Changing Your Perspective

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While I have never reviewed a book before, this one, Personality Isn’t Permanent, by Benjamin Hardy is a gem that belongs in everyone’s library. Too many times I hear statements like, ‘I’d like that, but this is just how I am,’ and ‘I’m too old to change.’ We tend to think that we are stuck in our path because of our past, who we think we are, and now, we’re unwilling to make changes to create the life we really would like to have. Pressure from friends, family and society herds us into believing that you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear because, well, you are how you are! Right?

When I first came across Ben Hardy about four years ago in an online article that he published, I knew that I had found a fellow traveler with similar beliefs, ideas and approaches to living. At the time he was a PhD student in psychology, was the most read contributor on Medium and had just published a book Slipstream; Time Hacking. I was impressed that he used solid science as well as his own experience to support the idea that a change in perspective can change how we view and use the same 1440 minutes that everyone gets each day. I later read Willpower Doesn’t Work, 2018, in which he writes about the need to pull one’s environment and practices into play to create the life one chooses. Willpower alone is not enough to create sustained change in our lives.

Last month, his newest book, Personality Isn’t Permanent was released to immediate best seller status. This book doesn’t disappoint. This book’s 271 pages is jamb-packed with insights and examples of how we can change the limited views we have of ourselves and open up to creating the life we want to live. Examples of include a man who became a Harvard fellow after being in prison for 14 years, another who quit smoking by changing his environment and even Hardy’s own wife who suffered abuse during her first marriage, yet managed to use past trauma to help her to grow and become the woman she always wished to be. If these people were able to overcome the odds and change how they relate to themselves and the world around them, then it must be possible for others to do so as well. We can overcome the tragedies and traumas in our past. We can seek out the self limiting beliefs that keep us trapped. We can make major changes in our lives by changing our perspectives on how we see our world.

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At the core of the book is the belief that many of us maintain that by the time we are twenty, our personality is fixed and can no longer be altered. It goes along with the belief that at the same age, our bodies can produce no more brain cells than what we have then. Fry your brain cells, and they won’t be replaced. Take a personality test at 21 and you know what you will be like for the rest of your life. None of these beliefs is true. Your brain will continue to produce new neurons and develop new pathways for as long as we live.

It’s my belief that if one person can make radical changes in her life, then others can do the same. I know from my own struggles with alcoholism that it is possible. While at one time I couldn’t see my life without alcohol, I now can’t imagine every wanting it as part of my life ever again. If I could do that in one part of my life, why not in other parts?

Ben’s book is easy to read and, he gives practical suggestions on how to apply the solutions that he puts forward to change you and your personality. Each chapter offers questions and exercises to assist the reader in taking the next step forward Indeed, the book merits at least a second read and could be used as a personal development course text.

You are not stuck. You are not your past. Change your perspective and you will see how your history can become the inspiration for a brighter future. You don’t need to be known as that ‘moody’ person, or the ‘jerk who’s got a chip on his shoulder’. I am not ‘stuck’ with who I am. I can make changes and create the life experience that I have always wanted. My personality is not permanent.

Buy any of Ben’s books through Amazon

Check out his blog on Medium.com

(This is an unsolicited, and unremunerated review.)

Meditation…

I have tried meditation various times over the years and just couldn’t seem to get the knack of it. You see, I cannot fold myself into the lotus position, at least not without breaking at least one leg. And sitting cross-legged is also very difficult for me, especially after more that just a couple of minutes. So I figured if my body wasn’t designed to do meditation. I know this was just an excuse but I never really gave it much of a serious thought or any sort of a concerted effort.

There are many methods of meditation. As a teenager, I remember that Transcendental Meditation (TM) was big. Everyone who was anyone was taking the course and learning their mantras. For most North Americans, it was the first time Eastern philosophy was ever discussed and practiced. Later, other practices of meditation were sought out and taught. Some meditate by focusing on their breathing. Others focus on an object, or use prayer beads to quiet their minds. I like Eastern spirituality and I understand the appeal of Buddhism and its teachings. But the Buddhas, the gongs, the incense, its prayer wheels and flags, could not keep me in a practice of meditation. And yet, I knew that I wanted it, and probably needed it!

Why do people meditate? It relaxes the body and mind, thereby reducing the negative stress and anxiety that we experience. As well, scientific research is proving that it has a physiological effect on the body. It can change our body chemistry, releasing dopamine and other ‘feel good’ molecules into our bloodstream. Creativity, attention and memory are positively influenced. You don’t have to meditate for hours on end to enjoy the benefits and they last long after the quiet time we spend. Meditation changes you: body and soul! (Forbes Magazine: 7 Ways Meditation can Actually Change the Brain.)

So even though I knew about all these benefits, it wasn’t until a good friend of mine introduced me to a book by Sam Harris: Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality without Religion, that everything finally clicked into place for me. I still haven’t finished the book but I appreciate his very practical approach to spirituality and to meditation. I downloaded the meditation app and started using its guided meditations. I think it’s about ten free sessions before they ask you to pay up, but for me, it is well worth it. I finished the 50, ten minute beginner sessions and now usually use the daily meditation, between 10 and 20 minutes long.

After more than three months, meditation is part of my morning routine, along with daily writing and, of course, coffee. Do I see and feel the benefits? While I can’t say that I feel my brain cells growing and changing, I can say that I appreciate the calm, the quiet, and the peace. Some days it takes longer than others to calm the thoughts and focus on just breathing. It’s common that I find myself deep in some thought and Sam’s voice will reach out of the silence to tug me back to this moment. There are days where I become mesmerized by the dance of colours that I see behind my eyelids. Fortunately, there’s no graduation from this practice. It is a daily practice that I invite you to enjoy as much as I do.

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Find what type of meditation works best for you. If you want to sit cross-legged and burn incense, that’s great, but it’s not necessary. You need only find a quiet spot where you won’t be disturbed for a few moments. And you can meditate at any time of the day. Hey, if you find that you really do ‘wake up’ at the end of the session, you won’t be the first to have fallen asleep. There is no wrong way. There is only the embrace of the stillness that is within us all.

I first heard this ‘prayer’ in the Waking Up sessions. I have incorporated it into my daily practice. And it is my wish for you:

May you be happy.   
May you be free from suffering.   
May you know peace.

Recovering the River

It’s been over a year since I posted anything on this site.  It just wasn’t in me. And I did very little writing at all. I could enumerate any number of excuses and reasons why, but they matter little. What does matter is that I have been using the past two months of lock-down to do some soul searching and realized that I need to write. I’m writing primarily for my own benefit. Blog writing helps me define thoughts and refine ideas in a way that journal writing alone does not.

I will be changing, only slightly, the focus of my writing. My main interest in this blog has been the sharing of information for those of us in recovery from addiction. I plan on broadening the field, still including thoughts on recovery from drugs and alcohol addictions. In addition, I plan to look at other facets of human existence and seek out alternate approaches to living that may be beneficial to a wider range of people and interests.

These past two months of isolation and restrictions have not been that difficult for me. I haven’t had to keep children entertained while working via the internet. I have’t lost all of my income due to shut down. I have food in the refrigerator and access to plenty of toilet paper. I am quite content to be here in my apartment, watching Netflix, and YouTube, and reading books on my Kindle, or sitting outside and watching everything green up again. I am grateful for all that I have received in this ‘interesting’ time. I know that I am one of the fortunate ones.

About six weeks ago I saw that I needed to do some ‘stuff’  or ‘different stuff’ from vegging out. I could make better use of all of this time I had on my hands since I didn’t have guests to tend to or laundry to do or rooms to clean. I started out by picking up my journal which I hadn’t done in quite a few months. Then I started doing some meditation, not a lot, just 10 minutes or so every morning, which gradually let me to download a meditation app on my phone. And I happened upon a one week program on-line that allowed me to do a sort of self-study retreat.

One of the results of this program is that I knew that I needed to return to writing. It is something that has given me a great deal of pleasure. The process allows me to better understand my thoughts and ideas. I thought about writing a novel, or get back to it, and I did some work on it, but that didn’t seem to be it. I looked at perhaps writing a book about personal growth, or spiritual growth or something like that. I also registered with an online freelance writing website.  Slowly it dawned on me, that I didn’t have to seek to do anything new. I had been doing the type of writing that I needed to do right here in this blog. I needed to get back to it. So, here I am, back at Recovery River.

I am not sure how this will all materialize. I won’t be a rigorous in my publishing schedule as I was before; an article a week, perhaps two? I do know that I prefer to give myself some structure so we shall see how that works itself out. Meanwhile, I thank you for reading along. I invite you to share your thoughts about this blog with me.

We’re all recovering from something and we navigate this river together.