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

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Love Without Reason

IMG_1535One of my earliest memories of unconditional love occurred in the spring of 1975. I was six. My four sisters and I were huddled around the television in the family room watching Saturday morning cartoons when my father poked his head in and said with a big smile on his face, “Turn the TV off and come into the living room. Your mom’s got a surprise for you.”

Hearing the word surprise, we all jumped up and ran into the living room. But as we turned the corner, we were stopped in our tracks by the sight of our mother sitting in a chair at the other end of the room with a stack of beautifully wrapped presents at her feet.

Frozen and fixed on our mother’s every move, we waited in anticipation for what would come next. Without any delay or explanation, she proceeded to call out all our names, oldest to youngest, and presented us each with a gift.

When my name was called, I ran to my mother’s side, thanked her for the gift and plopped down on the floor right in front of her. To my delight, I found something I had always wanted, a collection of plastic dinosaurs, caves and cavemen.

Consumed by my gift, I was a bit oblivious to what my sisters received. But what I wasn’t oblivious to was the fact that it wasn’t a holiday, someone’s birthday or special occasion. It was just an ordinary day. Curious to the reason for our gifts, I went to my mother and asked, “Mom, I really like my present. I really do, more than anything, but I was wondering. Why did I get a present today? It’s not like it’s my birthday or anything like that?”

She smiled a smile only a loving mother could smile and playfully replied, “Just because.”

My curiosity not satisfied, I asked, “Because of what?”

“No reason. No reason at all. Just because.” She said with that same smile.

“You mean you gave us all presents just because, for no reason at all?” I asked.

“That’s right.” She replied with joy. “Now go and play with your dinosaurs.”

And play I did well into the night.

As I laid in bed that night with a dinosaur in each hand, thinking about this extraordinary day, I couldn’t help but come to the realization that it was possible for me, a six-year old boy, to love and be loved “just because,” for “no reason at all.”

Now as a man, deeply and positively affected by my early childhood revelation, I have come to the conclusion through much trial and error that it is not only possible to love without reason, but it is, in fact, the only way to love.

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

See the Fundamental Similarities in All of Us

While stopped at a traffic light at a busy intersection in the city of Los Angeles on a late Saturday night, a young bearded man wearing a blue flannel shirt walked between the stopped cars holding a sign that read, “Please help me.” Walking up to the right side of my car, I rolled down my window and handed him a few dollars. Thanking me, he turned to the truck to my right. As he turn and looked into the truck, he stopped in his tracks.

For what seemed to be a frozen moment in time, the two men locked eyes and recognized the uncanny resemblance they had to each other, down to the very same blue flannel shirt. The young bearded man in the truck, seeing this young man that could be his twin asking for help, rolled down his window, reached into his wallet and handed him a large wad of cash.

The young homeless man, taken aback by such a generous gift, tried to give the money back, but the young man in the truck insisted he keep it.  As the homeless man finally accepted the generous gift, the light turned green. They quickly shook hands and the young bearded man in the truck drove off into the endless sea of traffic.

The three of us were changed forever.

*******

If you came upon a stranger that looked exactly like you needing assistance, would you help? I imagine you would. I know I would. I would find it hard to turn down a reflection of myself.

But now imagine that a complete stranger that looks nothing like you asks for help.  What would you do? I know you already know your answer. But before you commit to that answer, imagine taking a second to see all the fundamentally similarities you share with this imagined stranger.

From this place of fundamental similarities, would you be more inclined to help?

Now imagine that you practiced this in your everyday life. How would your life be different if you began today to first recognize all your fundamental similarities with everyone you encountered you before you recognized your differences?

I can tell you that if you can master this, seeing the fundamental similarities first, you may never get around to seeing the differences.

With Love,
Rob Gruber

Present Life Mastery Coach
Copyright 2009 Rob Gruber

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.”

Your life may be fuller than you’ll ever know!

Every summer as a child, my father would take the whole family to my Aunt’s house in the country for an all-day bar-b-que.  I remember those days like they were yesterday, not because of the wonderful times we had there, which we did, but rather because of the stomachaches I always got from eating way too much.

Despite my mother’s ever-watchful eye and her constant reminder not to over do it, I always found a way to sneak back to the buffet table for a yet another little taste of bar-b-que heaven.  As the day progressed and my sneaking continued, I did what I had done so many times before, I ate my way to a stomachache. An ache so painful, I could only ease it by lying face down, motionless on a picnic bench for the rest of the night.

It took me three years of family reunions to learn my lesson, but I learned it well and remained ever mindful of the need for moderation.

While I always wondered how I could be perfectly fine one minute and then all of the sudden painfully full the next.  I found out much later in life that it takes about twenty minutes for the stomach to signal the brain that it is full. More plainly put, it takes twenty minute for me to realize I was full, in which time I continued to stuff my face, resulting in one memorable stomachache.

Realizing the mind is a step behind the stomach I began to wonder.   If it takes twenty minutes to realize I my stomach is full how long does it take to realize that my life is full. Could it be that my life is full now and I have yet to realize it?

Not knowing how to measure this since my mind is a step behind.  I decided to look back at my life, not through memories, but through old photos I had of myself.  It was here I found the proof I was looking for.

In each and every picture, from the perspective of this present moment, I can honestly say my life was fuller than I was consciously aware of at the time.  I was, in a word, full and never fully knew it.

I realize this is a completely subjective test. But it has made me a firm believer that my life is and always will be much fuller than I am able to realize.

Copyright Rob Gruber 2009

Present Life Mastery Coach