Thursday, 30 September 2010

Your Optimal Health Cheat Sheet

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Over the last month I think I've given the "7 Deadly Spirals of Disease" teleclass about five times to various audiences totaling thousands of people.  It's one of the most in-demand health presentations out there today. 

And while there's a place for presentations that go into that much depth, there's also a place for the high-level check list of things you can do to ensure fantastic health for years to come.  So here's just such a list for you:

  1. Detox your body - There are lots of great detox systems out there.  One of my personal favorites is from a company called Blessed Herbs.  Detoxifying your system two to four times per year is highly advisable, since your body is being forced to deal with a toxic load that's well in excess of its design specifications!

  2. Stop loading your body with new toxins - yes it's time to start thinking about eating more organic fruits and veggies, meat that's hormone and antibiotic-free, free range eggs, and the like.  And, for that matter, to beware of any non-organic personal care products you use, such as toothpastes, shampoos, cosmetics and the rest.  If it goes on your skin, it goes into your bloodstream.
  3. Get everything circulating - one of the greatest keys to excellent health is to take your entire body through its total range of motion on a regular basis, pack your organs, bones and fasciae with Qi (vital energy) and ensure that your blood, spinal fluid, lymph fluid and Qi are all circulating unobstructed throughout your body.  This alone will short-circuit the disease process. To find out more, go to

  4. Optimize your diet - learn what your body really needs nutritionally.  Take Dr. Mercola's free nutritional typing test to figure out what you should be eating.  Learn from internationally famous nutritional expert Michael Morningstar by taking the course he and I put together at

  5. Avoid the electromagnetic storm - learn about the dangers of information-bearing radio waves.  Avoid wireless internet, be careful about how and how often you use your cell phone, your cordless phone and your laptop.  And be especially careful to educate your kids about this too!

  6. Cultivate gratitude - this the nature's most natural stress-killer.  Whereas stress sends your body's pH level into the disease-prone acidic range, the frequent practice of gratitude will have the opposite effect.  Remember, an alkaline body is a very poor host for illness.
  7. Smile habitually and never complain - this has the same effect.  Yes, you're surrounded by the frustrating (and sometimes mind-bendingly stupid) actions of other people.  But the more you can learn to disregard it all, the more you'll stress-proof yourself.  When your friends or coworkers complain, propose a solution instead!

  8. Give affection, get affection - people who give and receive affection frequently live longer and happier lives.  Become one of them!

  9. Deal with your emotions - this is one of the greatest keys to dealing with stress.  Learn simple and powerful tools like the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) or Be Set Free Fast (BSFF).  Then you'll never again have to wallow helplessly in a puddle of negative emotion and put your health at risk. 

  10. Meditate - it's one of the key elements of the ancient Taoist longevity system.  Moreover, it gives you mastery of your mind and emotions, and makes you totally stress-proof.  That's in addition to all its spiritual benefits, of course.
  11. Learn to breathe - learn Normal Abdominal Breathing, the way the human being was meant to breathe.  This has enormous physical, psychological and spiritual benefits.  It's even more powerful when you join your breath, your movement and your mental attention into one.  You can learn more at:

  12. Aim at harmony - we live in an anti-harmony culture.  Just walk down a busy street in any of our cities and you'll realize we've constructed a way of life hostile to our physical and emotional health.  When you aim at physical and emotional harmony in your own life, you counteract the persistently destructive influence of the man-made outside world.  Again, will teach you more about this.
    Please note you shouldn't try to do all of this or too much of it at once.  If you can implement just one of these this week or this month, you'll be making great progress!  
    Remember that there's no one, single silver bullet for your health.  There are several and you need to take them all into account when you're building your new, healthier and more resilient lifestyle.  
    ~ Dr. Symeon Rodger

    Tuesday, 28 September 2010

    Overwhelmed By Everything (OBE)? Here's Your Exit Strategy...

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    In the world of personal resilience, one of the toughest nuts to crack is beating the OBE syndrome.  Yes, when you're chronically overwhelmed by everything, you simply won't see the EXIT signs that are right in front of you.

    It's surprising how many people can take positive action to take back their health, their fitness and other areas of their lives, while still remaining run off their feet from day to day.  In fact, lots of high performers in all walks of life are very unhappy workaholics. 

    So listen: if you need to get a grip on your time and energy, there is hope.  Just follow these infallible steps to building your exit strategy:

    1. Drill this Into Your Skull:

    You cannot beat overwhelm by doing more stuff.  You can only beat overwhelm by a) doing less, and b) doing what you do more efficiently.  

    2. Identify Your Key Results:

    What results are you actually responsible for?  In every area of your life, what are the top 1-3 results that you are primarily on the hook for?  What does your employer really need you to do?  If you're not quite sure - and that's distressingly common in the business world - go and ask!  What do your spouse and kids need most from you?  What 1-3 results do you need to see with respect to your health?  Write all this down.  Then distill it down further until you have a list of not more than 5 things that, if you were to accomplish them in the next 12 months, would give you an outstanding life.

    3. Identify the Activities that Will Produce Those Results:

    For each of those key results, identify the 1-3 activities that will contribute most to bringing them into reality.  Now you know what to focus on.  Of course, you should always get a sanity check from several people whose judgment you trust.  But once you're sure what they are, you're light years ahead of 99% of the population.

    4. Identify the Activities that Contribute Least to Your Key Results:

    What are the time wasters in your life?  Does your job have you stuck in endless meetings that go nowhere and contribute little to the results your employer really needs?  Then you need to stop attending (yes, there are creative strategies for handling this, but there's no time to go over them here ;-).  Are you buried under a mountain of admin you hate and, for that matter, aren't very good at?  Do constant interruptions plague you?  Once you know what's in the way, you can take measures to eliminate these time-sucking energy vampires.  This alone could save you up to 3 hours per day!

    5. Block Off Time to Work on Your Top Priorities:

    Open an Excel spreadsheet.  Don't worry if you're new to Excel; you'll figure it out.  Personally, I suck at Excel, but I won't live without my weekly spreadsheet.  So label the sheet Monday to Friday across the top and put the hours of your day down the side.  Now block off the time you need.

    Let me give you a hint.  Do NOT start by scheduling everything else in your week first.  If you do that, you may find there ARE NO blocks of time left.  You take the blocks you want FIRST.  And make them early in the morning, when you're fresh and motivated.  Yes, you can schedule other blocks later in the day if you wish, but stake out the early morning.  And if anyone or anything gets in your way, threaten them with grievous bodily harm until them back off.  Okay, just kidding.  But unless you FORCE everything else out of your way, you won't get the time you need.

    Why early morning?  Easy.  You're most likely at your most productive.  And you're setting yourself up to finish your major priority for the day by 10am.  Try this and you'll see.  If you can get the really important stuff done before lunch, you'll feel absolutely wonderful!  For the first time in ages you'll feel you've taken back control of your life.  

    6. Review Your Priorities Every Night:

    If I were to wake you out of a dead sleep at 2am and ask you exactly what you'll be working on in the morning and what time you're going to start, you should be able to blurt it out even before your eyes open!  Clarity is the key.  You must be totally clear on what you're about to do.  This eliminates the wasted time that comes from indecision and guess-work, and it also allows your subconscious to work on the issues while you're asleep.  

    7. Eliminate Interruptions and Force Your Schedule on Others:

    Yes, it sounds brutal and egotistical, but I can tell you now that unless you build the schedule that works for you and stick to it, other people will "invent" your schedule for you and you'll be miserable and frustrated because, despite the flurry of useless activity they force on you, you won't get a thing done!  

    Refuse phone calls during your key result working time.  Refuse meetings.  Block off the time in your Outlook or Google calendar at work and at home.  As for that time-sucking monster called email, don't you dare check it more than 3 times per day, and never before your first block of working time.  

    8. Get Rid of Low Value Tasks:

    When you find yourself spending hours doing work you hate or work you're not good at on a repeated basis, that task is a prime candidate for elimination.  You've got to get it off your plate.  Your choices are a) delegate it to someone else, b) outsource it to someone else, or c) just ignore it until it goes away (yeah, it's shocking how much of the work in most enterprises is so useless that, if it's not done, there are no consequences!).  

    So take this blueprint as your exit strategy and start using it right away - it'll make a huge, positive difference in your life.  And if you want to know more, if you want more help, come to this Wednesday night's teleclass to learn even more.   Reserve your spot right here:

    I hope to talk to you then!

    ~ Dr. Symeon Rodger

    Friday, 24 September 2010

    Noetic Prayer: The "Real Chocolate" of Spiritual Life

    In the pre-dawn darkness, broken only by candle light, I felt a tap on the shoulder.  "The 'yerondas' will see you now," said a voice from behind, speaking Greek.  I turned to follow him out of the Church, where we had already been praying for half an hour, and across the compound to another of the monastery's buildings. 

    As I entered the abbott's humble quarters, he rose to introduce himself in a very warm and welcoming way, as is typical on Mount Athos, a penninsula jutting into the Aegean off the Greek mainland, where only Orthodox Christian monks have lived for the last thousand years. 

    Though we were both multi-lingual, we quickly settled on French as the easiest form of communication for us and began to talk about various things.  I told the abbott I would soon be teaching theology at the university level for the first time and asked his advice. 

    "The most important thing is the heart, " he said.  "Theology is not primarily dates, events and facts.  It's primarily the transmission of a living experience.  You need 'the prayer' - it's the key to everything.  The more you get a grip on 'the prayer', the greater the effect of your teaching."

    Hmmm... not "prayer" generically, but "the prayer".  An enigmtic expression, yet very clear to the two of us conversing in the candle-lit darkness of the Athonite wilderness. 

    What is "The Prayer"?

    We've already talked this week about the importance of prayer to your personal resilience and how to begin a life of prayer that gets results and increases your faith in the process.  Today, though, we're going to talk about the highest form of prayer, the "real chocolate" of spiritual life.

    It's sometimes called "unceasing prayer" because it becomes eventually a state of being.  And it's technically called "noetic" prayer because it's the prayer of the nous, as opposed to the rational mind.  The nous is the ancient Christian term for your deep, intuitive mind - it's a form of intelligence within you that knows reality directly and not through concepts, the way the rational mind does. 

    To clarify, this isn't prayer in the sense of "give me, give me" or "save me from the consequences of my own stupidity".  This kind of prayer is about achieving a living communion, an assimilation of being, with the Absolute Reality. 

    We build our resilience by remaining as far as possible integrated into the Absolute (God), under His influence and open to His energies (the energies of God, by the way, is a technical term that goes back at least to the 4th century), and the only way to do this is to cultivate a meditative state of openness and inner stillness. 

    What's the catch?  Your mind stream, that internal dialogue that locks you up into an individual, isolated and ego-centric perception of reality is what prevents this.  The more active the mind stream, the more we identify ourselves with our thoughts and fall under the sway of delusive thinking and powerful emotions we don't control.  The Absolute can't act within us under these circumstances. 

    Your real self is not your thoughts or your emotions.  So the more you're under the mind stream's influence, the more you lose track of who you are, until finally you totally identify your self with your personality, which is little more than a collection of reactions to past experiences, to cultural brainwashing, to media propaganda, as well as of numerous other influences, including fluctuating hormones, biorhythms and phases of the moon.  In the end, you're totally controlled by your environment and lose your inner freedom.  

    Noetic prayer frees you from all that and enables you to become who you really are.  It also opens you up to the Absolute and keeps you that way.  You begin to perceive the world in much more vibrant colors, so to speak, than other people do.

    One master of noetic prayer, the famous elder Porphyrios of Athens (d. 1991), knew everyone's name, could communicate with animals and, if you came to see him from overseas, he might tell you clairvoyantly to fix the front step of your house in California and to make sure your sister in Florida sees a specialist for her bad knee.  Such is the power and effect of noetic prayer. 

    On my visit to Athos in 1998 I was too late to meet him in person, but we talked to his senior disciple for several hours about the old man.  When another spiritual guide had once told an inquirer to consult Porphyrios, the inquirer protested.  The spiritual guide said, "My child, Father Porphyrios is like a color TV set; I am just a black and white one." 

    Beginning to Practice Noetic Prayer:

    There are many different approaches that can work for different people.  For modern Western people, it's often best to use basic meditation as a starting point, since this is a very effective way to gain a direct experience of the nous and to separate your self from your mind stream - your thoughts and emotions.

    Just use your mental attention to follow your breath in and out.  When thoughts and emotional states arise and try to dominate your inner attention, just ignore them and return your attention to your breathing.  This is called "watchfulness" - using the nous (your mental attention) to keep your mental continuum free of clutter.

    The more you do this, the more you'll discover that the centre of your noetic energy is in "the place of the heart."  The place of the heart is in the upper chest, and not everyone experiences it in exactly the same location.   For most, it's in the upper chest, above the physical heart and slightly to the left,  no doubt related to the heart chakra plexus of yogic anatomy.

    Now it's time to request the divine presence, and there are several ways to do this.  The continuous repetition of a short prayer text is one of the most often used methods.  In ancient Christianity there were several in use that we know of, including various psalm verses, snipets of hymns, etc.

    Eventually the formula that dominated and virtually replaced all others was the now famous "Jesus Prayer".  And when the abbott above talked about "the prayer", this is what he meant.  The text of the Jesus Prayer is "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me."  It's also called the "five word prayer" because in the original Greek, it's only five words. 

    Repitition of the words, which can be done aloud or just mentally, is often combined with the breathing, though not always. 

    However, it's possible to pray noetically and request the divine presence with no words at all.

    So it's not an accident the ancient Christian spiritual tradition (paradoxically the best documented and least known or understood spiritual tradition anywhere!) has always been called "hesychasm" - the practice of stillness or silence.  Note that this "silience" is interior and has nothing at all to do with whether you talk or not. 

    By keeping your mental attention in the place of the heart, and more generally inside your physical form, you eventually learn how to defeat the disordered emotional drives of your past, as well as all outside influences, so that you experience an extreme inner peace.

    Noetic prayer is, on the one hand, like candy - you can't taste it just once. You want to stay there always and you experience a great compulsion to do that.  On the other hand, it's really tough to master and takes continuous and regular practice.  This includes times you set aside to just practice this, because, without separate practice times, your efforts to remain in prayer during the hustle and bustle of the day won't likely bear fruit.

    Ultimately, this kind of prayer leads directly to a direct encounter with the one, true and living God.  This is often called theoria (vision) or the vision of the Uncreated LightThis experience confers real knowledge of God, erases all possibility of doubt in the existence of God, and leaves you in what St. Isaac the Syrian used to call "awstruck wonder".

    It is an experience far beyond anything the human imagination can possibly dream up.  All I'll say about it is this, quoting another great master of noetic prayer from the 20th century...

    "Compared to the Divine Light, all the lights of this world, even of the sun at high noon, are nothing but darkness.  At that time there takes place a union, a communion of the Infinite and Uncreated with human beings, who are created and limited.  By His energie, the latter are truly transformed into children of the Most High.  It is then and only then that you can be assured in all your being that you really are created in the image and likeness of God.  Every limitation of time and space disappears, you soar above duration and space and find yourself immersed in peace."1

    ~ Dr. Symeon Rodger

    1. from The Living Witness of the Holy Mountain, ed. Alexander Golitzin, p.157.

    Wednesday, 22 September 2010

    Prayer Requests that Really Work

    For the second in this three part series on prayer, we're going to talk about prayer in the most common sense of the word, prayer as requesting a specific outcome.

    Lots of people fall into the trap of feeling bad when they pray for some sort of outcome they want.  They feel they're not worthy of it, or that it's selfish or that God just wants them to suffer, so they should just suffer without the result they want.

    All of this is deluded thinking.  First, if you're a Christian, you have to consider that the God-man - Christ Himself - taught people to ask for what they want and need.  "Ask and you shall receive," He said.  "Whatever you ask for in prayer, you shall receive."  You'll notice here that He doesn't say he'll reject any request that makes your life more pleasant because He wants you to suffer, and He doesn't say these requests are selfish. 

    Now that we've got that out of the way, it's time to learn the essential steps to building a prayer routine that "works".  What do I mean by prayer that "works"?  Simple - you begin to see the fruits of your prayer, both in the sense of inner peace and the concrete results you've asked for (or something better).  And based on that, you develop a deep realization that you're not alone and that help is closer to you than your own breath.  Do you think that would work for you?

    How to Make Requests in Prayer:

    Step 1: Put Yourself in the Divine Presence

    Represent God vividly before you.  Do not build a mental picture of Him; just put everything else out of your mind and feel the firm conviction that the power of God is here with you at this moment.  Remember that the direct experience of the ages has revealed two things - the Absolute is totally beyond human imagination, so don't try to imagine God, and the Absolute Reality is benevolent, so banish any childhood ideas that God is out to get you.  Simple be fully present and summon the full attention of your mind and heart.

    Step 2: Be Honest with Yourself and with the Divine Presence

    If you're not sure that God exists, or that God is personal, or that God is loving or any of that, don't worry.  If you have doubts, express those too.  And know that you can certainly ask God for clarification, for love and compassion.  The Absolute Reality is up to the challenge  ;-)

    Step 3: Give Thanks

    Give thanks for all the blessings in your life.  Give thanks for your family and friends, for your job and career, for your health and for all the good things that have happened to you.  Don't worry about being exhaustive here, just bring a few things to mind.

    Then recall specific prayer requests you've made that have been fulfilled.  Yes, if you're new to this you may have to skip this step for now.  Just keep in mind it's vital to know exactly what you've asked for and exactly what you've received.  This will boost your faith, which in turn is vital to the success of your prayer and your entire spiritual life.  

    Step 4: Make Your Requests

    Know exactly and clearly what you're asking for.  Make your requests known to the Absolute without the slightest doubt.  Simply assume you will receive your requests and that if you don't receive them immediately, that some even greater benefit is coming to you.  

    God is the Uncreated life force behind the entire universe.  Nothing is impossible for Him.  If you think your request is impossible, keep in mind it's absolutely possible for God and that the only barriers to your request are found in yourself and nowhere else.  

    What should you pray for?  First of all, ask for spiritual progress for yourself and those close to you.  Ask that all of you will be protected from harm, whether spiritual or physical.  Pray for some people individually, especially those most in need.  Ask for any material thing you need as well.  In short ask for anything you need or want.  And always end by reaffirming the things you've prayed for.  This makes it all the more definite in your own mind and memory.  With it fixed in your memory, you can recall your prayer requests during the day, knowing that they're on their way to you and to the people you've prayed for. 

    Of course, we're not talking about requests that are purely selfish in the sense of petty.  Praying to become a billionaire might not be the best idea, for example.  First, you don't need it and second, you probably wouldn't even like the result!  As St. Isaac the Syrian put it (and I'm translating this literally), "Don't ask a king for shit."

    Does This Really Work?

    Well, if you're a skeptic looking for scientific data, I'd recommend you have a look at Lynne McTaggart's classic book, The Field: the Quest for the Secret Force of the Universe.  There you'll find the results of some rigorous scientific experiments on distance healing, for example, proving that prayer really can heal people measurably and repeatably, and over any distance.  

    I can tell you personally that I'm continually stunned by the results of prayer.  I expect my requests to be granted - not because I'm gritting my teeth and fighting off doubt, but because I've seen it so frequently that it no longer occurs to me that I should doubt.  

    It wasn't always like this, of course.  Learning fruitful prayer takes time, persistence and dedication.  But when you've learned well, you have a whole new take on life itself.  You know for a fact you're not alone.  You know for a fact that help is closer to you than your own heartbeat.  And you know that this help is the power that created the Universe in the first place. 

    Next time, we'll talk about an even more profound type of prayer - prayer as a continuous inner state of communion with the Divine.  As I said before, this is the "real chocolate", the real nectar of life and it's unfortunately a teaching that has long since disappeared from conventional "religion". 

    ~ Dr. Symeon Rodger

    Monday, 20 September 2010

    Prayer - a Vital Resilience Practice

    The requests keep coming in... they never stop.  "Talk more about prayer, meditation and spiritual life." "Will prayer help my health?"  "How does prayer fit into resilience and how is it different from meditation?"  And the list goes on...

    So this week I'll do my best to answer and to help you make sense out of all this by talking about prayer.  We're going to do this in three parts.  First we'll talk about some of the basics.  Then, in mid-week, we'll talk about prayer in the sense most people are familiar with, as a request for a specific outcome.  And finally, on Friday, we'll get to the "real chocolate" of spiritual life - prayer as a continuous spiritual communion with the Absolute reality.  

    "I Know Lots of People Who Pray... and Most of Them Are Wackos!"

    If that statement describes the way you feel, believe me, you're not alone.  I'm a priest of the Orthodox Church and I feel the same way! 

    So yes, you'll find lots of deluded people who "pray" frequently.  The Taliban folks pray.  Your Aunt Mildred who keeps beating you over the head with the Bible prays.  The TV evangelist who tells you God wants you to send him your money prays too.  Of course, all these people are praying more to their own delusions than anything else.  Prayer can transform you life into paradise on earth, but... if you stubbornly persist in delusion, it can destroy you.

    Back in late 19th century Russia, someone asked a holy man named Theophan the Recluse why so many "religious" people were plain nuts.  The old man, who was a great teacher of prayer, replied that when you put yourself in contact with the Uncreated Being, you either accept that power into your life or you resist and distort it.  If you accept it, you become more like the divine - more loving, more peaceful, more integrated and more whole on every level.  If, however, you resist, you become the opposite of all that.  In short, if you're trying to use prayer to build up your ego instead of get past it, you're on the path to self-destruction. 

    We, however, are presumably interested in prayer for the right reasons - to feel spiritually connected to the source of life, to fill our hearts with love, gratitude and joy, and to radiate compassion to those around us.  As long as this is our aim, and as long as we're genuinely trying to distinguish truth from falsehood, we're not in any danger of joining the wackos mentioned above.  

    Do I Need Prayer to Become Resilient?

    Looked at scientifically - and all authentic ancient mystical traditions were rigorously scientific - if the Absolute Reality exists (and they verified this), and if you are therefore in the image of or contain the nature and potentiality of the Absolute within you (also verified), and if the purpose of life is union with / transformation by this Absolute (another verified discovery), then it follows that if you are not consciously in communion with this Absolute, you are falling below you potential, weakening yourself and losing resilience.  Pretty simple, isn't it? 

    You'll find a much more detailed discussion of all that in The 5 Pillars of Life, of course, but I can tell you now that in the eyes of any Authentic Ancient Tradition worldwide, if you don't pray, you're like someone who's never experienced real life at all.    

    What If I'm Not Sure About God?

    That's okay.  If you grew up in a "religious" milieu, you may still be struggling deep down with the idea that God is a cosmic despot with a significant anger-management problem, that He demands blind conformity to what some institution has told you and that if you don't believe in Him 100%, He's already really ticked off with you. 

    Nonsense!  Without getting into the particulars, the whole idea of the angry God is a false teaching, according to the original Christian tradition.  There's some more information on this in The 5 Pillars of Life, as well.  Here's an example of what the early Christian tradition really learned about the divine being.  I suggest you read the following very carefully...

    "God is good.  He only bestows blessings and never does harm, remaining always the same.  We men, on the other hand, if we remain good through resembling God, are united to Him.  But if we become evil through not resembling God, we are separated from Him.  By living in holiness, we cleave to God; but by becoming wicked, we make Him our enemy.  It is not that He grows angry with us in some arbitrary way, but it is our own sins that prevent God from shining within us and expose us to the demons who torture us.  And if through prayer and acts of compassion we gain release from our sins, this does not mean that we have won God over and made Him change, but that through our actions and our turning to God we have cured our wickedness and so once more have enjoyment of God's goodness.  Thus to say that God turns away from the wicked is like saying that the sun hides itself from the blind."(1)

    St. Silouan of Athos, a great Orthodox Christian spiritual teacher of the 20th century, once said there are only two kinds of spiritual people - those who believe in God and those who know God.  The latter are those who have had a direct, overwhelming encounter with the Uncreated.  

    So if you're not too sure if God exists or what God / the Absolute reality is like, that's okay.  You need to be honest with yourself.  There is very little difference between you and the person who, to use Silouan's words, just "believes" but doesn't yet "know".  That person has simply taken a different ideological stand than you have.  However, he or she is still in the dark, in a manner of speaking.  

    And yes, there are lots of Christians who'll be happy to tell you they "know" God, but their "knowledge" of God unfortunately has nothing to do with "knowing God" as the ancient mystical tradition taught and still teaches.  And Silouan was a typical example of that tradition. 

    Finally, you may also be struggling, even unconsciously, with the whole idea of God as "father" or parental figure.  This can be especially troubling for people who have grown up in dysfunctional family environments where the parental role models were incompetent, if not overtly toxic.  It's no secret that how you related to your parents can have a huge effect on how you conceive of God.  Fortunately, there's an antidote.. a very old antidote that works wonders...

    You see, unlike the Christianity of the West over the last millennium, the ancient tradition explicitly taught that you should not take verbal descriptions of God too literally.  Using what we now call "apophatic" theology or "theology by negation", the ancient tradition says that if we say, for example, that God is "good", then we also have to say that God is not "good" as we imagine that word, but good in a way that goes beyond our usual concepts.  And likewise, is we refer to God as "He", using the masculine pronoun (a huge stumbling block for many, given the historical shortcomings of most cultures), then we must also add that we do NOT mean "male as opposed to female" in the sense of human gender.  

    So if you find yourself hung up on some of the traditional language about God, know that it was never intended to be taken in the simplistic way you were probably taught, and you can cheerfully dissociate your mental image of God from your parents.  

    As Silouan said, after a particularly intense encounter with the Absolute Reality, "God is love insatiable."  When one of Silouan's contemporaries was asked by a younger person why he was always weeping, he answered, "My child, when God appears to you, all you can do is weep for joy!"

    What's Coming Up Next:

    Next time, we'll talk about putting your requests out there in prayer and how to do it so you get results.  In ancient times, prayer was referred to as "the art of arts and the science of sciences" and there's more to it than you ever imagined...

    ~ Dr. Symeon Rodger :-)

    Wednesday, 15 September 2010

    Get Your Life Organized!

    One of the single greatest keys to becoming a more resilient person is knowing how to get your life organized.  And, face it, it's the ideal time of year to do just that - vacation time is wrapping up, kids are going back to school and the pace of life is picking up again.  Not surprisingly, September 1 used to be "New Years" in the Roman Empire, and it's just as important in our own culture as January 1 as a time to make a fresh start.

    Five Critical Activities to Organizing Your Life:

    So just how do you get your life organized?  There are lots of possible approaches you could use and almost all of them work as long as you put them into practice.  However, if I could suggest just five things that will make a huge positive impact on your life between now and the end of this calendar year, this is what they would be:

    1. Organize Key Areas of Your Living / Working Space:

    Get your living space and your working space organized.  That means putting order into the public areas of your home, getting rid of the clutter, tossing out whatever you don't really need or want, finding a place for the rest and making sure everything stays in its place.  It's simply not possible to find inner peace or to work productively when you're surrounded by mess.  This make take you a day or two, but it's worth the effort.

    2. Book at Least one Mini-Vacation between Now and Christmas:

    If you have a spouse or significant other, book time for the two of you - without the kids! - and have a romantic getaway.  If you're single, you're free to invite a friend or to go alone.  In either case, just make sure you get out of your usual surroundings for a couple of days and put yourself into an environment where you don't have to think too much or make decisions.  Plan activities that you'll really enjoy.  

    3. Book Daily and Weekly Playtime:

    Make sure you have time to relax every day.  That could be just to read a good book, take a walk or do something else.  And make sure you carve out a few hours each week to have fun as well.  This could be a weekly dinner out with your spouse, a movie, to play tennis, volleyball, golf or your favorite sport.  It can be any activity that leaves you feeling refreshed and relaxed.

    4. Know Your Results:

    In every area of your life - your career, your relationships, your finances, your spiritual life and your health, ask yourself this question: "What one goal, if I could achieve it over the next four months, would have the greatest positive impact on my life?"  Once you have the simple set of answers to those simple questions, your life for the remainder of the year should be crystal clear.

    5. Build Your Key Relationships:

    What relationships matter to you the most?  If you could vastly improve your relationships with just 1-4 people over the next four months, who would they be?  Once you've decided that, the rest is comparatively simple - give your time and attention to those people in ways that are most beneficial for them and you will definitely see improvement.  

    To help you think through your life and organize yourself even better, here's a video by Brian Tracy, one of the world's top business coaches and experts on the subject.  Brian's advice is typically spot on, so you'd do well to watch this one through and give it your full attention:

    As Brian suggests, the key to getting organized isn't simply putting stuff around the house in its place; it's having a central organizing principle.  And that principle comes from understanding who you really are and what you really want to achieve.  Once you know that, everything else falls into place.

    ~ Dr. Symeon Rodger 

    Sunday, 12 September 2010

    Want Better Quality of Life? Develop COURAGE

    Courage is the very basis of true quality of life.  It is the beginning and the end of every desirable character trait you can have.  Without courage, there is no honor, no personal integrity, no loyalty, no humility and certainly no love.  

    And without those, there's no real success or happiness in life.  Only a courageous person can develop personal Resilience.  

    Courage can transform any life and any circumstance from abject misery into wonderful adventure because...

    Courage takes charge in every situation.  Courage calmly identifies and assesses options.  Courage expects a miraculous turn of events in its own favor... and is seldom disappointed.  Courage takes a deep breath and stays calm "under fire".  Courage pulls people together, inspires them, motivates and galvanizes them into action.  Courage instills confidence and creates loyalty and trust.  It is the fundamental quality of a leader.  Courage creates opportunities where none appeared to exist before.  Courage gives rise to an unaccountable joy in the heart.  Courage banishes the demons of self-doubt and low self-esteem.  Courage repeatedly snatches victory from the jaws of defeat.  Where cowardice sees only huge and insurmountable problems, courage sees only fun and interesting projects.  

    Acquiring Courage:

    Many people erroneously assume that courage is something you either have or you don't.  When they sense fear in their own hearts, they simply assume nothing can be done about it.  This is false.  If you wish to acquire the great virtue of courage, I'll tell you now how to get it.  

    You could say that "a hero is just a coward who's afraid to show his fear."  This paradoxical quip is not quite as absurd as it may seem.  As with all virtues, you have to do two and only two things to acquire this one:

    First, you have to decide you want courage.  You have to decide that you're fed up living with fear, anxiety, self-doubt and all your internal saboteurs.  How often do you experience fear or anxiety over something?  If you keep track of this for even one day, my bet is you'll be shocked at the degree to which fear dominates your thinking.  So resolve now that you're going to acquire courage - no one can do it for you.  You have to decide.

    Second, you have to take action.  Notice that you don't have to feel courage first.  If you wait to feel courage before you act, you'll wait forever.  On the other hand, if you act courageously, if you dismiss all excuses, take responsibility for your own life and do what a courageous person would do, you'll find yourself filled with a strong feeling of real courage almost instantly.

    With this feeling will come a wonderful sense of taking back control of your life and your destiny.  This is a special joy only courageous people experience.  And you know what?  Every courageous person has been just as controlled by fear as you have been.  The only difference is they've made a clear decision.  You can too.  

    Yes, there will be set-backs.  Expect them.  And pay no attention to them.  Simply continue to act the part and I guarantee you will experience amazing results.   

    Here's a video meditation on courage you may find helpful:

    Courage can totally remake your life, and all it takes on your part or mine is the decision to want it and to act courageously until we in fact become courageous people.

    ~ Dr. Symeon Rodger

    Tuesday, 7 September 2010

    Fools Go Where Angels Fear to Tread...

    "Fools go where angels fear to tread..."

    Well that pretty much sums up my Labor Day weekend!  My wife and I were scheduled to fly to Halifax, a beautiful city on the Atlantic coast, to attend the wedding of the daughter of some close friends of ours, a trip we had booked back in February.  There was just one last minute complication...

    ... Hurricane Earl

    ...and as of last Friday night, Earl was hurtling toward the Halifax area and due to make landfall just to the west sometime around mid-morning on Saturday, about the time our plane was to land!  And Earl still stubbornly refused to fizzle into a mere tropical storm, despite having lost some of its force after leaving the Carolinas. 

    Our dilemma was that because of the way we had booked the tickets, we couldn't get a refund unless Air Canada actually canceled the flight.  So we kept checking the status of our flight on their website all day Friday.  "ON TIME" it said.  We even called and asked them how they planned to land their little Embraer 190 in winds predicted to gust to 139 km/hr.  Stunned silence on the other end of the line...

    So at 10pm Friday we actually decided to pack just in case Air Canada thought conditions would be safe to fly into Halifax ahead of the storm.  We still didn't think they'd actually go through with it, especially since the other major Canadian carriers, Westjet and Porter, had already canceled their flights to and from Halifax for most of Saturday. 

    The next morning we checked the Air Canada website at 5am and discovered the flight was still a go - damn, I was so looking forward to a leisurely long weekend at home by this time and figured anyone who would willingly fly into a hurricane shouldn't be let out in public unsupervised. 

    Yet within two hours I found myself sitting, somewhat dazed, in Seat 15C on that very plane having those same thoughts: "They can't be serious..." I still told myself. 

    Then the pilot came on and said, "Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.  As you may have heard, there are some windy conditions between us and Halifax (!), but flying at 39,000 feet should keep us well above the weather."  Yes, that's true enough, I thought, but there's this phase of the flight called "descent and landing" that's tough to do without getting up close and personal with the weather.

    Well, as we descended there were a lot of white knuckles on that plane, as the high winds battered us and caused the aircraft to roll wildly.  There were moments when I seriously doubted the pilot would be able to maintain control in that kind of wind shear.  Yet... somehow... whether thanks to his own expertise, guardian angels or both, he did manage to land us without incident.  And he got the "sitting ovation" he deserved (we still had our seat belts on).  And then...

    ...they shut down Halifax International Airport, practically the moment our nose wheel hit the tarmac!


    An hour later my wife and I were eating lunch at a restaurant on the outskirts, enjoying our salad and pasta as the lights flickered and the windows gave signs of impending collapse.  Trying to walk back to our rental car was an adventure.  Have you ever tried walking against a 120km/hr wind?  Wow... With the wind cutting across our path to the car, we had to aim at a point way to the left of the vehicle and allow the wind to push us back toward our destination, a lot like walking in a strong ocean current. 

    The city looked a bit like a war zone - a few big trees had been ripped up, large branches were down everywhere and on the radio was the voice of a friend of mine, the head of Emergency Measures Nova Scotia, asking everyone to stay home.  By this point, I wished I had!   All the traffic lights we came across were out and most residents, including our hosts, had just lost power.  

    You can get some idea of the damage from this video.  This shows only the damage hours later, after the hurricane had past.  I was unable to find any video that would convey what it was really like to be outside during the worst of it.

    Surprisingly, within a couple more hours the rain stopped, the winds died down and the sun even came out later in the afternoon.  And the rest of our holiday, including the wedding, went really well, just as we had imagined it before Earl complicated our lives.  We had a much needed weekend getaway, saw some of our favorite relatives, celebrated with some dear friends and had some truly memorable, if occasionally traumatic, experiences.  Who could ask for more?

    Lessons Learned?

    Okay, I'm used to taking risks, even big ones.  And I'm used to facing the elements and seeking out meaningful challenges - that's just part of working on Personal Resilience.  Resilience isn't gained by sitting in front of the tube or being afraid of a little discomfort.  

    That said, is the lesson from all this that if you persevere in the face of apparently impossible odds, you can succeed beyond your wildest dreams?  Or is it that the line between daring and stupidity is a very fine one and we just got lucky this time?

    I'll leave that decision to you, since I haven't quite figured it out myself yet!  I'll also leave you with one tiny piece of advice... 

    The next time your airline tries to tell you it's perfectly safe to fly into a storm with winds in excess of 100 km/hr., trust your gut and stay home ;-)