drama_masks I am in London, one of my favorite cities on earth: the history, the buildings, the English people, everything about this place charms me. I love the big taxis that I have a challenge getting in and out of, but once I’m in, they’re big and roomy and the drivers are pleasant and chatty in that lovely English way of speaking (clearly, they don’t think it’s an accent — they speak “Proper” English, the Queen’s English!), and I listen and just swoon with delight!

I’m here for a Landmark Education course called “The World is Your Stage.” It is affectionately called, “the acting course”; and, yes, it is sort of about acting, but more about who you’re being in the world. I’ve been doing Landmark Education courses since 2005, and they are ALL about who you are being and the possibilities your way of being opens up for you in your life. This one happens to be through the lens of acting.

One of the leaders of the course is Werner Erhard, the man who created Erhard Seminar Trainings in the 1970’s, better known as EST. I didn’t do the training then. Transcendental Meditation, or TM, was also introduced to the United States at that time, mostly by The Beatles, who studied with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and I decided that was more for me than EST — no weekends in a room without bathroom breaks for me! Those are the stories I heard and I thought, “What kind of course makes those kinds of demands?” I didn’t even hear the stories of the breakthroughs people had about their lives — because I didn’t want to; I didn’t think my life needed a breakthrough — my attitude was “Who needs that?”

The answer to that is, I did. My ego was so firmly entrenched that anything that spoke of growth and change was a threat to me. TM was so calming — I didn’t even do it for the spiritual value; I did it for the peacefulness it gave me. I meditate to this day, but it now is part of my spiritual practice.

My life went on: I lost a baby, I had a baby, I left the fashion business, I left my husband, my son left me — with the cat — and I suffered from depression for many years, trying every medication under the sun to get me to a place of “normal” so that I could actually function in life.

I finally did the Landmark Forum in April, 2005, and then continued with LE courses after that because every single one provided some amazing breakthrough, some fabulous shift for me. By that time, Werner was long gone — “run out of town,” so to speak, by a horrible “60 Minutes” segment that accused him of some not very nice things, which caused quite a stir. Those accusations were later refuted and retracted — he never did any of it, people recanted, the IRS admitted they were wrong, all of which never made the front pages, but was buried in the back of the newsfeed. The harm was done and Werner sold his company to his employees, who changed the name to Landmark Education, he left the United States — and for a very long time, no one heard from him.

Still, I wondered at those who spoke of Werner with such love and devotion that it almost landed for me as “guru-esque” — something that has never appealed to me. I wondered, “how could a person have been so vilified by one segment of the population and loved so profoundly by so many others?” I was curious about him, but no more than that.

Last November, when I went to hear Werner speak on a new model of Leadership at NYU’s Skirball Center, he wasn’t on the stage 5 minutes before I got the charisma, the love, the sheer power and Being of the man — and I saw why everyone loves him so much — and I remember feeling what a disservice “60 Minutes” did to the rest of the world to reduce him to some I-don’t-know-what. What a cowardly thing to do in the name of news! They robbed the rest of us, for a short time anyway, of the love and devotion that Werner has for humanity — his commitment to what’s possible for human beings. At the end of that evening in Skirball Center, I was so touched and moved and inspired by him to live a great life, a life that in some measure could do what he has done for millions — which is to be the thought leader that he is… to make a contribution to people. His love for us just beamed out over the audience in the way I felt when I remember Martin Luther King, when I went to Sai Baba’s ashram, how I feel when I get my hugs from Amma.

And, now this weekend: To see how much he loves people, up close and personal. LOVES US. Every minute was a moment spent taking us to another level — to see what life could be for us: joyful, fulfilled, all of it. The way he’d kiss someone on the forehead or on top of the head, like a father comforting a child or rewarding a child was so touching. You know he means every word out of his mouth. His commitment to us was palpable — is palpable. And, he can spot bullshit a mile away — and dismantle it. One of the distinctions of this course is “I am loved,” which, for me, landed as spiritual. AND, I know — I mean KNOW in the deepest place in my being — that one of those who loves us simply because we are human, just the way we are and just the way we’re not — is Werner Erhard. It was an honor and a priviledge to be in the room with him.

Since the course was over on Sunday night, I’ve been through a range of emotions: loss, sadness, regret about some of the things I’ve done in my life; on to getting complete with those items, either by writing about them, or crying as I looked out my window at my view of Parliament and Big Ben; and got for myself that all these things I want to do — and don’t, all these dreams I have for myself — and don’t move toward them — these are all now integrity issues for me. I gave my Word to myself about so many things — writing my book, losing weight, having a relationship, getting rid of all my clutter — and I just haven’t done what I said I would do, and so I’m out of integrity with myself that I don’t live the life I want to live.

I thank Werner and the other leaders of that course, for having me see what there is to do now in the world; to see now what is possible for me in my life — simply by Being who I really am.

I think people are afraid of people who love so much, who contribute so much, who are not afraid to disrupt the status quo and shake things up — because then they might have to change, too. Not because Werner makes them change, or rather, transform; because, after being with people like this, you can no longer be satisfied with a small life — it’s simply not fulfilling. What is possible appears before me as my destiny as one who is already my Greatness — I, you — we just don’t know it yet. Werner reminds us — and that can be very threatening. Just as Martin Luther King was threatening, just as Gandhi was threatening — in fact, just as Christ was threatening.

After this weekend, I realized that not finishing this book I’m writing would not only be playing small, but it would be a cop-out in life. This “playing small” is now an integrity issue for me.

I’ve been with people who play big. I’ve been with Werner, who plays BIG. And, what he taught me is: that playing BIG is here for ALL PEOPLE.

Now, I am one of those people who loves him and is devoted to him. And, happy to be that.

Deliciously yours in the LOVE that is All, Linda

The header picture above is the view from my room here in London. I hear Big Ben chiming as I lay in my bed and think about what I’ve learned here, how I’ve transformed here, how my future rolls out in front of me as the beautiful future that it is!

 

© Linda Ruocco and “Spiritual Chocolate”, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Linda Ruocco and ”Spiritual Chocolate” with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Thank you

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I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions.

We say, “I’m going to go on a diet,” and maybe we join a gym or maybe we eat healthy –  for a few days or weeks –  and then —  we get too busy to  go to the gym, and we see a great dessert and say, “Oh, just this once…”

And that’s the end of the resolution.

We’re right back to where we were before.  Worse, really, because, now,  we feel bad about ourselves because we failed at THAT,  too.

We fail because we make it all about the “doing” and not about who we’re “being”…

For me, it’s been more effective to take a stand for something — a stand for myself, a stand for someone else — a stand for something that’s important to me.  That “stand” becomes something that the living without THAT would be — not who I am.

This is not easy.  It takes being present to who we really are all the time and THAT is a challenge.  It’s just not something we do — We tend to be a lot “foggier” about our lives.   Without that presence — Well, life will simply continue on automatic.

What it takes is courage.  Courage to face the truth in ourselves. Courage to do the work to be who we really are.

Complacency is so much easier.

The first step is to really get what’s going on now:  The “what’s so” in the matter.  Once you get that, you’ll know where you are standing now on the issue – and then you can see whether you like standing there or not.

I remember when I quit smoking for good.  I had quit many times before that last time.  I did all the things that smokers do when they try to quit:  I tapered off, for a while. Then —  a bad day at work would set me off and I would realize I’d finished a pack.   A few times, I quit cold – and all I could think of was a cigarette. Then I sneaked a cigarette at a party and was right back to smoking.

Every time I went back to smoking, I hated myself about it more than before.

I couldn’t trust my own Word to myself in the matter of smoking.

I never referred to myself as a smoker.  I tricked myself into thinking that I only smoked when I was socializing or I only smoked after dinner or I only smoked outside my apartment.

Rarely did I notice that I smoked when I was by myself and I smoked in the morning and I smoked sitting in front of the television late at night when I was too lazy to go out into the stairwell or to go outside.

On October 10th in 2000, my friend invited me to an Anthony Robbins event at the Meadowlands in New Jersey.  The Meadowlands is right across the Hudson River from Manhattan, so she also had to talk me into taking the train down to her house in South Jersey so that she didn’t have to drive to the Meadowlands alone – and so I did.

The night I arrived at her house, I sneaked outside to have a few cigarettes on the back deck.  I sneaked out there again the next morning and I smoked outside the Meadowlands, after our long drive from her house and before we entered the arena.

During the course of this event — a motivation-driven event for 3000 people that included speeches by Christopher Reeve, Barbara Walters, General Norman Schwarzkopf, Donald Trump, and Tony himself – I quit smoking for good.

I love Tony Robbins – in the pantheon of motivational speakers, he’s got the thing DOWN.  He’s got more energy than any ten people I know.  And he goes for the jugular of self-loathing in a way that leaves you no choice but to face yourself.  Really.

At one point in the event, he talked about smoking and smokers.  It was clear that he does not think that being a smoker is an empowering way to live one’s life…  What he thinks is even more disempowering is when we don’t know who we are around being a smoker…

He addressed the audience, “Raise your hand if you’re a smoker.”

I didn’t raise my hand.  After all, I wasn’t REALLY a smoker, I didn’t smoke ALL the time….

About one-third of the people raised their hands.

He then said, “Raise your hand if you’re not a smoker.”

Well, I couldn’t very well raise my hand.  I did smoke… SOMETIMES.

A different one-third of the people raised their hands.

Then, he said, “Raise your hand if you didn’t raise your hand for either of the other two choices.”

I breathed a sigh of relief.  Now, here was something I could get behind:   Ambivilance.

I proudly raised my hand high.

Well, pride goeth before a fall.

Tony said, “Good for you if you don’t smoke.  Acknowledge yourselves for that – you’re taking one step towards leading a healthy life.  There’s nothing more for me to say to you about this.”

Now for the smokers, “YOU know that you’re doing something that’s not good for you.  You know that and you continue smoking.  You think of yourself as a smoker and until you don’t, you’ll continue to be a smoker.  I’m not going to try to talk you into quitting smoking.”

No lecture, no advice, no nothing.

Tony continued, “The people I really want to address are those of you who didn’t raise your hand for either ‘Yes, I’m a smoker’ or ‘No, I’m not a smoker.’  Don’t you get that you either are or you aren’t a smoker?  There are only two choices here.  Who are you kidding?  Only yourselves.  Everyone around you knows what you are.”

Suddenly, I was embarrassed.  I guess I thought I was fooling everyone.

“You are living in a fantasy world.  A world where you cannot possibly make a powerful choice for yourself because you don’t even know where you stand RIGHT NOW.”

Tony didn’t say much more than that – he’s not into convincing people to do things.  What he did say was much more powerful:

“I’m going to ask you all again.  This time, I want you to choose one or the other because there can ONLY be one or the other.  Be honest with yourself.  Be true to yourself.  Be willing to be responsible for the consequences of your behavior, whatever that is.  Non-smoker?  Healthy choice.  Smoker?  Unhealthy choice.  Know thyself.  Choose powerfully.”

Then, he asked again, “How many of you are smokers?”

It was a moment of truth for me.  Am I a smoker?  Is that who I am?  Am I someone who daily makes an unhealthy choice for my life?  Someone who does something to put myself at risk for my LIFE every day?

NO, that’s NOT who I am.

I didn’t raise my hand.

Then, Tony asked, “How many of you are non-smokers?”

I hesitated only a moment.  I raised my hand. I was a non-smoker.

That was it.  I never smoked another cigarette.  I never reached for one, I never craved one, I never thought about smoking again since that day.

Looking back on it now, in the light of what I’ve learned since then, I realize that what I did – what Tony helped me to do – is the simple formula for transformation of anything:

Get profoundly related to the “what’s so” in the matter.  And, given that, what is your stand – for yourself, for your life, for the world?

That’s what I believe in.  That’s what I do every day of my life – about whatever comes up.  A stand is a very powerful thing – because we are very powerful Beings.

I’m working on my stand for 2010.  So far, it sounds something like this:

My possibility for myself and my life is to live in the fullness of life everyday, to be in partnership with everyone who comes into my life, to be someone who gives everything I have to give, always.

Happy New Year!

Deliciously yours in the Creation of it All,   Linda

“And now let us welcome the new year, full of things that have never been.”  Rainer Maria Rilka

 

© Linda Ruocco and “Spiritual Chocolate”, 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Linda Ruocco and “Spiritual Chocolate”  with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  Thank you.

ChocolateMartini2Hi, it’s Linda again — and today I want to share with you the luscious “secret” to having your dreams fulfilled… Here’s a hint…. It’s all about what comes out of your mouth….

Your Words have Power and Magic in them…

I’ve often spoken and written about how we create with our Words… I wish I could take credit for that observation – the truth is that all the great traditions have known this for centuries. The Buddha himself said:

“The thought manifests as the word. The word manifests as the deed. The deed develops into habit. And the habit hardens into character. So watch the thought and its ways with care. And let it spring from love, born out of concern for all beings.”

The Buddha lived from around 563 to 483 BC – so this is not new news!

Here’s a yummy story to illustrate my point….

A few years ago, I took the year-long Wisdom Course at Landmark Education. One of the areas that we work on in that course is “What are your dreams?” And the practice was to “Speak your dreams…”

At first, I thought, “Oh, that sounds nice…. but, REALLY….?”

Part of our homework was to make collages of how life “seems” to us… I didn’t realize it at the time, but those conversations that exist in the background of our lives are what keep us from having what we want… If we don’t believe we deserve it — or we say “Oh, that will never happen…,” it’s easy to see that we might just be the ones who are keeping those dreams at bay…. Out there, just beyond our reach…

My collages were very dramatic and dire…. I didn’t realize that I was holding it that I had “lost” so many things in my life…. even though, many of those very things I had chosen to leave behind: my glamorous career in the fashion business, going to fashion shows all over the world, staying in the most beautiful hotels, dinners with famous designers, living in a beautiful apartment off Park Avenue, my beautiful house on the beach in the Hamptons, and so on… and so on….

As I started to work on my collages, I started to come up with themes like, “It seems like I have destroyed everything that I love,” “It seems like I had my chance and I blew it,” and “It seems like I will never live in beauty again….”

As I worked on that last one, I noticed a picture on the worktable – it was a picture of an ancient temple, over-grown with vines and with big white trees growing up through the walls…. It spoke to me of a former grandeur that was no more…

“Like my life…”, I thought.

I grabbed the picture up from the table, turned to my group and said, “Who cut this out? Where is this? Does anyone need this one?”

Everyone said, “No, take it…. we don’t know what that is….”

I placed it carefully on my collage — it seemed to fit perfectly…..

We did other work with those collages – and I was able to shift my conversation about myself from how I had lost everything into “I am always triumphant!” It was a glorious moment for me when I got that for myself….

A few months later, I was invited to a special screening of a film created by two of the other participants in the Wisdom Course. The film is called “New Year Baby” and it is the director’s own story of her family’s survival and escape from the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia.

This award-winning film moved me to tears… By the time it was over, I wanted to know more about Cambodia, more about what happened during the reign of the Khmer Rouge, more about the director, Socheata Poeuv, whose story it was, and her co-writer and producer, Charles Vogl….

As I was speaking with Charles about Cambodia and how fascinating it was to me, he said, “We’re going with a group to Cambodia in February… Too bad I didn’t know earlier that you would be so interested… The trip is full…. Don’t worry, we’ll probably go again next year…”

I remember saying, longingly, “Oh, I really want to go…!”

The week after, my coach in the Wisdom course asked me to show my collages to the rest of the group and to tell them what I got from them. As I showed the collage titled, “It seems like I will never live in beauty again…”, a friend in the group, Deborah, pointed at the picture of the ancient temple and said, “I’ve been there!”

I just stared at her, “Where is that?” I said….

Deborah answered, “It’s in Cambodia….”

I got chills up and down my spine…

I looked at the board again, and I said, without thinking, “I’m going there…”

Three days later, Charles Vogl called me. He told me that three people had dropped out of the trip to Cambodia and did I want to come?

It was too perfect. I said “Yes” before I even asked how much it was!

I spent the next two months generating the money to go… it seemed almost effortless… “Effortless” is the way things seem to me when I am certain that I am on the right path. Obstacles dropped by the wayside, apartments closed with ease, the commission checks I needed to come through for the trip – Well, they just did…

I went to Cambodia for 10 days in February of 2007 – with 22 of the most wonderful people I have ever known. It was an adventure from beginning to end… both exciting and – at one point, scary – when one of the jeeps we were riding in on the way to a temple in the North, swung out of control and wound up flipping over several times to land upside down in a ditch on the side of the road. Charles’ parents were hurt and air-lifted to Bangkok, while Charles and my other friend, Ron, suffered less severe injuries – the jeep driver had to be taken to the hospital and remained there for months….

Several days into the trip, we visited a temple called “Ta Proehm.” Immediately, I recognized that this temple, with the white trees growing out of the walls, was the one from my collage. As I walked through the temple grounds, I felt myself becoming more and more captured by my surroundings… with each step, my anticipation grew…

Finally, I turned a corner…. and there it was… the very scene in my collage….

I couldn’t move… I was overwhelmed that I was standing there, in the very spot in which the photographer must have been standing when he took the picture… I felt led to that moment from the beginning of my journey so many months before….. The scene was awesome, a Presence palpable — how old the temple was and how many centuries it must have taken for the trees to grow up through the walls, how beautiful it all was…

“How beautiful it all was…!” As the thought struck me, I realized that my collage was titled, “It seems that I will never live in beauty again….” and here I was, standing in the midst of that raw, natural beauty – and I was a part of it….

A few of my friends who knew the story, came over to me… “This is it, isn’t it?”

I could hardly speak….”Yes… yes… this is it…..”

That moment will live forever in my memory… not only that I had manifested a dream by getting everything out of the way that prevented it from coming true… but that it had come true in an even greater way than I could ever have imagined…. to show me that what I once thought of as “over” and “lost” was really a new beginning….

Deliciously yours in the Grandeur of it All, Linda

“Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.” …Goethe

Ta Proehm2This is Ta Proehm in Cambodia, February, 2007 — A temple that had been lost in the jungle for centuries — when it was rediscovered, the government decided to leave it in it’s natural beauty rather than to clean it up as it did Angkor Wat, the most famous of the temples of the ancient Khmer civilization. They are both magnificent….. Ta Proehm is also the temple in which Angelina Jolie shot many of the scenes for her first “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider” movie…

If you want to know more about “New Year Baby,” the film that got me to Cambodia, please visit www.newyearbaby.net.

 

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© Linda Ruocco and “Spiritual Chocolate”, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Linda Ruocco and “Spritiual Chocolate”  with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  Thank you.

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