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Gary Null

Mistake Number Eight:
Neglecting the Power of Silence

by Gary Null, Ph.D., with Vicki Riba Koestler

Recently a communications satellite malfunctioned, with the result that a lot of the nation's electronic paging devices did not work for a couple of days. This technological breakdown was serious enough that it was page-one news, but the interesting thing was, if you read beyond the headlines, that many pager owners weren't all that upset. They, were, rather, relieved. With their beepers temporarily silenced, there was one less bit of noise they had to experience and respond to. Their world became a little quieter, a little calmer.

Gary Null's Guide to Getting It Right

This led me to imagine a scenario. What if all our nonessential telecommunications could go on the fritz for awhile? Emergency services would still be in place, but for ordinary life, there would be no telephones, faxes, TV, radio, e-mail. The effect would be like that of the satellite breakdown ten times over. People's lives would be much quieter, and the subtle sounds of nature would come to the fore. People would be able to think more clearly. They'd have more time to look into the meaning of their lives, instead of just scrambling to keep up with the trappings. In short, they would discover the power of silence.

This kind of selective power outage probably won't happen. But on an individual level we can make it happen to some extent, simply by turning off the appropriate switches when we can. There's another simple step we can take--we can stop talking so much. Then we can sit back, or go for a walk in the open air, and revel in the quiet.

Members of the baby boom generation are sorely in need of silence, because many have been silence-deprived all their lives. This is the first television generation, and if you think TV is mainly about visual images, think again. Many people use it as a noise box, keeping it on all the time to fill the air with sound. Plus consider the quality of the sound that comes from TVs versus the sound that comes from the home entertainment modes used before TV was introduced--radios and record players. With radios and records the sound is the whole point, so care has to go into the music and talk that comes out of them. With TV, though, the picture is ostensibly the main point, and sound is a sort of window dressing. So TV music and talk can be junkier than radio or record music and talk, because since we're distracted by the visual element, we won't necessarily notice. Some people have spent their whole lives not noticing exactly what kind of noise they're bombarded with, day in and day out.

In addition to television, other elements have made the baby boomer generation's formative years noisier than their predecessors'. This generation was the first to grow up with telephones as a birthright, not an option. The number of automobiles in the United States boomed along with the number of babies in the 1950s and 60s; and along with this came increased traffic, noise, and destruction of natural environments. Rock and roll came on the scene in the 50s, and has been getting more amplified, and pervasive, ever since. Add up all these factors and you can see why silence is something that many of today's adults did not grow up with. Some don't even know what they're missing.

Where We Are Now

The Monks of New Skete are a group of monks who make their living raising and training dogs, and writing books on the subject. They have a holistic approach to their animals, and one of the things they suggest is silent walks with your dog, as a way of training him and of forming a deeper bond with him. A friend of mine tried this approach recently, with interesting results.

Every day she'd been in the habit of taking her dog for a walk, and attempting to teach him how to 'heel,' 'sit,' and 'stay,' by authoritatively saying these commands, while putting pressure on his training collar and using hand gestures. He was a frisky, energetic dog, and sometimes he'd listen, and sometimes he wouldn't. Then one day she tried the silent walk approach.

"It worked at least as well as when I was constantly talking to him," she reported. "Everything he needed was already there, without the words." But the benefits went beyond the training aspect. The dog seemed more relaxed. There did seem to be a new kind of nonverbal communication happening between them. What's more, she herself felt more relaxed, and like she could spend some of the walking time thinking about things other than whether her pet was obeying. Now, she doesn't walk the dog silently all the time, but she does so periodically, and it continues to be a positive experience. She tries to incorporate quiet into other parts of her life as well.

Some people, like my friend with the dog, have learned to appreciate the power of silence. But many haven't, and with today's proliferation of instant communication devices, it can take a real effort to try. On the plus side in the area of new technology, one great development has been the personal headset radio. At least with these, people are less likely to inflict their own noisy entertainment choices on others.

Is your daily life too noisy? Could you benefit by building some tranquil time into it? Also, what are some of the issues you might be dealing with during periods of quiet introspection? These are the areas we'll be exploring in this chapter.

Have you tried quiet?

A woman came down to my holistic ranch. She attended all the workshops, but she and a small group of people talked nonstop. There was no introspection. I kept telling them that their best time here would be spent in quiet, doing nothing except being with nature. No one listened. They were talking every time I turned around. The woman wasn't going to stay a second week until I sat her down and told her that she had learned nothing. Of course she disagreed. She thought she had learned a lot. I repeated that I thought she had not learned anything because the most important message is always the silent one. I asked her to spend a second week there in silence, and she did.

During the second week, I asked every guest to eat in silence. I used candlelight. I played soft music. There were flower arrangements. There was no conversation. For the first time, people knew what it is to eat properly--not just to eat vegetarian, organic, gourmet food, but to eat in an environment conducive to inner tranquility. Now they were aware of what they were eating. They lost weight. They felt energized. When I took them out and had them sit by a rock, listening to the wind, they were able to be in nature. Suddenly they could hear a symphony in the wind. And they could let every distracting thought out of their minds.

People would tell me, marveling, that they could hear a thousand different sounds in the wind. "I heard the top of the palm trees moving. And I heard the grass moving. I heard the animals in the background, and the birds." All the sounds had been there before. It's just that they tuned them out because they were focusing on their own chatter.

Most people are nervous. This is especially true of intellectuals. I think intellectuals are the most insecure people in the world. They're always trying to impress you, always talking and never listening. Or if they are listening, they're simultaneously planning to get you to shut up so that they can correct you. Trying to get them to be silent is like putting them in handcuffs. They fight it.

When a person finally breaks through and places his or her energy in the moment, he is able to transcend the normal boundaries of visual perception, smell, and taste. The person becomes integrated. Suddenly he knows what it is to be a bird flying. Like a bird, which never contemplates its death while flying, the person doesn't think of himself as falling out of the sky.

But we fly with fear. Any time we function from fear, we automatically respond before we think, because fear causes a hasty response. It's preconditioning from our families and our background. We learn not to take chances. We learn that good girls don't do that. We automatically let these old messages affect our energy and our thinking. Then we wonder why we keep on having the same problems. Why don't things get better? They don't get better because new thoughts are not replacing the old ones. We're not allowing ourselves to become integrated. We need to change completely to see how we can integrate.

So, this woman simply experienced a new way of being in an environment. She had been there all week, heard all these sounds, and saw all these things, but she had never allowed herself a sense of focus. And that's the difference. What do we focus on? She focused on the integration of all things, herself included.

If you do that, you'll never go for a walk again in the same way. When I walk, I walk in silence. When I eat, I eat in silence. My friends will tell you that when they come over to my house for dinner, it's a relatively silent dinner. I want candlelight; I want soft music; I want to enjoy the occasion in a quiet and integrated way.

It's interesting how an experience changes completely when it is experienced with integrated thoughts. I could have you sit down for an hour and meditate. And you could wonder about whether your children are alright and where your husband is. If your mind is somewhere else, you are not integrated. On the other hand, you could be there in the moment. That's where healing occurs.

What's good about being alone?

I find taking time to be alone a valuable experience. A time of quiet, during which I do not engage with people, is crucial. That is one of the reasons I do not, at this point in my life, choose to be in a relationship. When I am involved with someone, every moment that someone is chattering in my mind. Now I have that quality time to focus on me.

Most people never think about how good it is to have quality time to themselves. If you're in a relationship, you may have to ask the person you're with to allow you time alone. Such time is not a luxury. I've never seen anyone have a healthy, balanced life without it.

How do we balance ourselves on each level?

Physically, we must change our diet and detoxify. We must eat only healthy foods. If we're eating only because we're frustrated, or anxious, or not dealing with our problems, we need to recognize this and stop. As long as we take in only the best food, and only what our body requires, our body will detoxify and we'll be healthy. If we add exercise to the mix, within a year we'll see a body that we'll be happy with.

We often don't believe we can be both sexual and spiritual. We feel we must repress the body in order to enhance the spirit. But that's a limited perspective. We can have a healthy, sexual body and a dynamic and free mind and be spiritual also. The problem, as I see it, is that we feel we need interpreters between us and our higher being, that we aren't capable of making our own determinations of how our spiritual self can be manifested. But we don't need interpreters. As long as I love life and nature, and am a good-hearted person, then I am as spiritual as any other human being. It's that simple. Spirituality is the unconditional giving of the love we all possess. We were born perfect but we spend our lives denying it. The person who is spiritual accepts his or her perfection and then manifests it.

I don't believe that we have to suffer in order to grow. That is part of the dogma used in controlling people. If we control a person's sexuality and his or her mind, then we control that person. Very clever people throughout history have sought to control our natural impulses. If we believe or feel something that doesn't conform to the prevailing view, we are made to feel guilty or we are punished. If there is a long history of people being punished for following natural impulses and being spontaneous, then people won't, unless they are very courageous.

Have you ever had a blissful experience that your mind couldn't fully comprehend but your body could experience?

Some of use are afraid of feeling anything unless we can analyze, control, and manipulate it. We are never free until we disengage our minds. If we disengage the conscious mind, we allow the present to exist. A sense of overwhelming euphoria and bliss can occur only when the conscious mind is suspended. We try to do Spirituality 101 on the weekend and wonder why we don't get it. It's like my friend who meditates every morning and then goes into rages.

The only time we usually surrender to the moment is when we are one with nature, looking at a sunset or smelling fresh-cut grass. Then, we're not thinking of anything, just enjoying the moment. The things that give the most pleasure, innocently and honestly, are those we experienced as children. We don't often allow in that innocence when we are adults. We can't explore bliss if our mind is controlled. We have to get out of our mind to have the moment.

Which emotions have you lost touch with?

You need to identify the emotions you have lost touch with in order to get back in touch with them.

Many people can operate in only two emotional modes--rage and calm. These people are difficult to deal with. One minute everything is alright. The next moment they don't like something you say, and they blow up at you. When you deal with these people, you generally hold back your true feelings to avoid becoming the recipient of a hostile overreaction.

What precipitates rage? Most people who react this way do so because they feel that their power is being challenged. As soon as you say something, they contest whatever you say. They have a difficult time being quiet and listening because hearing what another person says honors the other person. Not listening is a defense mechanism.

People who react with rage need to realize that nothing constructive ever comes from their outbursts. The people they deal with only pull back or retaliate, and real issues get lost. Once this realization occurs, they can step back and try to hear what other people are saying. By listening to others, you're letting people know that they aren't going to be yelled at or rejected for sharing their feelings. That gives them a chance to express themselves in an honest way.

Re-analyze your communications on a day-to-day basis. Realize that you can express yourself without rage and still be firm. When you replace rage with determination this doesn't mean you're turning yourself into a passive person, but, rather, that you're becoming a more effective communicator.

On the other hand, if you tend to be too passive, you may feel better when you express yourself in a more determined way as well. Express yourself with passion. In our everyday world, we assume that it's best to appear passionless; everyone is supposed to maintain an emotional monotone. To compensate, we then look for people who exaggerate their emotions. We find these people in films, in athletics, in the press, and even in politics, and we use them as emotional surrogates. They express what we wish we could say, and feel what we wish we could feel. Isn't it better to get in touch with your own thoughts and feelings and express them yourself?

How is anger positive?

Not long ago I produced a documentary on cancer, providing a forum for many people to speak. It was surprising how many patients were angry. Anger is a very positive emotion in that it is energy. But realize that there is a difference between anger and rage. Rage can hurt; anger can create change. In fact, I can't understand people who never feel angry; it seems to me that if you don't get angry at things, you have no passion for life. There are so many things we should be angry about, as the first step in constructive change: genocide, racism, injustice, and environmental abuses. I use my anger to create a constructive process. Anger at the complacent and ineffective conventional medical establishment has been an impetus for my documentaries on AIDS and cancer, for example.

Most people get so comfortable and secure in their predictable lives that there is no anger left to project as a positive emotion. Remember the anger of some of the baby boom generation as they protested the Vietnam war? What happened to that? We could use some of that anger today to improve our society. Anger can be very constructive--it depends on what you do with it.

What do you say or do that creates a lack of trust, compassion, or interest in others?

If you have been negative, uncaring, or insensitive to others, those people will not be there to support your ideas, dreams, and goals. They may appear to encourage you, but actually not care. You need to be aware of how you treat people. If you want other people to be interested in you, you've got to be interested in them. If you want people to care for you, you've got to care for them.

You've also got to undo what you've done in order to go forward. You can't just walk away from someone pretending that what you've done to them doesn't matter. Merely saying you're sorry isn't enough. It doesn't undo what you've done. You've got to recognize the negative qualities you've attributed to other people and take ownership of what you've done. In other words, you need to acknowledge to the other person that what you've said or done has come from you and has nothing to do with the other person. That realization will clear the air and restore sanity and caring into your communications.

What do we say or do that creates a lack of trust, compassion, or interest? Gossip is one good example. Why do we generally talk about people behind their backs? We're bored. We thrive on the negative energy that's created. We feel part of a group. We envy the people we're talking about and want to pull them down and make others think less of them to build ourselves up. But by putting someone else down we're showing that we don't feel very good about ourselves.

Do you trust people who gossip? You shouldn't, because they're going to do the same thing to you. It's better to tell someone who gossips that you don't want to hear it.

When you're talking about someone behind his back, you're dishonoring the person. It's always better to talk straight to someone. Tell him or her what you feel. Say what's bothering you. Be honest. Then you at least have a chance to resolve issues and clarify misunderstandings.

Gossip is not about the person being gossiped about. Gossip is about the people who create and perpetuate it. Be aware of your actions and stop gossip when you can, or at least show others by example when you don't participate in it. You can't make the world like you, but you certainly don't need to engage in any behavior that would debase you or anyone else.

A person of spiritual commitment doesn't engage in gossip, never denigrates. There's no purpose to this kind of talk, except a negative one. The rule is this: If you don't feel good being on the other end of what's being shared, don't share it. It's plain and simple--just say to someone, "Don't share this with me."

Another way we undermine people's trust is by breaking our word--lying or not following through. How many times do you give your word and then break it? That shows people that they can't trust your word. They may not tell you about it, but when you make a promise they'll know you are lying, and not honor you for it.

It's important to make people aware of their deceptions. Years ago my aunts and uncles used to get together for Sunday canasta games. On one occasion, when my cousin was there but had left the room, my uncle asked, "Doesn't he realize that he exaggerates everything and that we know it?" I said to my uncle, "Why don't you tell him? He's going to spend the rest of his life exaggerating, thinking that it's normal, unless we tell him what he's doing." I proceeded to tell my cousin about it. He hated me for it and never spoke to me again. But that's his right. At least he knows what I feel.

You also create a lack of trust if you have a lack of principles. Some people stand for nothing. They go with the popular trend. Whatever allows them to survive, they accept for the moment. That person can never be a real friend because they can turn at any time.

Giving only half-hearted help shows people that you aren't really interested in them. Let's say you're moving and a friend who offered to help helps only a little bit. You relied on that person and were disappointed. You won't want to have that person help you ever again.

We definitely won't trust people who are inconsiderate and unkind. These are the very first traits we notice about others. We like to think that we have the right to be unkind when we don't. Being that way immediately takes us to our lower self. It denies our higher virtues. If you can't be kind to someone, don't be around that person.

Where does inconsiderate behavior originate?

It originates in our youth. As children, we are innocent and honest until we're conditioned to become what our parents or guardians expect of us. That's when we start changing. But this is not to say that we can lay the blame at others' feet. Yes, at one time we had to conform to others' expectations. We were vulnerable little people and it was a matter of survival. But now, as adults, we act that same way because we are stuck in a pattern that was formed in our youth. We're not even consciously aware of not being ourselves.

We can begin to break out of our unnatural behaviors by identifying what we do and how we feel that makes us uncomfortable. We need to notice when we act in these ways. And we need to ask ourselves how and why these behaviors served us in the past. One of the ways we can do this is by journal writing.

Do you think before you speak?

Always think before you say something. See what the reaction to what you say could be. A credit card company owed me a lot of money. I had paid the bill, and my secretary then paid it again without knowing I had already done so. The company promised a refund would come, but it didn't. Three months passed.

I simply called and said, "I have a question for you. I'd like your help. Do you think you can help me?" The person said, "That's what I'm here for." I explained to the person that the company owed me a large amount of money, almost $23,000. And I explained that I have to pay interest every single day on anything that I owe, but that they had had my money for three months and had not paid me interest and had not paid me back my money. They had just kept promising it was coming. Then I simply asked the question, "How would you feel if this was you?"

They resolved the situation that day. What if I had called and said, "You jerks..." etc., etc. I'd have been verbally assaulting someone on the other end who would have taken it personally and who would have then figured, "I'm not going to help this guy. To heck with him. He can wait forever to get his money back." In short, it pays to think, what is the feeling we want to create? What result do we want? If you want a result that is supportive, cooperative, and helpful, then that's the energy you have to share.

You see, we have choices. First, think, what result do you want? Your results are going to be directly based upon your choices. So think well before choosing because once you put an action out you cannot control the reaction. That's crucial. You can only control your action. Anticipate what kind of reaction you're likely to get. In all probability you will get that. You can create a spiral of negativity. Or you can create a spiral of positivity.

Do you usually communicate positive messages, or negative ones?

Most of the time, you probably let people know your problems. Instead of telling people about all the good things that have happened and how good you feel, you let them know what does not feel good, and what is not working.

What are they supposed to do with this negative information? Should they be sympathetic and agree with you? That won't change anything.

Watch how you communicate with people. If you catch yourself dumping a problem in someone else's ear, ask yourself, is there a purpose to this? Can they do anything about it? Can they help me? Have we already discussed this problem time and time again, ad nauseam? If there is no real purpose to what you're doing, you may want to take the conversation in a more positive direction. Or simply terminate it.

If you gave up all denial, what would change?

If you gave up all denial, you would create a new life, because you would allow yourself to be who you really are. Most people never wake up feeling truly themselves. They know their name, their job, what they do in life, their routines and responsibilities. But those don't necessarily fit the real self. There may always be an emptiness that can only be filled by getting other people around you. Look at the people who are afraid to be alone. These are the very people who should be alone, because they'll never help themselves by being with other people. They'll just use the other people. I see it every day.

Only by being alone can you have a silent mind that allows you to think about who you are, not who you were told you are. Then, the people in your life will be there unconditionally. No relationship will ever take precedence over self. We have the mistaken notion in our society that the high point of our adult life is a relationship. I find that for most energies that's very unhealthy. It's one thing to relate to people, to be with people, to share with people. That's normal, that's human, that's important. But you should never be your relationship. Because what happens is that you cannot differentiate self from the relationship. You never have a sense of being a complete and whole person. You're always attached at the psyche to someone else. And then you get engaged in the conflicts. Then your mind must be coinciding with the other mind to create harmony before you can do something. Everything must be a mutual decision. There's never any space that's really your own.

Here's the question: How are you going to grow, how are you going to give yourself time, if everything you do is always explained to someone else, with the expectation of acknowledgment?

Most people do not communicate honestly about what really concerns them in relationships. They know that if they did so, that might jeopardize the relationship. So holding on to the relationship, which at least gives them companionship, becomes more essential than being honest about what really bothers them and how they want to grow.

The only person you should really be relating to is one who is growing, so that you can grow together. Unfortunately, relationships generally stay together longer when both people are stagnating. Both are insecure about stagnating alone; they'd rather stagnate with someone else. You'll know you're in the wrong relationship when most of what you hear are complaints. Trust me--that's the wrong relationship. It's people using each other.

Someone called me whom I haven't spoken to in a long time. The person has a health problem and said to me, "Gary, I want to see you. Remember, we go way back. I need to come over and see you."

I said, "No."

"No? Why not?"

"Because we have nothing to share. And if you want my help as a stranger, you've got to get in line behind all the terminally ill people that I do see. They come first. They're strangers too, but that's my priority. The fact that we spent time and intimacy together means nothing. It's what we are today. To call me after years of not speaking to me, because you have a problem, doesn't honor me. That just shows that in desperation you are looking for a person to help you."

And that's what we do in this society. We use people in ways that are convenient for us. It's not healthy.

I wouldn't allow a relationship where what a person did was whine, moan, and complain about a problem. If you're got a problem, fine. Resolve it. And how do you resolve it? First, change your perception. That changes the problem. If you are not willing to change your perception and live by a new perception, then you're not honoring yourself, which means that you cannot honor the relationship. It's just a dumping ground. How much negativity do you want dumped into your psyche before you say, "Enough!"?

I wouldn't treat anyone less well than I would treat a rose. What would you do for a rose each day? Give it sunlight, positive energy, and what it needs to grow. Why wouldn't you do the same thing for a human being? Give them love, unconditional acceptance, and a sense of care. When you do that with people who are ascending and honoring their spiritual self, then you've got two spirits sharing a higher consciousness. That's a positive relationship. We see so few of these, we think we are not capable of them. But we could be.

What positive and negative images do you focus on?

You focus on the things that people say to you or about you. You also focus on the things you say about others. Once you say something, your energy goes out there and you're connected to it. Now you've aligned yourself either positively or negatively to something.

Power is not in the emotion. Emotions are overemphasized. Psychologists and other therapists focus upon the significance of emotions. They focus on whether we're emoting enough. It never occurs to them that some people do not overly emote because they don't need to. With all due respect to the feminist movement, I take exception when they state that men don't know how to express emotions. I know an awful lot of men who don't express emotions because they're happy campers. They express happy emotions and that's it.

When you fill your mind with a lot of self-doubt and negative thoughts and destructive images, the emotion is automatically going to be negative and destructive. Everyone knows when you're negative. When you feel good about yourself your actions show it. But in our society, people think you're not responding enough.

Fortunately, there are lots of people in this society who require very little for happiness. That gets other people bent out of shape. They'll question another's right to be happy because they're steeped in misery and all their thoughts are negative. They're always on the attack. They're always trying to disempower somebody else to empower themselves.

You come along without the need to disempower anybody. You just feel good because you have good thoughts. You're happy and so you make everybody sick.

Change your perceptions about problems.

Take your negative thoughts and reverse your perspective on what is happening. Ask yourself, how can I make this situation into a positive one? What good can come from this? Doing this will allow you to change negative patterns that bring you down. You may not change another person or the circumstances that are bothering you, but you still change your perception of what is happening.

I learned this lesson a long time ago. While driving my car in heavy traffic, I saw two men yelling at each other just because one had cut the other off. They got out and fought. I thought, how stupid; what's the purpose? Someone is going to end up with broken teeth for nothing. At that point, I decided that any time traffic was slow, I would use that time as an opportunity to think. Now, whenever I am in a traffic jam, I don't get upset. I'm glad to be where I'm at because I have a couple of extra minutes to think. I didn't change the circumstances, but I changed my reaction to them.

List your problems and ask yourself, how can I alter them? There are always options. You will only find these options, however, by facing your problems and looking for positive solutions. Then, suddenly, they are not such a big deal. If you ignore your problems, they will remain on your mind. They will rob you of clarity, balance, spontaneity, and relaxation.

Facing a problem is itself part of the solution. You can't always change the problem, but you can change how you feel about it.

You can have happy, positive feelings only if you have happy, positive thoughts.

What comes first--the thought or the emotion? The thought is always first. But thoughts can have delayed responses. Something that you've been thinking about can cause a reaction a week later. It will eventually appear because your thoughts are energy that you put into your being.

A thought is a word or a sentence or a whole paragraph that you've created. Consider how many times you've thought about something that you didn't do and should have done, or that you did and wished you hadn't. Or perhaps you should have done more or you should have said something and you didn't. How many times do you think about that? How many opportunities have you had and lost, and then relived a thousand times in your mind? Every time you relive a moment, you relive it by creating thoughts.

The thought, then, is not the reality. But how many times have you made thoughts reality? Most people assume their thoughts are reality. For instance, we're in a small southern town. There's an all-white audience. Suddenly, a black person comes in and sits down. How many people are going to think a negative, fearful, racist thought and make it seem as if it's real?

Thoughts are not real. They're merely images. Allow the image to come in and go out of the mind. Empower only that which you want to make real. A thought has no power until you let it have power. Therefore, I can allow every thought to come into me and then say, "That's a thought I want to act on, and that one I will give power to."

No one can have only positive thoughts. Even if you meditate, you're not going to have only positive thoughts. I've never met more unbalanced people than people who meditate. I have a friend who's a producer. He's a maniac. And yet he goes out every day to meditate. He'll eat vegetarian food. But he's a crazy person. He thinks that as long as he's meditating he's normal. But he hasn't dealt with his underlying fear, anxiety, and insecurities.

Imagine what would happen if you decided that it's not meditation, or yoga, or correct breathing that's going to make you de-stressed. And it's not health food that's going to make you healthy. It's not vitamins or juices that are going to change your life. Rather, it's your attitude that is going to change your life. Your life's going to change because you're not being overly critical about anything you do wrong.

There's nothing more damaging than an overly critical mind. If you need to do everything right you will invariably fail because mistakes are inevitable. Then you're going to beat up on yourself. Say you eat only organic produce. Then, one day, you don't. You beat up on yourself as if now you've broken the perfection. Or think about the people who will eat only organic produce, but become so anxious about it that there's no flexibility left in their temperament. That kind of highly rigid mindset may appear normal but it's not. It is not an integrated mind.

Stop blaming your feelings on circumstances. Otherwise every time you get abused, every time you get spoken to in a way you don't like, every time anything less than perfect happens, you're going to overreact. Allow yourself to be much more fluid, and much more flexible. Allow things to go through you. You cannot control your thoughts, so just let them be. You can control your reactions to circumstances, however. Remember, if someone says something critical to you, don't react. They’re just words. They’re just syllables, vowels, consonants. They have no meaning until you make them have meaning.

Only actualize what is constructive. Think in terms of watching your thoughts parade in front of you and going, "No...no...that one I like. That one supports my intentions. That's healthy. I'll take it in." Let go of all the rest. They mean nothing.

When you dwell on something, that creates your emotions. And when you dwell on something that's not positive, the negative emotion is going to come right behind it. Maybe you're wondering why your blood pressure is high, your cholesterol's high, and the stress hormone cortisol is being pumped into your system. These things are partly a result of your focusing upon negative issues. The negative emotion that automatically follows sets off a negative biochemical reaction. And if you're habitually negative, it will take a long-term physical toll; you may even be setting the stage, physiologically, for conditions as serious as stroke, heart attack, and cancer.

So get out of this destructive pattern, if you're in it. Switch from looking at problems to looking at solutions.

Do you focus on problems or ideals?

You can't focus on problems and ideals at the same time. The ideal is where the solutions lie. If you focus on problems, you look at the negative in everything. You make excuses that keep you from going forward by saying, "I would, but..." You end up wasting a lot of time.

How do you keep from being tied up in the problem? How do you keep the problem from becoming more essential than you? Look at the ideal. Ideals always transcend problems.

What attracts you to things?

What attracts you to jobs, people, activities, places? Why do you want to be in a place? Out of curiosity? Because you feel reverence for it? Because you want to be inspired by it? Because you want to connect to it? Because you feel you are connected to it? What attracts you to sex? Is it relief, loneliness, love, obligation, fun, exploration? What is it?

Keep a diary, or journal. When you start to identify in your diary what attracts you to things, you will start to see the real self. The real self will always attract you to something. Feel the real self. Feel its energy. There's an excitement that comes from an honest identification.

I have a friend who was a powerful attorney. Now, he's a gamekeeper. He always loved animals and used to spend time in the Central Park zoo. He loved going there and looking at the animals. One day, he told me he felt successful, but not happy in his job. I asked him, "What would you do if you could do anything?" and he told me that he would love to be an animal keeper. I asked him why he didn't go for it, and he responded that he had too many obligations to consider. His family would never approve. I said to him, in essence, forget all that. If your family won't love you because you're changing your career, then go find another family. I know some people would berate me for that advice, and so be it. The man charted his own course. He followed his passion and is so much happier and healthier for it.

Too often we block our essential life energy. When we reconnect with it, we've practically catapulted ourselves into another dimension, a new universe of capability. That universe exists for each of us. If it didn't, we wouldn't have people able to do unique and strange things without ever having been taught. We have all had inspirational thoughts, times when we did not know how to figure something out, but an answer suddenly appeared. We weren't taught the answer. It was just there. In our most vulnerable moments, when we're truly ourselves, we can connect with that higher consciousness of life, or whatever we wish to call it. I'm suggesting we should make ourselves vulnerable and open to that all the time, and make our decisions connect with that. Then we have no down side to life.

Where do you find meaning?

No person can give me meaning if I don't have it for myself. People are forever seeking meaning through someone else who has meaning. Why do you think people join religious groups, become part of political campaigns, or follow those with dynamic personalities? It's because they seek meaning that is absent from their own lives. The healer must start by healing himself, and the warrior must start by ridding himself of fears.

I live my life in three-year increments so that my meaning and goals are for three years. Whether I'm dealing with environmental issues or health issues, I have that time to develop new attitudes, skills, and criteria. I can't keep using the old skills for every new task. We frequently do not want to learn new skills. We want to apply the old formulas to new challenges, but it does not work.

My attorney friend who became a gamekeeper was one of those who accepted the challenge of learning new skills. He had to learn a whole new profession, but he loves what he is doing--his life has new meaning. Perhaps he was a lawyer because his meaning came from his parents. But he discovered that getting your meaning from others isn't good enough.

If you're a middle-class person living in the city, chances are your meaning will be to maintain your security. You will not take chances. You will not exceed the boundaries--physically, mentally, or spiritually. You'll support a political system that will take care of you; freedom will not be important. You will live through other people's freedom by watching TV or reading magazines. You'll live a fantasy life but not be able to actualize it because security is so important.

The real you can't come out as long as you honor the old meaning. You can't have a new self and an old meaning. Your life is boring and predictable because there is nothing new. The problem is, every time you look for something new, you are besieged with fears and excuses. You must transcend the boundaries and fears and break off into whoever you are. You may not even recognize who you really are, but you must accept whoever you become.

© Copyright Gary Null.  All Rights Reserved.   Excerpted from Gary Null's Book, The Baby Boomer’s Guide to Getting it Right the Second Time Around, Published by Carroll & Graf.

Gary Null, the popular Pacifica Network talk show host, is a consumer advocate, investigative reporter, environmentalist and nutrition educator who has written more than 60 books on health topics. He says that, "You must be empowered before you can be whole," and he empowers his listeners with life-changing facts that promote wellness.

Mr. Null has conducted over a hundred major investigations and has produced numerous documentaries in which he encourages his viewers to take charge of their lives and health. Among his dozens of videos are titles like "The Pain, Profit and Politics of AIDS," "Chronic Fatigue," "Diet for a Lifetime," and "Cancer: A Natural Approach." 

Gary Null lives the active, healthful life that he advocates. He regularly competes in races and marathons and has trained thousands of people in his "Natural Living Walking and Running Club" to do the same. 



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