Harness the Power of Your Metaphors!

It is has been said, “there are two things that you can count on in life, death and taxes.”  In my case, there’s one more and that would be visiting Kristy’s grandmother, lovingly called Gnin in Cantonese every weekend in Monterey Park, California, where everything is in Chinese and a tall white guy always seems a bit out of place.

Gnin is going on 90 now, and if that weren’t enough of a reason to see her every week, she’s a real hoot, cute as a dumpling, speaks very little English and is brutally honest. She loves anything sweet and reminds Kristy and I on a continual basis that she’d like to see us pop out a baby soon.  Fortunately for us, Kristy’s brother just had a boy so that should take a little bit of the pressure off for now.

Without fail, as if programmed into our genes like a pair of migrating African Lovebirds, Kristy and I get up early every weekend, regardless of our desperate need for sleep, in an attempt to beat the LA traffic, see Grandma and take advantage of the breakfast specials at one of the thousand Chinese restaurants in Monterey Park.  Last weekend was no exception, but this time something quite remarkable happened.

Jumping on the 101 South from Hollywood, we were pleasantly surprised, if not shocked, to find very little traffic.  But as we turned the bend through the heart of downtown we could see across the divide the 101 North, our usual route back home, was already bumper-to-bumper.

As if Kristy could read my mind, which I think she can at times when she’s not hungry, she uttered,  “Wow! That looks like a parking lot.”

“Yes it does.”  I replied.

“Maybe we’ll have to take the streets back.” She said.

“Maybe.  Hopefully it will clear up by the time we head back.” I replied trying to sound optimistic.

Continuing on our way unimpeded and with a constant view of the opposing traffic, I couldn’t help but notice how easily it was for both of us to see the opposing traffic as a parking lot and something bad.  The mood in the car immediately changed from a joyful “to grandmother’s house we go” to a sobering “Crap!  Look at that traffic.”

Wanting my joy back, I began to wonder if I could perhaps see it another way, choose another metaphor, throw the parking lot out and replace it with something more positive.

Searching for the positive, I began to see the traffic as an opportunity for people to relax, slow down, listen to good music, spend more quality time with each other and do a little sight-seeing.  I began to see each car as an oasis for meditation and personal reflection, a chance to learn a foreign language or finally reset the clock on the dash.  I saw symmetry and cooperation as each car edged ever so slightly forward.  I even saw it as a piece of contemporary art.

Sharing my thoughts aloud as we passed this beautiful still life entitled “Cars on a Highway,” we both began to laugh and the mood once again returned to joy. Gone was the negative metaphor we both shared, replaced by a plethora of positive ones.  Traffic would never look the same way again.

*******

The power of a metaphor, much like a 90-year-old grandmother, should never be underestimated.  A single metaphor, much like a single comment from a loved one, has the power to bring us down and stop us in our tracks or raise us up to a world of unlimited possibilities.  Fortunately, we have power over the metaphors we use.

Whenever I notice myself using a metaphor, I ask myself “Is this a meta-for or a met-against?”  If I feel good and empowered by it, I call it a ‘meta-for’ and make a mental note that it’s a keeper and available for use at any time in the future.  But if I notice any negativity around a metaphor I have just used, I call it a ‘met-against,’ let it go and set an intention to replace it with something positive and empowering.

While this may seem all too simple, I assure you it works and it’s fun, not to mention it keeps me from thinking about those two other things I can inevitably count on, death and taxes.

Copyright 2010 Rob Gruber, M.A. Life Mastery Coach

Across the “OUR”niverse

DSC_6045While tending to the small vineyard in our backyard, I noticed the grapes growing up and over the garage were not as plentiful as last year.  Thinking it was due to the new Los Angeles water restrictions the city implemented to move towards sustainable water conservation, I accepted the few grapes that had came forth and appreciated them all the more.  But it wasn’t until a few days later that I discovered the real reason for my lighter than usual harvest.

It was late in the night, well past midnight.  Kristy and I were sitting in the back office catching up on each other’s day when all the sudden we heard through the screen door what sounded like someone eating.  Startled, Kristy jumped up from her seat.  Trying to stay calm myself, I got up slowly from my chair, flipped on the back light and cautiously peered out the screen door.  As my eyes adjusted to the dimly lit backyard, I heard the rustling of vines over the garage.  Looking in the direction of the sound, I was pleasantly surprised to find a rather large raccoon sitting up and looking right at us eating our grapes.

Relieved it wasn’t an intruder and taken back by the sheer beauty of this creature, Kristy and I stepped outside to get a closer look.  Unaffected by our presence, he continued to eat while staring back at us as if we were just as interesting to look at.

As we watched him eat, Kristy exclaimed, “But he’s eating our grapes!”

“Yep.”  I said with a grin.

“Can’t you stop him?” She asked.

Not wanting to fight with Mother Nature or even knowing what to do even if I had wanted to, I asked in all sincerity, “What if we made him ours?”

“What do you mean?”  She asked.

“Well, if we made him ours, accepting him as part of our family, he wouldn’t be eating grapes that weren’t his.” I replied.

With a smile and nod, she said  “Yeah.  I like that.  Let’s make him ours.”

Making him ours, we shifted our perspective from wanting him to stop eating something that wasn’t his to hoping he was enjoying his grapes as much as we enjoyed watching him eat them.

After some time, appearing to be satiated, our newfound family member slowly turned and disappeared into the night.  Wishing him a goodnight, we headed to bed, feeling fortunate to have had the opportunity to spend such quality time with our raccoon.

A few days later, just as Kristy was leaving for work, she turned to me and said with a smile, “I think I heard our raccoon eating again last night.”

“I thought I did too.”  I replied.

“He sure is a noisy eater.”  She remarked.

“Yep.  He sure is.  If only we could teach him to eat with his mouth closed.” I replied.

****

Making him part of our family really opened our hearts.  So much so that I can’t help but wonder, “What else in my life could I make ours?”

Rob Gruber

Life Mastery Coach

Copyright 2009

Live by a Greater How!

At the wide-eyed age of twenty, well before the Internet and armed with only a telephone book and rotary phone, I purchased my first airline ticket to fly across the country to begin interviewing for jobs after college.

Never having bought a plane ticket, I wrote down everything I thought I could possibly say or be asked.  Just when I thought I had it all under control, the young lady on the other end of the line asked me the one question I had never thought of.  “How would I like to fly?”

“I’m sorry.” I replied. “I’m not sure what you mean.”

“Would you like to fly first class or coach?” She clarified.

“Oh! I didn’t even know I had a choice.  What’s the difference?” I asked.

As she explained the seating options and the price difference for each class, the decision was quite easy for a young college student on a budget.  I chose coach.

As I hung up the phone, pleased with my first ticket buying experience, I couldn’t help but notice that there was a greater unanswered how.  That “Greater How” was the manner, quality, state or way I could choose to be and experience myself as I traveled.

Considering the “Greater How,” I opened my journal and wrote at the top of the page, “How would I like to travel?”  Within seconds, I wrote down the words effortlessly and joyfully, then comfortably and playfully.  Gratitude, appreciation and enthusiasm soon followed, along with wonder and curiosity.  Last but not least, I wrote safely.

On the day of my flight, with my “Greater How” asked and answered, I packed a few of my favorite snacks, a good book, a neck pillow, sleep mask and a couple compilations tapes for my cassette player.  Settling into my window seat, I knew I was flying in a class all my own.

*****

How would you like to travel through your life?  How would you like to experience yourself as you go about your life?  Could you consider the possibility that you can choose how you wish to experience life?

Copyright 2009 Rob Gruber

Present Life Mastery Coach

The Frequency of Love

While waiting for a friend in the arrival area of the Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX, I noticed a young Korean woman pulling a large cart of luggage.  As she passed customs, she found an empty seat right across from me.

Just before she was about to sit, she pulled out from one of her bags the most adorable, fluffy, brown poodle that licked her profusely as she lovingly spoke to it in Korean.

As she sat down, she placed her little dog on the ground and opened a magazine.  Completely taken by this magnificent creature, I leaned over, reached out my hand and attempted to call it over to me.  Instead of rushing over, he just cocked his head and looked at me as if I were speaking another language.

Then it dawned on me that I was speaking English and he understood Korean.   Wanting to connect to this little bundle of joy, I dug deep into my memory for the few Korean words I learned years ago living in New York City and asked it to come, but still nothing.

Its owner, hearing me speak Korean, looked up from her magazine, smiled and politely complemented me on my Korean.  She explained that Louis was shy and didn’t usually respond well to strangers.

As we both continued to wait for our respective parties, it occurred to me that perhaps it wasn’t Korean that Louis was responded to.  Perhaps it was the love he felt coming from his owner.  And if that were true, I asked myself,  “Would Louis respond simply to my love?”

To test my hypothesis, I closed my eyes and focused on the most loving thing I could think of.  As I held that thought, I began to feel my love grow.  When I felt I could no longer contain my own love, I imagined sending all that love to Louis.

When I opened my eyes, I no longer felt the need for him to come to me.  I felt only love.   Ironically, it was at that very moment he walked right over to me. I reached down and he began licking my hand like we were the best of friends.

Witnessing this, the young woman exclaimed, “Wow!  How did you do that?”

I smiled and said, “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”

“Please,” she said. “I’ve never seen him do this before.”

“I imagined something I love with all my heart and when my heart was full, I imagined sending all of that love to him.” I replied.

“I see.  That’s good.”   She replied, “That makes sense.  He’s a rescue dog and he responds best to love.”

“As I imagine we all do.” I replied.

Copyright 2009 Rob Gruber

Present Life Mastery Coach

Three of my Favorite Words! “No Assembly Required”

One of my the fondest childhood lessons did not come from a book,teacher or class, but rather from my mother in the toy aisle at Kmart at the age of five.

Being one of five, Mom had little time for nonsense.   So on the rare occasion when we did make it to the store, which was almost always the local Kmart, the superstore of its time, we were expected to stick to her like glue.  Which, we did of course.

Knowing the floor plan of Kmart like the palm of her hand, she had the ability to get in and out of there more often than not without ever passing the toy aisle.  But on the rare occasion that she had a moment to spare, she would surprise us and let us roam the toy aisle for a minute or two.

In those brief moments of exploration, we did what kids do.  We went crazy.  Looking, exploring, playing, dreaming and if we felt Mom was in the mood, presenting her with a toy she could perhaps give “the nod” to take home.

Rarely did we get “the nod.”  But over the years and through trial and error, we did figure out how to increase our odds.  The toy generally had to consist of three things. First and foremost, it had to be reasonable priced (read into this on sale). Second, it had to be creative or promote growth.  And third, it had to contain the words “No Assembly Required.”

We picked up on the first two criteria pretty quickly. “On sale” and “good for you” were part of our family vocabulary.  But the third criteria, “No Assembly Required” took some time to figure out.

I discovered her third rule after giving her a toy for consideration. As I watched her go through the steps: On sale? Check. Good for me? Check, I caught her reading to herself, “No Assembly Required.”  She then turned the box back over, looked at the front again, looked me in the eye, smiled and gave me the Nod.

Excited, I hugged her and thanked her.

Beaming as I held my toy, waiting for my sisters to pick out something for consideration, I asked.  “What does “No Assembly Required” mean?”

Smiling she said, “It means you don’t have to put it together.  You can open it up and play with it right now.  It’s whole. It’s perfect just the way it is.  Just like you.”

“Just like me?” I thought to myself. “Mom just said I was perfect like a really cool toy. Oh my God, I could explode with joy!”

Not knowing how to respond to her affirmation of my worth or even knowing what an affirmation was at the time, I hugged her and thanked her again and then realized I had to tell my sisters what I just discovered.  Running through the toy aisles I whispered to each of them, “It has to say, “No Assembly Required” on it. It has to be whole and perfect just like us!”

And to this day, on the rare occasion that I do go shopping, I often find myself taking a second to walk through the toy aisle and turn over a box or two to read three of my favorite words, “No Assembly Required.”

Unbridled Permission

It was at this very spot!On a cool summer morning, at the impressionable age of six, I joined the swim team at the neighborhood pool. Decked out in my new warm-up suit, Speedo and goggles, I was ready to go.

When Coach Thomas blew his whistle and hollered, “Let’s go guys, let’s get in there and warm up.” I tore off my warm-up suit, put on my goggles and ran across the deck of the pool to dive in. But just as I was about to make my first big dive, I noticed out of the corner of my eye, my fellow teammates had barely even moved.

A bit confused and not wanting to look silly, I slowed down and nonchalantly walked back to my original position, waving my arms back and forth as to make it look like this was all part of my warm-up.

As I stood there swinging my arms with my goggles still on, waiting for what felt like an eternity for my fellow teammates to get moving, Coach Thomas, seeing my excitement, came up from behind, placed his enormous hands on my small shoulders and said with a gentle nudge, “Go get’em Tiger. Show them how it’s done.” Without skipping a beat, I ran across the deck, dove in to the frigid water and swam my heart out.

At the end of practice, while attempting to warm myself up from a mild case of hypothermia, Coach Thomas, walked over to me and said, “You did good kid. Real good.”Before I could say anything, he turned and walked away. But then, all of the sudden, he turned back around and said. “Oh Yeah, and kid? You don’t need my permission to get in that pool and swim. You got that?”

“Yes, Sir.” I answered through shivering teeth.

“Good.” he said, turning and walking away.

From that day on I was the first one in and the last one out of the pool each and every practice. In no time at all, I became and remained one of the best in the league in my age group.

Looking back over the years, I often wondered why I didn’t excel in everything I endeavored like I did swimming. And then it occurred to me a few years back, the missing ingredient was unbridled permission. Coach Thomas, perhaps unknowingly, gave me the incredible gift of unbridled permission by making it clear I didn’t need his to swim my heart out.

I’m not sure why it took me so long to realize his words applied to anything I wanted in my life. But I am glad I finally realized I don’t need anyone else’s permission to live my heart’s desires.

And while I don’t need anyone else’s permission, I do need my own. To remedy that, I crafted a bunch of permission slips I write to myself that say this. I, (I fill in my name), give myself permission to (whatever I wish to be, do, have, create or experience) with all my heart and soul. After I have written my permission slip out, I read it to myself often and carry it with me wherever I go. It has made all the difference in the world.

Copyright Rob Gruber 2009
Present Life Mastery Coach

Happily Ever ??????

If I were to ask you to finish these three phrases, what would you answer?

“Once upon a __________”

“In a land, _____,__________”

“And they lived happily ever __________”

If you answered time, far, far away, and after, you’re not alone, in fact, you’re part of a large group I like to call everybody.

Now how is that possible?

As children, we were all introduced to the wonderful world of Fairy Tales. Tales so wondrous in nature, they were told to us over and over again without ever getting old.

While each tale was uniquely different, we began to notice a pattern.  Most of the Tales began, “Once upon a time, in a land far, far away land.”  Then, usually something bad happened to someone good and something needed to be done to fix it. After, and only after, something was done could they then live then “Happily Ever After.”

Over time and through repetition of this pattern, we all began to form a similar paradigm or mental model of “The Classic Fairy Tale.”  The more we experienced this pattern the more powerful our paradigm became. So powerful, in fact, we all answered, “time,” “far, far away,” and “after” without any other reference to The Classic Fairy Tale.

It as if we all have a similar program running in our heads that says, whenever asked, “What comes after “Once upon a…?” We will answer “time,” without thinking.

On an unconscious level, through the mere act of living, observing our world and noticing patterns, we form paradigms that affect how we respond to events in the future.

If the simple structure of the Classic Fairy Tale can find a permanent place in our minds, affecting how we respond, imagine how many more paradigms we have running through our minds and influencing our everyday lives.

Copyright Rob Gruber @ 2009

Present Life Mastery Coach