Tag: Life Advice

It’s Not Fair!

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When I was young, I remember complaining about something to my mother. “It’s just not fair!” I cried. She stopped what she was doing and looked at me – a quizzical expression in her eyes and in her voice. “What ever made you think life was fair?” she asked.

The statue of Lady Justice, often found near courthouses, stands blindfolded while holding two scales in one hand. This is meant to show impartiality, divine order and law. As a society, we have an expectation of fairness. As youngsters, we were taught to be fair and to respect fairness. But fairness is in the eye of the beholder.

Studies have shown that when we recognize fairness, parts of the brain thought to be involved in how we perceive rewards activate. When we witness unfairness, our amygdala is triggered. The amygdala controls fear and anger and activates our emotions faster than our conscious awareness. This means that when we feel like we’ve been treated unfairly, we go into “fight or flight” mode, entering a space of agitation, anxiety and emotion.

When real life happens, the tough stuff of real life, do we expect it to be fair? What makes our version of fair better than someone else’s? When we are winning, we don’t think life is unfair. When we learn to release our expectations of fairness, we will find ourselves happier with what is.

We all know that life is not fair. We have seen examples of unfairness locally and globally. Physical and emotional hurts happen every day to the most innocent of people. The question, as Arthur Ashe asked when he was diagnosed with AIDS after a receiving infected blood during heart surgery in 1983, was not “Why me”, but “Why not me?”

Once you accept that life is not fair, we can get on with the business of living it.

We do this by choosing to do things that you enjoy and treating others the way you want to be treated.

* Enjoying a walk in nature to reconnect with life.

* Keep in mind that although we like to believe we have control over things, usually we do not.

* Remember to be grateful for what we have.

* Change our perceptions of reality, recognizing that everyone has their own perception.


Support yourself through transitions by changing your thoughts

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Losing or changing jobs, experiencing the death of a loved one or the end of a relationship, becoming a parent, having a birthday that ends with a five or a zero….what these events have in common is they signify a change. Times of transition can create stress and discomfort as we adjust to our changing lives.

Transitions are a natural part of life, and aren’t the cause of our stress. What we say to ourselves about a situation creates our feelings and beliefs about the transition. We can support ourselves through a transition by changing any unsupportive or unproductive thoughts into supportive ones. Putting the three tips, below, into action will automatically shift your feelings about your particular transition and your beliefs about transitions in general.

There is more available to us than what we see. Before Isaac Newton “discovered” the invisible force that keeps us on the ground, gravity already existed and was working for us. Therefore, just because a solution or next step isn’t readily apparent, that doesn’t mean it’s not there. Often when we take the time to be calm and still— such as during meditation—the answer we seek will come to us, or we will be presented with an opportunity that takes care of our current issue.

Allow the idea that Life is in our corner although it may not always seem like it. If you can’t fully get on board with this idea, be open to the possibility. Many belief systems say that if you are here than you have a purpose. I believe that we have many purposes. When we are on ‘path’, it will feel as if life is working with us. So, how do transitions fit in? As transitions are a part of life, just because we may not like a particular transition does not mean that it is ‘wrong’ or ‘off our path’. Sometimes we just do not like everything that happens in our lives. Many believe that we learn best from the more difficult challenges that come into our lives. I however see all as equal.

Do what can be done and let the rest go. Transitions are life unfolding before us. We respond to them as best we can. Not allowing our expectations or fears to control us, will keep us in the moment fully able to see our options. There are things out of our control, knowing which those are will make any transition easier. The knowledge that everything does pass and that you will come out the other side of the transition with insight and understanding will make any transition easier. Do take action when it is called for–realizing that sometimes the thing to do is nothing.


How to Resolve Conflict Through Communication

_807Disagreement is a natural occurrence in life—we all have different opinions, ways of doing things, personalities, and communication styles. However, if one or more of the persons involved don’t communicate openly, or let emotions take over, a disagreement can easily turn into conflict.

Here are some suggestions for resolving conflicts in a respectful and productive way:

  1. Acknowledge the points the other person has made with which you agree; if you don’t agree, acknowledge you’ve heard their point of view. Simply knowing their viewpoint has been heard can go a long way in diffusing conflict. It is also helpful to reiterate in your own words what they said, which not only gives them an opportunity to elaborate on a point, but also to correct any misinterpretations.
  1. When you speak, it is best to keep what you say to your own point of view rather than telling someone how they feel, think, or act. Those are your interpretations of what you experience. Frame your point in a way that lets them know you are only speaking from what you see and feel, which allows them the opportunity to clarify the same situation from their point of view. It is also a chance for them to clear up any misunderstanding.

Look at the subtle but meaningful differences in these examples:

Example 1

“You make me feel unappreciated all the time.” vs. “I feel unappreciated when I hear you say _____.”

Example 2

“Can’t you see I was trying to help you?!” vs. “My intention was to help you. I understand now that is not how you experienced it.”

In both examples, the first response places blame on the other person, whereas the second response communicates your experience in the situation. Which would you rather hear said to you? Blame puts the other person immediately on the defensive and they will in turn block out anything you say, or worse, interpret any further messages as attacks.

  1. Be aware of extreme or emotion-full words (also known as nominalizations). Using words like “every time,” “never,” and “always” may result in the other person going on the offensive to prove you incorrect, thereby allowing them to ignore the point of your message. Also, take care that any emotion-full or more vivid forms of a word are true (e.g., sad versus devastated); if you’re exaggerating for emphasis, your message may lose credibility. Emotional language may trigger the other person to react on your emotion rather than on your message.
  1. Allow the possibility that people can surprise you. We all have the ability to learn, grow, evolve, and change. The longer or more closely you know someone, the harder it is not to jump to conclusions based on past experiences. As Eckhart Tolle said, “The moment you put a mental label on another human being, you can no longer truly relate to that person.” Although you can take note of someone’s patterns, try not to let your awareness keep you from having an open mind.

Why Healthy Boundaries Are Essential

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“The most important distinction anyone can ever make in their life is between who they are as an individual and their connection with others.” ― Anné Linden

Boundaries are necessary. Imagine a map of the world with no defined delineations from one country, state, province, city, or town on it…what a mess!

Without boundaries, it is easy to overextend ourselves or do things we don’t want to do. In the end, our energy is drained and we may feel resentment, anger, or disappointment toward others or ourselves. Having clearly defined boundaries help us feel grounded, balanced, and secure. Staying within our boundaries shows self-respect and self-love. When you make your boundaries appropriately known, it can also make life easier for others since they know what to expect.

There are several different kinds of boundaries:

  • Material boundaries – What material things, including money, you will give or lend.
  • Physical boundaries – Your level of comfort with physical touch or privacy.
  • Mental boundaries – Knowing what you believe and your willingness to consider others’ opinions or values.
  • Emotional boundaries – Awareness of your feelings and responsibilities to yourself and others, as well as being able to separate them.
  • Sexual boundaries – What you are comfortable with and enjoy pertaining to sexual touch and activity.
  • Spiritual boundaries – Your beliefs in relation to a higher power.

One important note: Do not mistake boundaries for walls. Spiritual and emotional boundaries are important for our own well-being. Boundaries help contain and build strength from within…whereas walls tend to block and defend.

If you have been reticent to set boundaries or to speak up when you feel a line is being crossed, ask yourself what is the reason behind it. Do you think you won’t be liked or accepted? That you’ll be seen as too selfish or too rigid? That if you don’t give someone what he or she wants, they will reject you? The bottom line is, those who matter will honor your healthy boundaries. Naturally, boundaries are a two-way street. Expect others to respect your boundaries, and you do the same!

Don’t know what your boundaries are? Need to re-evaluate them? As we head toward the holidays—with increased interaction with and demands from co-workers, friends, and family—now is a great time to get clear about boundaries!


Shifting Your Perspective to Relieve Stress, Anxiety, and Anger

Photo by Kristin Rath

In this…world

Nothing is the truth or a lie.

Everything depends on the color

Of the crystal through which one sees it.

― Pedro Calderón de la Barca

When the unexpected crosses our path or things don’t go our way, it is natural to react with feelings such as irritation, fear, anxiety, and anger. However, if we allow these emotions to go unexplored, we will be allowing our perspective to be restricted and possibly negative. When we continue to view the world from this state, it can color our perspective for hours, even days, later.

The great news is we can change how we view a situation by recognizing when we think, feel, and/or act in a way that is not beneficial. By asking ourselves some questions that will shift our thinking we will change our current viewpoint.

For example, perhaps you have a long to-do list, and have been worrying about getting everything accomplished. The worry grows throughout the day into guilt as you know you can’t possibly get X, Y, and Z done. Now you’re in full stress mode, feeling irritable/emotional/anxious/etc. You’re on autopilot, reacting to what comes at you. Nothing seems to be going your way, you can’t seem to do anything right, and the day is generally not enjoyable. What if you had known how to stop the worry in its tracks when it first crept into your thoughts by asking yourself a few questions to gain clarity on the issue? Perhaps the worry would have only lasted a few seconds instead of ruining your day!

Here’s how you can put a perspective shift into practice: Be aware of when you feel anger, anxiety, fear, or any kind of stress. Mentally say, “Stop!” and then visualize a stop sign. This will halt the body and mind from continuing to circulate non-constructive thoughts and feelings. Take a few deep breaths while you ask your body to release any tension. Then ask your mind a few of the questions below that are relevant to your situation. Check in with yourself and note any changes in mind and body. With practice, these steps will become effortless.

  • Is there really a problem? Or do I perceive a problem? In relation to the example of the to-do list, ask yourself what items are priorities and what are not? If a task is a priority than you can choose to complete it; if it is not you can allow yourself to choose to put it off for a day until it is a priority. Keep in mind that plans are fluid and can change. When we shift our perception, the thoughts and emotions that don’t serve us have the freedom to slip away. You might surprise yourself with how much you can get done with the energy you used spending on worry and guilt.
  • Are the outcomes I’m imagining necessarily going to happen or am I expecting a worst-case scenario? Being prepared when you are clear what outcome is ‘supposed’ to occur is useful, however it is unproductive and needlessly stressful to focus your energy on scenarios or outcomes that may never happen.
  • How significant is this problem in the grand scheme of my life? How significant is this in relation to the timeline of the universe? Shrinking the perceived enormity of your situation can allow you to collect your thoughts and emotions. Once you are grounded you can ask yourself: Is this something I need to act upon? If yes, you can now do so from a centered, open viewpoint.

Life is 10 percent what you make it and 90 percent how you take it.

― Irving Berlin

 


Saying Yes to You

“When you say ‘Yes’ to others, make sure you are not saying ‘No’ to yourself.” ― Paolo Coehlo

Everybody wants to be ‘someone to believe in.’ There’s a lot of societal pressure for us to perform to certain standards to be considered great, desirable, or even just worthy of other people’s affections, admiration or respect. Because of this, many times, we find it imperative to do as much as we can to show that we are what is considered a good or generous person.

What it really does, however, is encourages us to discourage ourselves. Attempting to balance other peoples ‘demands’ and our own needs can leave us frustrated and tired. If we believe refusing to fulfill others needs makes us stingy with our gifts, it will be challenging to say no. When we acquiesce to some requests and succeed, we may not allow ourselves credit when it is due, because we’re just doing ‘what’s expected’.

That brings us to an interesting question: Do we personally desire to be ‘people to believe in’? If so, do we allow that to dictate our lives? Forced to live up to others’ expectations and needs and then focused on the perception of how well we lived up to the task?

Meeting those set expectations, mostly ones that’s we’ve self-inflicted, isn’t easy. Pass or fail it will almost assuredly create some level of stress in our lives. And when you look at it like that, saying yes all of the time starts to look a little troublesome, doesn’t it?

Try saying no. When we learn how to gently yet firmly say no, we allow ourselves to be open to the possibility of only accepting what is best for us, and in turn, others. When we can be focused and proactive in our approach, wonderful things happen. Being proactive in this situation means being willing to say no. It’s not easy to put the practice to task, especially when those that we care for ask us for help. If we say yes, when we really mean no, the results will be less than optimal.

If the answer is no, allow them the opportunity to find the solution themselves. Give them a suggestion, alternative or option that can lead them towards an answer. You’ll find peace in only taking on as much as you can handle. It doesn’t make you weak; it makes you smart and responsible. It also gives you the opportunity to shine internally, to feel good about who you are and what you accomplish each and every day. That feeling facilitates being the very best you for everyone, most importantly, yourself.


The Weight Struggle: Where it Starts

There is a burning question facing many of us these days  – that is – Why do you want to lose weight permanently? For so many the process of weight loss is a vicious and disheartening cycle of fail and repeat, and we wonder, how do we make a substantial change?

Your motivation is the most important factor in your success, so the first thing to do is define, and potentially, increase your motivation– but how do we avoid the pitfalls that come with that?

It’s well known that people want to look better– and there are common questions that plague many of us. For example, are you tired of looking in the mirror and not liking what you see? Or, perhaps, you just don’t like opening up your closet and they’re being so many clothes that don’t fit you anymore, or having to go shopping and buying the next size up.

For many of us, a part of our self-esteem derives from the way we think people perceive us. On top of that, in this culture, skinny is equated with beauty and longevity.

A related factor in looking good is age. A thin, but not gaunt, person, 40 plus years in age, looks younger than an overweight one; do you agree? The thin one, as a culture, we view as better, which increases their self-esteem by their feeling of being accepted.

These factors are directly related to the way society judge’s age, weight and appearance. It’s not something we need accept personally as our own truth. In reality, many people fear others are judging them constantly and the first thing others see is our appearance.

Being overweight affects your overall level of comfort. It’s much more difficult getting in and out of pretty much anything, literally. Being overweight creates more challenges. In summer deciding how much of your body you are willing to reveal can be difficult.

Most importantly, being overweight, negatively impacts health.

Are you concerned that you’re being overweight may one day lead to a serious illness or disease such as heart attack, diabetes, or stroke? Is there a family history of these diseases? Do you suffer from everyday aches and pains– back aches, sore legs, knees or ankles–that could very well be related to your weight? Is your energy level low? Do you feel exhausted during the day? All of the above can be great and inspiring motivators.

Motivation is a critical factor in your success. The motivation is what propels you toward your vision. When you have a goal or a vision that you are moving towards, it is a lot easier to take all the small steps necessary to achieve that goal. It’s looking at the big picture and truly imagining what achieving your ideal weight is going to do for you in your life.

Let’s work on this together. In order to make this vision more compelling for you, please write down your own specific reasons for wanting to lose weight permanently.

The more specific and emotionally connected the reasons are the more compelling they will be. Be honest with yourself…i.e. I want to see that look in my partners eyes again.. I want people to turn their heads when I wear that outfit… I want to have the stamina of my 22-year-old self. What I don’t want is to end up diabetic like Uncle Joseph.

Write down the motives that are driving you to succeed and what that success looks like to you. Now write down what you are willing to do.

Finally write down the steps you need to take.

Most importantly, when you think or talk about losing weight, eliminate the words ‘I hope, I try, I should, I must, I have to,’ because they imply failure and a lack of responsibility. By removing the possibility of failure you set your intention and allow yourself to travel down a successful path.

As you complete this process and achieve your goal many resources become apparent and available to you. Allow the world to open up to you by looking at it from a positive perspective.


The Happenstance of Happiness

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Happiness may be the most elusive of all ideals. We’re taught from a very young age that happy is good and sad is bad; we’re programmed to believe that without achieving ‘happiness’ we’ll be void of anything worthwhile in life.  And finding it, sometimes, can feel like a tall order.

First of all, how do we even begin to define happiness? Well, that’s deeply personal and different for each of us. There are many books written about how to reach happiness, listing different thoughts on the how. Some list characteristics of happy people. A client mentioned Sonja Lyubomirsky, who does this in her book “The How of Happiness,” which she touts as a “scientific approach to getting the life you want.” However I am not certain I would agree with her, as happiness is an emotion. What I do agree with is that some people are happier than others. This is due to the way they view the world and how they use language to shape their thoughts. Using positive self-talk, you can shift from negative to positive feelings, therefore achieve a happier state of being.

Some of Sonia’s ideas about people who are happier that I do agree with are as follows:

  • • They devote time to their family and friends, nurturing and enjoying those relationships.
  • • They practice optimism when imagining their futures.
  • • They are not immune to the vicissitudes of life. However they are very aware that change is constant, and don’t dwell on misfortune.

The keywords in the characteristics make sense—devotion, optimism, resilience—they’re all powerful attributes that contribute to positive outcomes. When we focus on what’s possible through positive thought and action, we’re training our brain to be more proactive in creating ‘happy’ solutions.

As I think about happiness, I know it to be an emotion that is created by a combination of thought and action. You are probably aware of the actions you take that make you happy. Consider increasing how often you take those actions. Also, as you become more and more aware of your thought processes practicing positive self-talk will become a habit.

When or if you are feeling sad, you can use this exercise to bring you back into happiness. Sit quietly in nature, focus your intention upon your heart and ask yourself what makes me feel happy…listen quietly as the answer may come in the sound of a voice, the passing of a squirrel, the falling of a leaf. As you regain your center the language of your thoughts will shift into positive ones and you will experience happiness again.


The Dilemma of Overconsumption

We spend much of our lives just trying to remember what we’re ‘supposed’ to be mindful of— we’re asked to “treat people like we’d wish to be treated”; “give someone the benefit of the doubt” or even just remember to recycle. The list is long and the tasks, many times, feel arduous. Even though we realize that they’re important and for the best, life is tough enough already without the P’s & Q’s, right?

These stresses, too, sometimes create unintended consequences, like overconsumption. We feed or drink ourselves to excess, buy things we don’t need in the guise of creating greater happiness or we participate in other unhealthy habits that do more harm than good internally and externally. We try so hard to ‘be good’, that many times, we self-medicate ourselves by relying on something or someone to give us comfort instead of curating wholeness within ourselves.

In 2010, Shambhala Sun, now Lion’s Roar, dissects the mind of the consumer before mindfulness was the buzzy catchphrase it is today. The idea of being a conscious consumer has grown exponentially in recent years and now exists far beyond its surface meaning, as the article’s author Daniel Goleman alludes to a half-decade ago:

“I think there is a level of mindfulness, or ecological intelligence, that goes beyond just decreasing our acquisitiveness. It relates to what happens when we buy something. So the question is, ‘When we consume, how can we consume more mindfully?’”

It’s an important question being posited— what is our motive to purchase something? And beyond that, as Goleman asks, what does it mean to “consume more mindfully?” What gets in our way? What is clouding our filter on focusing on what we truly need? Many times, its mediums we don’t even realize are subconsciously affecting us. What subliminally drives our overconsumption?

We all know that scripted reality television, exploits this idea with shows that solely focus on the amassing of things. From the ‘Real Housewives’ franchise boasting exorbitant wealth and excess, to the sad reality of those suffering on ’Hoarders’, or even the ‘extreme couponing’ phenomenon, where those featured stockpile as many household products as they can for the least price possible— some even receiving money back from a store.

When our reality is, literally, cluttered with portrayals of the mostly bad and ugly of consumption, how can we rise above what we see and may even experience?  Most importantly, how can we practice and become more cognizant of what it means to be whole without buying more.

It begins with our ability to find peace and joy in the intangible—in feelings and experiences, instead of items. I agree with Goleman when he explains that we’ve got to understand consumption in a way that’s “directing our contemplative mind to the true impact involved in our buying decisions” but first, we must find balance in our rationale for buying. Are we merely feeding into what we feel we ought to do or is it to give us a false sense of happiness or security—maybe even keeping up with the Jones’?

Instead, focus on gratitude. Find great opportunity in the ability to be abundantly thankful for the bounty given to us, beyond our physical possessions. Just as someone developed the idea of minding our P’s & Q’s, someone was also very right when they so adeptly noted, “you can’t take it with you.” Enjoy and appreciate every day beyond what you own, live for the joy that is always available to you.  


A Spiritual Path of Coping With Addiction

Are you held back by an addiction? If you’re not personally, it’s almost certain that you know someone who is afflicted by an urge of some form that inhibits his or her own life—one that has an incredible impact on their overall well-being and happiness.

These sufferings create an inability for us to grow and flourish personally, as well as in our relationships with others, which, many times, can create an even more difficult struggle or a deeper dependence. As such, the need to escape becomes, as Pema Chodron notes in her book Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change, “involuntary”.

She continues, “Addiction and dissociating from painful feelings are two examples. Anyone who has worked with a strong addiction—compulsive eating, compulsive sex, abuse of substances, explosive anger, or any other behavior that’s out of control—knows that when the urge comes on it’s irresistible. The seduction is too strong.”

If the throes of addiction sound inescapable, don’t lose hope yet. How can we cope? Chodron calls this practice ‘The Knack of Refraining’—continually training with a present, but lesser stimuli, that teaches us to rise above the impulse when we’re fixated on our desire.

“By training with everyday irritations, we develop the knack of refraining when the going gets rough. It takes patience and an understanding of how we’re hurting ourselves not to continue taking the same old escape route of speaking or acting out.”

This allows us to begin to become freer, a little lighter each time we succeed in not succumbing—rebuilding a sense of self worth and an appreciation for the beautiful bounty of good the world has to offer us. We begin to lose the tunnel vision, to see beyond the narrow lenses we were looking at the world through before; our minds and hearts become open.

On an arduous journey such as this, be kind to yourself or the one bearing the burden. Encourage the idea of “refraining” as a way to restart—to create a new beginning for a healthier, happier life.

With more confidence and purposeful goals, it begins to feel less like coping and more like strength. Once we’ve developed that core strength over time, our clearer mind allows us to see how our old behaviors were truly doing harm and keeping us from true happiness.

Life is progress, not perfection—the key is to not give into the seduction of temptation.

Meditate on what is good in your life; if only just for a second. When it all feels especially unsettling, find something constructive that makes you feel whole; allow yourself to experience a natural high that brings you back to center and allows you to stay the course without the fear of guilt or shame.

The journey is long and challenging, but it doesn’t have to be dark and daunting—we can all find our peace; it’s already inside of us. It takes courage to unleash its full potential and experience life in a more meaningful way, but it leads us to being truly free.