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

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.”

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

Ease Your Suffering

If you’ve ever wondered why you suffer in a crisis, you don’t have to look too far for the answer. Breaking down the word Crisis, CR – IS – IS, you will find two “ISes.” That’s right. I said “ISes.

The “First IS” represents “your current reality.”

The “Second IS” represents “the reality you wish it were instead.”

Suffering occurs whenever you want “your current reality” to be different than what it is.

*********

The next time you find yourself in the middle of a crisis, consider asking yourself the following questions.

“Is this really a crisis?” This question challenges your old paradigms. Don’t underestimate the power of its simplicity.  You may be surprised how often you will answer no.

“Is this my crisis?” This question is a great way to determine whether you’re being influenced and/or assuming responsibility for someone else’s crisis.  If it’s not yours crisis, you can end your suffering and simply offer compassion or assistance.

“Could I want this in my life?” Taking a moment to consider wanting what you initially didn’t want could open your eyes to a whole new world of possibilities.

“Could I accept my current reality?” Accepting your current reality is by far the quickest way to end your suffering, allowing yourself to move more effectively through this moment and onto the next.

To paraphrase the Greek philosopher Socrates, while change can be difficult, the unexamined crisis is not worth suffering.

Copyright 2009

Rob Gruber – Present Life Mastery Coach