I'm embarrassed to admit that I had no idea how to just enjoy myself while I was being treated to a night out. I couldn't stand not calling the shots. Being in control made me feel secure. And, being surprised--even pleasantly--made me anxious. I Had the Kookiest Problem AT HOME, I took a hot bath to soothe myself. Sitting in the tub, I struggled to figure out why I couldn't enjoy myself on a night out with my husband. If you simply love yourself, just as you are, right where you are, you will become an unstoppable force for healing and transformation. We are making the all-important shift from reliance on external authority, to internal knowingness. Because we are spiritual beings, nothing in the outer world compels us like the wisdom of our soul. You can bring some truth to life by living good, but you will bring more good to life by living true - true to yourself, to your heart, to your vision, to your destiny. Holiness can be an insidious form of denial; But there comes a point on the spiritual path where even sainthood is a trap. The only thing more important than being good is to be. When we choose to be just what we are, we bring our most precious gift to the planet It is said that you can distinguish a saint by his utter ordinariness. Very few enlightened masters advertise themselves as such. Beware of those who hang out a shingle as the self-proclaimed avatar of the new age. I have not been able to get them out of my head for days. Especially coming from another musician, that was probably a bewitching compliment for Brahms to hear, addressing as it did his skills and passions. Most people love to be reminded of how special they are.

My friend Stacey, a business school graduate who has followed a successful straight-and-narrow career path, said the nicest compliment she ever received was from a classmate who called her quirky. She explained that it made her feel funny, interesting, and different--like I wasn't your run-of-the-mill B-school type. But be careful here, and avoid anything that might be construed as a backhanded compliment. Among the people I polled, compliments about being a good friend were the hands-down favorite. Simply saying, You're a good friend compliments a variety of qualities all at once; The nicest compliment I've received is that I'm a thoughtful and loyal person, my friend Aimee told me. Your best friend has just been dumped or cheated on I tried to think of something besides me that was wrong with the evening, but I couldn't. I was the problem. I realized then that if I ever wanted to have intimacy with my husband--who loved me and wanted me to be happy--I would have to learn to ride out the initial discomfort of being in the spotlight. I would have to find the courage to receive graciously. That night I discovered that my capacity for enjoyment was limited. The only thing standing between me and my having romantic nights out with my husband was the discomfort I experienced when I was treated well. Prior to that night, I figured that the problem was with my husband, or that we couldn't afford to go out, or that marriage isn't like dating. But seeing John try so hard to make the evening special and to plan it with all the things he knew I loved, and watching myself systematically reject his efforts, made me realize that I was blocking my own pleasure. It was like knowing that Ed McMahon was at the door with a sweepstakes check and not opening it because I wasn't sure how much money I would get. If I wanted good times--let alone intimacy--with my husband and others, I was going to have to increase my tolerance for good treatment. Neither do you have to broadcast your worth; God takes it for granted, and so can you. Wisdom does not have to lobby for appreciation, and innocence is winning not by its presentation, but by its simplicity.

Love is strong enough to fulfill its destiny simply by being itself. As soon as you trust yourself, you will know how to live. SHAKE UP, WAKE UP We turn to God for help when While strolling through a small town in the mountains of Bali, I came upon a cremation ceremony. Death, like life in this innocent culture, is held in an attitude of reverent celebration. The Balinese would never be able to relate to the Occidental's dark, mournful, heavy aura enshrouding death. This is not the time to criticize her taste in significant others. If there's even a hint of an I-told-you-so fluttering about your consciousness, keep it to yourself. Nor is it the time--and this should go without saying--to explain what she does wrong in relationships. Her ego has likely taken a beating, so give it the salve it needs with a sincere compliment. Keep it sassy and decidedly nonpatronizing--tell her what a hot, sexy catch she is, and then take her out for a cocktail and let her know how often she's getting checked out. Meeting your future in-laws (or people you hope will become your in-laws) No, you don't need to suck up to them or pretend to be anything you're not. Grand, dramatic, or overly personal compliments don't belong in this scenario. But hey, you like their offspring quite a bit--why not tell them that? Your significant other wouldn't be here without them. Looking back, I can see how I had been turning down gifts and special treatment my whole life, but it wasn't until that night that I had my aha moment. In that flash of clarity I felt as though I had the kookiest problem in the world and that no one else would understand it. I didn't know of any articles or advice columns or talk-show hosts who'd ever talked about receiving.

I had no idea how I would begin to change, but I knew I had to do something because I desperately wanted to stop blocking all the kindnesses, treats, and even money that could come my way. I racked my brain for ways to overcome my anxiety. Then, one afternoon while I was quietly folding laundry on my bed, I remembered what I had learned from singing in front of an audience. For my first performance--a gig at a tiny coffeehouse in the suburbs of Los Angeles--I had been so nervous and self-conscious that I didn't enjoy myself at all. I spent the whole night wincing internally at my mistakes, and I was one big pretzel when the show was over. But I didn't let that stop me from coming back to perform again the next week, and, when nobody said anything about how awful I was, I felt a little less anxious. Over time and dozens of gigs, I grew so comfortable being on stage that I actually enjoyed myself. In this childlike society, everything points to life, including the passing beyond the body. I joined the procession from the home of the deceased to the cremation grounds, about a mile outside the village. The body, that of a grandmotherly woman, was placed on a high throne-like wooden tower, called a horse, ornately decorated in white enamel paint and gold foil. At the foot of the horse lay many offerings to the gods, including food, flowers, incense, photos, and written materials. A marching gamelan (oriental xylophone and bell) band formed itself behind the horse, striking a trance-like rhythm on their rudimentary metal instruments. A group of about sixteen men slipped under the bamboo base of the edifice, lifted it onto their shoulders, and carried it along the main road of the village to the cemetery. Then I observed a most fascinating practice: every few minutes during the procession, the pallbearers would break into shouts of glee and laughter, and twirl the horse, with the body fastened to its apex, in circles. When I asked a local fellow what this ritual was all about, he explained that the pallbearers spin the bier to confuse the deceased's spirit so it cannot find its way back to the body, and thus hasten the soul on its journey to the next life. This struck me as a perfect metaphor for the changes we are going through. From time to time life shakes us up, twirling or even destroying the foundation we have built. A simple I've never met anyone as thoughtful as your son or Your daughter is so talented should make them feel a little happy and proud. Your fiance was recently laid off This is a time to be especially subtle, because too much unsolicited praise could be interpreted as pity.

And that doesn't do much good for a deflated ego. Request help with a project, rave about one of his best moves in the bedroom, and slip in a low-key compliment about his qualifications or skills when he's applying for a new job. You just watched your sister perform in front of a live audience Whether she's on Broadway or in a school auditorium, giving a speech to thousands or reading her poetry at open-mike night, when she steps off that stage and says hello to you, she craves your approval and positive feedback. So don't be stingy about it. Find something worth complimenting, even if you weren't wowed by the whole show. Praise her stage presence, her beautiful look, her sultry voice, or a specific turn of phrase. Eventually, I stopped thinking about the mistakes and just had fun connecting with the audience by smiling at them and singing their requests. I decided that I would make myself accept as much good treatment as possible, just the way I decided to keep performing on stage despite my sweaty palms and pounding chest. I put myself on a receiving regimen, hoping to improve the intimacy in my marriage, deepen my friendships, improve my standard of living, and simply make myself into someone our neighbors and community thought was pleasant and gracious. I made my mantra receive, receive, receive! I hoped that if I got used to good treatment, I would eventually begin to enjoy it. Little did I know that would also attract more to me. I Had to Override the Alarm System FORCING MYSELF TO SAY nothing but thank you to John's compliments and the nice things he would do when I was least expecting them--even if I thought they were undeserved--was as uncomfortable as using muscles I hadn't stretched in years. But the more I used those receiving muscles, the more confident I grew from hearing--and believing--compliments that I once would have dismissed. When John offered to do the dishes, I ignored my fears that he would leave streaks on the glasses and said only thank you, so I could have a little time to myself after dinner to read a article or chat on the phone with my friends. Such an experience can be quite disorienting - and it is supposed to be. The purpose of change beyond our control is to shake us up so we must hasten in a new direction. Like the soul that has left the body of the deceased, we may not be able to find our way back to our past base.