Jay Schryer Rotating Header Image

Shifting Focus

photo by shawnzrossi

Join me in an experiment for a moment.

Inhale. Deeply. Let your lungs fill completely with air, and then hold it. Feel the pressure start to build, and notice how it increases steadily. No matter how much air you took in, eventually you have to let it out again.

Go ahead…let it out. Doesn’t that feel wonderful? The pressure releases and your whole body relaxes.

Before you inhale again…pause. Exhale completely, and force all the stale air out of your body. Exhale until it isn’t possible to blow out any more air. Now, hold that for a moment. Again, feel the pressure increase until you simply cannot stand it anymore.

Now, breathe in again. Feels good, doesn’t it?

OK, start breathing normally again…

As with breathing, so it is with life. All areas of life benefit from this exchange of energy: breathe in, breathe out. If you’ve ever studied The Artist’s Way by Julie Cameron, you know that this is how she teaches you to unblock your creative flow. You take yourself out on artist dates, and expose yourself to (inhale) art in all its varied forms. This exposure “fills your cup” so that when it comes time for you to create…to exhale your art…you have plenty of material to work with.

One of my purposes in life is to teach people magic—the deliberate application of energy to transform reality. I teach people how to access the universal flow of energy, hold it internally, and then release it to transform their lives. The process is exactly like breathing. In fact, that’s how I describe it when I apply it to my own life: I inhale Divine Love, and I exhale Magic.

Love works in the same way. You must balance the love you give others with the love you receive, or else the pressure builds internally until it becomes intolerable. If you give too much without allowing yourself to receive, then you run the risk of pumping your internal well dry. Likewise, if you receive more than you give, you run the risk of drowning.

(Drowning…in the sea of love…where everyone would love to drown…” ~Fleetwood Mac)

Which brings me to my point in this post: altruism.

Eleven years ago, I was devastated by a painful divorce. In the aftermath of that divorce, I set out to make myself a better person. I believed that I was unlovable, and I thought that if I could just make myself into a good enough person, then someone would love me and I would never have to feel that pain again.

Now, this thinking is faulty on many different levels…too many to go into here…and it has taken me all this time (and therapy) to see that. Perhaps the worst thing about it is that it led me to another faulty conclusion: Giving is good, taking is bad.

Somewhere along the way, I bought into this false notion that good people give, and bad people take; that giving is good and taking is bad. I believed that the way to become the best person I could be was to become the most giving person I could be. The more I gave away, the better I would be. “Giver” became like a computer virus. It became an over-riding subroutine running throughout every area of my life.

Honestly, I think that I wanted to be seen as a giver more than I actually wanted to give. I wanted the reputation of being a giver. I wanted to be the guy that everyone saw and said “That’s Jay…he’ll give you the shirt off his back.” I wanted to be seen as this amazingly altruistic spirit; a paragon of philanthropy.

And so, eventually, I did just that. I became the man I wanted to be. I became the most giving person you could imagine.

In my career, I dived into charity work. I worked as an Americorps VISTA volunteer for three years, living on a pittance while giving my best ideas to some worthy non-profit organizations. Then, I helped build two non-profits from the ground up. Then, I figured I could REALLY start to give if I had a nice paying job, and so I got one…just so I could give more money to charity and to my friends and family. The only (and I do mean only) reason I wanted more money was so that I could give away more money.

In my personal life, I started giving way more than I was willing to receive. I gave freely of my time, my talents, and my money to anyone who needed them, even if they didn’t ask. I looked for ways to help, even if my help wasn’t always needed or appreciated. Not surprisingly, I attracted many people in my life who were only too happy to take advantage of my generosity. But even when I knew I was being used, I brushed it aside by rationalizing it: If they are so willing to take it, they must need it more than I do, so I will be a good person by fulfilling their needs.

Up until about a month ago, if you had asked me the question “If you had a million dollars, what would you do with it?“, my answer would have been automatic: I’d give most of it to charity, and then I’d pay off debts for my friends and family. If there was anything left over, I’d set up a trust fund for myself so that I never had to worry about money again.

The various events and circumstances that conspired to break me from this way of thinking aren’t important. There’s no one to blame (except myself), and no fingers to point. All that matters is that I finally figured out that I was “giving” from a place of low self esteem and insecurity, and now that I have healed those wounds which caused my low self esteem and insecurity, I no longer feel the need to sacrifice myself on the altar of other people’s happiness. I am worthy of love and respect, even if I won’t give you the shirt off my back anymore.

I have exhaled my altruism to the point of pain. It is now time for me to inhale; to receive. I am walking away from the martyr archetype, and stepping into a life of comfort and pleasure. This is my life, and I am shifting my focus to myself.

Be Good to Yourself,





  1. Megan Bord says:

    Jay, how on earth did you know that 30 minutes before reading this post of yours, I was driving home thinking about EXACTLY THIS? I flashed back to the time when I first met you. You were involved in a new relationship – one for which you packed up your life and moved cross-country – and from where I sat, it appeared that your wallet was not your own. (I may be wrong about that, but that’s how I saw it.) It was bizarre to me, because not only did it appear as if you were paying for you and your then girlfriend, but it also seemed like she was volunteering your money to pay for others (in situations like ordering food, buying gas for group trips, etc.). Now, that instance aside (but that’s seriously what I was thinking about 30 minutes before I got home and saw your new post in my email inbox), I have seen your incredible generosity firsthand. I know you didn’t write this post to make anyone feel guilty… I guess it just makes me happy to see that you’re willing now – and able – to strike a balance. You’re able to recognize a past pattern and attract that which is new, healthier, and better suited for you.

    I have a friend who’s like this, as well. He gives, gives, gives and offers to help others in every situation, every single time no matter what. As a result, he’s attracted women (in particular) who use him up in that regard, but don’t replenish him in a good & balanced way. He usually ends up on the empty side of the equation. He’s unhappy, his life is chaotic, and he continues to attract “users” and “abusers.” He doesn’t yet recognize the connection between his desire (or NEED) to give, and the belief that it’s what makes him “enough.” He’s not where you are yet. I hope he gets there.

    Jay, I love you, my friend, and believe you deserve a life of comfort and pleasure. And you know what? Now that you’re focusing on you, you’ll attract others who focus on you, too. It’s a win-win and I the sun is shining — that’s for you!

    x x x

    1. JaySchryer says:

      Megan the Magnificent!

      I didn’t know…but isn’t serendipity a wonderful thing? I love it when my writing reaches people at exactly the right time, or when I read something that someone else has written at exactly the right time.

      You’re right…I didn’t write this to make anyone feel guilty. In fact, that’s the LAST thing anyone should feel. Whatever (or whoever) I attracted into my life was (usually) what I wanted, and (always) exactly what I needed. The users and abusers served a purpose: they “broke” me down so that I could finally see my reflection, heal those wounds, and grow into the person that I am today. I might have preferred to learn those lessons in a less painful way, but in the end, only the learning matters.

      Now, with the old habits shattered, I’m free to adopt new, healthier habits. As you said, I’ll attract that which is better suited to me.

      I do hope that your friend learns the lesson in a much easier way. I hate to think of anyone else learning the hard way, but sometimes, that’s just what it takes. Like you, I hope he gets to where I am now. I just hope he finds an easier path to get there! :)

      I love you, Megan. Thank you so much for being a part of my life.

  2. Jeanie says:

    As I started to read this–I automatically followed your writing. “In…and out. In……ouch…and out.” :)

    I have been thinking a lot about the balance of self/family/others care, particularly with regard to money. Tonight I had a conversation with Gene about this tutoring gig that came my way, and he said, “It’s high school? Charge $60 an hour. College tutors generally charge $80″ as I gulped inside at the audacity of ME asking for that much money. “Can I cut it? Do I really remember and know enough to be an effective tutor? Is what this family needs really a therapist and not a tutor? Am I going to inadvertently bring all of me to the tutoring and ..” so on and so forth.

    Gene’s words were very practical and exactly what I needed to hear-”If you go around feeling sorry for every client who comes your way, then you’ll never be able to build up your potential financially or emotionally to receive what they have to give. If she can’t afford it, she’ll find someone cheaper or enroll him elsewhere. Don’t worry about charging $300/week. It’s worth it if you’re able to help him succeed.”

    So. It’s possible that I can start inhaling belief in self and exhaling value given to the world, eh? If you can do it, with all the interesting life experiences you’ve had, so can I. :) No more excuses!

    I’m so glad you’ve come to peace with giving and taking, Jay. And I’m glad you are able to write about the shift so succinctly.

    1. JaySchryer says:

      Hey Jeanie,

      Yes, it’s absolutely possible to inhale belief of self and exhale value. In fact, that’s really the only way to do it. When you undervalue yourself, you accept bad behavior from others. Worse, from a business perspective, you attract clients that aren’t worth the trouble they cause. They try to avoid paying you, they try to talk you down from your price, and they generally just act like asses in an effort to get you to drop them so they don’t have to pay you at all…even though you might have already rendered service. What’s worse…you’ll let them do it, and then you’ll be the one who feels guilty after it is all over with! I know this from personal experience, because that’s *exactly* why I don’t work as a web designer anymore. I didn’t charge enough, and I let too many clients walk all over me, simply because I didn’t believe in myself enough to stop them.

      What Gene told you is correct: If you let your bleeding heart get in the way, you’ll never build up your own potential. In the long run, you actually hurt more people than you help, because you’ll never be able to help the people who need you most; you’ll be too burned out from helping everyone else. I also like what he had to say about “It’s worth it if you’re able to help him succeed.” This is soooo true, and so important. When you genuinely help people, whatever you charge them (provided it was agreed upon in advance) is money well spent.

      So yes…no more excuses! You are an awesome counselor, and you have a lot of knowledge and skills to share. People should be DELIGHTED to pay you $300 a week…or more! Go get em, tiger!

  3. Hi Jay, I missed this one when it posted, but I really love it. Learning to receive has been a big theme in my life, and is still ongoing on new levels. My own tendency was based partly on karmas, partly on a very stoic, ‘be self-sufficient’ type upbringing. It was just always easier for me to give than to receive. But in addition to the self-harm you mentioned, it can create a real imbalance in relationiships – a sense that you don’t trust others in your life to help you, or that they are always beholden to you. Who knew there was so much unpacking to do related to something that seems as nice as giving??

    Great post. Xo – Lisa

    1. JaySchryer says:

      Thank you, Lisa! Yeah, I was kinda shocked when I realized just how much I was holding on to the “be self-sufficient” notion that you mentioned. For me, it was partly my upbringing (life on the farm teaches self-sufficiency above all else), and partly baggage due to my disability (I don’t ever want to need someone to take care of me…so I have to do it all myself, and keep doing it). Also, the imbalance that you mentioned…I was disappointed with myself when I noticed just how much resentment I was carrying towards others…why isn’t this person or that person more grateful for what I did?!?! For me, that was the big red warning flag that I needed. I realized that my giving wasn’t “pure” in that I was always expecting gratitude. That realization is what led me to the insight of my own well being dry in this regard, and needing to refill my inner tank.

      PS-I’m still thinking about dragon stories for you…I haven’t forgotten! :)

  4. Beautiful post Jay. ;) Good on you for taking care of yourself. Can’t do much good in the world if that essential piece isn’t your priority. Time for you. Yay you!!! ;)

    I did the same thing as jeannie and began breathing in and out, lol. So needed it. I think we are all craving all opportunities to breathe…. On that note, off to meditate.

    Meta, Tamara xo

    1. JaySchryer says:

      Hi Tamara! I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I think you’re right: We’re all craving opportunities to breathe. Just to breathe…no worrying, planning, scurrying, chasing, or anything else — just breathing. I think it’s vitally important for us to take this time every day, to give this gift to ourselves: a break, a pause, a minute to just breathe. In addition to daily meditation, I try to take several of those moments every day, and I follow them with another moment of gratitude. Works wonder for the soul, it does!