Making the Shift

Robert Holden shares six principles to help us embrace and accept the authentic self that lies within

By Tammy Mastroberte

When choosing a car to drive, most people opt for automatic transmission. After all, it’s easier than a manual stick shift, and allows for somewhat of an “auto pilot” option. Once the car is in drive, we can forget about switching gears. But once a person learns stick shift driving, changing gears becomes second nature, and actually offers more power. The same is true when we make the decision to shift our focus from the outer world to the one within — each time we shift it becomes easier, and we not only step into our true power, but we also discover our true nature.

During Hay House’s “I Can Do It Toronto” conference in March of this year, best-selling author Robert Holden spoke about this inner shift, which he explains in his book “Shift Happens! How to Live an Inspired Life . . . Starting Right Now!” And the first step is self-acceptance.

“Our life is fundamentally a tale of two selves,” Holden told the audience. One he calls the “unconditioned self” or the “original you,” and the other is “the learned self” or ego. “The spiritual path or spiritual inquiry is about understanding these two selves so we can learn to identify with the truth of who we really are,” he explained.

While the book “Shift Happens!” offers 50 principles on “how to be more of who you already are,” Holden focused on six of them during the 90-minute session, starting with the shift from the ego to the soul.

“No amount of self-improvement can make up for any lack of self-acceptance,”

Holden explained as the basis for this principle. Shifting from the learned self — known as the ego, the separate self or the mask we put on to navigate the physical world — to the unconditional self can be a profound experience that opens us to a whole new world.

“The unconditioned self is the original you before you began to identify with a body; before you were issued a passport; before you began to think about school grades, calories, mortgages, cholesterol and pensions,” Holden said.

Catholicism refers to it as the original blessing and Buddhism as the original face, but in essence it is the true self. “This self already exists. It is awaiting your recognition and your acceptance.”

Our learned self is in constant preparation and has inner doubt. It doubts love, happiness and peace exist here in the physical world, and feels there is something missing. Because of this, it is in a constant search for happiness, Holden told the audience. It leads us to focus on self-improvement because it convinces us there is something wrong with us. As a trained psychologist, Holden said his office was full of people who believed something was wrong with them — and his job was to confirm it, he joked. Using “The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders,” he would search for a diagnosis.

“I now refer to this book as ‘the bible of wrongness,’” he said, explaining that in 1968 the book contained only 92 pages, and in the latest edition published in 1994, there are 886 pages of possible diagnosis.

“We are frightening ourselves by telling ourselves there is something wrong with us,” he said, explaining the goal of healing is to remember our wholeness. “The final act of healing is to accept there is nothing wrong with you. Yes, you may be suffering from psychology, but who you really are is O.K. Yes, your personality may be auditioning for a part in high anxiety, but who you are is still O.K.”

How do we remember there is nothing wrong with us? We practice self-acceptance.

The unconditioned self knows this is the key to life, and that the more we accept ourselves, the more every area of our lives improve, he said.

“Self-acceptance activates the law of attraction. When you accept yourself, not only do you attract great things into your life, but you accept them as well. You don’t repel them. You don’t test them, sabotage them or overlook them. You welcome them. This is the passport into your own life,” Holden said.

He shared the best way to practice self-acceptance is through a daily spiritual practice. This can be anything that helps us meet our true selves, and remember who we are. “When we pray, chant, do yoga or meditate, it’s not to change or improve ourselves, but to actually be ourselves.”


Holden introduced this principle by pointing to the large number of people who are describing themselves as spiritual, and the shrinking amount of those seeking spirituality through a church or religion. With this principle, he encouraged the audience to be open about their spirituality and relationship to God.

“When you hide your spirituality, you lose yourself,” he explained. “I started my training as a psychologist and was studying psychology. I never meant to get into God, but the clearer you become about God, the more innocent you become about happiness, success, love, abundance and everything else you truly want on the planet.”

Referring to what he calls “The God Inquiry,” Holden explained that in exploring our spiritual side we are looking to learn more about God. This does not mean knowing more about religion, but actually learning more about our unconditioned self. Avoiding this inquiry is actually avoiding the deeper parts of ourselves where creativity, inspiration and grace exist.

“The inquiry into God is not an inquiry about something outside of ourselves,” he stated. “It’s an inquiry into who we most truly are.” One of the inquiring questions he shared with the audience was: “From 1 to 100 percent, how much do I let God love me?” If the answer to this question is anything less than 100 percent, there lies our spiritual work and spiritual opportunity, he explained. And this is where the daily spiritual practice comes into play again.

“Are you willing to let yourself be loved by creation . . . by life itself? We will not allow ourselves to be loved if we continue to hold on to an idea about ourselves that says there is something wrong with us,” he noted.

For those wondering where to start with a spiritual practice, he quoted a prayer from a Benedictine nun called the God Prayer. “Dear God, show me the truth about myself no matter how beautiful it is. Amen,” he said. “Start by spending 15 minutes with that.”


This principle states: “The world is not just a physical place. It’s a choice,” said Holden, asking the audience if they had tried to change the world recently, or maybe a partner, a child or a friend because they were not happy with something about them? “Imagine if we took that effort and put it into a spiritual practice,” he said. “When we change our mind about the world, then we can change the world.”

To illustrate this, Holden shard three world views with the audience: Determinism, Adaptation and Creation. Determinism sets us up to be victims with no choice or role in the happenings of our life. With this view, we are blaming the world for the way our life is, and we begin to think life is against us. “We fall into this when we lose our cell phone, and we begin to think life is against us,” Holden said.

Adaptation is a view that came into play just after the Second World War. It gives us a choice. The belief here is that life happens, but we can choose what happens next. “This is where life happens and we respond, and it’s the response that makes the difference,” he said.

“Cognitive schools of psychology flowered teaching this.” However, the new view today is that of the physicist called Creation, which stems from the belief that the world is the way it is because of how we have been in the past, and how we are today. “The world responds to our intentions and to our thinking,” he said. “The world is different when we show up in a different way.”

With this view of creation, we can make a difference. As part of our spiritual practice, we can take a moment — even 10 seconds — to imagine the world we would like to live in now, and hold that image. “As we hold the image, we can consider, ‘How would I be if I lived in this sort of world?’” said Holden. “This is how we can go into our day in a different way.”


By embracing the concept that every being in this physical world is connected, we realize no matter who we are, we need to rely on the help of others. “If you are alive, you need help,” said Holden. “The honest truth is there is no such thing as independence. It’s a myth.” Introducing the concepts of D.I.P. (Dysfunctional Independent Person) and H.I.P. (Healthy Independent Person) he illustrated how everyone needs support in life. “Even the Lone Ranger had Tonto. Superman had Lois Lane. Batman had Robin. The great artists had muses. They were all helped,” he noted.

A D.I.P. believes they are self-made, and operates with a “me against the world” attitude. They suffer from B.M.S. (by myself syndrome) and are hopeless at asking others for help. But it’s a lack of trust that holds D.I.P.s back, Holden pointed out.

“The age of the independent person is over. The age of the independent nation is over. We need to stop telling ourselves that independence exists, and start to get excited about what exists on the other side of independence, which is grace and inspiration. When we allow that to happen, all of the sudden we start to trust again,” he said.

An exercise to help us become better receivers is to use the affirmation every morning: “Today, I will receive. I will let myself receive so I can give in a whole other way, so that I can participate in a whole other way.” If we don’t allow ourselves to receive, all of our giving will deplete us, he explained. By opening up to receive through relationships with others, we open ourselves to a new level of grace and inspiration.


The secret to this principle lies in this statement: “The world is finished with your past if you have.” The only way to do this is to forgive. This is what leads to true healing, according to Holden. “Anybody who has had a past knows what suffering is, and anybody who has had a past deserves our compassion. All of us have had moments in our life when we would not recommend ‘life’ to anybody,” Holden noted.

“Plato said, ‘Be kind because everybody is fighting a hard battle.’” Holden believes there is only one way to survive our past, and that is to practice the miracle of forgiveness. This helps us remember who we are, and allows us to see everything differently. Forgiveness also helps us to live in the present tense because without it, we can’t get past our history.

“We stay in the past because we are afraid the past was our best chance for happiness. But what forgiveness is showing us, is the present moment is always the best moment for happiness,” Holden said. “Forgiveness is an angel you pray to when you need a miracle in your life. It sets us free from fear, guilt, anger and cynicism, so we can be the unconditioned self we truly are.”

If we hang on to the past, we continue to have complaints about the present, and this will prevent us from truly showing up in both the present and the future, because fear of the past repeating itself will remain. It is forgiveness that can offer us a new beginning, and can reacquaint us with our unconditioned self.

“Forgiveness gives you wings,” said Holden. “The most beautiful thing about it is that nobody benefits more from forgiveness than the person who is doing the forgiving. When we really forgive, we understand that the world is a state of mind, and we allow ourselves to be helped by those unseen hands — by life itself — so that we can be who we are meant to be.”

Offering the audience a prayer to help them embrace forgiveness in their lives, Holden said: “Dear God, I declare today a day of Amnesty in which I gratefully volunteer to hand in all of my resentments and grievances to you. Please help me to handle well all of the peace, love, success and happiness that must inevitably follow. Amen.”


“Some people go through life and others grow through life. My question to you is, ‘Are you still growing?’” Holden asked the audience. Similar to the learned self versus the unconditioned self, this principle looks at reinvention versus authenticity. Instead of trying to change ourselves, we should be trying to become ourselves, said Holden.

“There is one voice within that says, ‘We have to change ourselves. We have to reinvent ourselves. We have to change ourselves into a new person.’ But there is another voice saying, ‘No, just be who you are. Be more or who you are. Learn who you are and be more of that person,’” Holden shared, using an image from the cover of a popular United Kingdom magazine SHE from a couple of years ago featuring the headline “325 Ways to a Gorgeous New You.”

“Instead of trying to change ourselves, we have to try and become ourselves,” he noted. “If you think something is missing in your life, it’s probably you — more of you, more of your real self.”

While the ego self is always in waiting mode telling us we are not ready yet, and that we need to be patient, the soul is always ready to do the soul’s work, he said. The ego will never be ready to do the soul’s work because it’s the soul’s job. And no matter what the ego may tell us, it’s never too late.

“It’s never too late to be who we truly are and to live from our heart. It’s never too late to heal and let go of the past — to make contact with reality, and to take an emotional risk and go for it,” said Holden. “It’s never too late to follow your joy. It’s never too late to drop the defenses and play big in the world, and be a heart in this world. The purpose of your life is not to escape from this world, it’s to be in this world so that you can be the presence of love that you are truly here to be, and because of that your family and friends and everybody on this planet will be grateful that you were here.”

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