Tag: inspiration

ACTIVE LISTENING

Listening is somewhat an art form, and as in music or dance, you only become proficient with practice. There are countless meanings assigned to the act of listening. You can listen with your heart, you can listen to your intuition, you can listen to mantras of religion or stories you’ve been told since childhood. What I am referring to is how we listen to ourselves and others, which all of the above influence. Without sincere listening, communication breaks down, misunderstandings flare, and a sense of dread and loneliness can cause you to feel frustrated or anxious.

To lessen the problems non-listening creates, here a few ways to develop and enhance your ability to listen. When genuinely listening to another person, find the takeaway. In other words, look to understand what that person is trying to say. Avoid reading into or interpreting, tease away your own biases. If what they’re saying is ambiguous, murky, or makes no sense to you, ask for clarification, or mirror to them what you feel their message is. 

When you are actively listening, you will more than likely have questions, hold them until the person is finished. Often many of us are too eager to spew out our response, or wisdom, or opinion that we forget to hear what the other person is saying entirely. If you find yourself preoccupied with focusing and crafting what you think, you are not listening. If you realize your reply has nothing to do with what the other person is said, you were not paying attention. 

Naturally, it’s easier to listen to people you share common ground with, and it’s difficult and challenging to listen to those you don’t. Let’s put this in the realm of relationships. Your partner may have been raised with strict rules, and there was little wiggle room for self-exploration. You, on the other hand, had a family that encouraged independent thinking. You fall in love, but after the honeymoon phase, you find you are arguing over just about everything. More than likely, it’s a lack of listening to each other – listening without hearing. Whew, that is a tough one. 

However, when you begin to practice real listening, you cannot only muddle through tough conversations, you may actually start to see resolutions. When you let down the defenses and realize it isn’t about you, but about the other, you’ll learn to listen with love, empathy, and a deeper understanding that leads to connection.

Spiritual leader Ram Dass has a plethora of quotes that remind us that listening requires going beyond our ego. “We are fascinated by the words, but where we meet is in the silence behind them.” It is in the quiet recess of your consciousness that the truth or impact of words reverberates. Words themselves are simply nouns, verbs, adverbs, tools with which to communicate. Yet somehow, they can cut us deeply or be profoundly motivating. When you think about how people without hearing communicate, it’s interesting because they still use language, just not necessarily words. 

A huge part of learning to listen to others is listening to yourself. If you fill your mind and energy with some diversion 24/7, you cannot hear your inner thoughts or desires or spiritual guidance. Think about a time that a teacher, a friend, a mentor said something that resonated with you so profoundly it changed your life forever. It was that time you spent meditating or pondering the words or intentions of the person that convinced you there were truth and significance to them. 

Learning active listening will change the way you communicate forever, and it will enhance your relationships and confidence. In my next newsletter, I will expound on different listening techniques and how to listen and trust yourself. Stay tuned!


FINDING GRATITUDE UNDER EVERY NOOK & CRANNY

 

 

With Thanksgiving nipping at our heels, it’s a natural time of year to take stock of all we can be thankful for. When you appreciate the little things in life, a profound transformation occurs that can lift you out of the doldrums & help you to find more profound pleasure & meaning in your life.

In modern society, we’re bombarded with ads insisting we need the newest version of a gadget or device, the latest styles, & that more is better. We’ve become a throwaway society, but the good news is, we don’t have to subscribe to that persuasion.  In this newsletter, I highlight a few ways to find gratitude under every nook and cranny of your life.

Set a Positive Tone. Rather than reaching for your phone or computer first thing in the morning, take a few moments to say thank you for the morning itself. Sit up in bed, close your eyes, and breathe. Take a moment to notice the light of dawn or the pitter-patter of rain on the roof.  Perhaps when you get up, you enjoy making a delicious cup of coffee or tea, then sit in a comfy chair & inhale the aroma brewing. If you prefer yoga, do a few sun salutes honoring the gift of a new day. In other words, create a five-minute ritual that kicks your day off with the mantra, “Today, I will be grateful for my life.” After a few days of doing this, you’ll notice a difference, as it begins to set the tone for the rest of your day in a positive light.

Adopt A Less is More Attitude. Replacing the redundant “hole in the bucket,” “nothing is enough” syndrome with the idea that you have all you need is liberating. It affords you more time to take a walk, read a book, or indulge in an activity that costs nothing. Nature is such a giver, & it asks little from us. It provides us with glorious sunsets, the drama of cloud formations, the changing of seasons, & the sounds of waves crashing on the shore. If you begin to re-direct your focus on what you already have, you can let go of the constant need for more. Perhaps de-clutter & give away things you don’t use or need. When we open up the space we live in, we open our minds to clarity & widen our perspectives. If you struggle with clinging to stuff, try packing it away out of sight, knowing it’s not gone forever. With the holiday season on the horizon, practicing less is more can help curb overindulging in fatty foods. It can also help with perspective to gift-giving, maybe try homemade presents or gather without gifts.

Cultivate Simplicity. Leonardo da Vinci once said, “Simplicity is the art of sophistication.” We don’t have to rely on riches to be wealthy. Finding joy in spending time with friends or being content to be alone are both ways to practice gratitude for the small things in life. Breaking bread together or cooking a meal can be a simple task that renders quality, not quantity. By simplifying your day to day routine, you allow yourself more time to let go of stress. Rather than packing each day with more things on the “to do” list, see if you can allow yourself time to just be. Try sitting in silence for a few moments in the middle of the day to tune out demands, real or imagined. We don’t always have to make a profit in order to profit.  Giving value to the small incidentals in our life helps create a sense of contentedness. Rather than filling every moment with work or the need for a result, try carving out time to daydream, to remember fond memories, to call a person you love and say hi or let them know you appreciate them.

Embrace the Difficult Things. Being grateful for the difficult times is probably the biggest challenge we all face. Much like the terrains of the world, life has its peaks & valleys, its ebbs & flows. There are those moments in life that we’re in emotional or pain, & being thankful is as easy as walking across the Sahara without water. Think back to the times in your life that you did pull through & came out stronger. Realizing situations are temporary & there are people to help you through can be a powerful acknowledgment. It’s a commonality we share with others, a bond that lets us know we’re not alone – & for that, let’s be grateful.

As you make choices & plans for these next few months, perhaps keep these thoughts in mind, & you may find yourself having a less stressful, more enjoyable holiday season. Remember to thank yourself as well for the gifts & talents you bring to the world; smile in the discovery of all the positive energy you donate.


Thoughts of Giving & Receiving

The act of giving is a challenge for many people, & often around the holidays, it seems to be on the minds of everyone I speak with. 

“Am I giving enough?” 

“Am I giving the right thing?” 

“Who do I want to give to?”

“Who do I have to give to?”

“Can I afford to give enough?”

At the heart of these questions is usually fear & what each person is afraid of may be different. It’s as if by giving, in some way, we believe that we may be disappointing others or letting them down. 

One thought I have about this is there are many ways we give of ourselves to others & you can find a way that makes you feel good in your heart so that you can feel safe, loving, & positive about who you are & the choices that you make.

Receiving from others is also on people’s minds during the holiday season more than any other time of year. You may be looking forward to receiving gifts, yet the act of accepting the presents in your heart can be a bit difficult for you.

Feelings of vulnerability are often present when we receive. We may feel that our friends/family are not sensitive to our taste or that they did not take the time to plan for our gifts, which can create feelings of hurt, resentment, being unimportant. 

Many of us are uncomfortable with receiving, much more so than with giving because receiving taps into our own feelings of being loved. For some people, it can be much more challenging to allow love in & receiving does just that.

A lovely ritual you can do to assist yourself in allowing to both give & receive with ease is the following:

  1. Light a white candle.
  2. Sit in front of it for 5 minutes, watching it, letting your mind float.
  3. Wonder about the first three times you received something. Notice how you felt, what you saw/heard?
  4.  Now notice what you feel/think about those three times now.
  5. What are your challenges with giving & receiving?

 

 


Dealing with a Chronic Victim

Do you have a chronic complainer in your life, a person who is always “woe is me”? These types of friends, relatives, or co-workers chronically feel as if they are the direct victims of other people’s negative actions while never acknowledging their part in the situation. People with victim mentality never take ownership or responsibility for their choices and they don’t take positive advice. You may make a suggestion about how to deal with the cheating boyfriend, the callous spouse, or the over controlling boss, and they will respond with “no that wouldn’t work” and then have a list of reasons why. Dealing with never ending complainers is exhausting as they have a limitless whine list.

How do you engage with a person with victim mentality when you are a loving, caring individual and find it difficult to say no? First remember, setting boundaries is critical with this type of person or they will take advantage of your kindness. You can be clear that you have a certain amount of time to listen then you have to either get off the phone, get back to work, etc. Otherwise, you will end up frustrated, annoyed, and ultimately being a victim yourself. You can say, this is not a good time to talk, I just got in from a challenging day and I need to unwind, call me tomorrow. If it’s a friend or relative they may balk at your refusal, stick to your boundary setting.

People that have a chronic victim mentality find it hard or impossible to see the part they play in the problem. For example, a male friend who complains about his angry wife yet he refuses to acknowledge that he never says, “stop” or “enough” or “you are making me nervous.” Rather he keeps allowing his wife to be verbally abusive. You can suggest that when you are ready to talk about resolutions that you are more than happy to hash it out, to listen. It is okay to be clear that the broken record of complaints and no actions ever taken to change, is old. You can reassure the person that you will be there to help support their efforts to break the patterns, but that you don’t want hear their constant grumbling.

Your time and energy is as equally valuable as the person who has victim mentality, but often chronic complainers have a hard time with other people’s needs. They tend to be obsessed with their own suffering, even when in part, they are causing it. You can remind them that you have a family, a life, work, whatever and although you empathize with them, you can’t solve their situation. Beware of insidious co-dependent tendencies you have particularly if you are dealing with victim mentality. You can’t fix other people; they have to do that themselves.

It is possible to be empathetic without being co-dependent, again, by setting defined boundaries. Draw on your empathy, you’re ability to understand that the person suffering from victim mentality is stuck in their negative thought patterns. And although it is not your fault, you remain understanding, while realizing you are not responsible for their attitudes or situation. For example, you may have a friend who complains a lot, and in their past they experienced trauma. You can be loving and still set your boundaries, suggest counseling, therapy…but remember, you are not the therapist, you are the friend.

Most of us, at one time or another, have experienced a “why me” moment where we feel victimized or slated unjustly. This is different from the person who has victim mentality. When those moments happen to you, there are several ways to get out off the pity pot. Remind yourself of all that is right in your life. That you are not in a worn torn country, you don’t to fight for your basic right to eat or to live. Also, remembering that despite an immediate difficult situation, circumstances change and yours will as well. Lingering in a funk is no good for you or those around you. Get out of the house, take a walk in nature, watch a comedy, or have lunch with a friend.
The next time you encounter victim mentality, recognize it and remember these simple tips.


Have No Fear, Spring Is Here: Are You Ready to Say Yes to Life?

Have No Fear, Spring Is Here: Are You Ready to Say Yes to Life?


Letting Go of Negative Narratives

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“In the process of letting go you will lose many things from the past, but you will find yourself.” – Deepak Chopra
All of us have a past, a history that we cherish, warm memories that makes us smile inside. But have you ever found yourself stuck in a story that you no longer want to play a part in? An old narrative that family or friends have cast you in? There are several ways to replace the worn out tapes of negativity with positive messages that will strengthen your ability to walk the plank. By walking the plank, I mean leaving behind the familiar and taking a leap into the ocean of possibility.
Letting go asks you to stop listening to stories that spout off negative messages of “you can’t or you shouldn’t.” Abandoning these narratives, gives you permission to step or leap over obstacles into the pasture of prospects and opportunity. The body responds to stories the mind spins whether they are true or not. By creating positive mental images and narratives, the body and psyche begin to shift; to believe that there are options and alternatives. Try replacing the “I can’t do this because I’m not…” with I can and see how the borders of your life expand.
Try to define yourself with what you can do rather than what eludes you. A friend was diagnosed with Type I diabetes at a young age and was given a list of do’s and don’ts. When she became an adult she began to study yoga and meditation empowering herself with new ideas that led her to realize her full potentiality. She released the story that had sold her limitations. Physically she grew strong and mentally she let go of fear.
How though do we step by step revise the stories that chain us to feelings of inadequacies? Here are a few ideas that may encourage you:
• Sit in stillness. Give yourself time to unravel the day’s “to do” list. This allows your mind to rest and recharge. It is difficult to re-write a negative narrative when your mind is exhausted. Sitting in stillness also allows you time to identify those narrative that don’t serve your best interest any longer. Stillness (even ten minutes) provides a sanctuary to go within a safe haven to observe your inner feelings and desires.

• Once you have honed in on a story you want to change, start small and steer clear of shame and blame. The Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” Take one story or thought at a time and gently re-write the scenario.

• Practice re-directing your thoughts and stories. Imagine batting them away or see them float past like a cloud out of your mind and body.

• Replace I can’t language with I can and I will. When revising a new story make yourself the hero. Whatever it is that you want to change or let go of imagine doing just that and say it out loud to yourself.

• Write it down. A good story or book tantalizes our imaginations; we see in our minds eye what the printed words suggest. Do the same for yourself. Write your story. Maybe you want to be an artist but were told by your parents that isn’t practical. Now is the time to erase that advice and pick up a paintbrush. Call yourself an artist, put notes around the house to remind yourself that you are worthy of following a dream or passion. Recall that person that loved your sketch or photograph.

By taking the time to let go of stories that hold you back, your load will be light enough to move forward into the horizon of change. Enjoy the revisions and writing the new version, the updated edition of you!


Valuing Traditions in Life

With the passing of Labor Day, we are reminded of the pleasures traditions offer us. How they are a rich fabric of our lives, if we pay homage to them. Have you ever stopped for a moment and reflected on the value of your own traditions? Perhaps the grind of modern life has caused you to let go of cherished familial, cultural, or holiday customs. Carving out time for a tradition can restore your sense of connection while providing opportunities to create new memories.

Traditions are a wonderful way to catch up with people you love. They can be as simple as a once a month coffee or as extravagant as meeting for a vacation each year. Maybe your neighborhood has an annual potluck supper? By taking the time to participate, you build and strengthen relationships. You also develop a sense of belonging, which combats feelings of isolation or loneliness.

Honoring tradition helps you establish your own personal identity. When you choose to celebrate with others, whether they are family or friends, this is a beautiful expression of what values you hold dear. Often out of respect for the deeper meaning behind the tradition, you may re-arrange a work-week or forgo a routine. Maybe you and your spouse decide that every Wednesday you have a date night away from the children. Or you commit to a spiritual practice. These micro adjustments can be powerful testimonies to what you value in life. Traditions are often examples or inspirations for others to follow their belief systems.

Children adore traditions. Think back to your own family traditions; my great aunt Rose would make honey cake and my mom would make a chocolate cake with a chocolate cream cheese frosting that to this day when I think of either I feel warm and fuzzy inside. Celebrating with your children can help build bonds while giving them a glimpse of their ancestral heritage. Traditions connect children to their cultural and familial past and paint a picture they can carry with them. They give them a safe sense of belonging and security in a changing world.

Traditions can be modified or adapted to better serve those participating. Perhaps your family doesn’t eat meat, rather than turkey for Thanksgiving you gather over a scrumptious vegetarian meal. All the essential elements are still there; the preparation, the togetherness, the laughter, the breaking bread. New traditions can be initiated as well at any time. They can be serious or silly. I had a friend who started a tradition of “birthday elves” for her children. She would decorate with balloons and streamers the night before her children’s birthdays. In the morning the kids would be delighted to find the elves once again had remembered them. The interesting thing was, even when the children grew to teenagers they still wanted a visit from the birthday elves!
When traditions come from the heart, they allow us time to express our emotions. To commemorate a passed loved one with an annual ceremony gives expression of the love and life of that person. Traditions give us permission to step off life’s merry-go-round and to reflect. By keeping relished traditions we create a haven for ourselves and our children; a place where we recognize the relevance of our past and the importance of our future.

As the fall season fast approaches, perhaps allow yourself time to renew the gift of celebrating traditions. Evaluate those that have meaning to you and have somehow been neglected. By weaving traditions into your life, the fabric of your life will be richer.
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Letting Go of Negative Narratives

Practicing the Art of Silence


Liberating Yourself from Negative Energy

 

Watch your thoughts; they become words.
Watch your words; they become actions.
Watch your actions; they become habit.
Watch your habits; they become character.
Watch your character; it becomes your destiny
― Lao Tzu

Do you ever find yourself overwhelmed, confused or even fearful
and not exactly sure why?  With the hustle and bustle of modern life,
negative thoughts and energy can creep into our psyche but that doesn’t mean
they have to stay. As the summer slowly winds down this is a wonderful time to
take a trip inward to exam feelings of negativity that may be keeping you from
living a more vibrant life.  Accumulating negative energy can be as subtle
as the changing of seasons and you may not notice it until you stop for a
moment to reflect on your inner feelings.  The good news is that once you
become aware of negative energy you can uproot it with five simple steps that
will put you back on a positive path and keep you there.

Becoming Aware of negative influences is the first step to eliminating them. Are
there toxic people in your life those chronic complainers that are unwilling to
entertain change?  Have you stopped doing the things you enjoy such as
dancing, biking, strolling on the beach or simply reading a book?  Take
stock of what you listen to on the radio and television.  Do you overload
on news or jarring music or watch T.V. series laden with violence?  Have
you taken on too much work limiting your down-time?  All of these questions
can help identify potential sources of draining negative energy. Once you have
taken inventory you can create a plan to implement change.

Reclaim your creativity. Hush the naysayers (real or imaginary) by getting back to the
things you love, those innate gifts that have always been there.  Burying
or neglecting these precious parts of yourself can causes a sense of un-fulfillment
or a vague uneasiness.  Negative energy often feeds on the fears imposed
by others. By taking action, such as picking up that dusty paint brush, or
joining a poetry class or learning to play an instrument (creativity is
limitless) you will refuel your imagination.  You don’t have to be a
Picasso or the next great novelist to enjoy things you are passionate about.
 By carving out time for your creative self, you will liberate your true
nature, which ultimately douses negativity.  Joseph Chilton Pearce, the
renowned author and lecturer on human development says, “To live a creative
life; we must lose our fear of being wrong.”  Let yourself go and be a student
of life again.

Take a walk, ride
a bike, practice yoga or Pilates.  The body is meant to move, too much
hunching over devices causes your posture to slump and your spine to shrink and
with it your spirits spiral. Giving your joints and muscles a workout
stimulates endorphins (positive chemicals in the brain) that motivate and
uplift negative moods  The side effects of exercise are feeling stronger
and more empowered, which then seeps into all aspects of your life.  One
very useful yoga philosophy is change your actions; change your minds. In
other words, by getting the body in motion, we get out of the thinking mind and
the stories it has created.  By releasing pent up stress, you free up
space for positive thoughts.  If time is an issue, exercise during lunch
or snag an early morning class or put on music in the privacy of your home and
dance.  Making exercise a priority is a powerful way to combat fatigue and
stress while paying homage to your body.  

Walking can also be an opportunity to re-commune with nature.
 Smelling the seasonal scents, whatever they may be, reminds us of our
connection to the earth and one another. Feeling a soft breeze or the warmth of
the sun renews and refreshes our sense of well-being.  

Swap out negative language for words of encouragement and support.  Write down
affirmations to remind yourself to fold positive vocabulary into
everyday conversations.  Observe your remarks and gently replace negative
ones with positives—find that proverbial silver lining. Try finding something
to be grateful for every day.  Perhaps tune into inspirational music (and
by this I don’t mean religious) rather than music with negative words or
messages.  Find a favorite guided meditation or motivational speaker that
you relate to.  Play them when you feel bombarded with negative news or
feedback.  Enlisting your sense of hearing is another way to entice
positive energy and this includes the language we use.  Soon, exchanging a
negative for a positive phrase will become habit and you’ll find yourself
smiling more and worrying less.

Breathe! Slow
rhythmic breathing melts away anxiety and revives the nervous system, stamping
out negative energy. Experiment with counting to four as you inhale, pause, and
then count to four as you exhale. Do this for several minutes, maybe close your
eyes and visualize a comforting place; the ocean or a favorite park.
 Listen to sounds of nature (either live or on your phone or CD player).
Seeking out solitary moments to breathe with awareness quiets the mind.  Traveling
inward is like taking a mini vacation from daily demands. Before long those
negative impulses will float away leaving space for a calm mindset that you can
access anytime.

These are but a few suggestions to help you reclaim a positive,
vivacious life that serves your truest self as you enjoy the remaining August
sun.  

  

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7 Ideas for Inspiration

daffodilsHave you ever tried to be creative but find yourself stuck in the same old way of thinking or doing? This can be frustrating when you need your imagination and out-of-the-box perspective for work or a project. The pressure you may put on yourself often blocks your creative flow. Here are some ideas for freeing up your thinking:

Go for a tried-and-true method. It may seem simple, but we often forget to take advantage of what has worked for us in the past. What inspires you to be creative? Is is art? Perhaps you can go to an art gallery or museum. Does science and technology interest you? Watching a documentary on a groundbreaking discovery may inspire you. You needn’t recreate the wheel. Whatever has gotten your creative juices flowing in the past may be all it takes to unblock you.

Do something you consider “play.” Have you noticed how creative children are when they are playing? When you are having fun, your vibrational energy is in a place of joy, which puts you in a place of positive and free-thinking.

Meditate. Slowing your mind down and emptying it of the chatter of judgements, doubts, and worries can allow you to think more clearly, feel more grounded, and give you a sense of belonging to the world around you. For more on the benefits of meditation, and ways to do it, try this post, Meditation: A Tool for Total Wellness.

Listen to music. Take a listen to what is considered masterful music. Jazz, blues, rap, classical, opera…choose any genre that calls to you. Try this: choose a piece that is touted as a masterpiece or a classic in a genre you don’t normally prefer, and see if you can identify what makes it timeless. Listening to music that isn’t on your regular playlist will encourage you to use your brain in a different way.

Rearrange your space. Simply changing your normal surroundings can lead to new ideas. Whether you move a chair to the other side of the room or try moving around a whole room of furniture, seeing your surroundings in a different arrangement can change your perspective in many ways. You could also forgo your normal seating preference—a particular chair or side of the room—for another choice.

Commune with nature. Nature is inspiring. No matter if humans take care of nature or not, it goes on with its life cycle…growing, evolving, adapting. Allow yourself to be curious about what you see and marvel at its existence. “It is the marriage of the soul with Nature that makes the intellect fruitful, and gives birth to imagination.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

Exercise. Research shows that those who regularly exercise are more creative than those who are sedentary. Even just a brisk walk may do the trick to free up your thinking.