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Unflappable: 6 Steps to Staying Happy, Centered, and Peaceful No Matter What

Unflappable: 6 Steps to Staying Happy, Centered, and Peaceful No Matter What

by Ragini Elizabeth Michaels


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We all want to be happy. But, sometimes life gets in the way. People lose jobs. Spouses are unfaithful. Kids are hostile. Friends die. Houses burn down. It is a jungle out there.

Unflappable is a book that helps readers not only survive, but embrace these ups and downs of life, and learn to stay centered and peaceful regardless of the circumstances.

Drawing on the wisdom of the mystics and her NLP (neuro linguistic programming) training Michaels offers a sixstep process for happiness and serenity regardless of how crazy life gets.

The Six Steps include:

    Discover the lay of the land: Look at the inner contours of your life. Decide where you are and where you want to go.
  1. Examine the river running through your inner landscapein all of its inconsistencies and incongruities.
  2. Ride the river's rapids: go with the flow.
  3. Learn to identify personal challenges on your journey.
  4. Learn how to reduce heightened emotional distress.
  5. Enjoy the ride.

Unflappable offers a unique route to a different brand of happinessone that doesn't depend on outside circumstances, and incorporates a model for conscious living that leads to serenity.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781573244893
Publisher: Red Wheel/Weiser
Publication date: 05/01/2012
Pages: 256
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Ragini Elizabeth Michaels is an internationally acclaimed trainer of NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) and hypnosis, and an accomplished Behavioral Change Specialist. She has traveled the world sharing her Facticity® program, a unique process for how to live with paradox

Read an Excerpt


6 Steps to Staying Happy, Centered, and Peaceful No Matter What


Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC

Copyright © 2012 Ragini Elizabeth Michaels
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-57324-489-3



If you're still looking for happiness, you're not alone. An Internet search for it can get you over 100 million results. A search for "wisdom" will produce about the same. Who would have thought being happy and wise could be so elusive? You'd think by now we'd have absorbed the guidance of the multiple traditions handed down through time—spirituality, psychology, philosophy, shamanism, self-development, and even today's Energy Psychology and New Age.

We haven't absorbed it because a fundamental problem makes this guidance less effective than it could be. It's a core confusion that leads us to take sides instead of cooperating to find new ways to make the wisdom practical and accessible.

The essential problem is not the wisdom offered, but how we understand it. Whatever meaning we take away consciously, the unconscious mind consistently interprets the wisdom (regardless of how it's offered) as saying this: the solution to our pain and suffering is to permanently establish the positive and the good by permanently eliminating the negative and the bad. That will bring happiness and joy. This is the crucial issue: our deep misunderstanding of opposites and how to handle them.

I see this with most people who come to work with me. They are intensely engaged in removing anything bad or negative, but they feel overwhelmed with all it entails—and the unsatisfactory results. Emily is an excellent example.

Chasing After Happiness Is What We Humans Do

Emily, a thirty-eight-year-old supermom, had a handsome, loving husband, three pre-teen kids, a nice home, a career in the medical field, and a way to give back through volunteer work at the homeless shelter. She was convinced this was as good as it got and should have been the key to her fulfillment and happiness. Yet when she came to see me, her stress level was off the charts and anxiety was her constant companion.

One day, desperate for relief, Emily flew into my office, gripping her cup of jasmine tea so tightly I thought she would break it. She flopped into her usual chair and began to cry. "I try my best, but I just can't keep things under control. I can't keep my husband happy, the kids focused on school, the house clean, and my career on track and stay sane. Tell me what I'm doing wrong. I'm sure I could do it better if I just knew how."

Emily isn't alone. She is one of the thousands of unhappy individuals I've encountered in my work who have had the same complaint: "I can't seem to deal with all the choices I have to make every day and be happy. There has to be a better way, doesn't there? My life is driving me crazy!"

And it's not just that Emily has the stress of being a working mom. Emily wants not only happiness, but also wisdom—a practical way to better manage her responsibilities. She told me she wants to stay calm and make decisions without going in circles, worrying if they're right or wrong—decisions such as whether to

• pick up the kids' clothes or leave them lying around for a day

• cook good organic food for dinner or eat out at a fast-food restaurant

• finish that art project sitting in the garage or put it off for another day to take a seminar for her medical career

• have coffee with her friends or hang out at home by herself

Emily goes in circles because she wants to feel good and pick the right choice to get her there. But she's not aware that all of her decisions, big and small, are deeply influenced by something outside her awareness: her unconscious mind's drive to feel good, be happy, and choose what will bring maximum good feelings and pleasure. This seems like it should make her happy, right? The problem is, following your unconscious directive to always choose what feels good doesn't always make you happy in the long run.

When you find yourself struggling with an either/or situation, it's your unconscious mind that makes deciding hard. And you may not realize that you're faced with these kinds of decisions all the time:

• Being alone or being together

• Taking care of you or taking care of others

• Being safe or taking a risk

These dilemmas can leave us paralyzed, corner us into arguments, catch us in power trips, make us controlling, debilitate our health, make us lose courage to stand up for ourselves, exhaust us, turn us into workaholics and codependents, block us from choosing our career path, and hook us into other addictive behaviors.

All of this is because we don't know how to navigate the flow between opposites and the tension between them—the things that make up dilemmas.

A Different Brand of Happiness Is Available

I'm glad to report there is another way to find happiness and feel good. It still requires you to choose and make decisions (after all, that's human life), but there's a wise way to do it that frees you to feel good about yourself—no matter how bad you feel. Paradoxical? Yes. Impossible? No.

I'm going to map out for you another route to a different brand of happiness—one that doesn't depend on outside circumstances, or whether your body is feeling pleasant or unpleasant emotions. This is very different from the happiness that comes when you get what you want (and don't get what you don't want), the most ordinary go-get-it brand of happiness. It's also not the same as that more mysterious, esoteric brand of happiness that comes for no reason at all.

The focus of this brand of happiness is creating a sustainable sense of peace and calm in the presence of your own emotional turmoil, not in its absence. As a bonus, it offers you a wonderful way to travel between the other two brands of happiness.

I introduced Emily to my Six-Step Process, guiding her through the notions and practices you'll learn in this book. Daily challenges didn't disappear, but she discovered how to handle them without the overwhelming anxiety and stress of trying to eliminate everything she perceived as negative or bad.

After using this process for a few months, Emily came back to see me—with a big smile on her face. She shared, "My life's just more workable now. I never thought I could change like this, but now I see things differently and handle things differently. I'm not just happier; I think I'm a whole lot wiser, too. And secretly, I'll tell you I finally feel like a real adult."

Most people just want their dilemmas to go away. They have too much to do and too many decisions to make to take time for happiness. Yet, they can't get away from their deep unconscious desire to feel good—and perhaps more problematic, to not feel bad.

Not Feeling Bad Is Happiness, Too

Everyone wants to feel good. But is that the same sensation you get when you avoid feeling bad? Your unconscious mind thinks so. In fact, for your unconscious mind, feeling good is survival. It's following our core biological imperative that goes like this: go toward pleasure (keep the species going) and stay away from pain (don't die).

Whatever you choose to do, this imperative always influences your decisions. It becomes problematic when your unconscious mind also applies this directive to your emotions as well. It then forces you to move toward emotional pleasure and away from emotional pain (which isn't death, but can sure feel like it). This survival imperative makes you believe that not feeling bad will make you happy. The problem with this belief is that you can't get away from pain—physical or emotional—in human life. So no matter how hard you your unconscious try, you can't avoid the experience of is following feeling bad.

Life is as tough as it is gracious. It imperative: go brings each of us a multitude of disappointments. And each distressing turn of events motivates your unconscious mind to once again get you moving toward that impossible goal of never feeling bad (so you can feel good and survive).

Disappointments Galore

Rationally, you understand disappointment, discomfort, and un-happiness are a part of the package, but your unconscious mind doesn't. So when pain and suffering enter your life, your unconscious mind has to assume you're doing something wrong, someone else is to blame, or God has it in for you, or you'd be feeling good, wouldn't you?

Emily's unconscious mind might say to her: "You know, you're supposed to be able to handle all of these challenges. You must not be doing it right. You should squash that anxiety fast and be calm or your whole life is going to fall apart ... and then, it's all over!"

Inner dialogues are often kind of melodramatic, with an aura of life and death. When dialogues continue (and they do), you may start feeling frightened because your unconscious mind thinks that feeling bad is dying! Avoid feeling bad at all costs.

Your unconscious mind also makes up lots of rules for how to reach its goal of feeling good: "Just do your to-do lists, have positive thoughts, be a good person, save money, be loving, connect with others, become successful, have faith, and cultivate kindness and compassion. Then unhappiness will leave you alone—and maybe you'll even get enlightened, and feeling bad will be gone for good."

These tactics don't work, because your unconscious mind is blind to a huge truth: you don't get pleasure without pain, positive without negative, or enlightenment (living a conscious life) without endarkenment (living a life without awareness).

Some paths say living in the middle is the way out of this predicament. But life is both the middle and the extremes that create the middle. When you realize you don't get one without the other, the question becomes how to live with opposites and the predicaments they create, and still be happy. This book is all about helping you find the answer to that question.

You Cannot Not Want to Be Happy

When I heard the notion that, by design, life consists of both pleasure and pain, I thought it was a pretty stupid idea. Really, aren't love and success the answer to happiness, the ticket to a good life?

At the unconscious level, everyone is engaged in a quest for happiness—just like I mentioned at the beginning of the chapter. You cannot not want to be happy. No matter where you search for it—food, alcohol, mochas with whip, relationships, children, community, career, hobbies, religion or spiritual path—happiness (and peace of mind) is always the unspoken promise.

The quest is a great motivator, like the proverbial carrot at the end of the stick. But the happiness that comes from getting what you want (and not getting what you don't want) can't deliver what your unconscious mind is seeking—a permanent state of feeling good. Blithely following this path only leads you into that same blind alley I mentioned in the Introduction.

Whether you're aware of it or not, your unconscious desire for survival—otherwise known as feeling good—is always there, influencing your decisions. It works tirelessly to pull you toward certain choices and away from others. And it's also tiring (unless you know how to manage it). I think that's why the notion of heaven (perpetual pleasure and freedom from worry about making wrong decisions) is so appealing. It sounds like you'll be out of that blind alley and no longer have to make choices and decisions all alone—decisions based solely on your own assessment of what's right and what's wrong, what's good and what's bad. You'd be free from those unpleasant inner tugs-of-war in your body that accompany the process of trying to resolve a dilemma.

Sounds just lovely. But unfortunately, that's not how life works.

Emily, like many of my clients, let her newfound wisdom about opposites guide her in a different direction. Her desire to be happy didn't go away, but her way of going after it did. She stepped away from the painful blind alley with the street sign of Perpetual Pleasure. Instead, she accepted that both feeling good and feeling bad were always going to be a part of her life. Through that, she experienced a deep relaxation. Then she was able to put her energy into finding that different brand of happiness I've been talking about—the kind where you get to feel good about yourself no matter how bad you feel.

Taking an Alternate Route

Is that same blind alley Emily and I found also in your neighborhood? Most of us keep turning into it, again and again, despite the fact that it always leaves us facing a dreary dead-end. The following chapters detail what this blind alley is, how to develop what you need to recognize it, and my precise map for locating the bridge that leads to that different brand of happiness.

This bridge is your alternate route. Actually, it's right there, now, in front of you. But don't worry if you can't see it yet. The next few chapters are going to stir up a few ideas in your head, and then the bridge will appear right there before your eyes, sort of like—dare I say it—magic.

This stirring begins when you recognize that the fabric of your life is comprised of opposites—like success and failure, trust and doubt, or aloneness and togetherness. Opposites are undeniable and unalterable experiences in your life (what I call "facticities"). Not knowing how to handle the tension between them creates your stress. When you understand opposites and how they work—it's like "open sesame." The wisdom of all the ages can flow into your life, granting you that different brand of happiness and peace of mind.

You may not see these opposites yet, but I'll show you how to verify that they do in fact make up the fundamental fabric of daily living. Why is this a life-changing shift? Instead of fighting them, you suddenly see for yourself that the tension between opposites is the flow of life. It's where life presents its amazing performances—including the exquisite miracle of you and your journey.

It sounds so glorious!

But there's a catch to getting there. First, your unconscious mind needs an update (from Happiness 1.0 to Happiness 3.0), and your brain (operating system) needs an upgrade to run it. The Six-Step Process accomplishes both tasks.

Your Unconscious Mind Needs an Update

Every day your unconscious mind demonstrates its tenacious commitment to wiping out that tension between opposites. It doesn't recognize that tension contributes to life, much less that its presence is the flow of life itself. Your unconscious mind will drive you to spend long hours, lots of dollars, and often an agonizing amount of effort following any path that promises to eradicate or banish the darker aspects of your life. Why does your unconscious mind do this? The biological imperative once again—so you will feel good (and not bad), and thus survive.

You might be familiar with the ways your unconscious operates. It will badger you to transform or transcend your "shadow self" (all the parts of you that you don't like and might even hate). It keeps repeating the same theme: feel good, not bad, and thus survive.

If you're unfamiliar with the notion of a shadow self, think of it as a gathering of all these parts: loser, fatty, ugly bitch, manipulator, people pleaser, coward, codependent, critic, know-it-all, judge, jury, and victim. You might have unwanted and disliked parts lined up around the block. Some may be resentful, some terrified, and others eager to become different and better. But the unconscious mind won't accept any of them as they are. Change is required!

Unfulfilled Promises

You can spend massive amounts of energy to change yourself ... for years and years. That's not bad. It's just human.

I spent many decades trying to erase my shadow self by either transforming it so all the darkness in me shifted into light, or transcending it and leaving it behind. With great gusto and hope, I have

• zapped all my "bad" energy with imagined hues of divine illumination

• peeled darkness out of my energy field and banished it from my body and life

• thrown my shadow self up to the heavens for a modern-day makeover

• loved my self-hatred to death in daily morning meditation

• smothered my negativity and chronic complainitis with gobs of gratitude

I fell under the illusion (so easy to do) that when you get rid of the parts of yourself that make you feel bad, you'll always feel good. But that's not so. Even when you do feel good, your unconscious mind is strong in its commitment. Without hesitation, it continues its mission and re-creates that familiar desire to rid yourself (permanently) of the next set of things you fear, don't like, or simply find unpleasant about yourself, others, and life in general.

Excerpted from UNFLAPPABLE by RAGINI ELIZABETH MICHAELS. Copyright © 2012 Ragini Elizabeth Michaels. 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.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents



A Note to the Reader          

Introduction: The Chase after Happiness          


1. Happiness from a Different Angle          

2. Longing for Magic          

3. The Wisdom of Your Discontent          

4. The Bewildering Nature of Paradox          

5. The Steamy Love Affair between Opposites          

6. Dilemmas: Opposites' Tenacious Offspring          

7. Entering the Land of Unresolvable Dilemma          

8. The Magic of Impermanence          

9. Preparing for Your Peaceful Journey          


10. Beyond the Awareness Paradox          

11. Step One—Exploring the Lay of the Land          

12. Step Two—The River Running through It          

13. Step Three—Riding the River's Rapids          

14. Step Four—Obstacles to Your Enjoyable Travel          

15. Step Five—The New Perspectives for Your Journey          

16. Step Six—Enjoying the Ride          

Conclusion: Your New Wisdom in a Nutshell          


Featured Quotes from the Mystics          


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