodka and a beer chaser!” It went down easy and he signaled for another. Glancing side to side he caught no eye contact, not even a glance his way. The place was packed and the conversations were just short of screams needed to break through the Crosby Stills and Nash classic. He remembered hearing it a lot in college and then like now, you couldn’t ever dance to it.

During the brief interlude between songs on the jukebox one could hear the cacophony of conversations and with no song to overcome, pieces of information escaped into the room and suddenly everyone could hear everyone else and the din subsided quickly. As if on cue, No Secrets by Carly Simon came blasting into the room and for those few paying attention like he was, it brought a smile for the coincidence and a chance to scan to see who else got the joke. She got it – the brunette standing with her girlfriends and sipping on some red wine. He held his gaze long enough to be embarrassed when she caught him looking. He dropped his eyes to his lap and then turned away.

He nursed his beer over the next few songs and debated whether he should turn around and face her. On one hand he thought that it was funny and he should just laugh it off, but on the other hand she caught him in a gawk, bordering on leer, mid way through checking her out from bottom to top. It was at the top that she stopped his stare and so he wasn’t sure how much she saw before or if she even cared to see any more. He was thinking that either way, the whole event was a solid “ice breaker” and he should do something, anything.

Before he could gulp down the last of the beer and make his move he felt a tap on his shoulder. It was she. He was frozen.
Like magic, the background noise and music stopped as the bartender announced that the show next door was beginning in ten minutes. “Time to pay up and get out if you don’t want to miss the show.” He shouted. Stymied by the shift in the room they both looked around searching for clues on what to do next. She reached into her purse and pulled out a business card and gave it to him. “Here ya go” she said and walked toward the door and as she walked out, others overran her wake and soon she was invisible, absorbed by the crowd, and out of his sight.

He just starred at the scene of the emptying bar for a minute or two. Then he looked down at the card. It was a ticket. “Check please!” he yelled and threw down some money and moved quickly toward the exit but not before he heard Ole Blue Eyes singing Strangers in the Night, which made him laugh as he felt his pace and pulse, begin to quicken.

Speak Your Peace

From the Szenabling File:

Getting something said that needs to be said for the sake of clarity, honesty, integrity etc. is the simplest of concepts for leading a blessed life. When we open up the communication channel we enable others to know us and we free ourselves from the burden of holding back. Holding back, meaning purposely not saying something that we feel, creates anxiety and stress and it serves no one. It only serves to diminish whatever connection could have/should have been.

Have you been afraid to say something (correcting a lie, explaining a hurt feeling, completing the whole story, or getting something off of your chest etc.) because you may hurt someone’s feelings? We all have, especially as parents we strive to be builders and resist speaking those things that we deem to be unimportant, or just not worth the outcome of pain we believe it could inflict. We hold it in and sometimes the need to speak passes and we feel vindicated for not speaking our piece. I have found this to be a rare occurrence.

More often than not, holding something in builds resentment until at some point later it explodes with the force of all of the pent up opportunities for clearing the air. The recipient will usually say, “Where did that come from?” because it’s new news to them, when of course it’s been brewing inside us for a while. It’s iffy when things get to this point that true peace is achieved. That’s because true peace comes with constant calm not a flourish of confrontation.

Speak your peace as you go and so shall you go in peace. Or as Shakespeare said: “My tongue will tell the anger of my heart, or else my heart, concealing it, will break.” Will is right. There is no sense in breaking our own hearts.

Szenippet: Letting things go that need to be fixed for too long makes the brokenness the norm.

Labor Day Math

Leave it to the ingenuity of Americans to take a single holiday day off and turn it into an extended mental leave of absence; it’s called holiday math. Everybody, it seems, is involved in stretching a single Monday into two weeks of downtime. This is truly an art because it is all done in a type of collective hypnosis. It is a simple planting of a seed and a notion that because our world (United States) will be closed on Monday we must prepare for it mentally in advance and then recover from it in the same way. By turning one day into two weeks we demonstrate the power of focused and positive thinking.

This is accomplished by looking ahead to the upcoming day off -most recently it would be Today – Labor Day – which always falls on a Monday. We see it coming as early as the Monday before and begin to strategize how we can get an “early start” by leaving early from work on Friday or possibly beginning the “l-o-n-g” weekend on Thursday night. This pretty much eliminates Thursday as any kind of productive day at all. That theoretically moves Wednesday into the potential last day of the week and thus creates a wonderful weekend euphoria that mentally begins on the Monday before the break. In fact the entire week our minds become ever more vacation conscious making it extremely difficult to cram what has become already a short week into a day and a half.

Of course a measly day and a half is not enough time to do the really big projects because you need more time and so all of the departments start to cut back on the schedules knowing that it’s futile to accomplish so much in so little time. Some people will actually add a vacation day, thus eliminating the day that they take off plus the remaining half day just thinking about it. As people begin to talk about plans for the holiday, this enormous power of suggestion takes hold of everyone in the organization, which is now on holiday watch, all sharing a psychologically shortened countdown to “quitting time.” This mental euphoria of course, spills out into other organizations until the contamination is complete. And of course if you are lucky enough to take a sick day anytime during the week, it is like getting an entire week’s vacation. The net result is that by Thursday afternoon business pretty much slows for everyone and is nearly non-existent by Friday. We forget that there will be a price to pay on the flip side.

The actual holiday itself seems like a Sunday all day and so we conveniently forget that the upcoming week will be a “short” week. Tuesday finally comes after the virtual “week off” and so it seems like an extra hung-over version of a normal Monday. There is added pressure however, because by not having a normal Monday to recuperate, it means we’re already in the hole for the week. This backs up the work until Wednesday which can’t be finished on time, making Thursday filled with impossible deadlines that threaten to get in the way of our normal light Friday. When Friday arrives, we’re exhausted from the two weeks off and vow to get some rest over the weekend to prepare for the following week, which looms as being extra busy because everyone has been putting off whatever they could.

All that said, this week’s Book of Szen has now slipped into a Monday instead of its pseudo normal Saturday or Sunday. But it really seems like a Sunday, so I’m not really late at all and probably way ahead of many of you that missed last week’s edition because you were thinking about today’s day off last week and missed it. That’s why today’s story is mostly a repeat of something I wrote about five years ago. And I’m certainly enjoying my day off. Hope you are too.

Judgment Call

A Sixty-Word SZEN Story:

Sally was one of those rare people that could just set you free. She never seemed to judge and always gave one the impression that she approved of all people and their rights to choose their own path. Sally was accepting and supportive and that could make you feel confident. Acceptance gave her the power to give power to others.

And more…

Judgment is a negative act, no matter how we cut it and yet it is a part of life. Every choice requires we judge the situation and make the appropriate decision. Judging is required to live. Sometimes though we slip outside of our own domain and send off a scowl, or tsk in someone’s direction noting our disapproval. We judge based on what we like or approve of but sometimes we don’t need to share what we think. There are enough choices and judging going on in our own lives and spreading our opinions without an invitation is just not necessary.

So in the spirit of Sally and her power of acceptance here are a few ideas on how we might curb our judgment or at the very least keep it to ourselves thus lightening up our own load and the loads of others:

1. Assume that the other person is right. – This takes practice but is worth it. Staying positive opens doors and after a couple of examples of agreeing with someone that’s not agreeable you’ll see how powerful it is. You’ll both be happier.

2. Our way isn’t the only way – Force fitting our thoughts and conditioned way of living on another person negates an opportunity to learn something new. Often we jump into a task with others believing we ‘re the only ones that “get it.” Not true.

3. Learn to swallow. Right or not, sharing our opinions on what we’d do doesn’t really matter and the whole situation and the people in it could be better served if we hold back on what we really think.

I realize now that I’ve just presented an opinion that you didn’t ask for so feel free to judge me and we’ll be even.

Szenippet: In the presence of non-judgment we all succeed.

Assumptive Silence
A Sixty-Word SZEN Story:

Roberta heard her name on the news and that the evidence against her was adding up fast. The detective said: “ An eyewitness puts this woman at the scene of the crime, and we’re just waiting for the warrant.” “No one interviewed me,” she thought. “They think I did it, but they’re just plain wrong.” She wondered: “Should I talk?”

And more…

Speaking up for ourselves is something that most of us take for granted. We are happy to say what we think if someone asks a question or needs to know something specific about our work etc. But what if someone prefers NOT to hear our point of view. What if they avoid us or never give us a chance to say what’s on our mind? What then? What happens?

Silence, whether we create it by not speaking, or if there is no chance to speak, creates a void that in the absence of real facts and information is filled with assumptions. When people don’t ask, it is because they probably don’t want to know and prefer to assume the answer. And because assumptions eventually turn into beliefs, anyone can make up whatever scenario they choose. We all can. If we really want to live with what we “think” we know, we can. And the same holds true for people that may consider what we think to be disruptive or counter to their assumptions.

Assumptions are made all of the time because we don’t have the time to know everything we need to know. So we guess and fill in the blanks with conjecture and opinion. Saves time and arguments. But sometimes like Roberta, it’s important to be heard. And it’s our responsibility to find a way to get what needs to be said, said. The bottom line is that assumptions of any kind can trigger actions and reactions that may be unfair, unwise, or as Roberta said, “just plain wrong.” Why take a chance? Let what we know come out and seek from others what’s inside of them. Reality and the truth therein is a much easier place to start to change our world. And don’t assume it can’t be done.

Szenippet: People like to have order in their thinking. So if you don’t tell them what you think, they will think what they want. They will think that they know what you think – Silence begets assumption.

The Road Ahead
From the Now & Szen file:

America’s beloved philosopher Yogi Berra had some great advice on how to find our way. He said: “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” This is truly misspoken genius and can really be helpful as a guide when we face choices and change in our lives. Often when we do come to a roadblock or face unclear options, it’s a temptation to hover and speculate for a long time on which might be the right path to take. For Yogi, the answer is simple, keep moving. Our answer for when we get stuck might be a bit more deliberate and complicated, but there is wisdom in the notion of taking action.

What supports the idea of keep moving is that the world has changed so dramatically in terms of the connections we have and access to information never before available, that new opportunities both personally and professionally are emerging and bubbling up everywhere. This new knowledge
Renaissance creates new layers of potential and dispels the notions of a direct path and a single straight line to our dreams. Now more than any time ever on this planet we find ourselves in a driver’s seat of epic proportions and the computing power of the smart phone we have in our pocket is more than all of NASA had in 1969 to put a man on the moon.

Today’s world and the options we have to consider could be daunting if we don’t know where we want to go, but for those with a destination in mind, it’s truly liberating. And the good news too is that we have a built-in mechanism to cope with all of this newfound data and noise in that we tend to see only what we look for, and miss the rest. This means that when focused, our minds only attract and are drawn to what we want and expect to find. So even if we take a wrong turn or are knocked off of our path we’ll still be able to navigate and get back in the right direction. What happens is our dreams act as the coordinates and our minds function as the GPS. Once we get the heading right, we can be blown off course, get stalled, or encounter a storm, but we still have the means to get there, wherever there might be.

With power like this, why wait even another second to set the course; the road ahead awaits. Get packed, it’s time to meet your future and as Yogi also said: “The future ain’t what it used to be.” See you there.

Szenippet: It doesn’t matter which path we take as long as we know where we’re going.

Spine Tingling

A Sixty-Word SZEN Story:

The “lock-down” cost her a whole class day with no way to make it up before graduation. She thought about scaling back the assignments and reading, but understood that in this course nothing could be skipped. Everything matters and all the dots have to be connected. Like an elaborate recipe, how the ingredients interact to each other makes it unique.

And more…

Recently I was fortunate to be able to meet with some new people and some old friends to discuss how to create positive change in our lives. The source of the discussion was the Book of Szen and I was able to recite some of my favorite stories written over the last eight years. As I was preparing the workshop I reviewed a number of different excerpts and re-discovered that there are 5 essential elements necessary to create positive change:

Self-exploration (discovery) – Diving into what we see and understand of ourselves is often the place where true change and a shift in our lives begin. Nothing really surpasses the power of self-discovery when it comes to understanding what’s missing for us.

Perspective (wisdom) – Any newfound insights we may have are passed through our own filtering system. We carry all of our history and regardless of what anyone else may see or say, we alone know what we really believe.

Imagination (vision) – This is one of our greatest gifts and assets for creating a blessed life. Our thoughts on what if and what could be create a sort of internal goalpost when it comes to navigating change. Only after the vision is in focus can the journey begin.

Now (moments in time) – Much has been said and written about being in the now, that moment in time that simply “is.” The now is not fleeting but a constant and allows us infinite time to assimilate and appreciate where we are and what we’re feeling. All change happens in the now.

Energy (Drive) – Nothing at all happens without energy. It is what connects all of us together and to a constantly moving universe that can be persuaded to follow our commands. Energy creates movement and outcomes, invites serendipity, and generally makes miracles happen.

The five essential elements for creating positive change, like the acronym it spells, S.P.I.N.E., control and coordinates our nervous system and every living aspect that allows us to adapt, and enjoy our unique human power to create and make things happen. SPINE also refers to character and serves as a reminder that any of us, or all of us, possess the insights and tools to take emerging dots and connect them in magical ways – to get from wherever we are, to exactly where we want to be.

Szenippet: A tingling in our spine can be a sign of a journey about to begin where new dots emerge and connect in miraculous fashion.

Inside Connections
From the Szenabling file:

Self-reflection often leads to self-revelation. And the reason this happens is that we carry our total history with us and have easy access to memories (not always the short-term ones) and events that have helped shape us into us. These memories often carry clues to our thinking at the time that we actually created the memory. In other words by contemplating the thoughts we were having before something happened, we can determine if those thoughts actually created the event.

By examining our own inside connections and studying the cause and effect nature of what we create for ourselves, we gain insights into how we approach life and what our true beliefs are. This is a valuable exercise, especially when we are experiencing a change in our lives, because it enables us to actually predict what will happen next. That’s right! It’s a truism that we will reap what we sow and those seeds are created by our own thoughts. Plant something positive, we win. Plant something negative and sure enough, we lose.

Sometimes however, we forget to plant at all and we stop thinking about what we may want, and get stuck thinking about what we already have. This creates a repetitive loop that guarantees the same results and reality over and over. As a student, teacher and advocate for positive change I can testify that nothing new will come into our lives until we break the cycle. And once broken, the seeds for change can take root and bring us into our new reality – a reality created from the inside out.

If we explore the feelings we’ve had in our happiest moments, we’ll discover that we (our thoughts) created those moments. So doesn’t it stand to reason that we can duplicate the process and change our lives to whatever we desire? Of course we can. Here are a couple of ideas:

– Wishful thinking and blind faith serves no purpose. In order to attain that which we seek we must believe that we deserve it and then move toward it and take some action to make it happen.

– We must use our own internal compass to set the course. Only we can know our heart’s true desire. If we feel we’re on our right path, we’ll have confidence to pick up the pace and (I’m not sure how this works, but it does) then what we seek will actually move toward us in kind.

– Any seed we plant, regardless of its size, needs to be nurtured in order to bloom. We must mind the soil of our dreams to keep the weeds of doubt away.

Remember that all of the great people in our lives and the laughter and joy that they have brought and continue to bring are with us here and now because some time ago, we thought that’s what we wanted.

And, on a personal note, I’ve been thinking of you for quite a while. Thanks for being in my life.

Szenippet: The key to the future is found when we take responsibility for how we arrived to the here and now.

Save the Date: I will be speaking and signing books on March 23rd at the Westside Community Church in Culver City, CA. More details to come. Hope you can make it.

Silent Sequel

A Sixty-Word SZEN Story:

It had been a couple of years since the book hit the stores and Charlene knew that it was time to write the sequel. She had promised her readers an “end to the story” and now wondered if she was willing to share what really happened. Truth be told and she would be vulnerable, but without it she’d be lost.

And more…

I think there are new chapters and sequels in our lives that we sometimes fail to examine closely. Part of growing and maturing sets us on a path and through a gauntlet of sorts that provides experience, both love and pain, and for sure, nets out a great deal of wisdom. As life progresses, the rules and sometimes the people and places change. And whether we recognize it or not, we’re not the same person we were when we started our journey.

When we turn a chapter in our lives, we’re not always aware that anything has really changed and yet if we study what is in the rearview mirror, we often will see a landscape that looks nothing like the road ahead. The road ahead features the one thing that the past can’t foresee with certainty and that’s the unknown. New places, people and situations to be embraced or avoided are in our path and on our journey with us. And each place or person we encounter has the potential to become a major player in this next season of our lives.

As authors of our own story we can either head in the same circular direction – meeting the tried and true along the way and enjoying the predictability of it all – or we can veer onto a new road where anything can happen. Whatever we choose, we still are growing and both paths offer opportunity to explore; both represent a plot twist to our story. We can either see the same things with new eyes, thereby discovering what we’ve been missing, or we can shift our view to vistas we’ve never seen. Both can fill us up with joy. And at the core of that joy lies truth, and like Charlene, we’d all be lost without it.

Szenippet: Our hearts must cross the bridge between what is and what could be first, and then the rest of us will follow.

Goal Post

A Sixty-Word SZEN Story:

The mediator became extremely irritated and when he lunged at me across the table, it collapsed beneath his weight and the once beautiful marble slab broke into pieces. He then picked up a piece of the jagged tabletop and holding it like a knife, first wildly swiped at me and then raised it as he charged forward. End of negotiations.

And more…

Ever have a meeting where it seems like nothing gets accomplished? Sometimes there are times when somehow, the objectives are not communicated or the people that have the power to act never show and the wheels of progress spin and never gain traction. Without a clear purpose or goal it’s difficult, if not impossible, to have a positive outcome. Goals set expectations and determine success. And without a goal, whatever happens happens.

Goals are subsets to our vision and are easy to set once we know the ultimate destination. They provide the markers and milestones we need along the way to determine if we’re staying on the right course. It could be a degree earned, a career chosen, a language to learn or whatever we need and can be short baby steps or huge leaps of faith. And as we progress, we can then check them off of our list as we pursue our destiny in the making. Reaching a goal is good and missing a goal is an outcome to be learned from.

If we don’t examine our goals or our vision from time to time we could find ourselves going through the motions – what looks like activity and positive energy – which really is a mask. In this state we’re not measuring progress, but ticks on the clock. Days run into days and eventually the routine becomes the goal. Disrupting the routine, even if it takes an altercation with an agitated mediator, can serve as a wake up call for a new course. It did for me.

Szenippet: Achievement is not only about reaching the goal; it’s about setting the right goal to reach. We’ll know we’ve set the right one when we can’t wait to get there.