Unified Living is a project being created by myself and a few friends to share insights and advice on creating a unified state of being that balances material abundance with spiritual truth; essentially moving towards the complete freedom and therefore happiness that wholeness in life allows. Isnt that what we are all ultimately after?
I attribute all of my success so far in life to the influence of the incredible mentors I’ve had and have. My mentors have made me who I am and patiently guided me along the path to their skills even when I was an impossible student or learning frustratingly slow. I wish for everyone to have amazing guides…
I am sometimes asked how to find a good mentor so I am composing some thoughts.
I should first differentiate between the role of a mentor and someone from whom you learn. Truth is, we can learn something from everyone. But, a mentor is someone whom you specifically follow to learn a skill.
In America, it has become easy to become an expert/guru at anything simply by stating so on the internet…and using sleek marketing to draw people in. It can be easy to be sucked in by the flash, glamour, and “everyone else is doing it” pressures.
Just because someone claims to be good at something and is on TV, has countless Facebook likes, is a NYT Best Selling Author, or has many, many followers does not mean that person is an expert. Sad, but true. (That is, unless of course, what you are wanting to learn is how to increase your Facebook exposure or how to become a published author.)
Be cautious of those who say they are experts. If someone is marketing him or herself as an expert, chances are they haven’t accomplished much more than convincing you to pay them for their “expertise.” Most of the best mentors out there do not do much self promotion as they would rather convey rather than say. Now, there are exceptions; my friend Bill Walsh is a well known business coach with quite a lot to offer but Bill has proven himself as an extraordinary entrepreneur several times over.
A business coach who has made his or her career being a business coach is generally worth about as much as a business professor who has made his or her career academically professing. Promoting yourself as a guru is a relatively new concept in human history, having really been fueled by the advent of the internet.
Insist on someone with real, in the field, tried and true results. If he or she hasn’t been through all the challenges in their own life, how in the world is he or she going to guide you through your challenges to your success?
So, let’s look at how to distinguish the difference.
Whether you are looking for a spiritual mentor, a business mentor, a music mentor, or a personal trainer, certain common threads apply:
1. Put out to the universe that you want a mentor and make room in your life for what it will take to accommodate having one. Hint: You’re going to have to challenge certain aspects of yourself but that’s part of the trip to growth and change. It’s not all going to be fun; parts of it will seem impossible, but there is no other way to expand your comfort zone, paradigm, and skillset without, well, expanding past your barriers and limitations.
2. Look for someone who is incredibly and truly skilled at what you seek to learn from him or her. Ask around through your network and be discriminating. Don’t run to the closest neighborhood place because it’s convenient. The best teacher for you may not be in your neighborhood, or even in your country.
I have surrounded myself with people who are so far ahead of me in their skill that it’s unlikely I can ever reach their level. I insist on only learning from the best of the best and I have to travel great distances to do so. As an example, when I was a paramedic student, my classmates were learning from other paramedics while I was arranging to spend 100s of hours with doctors in the ER and OR.
*Note: Many are envious of those who are more successful than they are and sometimes even attack or try to shoot that person down out of insecurity around their own shortcomings. Avoid this tendency. Jump at the opportunity to be around someone at a much higher level than you.
Manu, my parkours mentor, demonstrates his skill. You can see just how skilled he is by how he carries himself and how flawless, smooth, and unified his movement is in this simple demo. He is having fun while casually executing these movements which have become as natural to him as walking.
Note that I chose a simple demo so I could point out the qualities of naturalness that a true wizard embodies. Their mastery is evident in the way they make things appear so simple and graceful and that mastery becomes integrated into their being.
3. Look at this person’s background. What has he or she really accomplished beyond convincing you that he or she is an expert? If a “financial psychic’s” only accomplishment is convincing people to pay him or her loads of money for financial advice; guess what: He or she probably is not legitimate.
Note that sadly degrees and certifications may not be an indicator of skill. Again, look more deeply at this person’s results.
4. Look at this person’s personality. Are they humble? Humility is hallmark of true wizards. Humility in this context does not mean false modesty, lack of confidence, or weakness. A humble mentor is one who carries him or herself in a way that conveys said person is continuing to learn and grown. In other words, they aren’t coming off as the one who knows it all.
5. Is this person willing to invest in you? And what can you offer in return? A mentor-student relationship is one where an agreement is made, on some level, for the teacher to teach and the student to learn. The best mentors will likely look to you to convince him or her to teach you so don’t expect that person to chase you.Karate Kid did get it right with wax on/wax off. Are you willing to follow this person’s advice even when it seems absurd? If not, he or she is probably not the mentor you need.
6. Commit to reaching certain goals and don’t let anything get in your way. In the old days, people learned skills through apprenticeship. That model has been thrown away in favor of slickly packaged courses, programs, memberships, etc. But, the truth is, a mentor is one who knows how to individualize the lessons to what YOU need. It’s not popular to learn in that manner anymore but it is a superior method.
7. Don’t expect compliments in the beginning as the best teachers are not there to stroke your ego. But do be prepared to be pushed as your mentor will know when and how far to push you.
One of my teachers explained to me why he refused to answer questions from students in their first few years of training. He said in the beginning their questions are like kindergarten however after a few years of practice, questions become more like graduate school.
Additional advice for spiritual mentors and life coaches
In Japan with one of my mentors
When looking for a life coach or spiritual mentor, it’s very important to ask yourself
“Is this someone whose life I want to emulate, absorb, and model?”
This is very very important because you’re going to absorb some of your teacher’s energy and personality. If you are looking for someone to help you improve your life, their life better be in order.
I remember a time when a friend called me and said “DJ I’m going to be a life coach. I got certified this weekend.”
My response: “A life coach, huh? Don’t you need a life first?”
It’s mind boggling how many life coaches and spiritual “wizards” are popping up these days. It’s easy to be confused by them and results in the blind leading the blind dynamic.
One thing to look for is:
Who was your teacher’s teacher?
When it comes to my spiritual interests, my teachers had masters whose great-great grandfathers had masters whose great great great grandfathers had masters…
This is very very important and you should insist on nothing less than absolute authenticity. YOU deserve that and you must believe that you are worthy of the very best. And, you must also put your ego entirely aside and allow this person, who is far ahead of you on the path, to guide you. There is no other way.
So there you have it – A few simple pieces of advice on mentors. Happy to answer questions directly here or by private message.
In this series I share crystallized moments and profound lessons gleaned from my journey studying various traditions and with teachers around the world with the goal of finding the wisdom to craft my life exactly the way I want it
It was an unusually warm spring afternoon in May of 2013 and I was in San Francisco’s Japan Town. My mentor had come up to spend some time with me to prepare for a trip we were to take to South America which would prove to be life altering.
It was a particularly fun trip because I got to show him all of my favorite spots in my favorite neighborhood in SF where I maintain an apartment and visit Alcatraz for the first time.
We were sitting on a cement bench and talking over some things. I asked him how he juggled trips to the Far East to work with his teacher while being a father and if that had been challenging. I also began to complain about some things in my life that were not exactly as I would have wanted them to be.
You know the feeling right – “If only I could deal with X” or “If Bob would just go away, I’d have so much less stress” or “This situation at work is just holding me back.” We all have plenty of examples of the above and being the Type A person that I am, I am not comfortable feeling restricted.
This teacher always knows exactly what to say and precisely when and how to say it so much so that trying to recount the life changing lesson I was about to get almost seems silly because it was so present, in that moment, in that conversation, and in that energy.
Anyway, he looked up and said:
“You know DJ, I just don’t let things restrict me”
Wow. That sounds so simple and like kindergarten advice doesn’t it? I have found in my path through the esoteric that it’s usually the most obvious advice that really isn’t obvious at all. It’s what is right in front of your face that you can’t see and when you do see it, it can be embarrassing.
Kind of like having a friend point out that you have food stuck in your teeth or that your zipper is down.
I took this picture on our subsequent trip to South America
This led me to look into my life and examine what situations and people I was allowing to hold me back. Restrictions act like a ball and chain….they hold us back oftentimes to the point where we don’t even realize they are holding us back.
Yes, when we cut free of them, it’s like realizing you’re driving with the parking brake on.
Imagine you are running with a parachute behind you, you pull out a sword, and cut it free…see what I mean?
As I took the next couple of months to examine what was restricting me…and I mean what was really restricting me…all the insidious little subtle things that pop up in thoughts, words, and actions that were holding me back, I discovered that the well of untapped power was deeper than the last time I looked at it.
How about you? Are there any patterns in your thoughts, words, or actions that others might easily notice about you that you don’t notice yourself?
Do you constantly affirm the same things and then find that you keep complaining about them because magically they are still there?
Well here’s the secret – YOU are creating them and strengthening them.
This is the basis of affirmations in NLP and hypnosis – affirm what you want and allow your mind to create your experience.
I’m taking it a step further –
What are the actual physical tangible things in your life that you want to change because they are restricting you?
What are the unconscious thoughts, words, and actions that you are putting out to the universe that are creating or co-creating exactly what you experience?
What are the attachments you have that keep you from being able to let go.
As an example of the latter point, consider if you are thinking of moving to a new place, yet you hold yourself back with self chatter like “but I can’t go because I grew up here or (insert any logical excuse.)” That place becomes a restriction.
What if you’re dealing with a difficult client: Do you wish them well and tell them they are a better fit elsewhere knowing the revenue will be replaced or do you let them become a restriction on you because you are attached to the income?
These are just two examples of the many, many different ways we restrict ourselves everyday.
It’s amazing how encumbered we have allowed ourselves to become and how much many of us hold onto things out of fear of letting them go such that they actually become part of our identities. (More on identities later)
There are a lot of programs and people out there that will claim to get you out of your own way but the truth is that only YOU can do it. Others can help but we are the only ones who can pull out the sword and cut away that which we do not need.
In my case, I had a mentor who was there with the exact right words exactly when I needed to hear them.
How about in your case? If you make it a point to pay attention to your own restrictions for a week, what might you find?
In my experiences with my teachers, I’ve come to know that reaching a state of purity is the biggest key to success in life. By purity in this case, I mean paring down the layers of restrictions to get to the core.
Many people look at me and think I have the perfect life and they are right, I do. If I had a dime for every time I heard “ah man you are so lucky…” There is no luck involved.
However, it wasn’t always the case, I created it and continue to create it that way. Life is a never ending process of learning, understanding, experiencing, and letting go.
And ultimately this is about building your personal power and your ability to generate results and happiness in your life. How many unhappy unrestricted people do you know? I’d venture a guess the answer is “hmm not many.”
You or anyone you know ever set new year’s resolutions? If so, ever wonder why set goals for a new year rather than in, say, July or May? Let’s look at why and how to be sure you get what you want in the new year.
December has brought a flurry of activity and projects so I’ve slacked a bit on my writings but will continue the series on how to age in reverse shortly.
First of all, why resolutions for a new year?
Important on several levels.
The shift from December 31st to January 1st of any year is filled with the mass mind or collective energy of people all over the world putting thought energy into a new start. All that energy that gets put out creates a reality that we can utilize now to lay the groundwork for achieving everything we want.
Further, there are two energies here. The accumulating thought energy that builds as we get closer to the new year and the energy that has build over many millenia since we began using the western calendar.
There are two main keys to riding this wave…
1. Take your foot off the break by letting go of the baggage from 2012 and obstacles that prevent you from accomplishing what you want
2. Step on the gas and set and manifest your goals
Sounds wonderfully vague and idealistic, right? Let’s look at why it’s not.
Think about it this way – if you were preparing your place for entertaining guests would you set a really nice table with great food without cleaning first? Maybe you would but I probably wouldn’t come
You gotta get rid of the shit to make room for the good stuff!
Most indigenous spiritual traditions around the world have ceremonies that mark the passage into the new year. In Japan for example, Shinto has a midyear purification ceremony in July and one in mid December to clear the negative energies and make room for fresh ones.
Each year can be compared to when we are born. We are born with infinite potential and as we grow and conform to what society tells us we should do, we often end up collecting baggage and viewpoints that prevent us from fully maximizing our potential. So, the cycle of each year can be a rebirth and an opportunity to clear the slate and open to maximum potential.
2012 was a rough year for many people. I’m sure you have at least one thing you wish you could have done differently or that hadn’t happened, I know I do. Well the good news is that you can let it go now!
Here are some practical steps you can take to accomplish this clearing in your own life.
1. Spend some time thinking about the things, thoughts, obstacles, and experiences that didn’t quite go the way you wanted in 2012.
2. Write them down on slips of paper
3. Make a commitment to let them go.
4. Burn the slips of paper in a fire and throw salt on the fire. In many traditions, salt is considered the great purifier of negativity.
5. Get rid of (by burning or throwing out) anything associated with the negativity.
As an example, in 2012 I made some business decisions that I regret. I have now let everything associated with those decisions go so the way can be paved for 2013 to be a soaring year for my company.
The above “ritual” may seem simplistic or weird but it really is that simple. The power of commitment is often underestimated however it’s the single most powerful tool we have. Once you commit to clearing the way, the steps above solidify that decision into the material world.
Give it a try.
Next setting and manifesting goals:
1. After you complete the above, spend some time thinking about what you really want to have in 2013. These things can be actual objective goals or more abstract goals such as clarity on a situation.
2. Next, ask yourself “How will I know when I have achieved this goal?” This step is super important because you need to define what you want and give yourself a reference point. “Getting in shape” is not enough. How will you know when you have gotten in shape? Too many people set vague goals that line them up for failure.
3. Don’t set too many goals. Keep them realistic and attainable.
4. Commit to achieving them. Again the power of commitment cannot be understated
5. Spend New Year’s Eve doing something inspiring. Whether you go out to an awesome party and get wasted or stay in and reflect meditatively, make sure you cross into the new year in a positive state of mind as that will set the tone for the entire year. The energy you take into January 1st lays the groundwork for the entire year.
6. Stay flexible with your goals. Yes, you have set objective benchmarks to know when you have gotten what you want but it’s also important to stay flexible to allow the universe to provide you with what you’ve asked for. It’s more effective to allow yourself to be open to the universe rather than trying to make the universe conform to you. Sounds obvious but look around.
The above process will firmly set your goals in your consciousness and set them out to the universal consciousness as well.
I achieved everything I set out to accomplish in 2013 using the above process. One of my goals was to get in the best shape of my life. When I met Uldi, the olypmpic gymnastics coach who took me under his wing this year, he told me he saw 20 pounds too much on me. Ok actually he said “As comparing to most Americans you are very fit and strong but as comparing to your goals, you are fat and veak.” (insert Hungarian Accent)
So losing 20 pounds was one of my benchmarks. I also got hit with a shoulder injury in July that limited my training for months so I had to be flexible and work around it. I kept training but had to modify my routines.
2013 is the year of the snake in Chinese Astrology. Stay tuned for an article on what that means and how we can utilize it to accomplish what we want.
When we go through intensely emotional experiences, usually in time they pass and we feel better. Oftentimes however that feeling of relief is more aligned with repressing the negative emotions than it is with actually transforming them and letting them go. Letting go can be one of the more difficult things in life as we seem to have a propensity towards holding onto the past. These repressed emotions can end up stored in the deep recesses of the unconscious mind (as well as physical body tissue) and direct and control our behaviors for a lifetime without us having any conscious awareness of why we are being compelled to think and act how we do. Even when we are aware of the “baggage,” it still can control us in ways that we do not even realize. It is natural for us to use our negative experiences to create walls and barriers that “protect us.” This is done with the benevolent intention of keeping us safe, however sometimes the maps we use to navigate the territory of our lives need to be upgraded. If you ever find yourself frustrated that your GPS doesn’t have what you’re looking for, you know what I mean.
A big aspect of moving towards the freedom of complete actualization is living from a higher state of awareness of both unconscious and higher consciousness aspects of our selves. When we do this, we can put aside our egos (For clarification here “ego” is not implied to be a bad thing but rather that aspect of our human selves that can keep our insight and vision limited) and move into harmony with higher universal vibrations which in turn draw more abundance and prosperity into our lives. Each emotion has a particular energetic vibration to it and the lower emotions of fear, sadness, defeat, anger, and jealousy cause us to make decisions from our ego/human self. We all do this, of course, however when we are willing to let go of the lower vibrations and align ourselves with love, compassion, mission, vision, strength, and purpose, our entire lives can shift.
Understanding and letting go of past baggage is a big aspect of this moving towards freedom and when we do this, we open the door to even better opportunities. Use the present to deal with the past in order to create the future which then becomes the present. All there really ever is is the center of now.
Now that I’ve delved a bit into the metaphysical, let’s get very practical.
Recently during the physical and emotional detox I underwent during my the first month of my 2012 self reconstitution project, (a few posts below on this blog) it became apparent there were a few things from my past I had to let go of in order to make room for far better opportunities. Based on my experiences, I offer the following advice to anyone wishing to or needing to let go of prior emotional traumas that are still with you on some level.
Decide you are ready and willing to do it at all cost and dive in with both feet. Commit. The power of commitment cannot be understated. When we commit to something, we block obstacles and hindrances.
Give your higher consciousness permission to heal it for you. Our bodies are built to heal when we get out of our way and allow it.
Realize that aspects of it will be difficult as you will be bringing up dark sludge that you had kept hidden within your shadow self. Allow yourself to be okay with that
Find a material object that reminds you of or is connected to the experience. Take this object and thank it for all it taught you. Tell it you are now releasing it and all negative associations and emotions with it back to the universe to make room for new and better opportunities.
Either throw the object off a cliff into a body of water or burn it in a fire. If you burn it in a fire, I recommend throwing salt on it. State that you wish that all negativity is thoroughly and completely purified.
Come up with a mental image of the situation you are holding onto and picture yourself letting it go. (For example…perhaps your image is of bags of rocks that are holding you back…you then just imagine cutting the rope that connects the bags to you)
Find a trusted friend or therapist to talk through the history of the experience. This will allow you to look back from a more detached perspective and disconnect emotion from fact and to understand why and how you held onto the negative emotions. Do this until the experiences no longer evoke negative emotions
Don’t spend too much time on it. Once the emotions process through, let it go and do not continue dwelling on or talking about it. It is not a part of your past. Take the lessons, leave the rest, and move forward
Don’t hold onto any items that are connected to the person or situation.
Give yourself permission to open to the even better opportunities that you just made space to attract.
And that’s it. It’s actually a pretty simple process though it can be difficult. There is no need to spend ten years in therapy. If you truly follow the above steps, you will have released the trauma faster than you might think possible. That was the case for me.
In this series, we will look at several aspects of how to create abundance in your life. We’ll start with the mindset and then move on to actions.
Have you ever looked at someone else and thought to yourself “I want what he or she has…man, if I could just have that…that person is so lucky.” Maybe they have money, a great relationship, good looks, a lifestyle, a promotion at work, or anything else that you want.
And perhaps you feel jealous of or angry with that person. Hell, I have. Haven’t we all? It’s natural to crave the things we don’t have but desire in our lives.
In fact, I am often one of those people who is on the other end of the jealousy projection. I hear regularly “man, it must be nice to be you. You have it all.” (and the flattery goes on and on. And when that happens, I feel like I’m being put on a pedestal and someone isn’t taking the time to get to know the real me. I do have incredible abundance in my life but there is a lot more to me than just what I have. I suppose that is the guy’s version of what it is like to be a hot woman who is constantly being hit on for her looks and then puts up walls to men because her experience is that they do not look deeper at the person she really is.
So, I’ve been on both the jealous one and the object of jealousy as I’d bet we all have. Neither is as much fun as…well I can think of many things that are more fun than both.
There are things in my life that I don’t have and want, of course. And while desiring to have more, to improve, to become better is healthy and important, projecting jealousy on those who do have more blocks our attaining more for ourselves as does dwelling on what we do not have
But there is a simple solution to quickly create more abundance in your life. Okay now when I share this with you, you’re going to think “DJ you’ve been spending too much time in San Francisco.” Perhaps, but hey I still like women!
The solution is gratitude.
I’m sure you’re familiar with the principles set forth in the Law of Attraction, right? Being grateful for what you do have does a few things in metaphysical terms:
It puts out positive energies to the universe which opens you to attract more
It affirms that you are moving in a direction you wish to go and opens the door for more to come in.
It shifts your state of mind to focus on creating more abundance
It lends to permanent happiness by blocking out the painful emotions of fear, jealousy, anger, greed, and craving. These 5 emotions create that familiar feeling of discontented anxiety. Just as benadryl instantly reverses misery from allergies, gratitude is an antidote to all the crap that causes us to suffer.
It stops the chasing and creates space. When you chase something you push it away however when you create space, you pull it in.
It counters ego and puts us in touch with higher awareness. This higher awareness opens the door to draw in more of what we want where ego can block. (this is fairly complicated and I’ll talk more about this in another post.)
On the other hand, craving and jealousy affirm lack to the universe. This closes down your opportunities to pull in more. If you are jealous of what someone else has, you are shutting the door to having that very thing yourself. Many people actually unconsciously enjoy being miserable and there are many reasons for this but let’s save those for another post.
For now, I invite you to do an experiment with me and let’s create more abundance together. Get a journal and each day take a few minutes to write down 5 things in your life for which you are grateful. And then take a few moments to reflect on them and affirm that you wish to have even more. Then repeat the reflection one more time during the day. Do this with me for 30 days. And let’s see what happens in a month. Feel free to report your results in the comments section.
Cheers to “super badass awesome” results and extraordinary abundance.