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Set the Bar High
I Choose to Live My Best Life
Whether you think can or not, you are right.
My business is not to remake myself, but the absolute best of what God made.
Just for a moment, close your eyes, breathe slowly and deeply a few times, and imagine yourself as the master of the universe. As master you have the ability to create anything you want, even something that has never existed before. Be adventurous in your thinking, focusing on the result and not just the means, and envision what you most want now.
You have this power within you—it is the birthright and potential of every human being. The only possible limitation is your own thought, belief, and imagination. Once you have a clear vision of what you want, then the natural play of universal forces will lead you to the accomplishment of that goal. Dont' take your power lightly. Henry Ford knew all about it when he wrote, "Whether you think you can or not, you are right". You, and only you, have the ability to create miracles in your mind and life. The choice is always with you. It has nothing to do with luck and everything to do with believing in yourself as a part of the Divine Force that infuses and permeates everything in the universe. The great rule is this: if you can conceive it in your mind, then it can be brought into the physical world.
It takes boldness to go after your dreams, especially when you are exploring uncharted territory, but don't give up. In her perceptive book Anatomy of the Spirit, Caroline Myss warns that when you compromise your dreams and values to live a life that is expected of you, rather than what your heart asks of you, you give away your power and disconnect from your soul.
"It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure, to embrace the new," says my friend Alan Cohen, author of Handle with Prayer. "But there is no real security in what is no longer meaningful. There is more security in the adventurous and exciting, for in movement there is life, and in change there is power."
The world today certainly offers change, and it's easy to regard ability to keep up with the changes, perhaps even to cause changes here and there, as power. But power is drained, not created, by surviving in such a fast-paced world. The intense pace and stress of our daily lives can very easily put our peace, happiness, and health—not to mention our spiritual lives—at risk. When we're caught up in the whirl of today's hectic lifestyle, it's easy to forget the truth of our potential. We have less and less time for our own dreams, and in such circumstances our standards and values tend to deteriorate, leading to low self-esteem. It is when we feel that kind of inner emptiness that we are most tempted by any "quick fix" that comes along.
Life is hard, and learning to live with sacredness takes time, but the fact is that we can slow things down. We can face our own challenges, however large or small, with aplomb and equanimity, on our own terms. We can choose to experience aliveness and become masters of our lives. My hope is that this book will point the way.
In the 1960s, psychologist Abraham Maslow wrote his famous Toward a Psychology of Being, which helped to change the entire emphasis of psychology. He chose to study high-functioning people —those living their highest potential—rather than people with problems, as was usually the case in psychology. Maslow developed a "psychology of being," which meant not striving but arriving, not trying to get someplace but living fully. Among all his high-functioning subjects, he found a common denominator. They all had a vision and were committed to it. They were self-motivated and believed they had the power to master life. That's one of the beliefs we will be working on throughout this book.
Do you believe you have the power to master life?
IF IT'S TO BE, IT'S UP TO ME
Self-mastery begins with a complete and honest inventory of our lives (see the workbook in Appendix A). As Socrates so famously said, "The unexamined life is not worth living." Mastery involves taking responsibility for ourselves and what we've created, rather than blaming other people and circumstances for our lot in life. Blame is a convenient way of explaining why our life is not exactly what we would like it to be. The next time you start to blame another person or outside circumstances for how you feel or what you are experiencing, stop, check yourself, and remember: What you feel is up to you. Our feelings are governed by our mind. We can't think one thing and feel something else. Feelings and experiences always correspond to thoughts. If you are to become master of your life and live your highest potential, the habit of blaming others or circumstances has to stop. Setbacks and obstacles are only tests.
Mastery involves being self-disciplined and courageous, moving through fear, recognizing our inherent Divine Power, and using it to bring our vision to life. Millions of masters-in-the-making, like you and me, are awakening to the concepts of self-responsibility and choice. The proof is in the success of teachers such as Louise L. Hay, Oprah, Ellen DeGeneres, Wayne Dyer, Mehmet Oz, Deepak Chopra, Suze Orman, and others who help people bring spirituality and wholeness into everyday life. Once introduced to these empowering ideas, people give up being victims in favor of being masters. Self-mastery means becoming the heroes of our own lives.
Instead of whining "Why?" and pointing the finger of blame, masters say, "This is the situation. I take responsibility for it. I realize I created this emotional stuff. I know I have the power to make new choices about how I view any event and how I react to it. I am powerful enough to 'uncreate' this situation and re-create something healthy and joyful. I now choose to see everything through the eyes of Love."
Love empowers us. Nothing will transform and enrich life faster than the consistent experience of Love. Let others know that you love them. Tell them and show them, often. Don't wait until later, for you don't know if they will still be here tomorrow. Paramahansa Yogananda used to say that if we want to live our highest potential, all we have to do is teach the mind how to think differently—how to be gentle, calm, loving, and centered on God. Seeing through the eyes of Love is the same as seeing through the eyes of God. Become comfortable with the idea that you are a spiritual being in a physical body, live from that awareness moment to moment, and your life will be transformed. It's simply an internal shift—a journey of mere inches from your mind to your heart. You will find yourself more certain, fulfilled, successful, content, and peaceful than ever before. You will be living in a state of grace.
Anyone who goes about living with a sense of serenity, contentment, and grace has no need to manipulate others. It is rare for a person who is reasonably satisfied with his or her own life to try to run someone else's. Such a person continues to grow through a living process of discovery and renewal and finds that self-mastery is the very opposite of control. As paradoxical as it may sound, this is the path to self-mastery: to surrender, trust, turn away from habits of accumulation, outer achievement, and quick fixes, and to allow one's sense of purpose to spring from inner guidance.
The more you live from inner guidance—that peaceful, loving center within you—the more you'll find that everything you need to meet your wants and desires will be provided. The essence is in knowing that you are already whole and that nothing external to yourself in the physical world can make you any more complete.
YOUR REALITY REFLECTS YOUR THOUGHTS AND INTENTIONS
We create our thoughts, our thoughts create our intentions, and our intentions create our reality. What you see around you, whom you associate with, how you function daily, what your relationships are like, how much money you make, how you get along with others, the shape of your physical body, and virtually everything about you is the result of your intention. Intention is directional energy, and intentional living is one of the most empowering ways to achieve happiness, health, and wholeness and to banish obstacles to spiritual growth. When life is lived with conscious intention, insights unfold more easily and everything proceeds more gracefully.
It is usually fairly easy to be happy and peaceful and to feel somewhat saintly when removed from social circumstances and relationships, but to be happy, peaceful, and balanced regardless of personal and environmental conditions is evidence of real spiritual growth. As you become more soul-centered, your personal and environmental reality tends to adjust toward harmony. Your intentions reflect your values and higher spiritual Self back out into the world. If you view the world as a giving place, you probably see goodness in others and in all situations and are optimistic about other people's being kind and considerate. You usually find yourself surrounded by others with similar values. As a natural result, you experience much gratitude and are unconsciously teaching others to be more loving.
Our main job here on Earth is to take our focus and attention off criticizing and finding fault, and instead look for ways to serve others, share the peace and joy of our hearts, and let others know we appreciate them. When we continually find fault with someone, he or she withers up like a flower without water. Show love, respect, and appreciation to others and they will blossom. Isn't that what we all want—simply to be loved and appreciated?
Give this a try: for a day or two, treat others as if the fullness of God resided within them. Imagine that their external attributes are nonexistent and that you can look directly into their hearts.
In any relationship with others, what really matters is the heart-to-heart or love connection. At the level of the heart, we are all connected by love, yet the love that connects us also makes us complete and whole beings within ourselves. The secret of relationships, whether they are with lovers, friends, or business associates, is to maintain our individuality in union. Remember that you are two selves. Let the winds of heaven dance between you always. Let Spirit guide you. The essence of who you are is Spirit. Spirit makes us all equally special and precious.
Being master of my life means that I put God first before everything. I choose to do this, trusting that my life's higher purpose is being revealed to me. My connection to God requires that I live my highest and best at all times and in all circumstances. I know the loving presence will give me the strength and courage to follow through on my commitments. Being centered on God also means that I give up depending on people, circumstances, and material things as my sources of happiness and fulfillment. I choose to put my faith in God and in my inner guidance.
SUCCESS IS AN INSIDE JOB
For years I have done research on what makes people successful. I recently learned about Daniel Isenberg, a professor at the Harvard Business School and a very popular teacher. He said that for years his former students would come back to him and say, "We really liked your courses, but now that we're out in the real world, what we learned at the business school doesn't seem to make much sense."
This bothered Isenberg because he wanted to teach his students something useful. So he obtained the names of the 25 most successful executives in the country and got permission to follow each of them around for a week, to find out what it was they did that made them successful. Isenberg listened to their phone conversations, listened to them talk to their colleagues, friends, and families, and came to the conclusion that what made these people successful had nothing to do with what was taught at the business school. He discovered two important characteristics shared by all the successful people he observed.
One thing these achievers had in common was a commitment to putting their values first. There may come a time in our lives when our goals are in conflict with our values, a time when we want to do something in business or in some other connection, but we know it's a little judgmental or even a little unethical. We find ourselves torn between what we want to do at the moment and what we feel or know is right. What Isenberg's group of successful people had in common was loyalty to their values. They had learned that, without commitment to our values, either we don't achieve our goals, or if we do, they're not really worth achieving after all.
The second thing these highly successful executives had in common was an incredible faith in their intuition. They all exhibited spiritual sensibility. Some of them were churchgoers, some were not, but they all had a sense of a deeper intelligence in the universe that operated through them. Each of these people made decisions based on his intuitive feelings about what was going on in his business or professional life. We are all endowed with this "sixth sense" of intuition, but most people seem to rely on the other five senses, which usually interpret things according to their own likes and dislikes rather than according to what is true and beneficial for the soul. To know how to choose correctly in any given situation, we need to let the power of intuition guide our judgments.
How in tune are you with your intuition—with God's whisperings?
THE ROLE OF THE BODY IN SELF-MASTERY
Living our best life means appreciating our magnificent bodies. The body is sacred, a temple of the living, loving spirit, and therefore deserves reverence. Treat yourself with respect. Don't wait until you're sick to recognize the miracle of your body. Honor the love inside you and the love you are. If you want to become healthier and more powerful, begin with how you feel about yourself, accepting your body as a temple. Heaven on Earth is inside each one of us at this moment. In your unique body, mind, and spirit you have been given everything you need to be the best you can be, to become master of your life. Cherish and respect your body unconditionally—no matter what its current shape—because it is sacred.
As Divine beings, we all deserve tender, loving care. We may find this difficult to accept, especially where our bodies are concerned. Many of us need to learn to be a friend to our bodies. Getting angry with our bodies only makes matters worse. Although they are but temporary homes for our spiritual being, we must still take care of them because they are sacred vessels for this voyage on Earth. Love your body and be committed to staying fit for your life journey.
Start today by tuning in more attentively to your body. It is a fantastic feedback machine. If you listen, you will discover that it communicates very well. When you get a headache, your body is trying to tell you something. Listen to your body's signals. The key is your willingness to listen and act. If you feel pain, what is your body trying to tell you? It may be telling you that you're eating too much, or eating the wrong kinds of food, or smoking or drinking too much, or not sleeping enough, or not drinking enough water or getting enough exercise. It could be telling you that there's too much emotional congestion in your life.
Listen to your body. Respect and appreciate it. Take loving care of it. You will learn to discern what your body is trying to tell you. And please, choose your doctor carefully. Choose someone who practices a wellness lifestyle and who listens to you. There is a tendency today for doctors to turn to technology and all kinds of elaborate testing, or to prescribe a regimen of medications, before listening to you or to their own intuition. I don't think it's a positive trend. As you think about your health and health care, ask yourself both of these questions: "What can the doctor do for me?" and "How can I help myself?" You are the authority on your body. Educate yourself. If you have specific health conditions, read up on them online and figure out how to get the best possible care. And remember this: It is normal to be healthy. It's your divine birthright to be well.
LOVE IS THE MAIN INGREDIENT TO BEING MASTER OF YOUR HEALTH
One of the most powerful things you can do for your health is to love yourself unconditionally, every day. Treat yourself with respect and dignity. These are the simplest ways to experience peace and the joy of living. It may sound too simple, but I urge you to consider the power of self-love. Remind yourself constantly, so you won't forget. Stick notes on the refrigerator and the mirrors around your home if you need to. "I love myself." "I treat myself with the utmost dignity." Erich Fromm said, "Our highest calling in life is precisely to take loving care of ourselves." When you change your attitude about yourself from negative to positive, everything else in your life will change for the better.
Excerpted from The Joy Factor by SUSAN SMITH JONES. Copyright © 2011 Susan Smith Jones. Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Foreword by Wayne W. Dyer
Chapter 1 Set the Bar High
Chapter 2 Act with Kindness
Chapter 3 Celebrate the Child in You
Chapter 4 Resonate to the Music
Chapter 5 Exercise—Fast and Slow, Alone and Together
Chapter 6 Deepen Your Relationship with Yourself
Chapter 7 Nourish Yourself with Living Foods
Chapter 8 Experience Ecstasy
Chapter 9 Seek Opportunities for Service and Stillness
Chapter 10 Savor Balance in All Things
Appendix A Workbook SELF-DISCOVERY QUESTIONS AND ACTION CHOICES
Appendix B Affirmations for Sacred, Balanced Living