Over the years, I’ve read many articles. Some are just mediocre. Some are very good and go into a file that I keep for articles that I want to read over and over. Some aren’t even worth a read the first time around.
However, in all my years of article reading, of all the hundreds of articles I’ve read, two stick out above all the rest. These are the two that resonate with me. These are the two that I think about time and again. These are the two that have really impacted the way I think. These are the two that continue to alter who I am, hopefully for the better.
So, I want to share these two articles with you, my dear readers, today. I hope that you will get as much enlightenment from them as I have.
Enjoy and feel free to share them!
Take Two Risks and Call Me in the Morning
One ordinary September day, walking down my street to Key Food in Brooklyn, I saw the shape of my life. It was a narrowing corridor. I had just turned 45, and although I still felt like a girl in pedal pushers with every possibility ahead of me, it occurred to me that humid morning that the years were flipping by.
Before I reached the corner, I realized that I might never see China or the Red Sea or the outback of Australia. I recalled being a college junior, lying on my back in a sunny field in Spain, surrounded by other students, and assuming that I would someday visit almost every place on earth — and that my life was like a Spanish galleon that would carry me about. It never occurrred to me that I’d have to pay my fare, say goodbyes, or even choose my direction. I simply thought of the future as an endless opening of possibility, like gates flung wide.
Now I recognized that my existence had become quite confined. I was following the same routines every single week — going to the same places with the same people, eating the same, familiar foods — and I was afraid of change.
Over the years, I had discovered that travel, while fabulous, made me feel glutted on sensation: I’d find myself longing for my rickety desk and my home in the city where I grew up. I didn’t really want a footloose life.
But I did want MORE life. So I decided to take two risks a week. They could be tiny or not. It didn’t matter. The thing was to consciously open up, to expand the range of what I’d get to
experience. Not to choose my adored but predictable chicken and cashews at the Chinese restaurant. Not to maintain the same safe but isolating formality in the writing seminar I taught. Two risks a week seemed manageable, and I started right away. I brought the intimidating students I taught — a smart, urbane, and disdainfully reticent group — a strange tropical fruit. One of the students had mentioned this fruit (mamey) in a piece about Cuba, saying its taste was indescribable. I held one up for everyone to see. “Class,” I said, “today we are going to describe the indescribable.” Then I cut into the fruit and distributed the slices for us to write about. At first the students’ almost haughty demeanor seemed to reflect the vibe, “Is this really worth my time?” But after we sniffed, chewed, and scribbled together, they were less cerebral and more expressive; the room grew noisy with laughter and discussion.
A few days later, I poked my head into an imposing colleague’s doorway and invited him out for coffee. I tried to quell the horrible feeling in my stomach as he gazed at me. But soon I heard myself blurting: “I’m trying to take two risks a week. This is one.”
“I’m not so scary,” he intoned. We had our coffee two weeks later. Miraculously, he became my one friend in the department — and I his. He told me that in the five years he taught at that school, nobody other than the department head had reached out until I appeared at his
After am amateur Gilbert and Sullivan extravaganza on New Year’s Eve, I approached one of the singers as he walked up the street. I did it only because it was already Wednesday — early Thursday morning, really! — and a new year beginning, and I hadn’t yet taken a risk that week. “Thank you so much,” I told him. “You were the best. I just kept waiting for you to come back onstage.”
He looked startled. “You’re kidding!” he said. “Wow!”
As he walked away, I felt a moment’s awe. He hadn’t known how good he was.
Since then I’ve fed a baby rhinoceros and eaten ceviche and phoned my councilman’s office and tried a new laundromat, all by telling myself that it didn’t matter what the outcome was; my goal was simply to take this risk. It became almost fun to sit down with the phone book, my
heart pounding as I dialed The New York Times to ask to be connected to the City desk — and not hang up when someone answered with a gruff “Hello?” And to feel the champagne-y joy of getting the name of an editor to whom I could submit a story. I hadn’t been treated
dismissively, as I’d feared. All the energy that had gone into anxiety and restraint became celebratory.
Almost every single risk ended happily. It’s true that the Times didn’t accept the piece I sent, and the ceviche puckered my mouth, but I now know that I love papaya salad, and kumquats, and the jewel-red meat of beets, and I’ve worked past midnight at the copy desk of a fashion magazine, and I’ve agreed to teach essay writing to a group of women theologians in San Jose. I’d be scared (some of the theologians are quite eminent), except they are my risk, and so I’m simply looking forward to meeting them and finding out how they’ll broaden my life.
Taking two risks a week is a practice that has had the result I craved on that morning almost a year ago. It’s allowed me to live in an ampler world. It’s let me be someone else — someone gutsier — in small doses, and then savor over time the rewards of that gutsiness. And when the assemblyman helped me, when the baby rhino chomped the apple chunk, when the performer’s face lit up — what amazement swept over me. This is my China, my outback — my own beloved familiar world opened up to allow in the light.
—by Bonnie Friedman, from the May 2005 issue of O magazine
by Joe Vitale
Two years ago, I heard about a therapist in Hawaii who cured a complete ward of criminally insane patients–without ever seeing any of them. The psychologist would study an inmate’s chart and then look within himself to see how he created that person’s illness. As he improved himself, the patient improved.
When I first heard this story, I thought it was an urban legend. How could anyone heal anyone else by healing himself? How could even the best self-improvement master cure the criminally insane?
It didn’t make any sense. It wasn’t logical, so I dismissed the story.
However, I heard it again a year later. I heard that the therapist had used a Hawaiian healing process called ho ‘oponopono. I had never heard of it, yet I couldn’t let it leave my mind. If the story was at all true, I had to know more.
I had always understood “total responsibility” to mean that I am responsible for what I think and do. Beyond that, it’s out of my hands. I think that most people think of total responsibility that way. We’re responsible for what we do, not what anyone else does. The Hawaiian therapist who healed those mentally ill people would teach me an advanced new perspective about total responsibility.
His name is Dr. Ihaleakala Hew Len. We probably spent an hour talking on our first phone call. I asked him to tell me the complete story of his work as a therapist. He explained that he worked at Hawaii State Hospital for four years. That ward where they kept the criminally insane was dangerous. Psychologists quit on a monthly basis. The staff called in sick a lot or simply quit. People would walk through that ward with their backs against the wall, afraid of being attacked by patients. It was not a pleasant place to live, work, or visit.
Dr. Len told me that he never saw patients. He agreed to have an office and to review their files. While he looked at those files, he would work on himself. As he worked on himself, patients began to heal.
“After a few months, patients that had to be shackled were being allowed to walk freely,” he told me. “Others who had to be heavily medicated were getting off their medications. And those who had no chance of ever being released were being freed.”
I was in awe.
“Not only that,” he went on, “but the staff began to enjoy coming to work. Absenteeism and turnover disappeared. We ended up with more staff than we needed because patients were being released, and all the staff was showing up to work. Today, that ward is closed.”
This is where I had to ask the million dollar question: “What were you doing within yourself that caused those people to change?”
“I was simply healing the part of me that created them,” he said.
I didn’t understand.
Dr. Len explained that total responsibility for your life means that everything in your life- simply because it is in your life–is your responsibility. In a literal sense the entire world is your creation.
Whew. This is tough to swallow. Being responsible for what I say or do is one thing. Being responsible for what everyone in my life says or does is quite another. Yet, the truth is this: if you take complete responsibility for your life, then everything you see, hear, taste, touch, or in any way experience is your responsibility because it is in your life.
This means that terrorist activity, the president, the economy–anything you experience and don’t like–is up for you to heal. They don’t exist, in a manner of speaking, except as projections from inside you. The problem isn’t with them, it’s with you, and to change them, you have to change you.
I know this is tough to grasp, let alone accept or actually live. Blame is far easier than total responsibility, but as I spoke with Dr. Len, I began to realize that healing for him and in ho ‘oponopono means loving yourself. If you want to improve your life, you have to heal your life. If you want to cure anyone–even a mentally ill criminal–you do it by healing you.
I asked Dr. Len how he went about healing himself. What was he doing, exactly, when he looked at those patients’ files?
“I just kept saying, ‘I’m sorry’ and ‘I love you’ over and over again,” he explained.
Turns out that loving yourself is the greatest way to improve yourself, and as you improve yourself, you improve your world. Let me give you a quick example of how this works: one day, someone sent me an email that upset me. In the past I would have handled it by working on my emotional hot buttons or by trying to reason with the person who sent the nasty message. This time, I decided to try Dr. Len’s method. I kept silently saying, “I’m sorry” and “I love you,” I didn’t say it to anyone in particular. I was simply evoking the spirit of love to heal within me what was creating the outer circumstance.
Within an hour I got an e-mail from the same person. He apologized for his previous message. Keep in mind that I didn’t take any outward action to get that apology. I didn’t even write him back. Yet, by saying “I love you,” I somehow healed within me what was creating him.
I later attended a ho ‘oponopono workshop run by Dr. Len. He’s now 70 years old, considered a grandfatherly shaman, and is somewhat reclusive. He praised my book. He told me that as I improve myself, my book’s vibration will raise, and everyone will feel it when they read it. In short, as I improve, my readers will improve.
“What about the books that are already sold and out there?” I asked.
“They aren’t out there,” he explained, once again blowing my mind with his mystic wisdom. “They are still in you.”
In short, there is no out there.
It would take a whole book to explain this advanced technique with the depth it deserves. Suffice it to say that whenever you want to improve anything in your life, there’s only one place to look: inside you.
When you look, do it with love.