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May 2, 2012

Happiness Is a Choice--Really

Recently I had a conversation with Laura, who was unemployed and desperate about her situation.

"I didn't get that job I applied for," she said.

"And?" I asked

"I'm disappointed. I really wanted that job. I've tried to fight the negative feelings, but I'm getting more discouraged all the time. Now I don't even have the energy to look for another one."

"And THAT is the problem, kid."

"What do you mean?"

"One inconvenient thing happens, and you throw away everything you have. You believe you have nothing, and now you can't even move. Do you see that?"


"That's no answer. You're just agreeing with me because you don't want to talk about this. You keep creating this condition, so now you're faced with a choice: Do you want to learn to do this differently, or do you want to keep living in frustration and depression? You feel alone, for example, and then you behave in ways that contribute to people avoiding you, and then you're even more alone."

"It's true that I keep making the same mistakes. It still takes very little for me to feel worthless."

"And the instant you feel worthless, you're believing the messages you've heard all your life, instead of believing and remembering the love you've been getting lately from quite a number of people. You're trusting lies instead of the truth."

"Doesn't make much sense, does it?"

"No, and if you keep pushing away the love you're getting, people will begin to get tired and will go away. I'm not saying they're justified in doing that, but it's what happens. They're human. They're giving you the gift of their love--and mostly they don't expect anything in return--but if you throw away their gifts, eventually they give up. And then what?"

"I'm alone again. I create the very thing I fear most. Part of me sees that you're simply telling the truth and that you love me enough to tell me that truth, but another part of me is discouraged. I feel like you're telling me I'm hopeless."

"It's all a choice, kid. Make a choice. On the whole, you don't make conscious choices. You just react blindly to pain and potential pain, often imagined."

"Okay, I choose to see that you're telling me this because you love me."

"Keep going. You're just warming up to what's true and to what you could choose."

"For quite a long time now, you have loved me again and again and again--in person, on the phone, on Skype with video, by text, and by email. I have mountains of evidence that you love me no matter what I do: when I don't listen, whether or not I have a job, when I am in debt, when I choose to be in unloving relationships. It goes on and on, and yet when you tell me the truth about myself I often choose to hear it in a disapproving voice, and then I feel afraid that you won't love me if I don't do this perfectly."

"Believing the lies of the past again. What else are you doing?"

"I'm not trusting you. I'm throwing away the love--the gold you're giving to me--again and again. When things don't go my way, I get so distracted by surviving that I completely forget what I do have."

"And if you would CHOOSE to REMEMBER that you're loved, the urge to simply survive--which isn't really living at all--would go away. You'd also realize how much of your thoughts and efforts have little importance."

"Then I make you do all the work: asking me questions, telling me again what you've told me many times before. I become so afraid of being wrong that I act dumb, so I won't be responsible. Oddly, though, while I act dumb, I'm being arrogant, trying to justify what I'm doing. It's kind of crazy."

"Yes, it is."

"I can believe that other people are lovable, but not me. Just yesterday I spoke to someone new in Real Love. I loved them, and I meant it, so obviously I thought THEY were lovable. But I have a hard time believing that I am. When it comes to myself, I get confused and lost and helpless."

"You actually CHOOSE to be helpless. It's a form of pathological laziness, which is part of victimhood. I'm not criticizing you here, just informing you that often you want everyone else to do your personal work and make things easier for you--me, other people in Real Love, your family, your coworkers. You even wanted your recent job interviewer to make things easy for you. But you neglect your own responsibility, and that can't work. Everything can change with a different choice on your part. I know this is hard to hear, but I care enough about you to tell you the hard things."

"You're right. I like to think I'm not lazy because I 'get things done,' but those are just 'things.'"

"Exactly. The 'things' are meaningless. You're lazy about the important things, like taking responsibility for how you feel."


"I spent my whole childhood being criticized, and having people question everything, so I learned to avoid all that by just letting other people make my decisions. It was safer."

"I understand completely. Remember, I know your parents quite well."

"That doesn't justify what I do, though, because for years now I've been taught a better way to live."

"Now we're back to your making a choice again. Right now. Do you want to keep living as a child?"

"Sometimes yes, I do! Part of me doesn't want to be responsible. I want to be taken care of. But not really. I've chosen to be responsible enough times that I know it makes me happier--even when it's difficult."

After a pause, I said, "I'm still not hearing you make a choice."

"Like what?"

"Our feelings and behaviors flow naturally from what we believe. So make a choice about what you believe."

"I choose to believe that you love me."

"When you believe that, how do you feel? Do you feel afraid?"


"Who else loves you?"

Laura named several others who loved her. "And you've all loved me consistently for a long time."

"And when you remember that, how do you feel?"


"Even though you don't have a job?"

"Actually, yes. That's amazing."

"So what is your overall choice about how you believe?"

"I choose to believe that a lot of people love me, which means that I'm worth loving, even when I'm unemployed and don't know what to do next. I feel happy."

"And it was all a choice."

We really can choose how we believe. In our defense, most of us can't see the choice to believe we're worthwhile, because we've consistently--always, in many cases--been taught otherwise. If you're afraid, remember that your fear is a result of a lie you are choosing to believe. Figure out the lie, and choose to believe the truth instead. This will change your feelings and the way you behave.

May 4, 2012

I Hate Jesus

With the exception of sleeping, my four-year-old grandson, Jack, never stops moving--constantly walking, running, exploring, breaking stuff, laughing, and more. Just watching him makes me tired. He's not so good, however, at anything resembling holding still. Like sitting in church, where the people around him don't appreciate his noisy, adventuresome behavior as much as I do. His father--my son Mike--called me recently to describe a conversation he'd just had with Jack.

"I hate church," Jack said.

"Really?" Mike asked. "Jesus made church."

Jack was not impressed. "I hate Jesus."

"Why do you hate Jesus?"

"Because he made church."

Hard to deny the logic of a child, eh? And yet we adults reason in a similar way. The latest in learning research has actually demonstrated that--contrary to our former views--we tend not to make decisions based on the careful gathering of information. No, we make decisions based on our feelings--usually what we want--and then we come up with reasons to justify what we want.

There's nothing wrong with having desires or irrational feelings, but we do need to pause--at least briefly--to consider where our desires come from. Are we acting out of fear? Are we being inconsiderate of the effect of our choices on others? Are we disregarding the long-term consequences of our choices? Most of us don't make decisions with any more care or wisdom than a four-year-old, and that's how we end up in the predicaments that so often seem to come out of nowhere. If we don't know how to be wiser, we can at least consult those who might see more clearly than we--who are not blinded by the feelings and desires that distract us.

May 8, 2012

Questions Vs. Buts

Every day I get a number of questions from people who want guidance in some way. Some people are asking genuine questions, while others are arguing to maintain that their present beliefs or behaviors are right. How can we tell the difference between people--including ourselves--who are truly gathering information and those who are arguing? Allow me to offer some clues to help you distinguish between learners and arguers.

Learners ask real questions. ask question.jpg They gather information so they can grow, change, improve. They're not satisfied with attitudes and behaviors that are less than productive.

Arguers don't ask questions. Oh sure, their sentences might end in a question mark---an upward inflection of tone at the end---but that doesn't define a question. Arguers issue challenges. They defend their present position. While learners ask how their behavior can be changed, arguers tell you how their present behavior is justifiable.

Learners ask how, while arguers say but---a lot. Learners say, "Thank you," while arguers become impatient with any suggestions contrary to their own opinions, and eventually they sulk. Learners are eager and happy. Arguers are resistant, difficult, and irritated.

Learners share the principles they have gathered, hoping to spread the joy they're experiencing. Arguers gather allies who will support the position they wish to defend.

Learners grow. They become happier. They can accomplish almost anything they desire. Arguers are deeply entrenched in their patterns of thinking and behaving, and they resent anything or anyone who interferes with those patterns.

Ask yourself if you're a learner or an arguer. The answer will determine whether you are happy or not.

May 10, 2012

The Blessings of Pain

Oh, how we hate being in pain. Pain is the great nemesis, the most feared and consistent motivator on the planet. It is our interest in avoiding or decreasing our pain that controls our choice of partners, activities, addictions, and more.

What we fail to understand is that pain can be a good thing. When I step on a hot coal in my bare feet, pain immediately warns me of potentially serious injury. Without physical pain, my foot would be burned much more severely by the hot coal. Similarly, a persistent headache can warn me of a tumor growing in my head, perhaps in time to save my life.

It's critical that we investigate the cause of our pain, rather than simply treating the pain itself. The latter approach is potentially very dangerous. What if I take pain medication for my brain tumor? I'll achieve relief for a while, but then the tumor increases in size, eventually getting to the point where it can't be treated.

Pain is simply INFORMATION, an indication that something is wrong and needs our attention. This is true of both physical and emotional pain.

We confuse ourselves with too many words. pain is information 2.jpg Every time we're feeling hurt, afraid, angry, frustrated, or lonely, these are all just expressions of pain. We must recognize the common thread of pain and then choose to treat the cause of the pain, rather than covering up or temporarily diminishing each individual expression of it.

If we don't recognize the true cause of our pain, it's very unlikely that we'll ever address it effectively. Most of us don't have the first clue, for example, that our anger of today is really rooted in the traumatic experiences we had when we were three years old, or four, or six. To ignore these roots is to ensure that we will never truly be free of the pain.

There are so many ways to treat only our pain. Drugs and alcohol are particularly popular, because the effect is so immediate and predictable, and because they are so universally available. Sex is another great pain medication, providing not only pain relief but a brief and powerful pleasure. More subtle are the socially approved pain relievers, like money, manipulating people for approval, and success at work. People even seek approval and a sense of worth--thereby diminishing their pain--with "good things" like devotion to family and church.

All these approaches actually DO deliver a temporarily relief from pain, but the treatment of the pain alone leaves us with several problems:

1. The cause of the pain is untreated and almost always gets worse.

2. Because the cause remains, we are now trapped in an endless cycle of treating the pain, waiting for it to return (often in minutes), and then treating the pain again.

3. As long as we are treating the pain, our ability to identify the cause is impaired. We can't see the cause clearly while we are eliminating the pain that is give us useful information about the cause.

As long as we're using ANYTHING to treat our pain, we will see the cause less clearly. The solution? Don't use anything to blunt the pain. Nothing. That is a terrifying plan for most of us to accept. We can't stand pain, and yet we simply must endure it in order to identify the cause. As we endure the pain, however, we also learn that it won't kill us. We learn that we don't really require the many forms of pain relief we've always believed we couldn't live without--to which we have become addicted.

Our entire lives change when we recognize pain as information. No longer do we see pain as unfair or as a punishment. No longer do we require God to remove it. C.S. Lewis even said, "Pain is God's megaphone to rouse a deaf world."

Regrettably, pain is regarded as untouchable by most of us. If we're in pain, we're almost always offended at the possibility that anyone would dare to question our judgments about our pain. Unconsciously, we believe that our pain places us in the near-holy position of victimhood, where we have a divine right to sympathy, support, and cooperation.

But pain is NOT a holy state. Again, pain is information. What can we learn from it? Most of the time, we will be well served by considering one or more of the following messages. When we're hurting:

* We're CHOOSING to feel like victims, rather than considering the pain or circumstances of other people.

* We're failing to remember that either we were already in pain before the current "painful event," or we've been laden with past wounds that brought us right to the edge of pain.

* We're invariably accepting a false belief or judgment, which immediately leads to misguided emotions and behaviors.

* We're almost always controlled by a desire for other people to alleviate our pain, rather than to learn how we can genuinely eliminate our own.

* We're reacting to decades of past injuries, not just what we believe is causing our pain in this moment.

* We're selfish. We care primarily about ourselves and how we can alleviate our pain.

* We're self-indulgent.

* Our pain makes us deaf and blind to the truth about ourselves and others.

* We're demanding for attention to be presented in a certain way, usually self-defeating.

* We're never grateful for the love and other positive conditions we do have.

Pay attention to your pain. Ask yourself if you're experiencing any of the beliefs and judgments expressed above. Be willing to listen to the real answers, rather than justifying your present pain and reactions. Consider asking for guidance from people wiser than yourself. If you're willing to learn, your responses to pain will change dramatically, and--perhaps more important---the nature and severity of the pain itself will change as you find the Real Love that addresses the root of almost all pain.

May 14, 2012

I Need More Pots

It was obvious that my friend George was allergic to work. Giraffes could have hidden in the grass of his front yard. Outside the back door was a tall pile of garbage bags, because he was too lazy to take the trash fifty feet to the street, where the city would happily have removed it. You couldn't walk in George's house, because he left everything where he had used it or thrown it. The floor was covered with objects and dirt, to the point that it was no longer possible to see whether the surface was carpet, wood, or whatever. To get from one spot to another, you had to perform a kind of shuffle, pushing objects out of your way as you moved forward.

It sounds disgusting. Because it was. One day I visited him while it was raining, and soon I heard repetitive, metallic, plinking sounds, irregularly spaced and increasing in frequency. I asked George about it, and he said, "I need more pots." George was not a chatty or informative man.

I stood and looked around to discover that the sound resulted from rain leaking through holes in his roof and dropping into pots and other metal containers scattered throughout the house. Ironically, George had the funds to repair his roof, but he said he didn't wanted any of those "damn people poking around" in his house if they had to repair structural damage inside. His solution? More pots to catch the water as it seeped into the house in more locations.

George brings a smile to my face every time I think of him. It's so obviously ludicrous that he would choose "more pots" as a temporary and messy solution to a problem that could be permanently solved with a phone call to a roofing company. And yet most of us approach the difficulties in our life in just such a ridiculous way.

We fuss endlessly about issues with spouses, parents, children, work, and more. We appear to solve problems, but mostly we're just putting out "more pots." We don't fix the roof. Under the shelter of Real Love, we don't need pots. We're freed from crisis management and can attend instead to becoming more happy and productive.

May 16, 2012

My Adventure in Yanbian, China

Time in China

Months ago I received a letter from the owner of a psychology institute in Yanji City, Yanbian prefecture, Jilin Province, China. This place is so far north in China that its southern border is North Korea, and it borders Siberia on the East. An hour from there you can see all three countries from a mountain peak.

The psychologist, Quan Yi, wrote to say that he had avidly studied psychology literature for many years, but he had found nothing that made a real difference to his clients. Then in 2008 he found the series of Real Love books that had been translated into Chinese. He read all ten books and began to use them in his practice.

He wrote: "It really is true that Real Love changes everything. We teach Real Love everywhere we go and have more than 200 people actively participating in our groups. Marriages are happier, parents are loving their children, depression is disappearing, and corporations are changing the way they do business. I have a dream to spread Real Love throughout China."

Their website is www.ybxlzx.com

On May 7, Joy Hsu, Cheryl Silva, and myself began preparation to travel to China. There were some significant problems with flights, because of weather in Chicago, so at the last minute we found ourselves in a position where our bags were on the plane, but we could not get to China in time for the opening events. Seconds before pushing the plane away from the gate, Joy and I got our bags back--in Phoenix and Atlanta, respectively--but Cheryl could not get hers, which made it impossible for her to go with us. (Ironic, since Cheryl works for that airline.)

With no time left at all, Joy and I bought new tickets on another airline, and off we went. Long, long flights. Because of the International Date Line, we arrived just before midnight on May 8. Spent the night in a hotel in Beijing. Not easy to find your way around to shuttle buses in a completely foreign environment.

May 9. Arrived late in Yanji City, where we were greeted with celebratory banners, thirty people, and women in traditional costumes. People have driven two hours one way just for that few minutes of greeting. These people really want it. They took us to the hotel.

May 10. This is the 60th anniversary of the founding of Yanbian, so their premier university was inaugurating a week-long series of events around how to create more happiness in people and families. I keynoted that, and it seemed to go very well. Student and faculty leaders from the university attended this.

Attended a dinner that night with university dean and others, and I presented Teacher Quan with a certificate for his being the first certified Real Love coach in all of China.
In the evening, we did a Real Love group until late. The Chinese people are slower to warm up to the idea of truth telling, because in their culture, "saving face"--looking good to win approval and avoid disapproval--is the cornerstone of everything. But once they sense the complete acceptance possible, they really get into it.

One set of parents talked about their son's refusal to do his homework, which is Chinese culture is simply unforgiveable. They teach hard work and success to their children from birth, so if a child fails to cooperate, it's a tragedy. I talked about why he was rebelling--against their controlling him--and suggested they bring him the next day to the group we'd be having.

One young man had never had a happy moment in his life, as far as he could recall. We just accepted him, and he looked stunned. He said he just didn't know what to do with the experience, and I encouraged him not to worry about it. There was no timetable, no hurry. He said he'd return the following day to see what happened. He had traveled more than a thousand miles to get there.

We didn't finish until nearly midnight.

May 11
Did a Real Love group from 9 am to 10:30 pm.

The couple from the day before brought their rebellious child. I asked him if he felt like his mother really listened to him, and immediately he said, "Yes." Of course he did. She had taught him that she was a wonderful mother, so he had little choice but to believe her, and he quickly defended her. But then we talked about her frequent anger at him, and he realized that he really didn't like that, so no, she couldn't possibly be listening to him if she persisted in doing what he hated. The two of them had some very tender moments, and from that point on in the evening, he was never more than a few feet away from me, like a puppy. Cute. The next day his parents said that his whole attitude has changed.

Early in the day we talked to a mother who was obviously controlling and angry toward both her son and husband. As she realized what she had been doing, and as she felt accepted, she left to call her husband to leave work and to take her son out of school. She wanted some of this healing for her family. It was great fun. Her son too defended her. I congratulated her on both controlling him and convincing him that she wasn't. As I talked to the son about what she really did, I finally pointed out to the audience what nobody had noticed, which was that the husband was over in the corner vigorously nodding agreement with everything. HE knew she was controlling, and he didn't like it, and he was able to show his son what was happening. They'll all be cooperating now to bring more harmony and less control to the family.

One woman had been sexually molested by her father thirty years before, and she said that she had concluded that she would take this to the grave. This subject is NOT discussed in China, so if you're a victim of sexual abuse, too bad. I held her for quite a while. She started off just bawling. Then she asked if she could still hate her father, who had died, even though it was her familial duty to take care of his burial plot. Of course, I said. After more healing, she thought she could forgive him. Finally, after about an hour of this, she said that she had never felt like this in her life. The burden was gone, the wounds healed. She thought that if her father were there, she would be able to actually have compassion for him, and she would tell him that the next time she attended his grave. Remarkable experience.

One woman had been adopted at an early age and had felt worthless her whole life. Helped her see that she felt worthless because of how everyone had treated her: adoptive parents, children at school, everyone. She felt so small. Her smile now would turn a generator.

So many parenting questions. Each family tends to have one child, so all the focus of the family is on spoiling that one kids, and as a result they're raising a generation of entitled children who refuse to cooperate with their parents' plans. They asked if they should "corral" their children (control them) or "let them fly" (be permissive). Answer? Neither. Just loveandteach. People took notes like crazy. Oddly, all their writing looked like Chinese to me.

In the U.S., great numbers of couples get divorced. In China, that's uncommon. Instead, the spouses simply have ongoing affairs--both of them--or they separate but remain married for life. Much marital unhappiness. They tend to focus on work and children, while ignoring their spouses, and they're discovering that this approach doesn't work very well.

The skeptical young man from the night before got more attention, and he began to SMILE, something he says he hasn't done in years, except to create the appearance of being normal. Step by step.

During the group, women began to hold the hand of the women next to them, which apparently is utterly unknown here. We did LOTS of touching, and they warmed up to it like little children. Initially some nervous laughter, but that disappeared quickly.

Finished late again.

Sat, May 12

Seminar on the Happy Family. 9:00 - 5:00. Nice attendance. The night before a man came to the group and said he'd heard about what we were doing, and he bought a block of 39 tickets. The word was getting around. We had people showing up to seminars and groups just because they had seen the welcome banner at the airport and the one at the university draped over the main thoroughfare. I think they did some Photoshop on the university banner, because I looked thin. I need a copy of that picture.

I was going to talk about marriage and parenting, but the overwhelming interest was in parenting, so I did that. People here are just as baffled by children as anywhere else, and they were very grateful for an approach that was so systematic and calm and simple.

Sun, May 13
I spent all day teaching an auditorium filled with students and faculty at Yanbian University, the largest in this area. Students are virtually unknown to ask questions during a lecture of any kind, because the Chinese culture is such that people are afraid to look bad. But there was an avalanche of questions from the audience. I didn't use the slides much, and just talked from the heart to them. They were telling the truth over and over, without realizing it, so when people asked about how to find Real Love, I just pointed to the people who had told truths (unwittingly) and asked them how they felt. They realized with great surprise that they felt more peace, happier, and closer to me (because they had told me the truth).

The Chinese culture is such that the children feel absolutely duty bound to obey their parents, even to the point of choosing schools and careers to please the parents. One student said, "After what you have said about Real Love, I realize that my parents did all the unloving things you have said, over and over. Does that mean my parents didn't love me?" The place became instantly silent as a tomb.

"Yes," I said. "I'm saying exactly that," and then went on to explain how every parent does his or her best. Parents just don't know how to love. The insights were transformational. I brought students up on the stage and talked to them, touched them. The audience melted.

Sometimes the questions were confrontational, suggesting that this Real Love idea was impossible. They tried to maintain (understandably so) that I didn't understand their culture, because Chinese people get angry all the time at their children. They insisted that the children NEED that kind of harsh discipline. I explained that parents do this all over the world--not just China--and then I asked if there was a single person in the room who liked being nagged, scolded, or criticized with anger. Raise your hand. Not a hand went up. So I said, "If the culture of any country gets in the way of the happiness of the people, then the culture must change. Anyone disagree?" Again, no hand. One young lady was adamant that anger was necessary, but by the end she was weeping. The audience obviously completely accepted their cultural demands to be obedient, servile, conforming, and so on. But when they realized that there really was an alternative, one that was more loving and freer, they clearly were delighted that there was a choice.

I met my first person from North Korea at the university gathering. He said that Western culture is more oriented toward the individual, while Eastern culture is more oriented toward the group. He wanted to know if Eastern wasn't, therefore, a better approach. I asked him to describe his family. His father, mother, and sister all live in the same house, but there is no talking. No touching. No real connecting. They eat together, they go places together, but they are essentially ALONE. They hardly know each other, despite their "Eastern group" philosophy. So I asked him if he thought that was better, just to be in closer proximity but not really knowing each other at all. He got the point, as did the entire audience. It was very eye opening to then.

It's obvious that the students were not used to touching. At one point where I asked them to visualize what it would be like to be loved, I asked them to reach out and take the hand of the person next to them. They were obviously very uncomfortable, but many of them continued to do it throughout the remainder of the seminar. It was sweet.

At lunch, I ate a sumptuous feast with senior professors at the university. One of them said that after the morning's seminar he realized he had not been nearly as good a husband as he had previously thought. I demonstrated with him how he could tell the truth to his wife, and he was deeply touched.

With his permission I told his story to the whole audience later, and they too were moved. I described my relationship with Donna, and every time I mentioned "My Queen," every woman in the audience gasped with delight. No matter where I go in the world, all women want to be cherished like this. Our cultural differences are small. We are utterly united in our need for being loved.

All during the seminar, I could see lightbulbs popping on in the faces of the students and faculty. In fact, at one point a student said that Real Love--as I described it--would be very rare. I agreed. "So how do we find it?" he asked. I pointed to one girl who had told the truth about herself during the seminar, and I pointed out how much happier she was. She felt loved by me, just sitting in her seat thirty feet away. She nodded vigorously. I pointed out another person, and another, with similar experiences. Those people become like light bulbs, and they attract moths around them. They don't have to go looking for moths, just turn on the light and wait for them to come. That's how you find more Real Love. Just live it--tell the truth--and people will come.

At one point, just before the seminar began in the afternoon, I sat in my chair listening to the music and watching the audience file in, and I was overwhelmed with silent weeping. What a privilege to be in this place and to be doing this work, despite my obvious and innumerable flaws. I realized, once again, that we're all the same. We need the same basic things. I have met with one small group after another since I arrived, and I feel like I'm meeting with family.

One professor in the audience at Yanbian University told me that several Chinese scientists have received Nobel prizes, but not a single one of them had been trained in China and stayed there. The only Chinese winners had begun their training in China and then gone to the U.S., where they had done more training and research. He asked why I thought this was the case. The answer fit perfectly into what I had taught them about the destructive effects of fear. In China people are very afraid--more than in most countries--of making mistakes that would make them look bad, so they hide their opinions. They don't take risks. They call it "saving face." So students say just what the professors have taught them, just what the teachers want to hear. It's too risky to propose something new, whereas in the U.S. we encourage innovation. Chinese students who come to the U.S. are then able to use their native intelligence in a much more creative way, and such efforts are recognized by awards like the Nobel Prize. The audience clapped in appreciation of my understanding of Chinese culture without any criticism of it. Loving people makes cultural communication pretty easy.

The message was so well received everywhere. Parents would hear the message one night and bring their children to hear it the next night. People are expressing their earnest intent to quit their jobs and help Teacher Quan spread the message of Real Love. These people are very inspiring to me.

I'm pretty sure I took a photograph with every person who attended any event, and then again with assorted groups of them. They're not used to touching, so when I put my arm around them for photos, they hesitatingly put their arm around me. Well, I'm taller than the average Chinese person, so many times they put their hands square on my butt. Then, once their hand was there, they were too embarrassed to move it. So in many photos my smile is really a giggle at what's going on behind me.

For dinner, I had more bizarre foods I'd never seen before. Ate them all, which delighted the hosts. Probably wouldn't eat some of them again. When we entered the restaurant, there were big tubs of live frogs (big ones) and turtles. They were not pets. I tried to warn the animals that things were not going to go well for them that evening, but they seemed unconcerned.

Monday, May 14

We had a smaller seminar for business people. It went very, very well. Chinese are very business-oriented people, so they were certain they could come up with a scenario that Real Love wouldn't work with. They didn't, and by the end they were all clapping at the end of each answer. Shoot, my children don't clap when I speak, so this was pretty fun.

My left knee is giving me more trouble by the month, even though I've had surgery and multiple injections into the joint space. When I speak, I walk around quite a bit on the stage, so by the end of a day-long seminar, my knee has had it. I limp noticeably, and somehow my multiple hosts got the idea I was a cripple. So everywhere I went, there is someone at my elbow, helping me along. It's kind of cute, and I don't have the heart to tell them I can actually walk.

Today at lunch, I was leaving a little ahead of people, but just before I got to the top of the stairs, this woman ran over to make sure that I had some guidance going down the stairs. At MOST, she weighs 85 pounds. If I had spoken Mandarin, I would have said, "Sweetie, if I were to fall, exactly what do you suppose you'd do about it?" But I just kept thanking her, because I CAN say that in Mandarin. Pretty cute.

I can't tell you how fun it's been to be with these people. They are so eager to learn, so kind, so generous. I've told them repeatedly that I feel like I'm home, and they burst into a kind of exuberant clapping that we just don't do. That call me Baba, which means father, or their word for grandfather. Their word for Gregory is hard to say--something like Kelekola--so they just call me Baba Guh. There's a little group of women who sit on the front row everywhere and never take their eyes off me. They're adorable. They're just expressing their appreciation for how Real Love has changed their personal lives and relationships.

Some of the people here have been so moved by their Real Love experiences, before and during my visit, that they come to everything: every seminar, every group meeting, every meal. I keep wanting to say that I'm just a redneck from Georgia, because they obviously think I'm much more.

By the way, Mom, when I was a kid, you used to tell me to clean off my plate because "the children in China are starving." These people eat like horses. The dinners are feasts. Food everywhere. They keep shoving it at me. I say I'm full, so they give me some more. Goodness, I've never seen more food. They always serve it on these enormous glass lazy susans, some as big as six feet across, so that everyone gets to eat what they want.

They eat really, really weird stuff. Just in the past couple of days I've eaten boiled tendons, brains, pig lung, creatures out of the sea they couldn't even name, and more. On the other hand, I've eaten six kinds of kimchee (a Korean pickled and spiced assortment of vegetables), and I had thought there was only one kind. I really like kimchee. After lunch one day I mentioned that I had eaten pig lung for the first time in my life, and possibly the as the first American in history to do that. They laughed nervously, but then I added that I was breathing better already. They roared.

On a couple of occasions I noticed that I was the only person who ate a particular dish. Then I learned that it was because I had picked food from the dish on the lazy susan with my personal chopsticks. Turns out that that is rude--spreads germs and all, as Donna has told me many times. But nobody would have thought of saying anything. You use "community chop sticks" to put the food on your own plate, and then your personal chop sticks to eat it with. Thing was, there were no community sticks in some of the dishes, but I was supposed to ask for some. Oops.

Not real fond of their public restrooms. It's a hole in the floor. I had somebody with me--always do--so I asked what they did for toilet paper, because there wasn't any. He said that you have to bring your own. Useful information to have before you walk in, don't you think? I decided to wait. I asked him--just hypothetically, mind you--what old people did (I didn't tell him I was talking about myself) who had, say, bad knees and wouldn't be able to squat over the hole (not to put too fine a point on the subject). He said he didn't know.

Fortunately, I have a real toilet in my hotel room. And I have a pretty big suite, because the non-bedroom half we use for evening group every day. We can get like 30 people squeezed into that room. Of course, these are small, Chinese people. And I wondered why, after a group, the small waste basket in my bathroom was filled. Could everybody possibly have snotty noses? Then, after like a day here, one of my interpreters said, "I'll find out from the hotel management if it's all right for you to flush your toilet paper down the toilet." Suddenly I understood why my trash can was full. They don't like to overburden their waste water treatment plants, so somebody came up with the generally accepted idea that they would put their used toilet tissue in the garbage can next to the toilet. Okay, I was disgusted. I said, "First, send someone upstairs to empty my garbage can. Right now. Second, you may ask the hotel management your question, but I do not want to know the answer. That ship has already sailed." Not a local custom I cared to learn.

We had another group meeting in my suite tonight, which we have had every night for two hours.

One young man--24 years old, mentioned earlier--traveled a thousand miles to get here, and he spent all week at every meeting, every group, everything. He said he had been afraid of people, skeptical, and angry all his life. He had the look of a terminally whipped dog. Because he had been disappointed and hurt so many times, he was skeptical of EVERYTHING and everybody. For the whole week he watched every move I made, looking for something that would confirm his doubts. For the whole week. I worked with him, talked to him, and held him several times. Eventually I asked him what he was really afraid of. He did not know, which is usually the case. I helped him see how he believed what he was told with the anger and neglect of his parents and others all through his life. He believed he was worthless. But that simply could not be true, because I could see his worth. The other people in his life were simply blind, which had nothing to do with him. Finally, last night, he began to smile. Each time that I had previously asked him how he felt, he said he didn't know. But he finally admitted he felt more peaceful, even . . . . . . . more loved. But he was terrified to leave the Real Love gathering. He was afraid what would happen when I went back to America. What would he do then? I pointed out a man in the group who hadn't taken his eyes off the young man the entire time we had been talking. I said, "Right there is another person who loves you." The young man (Shao Li) smiled again. Another man, without prompting, raised his hand and said, "And me." And then another, and another, until the whole room was filled with raised hands. Quite a touching moment. They all said they would call him at his home. He now has a ray of hope in his life. We'll see how it goes.

A mother sat in front of me, and she proceeded to become a machine gun of words that were accusing of her sixteen-year-old son--Bao--who just wasn't engaged actively enough in his schoolwork. His scores were not rising, and she was furious that he wasn't paying more attention. Her son was in the room, and he refused to come and sit in front of me with her. Repeatedly, she demanded with words and emphatic gestures that he come and sit with her in front of me. He refused. She said that he wouldn't sit up in front with me because he was afraid of the crowd, but I told her that she was wrong. I told her that Bao was really afraid to come up and sit with HER. She dismissed the idea as ridiculous and offensive. I told him that he could stay right where he was, as far from us as possible in the room. He just beamed. He loved it. It was obvious that his mother never asked him what he wanted. She just imposed her will. I asked for his permission to talk to him from across the room, and he readily agreed. He admitted that he HATED being controlled and nagged by his mother. Hated it. I asked the mother if she realized how much her controlling and anger had hurt her son. No, no, no, she emphatically denied that she had ever hurt him. She was only trying to do the best for him. Of course, every parent believes this, even though we do so many things that are unloving and hurtful. Back and forth we went, and eventually I asked Bao if he would be willing to come up and talk to me if his mother traded places with him, so she was far away and couldn't influence what he said. He eagerly agreed, which of course was hysterical, since she had previously said that he wouldn't come up for fear of me and the audience. As I talked to Bao, he just bloomed in front of everyone, and the evidence became overwhelming that his fear and resentment of her were the biggest obstacle to his happiness AND to his ability to concentrate on his schoolwork. In fact, he kind of enjoyed failing in school, because it gave him a way to irritate her. She finally got a glimpse of what she had been doing--just a little--and agreed to not nag him anymore about his schoolwork or his test scores. He was thrilled. I hope she keeps her promise, but if she forgets I gave him the words to use with her that will remind her of her promise.

Parents everywhere nag their children to do well in school, to behave, and so on, but in China this behavior and attitude is more prevalent and harsher.

One girl was miserable that her parents were insisting that she date and marry a man who came from a "good family" and had good educational and career prospects. I didn't want to tread too insensitively on cultural norms, so I asked if she HAD to marry the man. No, but she did have to at least date him for a time. I told her that choosing a partner was the most important decision she would ever make. I described how much I love Donna, and again my use of the word "queen" brought gasps of delight from all the women in the room. I told her not to settle for less than Real Love, and she was so relieved. She said her prospective partner--despite his social and other advantages--was quite selfish. She would try to discuss Real Love with him, but if he wasn't interested, and if he didn't demonstrate a real interest in learning to be more selfless, she would end the relationship. Her smile was delightful.

Everywhere I went, the cultural differences between myself and the Chinese audiences just disappeared in the face of Real Love. The people hung on every word, utterly fascinated that a loving, happy life could be possible.

Tue, May 15

We did a Real Love group pretty much all day.

One man, Zhu, described the relationship with his girlfriend of 6 years. They were considering marriage when he came across Real Love and realized how selfish he'd been as a partner. Zhu was relieved to discover WHY he had been so selfish. His parents had always treated him severely. When he was a child, his father beat him regularly, repeatedly knocking him to the ground. I explained that selfishness came from pain. He said that days before he had told his girlfriend how selfish he'd been, and admitted that he had hurt her. Once that floodgate was opened, she barraged him with hurt and hate, and he couldn't understand how his being honest with her would provoke that reaction. I talked to him about how she also must have come from a home of pain, or she wouldn't have reacted as she did. She uses money and power as her drug--focusing on career and buying things--and if he wants a loving relationship, she would either have to learn a different way of living, or he would have to find another partner. What I didn't know was that his girlfriend was there in the room (I know, the things people don't tell me until later). So then I talked to her, and she really was in terrible pain from her childhood and more. But she doesn't want to continue living as she has, either individually or in a relationship with him. So she's willing to learn more about Real Love and develop a loving relationship with Zhu. It was amazing. Unbelievable courage on the part of both of them.

One man stood and said that because of the Real Love meetings he had attended the previous couple of days, he went home and told his wife that all their marriage he's been trying to change her. She likes to watch television late at night, and he has criticized and mocked her for it. So that very night he sat with her and watched television until late--just because he knew she would enjoy his being there. She was very pleased that he would do that. He said he was emotionally moved by my description of what a loving relationship looks like--mostly from my description of Donna. So now he watches TV on occasion late into the night, solely because that's what she likes to do.

One woman from Korea spoke. She was so afraid, but she told her story of childhood sexual abuse, in front of the entire group. She had been doing Real Love with Teacher Quan for three years, but she had never told this story. It was like watching someone release the pain of an entire lifetime. People were crying all over the place, and these are people reputed to be very reluctant to express their emotions to each other. The woman's daughter then traveled three hours that evening to talk to me, because it turned out that she too had been sexually abused.

All day in the group we enjoyed the presence of the chairman of the psychology department of the largest university in the region, with some 20,000 students. She said she had never seen anything like the work of Real Love, and that she was deeply moved at what she saw. In the traditional psychology she teaches, the progress is very slow, but in very short periods of time she witnessed that we could reach down into people's emotional wounds and begin to heal them. She simply could not believe what we did in less than an hour with the Korean woman. She said that she wanted to become the second certified Real Love coach in all of China, and she also said she would do what she could to spread Real Love throughout China, using her position on the board of directors of the organization of all the university psychology programs in the country. We'll see. She wants me to return each year, but we'd have to create a much more efficient organization to raise funds to make such a thing possible. This trip was difficult for them and for us financially, because people who attend seminars there can't pay the kind of fees that Americans do. So Teacher Quan and Donna and myself had to pay a lot to make this possible.

One lady has been a professional singer. She has noticed that in recent years her stage fright has actually increased. I explained that in the beginning, she didn't know enough to recognize all her mistakes. She was pleased just to be performing professionally. But the more experience she gains, the more she sees every single mistake, and she's afraid that she'll look bad. She wept in recognition of the truth of it. I assured her that she was actually BETTER than she used to be, just more discerning and able to see her mistakes. So her fear of looking bad was ill founded, and she agreed. Confidence filled her face.

Every lunch and dinner was some kind of honorary event. People proposing toasts endlessly. They thought it odd that I didn't drink coffee, tea, or alcohol, so they would actually switch to water themselves to honor their guest. How sweet is that? About the third day I foolishly asked if they had any Diet Coke. Shouldn't have done that. From then on, people brought cases of Coke to everything I did. I'm still buzzing from the caffeine, since they filled my glass at every opportunity and wouldn't let me drink water anymore.

I could go on and on about the people who told their stories. Couples united, children happier, and more.

I had always thought I enjoyed a firm bed, but I finally met my match. Their beds are like plywood. I have bruised hips.

I also received reconfirmation that I don't want to be anything like a celebrity. Everywhere I went, people were shaking hands, bowing, taking pictures, asking for autographs and signed books, asking questions, and look at me as though sunshine would suddenly spring from my ears. I'm a much quieter person than all that.

May 16
Left Yanji City to Beijing, the next day to fly to the U.S. Twenty people took time off work to take me to the airport, take a million pictures, and make me feel special in departure. Such sweet people. So many individual lives and relationships were affected by this one visit. Also did a lot of training of coaches, so they can continue this work when I'm gone. This was one of the most gratifying experiences of my life.

May 21, 2012

Talking or Doing

I have spoken to hundreds of organization. Almost uniformly, the leader and many members of the organization have said something like, "Wow, this is some powerful message. We need to do this." But then nothing happens. In order to effect real change, we must overcome enormous inertia, both in our own lives and often in the organizations and people around us. This pull---almost like gravity---back toward what we're familiar with is very strong, usually overwhelming, which is why so few people make meaningful, lasting changes.

The other day, however, I received a note from a minister of a congregation in California.

"The board approved a motion," she said, "for our church to include Real Love principles as an integral part of the ministry and also to expand and grow as a Real Love center. The members we already have will benefit, and as we become more loving, we will draw other people to us. The following Sunday during my sermon I said that beginning next week we'd try a four-week experiment where we had the usual service---but shortened---followed by a Real Love group. People were so excited about this that they didn't hear the part about 'next week,' and most of them stayed after church this week for the Real Love group."

It's not enough simply to talk about love as a concept. If you want Real Love to grow in your own life, the best way is to actually live it and share it with others. I'm inspired by this minister who had the courage to step outside past patterns and take a chance on making a real difference for herself and others.

May 22, 2012

Aborted Plans

In 2002 a terrible civil war of ten years ended in the West African nation of Sierra Leone, and the subsequent emotional healing has been difficult for the millions who live there. This is the country where the term "blood diamonds" originated, as well as the origin of the many news photos we all saw of children whose arms were cut off by bands of rebels. At the invitation of a coalition of churches, civic organizations, international relief groups, and universities, I was invited to spend two weeks in Sierra Leone. They asked me to meet the President of the country, speak to the national Parliament, and assist in implementing the nationwide theme of Healing with Unconditional Love in individual lives, marriages, parenting, tribal conflicts, business, and more.

While I was on my way to the airport yesterday, I received a notification from the committee sponsoring the trip that irreconcilable conflicts had developed between some of the tribal and religious factions in the country, who threatened to withdraw their needed support if their demands were not met about controlling certain aspects of the planned seminars. The trip was therefore cancelled.

We had been planning this event for nearly eighteen months. I had written ten seminars and PowerPoint presentations. The travel plans were extensive, including visas, immunizations, malaria prevention, flight arrangements, and more. Considerable sacrifices had been made in time, energy, money, and other resources. And yet it all aborted on the way to the airport.

What to do? Relax, understand, and be grateful. Sure, there was a moment of disappointment--how could there not be?--but if we offer a gift unconditionally, we cannot be attached to the outcome. No matter what other people do, we can still benefit from the simple choice to love them.

I'm grateful for the moments of inspiration I enjoyed during all the preparation, for the support of many kind friends, and for the opportunities to interact with and learn about people of another culture. The joy of life really is found in the moment, not in any particular anticipated destination.

May 24, 2012

Are You Living in the Stone Age?

Just this morning I was working on an outline for a presentation I'll be doing next month. As I wrote, the ideas seemed to flow through my fingers onto the computer screen. Moments like this are magical, even though I make many mistakes which I later edit.

As I write, ideas interconnect. They relate to each other, amplify each other, and create an overall picture that I never imagined before--much as individual pieces come together to create a puzzle that could not be envisioned by examination of any single piece.

Who we are does not result from putting together perfect pieces into an eventually perfect puzzle. Sometimes the pieces we find or create simply never fit. They're just "wrong," even though often unavoidable. What matters, however, is not whether we make mistakes, or how many we make, but how we respond to them--whether we learn from them.

Many people respond to their mistakes as though they were written in stone. Making changes in stone is very difficult, so such people tend to deny them, worry about them, and defend them.

We don't write in stone much anymore, but I can remember the days when even typing on paper was difficult. The typewriters were not electric, and if you made a mistake, you had to stop, roll the paper up into position, and erase the mistake with an eraser or a razor blade. Eventually, somebody made tiny bottles of white paint--Whiteout--to cover up our mistakes.

I'll never forget the day I saw my first IBM Selectric typewriter, which made it possible to simply backspace to the mistake and eliminate it by lifting the ink off the paper with a special erasure ribbon. It wasn't practical, however, to erase more than a few words. If the mistakes were big enough, the entire page--or the entire paper of multiple pages--had to be retyped. I retyped many pages.

And then I bought an Osborne I, one of the first portable computers ever to have word processing capability. It had a five-inch screen and cost more than my present 18-inch laptop, which has roughly 40,000 times the computational ability. Suddenly, I could erase mistakes with the stroke of a finger and move entire paragraphs about at will, which was impossible with a typewriter.

It can be so with our personal mistakes. They are not written in stone. We don't have to find an entirely new piece of granite and re-engrave the entire block. Nor do we have to retype the whole page or document. We can just backspace or highlight and delete. We do this as we simply admit our mistakes and learn from them, without excessive pain or guilt. In so doing, our mistakes disappear and occur with lesser frequency.

Don't fuss about your mistakes and live in the Stone Age. Just backspace and type again. It's faster and easier.

May 28, 2012

When People Are Drowning, Am I Missing It?

A few days ago a friend sent me an article from the Internet that described a boat captain who jumped from the cockpit, fully dressed, and swam as fast as he could toward a couple swimming in the tropical waters. "He thinks you're drowning," the husband said to his wife. Earlier she had screamed while they were splashing each other, but now they were calmly standing, neck-deep on a sand bar. "We're fine!" the husband yelled, but the captain kept swimming.

As the captain pushed his way between the couple, they turned to discover that directly behind them, not ten feet away, their nine-year-old daughter was drowning. Once she was safely on the boat, she burst into tears, crying, "Daddy!"

The captain knew from training and experience that drowning is often not the violent, splashing, call for help that is depicted on television. Usually it's deceptively quiet. The nine-year-old never made a sound while she was drowning. Of the 750 children who are predicted to drown next year, more than half will die within 25 yards of a parent or other adult.

In short, drowning people often don't look appear to be drowning. They don't yell for help: They're too busy trying to breathe. They don't wave for attention: They're moving their arms as fast as they can--below the surface--just to keep their mouth above water.

Emotionally speaking, most people also give little indication that they're drowning. Sure, some people drown dramatically--with yelling, blaming, hitting, and so on--but many others are quite inconspicuous, perhaps in part because most of us are also drowning to some degree.

We need to pay closer attention to the emotional clues of drowning people. Often they don't speak at all. They might even claim that they're just fine, but if we look at them with experience and compassion, we see that their faces are lined with pain, every effort is exhausting, and they quietly withdraw from interaction with others. If we are observant, we'll discover that there are people everywhere who yearn for us to extend a hand and pull them from the water.

May 30, 2012

What Do You Really Care About?

Jane called and said, "I just screamed at Max, my two-year-old. Now he's crying, and I feel terrible."

"What did he do?"

"He dumped red juice all over the carpet, and now the stain probably won't come out."

"Do you care about Max?"

"Of course," she said, with more than a touch of offended irritation.

"Max doesn't believe you, and why should he?"

"What do you mean?"

"I can't tell you how many times people tell me one thing with their words while completely contradicting those words with their behavior. Words mean almost nothing. Most of us believe that if we say a thing--especially if we say it very sincerely or forcefully--it becomes true. That simply is not so, or I could fervently say that I could fly, and it would become so when I flapped my arms."

"You're seriously telling me that I don't care about my son?"

"Oh, that's a bit dramatic, especially with the tone you're using right now. What I am saying is that in the moment you screamed at Max, you valued the carpet more than him. You PROVED that with your BEHAVIOR, which is truthful far more often than words. Behaviors comes from what we really believe and feel, while words can easily be manufactured from what we want or what we believe would be ideal."

"So what would my behavior have looked like if I'd cared about Max?"

"It's a lot of things. If I just gave you the right words to say, for example, it wouldn't make any significant difference in the long term. First you have to freely admit what you're doing now, see where it comes from, and then be willing to change how you believe, how you feel, and what you do. It's a lot of stuff."

We talked about how her unproductive reactions came from a lifetime of fear, which is always a product of not feeling loved. I told her how she communicates her true feelings to Max with her tone of voice, choice of words, facial expressions, posture, and more. Then I helped her see what it would be like to see Max from a place where she felt loved, after which caring about him--and showing it--would be relatively effortless.

What we really care about is demonstrated by our behavior, not our words, and we must be vigilant about looking for the occasions when our words are not true. Only then can we take the steps to find and share the love that will change our beliefs, our perspectives, our feelings, and our actions.

About May 2012

This page contains all entries posted to Greg's Real Love Blog in May 2012. They are listed from oldest to newest.

April 2012 is the previous archive.

June 2012 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.