Thursday, December 17, 2009

Brain Fitness Test

Here there are 10 brain teasers.
You get one point for each correct answer.
If you get 10 points you are a genius
5 points you are half a genius.
Zero points - you are no genius :)

1 - If you are in a dark room with a candle, a wood stove and a gas lamp.
You only have one match, so what do you light first?

2 - Can you name three consecutive days without using the words Monday, Wednesday, Friday or Sunday?

3 - You are caught by the Moroccan police without wearing socks and condemned to spend a night in prison.
You have three rooms to choose from to spend your night.
First is a room full of poisonous scorpions.
Second a room full of sadistic criminals.
And third a room full of lions that haven’t eaten in three years.
Which room should you choose?

4 - Mary’s father has five daughters and no sons.
He named the first daughter Nana, the second Nene the third Nini and the forth Nono.
What is the name of the fifth daughter?

5 - You are participating in a race.
If you overtake the second person in the race, what position are you in?

6 – A father and his teenager son are in a very bad car accident and rush to the hospital.
The paramedics take them to the emergency room.
The surgeon enters the room, looks at the teenage boy and says:
- I can not operate on this boy. He is my son.
Who is the surgeon?

7 – You have three boxes of nails and screws and all three are labeled incorrectly.
The box #1 is labeled “nails”
The box #2 is labeled “screws”
The box #3 is labeled “screws and nails”
Can you put the labels in the correct order by picking only one item from only one box?

8 – Mary wants to buy a red balloon and a pink ribbon.
The total cost is $ 1.10. She asks the clerk how much the balloon costs and the clerk tells her that the balloon costs $ 1 more than the ribbon.
How much does the ribbon costs?

9 - Three people check into a hotel. They pay $30 to the manager for one room.
The manager later realizes that the room rate is $25 and gives $5 to the bellboy to return to the people.
On the way to the room the bellboy reasons that $5 would be difficult to share among three people so he pockets $2 and gives $1 to each person.
Now each person paid $10 and got back $1. So they paid $9 each, totaling $27.
The bellboy has $2, totaling $29. Where is the missing $1?

10 – A train going 100 Mph leaves Kalamazoo going to Chicago.
At the same time a plain flying 500 Mph leaves Chicago going towards the train.
When the plain meets the train it turns around back to Chicago and when it reaches Chicago it turns around towards the train.
The plain keeps flying between Chicago and the train until the train reaches Chicago.
Knowing the distance between Chicago and Kalamazoo is 1000 miles.
What was the distance the plane flew?


1 – The match.

2 - Yesterday, today and tomorrow.

3 – The lion’s room. - After three years they should be dead.

4 - Mary

5 – Second

6 – The mother of the boy

7- Yes. - You pick one item from box # 3 and whatever you pick it will be the correct item.
Let’s say it is a nail then the box #3 is nails. That means box #2 can not contain nails or screws so it has to be “nails & screws” which leaves box # 1 to be “screws”

8 – The ribbon costs 5 cents - $ 0.05 + 1.05 = 1.10

9 - Originally, they paid $30, they each received back $1, they now have only paid $27. Of this $27, $25 went to the manager for the room and $2 went to the bellboy.

10 – The time it takes the train to reach Chicago is 1000 : 100 = 10 hours which is the total time the plane is flying, therefore the distance the plain flies is 500 X 10 = 5000 miles.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Fear and Anxiety IV

“Faith consists in believing when it is beyond the power of reason to believe.
It is not enough that a thing be possible for it to be believed.”

We all know Mel Gibson as a great actor, movie director and devout Christian.
We all have seen or heard of the movie “The Passion of Christ”
We also know or have heard about his troubles with the police.

Now, let me ask you this question:
How the hell did that happened?
I mean if a guy that has that kind of faith in God and has made such a great deal of worshiping God in such a grandiose and spectacular way, gets into such terrible trouble – what kind of faith in God should a Buddhist like me or an atheist have?

For the “pure anxiety”, the one presumably without cause or reason, the only cure we have is a seemingly unfounded, unreasonable faith in God.
Without that absolute faith in God we have nothing.
Yet, bad things happen to good people and good things happen to unremarkable people.
How is that possible? How does it work?

“Faith… Must be enforced by reason…When faith becomes blind it dies.”

Let’s go back and look at what faith is.
Faith is the result of trust which in turn is the result of our relationships.
You might think that a guy like Mel Gibson has a pretty solid relationship with God and should be able to get some “special treatment” from the all mighty, don’t you think?
But a relationship is a two way street.
It is not only what we think about God it is also – and maybe even more important – what God thinks about us.

If you are an alcoholic, womanizing, racist, hypocrite – you might call yourself a Christian but God will call you an asshole and treat you exactly like that.
Unlike the propaganda of organized religions, God does not play favorites.
Your faith in God should be only based on what God thinks about you not on the promises of your religious leaders.
Your faith in God should be based only on the relationship you have with God.

And here lies the big problem and the untold truth about our anxieties.
We live in the most stressful, depressing, dark age because we live in the most unfaithful time of history.
We live in a permanent state of anxiety because we have forfeited our relationship with God and replaced with the lip service of organized religions.
We live in anxiety because we have no faith, because we do not trust God, because we falsely think God has forsaken us, when in fact is the other way around.

“Faith isn't the ability to believe long and far into the misty future.
It's simply taking God at His Word and taking the next step.”

So I would like to end this series on “Fear and Anxiety” by repeating something I always say:
You are the question to be answered, the problem to be solved.
You are the path, the obstacle and the destination.
You are the wisdom and the answer you seek.
Within you there is the power of all possibilities.

“Know yourself!”

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Fear and Anxiety III

“Keep your dreams alive. Understand to achieve anything requires faith and belief in yourself, vision, hard work, determination, and dedication. Remember all things are possible for those who believe.”

Another little problem I have with the classical definition of anxiety is that I believe in the law of cause and effect and it is impossible for me to accept anything that is defined as “accidental” or “without reason.”
To find out what anxiety is – beyond that “a fear without reason” definition – let’s take another example.

By the end of George W Bush’s second term the country was in pretty bad spiritual shape.
Most people feared the worse and braced for an economical crush.
I would qualify that state of mind as an anxiety-fear for the following reasons.
The danger although present can’t be clearly defined. The economy is a pretty large and vague thing. It is also very unpredictable and certainly very uncontrollable.

So what we can do in a situation like that is to apply the “proactive” approach.
You pay off as much of your debt as possible.
You reduce your monthly bills, by reorganizing your priorities or like in my case by refinancing my mortgage.
You build up some financial reserve to build up your financial stability and confidence.
But after all that is done you will still have the “anxiety” part of your fear present.

“Faith makes all things possible.... love makes all things easy.”

What you really need to stop that anxiety is “faith”
Hope is the reverse of “anxiety” and it came to us in the form of the great, black hope “Obama”
Once we accepted him – based on total faith – as the savior of the nation, things did not seem as bad anymore. Although in truth not much has changed in real life.
Faith makes anxiety disappear.

But what is faith and how do we get it?
Faith is a measure and the result of trust.
We have faith in somebody or something based on the trust we have in them.
Then of course the next question is what is trust and how we get that?
Trust is a measure of our experience.
We trust people or things based on the experience – or lack of experience – we have with them.

“Skepticism is the beginning of Faith.”

We might initially give someone the benefit of the doubt and give them our trust but it is very hard to have faith in somebody that has lied or disappointed us in the past.
The anxiety we are having today about the future of our economy is caused by these bad experiences we had have in the past.
We’ve been lied to and disappointed so many times by our leaders that is very difficult to have any hope.
We try very hard to prop up the hope and give them every chance to prove us wrong again and again.
But we are running out of faith.

“Without faith a man can do nothing; with it all things are possible.”

(to be continued…)

Monday, December 7, 2009

Fear and Anxiety II

“Worry is a thin stream of fear trickling through the mind. If encouraged, it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained.”

By now you might already know I have a little problem with the way we view reality.
It seems to me that in the past decades we have narrowed our point the view of reality to the “scientific” point the view only, leaving outside all the other points of view.
We therefore, define anxiety as follows:

“Anxiety is a generalized mood condition that occurs without an identifiable triggering stimulus. As such, it is distinguished from fear, which occurs in the presence of an observed threat. Additionally, fear is related to the specific behaviors of escape and avoidance, whereas anxiety is the result of threats that are perceived to be uncontrollable or unavoidable.”

There is a little problem with this definition.
Reality is not black and white as the definition may imply.
Between “fear” and “anxiety” there is a wide spectrum of emotional experiences I like to call “anxiety-fears” or “fear anxieties”
Let me give you some examples:
The fear of natural disasters and pandemics, the fear of social events – like a stock market crash or the fear of being laid off.

Those all are emotions that do not “fit” the classical definitions of fear or anxiety.
Is the fear of being laid off real or imaginary?
Which one is real today: The fear of the economy collapsing or the hope of the economy is rebounding?
There is no clear answer to that, hence my question. Are we then dealing with fears or anxieties?

The answer to that question is very important because that answer determine the course of action we have to take.
Obviously if you are dealing with fear, direct action is the proper course.
But what if you are dealing with a “fear – anxiety” like the fear of natural disasters?
Obviously direct action will not work – you can’t control a natural disaster – although we have attempted to – see the New Orleans and Katrina event.

“Nothing can be meaner than the anxiety to live on, to live on anyhow and in any shape.”

I live in California and I heard many time this remark:
“I don’t understand how people live California with the constant threat of earthquakes.”
The secret of taming that threat is a “proactive” attitude.
When you are facing a potential danger over which you have no control, you take control of the “consequences” rather than the danger.

Practically all buildings in California are built to withstand earthquakes.
On top of that all or the majority of Californians have “earthquake proofed” their houses and the majority of us have a large supply of food and water in storage just for that reason.

The “cure” for fear is direct action and the “cure” for anxiety is faith.
The cure for everything in between would therefore be a mixture of action and faith.
Obviously the more like anxiety your emotional state is, the less action will work and the more faith you need and vice versa.

“Anxiety is the rust of life, destroying its brightness and weakening its power. A childlike and abiding trust in Providence is its best preventive and remedy.”
(to be continued...)

Friday, December 4, 2009

Fear and Anxiety

“Love is what we were born with. Fear is what we learned here.”

We live in very troubled times - needless to say.
War, climate change, pollution, famine, disease and economical crisis are the main course of our daily news feast.
Fear and anxiety are not any more an exception but rather the norm by what we live.
But what exactly is fear and anxiety?
And most important: How do we deal with them?

“Fear is an emotional response to a perceived threat.
It is a basic survival mechanism occurring in response to a specific stimulus, such as pain or the threat of danger.”

Let’s say that you find yourself facing a mean threatening dog.
You can do two things:
You can defend yourself using your body, a rock, a stick or you can run to avoid the attack.
In other words you fight or run – That is the natural response we have to threats.

Getting scared is not a lack of courage, it is a survival skill.
We have to learn how to avoid dangers and fear as well as pain not being our enemy but rather the first line of defense.
Fear and pain are the sentinels that tell us when we are in trouble and peril.

“The key to change... is to let go of fear.”

Although the preferred way to deal with our problems is avoidance, postponing a problem doesn’t solve it in most cases.
In most cases avoiding facing our fears makes our problem even bigger.

I had this dear friend that had a problem paying her bills in time.
Every month it was the same drama taking place.
Bills over due, late fees and penalties, overdraft accounts, pain and misery.
I tried to help her by creating a payment schedule but she never followed.

I couldn’t understand her behavior.
According to my understanding of human behavior, our action are designed to maximize pleasure and to avoid pain, but what she was doing – seemed to me – was to create a lot of unnecessary pain and trouble.
Then I got a revelation.

Imagine yourself not as one person but as two people living in the same body: You and your subconscious mind.
You say to yourself:
-Let’s pay the bills!
- That sound’s like a lot of work – your subconscious replies – Is there anything else we can do?
- I could postpone it – you say to yourself.
- That sounds like a great idea. I prefer the pleasure of doing nothing than the pain of paying the bills.
So you do exactly what you are supposed to do – you avoid the pain – you do not pay the bills :(

“Every time we choose safety, we reinforce fear.”

So the way we fixed that is by changing the task presentation.
Instead of asking – Do you want to pay your bills?
The correct question is – Do you want the excruciating pain of late bills?
The answer of course will be different this time :)

Action is the only cure for fear.

(to be continued...)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Tune Up

My kids were watching “Akeelah and the Bee” the other day.
(If you have kids I highly recommend this movie.)
I was in the room at the same time doing some research on my laptop while keeping tabs on the movie.
(I have this bad habit of multi tasking. - Is it a gift, is it a curse? I don’t know.)
The movie is really good – for the children – but my interest was focused more on my computer.

Suddenly Laurence Fishburne – playing one of the characters in the movie – started in his deep baritone voice, this quote:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
We ask ourselves: Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”
Marianne Williamson

Every process in my brain stopped at that moment as the light of that truth hit me like a ton of bricks.
While still in that “Wow” state I realized something: We are open to the truth we want to hear and consciously or not that is what we hear.

There is fear spreading like wild fire. There is panic and paranoia. There is prejudice and hatred making their voices louder and louder now days.
But there is also hope, compassion and love. There is joy, peace and understanding. There is a booming spiritual movement like an ocean tide sweeping the world.

It is not a new thing. This has been going on since the dawn of human civilization.
We have always had fear and hatred trying to overtake our natural instinct of love and hope.
What is new however is the new technologies that have enhanced the speed and volume of these voices.
What is new is the exponential increase in battle for your ears for your “listening”

Are you listening?
What are you listening to?
Are you listening to your fears and nightmares or are you listening to your hopes and dreams?
Because just like a radio tuned on a certain wave length, your consciousness will pick up exactly what you are opened up to receive.
Don’t let your fears dictate what you hear.
Tune up to love!