LIFE 101
Everything We Wish We Had Learned About Life In School -- But Didn't



Don't be afraid to take
a big step
if one is indicated.
You can't cross a chasm in
two small jumps.


When entering a new situation, wouldn't it be wonderful to have an extra burst of energy? Wouldn't it be nice if our senses sharpened, our mind became more alert, and we felt a sense of increased readiness? Wouldn't it be great if we breathed a little deeper, getting more oxygen; our heart beat a little faster, getting that oxygen around our body; and our eyes widened a little, allowing us to see more clearly?

Wouldn't that be a nice gift to have? That would be a Master Teacher worth welcoming, right?

Well, we have that gift already. It's called fear.

Fear? Sure. If you think about it (or perhaps I should say feel about it), the only difference between "fear" and "excitement" is what we label it. The two are pretty much the same physiological/emotional reaction. With fear, we put a negative spin on it: "Oh, no!" With excitement, we give it some positive english: "Oh, boy!"

Why does fear have such a bad rep? Childhood. Our parents used fear to keep us safe when we were out of their sight. As children, we didn't know the difference between playing in the street and playing on a playground; we didn't know the difference between poison and milk; we didn't know the difference between a total stranger and a perfect stranger. Our parents taught us--with the most loving intentions--to fear everything new. This fear probably saved our lives on any number of occasions.

Everyone has talent.
What is rare is the courage
to follow the talent to the
dark place where it leads.


All well and good. The problem is, at the age of, say, eighteen, when we did know the difference between the truly dangerous and the merely intriguing, no one taught us to use fear for the remarkable gift it is. It's as though nobody took the training wheels off our bike.

Today, we probably don't need to fear poison to keep us from drinking it. We don't drink it because, well, there's no future in it. Only occasionally do we need the rush of fear necessary to quickly avoid a new situation (an imperfect stranger on a dark street, for example). Most of the time, however, fear is a wonderful ally in our quest for growth, learning, and expansion.

To use fear as the friend it is, we must retrain and reprogram ourselves. (Enough blaming the past. Your life is in your hands now.) We must persistently and convincingly tell ourselves that the fear is here--with its gift of energy and heightened awareness--so we can do our best and learn the most in the new situation.

Before we can make friends with fear, it may be necessary to learn that fear is not the enemy. It's important to know that, if we do the thing we fear, we will not die. Some people tell themselves, of every new situation, "It's going to be awful and terrible and then I'll die." The phrase "to die of embarrassment" is an example of the exaggerations people make about fear.

To prove to ourselves we won't die--that, in fact, nothing physically bad is likely to happen to us--it's necessary to move through the fear. Most people treat fear as a wall at the edge of their comfort zone. As they approach the wall, the fear increases, and they turn around and walk away. They do not do whatever they fear. Hence, the belief that fear is a limitation, and not a prelude to illumination, is perpetuated.

If you want to learn about fear, whatever it is you fear doing, that is the very next thing to do. Fear is not a wall; it's just an emotion. Move through the fear. Keep taking step after step toward the thing you want. It may become quite uncomfortable; then, suddenly, it will be less.

When you feel in your gut
what you are and then
dynamically pursue it--
don't back down and don't give up--
then you're going
to mystify a lot of folks.


Once you start doing the thing you fear, the fear is used for its true purpose: extra energy. We use the energy doing what we want to do, and the "wall" of fear disappears.

Over time, you'll learn to use the energy even before you start moving--you'll create a gate for yourself in the wall. Then, when the fear arises, you'll say, "Welcome. I needed a little extra energy. This one might be a challenge!" And off into the sunrise you'll go with your old friend.

To accomplish our destiny
it is not enough to merely
guard prudently
against road accidents.
We must also cover before nightfall
the distance assigned
to each of us.


Pain and Dis-ease

If I had a formula
for bypassing trouble,
I would not pass it round.
Trouble creates
a capacity to handle it.
I don't embrace trouble;
that's as bad as treating it
as an enemy.
But I do say meet it as a friend,
for you'll see a lot of it
and had better be
on speaking terms with it.


Imagine this scenario: You have a very important appointment at 9:00 a.m. The night before, you tell your two roommates, who are also two of your best friends, "I have an important meeting tomorrow morning. It means a lot to me. Would you please make sure I'm awake by 8:00 a.m.?" Your friends, knowing your history of sleeping late, are reluctant. "Please do it," you implore, "It's very important. Do whatever you have to, just make sure I'm up by 8:00 a.m." Your friends agree.

The next morning at 7:00, they knock on your door. You do not respond. Five minutes later they knock harder. No response. Five minutes later they knock and yell. No response. Ten minutes later they come into your room and yell. No response. Five minutes later they gently shake you. You tell them to leave you alone. You've changed your mind. The appointment's not so important after all. Knowing you well, they do not believe you. They shake you and call your name. You tell them you are awake. They are not convinced. They check back in ten minutes: still asleep. As 8:00 a.m. approaches, they shake you, yelling, "Wake up!" You are not pleased. Your friends are threatening cold water. Eventually, reluctantly--if your friends are good enough (i.e., persistent enough)--you wake up.

What if this were the role pain and dis-ease played in your life? We may not remember giving a wake-up call, and we may not remember asking them to do the awakening, but doing it they are.

Whenever he thought about it, he felt terrible. And so, at last, he came to a fateful decision. He decided not to think about it.

What are we waking up to? Ourselves. Living in the moment. Living more effectively. Better relationships with ourselves and others. And so on. When we're "asleep," we are unconscious and not aware of these possibilities. Our friends know we want to be aware of them, and so our friends go through the thankless job of waking us up.

Pain (any pain--emotional, physical, mental) has a message. The information it has about our life can be remarkably specific, but it usually falls into one of two categories: "We would be more alive if we did more of this," and, "Life would be more lovely if we did less of that." Once we get the pain's message, and follow its advice, the pain goes away.

You can use your sanctuary to find out what your pain is trying to tell you. You can, for example, contact the pain through the information retrieval system. Or you could have it appear on the video screen. You might have to "consult" with it in the health center. You can invite it in on the people mover.

Imagine the pain as though it were animated by Walt Disney, or as a Muppet. Give it a mouth. Let it speak. Remember, this is a friend. Ask it a few questions. For example:

What do I get from having you around? What excuses do you give me? What information do you have for me? What should I be doing less often? What should I be doing more often? How can I take better care of my body? How can I take better care of my emotions? What can I do to take better care of my mind? What can I do to take better care of myself?

After you've had your chat, thank the pain for the information, surround it with white light, and see it dissolve into that light. Then fill the place in your body/mind/emotions where the pain was with white light.

We contain an internal world which is just as active and complicated as the one we live in.


It is important to follow the pain's advice. Remember, painful = PAY-IN-FULL. The more severe the pain or illness, the more severe will be the necessary changes. These may involve breaking bad habits, or acquiring some new and better ones. To hear the advice of the pain without following it is as useful (or should I say useless?) as any other unheeded good advice. Take the corrective action necessary, and the pain will decrease. Continue this healing-through-action, and you will be healed.

How far will pain go to get its message across? Illness. Dis-ease. The ultimate wake-up call is a life-threatening illness. If that alarm clock in your ear doesn't wake you up, nothing will. My book on this subject, You Can't Afford the Luxury of a Negative Thought: A Book for People with Any Life-Threatening Illness--Including Life, is available by calling 1-800-LIFE-101.

The body never lies.



It's a funny thing about life; if you refuse to accept anything but the best, you very often get it.


Gather 'round rebels, this chapter's especially for you. (Considering my temperament, I should probably say "me.")

Many of us rebels got into the rebellion business for good reason--we were rebels with a cause. As children, when the world moved in with its obsession for conformity ("We'd love you a lot more if only you were a little less different"), the rebels said, "I won't," and stuck to it.

The defense of our individuality continued--probably necessarily so--through formal schooling (Ugh!). Eventually, it became a habit. We became masters of "won't power." Give us something to be against and we shine. As soon as what we're against has gone, we're lost.

Rebels without something to be against are a sad sight. They wander around. They mutter to themselves. They secretly hope something will go wrong so they can be against it. Like professional soldiers in peacetime, rebels would probably be very unhappy in Utopia.

Anyone can revolt. It is more difficult silently to obey our own inner promptings, and to spend our lives finding sincere and fitting means of expression for our temperament and our gifts.


Fortunately, there is a solution. Just as fear is also excitement, stubbornness is also determination. It's simply a matter of shifting from "won't power" to "will power."

Rather than "I won't get sick," change it to "I will keep my mind, body, and emotions healthy." Replace "I won't be with people who don't understand me," with "I will be with people who like me as I am." Turn "I hate war," to "I love peace."

It's a matter of finding the positive opposite (and rebels are so good at finding opposites) and focusing on that. This shifts the energy from stubbornness to determination.

My only problem: how do I communicate all this to my fellow rebels in a way they won't rebel against?

Let us, then, be up and doing, With a heart for any fate; Still achieving, still pursuing, Learn to labor and to wait.


Subtracting Addiction

When you stop drinking, you have to deal with this marvelous personality that started you drinking in the first place.


We've all got one--an addiction, that is. There are the well-known addictions: drugs, alcohol, smoking, gambling. There are the less-known-but-getting-more-well-known-each-day addictions: food, sex, romance, work, religion, spirituality--almost anything good can be turned bad by obsession and lack of moderation. Some people are addicted to their negative thoughts and the feelings those thoughts produce.

Some minimize their addictions by calling them "bad habits." Others deny addiction and seemingly become addicted to denial. Many, who wouldn't dream of having an addiction, are addicted to normalcy. We all have one.

An addiction is anything that has more power over you than you do. If it "runs" you, it's an addiction. If you're not sure it's addiction, stop doing it. If you can stop for an indefinite period of time, then it's a preference, not an addiction. If you can't--or can't even conceive of giving it (them) up--that's addiction.

The "old" word for addiction was temptation. "Lead us not into temptation" (Jesus); "My temptation is quiet" (Yeats); "I can resist everything except temptation" (Oscar Wilde).

One of the most successful programs for overcoming addiction is the Twelve Steps. Originally created to help alcoholics, the Twelve Steps have been adapted to every known addiction. The program has benefited millions.

Why comes temptation, but for man to meet And master and make crouch beneath his foot, And so be pedestaled in triumph?



  1. We admitted we were powerless over our addiction--that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of this Higher Power, as we understood Him, Her, or It.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to our Higher Power, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Were entirely ready to have our Higher Power remove all these defects of character.
  7. Humbly asked our Higher Power to remove our shortcomings.
  8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought, through prayer and meditation, to improve our conscious contact with our Higher Power as we understood Him, Her, or It, praying only for knowledge of our Higher Power's will for us and the power to carry that out.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this messageto others and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life.

JAMES 1:12

Once you overcome your addiction, you know you can overcome all things. The impossible becomes possible. The undoable, doable. The unmanageable, manageable. Overcoming an addiction even eases the process of releasing our addiction to life at the time of our death.

In the process of overcoming addiction, you can learn discipline, self-confidence, humility, appreciation, self-love, and forgiveness. Important lessons, these. That's why I consider addiction one of the Master Teachers in disguise.

A good many young writers make the mistake of enclosing a stamped, self-addressed envelope, big enough for the manuscript to come back in. This is too much of a temptation to the editor.



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