Thursday, February 10, 2011

10 Ways to Build Trust in Your Relationships

The lead up to Valentine’s Day is a mixed time for many people. For some it’s a lonely time. For others, it’s an anxious time as you wonder how to celebrate a less than perfect relationship (wait, that’s true for all of us in relationships). Many people are jaded because their trust has been betrayed and they have high walls of protection erected around their heart. All of us have limits to our trust, and different degrees of trust with different people. In our closest relationships we have an awesome opportunity to experience the deepest trust, possibly the most satisfying of all experiences.

Trust is fragile and yet you also know that the world would be a harsh and suspicious place if you never trusted. Trust changes your whole outlook on life. It makes the world a more open, inviting and friendly place. Don’t give your trust recklessly. Give your trust mindfully; aware that there are no guarantees and there is always the chance you will be hurt again. In your calmest moments, you know that the risk to keep your heart closed is nothing in comparison to the joy of sharing love.

Where would you place your relationships on the trust spectrum? (10 being very trusting, and 0 being very mistrusting). It’s worth taking personal inventory and maybe even initiating a conversation with your partner about your thoughts and hopes. Celebrate the level of trust you have now, and commit to stepping that number up higher with specific and intentional actions. If you’re already at 10, then take it deeper. Trust has no destination. You can always be more trusting.

Are There Any Guarantees?
It seems backward, but the first step to building trust in relationships is to accept that there are no guarantees. As Comedian, Randy Millholand said, “There are people I know who won’t hurt me. I call them corpses.” Trust offers no certainties, or else trust would not be required. But don’t give up working on trust no matter how jaded you feel, or else you might as well be a corpse.

Find your balance. Being jaded and being idealistic are equally dangerous when it comes to relationships.

Be realistic. I have presided over too many weddings where young couples stand before me with stars in their eyes and no idea of how much they will likely hurt each other at some point. Some of these same couples have knocked on my door within weeks or months with awful stories of broken trust.

If people truly realized the intensity of making vows of commitment to another human being for life, they would wear a crash helmet to the wedding. Not a veil, but a crash helmet. Love is an act of faith. I sometimes feel like sending couples out with the instructions, “Do not try this at home without a safety net. It’s risky!”

Be realistic. There are risks involved. But also believe. Believe that there is something stronger than the risk- that is the joy of dropping your guard with another person, letting that person deep into your private world and making a commitment to love each other through thick and thin. Risk your trust in return for the adventure of being in love. Trust opens the gates to love.

You will be relieved to know that I have never used my crash helmet analogy at a wedding. If you can’t be hopelessly romantic on your wedding day, then when can you be?

Something I do say is that trust is more important than love. Saying to another person ‘I trust you” is often more profound than saying “I love you.” You may not always trust the person you love, but you can always love the person you trust. Trust is a gift. When you offer someone the gift of trust, you create an opening for something greater. Trust frees you from your fears and helps you give birth to love.
Building Trust in Relationships

Stephen Covey, son of Stephen Covey who wrote Seven Habits of a Highly Effective People, wrote a book called The Speed of Trust; The One Thing that Changes Everything. He offers the analogy that every relationship has a trust account. When you build trust, you make a deposit. When you break a trust, you make a withdrawal. The withdrawals are typically larger than the deposits. Therefore the fastest way to rebuild the trust account is to stop making withdrawals. The other way to rebuild trust is to make new deposits.

Here are 10 practical ways to rebuild trust.
1. Practice with small and safe deposits first. There are big things to entrust to someone, and there are smaller things. How many people would you trust with your life savings? Probably very few. What about telling someone a secret, or starting a new business with someone? Again, very few. But would you be prepared to trust someone with a smile, or a kind word, even knowing that they might abuse your vulnerability? Start by making small deposits into your trust account and build confidence from there.
2. Gather information to get the greatest return on your investment. Trust, to a certain extent, is built on information. Instead of taking a blind leap of faith, take a calculated risk. Gather as much information as you can before you trust, but keep in mind that trust implies incomplete information. Wendell Berry said this- “Knowledge, like everything else, has its place, and… we need urgently now to put it in its place… Let us…abandon our superstitious beliefs about knowledge: that it is ever sufficient, that it can of itself solve problems… Let us give up our forlorn pursuit of the ‘informed decision.” Gather information, but also be prepared to take a leap with incomplete information.
3. Be transparent. Suspicions often emerge in relationships when people act in a way that is outside their character or routine. Even if you don’t know why you are behaving the way you are, or if you don’t know why you are pushing love away, just express that you are going through something and need some space. Transparency leaves less room for imagination that can easily create unnecessary drama.
4. Be consistent. Make sure your words match the way you live. Mean what you say and say what you mean. There is nothing that can devastate trust more quickly than inconsistency.
5. Believe in the strength of your partner. He/ she can deal with your feelings and doubts and questions. Express yourself as lovingly as you can, and trust your partner to stay with your honest thoughts and feelings.
6. Agree to boundaries with other family and friends. Your relationship has its own intimacy boundaries, and this has as much to do with sharing private information and personal feelings as sex. If you are telling a friend something that you haven’t or wouldn’t tell your partner, you may have crossed a line. This can create major barriers to trust.
7. Don’t confuse trust with forgiveness. They operate differently. You usually forgive people well before you trust them. You might forgive an apologetic jewel thief, but not leave him alone in a jewelry store. You might forgive people who have hurt you, but not leave them alone with your heart. If there has been a breach of trust, work at forgiveness as the first step towards trust.
8. Each person has their own trust account. People operate their trust accounts differently. You need to deposit into the other person’s trust account in a way that speaks to that person. Garrison Keilor tells a story about a couple who had been married for many years. The woman wrote a sonnet to her husband that amongst all the things she loved about him it was when he was working on the broken washing machine that she gained a “trust for tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that.” Be clear about how trust accrues, and ask direct questions to know how trust builds for others.
9. If you have breached a trust, don’t make things worse by lying about it. Take responsibility quickly, and begin regaining broken trust. The more time that passes, the more tangled the web, the harder it is to come back from broken trust.
10. If in your situation the broken trust is too deep, then work at a healthy ending to the relationship. There is more at stake than the relationship (and kids if there are kids involved). Your ability to trust yourself and get back on a path with integrity is the biggest issue at stake. Work towards loving and leaving the relationship, giving thanks for what it has meant, forgiving life for disappointing your expectations and moving forward positively.

Trust – What Are You Ultimately Protecting?
A Zen Master lived the simplest kind of life in a little hut at the foot of a mountain. One evening, while he was away, a thief sneaked into the hut only to find there was nothing in it to steal. The Zen Master returned and found him. “You have come a long way to visit me,” he told the prowler, “and you should not return empty handed. Please take my clothes as a gift.” The thief was bewildered, but he took the clothes and ran away. The Master sat naked, watching the moon. “Poor fellow,” he mused,” I wish I could give him this beautiful moon.”

The beautiful thing about this story is that the Zen Master wasn’t holding on too tightly, so trust was easier for him. Be generous in your relationships. The more freely you give, the less you will feel that you have to lose.

Maybe you don’t need a crash helmet after all. Life is generous, and always offers second chances. People are flawed, but there are always opportunities to rebuild trust. You have an inner courage to get back up after being hurt and keep loving anyway. Let go, trust the adventure of being alive and enjoy intimacy without defensiveness.

Take the chance to send a Soulseeds Valentine's Affirmation to all you care about- friends, family and colleagues. It will be a general affirmation of appreciation, and not a romantic message designed for a partner.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Law of Attraction- You Get What You Give

The Eighteenth Century Jewish master, Tzemech Tzedek, was once asked to pray for a seriously ill child. He said to the family, “Tracht gut vet zain gut,” a Yiddish phrase which means “Think good, and it will be good.” The child recovered. The Rabbi asked the family when the child began to turn around. They told him it was the minute they began to think positive thoughts. Stories such as this appear in many spiritual traditions. Jesus described it as “your faith has made you well.”

What is the power of the mind? Is it the ability to bend spoons, a la Uri Geller, or is it the presence of mind to reframe thoughts and take a larger perspective? The mind is certainly powerful and I’m sure that we don’t even know the full extent of the mind’s untapped powers if you take into account our subconscious mind. Either way, the ability to frame your experiences and beliefs in a healthy perspective is potentially more powerful than any magic potion or faith healing.

Let me begin with an inspiring story that will help to reframe any skepticism you may be feeling. Toni Bernhard is an author with a chronic illness. She was profiled on NPR last Sunday. Toni’s book is called How to Be Sick: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and Their Caregivers. It’s a beautiful example of reframing thoughts from a very intelligent and rational person. She became sick in 2001 and never got better. She barely leaves her bed, although for a time she continued lecturing in law while sitting in a chair. After she had been through many of the normal reactions to an illness like denial and blame, she came to some peace with her illness by practicing two Buddhist meditations. The first is called Mudita, which is a way of finding joy in the joy of others. For example, when she couldn’t be at her grandchild’s graduation another family member texted her details as they happened. She felt their joy. The second practice is Tonglen which is a method of breathing in the suffering of others and breathing out joy. She practiced it when she couldn’t attend functions, and she would breathe in the pain of the many people around the world who also can’t be with loved ones. She has a wonderful attitude, very real and honest but also an ability to reframe circumstances. She said this on the NPR interview-

It has taken several years — and many tears — to learn how to thrive in my new life. I still have rough days when I wish I could do whatever I want. But really, who can do that anyway? On the whole, I’m content and at peace with what I can do. Even if it’s from the bed.

Toni Bernhard is practicing the Law of Attraction. What she is achieving is even more powerful than a miracle cure or an unexplained remission. She is in her words “turning straw into gold.” She is taking the raw and harsh elements of human existence and creating alchemy by transforming them into strength of character and joy. The fact that she is sourcing her joy out of a spiritual tradition is an encouragement to those of us who look to the stories and practices of many traditions to live well and fully.

Make no mistake. The Law of Attraction is powerful beyond anything you have ever imagined. Its healing and transformative powers reach back to ancient Egyptian culture. Reframe your skepticism and allow yourself to entertain the possibility that there is at least a kernel of truth to the Law of Attraction. If you’re already there, open your mind to even greater power. If you’re not quite there yet, stretch your perspective just a little to include more power to your thoughts than you previously gave them.

It’s an interesting side note that Norman Vincent Peale, the father of positive thinking in America, was a minister in the Reformed Church in America. His legacy is a fine one. His unfortunate prejudice was his anti Catholic attitude. It led to a lot of criticism from his peers. Adlai Stevenson once said, “As a Christian, I find the Apostle Paul appealing and the Apostle Peale appalling.” It’s a nice play on words and a cutting criticism of prejudice.

Prejudice aside, where did positive thinking, a la Norman Vincent Peale, originate? Barbara Ehrenreich’s 2009 book, Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America offers an interesting analysis of positive thinking in America. She says it was a reaction to the gloomy Calvinism that first arrived with the pilgrims. Positive thinking arose out of a new theology where God was no longer controlling and judgmental, but was the all pervasive energy of love and goodness in the world. This seems like a healthy development. But Ehrenreich goes on to describe the shadow side of positive thinking- a new form of guilt and works salvation. Your righteousness is no longer measured by a judgmental God, but is now measured by how positive you are.

As we venture into the exciting and partly mysterious realm of the Law of Attraction, let us avoid both forms of judgment. You don’t need to suffer for God or limit your life with self loathing to appease God’s judgment. Nor should you have any fear that the Law of Attraction is a new rod, to beat you for not being positive enough or not recovering quickly enough. The foundation for the Law of Attraction is grace and kindness. There is no hierarchy of positive thinkers, and there is no punishment for skepticism other than the torment you put yourself through by scrunching up your brain in cranky fear. Life is awesome, and your life can be more incredible than you usually allow yourself to believe.

Begin with grace and kindness, allowing yourself to believe that it’s ok to enjoy life. From this beginning, allow your kind thoughts to stretch beyond yourself. There is more than enough love and grace to go around and the more blessings you seek for others, the more you will experience yourself.

The Essence of The Law of Attraction

As well as reframing your voice of skepticism to allow room for new possibilities, allow your skepticism to speak its mind. How do you explain the situations where you desperately want suffering, your own and others, to end, but it doesn’t? There are times when your attitude is strong, you do everything you can. You visualize health and wellness, you speak positively, you think positive thoughts, and yet you don’t get the healing you are looking for, or the solutions you are looking for. How do you explain this? Does it deny the Law of Attraction?

Maybe it’s a misunderstanding of the Law of Attraction. The Law of Attraction is not about getting what you want. Most of the time, you don’t even know what you really want. You think you want wealth but once you get it, it doesn’t smell as sweet as you imagined. This Scandinavian story illustrates the problem with desire-

A gnome lived in the forest under the root of a tree. He had one big wish: more than anything else in the world he wanted to own a green hunter’s bag. This gnome used to think about his green hunter’s bag by day and dream about it at night. He had visualized it a thousand times. Then, one day, the gnome received a beautiful green hunter’s bag as a gift. His dream had come true; his all-consuming wish had been fulfilled. The gnome owned a green hunter’s bag. Now you would have expected him to be outrageously happy. But instead, he moaned, “It’s a nice hunter’s bag, only it’s not quite as green as I had imagined it!

One of the blocks to the Law of Attraction is the insatiable desire that always thinks the grass is greener on some other side. The grass isn’t greener on the other side. There is no other side. The grass is green where you water it, and you can water your thoughts in every moment, wherever you are, with mindfulness and perspective.

The Law of Attraction is not about getting what you think you want. It’s not even about getting what you have convinced yourself that you need. Desire is so often built around a false understanding of who you are. Do you remember one of the Snicker’s commercials from last year’s Super Bowl? Four young guys are on a road trip. When one gets hungry he turns into Aretha Franklin and another turns into Liza Minnelli. Their friend says, “Eat something. Every time you get hungry, you turn into a diva.” The commercial ends with the slogan, “You’re not you when you’re hungry.” It’s a cunning trick of the voice of desire to convince you that unless you get this promotion or some unknown level of wealth, you won’t amount to anything as a person. The Law of Attraction is not about feeding the ego. The Law of Attraction is not about getting what you need. Often, you’re like a hamster on a wheel chasing your tail; and then wondering why you’re coughing up fur balls.

The Law of Attraction is not about want or need. It is about attracting “like” to “like”. The more you grow to understand yourself, the more you understand what you are attracting into your life. It becomes clear what is serving you, and filling your life with joy. You seek more of that by BEING more of that, and it finds you because it IS you. What you want, what you need and who you are become one. When you live with this sort of flow, walls turn into doors, hurdles turn into spring boards and crises turn into opportunities. You are at ease with everything that happens and you turn ordinary moments into occasions for incredible joy.

You may feel that the Law of Attraction is not working, or else you may need to reframe your thoughts or retrain your true awareness of who you are. Remember that the Law of Attraction also partners with a lot of other laws, including surrender of outcomes, patience, action and cause and effect. So beware of using the Law of Attraction as an excuse for inaction or laziness.

The Law of Attraction and The Golden Rule

This next point is SO important at this time in history. The Law of Attraction is never a substitute for taking personal responsibility. It’s a partnership AND it’s not all about you and your blessings. The Law of Attraction can easily become narcissistic if it’s not partnered with the Golden Rule. When you are truly living out of your authentic or highest self, you know that your wellbeing is intimately related to the wellbeing of others. The platinum rule goes even further than the Golden Rule. The Platinum Rule says that you should seek more for the other than you do for yourself. The Law of Attraction is about being whole, which is more than the fortunes of any one individual. You may have been blessed with optimum health, but as long as others are suffering there is more to be done. You may have been blessed with great wealth but as long as others are living in poverty there is more to be done. As long as people are suffering and you can do something about it, there is more to do.

One of the great spiritual gurus of the past century is the Indian sage Baba Neem Karoli, better known as Maharaji. People from all over the world travelled to India to visit with Maharaji. They wanted to know the secret to a happy and full life. He said to them, “Feed people.” Surprised, they would question him again. He answered, “Serve people.” He said that the secret to a happy life is to feed people, serve people and help people. Part of the secret to the Law of Attraction is to make sure that you are manifesting for others what you deeply desire for yourself. If you want more friends, then be a friend to others. If you want more money, then give more money to others. If you want more praise, then give more praise to others. The effect of the Law of Attraction is multiplied by the power of many intentions working together for the good of the whole.

The Law of Attraction and Egypt

Apply the Law of Attraction to current world events. We are in the middle of an unprecedented global shift, centered in the Middle East. Where did the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt come from, and where is it all heading? The Law of Attraction invites us to ask two very different questions.

1. What did we, the world community, do to attract this situation? How can we learn from the past?
2. What do we want to attract from this point forward?

1. How did we attract this situation?

Take your mind back to the Hebrew Prophets who had their own way of practicing the Law of Attraction. Listen to these words from Isaiah chapter 19 and see if it doesn’t ring any bells.

I will stir up Egyptian against Egyptian—
brother will fight against brother,
neighbor against neighbor,
city against city,
kingdom against kingdom.
The Egyptians will lose heart,
and I will bring their plans to nothing;
they will consult the idols and the spirits of the dead,
the mediums and the spiritists.
I will hand the Egyptians over
to the power of a cruel master,
and a fierce king will rule over them,”
declares the Lord, the LORD Almighty. Isaiah 19;2-4

The prophets weren’t predicting anything as specific as what is playing out right now, but they were offering a profound comment on the Law of Attraction. Their prophecy was for the fall of Egypt that was followed by a rebirth. They predicted internal and external conflict and the oppression of a dictator. The incredible thing is that we’re somewhere in the middle of their prophecy, maybe watching a key moment in the ongoing ebb and flow. The amazing truth of the Law of Attraction is that we are ALWAYS in the middle of its manifestation. Who can even say if there is an end or an outcome? Everything is always evolving and changing. We are all in a constant cycle of fall and rebirth. The Law of Attraction is about what inner character we manifest through all the uncertainty.

The prophets weren’t offering Nostradamus style predictions. They were describing the natural state of life and the pendulum swing of human desire. How did we attract the most recent conflict in the Middle East? The chickens may be coming home to roost for the cause and effect cycle of the past forty years, including American support of dictators such as Mubarak. Partly out of fear of fundamentalist Islamic government, America has generally supported the pro West, secular governments even when run by loathsome dictators. The mantra has been ‘better the oppressive secular government you know than the Islamic government you don’t know.” We can’t be surprised that people will eventually rise up against dictators. We need to start looking for the middle ground between fundamentalist religious government and oppressive secular rule. The chickens are coming home to roost. The REaction matches the actions of many years. We are reaping what we sowed for many decades. This is one side of the Law of Attraction.

2. Looking forward, how can we apply the Law of Attraction in a healthy way?

The other side of the Law of Attraction is what we want to manifest moving forward. Take a lead from the protestors in Cairo. People who have never before been active are getting involved in peaceful resistance, refusing to be dictated to any longer and seeking the best future for their country. They are networking, door to door and on Twitter and Facebook, to build their movement. 80 year old Arab feminist, Dr. Nawal El Saadawi, who has been fighting injustice for decades and now stands on the front lines in Cairo, said to New York Times Nicholas Kristoff, “I feel I am born again.”

They have broken the barriers of fear, and they are manifesting the possibilities of freedom. Another protestor, Seif Salmawy, said with a smile. “Suddenly we are human beings. We think we can decide and that what we decide has worth and that we have some value as humans. Before there was the president, the police, the army and their money: We the people were just there to serve them.”

Take a cue from Egyptian protestors. Remove some fear and claim your true essence as a person of worth and power. In short get out of your own way. And let those of us in the west get out of the way and create space for Middle Eastern countries to create a democracy that works for them rather than the democracy we want to see. It’s time to trust the people. We have been reminded that under the right circumstances, people can and do claim their destiny.

Get Out of Your Own Way

Let me end with a parable that speaks to the Law of Attraction, both in the Middle East and in every personal situation as well. It’s a parable about a dove that illustrates the danger of looking for manifestation of the Law of Attraction in the wrong places.

Originally doves had no wings. One poor dove was being constantly harassed by a lion. Every day the lion would run after the dove, and the dove would just barely escape. One day the dove prayed for wings and sure enough, she got them. As soon as she saw the lion, she called out to him. The lion charged after the dove, and when he was inches from her, the dove started running away.

But the dove tripped over her new wings. Instead of helping her run faster, the wings got in her way. The lion was on top of her now, and before she could pick herself up…well, you know what happened.

When the dove got to bird heaven, she complained to God, “I prayed for help, and you gave me wings. But instead of the wings helping me to run faster, they interfered with my speed.”

God responded: “I didn’t give you those wings to run with. I gave you the wings to fly with.”

The dove was too fixated on her own perspective to see the possibilities. The Law of Attraction collaborates with possibility when you surrender your expectations and outcomes, forge a powerful intention and take inspired action. Then you will fly. And others will soar alongside you. If you have ears to hear, please hear the message as it relates to your life. The Law of Attraction is powerful. You just need to get out of your own way and approach life with grace and optimism. Today, we stand with Egyptians and claim our destiny as one world community seeking the common good. Namaste.