Saturday, February 12, 2011

Living in Fear or Living Fearlessly

Lately, our society has been moving in a dangerous psychological direction.We are fixated on a mental state called victimization, which steals free thinking and pushes people to believe that life is fraught with hopelessness and despair. Yes, some people are real victims, but the percentage is small compared to the numbers who feel they are being victimized. The mind-set of victimization is dangerous not only because it is socially acceptable, but also has become socially pervasive in our communities. It is a crippling state of mind as it promotes excuses for unhappiness, failure and misery. If you bring this thief of life to a conscious state of mind, you can avoid the pitfalls that arrive from this line of thinking.

From years of reading books on success, happiness, relationships, etc., one point is shared by all. You are the creator of your life…PERIOD! Your thoughts are the blueprint of your life. First in the mind then in reality
is how life actually works. The people in the world who have created wonderful, successful, happy lives have done so by taking full responsibility for their lives and actions. This is the first step to living a fearless life. One
author said this: “It is better for you to take responsibility for life as it is, instead of blaming others for your circumstances, for your predicament. As your eyes open, you’ll see that your state of health, happiness, and every circumstance of your life has been in large part, arranged by you consciously or subconsciously.” This is a rough concept to grasp but if you do, it will unlock the chains that hold you back from your dreams. An excellent example of fearless living is the story of Nelson Mandela, wrongly imprisoned in South Africa for his political views. He was beaten
and jailed for twenty-six years. Mr. Mandela was a victim in every sense and could have used his predicament to fuel anger and revenge. He refused to become a victim and used these events to motivate himself and his fellow compatriots to push for national equality. He eventually became President of South Africa and changed the world. It is the mental state of victimization that cripples a person. It is a mental state of excuses and the price is one you can’t afford to pay.

The price for being a victim or staying a victim is huge. Once you accept this mindset for yourself, you give yourself an out. We must take responsibility for all phases of our lives. Accountability goes back to the reflection in the mirror. If your life is not where you want it to be, it is your doing. This is true for the people who are actual
victims as well. The old adage that comes to mind is; “It is not what happens in life that is important, but how you handle it.” Victim or not, it is the mental state of victimization that will do damage for the rest of your life. We need to be careful as our society condones this state. Turn on the television and listen to the commercials from the lawyers. Has anyone hurt you? Did you eat fast food and know that fatty foods can make you fat? Comedian Lewis Black said, “You mean you didn't know fat, fried in fat, makes you fat?". Dr. Wayne Dyer tells a story of an author who was imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp. He was beaten and tortured but he would not hate his captors. I will paraphrase his following comments, “You can beat me, crush my bones but you can’t control my mind. I will never give you the power to make me hate. I am not a hateful man. My mind belongs to me.” We control our own lives and we always have a choice in the way we choose to live our lives.

There is another part of victimization that is dangerous. People get use to being one. The attention that is given to them, the ability to avoid responsibility for career, marriage, friendships, is addicting. I have also observed that some people actually try to become victims. Perhaps we all have played this card at times. Living a life of victimization or living as a victim is senseless. A victim is always looking for a savior to turn his or her life around. This personality type will go through many relationships to try and find the perfect person to fill a void in their lives. It is a fruitless pursuit and the lives of these individuals are filled with sorrow, loneliness, regret and pain. Friendships don’t last, careers fail and in their minds it is never their fault. The real reason being, no one wants to be around a perpetual victim. The price people pay to be a victim is beyond comprehension. This is a mental state that must be avoided at all times and at all costs.

Living a fearless life is a life of freedom. It starts by accepting who you are and all
your imperfections. Accept yourself as you are and do something with your life. Colin Cowherd is a sports radio host on ESPN. He has advice about life that I believe is priceless. He said, “Own your baggage, and be productive. Don’t avoid it, run from it or deny it. Own it!” He is telling us not to be a victim. When you hate something or someone you give a part of yourself away. Never let your past, a person or hate steal your life, for that which you hate will always be your master. Victimization is a thief of life and we must rid ourselves of this state of mind and take responsibility of our lives. Or lives are what we make them and only we can change them. It is time to live fearlessly.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

An Article from USA Today Got My Attention

On November 16th, U. S. A. Today ran an article that discussed how hospital care has been fatal for some patients. The results of a study by Medicare is alarming- 44% of people in the hospital had injuries that were preventable and 1 in 7 patients experienced serious harms due to hospital stays.

Did you know that 15,000 people die each month from Medical MISTAKES? That’s 3 times the amount of American deaths than Vietnam War casualties! I believe that medicine is the number three killer in the country next to cancer and heart attacks. Taking care of your body is important! Focus on wellness now so you don’t need medicine and hospitals!

Learn more about the article by clicking here-

Monday, November 1, 2010

John and Michael - A Story of Life, Death & Meaning by Dr. Ronald Sinagra

I could not have written this column ten, five or even a few years ago. As my 45th year draws to a close, my outlook on life has changed. My goals of success and the avenues I chose to obtain them kept leaving me empty and personal happiness seemed to be elusive. I did achieve some of my goals such as: graduating chiropractic college, establishing a private practice and obtaining financial and material success. Why then did I feel that something was missing in my life? These achievements are the one I yearned for as a child. Society makes you believe that success is the answer to a happy life. I believed the old adages to be true. You worked hard to build a career then happiness and financial success would follow.

The rich and powerful know something that you and I don’t know. Success, money and power do not satisfy our soul or bring happiness. Only once these pursuits are obtained do we realize that these things are not what we really wanted. Read any tabloid about Hollywood. We peruse stories about the rich and famous whose lives are filled with anger, deceit, excess, pain and unhappiness. Yet, most of us feel that if we had their success we would get it right. We would know better. The rich and powerful have every problem we do except for money, which ironically leads to a host of problems we never even think about. Our real goals should be contentment and inner peace. Success is good and money is good. They just cannot and do not satisfy the soul.

I want to share a story of two men who greatly impacted my life. The first story is about my high school friend, Michael, who had everything to live for but lost his life to a horrific illness. The second story is about John, whose last name I don’t even know. John did all he could just to stay alive. These men never met but their stories taught me many powerful lessons, which helped fill the emptiness in myself.

In the fall of 2002, Michael invited me to the city for dinner. His wife was away visiting family and we were planning a boy’s night out. Michael was one of those people who had it all. He was handsome, intelligent funny and successful. After graduating college, he worked for a Wall Street firm and made his first million in his early thirties. He married a beautiful girl and had two wonderful children. He owned a house in the Hamptons and a loft in Manhattan. Michael made plans for us to have dinner at his favorite restaurant. We met and as we were walking, I noticed that he was limping. I didn’t think much of it at the time and told him to see a neurologist. Michael called me after seeing the doctor. He told me that the neurologist wasn’t sure what was wrong but there was a chance he might have Lou Gehrig’s disease. He asked me if this diagnosis was serious. My heart lurched in my chest and I knew in that one second that life would never be the same for my friend, his family and all those who loved him. It was Lou Gehrig’s disease and we all watched helplessly as Michael wasted away. He died less than two years later and it was a devastating loss to so many of us. He was a special man and I miss him terribly.

I met John in the late 1990’s while attempting to dock my boat at the beach. It was a very windy day and the water was whipping about. John jumped onto his boat and guided me so that I could successfully maneuver my boat into the slip. He is a kind and friendly person. After that, I did not see him for a couple of years until we bumped into each other at the gym. I would see him there often and we would talk extensively. One day I noticed that John did not look well. He had lost weight and his color was off. I asked him how he was feeling. He told me he had a serious heart condition and was dying. His wife was with him as he explained his condition. She said nothing but I could feel her sadness and pain. John needed a heart transplant and was running out of time. As the months passed, I did not see John again at the gym. I could not help but think the worst. Did John lose his fight? I thought he did. Then one day while visiting the gym, I looked out at the track and saw John running! He received a heart and a chance at a new life. His wife was with him and she radiated happiness like a spring day. This was a special day I won’t forget. I learned a lesson about what really is important to an individual and the answer is life and love!

My friend Michael had more success and money than most of us will ever have yet in the end, it was meaningless to him and all who loved him. What is important is life and Michael would have traded all his success and wealth just to be alive. SO what really matters in the end? It is life! This is a powerful lesson. Nothing is more important than being alive and every day of our lives should be a celebration. We allow so many distractions to get in the way of the simple joy of just living. We worry and get stressed over unimportant things in our daily routines and miss the simple beauty of God’s most precious gift, life. During a recent gym workout, I overheard some men talking. One man was predicting upcoming economic disaster and another was complaining about gas prices. I looked up and saw John running on the track. I yelled out to him and asked him if he cared about the economy? “No,” he said. “I’m just happy to still have problems to think about.” I was amazed by his answer. He is just happy to be alive, problems and all. The main thing is that he is still here to feel life and all the good, bad, joy and pain that comes with it.

We as human beings do something that no other animal or creature on this plant does. We ask, “Why am I here?” An animal’s primary focus is food, shelter and reproduction. We yearn for more than survival. We think and question the meaning of life and happiness. We fill our younger years chasing falsehoods. We pursue money, success, power, sex and material possessions only to realize they cannot fulfill the soul or the void inside. It is only after chasing these falsehoods and coming up empty do we start to see what is important and what makes life meaningful.

I learned that a life of meaning is far more important than material success. As we search for happiness it becomes obvious that it is not something you obtain. It is a choice. You are either happy or you are not. There are no ordinary moments in life. We create our unhappiness by believing that something is missing in our lives. If I only had this or that is a life stealing way of thinking. It steals today for the promise of happiness tomorrow. Michael and John showed me that the most important thing in life is life. It is only when we wake each day thinking it is beautiful just to be alive can we start to enjoy life right now, right where we are. What is a life of meaning? It is not about wealth or success. It is about love and being loved and savoring each moment. It is about appreciating those moments that don’t last like your child’s first steps, a beautiful summer day, or a fine bottle of wine. I don’t believe there is one answer to the question of what denotes a meaningful life. I think there are many answers. Enjoy each moment and fill your life with love. Never forget that life is a fleeting and fragile entity absolute beauty.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Stop Dragging HArry

On a sunny, afternoon, Tim and Harry decide to play a round of golf. At the second hole, Harry keels over and dies. Tim approaches the tee and drives a long shot down the fairway. Tim, realizing what has happened to Harry, promptly picks him up and drags him to the third hold. This continues throughout Tim's life.

How many times in life are you Tim? "Harry" is regret and guilt and Tim won't leave him behind. There is no need to carry such a heavy load, but instinctively, Tim won't let go. Instead, Tim marches through life carrying "Harry" everywhere he goes. It is time to bury "Harry!" The question is why do we burden ourselves with regret and guilt? What purpose do they serve? I am not saying that mistakes should be forgotten. On the contrary, they need to be learned from and put to rest. You must heal old wounds.

One of the toughest lessons I learned is getting past the guilt over mistakes I made. This is especially hard if you hurt another person. Guilt has some very devastating and unique characteristics. The main feature of guilt over other emotions is that the individual may carry the original pain of an event with him/her for years. Many people believe that putting the pain and guilt of past events behind them is a selfish act. They may feel it is disrespectful to the party they injured if they don't feel guilty. Somehow, the only way to repair the damage is to continue with the pain and guilt for years sometimes even a lifetime. This line of thinking must be changed to move on and get past this useless and enervating emotion.

There is a very simple way to get past guilt. It is not easy, yet it simple. You have to ask yourself a basic question: "Can I change the past?" The answer of course is no. If you cannot change the past, what is the most productive and positive way to deal with it? Learn from it. The best way to overcome guilt is to make sure that whatever mistakes you made in the past never happen again. Do not forget to ask for forgiveness. The act of asking for forgiveness is healing in and of itself. It is important to remember that the person may not always accept the apology. The final step is to forgive ourselves. Forgiving yourself is a mature act that comes from deep inside. It is the final step in lifting the weight of guilt off your shoulders. Forgiving yourself allows you to move on. You leave behind the useless emotional pain of past mistakes. You finally bury "Harry."

Monday, September 27, 2010

What If...

Middle age is providing me with all the challenges I expected. The thinning gray hair is a way of life, I now gain weight just by looking at food and my reflection in the mirror is showing signs of forty plus years. What I did not expect is intense retrospection.

I find it fascinating that minor incidents can have a profound effect on how we see life. It is difficult not to look back at my life and wonder “what if.” The “what if” in my life involves reacting more often with kindness, compassion and forgiveness rather than the alternative. This is not a guilt thing. I don’t believe I am a bad person, just a flawed one. I have made some terrible mistakes. Looking back, almost all the great things that occurred in my life happened when I was kind, forgiving, compassionate and loving. I can also testify that most of the bad things happened when I was angry, jealous, bitter and hateful. What if I expressed the good emotions more often than the bad? How different would my life be?

It is obvious that acting with kindness and love is far superior to the opposite. Why then don’t we do it more often? It is because of our ego. We use it like a shield to protect ourselves from hurt. We project this shield to quell our deepest fears of hurt and rejection. Many view vulnerability as a weakness but this is far from the truth. Our world is paradoxical. Real strength is shown when you are vulnerable and there is no greater false strength than ego. It is my opinion that acting out in anger is a defense mechanism, the ego raising its shield so to speak! How would a situation change if we had the courage to say I am hurt or I’m scared of losing you? We should not be afraid of just letting our true feelings surface. It is regrettable that our lives can be shaped and our destiny rooted by protecting our ego. We lose friendships, family and personal relationships because we never express our true feelings. It is tragic to let love go unshared just to avoid hurting our ego. It is time to drop the shield.

The “what if” concept of looking back at life really got me thinking. A good start is being more vulnerable and less protective of you. Where do we go from here? What is next? It finally occurred to me that the most powerful force we all possess is the spoken word. Words have a great impact and a lasting effect upon others. How we speak to others can have monumental consequences. In life, who hurt you the most? Who had the most positive loving effect on your life? It comes down to the spoken word and words last! When I was in the eighth grade, I had a falling out with the so-called “cool” crowd. The situation turned nasty and at one point these individuals were making fun of me calling me various names. I can still feel the pain as if it were yesterday. On a lighter note, I also remember when my eleventh grade girlfriend told me she loved me. It still brings a smile to my face. Words wield power. They are suggestive and can be used positively or negatively. Looking back, I would have done things differently. I should have told my parents that I loved them a lot more than I did. In past relationships, I used words in a way that left scars. I retaliated with words when I felt hurt or threatened. I should not have used words as weapons but to express my love to those people I care most about. We need to remember the impact of our spoken words and we must choose them wisely.

My final analysis is a look back on my actions. This area is the most difficult as we all have behavior we wish we could change. When I was 21 years old and attending Chiropractic College, I met a beautiful southern girl from Stone Mountain, Georgia. Her name was Nancy and she was kind, soft-spoken and innocent. I never heard her say anything mean or negative. We dated while I was in school and we loved each other. She wanted to get married and stay in Georgia. I knew my future was in New York and marriage would be to my chiropractic practice. I broke her heart when I left to come home. Through the years we stayed close and kept in touch even after she married. One day the phone rang and it was Nancy. She asked if I would come and visit. I knew something was wrong and she told me she had brain cancer. I left the next week for Georgia and visited with her family. I even met her husband and children. We all sat and talked and slowly people started to leave the room until we were alone. We walked out back into the woods holding hands and reminiscing. Nancy was now 35 years old and chemotherapy and radiation had ravaged her body. To me she was as beautiful as the day we met. She thanked me for coming to see her and went to give me a romantic kiss. I was taken aback and my instant reaction was to push her away. She apologized but I could see the hurt in her eyes. I assured her it was fine and I ignored the incident. Soon it was time to go and I told her to be strong so she could beat the cancer. I think we both knew that I was lying and we would never see each other again. We both cried as I left. I can still see her waving good-bye. Nancy died a few months later. Many years later, as I look back to that day, my understanding of the events has changed. Time has given me a new perspective. After Nancy’s death, I spoke to her mom and she told me I was Nancy’s true love. It was no accident that her family left the room when I visited. They wanted to let their dying daughter see the boy she loved so many years ago. I do know one thing for sure; I should have kissed her! Some nights I stay awake wishing I had another chance. In life there are only so many chances to love. I missed it and there is no second chance. Looking back, I just should have done it. Damn the morality, I just should have kissed her!

I believe it is a very good thing to look back at life and ask “What if?” Acting with kindness, being vulnerable, choosing our words carefully and revising our actions challenges us to grow. To question our past helps us enhance our lives in the future. I wondered how life would be different if you went back and could make changes. You can never go back except in your mind. That’s the point of this column. When we examine our past and the things we can’t change but wish we could, we become more aware of the next opportunity. The second chance. World history teaches us that nations who forget their past tend to repeat it. This is true for the individual as well. If we don’t look back at our lives and accept our mistakes and learn from them, we tend to repeat them. As I look back on my first forty years, there are too many times I wished “What if?” If I get another forty, I want to look back when it’s over and say thank God “I did!”

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Key To Happiness Is...

I have always been fascinated by the mind/body connection. My fascination has led me to read many books by philosophers, theologians, sages, and doctors of all types. There appears to be one common thing that is shared by all; that our thinking if our most powerful asset, either positive or negative. The process of thought can dictate our health, happiness, success, etc. As a doctor I realized many years ago that my happy patients were my most healthy. I have also discovered that happiness is a choice and true happiness comes from within and cannot be obtained from anything external. I have some stories and quotes that have helped me and many others grasp this concept.

Too many times in life we blame others for our dilemma – “my boss,” “my ex-spouse,” “my kids” – without facing responsibility. One philosopher put it this way and I quote, “It is better for you to take responsibility for life as it is, instead of blaming others or circumstances for your predicament. As your eyes open, you’ll see that your state of health, happiness, and every circumstance of your life has been in large part, arranged by you consciously or subconsciously.” This is a very tough concept to understand, let alone live by. I do know one thing, that if you try to look at life this way, you become free. If my thinking and actions have created my life, then if I change my thinking I can change my life. I am in control because I blame no one. I am essentially free!

I found a story that I think says it all: There was a construction worker who would sit down at work with the other workers, open his lunch pail and start to complain, “Son of a gun!” he’d cry, “Not peanut butter and jelly.”

This went on for weeks until finally one worker was so sick and tired of hearing him complain he shouted, “My God man, if you don’t like peanut butter and jelly, tell your wife to make you something different.”

“What do you mean ‘wife’?” he replied, :I am not married, I make my own sandwiches.”

This humorous tale is quite profound. We all make our own sandwiches, sometimes we just forget. It was difficult then for me to understand bad things that occur in life. It left me confused – if I was generally happy, then what about bad times or tragedies? Why do they occur?

The same philosopher also told this story: An old man and his son worked a small farm with only one horse to pull the plow. The horse ran away.

“How terrible!” cried the neighbors, “What bad luck!”

“Who knows if it is good luck or bad luck,” the farmer replied.

A week later the horse returned from the mountains, leading five wild mares into the barn.

“What wonderful luck!” said the neighbors.

“Good luck? Bad luck? Who knows?” the old man replied.

The next day, the son, trying to tame one of the horses, fell and broke his leg.

“How terrible! What bad luck!”

“Good luck? Bad luck?”

The army came to all the farms to take the young men for war. The farmer’s son was of no use to them, so he was spared.

“Good? Bad?”

Everything has a purpose in life! A purpose. We may not understand it, we may not want it, but lessons in life are a part of the journey. It is also apparent that it is not what happens in these lessons that is as important as how we handle them. Do we grow and become wiser? Or bitter and say ‘why me?’ Happiness is a choice, enjoy your lunch!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Life! This is No Dress Rehearsal by Dr Ronald Sinagra

In 1985 I went out and bought myself an expensive pair of Sergio Valenti pants and a matching shirt with a zipper up front. I thought I looked great. I looked ridiculous. These clothes were my best so I kept them tucked away in my closet so they would not get ruined. Then one day I went through my closet and found this awful outfit still wrapped in the plastic from the dry cleaners. It was my Sergio Valenti pants and shirt! I thought I would save them for a special occasion but when I found them they were useless for they had gone way out of style. That was my first experience in realizing that life is no dress rehearsal.

As silly as my clothing story is, it really has some meaning behind it. In our culture we tend to hold back as if we were coming back. Life is lived once in the context that we understand. Here on this planet there is but one go around. So what the heck are we waiting for? As the pace of life quickens you must find the balance between living today as if you were going to die tomorrow and working and saving as if you were going to live forever. This is a major key in balancing life. I have noticed that many of us tend to view and live our lives as if there will always be a tomorrow. We wait for the special occasions to use the good china or wear the new outfit. Unfortunately someday we wake to find the events we saved our fine things for have passed us by. That special day in all our lives is today.

When you come to the awareness that life is not a dress rehearsal your perspective on how you see and treat others can change. If you were to die and upon reaching heaven you were to ask God to give you just one more day, what would you do differently? How would you love your spouse? How would you love your children and family? How would you see the world? There is an old saying “life is a dream.” Most of us believe that we have a spirit and this body is the temporary home for our soul. Most of us also believe that when we die we go to heaven and this is an eternal spiritual place. So life on the grand scale is a physical dream as compared to our true eternal spirit. Imagine you were dreaming. In this dream you are hoarding your money and possessions and holding back your love from the people in your life that need it most. All of a sudden you wake up. Would you not feel foolish? Would you not ask yourself, “Why did I act this way?” “Why did I hold back and not tell the people that I love that I really do love them?” “I should have lived that dream to its fullest.” I really do believe that our lives are physical dreams. One day we will look back at our lives as we do when we awake from a dream and say “if I only knew, I would have done things so differently.” Awareness of the big picture helps keep life in perspective.

Americans in particular like to strive, a new car, a bigger house, etc. How much is enough? When do we stop striving and start arriving? There is nothing wrong with wanting more or nicer things. There is however a trap that comes with striving. The trap is that we tend to look and focus on what we do not have, and overlook what we do have. As soon as we get one thing our thirst is only satisfied momentarily and then we move to our next desire. Taking time out to enjoy the things in life makes acquiring them worthwhile. It is important not to lose today yearning for “things” tomorrow.

In a few years you probably won’t remember any of the problems that confront you today. In fifty years most people reading this won’t be alive. In a hundred years more than 99% of the population will never know you and I ever existed. This life is a short dream. You can’t sweat the small stuff. Life is not a dress rehearsal, this is not a preseason. It’s game time and the clock is ticking. Take time to give, love, and see the beauty of this life. Today is the only guarantee we have.