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Adventures In Self Discovery To Transform Your Life


Chapter 15
Take Charge Of Your Life

Learn To Change Like A Baby Does
We all start learning at birth and never stop. Once we learn something it is built into our brain and body waiting to be called up. We learn to change our experience by becoming aware of how we do things. Then, we imagine, rehearse, try new moves and practice.

We imagine, choose, take an action and experience our result hundreds of times a day. We hear and learn words. We speak and get what we need. We learn to read and fill our heads with the knowledge and stories it takes to get along in this world. Soon we are masters of imagining and storytelling. How come so many of us are dissatisfied with the results.

We feel that ‘there is more to life than this.’ And we are right. Habit, laziness or just not noticing keep our experience narrowed to the accustomed. A new life is available. It requires that we turn away from habit and retrain our attention. We open to other points of view and ways of experiencing. For some, this means slowing down our logical, rational person.  Then we can allow our feelings to guide us. For others, music or poetry or nature may evoke experiences that are beyond description. They may open you to new knowledge and new ways of being yourself.

Reality responds to action now, not to thought or intentions. You are in charge of your body and your world right now. What you are aware of right now is your workspace. Are there any strong feelings, any needs and desires that keep coming up? Are there any stories that are not happening now? You handle them by recognizing them, naming them, accepting them and letting them go. You could also turn off all distractions. That means TV, the Internet, video games, cell phones and computers. Now that really frees up your attention.

It is good to be clear about the future you want. Yet fantasizing about getting what you want does not get you there. It calms you down and diverts the energy you need to take action. Your brain thinks you have already achieved the goal, so why struggle? What works is to imagine what you want. Then take some action toward that, however small.

Reality is not optional. Living a fully realized and satisfying life is always as close as right now. When it comes to feeling good or bad, right now is what matters. The biggest block to satisfaction now is thinking there is something more, something you don’t have. You already have everything you’re going to get right now. This is it. Now is the time to enjoy life or to change it. Is something holding you back? Some story? Fear?

In this moment when change is possible, ask yourself, “Is this the 'me' I want to be? If the answer is 'no', look around for the simplest change that you can make in a direction you want to go. Often that means letting go of a bummer story. A story you are telling yourself about something that is not happening now. A story about how the world should be.

Can you remember wanting something? You imagined how much you would enjoy it, planned how to get it. Then you did nothing. To change your results you have to work at changing your thoughts, your speech and your actions. You can change any of these by paying attention, trying, learning, rebuilding and practicing. Reality responds to action now. You must be present and paying attention every moment.

“If you want a quality, act as if you already have it.”
William James

Live The Life You Want
Why wait? I believe each of us has a reservoir of practical wisdom that can make our lives work better. Why wait? We are in charge of what we think and say and do, more or less. Our behavior counts more than our thoughts or our intentions.

You can support living up to your potential as a new human with this adventure. Consider, realize and affirm that:

_ There is nothing wrong with me.

_ I will feel bad or good sometimes.

_ I am not a victim.

_ I am not the slave of an ego, id, superego, inner child, alien influence, past lives, karma or whatever.

_ The universe doesn't owe me anything.

_ I have no ‘natural rights’.

_ Nobody is doing my life to me.

_ I will die some day.


Here's a question that is an adventure (46) to answer.

“If everything worked out the way you would like it to, what will you be doing in five years?”

What can you do now and do next and next to get you there?


Change Your Story
What stories are running through your thoughts today? When we pay close attention to what is going on now, most of our stories aren't happening. The world keeps changing, our stories don't. Stories are clouding our perception of reality. We are acting out stories as if they were real. When one of our stories doesn't work, the world let's us know.

When you pay attention, you can detach and step away from the story. You can become the observer. As the observer, you can see the story as empty and meaningless right now. You have been creating and supporting a lot of problems just by paying attention to their stories. Now you can let the story go and turn your attention to something that is real, alive and life changing here and now.

Advice usually comes with some program that keeps your attention on your problems. You argue with, resist, analyze, reshape the thoughts.  This is rehearsing, simply running in circles. Most therapy is based on rehearsing your failures. If you are chin deep in shit, you do not need a shovel. Shoveling just keeps you there. The more you pay attention to an issue the more attention it will demand. You will wind up revisiting and circling it endlessly. Moving from misery to being aware of being miserable to performing ceremonies over your misery is not progress.

From early childhood, we use imagination to build experiences in our head and play with them. We imagine, rehearse, play, then repeat. You don't have to know how you do it. Your brain makes the adjustments automatically. Having a complicated story or practices simply gets in your way. Guides and gurus offer practices like meditation, repeating a mantra, and so on. Meditation is a fine way to relax, observe and detach from your thoughts. Meditation teaches the experience of meditation. It's not what you think, it's what you do that makes changes. Any positive change will lift you out.

Change Your Self
When we are feeling rotten, it is easy to imagine someone or something else is causing our problem. We must think or act in some way because of outside influences. It’s easy to blame him, her, them or it. This automatic response is the cause of much of our suffering. Right away we have given up our power and put responsibility for our experience in other hands. It makes more sense to live the life you want to lead, not the life someone else wants you to lead.

To find satisfaction in life, someone has to be responsible for who I am and what I can and cannot do. That's me. My thoughts might be going on about how life is tough, this isn't enough, there ought to be more or better. Without those thoughts there would be room in my experience to appreciate all that is going on now. I can't just push the thoughts aside. They'll be right back. I can just let go of the thoughts and switch my attention to something I enjoy here and now. My nose itches, scratch it.

No one is doing your life to you. Right now you are producing your thoughts and feelings. No one else is or could. You turn your chemistry from feel good to feel bad and back. Your thoughts about someone’s behavior may start the process.  You keep doing it to yourself. You have plenty of room to hold contradictions, paradoxes, and ambiguities. You may accept that you have flaws and vulnerabilities. You will be able to handle any problems or pain that may come from them. To get out of a bummer, drop the blame and change your thoughts. Take a walk to change your chemistry.
 
I am arguing for living fully in the present in your body and in the world now rather than in your imagination. OK, I know you already are and can’t do otherwise. People have been urging this program for centuries. Twenty-five hundred years ago the Buddha said, 

“Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.”

More recently Henry Ford added,
“Whether you think you can do something, or think you can't, you're right either way.”

Change Your Behavior
Wherever you go, you will still end up here, but different. Your actions will produce results. If they are not the results you want, you can change what you do, try again. Change how you think. Change what you want. Change how you act. Do whatever works. Try the adventure (47) of saying this out loud.

“I can give myself any experience I really want and am willing to work for.”

Watch out for the words 'really want.' So much of what we want is momentary, trivial or empty.

Look at all the experiences you have put yourself through in your life so far. You trained your brain and body to produce your present experience. You can retrain it to produce an experience that works better for you. All it takes is attention and persistence.

Here is an adventure (48) that starts by jumping right into the here and now and focusing on what's happening.

• What am I enjoying?

• What is making me uncomfortable?

• What change in feeling, thought or action can reduce my discomfort or increase my enjoyment?

 • Make it so.

• Repeat.


That’s the basic method. Start simply and build on your results. Repeated practice and adjustments will build new patterns of thought, feeling and behavior. By putting steady effort into creating or recreating an experience, you will end up being it. If there is an experience you believe is possible and would like to have, start practicing now.

Here is an adventure (49) in giving yourself the experience of delight.

Relax. Bend, twist, turn, stretch, then settle comfortably.

Take a deep breath. Yawn. Open and stretch your mouth as far as you can. This will relax your body further.

Close your eyes. Remember a delightful experience you had. If nothing comes to mind, imagine an experience that would delight you. Play with it until some feeling comes up.

Now, open your eyes. Smile and allow the feeling of delight to go on for a bit.


You have demonstrated your ability to change your experience in the moment. Play with this ability. Practice having a chuckle or giving yourself a touch of delight whenever you think of it. Think of it in the middle of the night when you find yourself turning over a worry for the third or fourth time.

Whatever You Make Important Will Run Your Life
The key to satisfaction is to take responsibility, for who you are, and what you really can influence. It pays to learn what you can control and what you cannot. From there, you can change your behavior by rehearsing, trying new moves, practicing, watching results, watching others. If you are willing to take responsibility for experiencing, for just being here now, it is amazing how much stuff falls away.

Live the life you want to lead not the life someone else wants you to lead. Consider today...

_ The job I have is building the life I want
_ I enjoy my work from moment to moment.
_ I am excited about what I am doing.
_ I accomplished something that I am proud of.
_ I got some exercise.
_ I played with my children.
_ I saw some friends.
_ I shared dinner with someone who matters to me.
_ My life is working for me.
_ My day was fun.


Are these things you would be willing to do for the rest of your life?

Taking charge of your present experience is the way to start. It is possible that you already have everything you need to live a fully satisfying life. How would you redesign your experience for greater satisfaction?

Looking for a half used cigarette butt can be motivating to a vagrant. Finding a way to restate earnings to conceal losses can be motivating to a Fortune 500 CEO. As an adventure (50)

• Take a look at what you are making important right now.

• How is it shaping your actions?

• Is that what you really want to be doing?


Whatever you make important shapes your choices.
As an adventure (51), 

• Make a list of five things that are really important to you.

It’s your life. Ask yourself, “Is this really that important.?” Is it on target for me to be doing this?” Is this situation likely to change?” If not, chill out. If yes, “Is it worth the energy to change?”

We compete to keep up, to get the next thing, to get ahead. This often keeps us from paying attention to what really nourishes us. When I think about what I would actually like to do today, I get to listen to the excuses and reasons why I can’t. I could make each excuse a target for change.

To make life work, it works to choose what you make important. It’s good to get what you want, better to know what to want that will nourish you and allow you to grow. If you don’t know what you want in life, you’ll find that other people are running yours to suit themselves. If you put someone else in charge, whether a teacher or a deity, you are screwed.

Make A List
Here is another adventure (52) to get yourself moving. If your experience right now is not satisfying, consider removing some of the barriers and adding a little risk.

1. Make a list of all the things you promised yourself you would do in this lifetime. – stop watching television and start doing one of them.

2. Make a list of all the people you enjoy being with – turn off your cell phone, eave it at home and go hang out with some of them. 

3. Make a list of all the things you have to do in the next week. – burn the list and do only the next thing that comes to mind until it is finished. Then do the next thing that comes up.

You can use your body any time to get past your thoughts. Get up. Sit down. Move. Stand as you want to be seen. Present yourself as you want to be experienced. Once you know how, you can’t put the knowledge back. You can deny it, repress it, ignore it, try to forget it, block it, yet it is still there in your brain. Your new understanding lets you change your experience whenever you are ready.

“Don’t think about things, just do them; don’t predict them, just make them.”
Ray Bradbury

Watch Your Results
The results you get are the results you get. The response you get is what your message means to the other person. To see what you meant watch the other person’s response. If the response is not what you want, try something different. Take responsibility only for what you say and do. Not for what you did not say or do. There are no sins of omission. Don’t let people stick you with any.

Separate your actions and your results from how you feel about yourself. When an action fails, it does not mean that you are a failure. Most victories are small ones. You may be getting results and not giving yourself the good feelings that can go with them. Think back to a recent success. Did you give yourself a good feeling about it? Do it now. Keep track of your successes and celebrate them. Talk about them with friends. They are there to admire and reward you.
Take time to receive and appreciate the benefits of your work. Enjoy the pleasure of doing something for someone, of receiving a compliment, of eating something tasty or of exercise. Self esteem is the result of good work, not its cause. If you have good skills and accomplishments, the payoff is to feel good about yourself.

Fix What Is Fixable, Accept What Is Not
Forget how things ‘ought’ to work. Ask, “What’s working for me now?” When something you thought you had figured out stops working:

• You didn't have it figured out.

• The situation changed.

• Shit happened.


It's time to drop what you had figured out. Stop trying to make it work. It's time to try anything new.

Taking Charge
Some years back I decided to put myself in charge of my ‘self’, rather than the other way around. I began to rethink myself, and re-feel myself. I started to break free of the stories that shaped what I thought and did. I found that the content of my thoughts, my stories, my goals were just projects of my busy ‘self’. I began to step away from them, to stop identifying with them. Who I am changed.

As I went along, I often thought that I was delusional. I was operating from a point of view or a set of beliefs that did not fit the world I actually live in. That is a radical point of view. It can produce valuable insights. My opportunity was to shape my thoughts and feelings to produce the best life experience I could. Then to do it over and over in the moment and place I found myself. I'm still at it, enjoying life all the way.

Changing our results requires changing our thoughts and our actions. We imagine the results we want, then tell our body to take action and pay attention to what happens. We have to keep our attention steadily on the process, making adjustments as we get results. This takes self control and willpower. Self control and willpower use energy. We can tire out, use up our reserves and then work to replenish our resources. By exerting self control over time we build reserves.

Consider addictive behavior, a voluntary surrender of self control to choices that becomes automatic. It takes a lot of self control and effort to build and maintain an addiction. After you come to like smoking tobacco or taking a drug, you have to plan and work to maintain and guard a supply. You must arrange your life so you can regularly get a hit. Then you must pretend to live more or less normally. All the while you conceal or cover up negative changes in your body and behavior. Maintaining an addiction is hard work. The flip side is that getting rid of an addiction is hard work. Life is so much simpler without addiction.

Some time ago we got addicted to television. How come? We could sit and watch passively while actors on the screen showed us dramatic life situations. We identified with the action and allowed our feelings to follow the drama. We watched through problems and complications that rose to a climax. They had to come to a resolution at least four time an hour. This allowed for the commercials that tweaked our desire for products. We cycled through more emotions in an evening than pre-TV humans experienced in a year. We also sat on our butts and missed 50 full days of real life a year. If you want to experience withdrawal from addiction, unplug your television. Take the battery out of your phone.

Let Go
The recipe for an experience we want is often built into a belief system. Buddhist monks want to become enlightened. They meditate for years. They go through the prescribed steps to get the prescribed experiences for that stage.  Then they go on to the next. If you can be clear about the result you want, you can go direct now rather than on a path. Practice the result you are after. You can shape your body, thoughts and feelings to the best fit with what's happening.

You can imagine what you want to happen, take action and then focus on what's happening. You will affect the world by your body movements and speech. You will affect your feelings and thoughts by where you put your attention. There is no need to fret over alternatives. You can forget about missed benefits and any options you turned down. You can let go when pleasure from an achievement fades over time. You can accept restraints on your decision making. You can't have it all, can't even know what it all is.

Look at all the experiences you have put yourself through in your life so far. You trained your brain to produce the experience you are having now. You can retrain it to produce an experience that works better for you. All it takes is attention and practice.

Try this adventure (53) right now that will prove your ability to change your experience in a positive way. You can choose to do this any time you want to and are willing.

Find a quiet place to sit and relax. Get in touch with your body and make yourself comfortable. Get in touch with the world around you and accept it as it is.

• Relax. Bend, twist, turn, stretch, then settle comfortably.

• Take deep breath.

• Yawn. Open and stretch your mouth as far as you can. This will relax your body further.

• Say your name out loud. This will place you firmly in the now. You don’t have to make a sound, just move your lips and tongue to form the words.

• Make a big smile, enough to make the corners of your eyes crinkle. This will put you in a better mood and set you up for a laugh.

• Think of something you find funny. Laugh out loud. Say “HA” explosively several times while contracting your stomach muscles. Then just let the laugh happen naturally for as long as you feel like it.

 Your life experience now is different than when you started.

Here's an adventure (54) if you are less than satisfied with your experience now:

• Pay attention 

• Move your body into the most comfortable position available now.

• Check for painful or negative feelings, grin until you experience a change in your feelings.

• Check your thoughts for negative stories, move your attention to now.

• Check the world around you for threats and opportunities.

• Check your idea of the life you want to be living.

• Take any action that will bring you closer to that idea, let everything else fade from attention.

• Keep practicing the person and life you want to be, then...

• Just be that.


We have the same thoughts and take the same actions and get the same results over and over. We practiced to become what we are experiencing now. We know how to do that. You can use this familiar method with a twist to build almost any experience you want and are willing to work for. The twist is to be totally aware of:

 • what you want

• what you are doing  

• what result you are getting from moment to moment.


Whenever know you are changing or moving into a new situation, use a Transformer. Bring your mind set and feelings into a positive state. Build yourself a pattern that puts you into a state of readiness, alert, aware of what's going on. You are ready.

Looking Ahead
Let’s bring all our discoveries together to build the life experience we want to have.

The key to satisfaction is to take responsibility, for who you are, and what you really can influence. It pays to learn what you can control and what you cannot. From there, you can change your behavior by:

• rehearsing
• trying new moves
• practicing
• watching results
• watching others


If you are willing to take responsibility for experiencing, for just being here now, it is amazing how much stuff falls away. The two keys are:

Be present

Paying attention to right now.

Be positive.


Lots of people have a desire to do something with their lives besides working and consuming. We want to join and interact in a community where we can develop our skills and expand our experience of being alive. Using our imagination, exercising our creativity, taking journeys of discovery. We want to live in a culture of exploration and innovation. In a sense, we already do although the emphasis is strongly on getting and using. We're looking for a base in creative work, in imagination.

What works is to invest in relationships rather than objects, in love rather than merchandise. There is little connection between wealth and happiness. Happiness does not come from using people but from being useful to people. Caring relationships beat using relationships. Promote your own values of caring, cooperation, empathy and support. You will have better control of your attention, emotions and actions. You will be healthier, happier and have more satisfying relationships.

“It is not death that men should fear, rather he should fear never beginning to live.”

Marcus Aurelius

©2012-2015 Keith Gilchrist - not for distribution or reproduction

4,219 words 14 pages 8.15.17 adv 46-54



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