About the Author: Thomas E Ziemann is a motivational speaker and spiritual researcher. Tom delivers engaging, uplifting lectures on Relationships, Life Purpose, Meditation, and Anger Management. Both of Tom’s books; The Department of Zenitation: A Layman’s Guide to Making Spirituality Work in Real Life & Taming the Anger Dragon: From Pissed off to Peaceful have received critical acclaim from some of the finest spiritual authors, writers, and experts in their respected fields. Tom is a proud father of two brilliant daughters, married to his best friend, and a loving Cat Daddy for their 9 cats. He lives near Portland, Oregon
Looking back; some 55 years which I’ve lived upon this big, blue beautiful marble in space; it’s remarkable where I’ve been as where I’ve come to. Had you known me in my youth; you would have seen a disheveled, wimpy, scared, black eyed and bruised, unconfident, small stature boy who perfumed the putrid stench of urine well into his early teens. The clumsy dork that everyone incessantly teased picked on and ridiculed. That shy kid you loved to hate and beat the crap out of because it somehow made you feel superior. A dour boy whose unrequited love of his parents created a lifelong, angst replete with fiery rage from his uncontrolled “Anger Dragon” within that followed him into his middle age. That deep seeded anger left a wake of painful, loveless, tarnished relationships, a broken marriage and premature greying hair. The physical and emotional abuse inflicted by his parents had far reaching ramifications as well as deleterious effects. Yeah, sadly that was me. I HATED who I had become; a self-loathing, sanctimonious, perfectionistic, pompous ass.
I get the question from time to time; “Tom, what the hell happened to you…from that timid little dormouse you used to be to an Enthusiastic, Motivational Speaker and Hope Broker? What I will share in this brief chapter may not work for everyone; however, it did work for me. Please join me on a brief sojourn
It was after graduating high school back in 1981, I met an enlightened man who changed my life. His name was Johnny Norman; a guidance counselor for the Chicago Public Schools as well as an accomplished Taoist Master. He never judged me; rather he graciously offered to take me under his loving tutelage. What made his teachings different from most other Martial art schools was that he concluded every class with a different type of meditation. He knew literally hundreds of different kinds. I was blessed to study under this incredible man for well over a year before joining the Navy. While Kung Fu helped my confidence. It was the meditation techniques which helped me focus my monkey mind and to find some inner peace. Still, the anger I was holding onto towards my parents darkly colored every other area of my life. I found myself to be an Anger-Holic. A perfectionistic “A ‘hole” …a total judgmental bastard. All for what? Why?
When I hit 50, many of the answers seemed blatantly obvious to me. What allowed me to finally face my inner demons were 2 things…First, the Big F Forgiveness. Until I came to terms with the fact that my parents did the best they could within the awareness they had my life would never change.
It was as if a huge spiritual weight was lifted of my chest once I let go of all the self-pity I was harboring. Secondly, I was finally able to object ably see myself in an unflattering light. The truth can be painful, yet it’s equally liberating. The question to ask yourself with brutal honesty is; “Can you handle the truth?”
Once I was emotionally and spiritually mature enough to accept myself as I was, it allowed the healing process to commence. For the first time in my life I was able to simply admit how screwed up I was. I took ownership of my past mistakes and made a vow to myself to change. To make right the wrongs I had done where possible and give back. Both of my earlier books “The Department of Zenitation” and “Taming the Anger Dragon” delve quite deeply into the processes which share more intimate details than time allows here. While there are no perfect prescriptions defining what makes one happy and how to heal oneself.
I will share a few things I found invaluable along my path.
At 50, the healing began when I began to evaluate and deeply examine my beliefs; all aspects of my mental make-up…mental, emotional, spiritual, philosophical, political and so on. Not so much what I was carrying as factual for me; more importantly, why I believed so. How did I come to these preconceived notions? Were they still valuable to me? Had I grown beyond these preconceived ideas? Did they still have merit? Had I delved deep enough into their importance? Once I felt I had a good grasp of my beliefs, it allowed me to go deeper…
Who am I? Why am I here? Each question took me deeper, an existential quest so to speak. This line of questioning begged an honest answer; what was my life purpose? Once you can answer that, I promise you that your life will change provided you heed your inner calling. I immediately knew that mine was to help others define their own purpose. What’s yours?
When you are in touch with your core being, your answer will become apparent. You will have a choice; that point on your path; to go for your dream or not. Don’t worry what others will think about yours, that’s not important. What does matter is you took the time to contemplate why you are here. Don’t worry how you will accomplish your goal. Leave that to a higher power. Remember that there is nothing worth wild for free in life. One must work to make things happen.
You will know how important what you say is your life purpose by the amount of time you spend daily thinking about it and working towards its fruition. Once I defined my life purpose, it allowed a number of things to really sink in. First it helped me know myself deeper than ever before. It allowed me to love myself as I hadn’t previously experienced. What an amazing peaceful feeling! I speak not of a narcissistic love, but of an acceptance of all my good parts as well as my faults. No judging, just acknowledging them. This is a freeing exercise which I whole heartily recommend you doing.
You cannot love another fully without first loving yourself. Understanding one’s strength and weakness is invaluable as it shows us where to focus our attention on. Using one’s gifts to work on areas where we fall short is nothing less than magical. Being the right person will make finding the one a much easier task. I realize this may all be a lot to take on all at once, that’s not the purpose. Don’t try to conquer everything you’re unhappy with at once. Simply choose your battles as they come. Big changes and rewards come with time and daily focus on the problem. Taking time daily to add to your understanding of things will help immensely in rounding out one’s life.
I have a thirst for knowledge; an unquenchable desire to know something about everything. Not to be an expert on every subject, simply wise enough to be able to ask intelligent questions. Real wisdom is grown that way.
In my earlier years, I took things so personal. It ruined many burgeoning relationships. Not taking myself too seriously has been a blessing. As the great American Buddhist teacher, Pema Chodron often says; “Lighten up on yourself”. We generally receive the love that we believe we deserve, so open your heart to all possibilities.
Happiness…I could devote an entire book to this one. Happiness then is not about what happens to us; rather, it’s how we choose to respond to what happens to us. One secret to happiness is to do what you like; the reward of a successful life is truly liking what you do. Happiness is not about having what you want; it’s about wanting what you already have. It is not determined by what’s happening around you, but rather what’s happening inside of you. It takes one area of one’s life to be off kilter to play emotional havoc. Maslow spoke in great depth about this fact in his hierarchy of needs. The best definition of real happiness I’ve ever heard is; someone to love, something to do, and something to look forward to. Powerful wisdom indeed.
Let’s break this parable down. “Someone to love” can also be equated to something one loves. For our discussion I will focus on the relationship aspect. Relationships, good or bad, can have a profound effect on one’s emotional being. Having a significant other who you love is paramount to a long fruitful relationship. They can add many years of health as well. Believing you are worthy of having such a relationship is only part of the equation…once you get that dream partner that when the work begins.
Sadly, many people have chosen to stay in a lack luster relationship as opposed to being alone. They are dying a slow spiritual death by doing so.
No one can tell you what a meaningful relationship is; by discovering who you are will define what you’re looking for and what will create greater joy in your life. As I’ve discussed in “Taming the Anger Dragon” knowing you and your partners “joy triggers” will make finding and keeping a relationship blossoming a snap. Relationships are never easy, good ones are incredibly fulfilling. Timing plays a huge role in this so keep an open heart. Choosing the right partner is critical. Seek to be in a relationship where both partners never stop trying.
So, what’s the secret to creating lasting magical relationships? Mutual respect is the key. Act loving, enthusiastic; be in the moment when you’re with people.
Put that cell phone down when having a conversation. Use reflective listening to really understand what your partner means and their needs.
The perfection trap has doomed many relationships…, Don’t seek a perfect person, they don’t exist. Instead cultivate a relationship with someone who’s perfect for you; one who accepts you with all your faults, imperfections and visa- versa. The starting point is not with your partner; it’s with you. If you are dissatisfied with yourself, I can promise you that you will never find a person who can truly and fully satisfy you.
Here’s a question to ponder; What’s more important in a relationship, to be loved or respected? Respected of course. Why is that true? Love is extremely important; you can love someone and not respect them however if you respect the other love is the byproduct.
OK, we’ve discussed the relationship portion of the 3 legs of happiness; Next let’s discuss the “something to do” aspect. As the great neurologist and psychiatrist Viktor Frankl documented that people who have a reason to live generally do despite unfathomable obstacles. His message is simple; know what you love to do. One’s career can supply much happiness and self fulfilment as doing the thing that makes your heart sing. So how do you know what yours is? What do you love doing? A great exercise is creating your bucket list.
Creating a bucket list is one of the best ways to find out who you really are. Simply stated your list is nothing more than a specific list of every dream you’ve ever had. The key point is to not judge it. Allow your beautiful mind to flow. Let your deeply hidden wants and aspirations flow on paper. One’s latent talents can be cultivated and create incredible joy in ones later life. Be creative! Don’t let the lack of money or means to be a barrier on your list. As it’s been said, the universe conspires to make your dreams come true if you know what they are; want them with all your heart, not simply 100 other incompatible things. Burning desire combined with definiteness of purpose, specificity and action make dreams become reality.
Moving on to the “something to look forward to”. This simple act has allowed people from all walks of life to live longer, more fulfilling lives. If they could just make it to one more Christmas, to see their children get married, to see the birth of their grandchildren. The list goes on. Ironically a good number of the signers of the declaration of independence all died on July 4th, Coincidence? I think not. It’s my belief they all had a reason to go on. So, I ask you, what’s yours? We come now to the last part of this chapter. To make the case for how I got here from whence I came from is a daunting consideration; Put another way…
“How I learned to dance through the Tsunami”.
When pondering my life, I can’t make one single argument identifying one incident that was the reason for setting me on my path. Certainly, many catalysts.
I’ve learned that real forgiveness is a true healer. I don’t do it for the one who wronged me; I do it to give myself inner peace.
I’ve learned far more from my failures than my successes. I’ve had the good fortune to learn vicariously from others, in other words I didn’t have to experience what they did to glean the lesson or the hurt they endured.
As mentioned “Taming my Anger Dragon”, using anger and my pain for fuel was a necessary part in breaking my anger cycle and addiction. Coming to the realization I was miserable in my life gave me the courage to face my inner demons.
Taking calculated risks has added to my life 10-fold. In no way could I have accomplished anything without risking.
Music has been a soothing, life altering tonic; I use it daily to help calm my inner beast known as anxiety.
Daily meditation has been a lifesaving, sanity activity. Teaching meditation classes has made me a far better student. Learning proper breathing techniques has literally saved my health.
Making peace with past was a big part of the healing I required. Sharing my vulnerabilities on the written page has helped me enormously; the plus side was there are many others out there who also carried much of the same pain and fear I did. They can gain helpful insights by reading my plight without having to endure the same.
Being able to see myself in an unflattering light was the key part in coming to terms with my short comings, thereby accepting myself as I was and using my faults as a starting place for change. Taking the time to know myself completely was a tremendous gift to myself.
Realizing life isn’t fair helped me to become self-sufficient and strive to accept tragedies easier. Bad things happen to everyone. I am not being singled out by a vengeful God.
In life, there is no free ride; when I want more, I must work smarter/harder to obtain my dreams and desires.
Using gratitude as a part of my everyday existence changed my life immediately for the better. Taking time daily to appreciate where I am, how truly blessed I am, what gifts I have, who is in my life and all the gifts bestowed upon me right this second.
Practicing random daily acts of kindness to people who can never repay me has changed my life immeasurably.
Becoming my own best friend helped me create amazing friendships around the world, some stemming over 40 years!
To be able to ask others for help was a biggie for me. As the old Chinese adage says: “He who goes through life with a clenched fist receives nothing.”
Learning to delay immediate gratification has been a heaven sent, financially freeing realization.
Being able to share my deepest feelings with my wife and close friends without fear of having them judge me has been a miraculous experience.
Learning to communicate effectively has certainly changed my life. Learning to LISTEN without trying to figure out what the other was saying before they finished was a big one for me. To give honest praise and appreciation to the people and employees in my life has been key to my success.
Writing down my goals has allowed me to live a fuller life than I ever believed possible.
Giving something back daily (even a kind word) may be the greatest gift to myself I’ve ever received.
Helping charities and non-profits raise donations has given me a deep sense of accomplishment; self-satisfaction that I only dreamt about in my early years.
Seeing the joy my sculptures create in the eyes of the receiver and onlookers has filled me with a great sense of joy.
Allowing the love that I have desperately sought my entire life to flow to me, rather than chasing it allowed me to give more love back than I ever believed possible.
Knowing and working daily towards my life purpose has given me inner peace. Helping others identify theirs has been beyond gratifying. Spending time daily with all nine of my wonderful cats has added many years of happiness to my life. Working in my garden and yard has created joy and satisfaction that come from seeing one’s effort pay off.
Home entertaining, cooking for my friends and family has been one of the greatest gifts I have ever given myself. Generosity begets the same.
Developing the passion deep within has pushed me to greater height’s than I believed I was capable of.
Keeping true to my deepest beliefs such as “The Truth is one and the paths are many” has helped me keep an open mind unhampered by prejudice and judgement.
Writing several books has been life changing to say the least. It helped develop my confidence and hopefully create joy for my readers.
Public speaking has given me the deep satisfaction of helping others find their own way.
Becoming a “Hope Broker” has added an indescribable joy which eluded me most of my life.
Finding the woman of my dreams late in life showed me that amazing things come to those who never gave up hope. By becoming the person, I sought rather than just searching for her has given me the loving marriage I had always desired.
“I wish each and every one of you the inner peace you are seeking. Much Love.” --Thomas E Ziemann
Stacie Prada was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2008 at the age of 38. Her blog, “Keep Doing What You’re Doing” is a compilation of inspiration, exploration, and practical tips for living with a chronic illness while living a full, productive, and healthy life with a positive perspective. It includes musings on things that help her adapt, cope and rejoice in this adventure on earth. Please visit her at http://stacieprada.blogspot.com/
Keep Doing What You’re Doing! Can I do it? Should I do it?
In each moment I start to struggle, I think about pushing and accepting my limits, and I think about whether I’m coming from a place of weakness or wisdom. Everyone has limits, and people with chronic illnesses have an added layer of issues to consider. I think it pushes us to be experts at monitoring our health, considering all of the risks and gains, and making wise decisions about doing what we think is best for us in each moment.
If I go for a jog, I’ll monitor my body to see if I can do what I set out to do. If I struggle too much, I’ll debate with myself as to whether I need to change the plan. If I feel awful when I wake up in the morning, I’ll tell myself that if I just take a shower I can see how I feel and adjust my day if needed. When I plan for my future, I consider what’s likely, what I’m afraid may happen, and whether I’ll be able to live well emotionally and financially for anything within the range of possibilities, good or bad.
Just thinking about my options and spending time weighing what’s best in the moment takes energy. My self-talk includes asking myself what would make me feel stronger in this moment. If I realize that the words I’m saying to myself are making me feel weak, I try to think about what I need to hear to feel stronger. How can I frame this situation into feeling like I’m deciding from a place of strength and wisdom?
I might find myself thinking, “this is hard, why am I pushing myself, and all of these (fill in the blank) reasons make it silly for me to try.”
I don’t want to be stubborn or expect too much, but I also don’t want to sell myself short. If I do less than I anticipated, it can feel like I’m succumbing to weakness. Yet I think it’s important to consider that I may be exercising wisdom.
It’s moments of weakness that push us to gain wisdom. When things are easy, we don’t need to work smarter or get wiser. We can muscle our way through them without much thought. When things are tough, we can do without, find a new way, or change our
expectations. When I realize I may not be able to do what I set out to do, I can tell myself I’m sick, I’m weak, and my future is going to be worse. I might accurately tell myself that continuing to push myself will cause consequences not worth the gain. That if I do less today, it may help me avoid injury and it may help me be able to do more tomorrow.
I can be both weak and wise, and it can help me do better in the long run.
I ran a race after a really low point physically due to my Multiple Sclerosis. A few weeks prior, my fitness ability was compromised by my MS fatigue to the point where walking half a mile was taxing and caused me to suffer. I debated whether I’d need to call a friend to come pick me up and drive me home. It was a new low point for me physically, and I wanted to cry. It startled me and depressed me. I chose to push myself to walk home, and I gave myself permission to go as slowly as I needed to get there. I also gave myself permission to change my mind and change the plan at any moment along the way. I made it through, and looking back I think either decision would have been right for me.
I had a friend once say out loud at lunch, “I’m debating whether to have dessert.” A few minutes later, she took a piece of cake and said, “I won.” I think either decision in a lot of situations could be judged as winning. There’s almost never a clearly right or wrong decision. It’s just a million little decisions that add up to good or bad judgment overall.
In the moment of any struggle, the decision may be the same whether it’s made from a place of weakness or wisdom. What really matters is where my head is when I decide. When I’m struggling and not sure what’s best for me in the moment, it helps me to ask myself these questions:
If I slow down or quit, will it help me in another way? Will it maintain my health, my relationships or avoid injury? Will it accomplish another goal I have? Will it build strength, help with recovery, improve my relationships or save my sanity? Will I have regrets if I stop now? Can I slow down and still accomplish the goal? Might I achieve the main reason for the goal another way?
During the race I did, I asked myself a lot of questions. I weighed how hard it was in the moment, and I assessed how much farther I had to go to the finish line. I asked if continuing would cause injury. I decided that I could alternate between jogging, walking and running without hurting myself. I focused on what I could do so that it drowned out the negative, demotivating thoughts swirling in my head. I asked myself what I needed to hear in that moment to make me feel strong and wise. The questions turned to a mantra, “You can do it…stride, stride, stride…good form…breathe in, breathe out…you got this…pace to finish strong…”
It wasn’t all talk, and it wasn’t denial. I felt stronger, and I became stronger. I ran with purpose, and I slowed down when it felt right. I felt powerful both physically and emotionally.
With both the one-mile walk where I barely made it home without help and during the race where I found my stride, I asked the same questions of myself. My performance was drastically different, and my ability dictated both experiences. For the disheartening walk, I decided it was good that I tried to do it. Even though it was too much, I decided it was better that I tried and faced my limits than if I’d stayed home and not exerted any energy at all. With the race I pushed up against my limits, backed off and pushed them again. On that day, my body was ready to do more. These two moments of weakness and strength were only weeks apart. In both of them I believe I practiced wisdom and poised myself to finish strong sooner or later.
These questions work for me with any decision I’m facing. When I look within myself and am honest about the possibility that I’m acting from a place of fear and weakness, it helps me find my path to deciding from a place of genuine strength and wisdom.
Doing something or not doing it can come from any mindset, and it really matters what I believe to be true when I decide. To someone else, the decision and outcome they perceive may be the same, but the intent behind it will determine whether I feel defeated or victorious.
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