How to live a more satisfying life

The best first step towards changing the way things are is to fully accept the way things are.

Michael Giles has written a book called Action of Mind: Essential Steps Toward a Satisfying Life. Neatly divided into three sections — Open Mind, Focused Mind, and Big Mind — the book offers chapters on topics like intent, stillness, setting and achieving satisfying goals, the unknown, and your purpose.

He acknowledges that reading the middle section (Focused Mind) will help readers understand better how to achieve specific goals they’ve set for themselves, yet he recommends reading the first section (Open Mind) first to get better results by being grounded in the present moment. The third section asks hard questions and deals with some of life’s difficult-to-accept realities.

I’ve known Michael for the past several years. I met him through NLP. Michael is a master practitioner of NLP and a hypnotist (a term he prefers over hypnotherapist) and coach for the last 13 years. Now he’s a working graduate student in the field of social work, an active member of the Texas National Guard, and father of Reyna, with another child on the way. He’s worked hard on creating his own satisfying life, and in this book, he shares his wisdom.

I’ve known Michael also as a long-time practitioner of martial arts. Michael started studying karate at age 12 and holds multiple black belts. Familiar with the Taoism and Buddhism, he  practices and teaches tai chi. These practices, and meditation, have greatly influenced Michael’s perceptiveness, intelligence, and response-ability, which show up in his book.

Michael draws on NLP, hypnosis, martial arts, his own personal history, and story-telling to share his insights and exercises for living a more satisfying life. Here are some excerpts from his book, little nuggets that hint at the wisdom that follows, written in a style that suggests a coach talking directly to a client:

Nothing will guide you as wisely and creatively as your shadow. Your deepest feelings of hurt, fear, or doubt can serve you when you sit with them.

Visualization can be a very helpful element of hypnosis, self-development, or just getting over that threshold into the success that you want. In my experience, it is good to see yourself doing what you want to do and being what you want to be. I have found that affirmations are most helpful for receiving and achieving while visualization is most helpful in the doing and the being.

Whenever a problem is solved, it is because we have received a gift from the unknown. A more prosaic way of stating this is that solutions are pieces of information that we were ignorant of until we found them. If we know the solution to a problem already, then the problem is not really a problem. It is only a problem while we do not know the solution. It travels from the category of “unknown” to the category of “known.” Therefore, the unknown is the source of all our problem solving, positive change, and personal evolution.

Michael has done a great job of communicating his insights and teaching readers about something that really matters to all of us, living a life that is satisfying.

A changework and bodywork session

One evening this past week, I received a special honor. I got to do changework and bodywork with someone who has done changework and bodywork with me. I’m not going to provide any identifying information out of respect for her privacy. Think of this as a case study: it really happened, but you will never be able to tell whose experience it was, and in any case, it doesn’t really matter.

I’m writing this session up to illustrate what I am offering in my private practice: changework combined with bodywork.

Most everyone is at least familiar with what bodywork and massage are. Changework is less known. You can think of it as a kind of coaching, with applications for managing stress, becoming more relaxed, changing your stories, shelving beliefs that no longer apply, clarifying, removing obstacles, getting unstuck, achieving goals, knowing yourself, expanding, transforming emotions, and more.

I have some training and experience I can draw on, but mostly I listen to understand and offer support for a client to explore and find movement toward resolution. Sometimes just being really listened to makes a huge difference. Sometimes a client just needs another point of view. Sometimes a question or two can open up a whole new direction. Sometimes a technique can help.

When a positive shift has occurred, we move into the bodywork part of a session — to literally embody the change.

My client had overdone it with some physical activity and then made a ducking, twisting movement — and her back started spasming. After several days, the spasms were entirely gone and she went back to work…and they returned. She understood then that the spasms were probably tied to something else.

She had already done significant work on this before we met. She examined what had been happening emotionally before the injury occurred — especially in regard to work, because the spasms resumed when she went back to work.

She had been feeling irritated about some of her clients not taking care of themselves despite all she had put into their sessions. (This experience is pretty universal among health care providers.) She was just being with this awareness, not knowing what she was going to do about it, when she overdid it and started having back spasms. She put resolving this issue on hold.

Once she identified the unresolved issue, bringing it into the light, she made some changes in her work, and a deeper level of healing began.

She was still feeling like more exploration was needed when she came to me.

I asked how I could help, and she said maybe we could do a little tapping — EFT, the Emotional Freedom Technique. I shared with her a version I like, and she tapped away as we talked.

With EFT, you identify what you are feeling. Behind the irritability, she recognized that she felt sad about not being able to help.

I asked if she could really know that she wasn’t helping these clients, and she said no.

Sometimes people have to step in the hole again (or a thousand times; see Groundhog Day, one of my favorite movies) before they walk around it.

When someone finally makes a decision (or the decision makes itself) to walk around the hole, changing has become more attractive than not changing. Her clients’ experiences of her own healthy vibrancy, her work, and her commitment to well-being are of course part of the force-field that makes changing to healthier habits more attractive. It just might take them awhile to really be ready, though.

On her own, she came up with an inspiring course to take — if some of her clients are choosing the shadow over the light, and she’s resisting them doing that, then maybe now is a great time for her to examine her own shadow side.

Brilliant. Perfect for the season, too, as the nights get longer.

Then she got on the table, and I gave her a deep massage, which she had not previously experienced. She loved 9 points (TLC people, if you’re reading this, you’ll know what I mean). I reached some back muscle tenderness and melted into it.

She blissed out on the table, and I finished working on her, and we talked a little more, and she slipped away into the night — until we meet again.

A reader asks about self-actualizing

I received an email from a reader who found my blog inspirational and shared her story about the pull of coming alive. I in turn feel very inspired and want to share publicly
and answer some questions she poses, because if she is wondering, others are too. (I replied personally as well.)

This is the path of self-actualization. It’s the same thing as coming alive.

Dear MaryAnn,

About a year and a half ago, I felt like I was coming alive at last. I had been laid off from corporate America, had my mornings free to be physically active, and my afternoons free to write and volunteer. I spent a summer/fall in Chile to volunteer at a non-profit, where the highlight of my time was to befriend children at a school and teach them a lesson about the “red alimentaria”… the food web… in Spanish!  I then taught kids outdoor environmental education, and then spent the summer doing labwork in Alaska (I trained as a biochemist).  But after being away from my “field” for so long, fear kicked in, and I started worrying about income source, a “career”, and so on… and as you probably already know, feeding the wolf of fear leads one down paths that don’t contribute to feeling alive!
So, thank you for your inspirational blog, which reminded me that YES, I am OK to NOT want to stay in a new job (albeit it pays $65K/year) if selling life science research projects does not make me come alive!  And NO, I’m not “wrong” to feel this way. And YES, I AM grateful for all that I have, but at the same time, I don’t need to continue doing something that I think is draining me of life versus filling me with life.
My question that I hope you can provide some insight into is, what helped you determine what type of new work and income source you could pursue that is both life-inspiring and supports your needs?  I noticed the image of the trailer… when I taught kids for 5 months in Redding, CA, I learned that a trailer costs $8000, which would pay for itself in a year vs the $750/mo I am now spending in rent in the SF Bay Area.  Did you find a solution to reducing living expenses so that you were free to pursue work and activities that truly fulfilled you?

Thank you again for your inspiring words, and may you continue to live courageously! : )
-B
PS  Btw, I’m 33 soon to be 34 in June, no debt, some savings, and a bit on the conservative side…. though that is all relative b/c none of my friends have taken career breaks to travel and live/work non-career jobs like I did this past almost 2 yrs. But at the same time, I have not picked up and relocated to a new city jobless the way some folks whom I’ve met in my travels have.  Thanks again!  I’m thinking about training to be an environmental science teacher…. or a Breema practitioner (I actually only just learned about Breema but it sounds great!).

Well, I feel flattered and honored to hear from such an amazing person who received some inspiration from my blog. I have no doubt that B is on the path of really coming alive!

The path of self-actualization isn’t for everyone. Most people find it easier and much more comfortable to take that “path of least resistance” and stick with the corporate job, the 8-5, the insurance and benefits, the known.

There’s nothing wrong with that if that’s what is right for you right now. It’s just that throughout history, some people have listened within to an urge to seek more life out of their life — to see the world, to pioneer something, to take a risk, to call their time their own, to be of service, to express themselves, to be their own boss, to listen to their body, to get to know themselves at a deeper level.

B’s first question asks what helped me determine the type of new work and income source I could pursue that is life-inspiring and can support my needs.

My answer is that I’m still figuring that out, but my new criteria for work is no longer just a paycheck, benefits, the potential for advancement. I want to do the kind of work that is so aligned with who I am and what I love doing that I would do it even if I didn’t get paid (and actually getting paid and making a decent living is icing on the cake).

I want to spend my time doing what I want to do, not what someone else wants me to do. I want to follow my interests, fascinations, and passions. Or else why did God give them to me???

That seems to pretty much translate into becoming self-employed and to practicing some kind of profession. It’s starting to take shape and will combine several of my interests and allow me to pursue others. What I can tell you now is that it involves me working with others on improving their well-being, and getting results.

I should also mention that having my hand analyzed by Richard Unger of the International Institute of Hand Analysis helped me open my mind years ago to the possibility of living my life differently. Darn, I forgot to tell B that.

B, hope you’re reading this. He’s based in San Francisco. Go see him.

Also, I paid attention to my dreams and discussed them with friends.

Notice what you love doing. Notice what you are attracted to. Notice what fascinates you. What do you do now that makes you happy? What are you passionate about? Love, attraction, fascination, happiness, passion — these are about emotion, energy, direction, feeling alive, satisfaction, fulfillment. 

That’s where to start. And then if you like, start thinking about how you can combine what you love in a unique way.

B’s second question is whether I found a solution to reduced living expenses so I could be free to pursue work and activities that truly fulfill me.

Yes, I did find a solution based on my situation. I sold my home of 10 years in February. I loved it, but it was too much for me to keep up with, and the mortgage obligation had become an albatross. I wanted to free up some capital to pursue a big improvement in work and lifestyle even though I didn’t know what shape it would take. 

Maybe it was the fantasy of hitting the open road and exploring this beautiful country that first got me interested in trailers. I discovered Spartan trailers and discovered a rare Carousel for sale. I hoped it would still be for sale when I closed on my house. It was, and I bought it. It felt like the Universe really wanted me to have it!

It is big enough to live in year-round, like a one-bedroom apartment that you can move, and trailer park leases run month-to-month. I began freeing myself of stuff, and without planning to, I quit my “permanent” job when my gut told me it was the only course to take. I took a contract job doing the same kind of work for 3 months, and I can do that again if I need to.

I found a nice trailer park and will soon have it moved here. Then I’ll update it and move in. My monthly housing and utility costs will be one-third of what they were. That makes a difference — I can pursue the training I want, and I can do some work from my new home.

I know that I am very, very lucky to be able to do this. At the same time, I bought my house in 2000 with an eye to charm, location, and appreciation, so in a way, I created this option before I knew my life would take this turn.

Not everyone has a house to sell. I think reducing one’s living expenses is about being creative and knowing yourself, which are other aspects of coming alive. Usually housing is one’s biggest expense. You can rent a room in a house, share a house or apartment with roommates, couch surf, house-sit, buy a trailer, take work that includes room and board. You always have more resources than you think you do. If you feel stuck, seek a resourceful friend or a coach. Like you did, B, by emailing me!

Work is the area of life that can create the most happiness. See my recent post about right livelihood. We spend more waking time working than anything else, and work can have a sense of purpose and meaning to it.

Imagine what work/lifestyle is ideal for you. Dream big. Put no conditions on it. Then look at how you can get there incrementally. It’s a direction, not a destination. At each fork in the road, ask yourself, “Which is the happier choice? Which will take me closer to living the life I’m meant to live?” 

Good luck, B, and all you self-actualizers out there. I’d love to hear from you.

I’m ending this post with a quote from the Dalai Lama that helps put everything in perspective:

The Dalai Lama when asked what surprised him most about humanity, answered, “Man…. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”