In my last post I described how we get upset when a motorist ‘beeps’ at us if we are slow to get moving when the light turns green. Such a trivial event has the ability to disturb our equanimity. What about more ‘serious’ events like your messy divorce proceeding, business reverses or career setbacks? I am going to speak about an important step you can take to ‘let go’ of the inner disturbance that life produces so, so often. Wanting to ‘let it go’ is not the same thing as being able to do so. I will say more about this in a future post. So here is something that can help you. Step 1: Examine your life as it is right now and make a list of all the things that disturb you with some predictability. For example: you may are bothered by your daughter refusing to take college seriously and hanging out with a boyfriend you think unsuitable; or you get angry/depressed at how things are at work and feel your career has been derailed; or you have concerns about your relationship with your spouse and wonder if you should stay in your marriage; or whatever.

Alan Gassman, a prominent Florida attorney, took my capstone program Creativity and Personal Mastery a few years ago. Shortly thereafter he invited me to Tampa to meet some of his clients. He gave me a bunch of books that had an impact on him and among them was an inconspicuous paperback with a light blue cover. It was called ‘The Untethered Soul’ and was by someone called Michael Singer. I gave many talks during that visit and an affable gentleman, who had asked some really good questions, came up to me afterward and asked me if I had read a book called ‘The Untethered Soul’. I assured him that I had not. I came back to New York and discovered that I had two copies of ‘The Untethered Soul’ on my bookshelves. I buy lots of books and my wife is convinced that Amazon’s share price run-up is entirely due to my activity. Somehow, somewhere, something had made enough of an impression on me that I actually ordered the book. Twice. I can recognize when the Universe is nudging me. I read the book. It instantly made it to the ‘life-changing books’ section of my syllabus. I have since recommended it to many. Andre Vogtlin, an executive recruiter based in Basel who is also an alumnus of my program, called it ‘spiritual TNT’.  I concur. ‘The Untethered Soul’ is not a book to read. It is something that you have to let seep into you so that it permeates your entire being. When and if you do, a transformation will occur that cannot be described. It can only be experienced. Two weeks ago I got on a plane to Gainesville, Florida. I just had to meet Michael Singer. Mickey, as he prefers to be called, had graciously agreed to a private meeting. Afterward he took me in his car to show me around the Temple property and we talked about many things and he acquiesced to remaining in touch. He has a way of driving home the ridiculous predicaments we are all stuck in and the ridiculously easy way to get ourselves unstuck. The paradox is that it is both supremely easy and exceptionally difficult at the same time. Here is one of the game changers he threw out in his talk at the temple on the Sunday I visited. You are driving and stopped at a red light when your smart phone vibrates. You take a quick glance at it and your brain registers that it is a message you have to respond to. Even as you do this there is beep from the car behind you. The light has changed. You shake your head and move on. “Geez,” you think. “What’s with that guy? Where the hell does he think he’s going and who the hell does he think he is? People are so impatient these days.” When he pulls up beside you at the next light you glare at him. He studiously avoids looking at you. That beep bothered you. It threw you off your stride. It colored your day and made it a little worse. It’s just a trivial beep. If you let that upset you, what will happen when you have to deal with your ex-husband or your contentious son or your irritated boss? No wonder we are all stressed out and desperately seeking to meditate or be mindful or practice Yoga as a way to hold it all together. There is an astonishingly simple way out. There is a brief moment, when you hear the beep when you can decide “Am I going to let this disturb me?” You can decide that you will not let it disturb you and relax into the entity that hears the beep and watches you decide to let it go. You can also decide not to let your irritated boss or your contentious son or your ex-husband disturb you. This does not mean that you don’t do what you have to. It does mean that you do it from the knowledge that you are doing what you can in the best way that you can and you are at peace with the outcome, whatever it may be. It does not disturb your equanimity because you have decided that it will not. It really is that simple. It is ridiculously easy. It is unbelievably hard. There is one thing you can do, starting right away, that will help you practice letting go. I will tell you what it is in my next post. If you are impatient and cannot wait, send an email to my trusty right hand person – Janelle Light – at Janelle.Light@theraoinstitute.com with the subject “I am impatient – please send it to me right away”. Peace!

I made a bunch of phone calls this week but reached few of the persons I wanted to. Companies are slowing down and executives are more concerned with holiday plans than business. My wife is in California visiting our daughter and I am holding the fort in New York looking after my mother-in-law who is the most good-natured and undemanding elder relative you can hope to find. And I am also taking stock and acknowledging the many blessings in my life. And I am remembering my friend. We had known each other for more than three decades and met socially many times in the early days. Then he moved west and I moved east so geography intervened. I used to joke that New York was close to the largest toxic dump in the world – a dump called New Jersey. As a new resident of that state he did not agree.

There is an illusion that you hold on to though your own experience shows that it is just that – an illusion. You know it, but you behave as if it were not true. And much suffering results from this. What is this delusion that holds you in thrall? It is the notion that you are one single permanent self that is present all the time. I know this is not true. The resolute me that greets the morning with joy and determines to eat healthy and exercise is not the same person who, having had a good dinner and brushed his teeth, decides the perfect way to end the day is with a deep-fried, salty snack.

Here is how most of us live life. We set a goal for ourselves and then take appropriate action to reach that goal. When things do not go our way, we work harder. We put our ‘nose to the grindstone’ and try to remember that ‘when the going gets tough, the tough get going.’ Our lives are full of struggle as we tot up our accomplishments. This is just the nature of life, right? Well, maybe not. I am reading The Surrender Experiment by Michael Singer. Singer is the author of The Untethered Soul and I think so highly of it that it appears in the life-changing books section of the syllabus for my program. Singer describes a phase in his life when he was so tired of his mental chatter that he was spending virtually all his time in deep meditation. His description of his life then is eerily similar to that of Ramana Maharshi when he first came to the temple at Tiruvannamalai and simply meditated in the cavernous rooms in the many-level temple basement.

We were in Paris this summer and my wife, being a big Monet fan, dragged me to Giverny. Monet was one of those rare painters who actually made enough money during his lifetime to live a comfortable, even luxurious, life. Here is what his estate in Giverny looks like and this is a tiny part of it: TRI Blog Image Certainly conducive to peaceful thoughts isn’t it? My wife tries to recreate this atmosphere and I am grateful for this. Here is a picture of a part of my backyard:

I have a number of personal coaching clients and one theme has surfaced many times. Come to think of it, it is also prevalent in the lives of friends and relatives. A busy attorney is scaling new professional heights but his son is investigating controlled substances and has had several brushes with the law. He knows that if he could get his son to change life would be perfect. An entrepreneur is grappling a key-employee issue. The guy is brilliant and gets the job done. But he is also brusque and alienates everyone. Including, unfortunately, clients. If only he could get him to change… A senior executive works long hours. When he gets home he just wants to put his feet up and relax and watch some junk on the idiot box. He was a dutiful father and chauffeured children to various activities when young. But now that they have left the house he feels entitled to his ‘relax’ time. But his wife wants to go our for dinner every day and with persons he finds intolerable. If only he could get her to change…

I am a public speaker and I frequently used the example of a hamster on a wheel to illustrate our tendency to get caught up in frantic activity while going nowhere. Virtually everybody could relate to the example. In fact, hamster-on-a-wheel has become shorthand for a meaningless life filled with unfulfilling action.

We rush through life desperately striving and achieving. We are on the go, on the run striving to be more productive. Time is a precious resource and we want to make sure that we fill each minute with sixty seconds worth of distance run. But we just might be making a big mistake. I elaborate on this in a 120 second video.

I am reading a moving, sad-funny-inspirational account of someone who hit rock-bottom and then bounced back. Of course, the depth that he reached does not compare to the really destitute in a third world country, but let that pass for now. He was a 52-year-old attorney whose practice was floundering. 30 years after graduating from a prestigious Law School he had difficulty making ends meet. His clients were not paying what they owed. And they were not dream clients who were a pleasure to work with; he scrambled for work and took what he got. He was forced to move to a dingy apartment where the air-conditioning barely worked and which felt like a sauna or a deep freeze depending on the season. His second wife lived in the house he moved out of and he could not afford the alimony or the child support. He could barely make payroll. One of his clients was suing him. It was a frivolous suit but he still had to hire an attorney to defend him and that was more cash out the door.
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