Tag: Long Read

Finding Contentment


Look at each day with gratitude; it’s a new opportunity to grow into the best person that you can possibly be. Your only competition is yourself. When you allow yourself to be content with what is, and identify your personal goals to strive for, it’s a sure path to long-term success, and most importantly, happiness.  

Day by day, be content with whatever you have and satisfied with whatever happens. Everything else will fall naturally into place.” -Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche (Tibetan Lama 1910-1991)

How often do you wish that your life went according to a different plan? Do you find yourself disappointed when things don’t quite go your way? We’ve all been there— no matter how wonderful a situation may be, it can be easy to find a way to make ourselves dissatisfied, overlooking the positives that undoubtedly exists.

When we allow ourselves to be caught up in outside influences, we may begin to judge ourselves based upon the way that we perceive another’s life to be. When we take these situations out of context, we begin to develop negative thoughts like envy or self-doubt, which rob us of happiness and joy.

With our new reliance on technology, we’re also afforded the opportunity to keep up with our friends through social media, but it also creates an increased desire to keep up with the Joneses in many facets of life. We find ourselves without the appreciation for what we do have and more focused on the things that we don’t.

As Dilgo Rinpoche so astutely points out, the universe has a way of falling into place organically. We don’t ask the world to spin, or flowers to bloom; they just happen, and it’s glorious, because it’s exactly the way it is intended. In our human lives, there is an incredible opportunity to do the same, the action of letting things happen at will, is a gift to us.

Contentment begins when we gives ourselves permission to not be perfect, when we let go of our assumptions about others and when we begin to see the nuances that make life wonderful. It’s what we’re not planning; expecting or anticipating that makes life interesting and worthwhile.

There is great freedom that comes with us letting life unfold as it will, by experiencing it naturally instead of through a manufactured process; we find beauty in the details we may have otherwise overlooked. Personal satisfaction can be found in being true to who we are; not by keeping up with others.


The Power of Loving Ourselves

With marriage
equality for all now in the United States, ‘love is love’ is the new law of the
land. It’s exciting to see that same-sex relationships are now recognized as
legal and celebrated in our current culture— but what about self-love? Often it
is believed that we can’t have successful relationships with another without
loving ourselves first.

Before we’re
able to live a fruitful life with another person, being satisfied and content with
the person that we are now is paramount. Knowing what our dreams and plans are
for our future will allow for a successful relationship.  If our part of the foundation has a crack,
the relationship will suffer.

We want to be
certain in ourselves and in our abilities—personally and professionally. Only
then, can we be the support system and true partner that a relationship needs
to succeed from both participants. Many times, we look at love as an external
force, when in reality, it is an internal practice.  We all desire to be loved, but knowing how to
love can be quite challenging for many.

Much like
happiness, our approach to love is best based from a proactive, positive place.
When we’re plagued with self-doubt or disdain, those toxic feelings will poison
not only our own mind; they will infect our romantic partner, possibly ruining
our relationship.

Take a look at
your current relationship, or your most recent if you’re single.  Do you allow yourself to be built up by being
happy or are you self-sabotaging by internalizing negative emotions, which harm
your relationship? You may not even be aware that it’s happening, but when
you’re mindful, you’ll be more aware of how your thoughts affect all facets of
your life, including love.

We’re all
responsible to take care of each other, especially the people we have chosen to
love. Give your partner the benefit of having somebody who can stand tall,
proud and strong alone, but loves the idea of having a counterpoint to share in
the joys of life with.  Just like love is
love—light is light, be the light and it will shine brightly, enhancing all
aspects of your life.


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 Key of Communication

Have you ever imagined talking to someone beyond your words? Communicating through speech is our most common form of relating to each other; imagine if one day that changed. We’ve heard of being ‘telepathically connected’ to someone, usually a close friend, relative or lover, but what if everyone could take it a step beyond that? What if our brains could actually connect on a continuously subconscious level?

‘Brain-computer interface’ is the term for this phenomenon, one that was created to help people with physical disabilities to better adapt to the world around them. Turning challenges like picking something up into an action as easily as just visualizing it. These technological and scientific advances will continue to evolve. Going forward they could enter the mainstream and change the way we interact with each other. How will that change our relationships: interpersonal, familial, and romantic?

As the New York Times notes, “Soon, we might interact with our smartphones and computers simply by using our minds. In a couple of years, we could be turning on the lights at home just by thinking about it, or sending an e-mail from our smartphone without even pulling the device from our pocket. Farther into the future, your robot assistant will appear by your side with a glass of lemonade simply because it knows you are thirsty.”

Just as computers can transmit information, what if the future allowed us to transmit directly into another person’s brain through thought? As The Optimist explains, our ability to speak stemmed from the necessity for us to ‘transmit ideas’. Presently it is becoming an archaic way to interact as the world continues to advance.

What is the one thing that doesn’t change? Our intentions, and that may be the trickiest thing for technology to catch up with. While we may think something, is it something we want to share with someone mind-to-mind? For those of you that are Star Trek fans you might recall Spock having ‘mind melds’ in order to merge with another persons thoughts. What is important here is that Spock had a choice and so did the other person. While we may picture a cheeseburger in our minds eye, does that mean we want to eat one? Or does it mean that we’re just daydreaming about them?

What’s most interesting as we evolve as humans is that even with the monumental advancements that we have made, there are still ways to miscommunicate or misinterpret others words. Presently the misinterpretations are through speech, however in the future it very well may be through thought. Make learning to understand the long-term goal. No matter how reliant we become on a new form of communicating in the future; experiencing intimacy with someone is about processing information so that both you and the other person understands, no matter the vehicle.


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.  


How the Dalai Lama has Influenced My Thoughts on Human Relationships

How successful are the relationships in your life? Take a moment to reflect on a few of them— are they generally happy? Which are strained? And whether good or bad, consider, do you take enough time to give those bonds the care they deserve? What keeps you from sharing more love?

Many times, we don’t even realize that we’re not honoring the commitments of the affection our friends, family and partners deserve. And as such, it makes sense; life can feel too busy, distracted or disenchanted to show a little love to those outside of our immediate circle.

In a time in humanity when it’s difficult to find much compassion in the world for each other, Lion’s Roar asks the Dalai Lama how we can begin to get it right—wondering:

“How do we convince people that in the face of their own suffering and of all of the terrible things that happen in this world, that if we touch who we are, human beings are actually good?”

His Holiness explains that in our beginnings as children we’re not concerned with differences of others. As we grow our similarities, the common core of a human experience, becomes less important than our differences, the attributes that keep us from experiencing peace with each other.

We simply forget how similar we are inside. And our differences, he stresses, are manmade and based on the “secondary level:”

“Every human, fundamentally, we’re the same. All with the same experience from their mother… I think we must now look on the fundamental level that we’re seven billion human beings—all the same human beings, basically all the same brothers and sisters. Then, on the secondary level, yes differences. Different races, countries, religions… but there are not too many differences.”

Start with your own circle. Although the secondary dissimilarities may not necessarily be race, religion or country of origin, there are elements of our own relationships that we can work on to spread more joy to all.

Begin to examine why you feel as you do and make the changes you can make individually to help your personal unions grow. To change the world, we can start by changing what’s negative in our own interpersonal daily existence and, in turn, transform more than just ourselves.

When we begin to develop a core sensibility—choosing to become in tune with peace and harmony instead of dissonance and disillusionment—we’ll find and create more peace in the universe. Is it that easy? Give it a go! Make it your quest to spread happiness and light.


Can Stress Be Healthy?

When we have negative reactions to stress, it becomes unmanageable in a way that can be harmful to our bodies and minds. Stress when managed properly may actually be beneficial in your life. Stress at work, with family, and friends, even commuting can be chunked down into a series of small manageable bites.

We grow from the challenges that occur in our lives, rather than from what is easy. Stress is actually an attribute that can help us lead more balanced lives, if we approach it from a positive perspective. The key is to learn how to handle it in a continually constructive way.

When our bodies or our spirits experience stress we instantaneously want to run away from it—which may not actually be the most beneficial route.  Pushing through what seems difficult, persevering to the other side and eventually making it through, that’s what makes us stronger.

Like many things, however, too much can be detrimental. What’s important is to find the balance between what is healthy stress and what may become chronic negative stress, for example: anxiety or worry that turns into a long-term health concern.

What are some of the ways that stress may actually make your life healthier? It definitely plays a role when it comes to immunity—leading to an increased production of healthy cells that ward off sickness and disease. Studies at Stanford University show that our bodies produce extra interleukins  –chemicals that help regulate the immune system. This action of our bodies taking care of itself is one way stress may be useful for us. Another would be the strategies learned from the experience of a stressful episode, can be used and improved upon in the future. These experiences can make you more successful in your day-to-day endeavors.

Stress has been demonized in our current society, I am suggesting that whatever demands the world is making of you, it is you that is creating the stress. With this mindset, it becomes possible to use all your energy and creativity to solve the individual challenges you are facing, thus eliminating all negative stress from your life.

With this knowledge, that stress may actually be helpful to promoting better physical health, as well as help to provide a competitive edge in career or life aspirations—identify the way that it negatively affects you and change it!  Give yourself the opportunity to examine it, and begin to take away the good and discard the bad.


What Asking Questions Brings to Your Life

I was speaking
with a friend on the subject of asking questions. He shared how at times in his
life he refrained from asking questions for fear of appearing ignorant; I
wonder how many of you have had this challenge?
I then thought about how many of my clients have stopped themselves from
moving forward because they refrain from doing this or second-guess what they
ask before even getting it out of their mouth?

Even personally,
I’ve found that it has affected me. One of my challenges has been not asking
enough questions. Early in my career I had to learn to ask questions;
questioning was not ignorance, it was the beginning of knowledge.

 In my life, I
have made mistakes due to not asking questions; letting my imagination guess
the answers instead of seeking the real truth. Getting comfortable with my own
internal answer and assuming it as truth, which is very different from reality,
may actually become a habit—which is unhealthy for us. 

What about the
occasions that I did not ask questions for fear of offending the other
person?  Perhaps I thought a question
would be disrespectful. Or not asking questions because I imagined ‘I know the
answer, I do not have to ask’.  

How and when can
you identify with this challenge?

What do we get when we ask questions? 

·      Clarify ideas & situations

·      Keeping relationships

·      Get information

·      Solve Problems & make decisions

·      Think clearly & create strategies

·      Negotiate & resolve conflicts

·      Stimulate your mind

·      Learn

·      Reflect

Clear communication
is all about asking questions. One technique that I teach couples immediately is
to stop ‘mind-reading’. Mind reading is thinking you know what your partner is
going to say or do without asking h/her—think of it this way, how many times
has someone made an assumption about something you were going to say or ask
that was incorrect? Yes, mind reading benefits no one.

Sometimes we’re
unaware of small things that stress us, one of them can be the result of not
asking enough questions for the reasons that are highlighted here. Don’t let
that be something that affects you in a negative way.

Asking questions
is one of the prerequisites to enjoying your life and achieving your goals! Remember you don’t know what you don’t know. Be curious and
ask questions.


Dealing with Vexatious People

Each one of us has people in our lives that just make things a bit more difficult. They may be co-workers, acquaintances, friends, family members, or even our significant others. They come in many forms, but their behavior and their effect on us are the same—they drain our spirit, make us frustrated and doubtful. And instead of making our lives happy, many times, they make things less than easy for us in a variety of ways.

We all know them, we may even love them, but they’re not necessarily the best choice as a confidant or compadre for our long-term success. It could be anyone, even be someone that has been in your life for years, take a moment to reflect on how some of those closest to you impact your life—is their influence and existence mostly positive or does it tend to be a negative? It’s important.

If it is, indeed, negative, where do these feelings stem from? If we strive continuously to be a good person in our own opinion, and in the opinion of those that know us best, wouldn’t it make sense for most everyone to find that genuine goodness as a positive trait? Not necessarily. There are two key reasons why people may find fault with you, even if it’s not justified.

Sometimes, it comes from jealousy. They see what you have—your accomplishments like a strong family unit or great job security and they find reasons to make you feel guilty about your achievements or make light of their weight and importance. It may not be in obvious ways, either. A lot of time we’re unaware of that habit because we often either give them the benefit of the doubt or just aren’t even aware of it because we assume they care for us.

And if it’s not jealousy it’s fear. When others don’t believe that they’ll succeed personally, they can push those undesirable emotions onto others and it shows in their actions or attitude towards us. Many times, the distaste that person has for us doesn’t actually come from anything we’ve done to them, but more so, it comes from their perception of a situation and the opinions that they create from it. Self-perception is powerful. It may not be the universal reality, but it’s theirs, and many times, that’s a very difficult mindset to change.

So what can you do to save yourself some stress when dealing with someone like this?

Try being open and honest. Ask them politely but directly if you’ve done something to offend them—make sure to do this in private to avoid the person shutting down or becoming angry. If they feel embarrassed or put on the spot, you’ll lose the opportunity to fix the situation right away.

When you’re talking to them, keep it short and to the point. Stay on topic and use ‘I’ messages instead of ‘you’ messages. Avoid approaching it as ‘you make me feel this way’ and try ‘I feel that there may be something that I’ve done’— when you explain out loud to someone that you may have hurt them, even unintentionally, it may change their mindset and a resolution can come to fruition. It may not work with everyone, but it’s at least worth a shot—especially if it’s someone that you spend a great deal of time with.  When you take the leap and show them you care, they may soften their walls and start to create trust with you—everyone wins.

Working it out won’t always be that easy, however.  There are people that are sadly stuck in their misery and they’re hard-pressed to find happiness for themselves, both in their life happenings and their relationships. All we can do is try to do our best with what we’ve got, we can’t be everyone’s cup of tea.

What’s most important, is to be the best version of ourselves as much as we can, that way, within our own hearts, we’ll never have to question the reasons behind our own motivations or actions.  The ones that matter most will see that and appreciate and celebrate us for who we are, and we’ll have peace within ourselves that we stay on the side of what’s good and what’s right.


Prosperity Through Pain

In today’s world, it can become incredibly easy to lose sight of what’s important. By being inundated with everything from constant digital distraction to ultra-hectic work and home lives, we may feel like we’re barely even in control of our own existence and we just become sick and tired, even complacent, with our routine and the way that we feel about ourselves and our world.

When we’re caught in the vicious cycle of self-loathing, frustration or extreme busyness, what can change for the positive? Not much. And not only do we suffer, the ones we love do, and from an even grander perspective the world does too. We shut ourselves off, becoming oblivious to the grander atrocities and improprieties in the universe. Staving them off for fear that we can’t handle any more strife or disappointment.

The key is to experience an awakening. As Lion’s Roar, formerly Shambhala Sun, examines in their article On Awakening Through Race, Sexuality, and Gender. Enlightenment is a deeply personal and sometimes precarious journey. One that takes bravery, patience and belief that change is possible through small accomplishments. The author, Zenju Earthlyn Manuel, notes that when she began her journey to Buddhism she was drawn in from a feeling of great pain—not pain for herself, however, but an underlying heartbreak for the sad state of our world back in 1988—a world that we know has become even more overwhelmingly difficult to understand as nearly 30 more years has passed.

Calling herself “different in appearance,” Manuel explains, The world had structured itself around appearance. The way in which I was perceived and treated depended on a structure of race, sexuality, gender, and class. The perverse power of these structures made my embodiment unacceptable to others and myself. As a result, I was paralyzed by feelings of isolation in my younger days.”

She continues that she had bitten into oppression’s poison apple, falling into the notion that nothing can change. It wasn’t until she found herself introspective enough to examine her “true nature” that she began to understand how to reconnect with the universe and find her spiritual peace with everything around her.  She continues, explaining that we may desire an “out of body or other extreme experience” that will bring us to awakening, but in practice, all we really need is to examine the external struggles of the universe, and let that be our guide to inner peace.  

She astutely points out,  “If we were to simply walk past the fires of racism, sexism, and so on because illusions of separation exist within them, we may well be walking past one of the widest gateways to enlightenment. It is a misinterpretation to suppose that attending to the fires of our existence cannot lead us to experience the waters of peace.

With the anniversary of Selma upon us, we can still see a very clear picture of what we’ve still got to do when it comes to race relations. With National Women’s Day just passing, we’re reminded of what an incredibly integral role women play in the success of our society and our greater world and the respect, equality and dignity with which they should be treated. With the ever-widening socioeconomic gap we see where we’ve got to do better in making sure that everyone has a fair shake.

It is time to take a look—are your eyes open? Are you aware to what’s going on outside of your own 3-foot circle? Let what keeps you from peace and happiness actually bring you to it by sharing a larger concern for us all. If each of us spent a little bit of time taking better care of others, isn’t it quite possible that we may see it returned to us, maybe even exponentially? We’ve heard forever to ‘treat others as we’d wish to be treated;’ we just may not have been aware of what the power of understanding that perception really holds for us. Enlightenment is the bright and shining beacon of hope for equality and attainable prosperity to all—follow that path to light.