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28 June 2016 4 Comments

Manage Your Energy Part 86: Re-Defining the Awful Hole

Manage Your Energy Part 86: Re-Defining the Awful Hole

“God is an activity of the soul.” ~Murshid SAM Lewis

You know the hole. The one almost all of us run from. The hole deep inside, where we experience soul-sucking fear of emptiness, loneliness, gnawing isolation, or the pain of bone-cracking absence of connection. That hole.

Some of us try to fill it with multiple contacts with people, some with an idealized mate, some with sex, food or drugs. It doesn’t work. We just debilitate ourselves with the endless, distracting effort without changing the hole itself.

We have our stories about the Hole. Most of them start with “If only . . .” They vary from personality to personality, but often end with feeling like a victim, wasting our lives trying to be enough or have enough without finding any of it somehow fully satisfying, or realizing that we keep trying to make ourselves lovable to others instead of doing what we really want. Trying to escape the Hole keeps us from finding out what that might be.

In order to free ourselves from being enthralled or enslaved by the Hole, we need to be aware of the Hole. That means we need to be able to face it with some measure of detachment. Then we can investigate it some instead of being obliterated by it. Getting close to it is frightening at first. Since itIMG_4110 operates in the background of awareness, and has such power, we fear being sucked into it and obliterated by it. Paradoxically, this is what happens, to a greater extent, when we invest in avoiding that Hole. The less we see it the more power it has over us.

Another important step in freeing ourselves from that thralldom is being able to objectively observe the story we tell ourselves about the Hole, and what we believe about it. When we can see how it functions, we can challenge the myths that have developed around it.

Examples of such myths:
I will be destroyed if I experience the Hole
I have no power in the face of it
I have a problem if I feel there is a hole

The most dangerous myths are what we tell ourselves the Hole IS. What makes defining the Hole dangerous is that—supposedly knowing what it is—we cease to examine it and go on with business as usual. This gives it power.

Re-defining the Hole is a powerful act. What is that Hole, really?

Some spiritual literature describes the Hole in detail. In the spiritual context it is seen as our basic, engrained sense of disconnection from the Greater Whole. We long for connection, for Love. This can be viewed as feeling separate from the Divine, but it can also be viewed as feeling separate from our own innate essence. When we are fully Present, moving from the authenticity of our essence rather than the compensatory dictates of personality, we feel whole and complete. The Hole is not driving.

It is important to stop telling ourselves that the Hole is a need for love/food/drugs/distraction etc., and stop telling ourselves that feeling it means something is wrong.

When we start telling ourselves that noticing the Hole is a step forward in awareness, and we begin to observe our orientation with it, we can begin to direct energy and attention to the question of developing Presence. As a dear friend used to tell me: “A good plan is a plan that works.”

How do YOU experience the Hole?

What do you tell yourself about it?

What have you felt this might mean about you?

25 March 2016 6 Comments

Manage Your Energy Part 77: Conundrums in Personal Growth

Manage Your Energy Part 77: Conundrums in Personal Growth

“Whenever we work through a particular layer of our personality, the issues of the next layer automatically present themselves.” (From “Understanding the Enneagram,” by Don Richard Riso)

This fact can, frankly, be annoying, especially if we are trying to achieve a particular state or condition. It tends to pop up when we are making progress—and feel like a setback. We may then feel like we are NOT making progress, but the emergence of that next layer IS a sign of progress. One may feel weary and frustrated at working diligently for a breakthrough, only to confront the constellation of issues at next layer of personality.

This new layer often consists of things we believe we have previously handled. In this case it can be a deeper expression of the familiar issues. The related challenges and wounds may be familiar, yet as we enter more deeply into the territory, it may be constructed somewhat differently.

Sometimes growing and confronting challenges can show up like climbing stairs, since we tend to stabilize at a plateau before hitting the next challenge. We may experience these figurative stairs like climbing, as in increasing achievement, or like heading deeper, down into core Beingness.IMG_0226

Like stairs in an Escher painting, these directions and processes are occurring at the same time. Which way they are going may be primarily a matter of how we are looking at it at the moment.

The work going down and in often involves confronting any prior trauma. Trauma causes rigidity in the personalty. When we can relax our defenses against encountering our historic trauma and accept it, we heal, becoming freer and more flexible in our responses to life.

In the stair metaphor, encountering inner or outer challenges can be like going along the tread of the stair and hitting the wall of the ascent or decent, which symbolize challenges that require a shift in awareness to effectively negotiate. Periods of stabilization—symbolized here by the tread—are required to integrate learning into life. These periods can be short during times of rapid growth.

During quick growth we need to take advantage of stabilization periods to intentionally rest and recover. Saying, “Phew! I’m glad that’s over!” is natural but can be ill-advised—unless we are equipped to gently laugh at ourselves when the next layer shows up. Looking for that next layer is savvy, by observing objectively so we don’t manufacture it from expectation.

When we become accustomed to a certain level of development, dipping back into previous issues or backsliding so that our experience, comfort, and performance are not what they have been can bring up distress.

The Path is a labyrinth. We seem to be getting close to something and then find we are far way, or visa versa. These metaphors describe certain kinds of experience, but they break down and our experience changes when we surrender to life in the moment without the need to fix or change ourselves. The descriptions are useful only if they help us to bring in light and increase self awareness.

How do YOU experience the path of growth?

What is your balance between seeking to grow and accepting yourself?

18 March 2016 4 Comments

Manage Your Energy Part 76: Creating Your Reality?

Manage Your Energy Part 76: Creating Your Reality?

“No sooner does man become the creator of the drama of his dream state through the projection of his dormant impressions, than this very projection of his own dormant impressions reflects his past as if it were really his present, and man, finding himself involved in this drama, gets absorbed in his past while still maintaining his past to be his present.”  ~Meher Baba

This quote may initially seem convoluted, while it is actually quite lucid. It is structured in the same way the energy kind of bends when we are DOING what the quote is about. That energy structure makes the description more vivid, once we can wrap our perception around it.

Perceiving this evokes some of the elements of looking at the bottom half of your arm and hand under water. You see the illusion of disconnection between body and arm as the image is displaced by the view through water. The hand seems to be the wrong size and angle. It’s a bit confusing. At the same time you can SENSE P1120995that your arm and hand are in correct relationship with your body.

When we are involved in our pasts and taking them to be the present, a certain amount of distortion of the current reality occurs. This displaced reality often feels normal or continuous. We might say this is what happens in a dream; things that are bizarre when awake seem normal. Unlike correctly sensing that your arm in water is still straight and continuous, the illusory, shifted past-in-present can be a compelling “reality,” displacing the fresh, clean, present moment and casting that awareness into the background of perception.

As we begin to wake up into Presence, we may begin to notice when we are becoming absorbed in the past, replaying things that happened before and projecting them out like overlays upon the faces and events around us.

Have you noticed yourself doing this?

Re-live your awareness in that moment. Note that you can tell The Observer part from the parts of yourself, and of your experience, that you are observing.

What do you notice about when you are present to this awareness?

6 March 2016 0 Comments

Manage Your Energy Part 74: Self-Inquiry & Going Deeper Versus Wallowing

Manage Your Energy Part 74: Self-Inquiry & Going Deeper Versus Wallowing

Self inquiry allows us to fully embrace our wholeness. It assists greatly in personal growth, and in discovering how to step beyond endlessly repeating painful experiences. Self inquiry takes courage and intention.

It is not uncommon for those entering more deeply into a path of self discovery to have trouble sorting out IMG_0456the difference between self pity and healthy experience of difficult emotions. Tears, for example, are often equated with self pity. If we shame ourselves for tears, we block the relief, compassion, and insight that so often follow sincere expression and release of pain.

When we are Present we are able to experience any emotion without getting lost in it.

Let’s look at some of the many differences between self inquiry and wallowing in self pity or negative emotion:

Indicators for self pity or wallowing:

–no sincere intention to create real change; lack of positive motivation
–negative self talk
–feeling helpless or being a victim
–lack of objectivity
–self absorbed
–a tense sick feeling
–shame or negative emotions take you over
–out of touch with your body
–thoughts about what I did “wrong”
–sarcasm toward yourself
–asking rhetorical questions without answering them kindly or sincerely
–deeper insight is blocked
–thinking may become like a repetitive recording
–judgments instead of exploration
–feeling bad about how you are
–places in yourself you do not want to see
–you get stuck on the emotions you judge
–thoughts loop without resolution
–fear becomes an excuse or a jump-off point for destructive thoughts or behavior
–feeling of being in the dark
–using a difficult feeling to avoid another that is deeper and has more power over you
–feeling trapped
–“That’s just how I am,” is often a futility trap, accompanied by a sinking feeling.

The Inner Child keeps things from changing—including yourself.

It defines “comfort” as clinging to the familiar—no matter how abysmal that might be.

Feelings and sensations present in healthy self inquiry:

–positive motivation for understanding, freedom, growth, new experience
–an open feeling; curiosity about your processes
–honestly exploring questions that arise
–supportive self talk
–your body relaxes
–you may notice shame or negative emotions and enter into them, but you are always aware that you have space outside of them, to observe them and to nurture the vulnerable parts of yourself even as you notice them
–compassion for yourself for your pain
–capacity for greater objectivity about one’s own and other people’s experiences
–inviting yourself to try new approaches
–feeling of moving forward, even while going down and into your darker feelings
–deeper insight is available
–able to face fears without allowing them to consume you; your Observer stays present
–positive and realistic motivation
–feeling like you are bringing light into dark areas
–allowing yourself to experience any feeling without giving it power over your motivation or life choices
–feeling like this work increases your inner and outer freedom
–“This is how I am and it’s really okay, I accept myself” feel relieving

“How do you experience the difference between self pity and self compassion?”

“What does acceptance feel like in you your body?

12 February 2016 5 Comments

What is Genuine Love?

What is Genuine Love?

“How few understand what love really is, and how it arises in the human heart. It is so frequently equated with good feelings toward others, with benevolence or nonviolence or service.  But these things in IMG_0108themselves are not love.  Love springs from awareness.  It is only inasmuch as you see someone as he or she really is here and how and not as they are in your memory or your desire or in your imagination or projection that you can truly love them, otherwise it is not the person that you love but the idea that you have formed of this person, or this person as the object of your desire not as he or she is in themselves.

“The first act of love is to see this person or this object, this reality as it truly is. And this involves the enormous discipline of dropping your desires, your prejudices, your memories, your projections, your selective way of looking . . . a discipline so great that most people would rather plunge headlong into good actions and service than submit to the burning fire of this asceticism. When you set out to serve someone whom you have not taken the trouble to see, are you meeting that person’s need or your own?” ~ Father Anthony de Mello

Contrast this understanding of genuine love with your conditioning about what it means to be loving.

What do you discover about yourself?

22 January 2016 4 Comments

Barriers

Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers

within yourself that you have built against it.  ~ Rumi

 

IMG_0843

 

8 January 2016 3 Comments

Manage Your Energy Part 73: When Personal Growth Becomes Narcissism & Dealing with Self Hatred

Manage Your Energy Part 73: When Personal Growth Becomes Narcissism & Dealing with Self Hatred

“The moment a person becomes straightforward a straight way opens before him.” ~ Inayat Khan

Personal growth becomes narcissism when one engages pursuits of growth in ways that demand attention, without taking the steps that release oneself (and others) from the self-obsessed compulsions of what we consider to be our flaws.

Habitually indulging self hatred, for example, can be a fancy way to avoid self awareness. The intensity of feeling becomes like a sand trap one wallows in. Engaging the hatred can become a way to stay stuck, to avoid personal growth. This differs IMG_0430from sinking in to the feeling to carefully observe and release our tendencies, structures of experience, motivations, and the less-familiar emotions underneath. Seeing behaviors in yourself that you don’t like and saying, “I’m bad! I hate myself,” without aiming to discover what exactly what you are actually doing and what you need reinforces the issues instead of resolving them. It’s like spinning around and around in an eddy.

Discovering self hate can be startling and arresting. Be very kind to yourself if you are in this place. This type of condition is very difficult, especially for those who do not have the advantages of Inner Work, who have not been exposed to techniques for self observation, forgiveness, exploration, and transformation, and do not have the support of qualified professionals.

Those who do have the advantage of such skills and support, who habitually stop at self hatred without moving into and then beyond it, may be indulging narcissistic or masochistic tendencies by wallowing in self hate. The narcissistic part shows up in rage at one’s self because one “shouldn’t be this way,” and is “better than this,” and in being too caught up in one’s own process to respond compassionately to others.

When we get lost in any negative emotion by reacting against it, we are turning away from noticing important aspects to what we are doing, inside and with others. We short-circuiting awareness and remain with the familiar feeling. Hatred or negativity then function as an inverted form of self love, feeding the ego self. This works the same way that an inferiority complex accompanies and underlies superiority.

Attempts to make oneself look good delay solutions and function as a fancy form of defense. Such attempts ultimately backfire. Avoidance makes things persist.

Genuine, healthy remorse of conscience supports healthy motivation and healing. This requires going THROUGH the self hate or negative emotion, without stopping at that depot. Remorse of conscience is not like guilt. Guilt is a sand trap. Remorse of conscience is a process of sensing into the heart and making a decision based on understanding and deeper values.

Accepting, embracing, and then relaxing underlying motivations slims them down and helps to integrate them, creating greater scope for genuine positive expression.

What steps help to release this type of compulsion?

  • Quit judging and stay with feeling—but do not allow feeling to become stuck or static; keep going deeper.
  • Identify the behaviors you use to avoid looking at your feelings and experience.
  • If self hatred arises, welcome it gently and look more deeply. Do not give self hatred special importance.
  • Stop identifying as ‘special-bad,’ as if your issues are more unforgivable and damning than those of anybody else.
  • Identify and take responsibility for your underlying motivations. Notice what motivates behaviors that challenge intimacy or success.
  • Admitting to the parts of you that want to stay stuck. Accept them—without endorsing them. Find positive ways to address the underlying fears.
  • Remember that emotions are not excuses.
  • Take direction from your true values and allow them to inform your choices. Aim to be true to them even while you are having negative emotions .
  • Create straight-forward ways to meet healthy needs and desires, while accepting and releasing those that are not.
  • Take responsibility for communicating your needs without being demanding or trying to make someone else responsible for them.
  • Get help addressing the remnants of childhood issues with your parents, which will otherwise inform your behavior with intimates.
  • Never suppress or ignore emotion—but do not allow it to run you. This means being aware of it, not it acting out.
  • Practice compassion by bringing your spiritual practice fully into your body, right along with your difficult emotions. Allowing them to be less important without trying to get rid of them. If they intrude, acknowledge them or get to the bottom of them, then bring in love and change the subject inside.

What is the difference between having an emotion and being run by an emotion?

What makes the difference between whether talking about your emotions (with someone who is open to feeling) develops intimacy or becomes overly self-involved?

21 November 2015 5 Comments

Managing Your Energy Part 68: The Intersection Between Taking Influence & Inner Work

Managing Your Energy Part 68: The Intersection Between Taking Influence & Inner Work

“The word that is not heard is lost.” ~Inayat Khan

Allowing and taking in influence, we take reflections we receive from someone we respect and actively incorporate their insight into our Inner Work. The next time we have a conversation with that person, the results of our previous communication are then reflected by changes in our orientation, manner, insights, and understanding.

Aware practitioners who do healing, therapy, or spiritual work notice when clients make the work their own, returning with a picture that has evolved.

Clients or friends who do NOT do their Inner Work return to the next conversation pretty much the same as they were before the last encounter.

In contrast, those of us who have developed a sense of continuity may maintain important conversations as active and ongoing processes, which we together build on over time. Carrying continuity of conversation when the
P1050630other person does not can make interaction draining.

In relationships between professionals and clients, satisfaction and a feeling of shared accomplishment arise when the client begins to actively internalize and practice what they receive. In contrast, working with clients who ONLY work in session can feel like shoveling gravel.

An insightful client once asked, “If I take in what you say and reflect on it, will it have an impact without you doing anything else?” I smiled, and decided to write about this.

I had just shared an insight. I could feel and see it go IN. Her energy fields received it. Her chakras opened to it. Her energy system shifted in response to what I said. When that happens I KNOW that it is something the person will hold within themselves. It becomes a part of their consciousness because they took it in and assimilated it. Insights or healing energy work best by becoming internal to those who receive them.

People who are ready and receptive take things in and reshape their reality. A change occurs within, changing the way they view things. Insights that are grasped and absorbed this way, with presence, involve the functions of sensing and feeling as well as thinking. Such insights contain and deliver a degree or charge of momentum toward change—whether or not we consciously remember their content or reflect upon them later.

When people do not do take outer work—such as insightful interchange—into their Inner Work, their energy and reality do not change from what they hear. The insight or energy does not become a part of their own fabric of Being. Even if they go away and cogitate (“go figure”), this theorizing and speculation are likely to remain buffered from real feeling, maintaining the habitual structure of a status quo.

When ones energy actually changes from hearing something and taking it in, Inner Work is occurring right in the moment. Inner Work is not something one must go away to do. Solitude can help with focus, but it is important to learn how to stay with and true to ourselves while relating to others.

One who is wedded to a status quo is challenged to flex and adjust in order to take in influence. Similarly, one who over-flexes and over-adjusts without a clear sense of self also has trouble maintaining positive influence, if they take it in. Any new program is quickly overwritten by whatever happenstance influence occurs next. This derails intentional positive influence and functions, if covertly, as a rigid status quo.

Without the precious step of internally working new understandings against (like rubbing against) the realities of life, with presence, self-observation and openness, one returns to status quo, which is often constructed by opinions, unexamined beliefs, and assumptions. Sensing and feeling are not adequately informing experience.

Someone who remains tightly compartmentalized controls the scope of influence so that results of apparent Work do not actually create change. Think of someone who is pretending to eat, cutting up the food and circulating it around the plate. He or she may want the appearance of or credit for Work—without its actual accomplishment. Time and energy are expended but the status quo remains untouched. Such a person may work at Working, and even receive support and attention for the same without taking things in deeply enough to stimulate transformation.

Rigid people can be draining to those who speak and listen with committed focus. Our words are lost instead of being mutually invested in the relationship, gaining value, interest and momentum over time.

My greatest joys are sharing with insightful friends as we hold and develop one another’s perceptions, deepening shared learning and stimulating mutual growth. Our conversations become a part of us as we cherish elements of our exchange over the course of months or years, keeping parts of our conversations on tap and developing shared humor.

Learning to take influence intentionally and to be intentional about our own influence on others increases both our sense of self and our experience of real intimacy with others.

What do you do internally when you want to open yourself to influence?

Are you confident when you invite influence that your sense of self and your power remain intact, or do you feel a need to deflect?

11 September 2015 3 Comments

Managing Your Energy, Part #61: What IS Personal Development? & Guidelines for Whether to Remain in Difficult Circumstances

Managing Your Energy, Part #61: What IS Personal Development? & Guidelines for Whether to Remain in Difficult Circumstances

“When a defect becomes common, it is considered as the normal state by the generality.” ~ Inayat Khan

These behaviors indicate the kind of personal development I have been referring to in the last few posts:

—the ability to accurately self observe
—familiarity with one’s defenses and ability to see them in action
—having a healthy relationship with power
—the ability to observe everything one does not like about one’s self without losing at least partial objectivity or self love, including any abuses of power
—having established an observing center of consciousness that is present and operates like the hub of a wheel, like the still point within all personality manifestations
—the ability to be consistent over time, when choosing to do so
—a high degree of personal congruence between thought, speech, and action
—being able to observe and acknowledge lack of congruence or inconsistency without activating defensive behaviors
—knowing where one’s blind spots are and being willing to recognize and explore them if someone points them out
—the ability to intentionally produce authentic positive states
—the ability to observe one’s reactive emotional states without overly identifying with them, while simultaneously in touch with parts of Self that are not in reaction

Obviously, if someone cannot self assess accurately, they will be unable to evaluate their relationship with the above capacities.

Again, we are not consistent. We have aspects of ourselves that are more developed, and aspects which are less. We are susceptible to conditions, circumstances, physiology, and many other influences that can conspire to activate hidden places we have not mined, or push us P1140113beyond our ability to cope. For those on a path of development and awareness, it can be said that these stresses not only SHOW us what we are made of, but BUILD who we become. 

Given that the pressures of life assist in bringing out who we are and in forming who we become, by what basis do you determine whether or not a difficult set of circumstances serves you? 

Comfort may keep one embedded in habitual conditions that do not support Awakening. 

How do we determine whether or not a stressful situation serves us? Here are some useful questions or potential guidelines for your consideration:

—Am I able to learn through the distress this situation brings up?
—Does this distress further my development?
—Am I discovering something new, or repeating something?
—Am actively in the process of learning how to engage with the same circumstances in ways that do not evoke distress?
—If the situation is resistant to change, are there any elements of the situation that CAN be modified, that will take pressure off of it? What would I need to do to enact this change? How can I enable myself to do so?
—Does my intuition support remaining in the situation?
—Do I sense a karmic aspect to this situation? If so, what does it call for?
—What would I need to do or learn to create a sense of resolution?
—Is remaining in this situation the Highest Possible Option at this point in time?

While they can certainly help, even clear guidelines do not always transfer into the messiness of life itself. Especially in moments of overwhelm, we may make choices that do not serve us. The more we seek to learn from these experiences and aim not to repeat them, the more reliably we can use them to enhance positive values.

When a situation becomes static and is not changing, it is time to do something different. Flatness or a deadened heart must not become a status quo. With the exception of conscious, living ritual, repetitive, scripted or patterned interactions usually consume time and life energy without offering much in return.

How do YOU sense whether a stressful set of circumstances is useful to you?

How do you make use of stressful circumstances?

What does it take to keep you engaged if the conditions are difficult?

9 January 2015 2 Comments

Managing Your Energy, Part 32: Do You Scare Yourself Out of Developing?

Managing Your Energy, Part 32: Do You Scare Yourself Out of Developing?

Working with a spiritual teacher several decades ago, I remember getting really scared. I was thinking: “If I REALLY open my heart I will have to give everything to the poor and live like Mother Teresa.”

That was my concept about spirituality.

A dear client felt afraid to take her next step in personal and spiritual development. As we looked into this fear, she formulated its underpinning as something like this: “If I become perfect, I will have to give up getting angry, and therefore will have to do what my husband wants me to do and give up the control I feel through my resistance.”

Most of us fear transformation. Faced with the possibility of profound change, we often have an underlying, anxious construct like: “If I become like _____ I will have to _____, and therefore ______.”

Such constructs and resulting predicaments stem from unexamined assumptions, driven by fear. Either/or thinking often plays a part. The initial premise is usually an inaccurate assessment, which leads to an unrealistic extrapolation about a frightening and fictional future.

Noticing and investigating rhetoric or propaganda from our less-developed inner sectors is essential to successful personal and spiritual development.

Here is a line of inquiry for investigating fears and conflicts about inner growth:

  • What are you actually afraid of?
  • Is this fear warranted?
  • How does this fear indicate a conflict of values between different parts of yourself?
  • What part or value is most important to your life satisfaction?
  • Can you intentionally choose your most important value and go with it?
  • What inner resources would serve you in doing so?

Let’s walk this through with the fear I began with:
What are you actually afraid of? I was afraid that I would be compelled to sacrifice myself entirely in order to have spiritual validity.IMG_0105

Is this fear warranted? No. In actual fact, my issue has been with over-giving; too much sacrifice. My spiritual path has actually helped me to give in healthier ways.

How does this fear indicate a conflict of values between different parts of yourself? Part of me wants to give everything, while part of me is survival-oriented and selfish.

What part or value is most important to your life satisfaction? Balance and healthy adjustment are more important to me than either sacrifice or selfishness.

Can you intentionally choose your most important value and go with it? Yes, and I have been practicing. When I begin to feel too self-sacrificing or too selfish, I make adjustments.

What inner resources would serve you in doing so? I understand that very life time has different requirements for balance, and that the things that serve my soul bring about real happiness.

When we become fully loyal to our most comprehensive values, we resolve mental conflict and can use our values to navigate life challenges.

A few more thoughts about scaring ourselves with ideas about growth:

  • States of awareness that we move toward in the process of healthy development are rarely the way we imagine them from within our current limitations.
  • We usually enter new states having developed the foundations that support them.
  • A new state may require adjustment, but after adjusting we feel better than we did before.
  • We usually develop new stages of awareness gradually, and must work to stabilize them so we do not regress. This process is like adding drops into a bucket of a waterwheel, which begins to move slowly once its weight hits critical mass. If we do not keep adding water it may come to a stop.

Spiritual work consists largely of learning to be able to accept and tolerate WHAT IS. This includes ourselves! We are not attempting to transcend our humanity, but to integrate it within the Whole.

Do YOU ever scare yourself about doing the things that are most important to you?

If so, how do you construct or deconstruct your rhetoric about it?