Thirty years ago best-selling author Karen Casey (Each Day a New Beginning) wandered into a support group and learned there was only one thing she could changeherself She found a group of people who had adopted this conceptand she joined them. The result? Change so profound Casey has dedicated much of her life to teaching others about it. Change Your Mind and Your Life Will Follow offers a dozen simple principles to live by. Each principle makes up a chapter. Each chapter includes meditation-style essays to help readers access peaceful, life-changing responses to just about any situation. It really is as simple as changing our minds. This little book will show you how.
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About the Author
Millions of fans around the world spend moments of quiet contemplation with Karen Casey daily. Karen is a writer and 12-step recovery workshop facilitator with over forty published titles in over ten different languages. She travels throughout the United States and internationally carrying her message of hope for others in recovery. She is the best-selling author of Each Day a New Beginning , the first daily meditation book written for women recovering from addiction. Oher titles include Let Go Now , Change Your Mind and Your Life Will Follow , 20 Things I Know For Sure , It’s Up to You , Codependence and the Power of Detachment , and Peace a Day at a Time. Karen lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Naples, Florida.
Read an Excerpt
Change Your Mind and Your Life Will Follow
12 Simple Principles
By Karen Casey
Red Wheel/Weiser, LLCCopyright © 2005 Karen Casey
All rights reserved.
TEND YOUR OWN GARDEN
It's easy to make other people the focus of our attention, isn't it? Women, especially, are raised to do so. We judge, we criticize, sometimes audibly; through anger, manipulation, shame, or guilt, we try to control the people sharing our journey. I have news for you. These are always wrong choices and never "the work" we have been called to do.
Focusing outside ourselves and attempting to control other people is a clever avoidance technique; temporarily, at least, it helps us escape having to look at our own sometimes troubling behavior. The irony is that we always see in others the very behaviors that we need to pay some attention to in ourselves. Always!
The people in our lives—family and friends, neighbors, even the strangers at the grocery or ahead of us in the traffic jam—are mirrors that reveal who we are. Our reactions to them show us what we need to work on in ourselves, and as we release them to live their own lives, we can get back to the business of controlling the only thing we really can control: our own responses to life.
Okay, but how? Simple. We have to learn some new behaviors and then practice them.
CULTIVATING NEW BEHAVIORS
ATTEND TO YOUR LIFE, NO ONE ELSE'S!
Many of us acquired the habit of interfering in other people's affairs early on in life. We heard our parents speaking critically about their friends, or other family members, or neighbors, for their actions or opinions. Obsessively watching the behavior of friends, family, or even complete strangers, and longing to change or control their behavior, is a great catalyst for inner turmoil. This goes hand in hand with the misguided idea that we can change anyone but ourselves. You can spend years trying to change a spouse or some other friend, but what a relief to finally learn that the a ff airs of others are not ours to control or even to judge. Being in charge of ourselves is enough.
It bears repeating: We are not in charge of others! Not their behavior, their thoughts, their dreams, their problems, their successes, or their failures.
Even the children we parent have their own journey to make, and our so-called control over them is, in fact, an illusion. We can set an example for them, we can suggest a set of behaviors, we can demonstrate a code of ethics, we can even require that they live by certain "house rules" while under our roof, but finally it is they who will decide who they want to be and what they want to do, regardless of our efforts. And for that we will become grateful in time.
I say: Let's celebrate the fact that we are in charge of no one but ourselves. It relieves us of a heavy burden, and a thankless job, one that never blesses us. Taking control of every thought we have and every action we take, and being willing to relinquish the past while savoring the present, will assuredly keep us as busy as we need to be. Doing these things, and only these things is why we are here. It's only when we live our own lives and manage our own affairs, freeing others to do the same, that we will we find the peace we seek and so deserve.
LET GO AND LET OTHERS BE THEMSELVES.
So many of us spend countless hours or weeks or, in some sad cases, years, trying to make someone be who we want them to be or do what we think is in their own (or perhaps our) best interests, only to repeatedly fail in our attempts. This is a tragedy as well as a misspent life. It's time to let go.
I was first introduced to the idea of "letting go" in a Twelve Step support group, and I was very slow to grasp the meaning. Wasn't it my job to guide a loved one's decisions and actions? To control them if I could? I had always thought that not doing so was selfish and uncaring. Thankfully what I finally learned was that our spouses, our friends, our family, our neighbors, even the strangers crossing our paths, must be who they are, not who we think they should be. They must make their own mistakes and, through what they learn, have reason to celebrate their own successes.
There are many reasons for letting go of this futile behavior, but the most important ones are that we will never succeed in controlling others and never experience peace in our own lives if we are always focused on how other people are living or how we think they should be living. If we want to be peaceful, we must let go of how others choose to live and take care of business in one life only: our own.
GET OUT OF THE CENTER OF OTHER PEOPLE'S LIVES.
Just as no one else can productively or peacefully be the total focus of our lives, we cannot waste precious time thinking we are or should be the center of someone else's life either. That may come as a blow to your ego, but it's time to learn this important truth. This does not mean we should quit interacting with people or shut them out in order to preempt being shut out. Nor does it mean we should ignore how other people are thinking and behaving for fear we will seek an unhealthy dependency on them. Observing others can be both edifying and enlightening.
It simply means getting perspective on our role in all interactions, and understanding where our responsibility for action ends and the other person's begins. Becoming entangled in other people's actions, dreams, or dramas binds us to them in emotionally unhealthy ways and prevents the growth we deserve. Unfortunately, many of us mistake being enmeshed for feeling safe. We want people around us who will pay us constant attention, who will make no plans that don't include us, have no thoughts that aren't shared. But that's not relationship, that's dependence; it is unholy connection. Relationships that truly bring us to peace are interdependent. They allow us to connect while still living and honoring our own lives and letting our "learning partners" do the same.
TAKE NO HOSTAGES.
Many of us think our most meaningful work has to do with minding other people's business. Why is it so hard to let other people have their own journey? Why do we persist in interfering in other people's lives, especially when we reap so few benefits? Because our parents did it is not reason enough. We no doubt observed our parents doing many things that we have chosen to avoid. No, there must be another reason.
After nearly three decades of emotional and spiritual growth through Twelve Step programs and other spiritual pathways, I have concluded that we mind other people's business, we "take hostages," so to speak, strictly out of our own insecurity. We get personally invested in other people and the outcomes of their actions because we see those outcomes as defining our lives in some way, as taking from us or adding to us some heretofore unrealized value.
How sad that we perceive our own well-being as so tied to the decisions, even occasional whims, of others. But we do it, again and again, and our lives are never better for it, at least in the long run. In the short run, trying to help a loved one live his or her life may seem like the right thing to do—it may even be engaging for a while—but taking charge of our own lives is as much work as any one of us needs to experience. The work of someone else's life belongs to that person and God.
In fact, thinking of God, if even just occasionally, in the midst of all our experiences—those that involve others and those that involve us alone—can change our perspective entirely. No experience is mystifying for long if we remember who is orchestrating it.
It is important to remember, of course, that accepting that God is in charge of everyone's life doesn't mean we have nothing to do. Indeed, footwork, some seemingly trivial and some quite specific and elaborate, is always necessary. We must be accountable in our own lives, moment by moment, and demonstrate this by doing the next right thing, but God is ever-present to guide us and everyone else too. Never is any one of us "out of his/her range."
STOP FOCUSING ON PROBLEMS SO THEIR SOLUTIONS CAN EMERGE
Lots of folks think that they need to attack their problems in order to resolve them. They will study a problem, analyze it from myriad angles, troubleshoot it, utilize so-called problem-solving techniques that may have appeared successful before, without realizing that within every problem lies its solution. That's right. Problems are only as big and as real as we make them. In fact, they only exist if we allow our egos to create them and then we feed them through our incessant attention.
Take a look at the following suggestions for changing how you look at the "imagined problems" in your life. And never doubt that by changing your mind, you can change every experience in your life.
CULTIVATING NEW BEHAVIORS
QUIT MAKING A BIG DEAL OUT OF ORDINARY SITUATIONS.
Okay, sounds good, but what's an "ordinary" situation? Being placed on interminable "hold" while trying to find out why a package has not arrived, for example; seeking help when your computer crashes in the middle of a project for work; dealing with a house remodeling project that is woefully behind schedule, and the workmen have failed to make an appearance for more than a week; getting in the wrong line at the grocery, the one where the three people ahead of you forgot an item and had to run back to get it, causing you to be late to meet a friend or to pick up your child from day care. And let's not forget the traffic jam, particularly when you are already running late. All of these extremely ordinary situations can become big problems if we let them. But we don't have to let them.
The only real problem situations are the ones that place our lives in jeopardy, and even those might be perceived as opportunities for new growth.
I remember a very wise man I taught with at the University of Minnesota saying that he used every traffic jam as an opportunity to pray for all of the people in all of the cars ahead of him. He said it immediately changed how he felt. He also had the feeling that his prayers helped to loosen up traffic, too. One can never know if that's objectively true, but simply feeling better from taking an action like prayer whenever one experiences "a problem" makes doing it worthwhile. Prayer certainly never hurts a situation or a person. Quite the contrary.
Let's make the decision to joyfully accept all situations— the lines, the traffic jams, the downed computers, and the rest—as opportunities to include God in our lives, in that moment, and then wait for the change in perception that will assuredly come.
Our lives change when our perceptions change. This is an absolute that we can count on!
Many years ago, as I was finishing up in the Ph.D. program at the University of Minnesota, I had a really frightening experience that taught me something about overreacting. All I needed was to get my dissertation approved by all five professors who sat on my committee. Four of the members approved it in a timely fashion. The fifth professor dragged his feet. Naturally, I assumed he was not going to approve it, but I couldn't even get him to make an appointment with me.
My dissertation advisor suggested I set a date for my orals anyway. I did and then pleaded with the "holdout" to meet with me. He finally agreed and I went to his office, a bit fearful but hopeful. His first words were, "This has got to be rewritten." I was stunned and terrified. I sat quite still for a moment, trying to collect my thoughts, which were bouncing from one scary scenario to another. I wanted to scream, call him horrible names, and run from his office. I wanted to shame him, since four of his colleagues had already approved my work in glowing terms and within the appropriate time line.
But before saying anything, I took a deep breath and then a miracle occurred. Some force within me took over my thoughts and I quietly suggested to him that we review his objections together. I was not sure where those words came from. Only moments before I had wanted to scream obscenities and run. But I remained calm. I didn't overreact. In fact, I didn't even react. I simply responded to his "attack" calmly.
What happened next was that we went through every one of his concerns in the three-hundred-page dissertation, and I addressed each one with explanations I didn't even actually hear. I could never have repeated them. Nor could I tell my husband one word I had said when I got home. It felt like an out-of-body experience. I watched myself explain away his criticisms and, three and a half hours later, he approved my work in glowing terms.
I left his office exhilarated but very confused. I knew I didn't know how to answer his questions. But somewhere within me the answers did reside. Had I fallen back on old habits and overreacted to his charge, I might never have received my degree. But I learned two important things from this experience that were, in fact, worth more than the Ph.D.: (1) I learned that remaining calm can help defuse a situation and feelings of terror, and (2) I learned that I had the capability to listen to an Inner Wisdom if I chose to.
I have never forgotten the feeling I had when I left his office. Nor have I ever forgotten that our answers are always within. What I have forgotten far too many times, though, is to turn to that source when I most need it.
Making the decision to give up overreacting will ensure us of far smoother relations with others; it will pave the way for a peacefulness we may not have experienced except on rare occasions in the past, and it will open the door to the wisdom that lies within each of us. And if we can't give up our habit of overreacting in every situation, stopping ourselves from overreacting even once a day will impact our lives and all of our relationships in a way we'd never have anticipated. The change isn't just in us. It affects everyone we touch.
When someone gets "in our face" or attacks us in any way, the desire to retaliate can be nearly overwhelming. My own past is riddled with scenarios where I put on my armor and responded with a vicious attack—frequently an attack far worse than the one that had been directed at me. My dad and I so easily got trapped in this "dance." Every attack on me, my brother, or my mom incited me to rage. There were no winners. My mom was not helped by my behavior. Nor was my brother or I. In every case, whatever justification I felt at the time quickly dissipated. It was generally followed by mortification, shame, embarrassment, or worse. Never did I feel good about my response after I reviewed it in my mind. But seldom was I willing to apologize.
It never occurred to me that being "attacked," verbally or perhaps even physically, didn't necessitate a response. Maybe I needed to remove myself from the situation or even seek the help of the authorities, but I did not have to respond. What a relief when I finally realized this! I had so many opportunities to practice this, to walk away—with my dad, my first husband, my boss of many years. And until I got well into recovery from addictions, I missed every one of these opportunities. Not once did I interpret an attack as a sign of fear on the part of the perpetrator. But that's often precisely what it is.
In my youth, I thought that walking away would be perceived as giving in, and I wanted to make sure my point was understood. But walking away doesn't mean agreeing with your adversary. On the contrary, it means nothing more than that you have made the choice to disengage. These days, I actually relish every opportunity to let a situation pass me by that would have engaged my ire in the past. I feel empowered every time I make this choice. The older I get the more I realize that no circumstance is helped by my anger; very few situations actually endanger me or my life, and I will never know peace if I let myself get trapped in meaningless bickering. Once you look at things this way, you realize that there is precious little in our lives that doesn't fall into this "not life-threatening" category. When all is said and done, doing nothing is often the most helpful thing you can "do"—for all concerned.
DISENGAGE FROM THE CHAOS.
I remember attending a family wedding where the groom's side of the family made up the majority of the guests. The combination of alcohol and testosterone led to fights, many tears, and the arrival of cops. While the chaos was real, I realized I didn't have to contribute to its escalation. Staying in the drama would only have meant filling my mind with the chaos as well. Those of us who wanted to simply left, giving over the evening to those who wanted to continue the drama. Most chaos is a product of some past, oftentimes imagined slight. One way to free yourself from chaos is to try to stay present in the moment, to not layer an experience with the emotions of memorable chaotic past experiences as well. But this takes real vigilance. Our minds so easily gravitate toward old experiences—or at least what we thought we experienced—as a way of interpreting or anticipating what might come next. If the memory is of something chaotic, we will naturally expect the same this time around and thus increase the chances of actually creating that anticipated chaos in the here and now.
Excerpted from Change Your Mind and Your Life Will Follow by Karen Casey. Copyright © 2005 Karen Casey. Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
A Preface Revisited v
Introduction: My Journey 1
1 Tend Your Own Garden 7
2 Stop Focusing on Problems So Their Solutions Can Emerge 13
3 Let Go of Outcomes 23
4 Change Your Mind 33
5 Choose to Act Rather Than React 41
6 Give Up Your Judgments 53
7 Remember That You Are Not in Control 63
8 Discover Your Own Lessons 73
9 Do No Harm 85
10 Quiet Your Mind 101
11 Every Encounter Is a Holy Encounter-Respond Accordingly 109
12 There Are Two Voices in Your Mind-One Is Always Wrong 119
13 Shortcuts for Changing Our Minds and Our Lives: A Summary 131
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The book is written in a very down to earth simple way that makes it easier to understand to anybody. After I finished reading it,I order 4 copies to give to my adult children and everyone has agreed on how helpful and inspiring it has been for them. I enjoyed the book a lot and will recommend it to anyone interested in having a more peaceful and relaxed view of life!
This book made some huge points on how to live your life the best way that you can. The biggest point I got out of it is that you have to live your own life. Focus on yourself and improving yourself. That will, in turn, improve those involved in your life. You cannot change anyone else, so start by controlling the way you act, react, think, speak, etc. This is a must read for all women. I loved it.
Change Your Mind and Your Life Will Follow12 Simple Principlesby Karen Casey This 149 page marvel totally hits the spot when it comes to finding a tried and true method of distilling fear and changing our attitudes. The author in her sweet unmistakable style shows us that when we try to control others out of fear, we are only imprisoning ourselves. This precious hardcover how-to teaches us step by step how to move from a life of addiction to a life of freedom. I especially enjoyed the stories and snippets thrown in throughout this helpful read. The format was easy to follow and the suggestions were clear and succinct. I would recommend this enlightened guide to anyone serious about finding new ways to handle old situations, and becoming changed from the inside out. Thanks so much Karen, for all you do. Love & Light, Riki Frahmann
On one hand, I found the writer's style to be clear, motivational, and warm. She was realistic and frank. On the other hand, it seemed some points were repeated with poor organization. I didn't really find any "revelations", but certainly warmly and directly expressed reminders and suggestions. In that sense, the book was very accessible and down-to-earth. I would recommend it for most people as a nice way to spend 5-10 minutes each day. I wouldn't recommend it for those in crisis or needing serious, "profound" impact.
Karen Casey has found a way to help anyone start to live a happy life and share her secrets in an easy to understand and apply method. As I read her thoughts, case studies and real life lessons, I could only think 'I need to write to her and thank her for sharing her wisdom with me'. Her solutions to most of the problems or issues we humans face on a daily basis work.
I pressed the wrong button when I gave the book just one star. I strongly believe that this is a book that I really need. I will buy this book, no doub!