Encouragement

My inspiration for this entry originated with a recent Facebook post from a modern composer that I greatly admire named Eric Whitacre. If you wish to have a mystical experience I encourage you to listen to his work, especially two pieces entitled Lux Arumque and Nox Arumque respectively.

Eric shared a story of a Choir Director who sat the choir in a circle with a chair in the center of the circle. One-by-One, each singer was asked to sit in the center chair while the other singers randomly showered her/him with compliments and praises about her/his characteristics and talents. The experience was incredibly moving for many of the participants, and from the standpoint of psychology I have some ideas about what this ultimately contributed to the personal wellbeing of each singer and the Choir as a whole.

This train of thought led to the conclusion upon which this post is based: There just isn’t enough ENCOURAGEMENT going around these days. Instead, we are bombarded with images of depravity and violence, false advertisements, and campaigns of lies and deceit. Speaking of Facebook, I remember a recent meme that was based on the “Be Calm” concept that stated “Do not be calm! Do something! Our world is being destroyed by psychopaths!”

I realize that this is not at all encouraging, but it is unfortunately true. Here is the “something” that each of us can do about it:

We can become imbued with and radiate ENCOURAGEMENT in our lives. We can learn how to adopt it as a new mindset, and establish it as a new norm! Think about it for a moment: Imagine if you could begin to orient your daily thoughts and feelings towards all that is good and positive. Now imagine if you took this new internal state and externalized it to others. Now, take it one step further and imagine hundreds, then thousands of other people doing the same.

This is our path to Transformation, and its basis is ENCOURAGEMENT. Through the power of LOVE, we can take on a new courage, and we can inspire this same courage in others. In time, we can create a world of truly brave people, brave enough to release the fear and put down the weapons. Strong enough to be gentle with one another. Bold enough to LOVE authentically and unconditionally.

The exercise:

Begin by “self-observing” your internal dialogue. Do you tend to be critical of others? Are you prone to finding flaws and identifying weaknesses? Are you yourself discouraged?

No worries, friends, I believe it is safe to say that we have all been a bit tainted by the current collective consciousness (and unconscious) that surrounds us. What matters most  is that we can identify it and change it.

Now, begin to intervene with these tendencies via redirection and substitution. Whenever you start down the road of criticism, purposefully go the other direction (redirection) by finding the positive, and thinking/feeling/giving praise and encouragement (substitution).

Over time (and believe me when I tell you that it does take a little time), you will find that this once “practiced” (and sometimes “forced”) behavior has become your new norm, and the world will seemingly transform around you! 🙂 Of course the truth of the matter is that it is YOU who has changed. Ah, but herein lies the magic! When we change (individually), our world does indeed change (collectively).

Imagine what a league of one million ENCOURAGERS could accomplish!

Friend, I offer you this day the praise, recognition, and encouragement that you deserve. You are doing an amazing job, and you are, in your heart of hearts, a noble and caring person. I invite you to allow all of that goodness that you possess to increase and overflow to others.

Banish the negativity from your mind, refuse to stoop to the level of judgment, and declare your life a “drama free zone.” 🙂

Be encouraged, and exude ENCOURAGEMENT. It WILL transform your life.

Be Well!

Dr. Mik

Brilliance

Some of you may recall a song that was popular several years ago called “Beautiful,” by James Blunt? I will never forget the first time I heard the song and his statement, “My life is brilliant . . .”. I will also never forget how my first reaction was, “Well, aren’t you special!” LOL

However, after sitting with this idea for a time I realized that the singer was truly “on to” something with this concept. I realized that he was not using the word brilliant in praise of his own intelligence or awesomeness, but that he was actually pointing to his realization of the beauty and radiance that was his life.

Each and every life is itself inherently brilliant.

Pray, Meditate, Think, and Feel (PMTF) for a moment upon the amazing privilege it is to be a Soul living within a body that has a mind. What a miracle it is to see, hear, taste, smell, feel, and sense (intuit). What an incredible gift it is to have been granted consciousness and the free will (personal responsibility) to command and direct your life according to conscience.

A brilliant Creator has placed its same brilliance within you.

There are times when we simply stand in awe of it, and no thoughts or words can capture the feeling of amazement and gratitude that are present within that moment that penetrates itself. I like to call it the “Zero-point” where time stands still and the “tension of opposites” ceases to exist.

It is within moments like these that we experience the deepest truth of our existence and the source of and extent of our power. Self-criticism yields to a glimpse of self-awareness, and Self-consciousness touches upon pure consciousness.

And then, we forget, again.

The GOAL, my friends, is to never again forget!

May we learn to “let our Lights shine” so that we might always remember who and what we truly are, where we come from, and where we can go if we will only have faith in the brilliance that moves around and within us. May each and every moment welcome the purest truth and experience of all that is good, wholesome, and beautiful.

Let us embrace and enact a Psychology of Brilliance, a Philosophy of Truth, and a Spirituality of Light & Love.

Be Well!

Dr. Mik

Appreciative Inquiry

There is a story of a young adult male who was riding a train for what seemed like the first time. He appeared to be astounded by the experience and repeatedly commented to his father about how the trees were moving away from the train and the clouds were moving ahead of it. He did not seem to realize that it was the train (and therefore himself) that was actually moving.

A couple sitting next to the boy and his father watched for time, and eventually suggested to the father that he take the young man to a doctor. The father stated, “I just did, and we are on the way home from the hospital where my son received a new set of eyes. This is the first time he has ever seen in his 24 years of life.”

How often do we misjudge and arrive at erroneous conclusions due to a haughty sense of self-righteousness and flawless perception? How many stories like the one above could be told about each one of us, if every judgment and assumption were permitted to “play out” to a reveal?

I believe I have written before about a concept known as the “introspection error,” in which human beings tend to believe that their perception of time, place, people, and events are the most accurate and reliable. This phenomenon is depicted well within the movie Inception where the characters would utilize an object to “reality test” and determine if they were awake or dreaming.

The “token” that I would like to propose that we all learn to utilize in determining the accuracy of our assumptions and judgments is a practice known as Appreciative Inquiry.

Feel free to Google the term in order to learn about its origin, development, and application. For our purpose here I would like to consider the following “working definition”:

“A process of withholding conclusions about a phenomenon in favor of taking the time and making the effort to dig deeper into its more subtle nuances and essences so as to stand a greater chance of understanding said phenomenon in its most authentic and truest form.”

To accomplish this try the following:

Adopt a mindset of withholding judgments. Simply allow yourself to view and experience things as they are, without tainting them with your own projections and/or prejudices. When you find yourself not doing so well with this, offer yourself counter-hypothesis that could also be true:

Perhaps that homeless person actually holds a PhD and lost all his money due to a family tragedy?

Maybe that tattooed and pierced girl is an abuse survivor who is trying to gain back the autonomy that was stolen from her?

What if my feelings towards that guy with the Rolex and Hugo Boss suit actually stem from my own jealousy and envy?

These are just a few examples, and if we are all honest with ourselves we might find that we do a lot more judging and assuming than we would care to admit. May we learn to avoid such errors by offering love and the “benefit of the doubt” to others.

You may find that the more you practice appreciative inquiry as a counter-measure, you may also begin to apply it naturally in all areas of your life. An open heart and mind is available to experience life on an entirely new and beautiful level. Rather than see the weeds, you will focus upon the gorgeous flowers. Instead of the mole on the forehead, you will see the beautiful soul that lies within. An accused criminal could actually be quite innocent.

May our lives be blessed with the gift of appreciative inquiry as we learn to “dig deep” into the experiences life grants us. May we therefore come to embrace the positive aspects of each and every situation, thereby granting ourselves every opportunity to savor the essences of all that matters most.

Be Well!

Dr. Mik

Fortitude

The Olympic Games are a wonderful celebration of human endeavor and triumph. Athletes of every race, gender, nationality, sexual identity/orientation, and religion come together in the spirit of human potential and attainment in order to give their absolute best and hopefully reap the rewards of years of “blood, sweat, and tears.”

With the arrival of each Olympic Games my mind tends to turn towards many of the concepts and interventions that I know and employ from the realm of Sport Psychology. As I watch the athletes preform, I am aware of the many hours of psychological training they have received in order to be able to compete at a “world class” level. I also continue to think of ways to bring this advanced discipline to every-day folks who are competing in the “race of life.”

Therefore, in the spirit of Rio 2016, I would like to offer a few thoughts on the concept and practice of FORTITUDE.

It is true that we psychotherapists are often encouraging our patients to be softer, gentler, and more compassionate with themselves and others. We also often ask our patients to face and embrace their weaknesses and wounds as a pathway to deeper understanding, acceptance, and healing.

However, there are also times and situations in life that call for us to bolster ourselves and fight our way through with a strong sense of determination and fortitude. In these situations there may not be time nor benefit to stopping, opening, and processing in favor of a need to “gut it out” and “push it through.”

Let us call to mind Sir Winston Churchill’s adage: “When you are going through Hell, KEEP GOING!” By all means, we want to get the HELL out of there! 🙂

Now, as many of you know I am not talking about a black or white, “all or nothing” approach that calls us to be hardened and/or abrasive. I am also not advocating for a “just get over it” mentality. What I am talking about are times and situations when we may have to embrace a mindset of ardent courage and determination, and save the deeper processing for a time after the dust has settled.

Tough times demand strong people.  People of fortitude.

Consider for a moment the spirit of those who first settled in new territories. These pioneers faced incredibly difficult, life and death circumstances on an almost daily basis. They needed to dig deep and call up every ounce of fortitude they could muster, and because they did, many of us are who we are and where we are today.

I am sad to say that there seems to be an erosion of fortitude facing each subsequent generation. People are becoming much more entitled and enabled to strive less, and expect more. We can look to the misapplication and misuse of technology as a major culprit, but leaders, teachers, and healers are also responsible when we fail to teach and encourage concepts and interventions that foster grit, determination, sacrifice, and fortitude.

Therefore, I am reaching out to each of you on this hot August day in order to say that sometimes we just need to accept the pain, “suck it up,” and “drive on” with our lives. It is wonderful to know how to be flexible and gentle, but there will also be times when we need to stand strong, “find our metal,” and just “grit it out.”

Love and compassion are beautiful, and strength and resilience are noble. Let us continue to seek to be all that we are capable of being and becoming, and let us do so boldly and with FORTITUDE.

Be Well!

Dr. Mik Ludwig

PEACE

Several years ago my heart was rent by a series of violent episodes that had occurred in our world. I was overcome with grief that a human race so capable of technological advancement could not solve its most pressing problems: hatred, violence, and WAR.

One day during my prayer/meditation time I was struck with a series of inspirations about these problems. I first experienced a condensing of the multiple issues plaguing our political, economic and religious landscapes into one pervasive emotion that was responsible for our inability to transcend hatred, violence, and war. That emotion is FEAR.

Examine one individual or all of humanity. Consider what troubles one or that which plagues the entire world. “Peel the onion” down to its deepest layer, and what do you find? FEAR.

Fear of being harmed. Fear of being shunned. Fear of not having enough. Fear of someone having more. Fear of different customs. Fear of alternative ideas. Fear of weakness in oneself. Fear of strength in another.

And so it is that fear drives people to hate one another, to marginalize entire groups, and to wage war between nations. What we need is an answer and a solution to FEAR, and I believe that the next inspiration I received contains the answer and solution we seek.

While I am not trying to highlight one worldview over any other, it just so happens that a very clear and distinct revelation of the solution to fear is found within the Christian faith tradition (How ironic it is that the one who brought us this solution was himself brutally murdered for his message?).

His beloved disciple writes in 1 John 4:18: “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.”

Our solution to fear is LOVE. Love not only for OUR families, friends, communities, and traditions, but love also for the families, friends, communities, and traditions of OTHERS, even half a world away.

Hence, we must rescue love from cliché and restore it to its rightful place as the highest of virtues and the best of practices. It is not enough to know this message, or even write or speak about it, we must enact LOVE individually and internationally, and the best way I know how to do this is by tirelessly calling, or even relentlessly begging our world to embrace PEACE.

 

Be Well!

Dr. Mik

Life Vision

A question: “Is life a daily grind of dealing with what happens TO us, or is it a series of opportunities to make things happen FOR us?”

How we answer this question can tell us a great deal about our personal situations and our mindsets towards the lives we are living. Let’s consider each viewpoint individually, and then, of course, integratively.

First, a bit of a caveat: Whenever I speak or write about life optimization and proactive living I want to always remain mindful of the fact that there are many people in our world who have been born into situations that make optimism a very challenging prospect. Many do not live in conditions that foster empowerment, nor do they have the means to “just go get what they want.” For some it is indeed a feat to just make it through each day intact.

For these folks, life may very well feel like “a daily grind of dealing with what happens,” and I feel it is important to maintain empathy and respect towards them and their situations. “But by the grace of God, there goeth I . . .”

However, their stories can indeed change, and while it is good to be realistic about the challenges, it is even better to focus upon the power we all possess to work towards change and improvements in our lives regardless of where we may be forced to begin.

When we read the stories of those who have struggled and who have experienced the “lowest of lows,” we discover people who were not willing to surrender to despair. While they may have felt that life was one trial after another, they never lost faith in the spark within them that would always remain capable of being fanned into a fire.

These individuals realized that life could also be “a series of opportunities to make things happen,” no matter the circumstances, no matter the odds. Rising from the illusion of powerlessness, they claimed their God given right to apply themselves to the pursuit of their hopes and dreams.

And they did rise, and they did attempt, and they did succeed. And so will you. All that is needed to begin is the willingness to formulate and follow a Life Vision that reflects your own desire and which follows your own design.

Here’s how:

Set aside time to pray, meditate, think, and feel (PMTF) about how you would like to design the remaining days of your life:

  • Would you like more education? A different career? A certain kind of lifestyle? A particular partner?
  • Would you like to travel? Follow a sport? Learn a new language? Play an instrument?
  • What are the things that you have said you “have always wanted to do?”

Now, formulate these desires into some palpable form: A scrapbook, a vision board, a narrative – whichever will serve you best in keeping the vision alive and constantly before your eyes and in your mind.

Finally, spend time each day reviewing your Life Vision while you continue to consider what specific and detailed steps will be needed to bring about its manifestation. Walk these steps faithfully and you cannot help but experience results.

Friends, I am not talking here about “white light and bunnies” or “vending machine” spirituality, but about a scientific and reality based application of desire, will, and intention coupled with sincere action and effort that leads to visible and tangible results.

To conceptualize a vision, embrace a vision, nurture a vision, and enact a vision, is to witness the miracle of co-creation. The intangible becomes tangible. A thought becomes a form. A dream manifests a reality.

Be Well!

Dr. Mik

Intentional Living

Having discussed the concept and practice of Authentic Presence, I would like to now take one step further (and deeper) by discussing several integrative psychological aspects of Intentional Living. I will begin by sharing some brief information about the evolution of psychology from reactive to pro-active, and how this shift has led to new discoveries and methodologies that can be readily applied towards the pursuit of the Integrated Life.

One of the ways in which I like to think of the history of psychology is by considering two waves, if you will. The first wave seems to have been oriented towards helping people cope with and heal through things that had happened and/or been done to them. These methods were founded upon helping people find the courage to openly talk about their struggles, thereby experiencing the release of the anxiety caused by repressed and suppressed thoughts and emotions.

While these methods have had and continue to have value, there is a second wave of psychology that has expanded the healing potentials of psychotherapy. This New Psychology is focused less upon what has happened or may happen, and more upon what WE desire to make happen in our lives. This, dear Reader, represents a powerful shift in human consciousness that I like to say has the power to transform us from “victims” into “victors.”

While it is still true that things may still happen that will cause us to be in need of healing, and that there will always be situations that will remain out of our control, it is also true that we can indeed form intentions and direct our will to the performance of affirmative actions that can lead to positive experiences in our lives. Life need not be a series of reactions to “what happens next,” but can instead become a series of thoughts, intentions, and actions that can create that which we authentically desire.

This then is Intentional Living: “To proceed in pro-active ways of thinking and feeling that then become powerful intentions that direct us to perform actions most conducive with the attainment of our highest hopes and desires.”

Let us then ask ourselves: Are we living re-actively or pro-actively? Are we waiting for what happens, or are we making things happen? Are we living as victims or victors?

May your answers to these questions reveal to you the truth of your path of life, and motivate you to adopt the ways of thinking, feeling, intending, and acting that will be most conducive to your overall happiness and wellbeing.

Blessings to each of you as you work to create the life you most truly desire.

Be Well!

Dr. Mik