Rules for Life

Rules for Life

Rules for Life

These are my rules and guidelines that help me live a Happy Life.

  1. Pay attention to your thoughts
  2. Do what you want and do what you love
  3. Live compassionately!
  4. Live!
  5. Learn something new every single day
  6. Know your truth
  7. Challenge your comfort zone
  8. Smile and laugh more
  9. Give great hugs
  10. Connect with others
  11. Respect our planet
  12. Know yourself, love yourself and be yourself
  13. Do your best, all the time
  14. Don’t believe everything you are told
  15. Take time out
  16. Spend time in nature
  17. Spend time by yourself

 All of these rules are important to me.  That doesn’t mean they should be important to you.  In fact, it really doesn’t matter if they are; but maybe, one or two of them will jump out at you and you will be able to include them in your rules of life.

These are rules that I have learned over time and I do my best to stick to them.  The very nature of these rules means that they will develop and change.  This manifesto is a work in progress, just like me.

Pay attention to your thoughts

It is really important to pay attention to your thoughts.  We are often caught in a trap of making decisions and giving standard responses without ever thinking about what we are doing or saying.

This is the way we have been taught since birth.  All of the things that happen to us as we are growing up impact on how we think, but on an unconscious level so deep that we aren’t aware that these decisions are taking place.

Think about something that you are afraid of. Do you know why you are afraid of it?  Do you ever think about challenging your thinking about that fear or do you simply just let it rule the roost?

By paying attention to your thoughts you can start living a life the way you want it and not how your unconscious dictates.

Do what you want and do what you love

These are pretty much the same thing as long as you know what you want and what you love.

It is all too easy to fall into the trap of doing what others want. What society wants or what your government wants.  To me, that pretty much looks like spending a life out of control.

From the age of 4 or 5 we are asked “what do you want to be when you grow up?”  School is focused on teaching us things (that we rarely use as adults) so we can get a certain type of career.  The career is there so we can make money, buy a house, buy a car, get married, have kids, get in debt, work off our debt. It is a prison.

We don’t have to do any of these things if we don’t want to but there is a lot of societal pressure. After all, this is the way society has been working towards for 5000 years.

It doesn’t have to be that way.  Many people are finding new ways to live but it is important that you figure out what you want and what you love.  Then you can start figuring out how to do that.

Live Compassionately

I passionately believe that we all need more compassion in our lives.  We need to feel and experience more compassion and to do this we need to work on our empathy for others; and stop judging people.

I think being compassionate and having empathy are pretty easy, some of the time.  There are numerous times when our hearts go out to others.

On the flip side of that there are numerous times when we are quick to judge.  The judgements often appear before we even realise.  They jump into our minds and we accept them.

Judgements are often assumptions that stem back to the early influencers in our lives, at home, at school and work.

As adults, the media has a huge part to play and it’s often difficult to work out what is real and what is propaganda.


This sounds pretty simple and many people may say “sure I am already living” but that is not what I mean.

Imagine that you were just told that you have only 24 hours left to live.  What would you do with those 24 hours?  Who would you spend your final hours with?  What you do with those people? How would you view what you see around you?

I think your perspective on living would change, I know mine would.

For me, I like to LIVE every single day.

I need to work on this and keep myself in check but I can do it. I am doing it!

Learn something new every single day

As a kid I loved reading. And I mean, really loved reading.  I was rarely seen without a book in my hand.  Perhaps that is why my family all believed I was destined to follow my desire to study law…

As I grew older though and started to work my reading habit became erratic.  My social life and work life became my excuse for not reading and in reality, picking up a book is one of the easiest ways to learn something new.  Committing time to courses can be much more difficult.

That said, as well as reading every day, I am usually studying something or other and find attending courses to be a great way to expand my knowledge.

Know your truth

When I decided to go to Sweden and train as a Firewalking Instructor, it was a business decision.  I knew it would be a great for my personal development too but my main aim was to create more business opportunities.

I had no idea that it would be the beginning of a whole new chapter in my life.  A chapter full of opportunities and new experiences.  Sure, the business opportunity happened and has grown into a thriving Firewalking company, running events all around the world but I got so much more than this.

It really began an epic journey of discovery.  The discovery of who I really am.  Before the Firewalking Instructor Training course I would have said that I knew who I was, what I wanted and where I was going.  When I look back and base that on where I am now the difference is startling.

I believe that unless I see it, feel it, touch it, smell it or hear, I cannot really own the experience.  It is something that has been told to me by someone else.  Indeed, when I share my experience, it is only my version of what happened.  That does not mean that it will be same experience for someone else.

Challenge your comfort zone

From the age of 8 I wanted to go to University and study law.  I had visions of me arguing my case in the courtroom and prided myself in my debating skills.  That changed when I applied to university, which I didn’t go to in the end.

Instead I pursued a career in adventure sports, something which I was doing already through Scouts.  I realised at the ripe old age of 17 that I was really interested in working with people and sharing adventurous experience in the great outdoors.

It is a joy to provide people with opportunities to expand their comfort zones.  Something I get to do a lot.

My own comfort zone expands in the process but I seek other opportunities for myself.  If I did not expand my comfort zones on a regular basis I think my world would be much smaller than it is.

Smile and laugh more

Kids are always smiling and laughing. As adults we don’t smile and laugh anywhere near as much.  Life has become too serious for us to feel the joy of the simple things.  Kids experience joy all the time, why can’t we?

Well, we can.

We just need to look for the joy, stop letting external pressures get in our way and have more fun.  It is harder than it sounds but it is possible.

Make it your mission to laugh and smile more each day – look for the simple things and make sure you share the smiles and laughter with your family, friends and colleagues.

Give great hugs

Hugs are awesome!  I love hugs!  They have to be real hugs though; none of those slapping each other manly hugs or wimpy weak hugs where you hardly make contact with the other person.

Hugs are a fantastic way to really connect with people and you don’t even need to speak!

Try hugging someone and while you do it, close your eyes, centre your thoughts and let your love for that person reach out to them.  You will feel great and they will too.

(By the way, I know that might sound a bit airy fairy but it works and you will both feel great – I wouldn’t suggest it otherwise)

Connect with others

People are great.  I love people.  I love spending time with people.  I love sharing stories and hearing about their lives.

That doesn’t mean I connect with everyone I meet and not everyone connects with me.  And that’s ok.

The people I do connect with, even if only fleetingly, enhance my life.  I learn from other people.  People inspire me and sometimes, they say or do something, that influences me in a way that they will never know.

The more I put myself “out there” and meet new people, the more I grow as a person.  The world is vast and its people are all different and that brings a colour to my life that is rich and diverse.

Respect our planet

I am very fortunate to have spent most of my working life in the great outdoors. Of course there are times I have paperwork to do or meeting to attend but the vast majority of my work has involved being outside.  And when I am not working I love to go exploring.  Living in Ireland and travelling the world means there is lots to see.

This love for the outdoors has been with me my whole life and I have yet to meet anyone who does not love beautiful scenery and fresh air.

I think it is important to have permanent appreciation for the world we live in.  We all have a part to play (no matter how small) in keeping the planet as pristine as possible.

I subscribe to a tree planting programme that allows people to sponsor the planting of trees.  And I am forever gathering up litter when I am out walking.  Small contributions but if we all do a little it would be great.

I like to think that my biggest contribution is exposing people to the beauty of the world.  The more people that see it, the more that will change their attitudes and hopefully play a more positive role in protecting our planet.

Know yourself, love yourself and be yourself

I was listening to the radio just the other day when I heard a song come on that took me right back to when I was 15 or 16.  I could remember, quite vividly, being at the local teenage disco.  I remembered dancing to that song and how I was comparing my dancing to some of the other boys.  Boys that I would have looked up to and I wished I could dance more like them.

I have no idea at what age in my life I started to compare myself to others.  Nor do I know when I stopped comparing myself to others.  I do know that I don’t do that anymore.  Something that I have learned over time, no doubt.  As I have matured and re-learned to be happy in my own skin.

I know that I am me.  I like me.  There is no one quite like me.  And that is great!

Do your best, all the time

Funny.  I was thinking about this and how it is such a simple rule and how it is something I have done my best to follow since I can remember.  Then I remembered, it goes way back to when I joined the Cub Scouts.  I was in the Scouting movement until I was 19 and “Do you best” was part of the Scout promise. It was something we said pretty much every week.

This is basically giving 100% to everything that you do.  Not always easy but definitely rewarding.  It takes discipline and the rewards are great.

Don’t believe everything you are told

We live in an age when there is an abundance of information at our finger tips.  Never before have we had access to so much information.  This is great but it can also be dangerous.

Remember the adage, every story has three sides.  This is true.  Media outlets have their own agendas and we have to be careful with what we read.  It is important to get as wide a picture as possible before we decide what we believe.

I am not just referring to the media though.  We are subjected to so much information.  It comes at us and it comes fast.

Don’t believe everything you are told is just another way of saying know your truth.  Unless you can experience something it is impossible to know the truth of the matter.  It is someone else’s truth and their version of it.

Take time out

This is so important.

Life is busy. We live in a world where we are expected to be busy. Being busy is often viewed as a way of measuring how successful we are. Being busy means we don’t actually take time to breathe. We stop noticing the beauty around us and within us. We are plagued by emails, social media and a need to be available 247.

I was speaking to a friend today and he was telling me about being “caught in the rat race”.  I was telling him that I make a point of not being in that race.

I take time out and I take it often.  I switch off my phone, turn off the internet and relax, nap, walk or meditate.  This time is all for me and for me taking time out means being alone.  It is good for my soul.

Spend time in nature

I love to spend time in nature.  I am particularly drawn to sea.  No surprise there, Ireland has some of the most stunning coastlines in the world.

Spending time in nature can be anywhere for me though, mountains, forests, rural countryside and beaches.  It’s all good. The air is fresh and there is so much to sea.

I have my favourite places that I like to go to.  To clear the head, reconnect and recharge.  I love to find new places too and I love to share them with people.  Isn’t that what exploring is all about?

Spend time by yourself

I enjoy spending time by myself.  I am sure you have figured that out already.  For me, it is a good time to be still and reflect on what I am doing with my life. To take stock of what is going on and to appreciate it all.

Sometimes, I like to read and write, sometimes I like to go exploring and sometimes I like to spend an hour or two meditating.  After all, variety is the spice of life.

The important thing is to do this on a regular basis.  Unless I am away leading a retreat or a course I am able to spend time alone most days.

People often ask me if it makes me feel lonely spending time by myself.  I never feel lonely.  When I am not alone my days are full of people or doing other things that I love.  The time I spend by myself is for me and me alone.

Naikan: A Self Inquiry Practice for Inner Peace

Naikan: A Self Inquiry Practice for Inner Peace

Most people will agree, improving our wellbeing and achieving true inner peace can be difficult, perhaps even elusory. In today’s world, many of us struggle to feel calm, content, and at ease.

Many of us spend time and energy exploring the different ways that we can bring contentment into our lives. We experiment with different modalities, follow the teachings of gurus and teachers, read books, take classes, seek professional help and so on. These tools can all help with our wellbeing.

Naikan is another tool that can help you in your search for inner peace.

What is Naikan?

Naikan is a Japanese word that translates as “nai” – inside, and “kan” – to observe. It means “inside looking”, “introspection” or some like to think of it as, “seeing oneself with the mind’s eye”.

Based on Jodo Shin Buddhist teachings, Naikan is a simple and effective Self Inquiry Practice that can restore your inner peace and wellbeing. It does this through a structured method of Self inquiry and reflection that can help you understand your Self and your relationships with others.

The practice of Naikan is based upon answering three basic questions and reflecting on the nature of relationships with various people in our lives. We will get to those now.

The Three Questions

  1. What have I received from ……………………?
  2. What have I given to ……………………?
  3. What trouble and difficulties have I caused ……………………?

Please note, to practice Naikan, you only focus on these three questions.

Possible Benefits 

We all experience the world in different ways, and therefore, the benefits of Naikan will vary for each person. By practicing Naikan as a tool of Self inquiry, we have the possibly of perceiving our Self and the world around us more fully. Of course, expanding and enriching our perception can be uncomfortable and painful.  However, as we move through the discomfort, with compassion, we have the opportunity for wholeness and presence.

There are many potential benefits of Naikan, and here are 10 of them:

  1. Peace with your past.
  2. Acceptance of your life stories.
  3. Overcoming negative patterns through awareness.
  4. Acceptance of your feelings by being with them.
  5. A sense of possibility and hope.
  6. More relaxed view of problems.
  7. Accept your Self.
  8. Develop a compassionate understanding of others.
  9. Increased Self-confidence.
  10. The ability to recognise and practice responsibility.

Remember, all of us are as unique as each sunrise. We have our own stories and experiences. Not one of us has travelled the same path. And still, we can all learn to perceive our Self and world as it really is, not as how we think it should be. That is one of the keys to inner peace.

How to practice Naikan

Although there are different ways to practice, the three questions remain the same. There are retreats where you can immerse your Self into practice with the support of others. Alternatively, which suits more people, you can practice at home whenever you like.

A good starter is to give your Self, 20 – 30 uninterrupted minutes at the end of the day, before you go to bed. First, think about what person you want to focus on for this night’s practice. Them, write the questions on a sheet of paper, and spend some time contemplating each. It is usually best to stick with one question until you are done, before moving onto the next one.

A slight alternative, is to use these questions as a reflection for the day you just had:

  1. What did you receive from others today ……………………?
  2. What did you give to others today ……………………?
  3. What troubles and difficulties did you cause others today ……………………?

Not everyone will want to write down their reflections as they go through the questions and that is fine. Do it in a way that works for you, after all, Self-inquiry work has you at the centre.

If you try Naikan, let us know how you got on.

The Power of Addiction and The Addiction of Power

The Power of Addiction and The Addiction of Power

The Power of Addiction and The Addiction of Power


The Buddhists have this idea of the hungry ghosts — the hungry ghosts are these creatures with large empty bellies and small, scrawny necks and tiny little mouths, so they can never get enough, they can never fill this emptiness on the inside. And we are all hungry ghosts in this society, we all have this emptiness and so many of us are trying to fill that emptiness from the outside and the addiction is all about trying to fill that emptiness from the outside.

Now, if you want to ask the question of why people are in pain, you can’t look at their genetics, you have to look at their lives. And in the case of my patients, my highly addicted patients, it’s very clear why they are in pain. Because they have been abused all of their lives, they began life as abused children. All of the women I have worked with over a twelve year period, hundreds of them, they had all been sexually abused as children. And the men had been traumatised as well; the men had been sexually abused, neglected, physically abused, abandoned and emotionally over and over again. And that’s why the pain.

And there is something else here too: the human brain. The human brain itself develops an interaction with the environment; it’s not just genetically programmed. The kind of environment that a child has will actually shape the development of the brain.

Now, I can tell you about two experiments with mice. You take a little mouse and you put food in its mouth and he’ll eat it and enjoy it and swallow it, but if you put the food down a few inches away from his nose, he will not move to eat it, he will actually starve to death rather than eat. Why? Because, genetically, they knocked out the receptors for a chemical in the brain called dopamine. Dopamine is the incentive and motivation chemical.

Dopamine flows whenever we are motivated, excited, vital, vibrant, curious about something, whether seeking food or a sexual partner. Without the dopamine, we have no motivation.

Now what do you think the addict gets? When the addict shoots cocaine, when the addict shoots crystal meth or almost any drug, they get a hit of dopamine in their brain and the question is: what happened to their brains in the first place? Because it’s a myth that drugs are addictive. Drugs are not by themselves addictive, because most people who try most drugs never become addicted.

So the question is: why are some people vulnerable to getting addicted? Just like food is not addictive but to some people it is, shopping is not addictive but to some people it is, television is not addictive but to some people it is. So the question is: why the susceptibility?

There’s another little experiment with mice where infant mice, if they are separated from their mothers will not cry for their mothers. Now what would that mean in the wild? It means that they would die. Because only the mother protects the child’s life and nurtures the child and why? Because genetically they knocked out the receptors, the chemical binding sites in the brain, for endorphins and endorphins are indigenous, morphine-like substances; endorphins are our own natural pain killers.

Now…what endorphins also do, they make possible the experience of love; they make possible the experience of attachment to the parent and the parents’ attachment to the child so these little mice without endorphin receptors in their brains will naturally not call for their mothers.

In other words, the addiction to these drugs and of course the heroine and the morphine, what they do is they act on the endorphin system, that’s why they work. And so, the question is: what happens to people that they need these chemicals from the outside? Well what happens to them is when they are abused as children, those circuits don’t develop.

When you don’t have love and connection in your life, when you are very, very young, then those important brain circuits just don’t develop properly. And under conditions of abuse, things just don’t develop properly and their brains then are susceptible then when they do the drugs.

Now they feel normal, now they feel pain relief, now they feel love. And as one patient said to me; “When I first did heroine,” she said, “it felt like a warm soft hug, just like a mother hugging her baby.”

Now, I’ve had that same emptiness, not to the same degree as my patients. What happened to me is that I was born in Budapest, Hungary in 1944 to Jewish parents just before the Germans occupied Hungary and you know what happened to the Jewish people in Eastern Europe, and I was 2 months old when the German army moved into Budapest. And the day after they did, my mother phoned the paediatrician and she said, “Would you please come and see Gabor because he is crying all the time.” And the paediatrician said, “Well, of course, I will come to see him, but I should tell you, all of my Jewish babies are crying.”

Now why? What do babies know about Hitler or genocide or war? Nothing. What we were picking up on is the stresses and the terrors and the depression of our mothers and that actually shapes the child’s brain — that actually shapes the child’s brain. And of course, what happens then is that I get the message that the world doesn’t want me, if my mother is not happy around me, she must not want me. Why do I become a workaholic later? Because if they don’t want me, at least they are going to need me. And I’ll be an important doctor and they are going to need me and that way I can make up for the feeling of not being wanted in the first place.

And what does that mean? It means that I am working all the time, and when I am not working, I’m consumed by buying music. What message do my kids get? My kids get the same message that they are not wanted. And this is how we pass it on, we pass on the trauma and we pass on the suffering, unconsciously, from one generation to the next. So obviously, there are many, many ways to fill this emptiness, and for each person, there is a different way of filling the emptiness but the emptiness always goes back to what we didn’t get when we were very small.

And then we look at the drug addict and we say to the drug addict, “How can you possibly do this to yourself? How can you possibly inject this terrible substance into your body that may kill you?”