Tag: work life balance

Creating a Consciously Aware Life

 

How do you define consciousness? The medical definition of consciousness is the state of being awake and aware of your surroundings. But there is a deeper more symbolic definition of consciousness that transcends the physical and the mental.  The ninety-three-year-old Buddhist Monk and peace activist, Thich Nhat Hanh describes consciousness like a stream or river, it is always continuing and evolving. And like running water there is the shallow surface to the still silence in the depths below. Like many who have studied consciousness in the physical (brain/mind) and its effect on the body and perception, they all have found that you can shift your consciousness once you raise your awareness and focus.

If you think of consciousness as layers imagine the first being that which is more primal or automatic and connects the brain to the body; your physical needs; hunger, pain, pleasure. You are aware if a room is hot and stuffy, if you are nauseated, or feeling relaxed from a massage. This is surface consciousness.

Let’s think of the next layer as your thoughts and perceptions, how you evaluate your experiences and how they impact your decision making. Here lies what you have learned from both a formal education, absorbed from your culture, as well your past experiences and how these affect your emotions. Your emotions and feelings though are liable to be subject to moods of others unless you learn to listen within.

There is another layer. Learning to listen to the awakening of that layer, that transcends all the other layers, this deeper level of consciousness that can elevate your awareness, heal your mind and your body, and bring you a greater sense of peace and joy. Ah, this is what we all want, right? So how do we get there?

For a moment, create in your mind’s eye your favorite place in nature. Whether it is at the ocean hearing gulls and the sounds of waves crashing on the sand, or in the mountains with the scent of pine trees and the moist dirt of a mossy forest, breathe and be there for a moment. Open your eyes and notice how you feel. By bringing your awareness inward, you can choose what it is you want to focus on. This is a step in the direction of creating consciousness. Being aware. If you are meandering through a beautiful park, with the fall leaves surrounding you, yet rather than admiring their beauty you worry about an upcoming business meeting, your mind is not engaged, you’re distracted. Creating consciousness is letting go of those distractions and reconnecting to the quiet within.

Living consciously helps you with negative emotions. It gives you the ability to deal with negative feelings differently, to not be rote with reactions. Creating consciousness builds empathy towards yourself and others, because you have a deeper understanding. Think about when you were four or five, learning to count, then learning to add, subtract, multiply, divide, etc. As your awareness grew, so did your understanding and appreciation for numbers. It is the same with cultivating an expanded life that is fully alive and conscious. And like learning math, it takes practice.

When you are feeling angry, rather than lashing out, notice the anger, shake hands with it, acknowledge it. Then breathe, long slow steady breaths. Make a conscious choice to handle your anger differently, not allowing it to consume you.

Spending time in silence, bringing your awareness to your breath or meditating is a powerful way to increase your consciousness. By withdrawing from outside stimuli on a regular basis you can begin to create a calm interior. Physiologically, when you slow your breath, your body relaxes. Rapid breathing is associated with fear and anxiety. Consciously, focusing on breath, allows you to relax.  When you practice this, eventually you learn to quiet your thinking mind, the one that makes assumptions and passes judgements.

Living with purpose or living fully, is the same as living consciously. Bringing awareness to yourself helps you to be a more loving human being as you begin to see that you are interconnected to all living things. You need the warmth of the sun, the shade of trees, the oxygen from the plants, the love of another. By raising your awareness and centering on the self that is beyond definitions (mother/father, employee/employer) you can tap into the truest essence of you. That spirit or energy that is kind and loving can grow, once you bring your consciousness there and spend time stripped of pretense.

Opening your awareness liberates you from patterns of thought. Thoughts that have biases towards yourself and others. It gives you new perspectives, like wearing a pair of glasses that help you see better. You may not be aware that you treat certain people with disdain, like wait staff at a restaurant or the janitor at your children’s school. When you awaken your consciousness, you may see the humanity in all people. You may get to know that janitor and realize he is an artist or a single father working several jobs to provide for his children. Awakening removes veils allowing you to see the beauty in all things, a flower, an old man, a cloud. It gives you a sense of appreciation for the life that is all around you.

Lastly, living a conscious life is indeed like the stream that flows into the river that eventually finds freedom and flows into the ocean where all embankments and confines are removed. You don’t have to go on long extended or expensive retreats to create an expanded consciousness. You simply have to practice, be fully aware of the beauty around you, take time to notice your child’s sweet chubby hand that brought you a fistful of daisies, or the stranger that offered you a smile. Know that the sweet place of consciousness dwells within you. Listen to Podcasts, read books, find a favorite poet or philosopher, try guided meditations, nourish your consciousness, and then watch it, like the one seed of a sunflower, grow and bloom.


Do you need a vacation…or a more balanced life?

sunset over waterI love vacations. They are chances to see new sites and enjoy activities you may not typically incorporate into your daily schedule. Putting yourself in a new location can be invigorating to body and mind, as you are having different experiences than usual.

However, if you mainly use vacations as escape from your normal reality, you might want to examine the level of balance in your life. If your daily life is unbalanced, a vacation will merely be a quick fix and not help the underlying issue.

Imagine if you didn’t need a vacation in order to feel calm and centered, but could find that in your every day?

If you feel your life is unbalanced, ask yourself these questions:

  • Are you overscheduling yourself? If so, consider ranking to-do’s and commitments by importance and complete them in that order. That way, you will accomplish what is most productive, supportive, and essential to you. Eliminating those “should” tasks can add more time and increase your level of satisfaction.
  • What is causing you overwhelm? Is it something you can delegate or ask for help with? If not, can you choose to shift your perspective on what you perceive to be stressful?
  • How often do you feel tired/sick and what is the cause? Is it poor nutrition, lack of sleep, or your thoughts? These are all factors that play a role in decreased energy and health.
  • How soon do you feel burned out after returning from a vacation? Try to remember what the precursors were to your last burnout. Did a particular thing, or combination of things, happen that led to it? Finding clues to what causes you to “need a vacation” is helpful for keeping an eye on in the future so you can make adjustments before burnout happens.

Now that you have explored your past life-balance history, write a vision of your life in the future. What could your life look like on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis if it were balanced? What are you doing in that vision? How do you feel? Determine how you could make aspects of your balanced life into realistic goals to achieve.

Vacations are not solutions to an unbalanced life. Focusing in on possible causes of imbalance, steps to regain balance, and how you desire to see your life in the future will bring more equilibrium and joy to your life. Vacations will be even more enjoyable when you don’t dread returning to the “real world”!


The Total Self

DSCN0155

In the post, Life Balance, I discussed the most prevalent areas of our lives that need balance and why each is important. The life area called Self is composed of our emotional, intellectual, physical, and spiritual needs and desires. Due to the complex nature of Self, I’d like to explore each component separately.

Emotional

The emotional aspect of Self determines how we feel about our inner and outer world. What do you need for a full emotional life that serves and supports you? Do you want to be more focused and grounded? Approach life with a more can-do attitude? Radiate more love and joy? React to challenges calmly and confidently? Once you decide the emotions that are important to you, ask yourself what actions to take or habits to adopt in order to bring them into your everyday life.

Intellectual

This is the part of us that needs mental stimulation and growth, and goes well beyond the classroom. It could be learning a new skill or hobby; increasing knowledge about a topic that interests you; challenging your brain with intellectual games or philosophical discussions. Consider what you need to keep your mind alert, interested, and challenged. What do you want to learn, discover, and explore?

Physical

The physical aspect deals with what it takes for you to look and feel your best. What does it take to be strong, healthy, and confident? How do you need to physically care for yourself and others? How would you want to be physically cared for by others? This includes nutrition and exercise; sexual needs; physical contact (a hug, pat on the shoulder or arm, etc). Some people crave a great deal of physical connection—giving and/or receiving—and some people not so much. Either end of the spectrum or anywhere in between is perfectly valid…it depends on what feels right to you.

Spiritual

This is the part that yearns to connect to something bigger than us. While connection to a higher power certainly occurs in religion, it is also possible to achieve through meditation, being in nature, and by practicing the arts…however you can come to a place of reflection, contemplation, and inspiration. Some questions to ask are: What fills your spirit and soul? Gives you comfort, guidance, and support? How do you want to grow spiritually?

Everyone is unique in his or her needs and desires. Awareness of what you require and desire will help you achieve those qualities that bring you balance within the life area of Self.


Life Balance

P1000339

Balance is an essential part of life. When elements in nature become unbalanced, they eventually correct themselves. The more out of synch the elements in nature are, the more intense the correction—what we call “natural disasters.”

If a houseplant is completely ignored, or only taken care of sporadically, the plant will not do well and might even die. If you give it too little attention—keep it away from sunlight, deny it water, or fail to plant it in the right soil—you can’t expect it to flourish. This is analogous to not taking care of an area of your life. By the same token, spending too much time and effort in a particular area of life is not healthy either. It’s like over-pruning the plant or providing it with too much water or sun.

As in nature, when we experience imbalance in areas of our lives—working too much, ignoring our finances, not taking time for self-love—there will be subsequent results.

There are 4 main areas of life most of us can identify with as being significant:

  • Relationships – Our interactions with and connections to family, friends, and community.
  • Finances – The money we earn, save, invest, and spend.
  • Career – What we do (for pay or not) that contributes to our profession or career goals.
  • Self – Our spiritual, emotional, intellectual, and physical needs and desires.

Every life area is important and needs attention to foster balance. When we spend most of our focus in one area—say, putting all our attention on our career—then another area will most likely suffer—for example, relationships or self-care.

Take a few minutes to determine what percentage of time and energy you spend in each of these areas. Are any of them lacking? Is there a way you can bring those areas into greater balance? What is one step you could take to do so? Perhaps it’s consolidating one or two workdays each week in order to spend that time with family. Or maybe it’s scheduling a monthly massage or earmarking 10 minutes each morning to journal. If your finances need attention, maybe consulting a financial advisor or a friend who excels in budgeting is in order. Commit to taking at least one action step in any life area that is out of balance, no matter how small it seems.

The amount of attention each life area needs may be different. Determine the amount of focus and energy that feels right for you. It may initially take a bit of focus, discipline, and effort to keep our life in balance, but like anything else we keep practicing, it will soon become second nature.


Wealth: How to Achieve It

image

Believing that you are wealthy is the first step to being so. I have noticed that many people worry about not having enough money. How much they earn does not seem to be a factor, they worry whether they earn $38 million dollars a year or twenty thousand—that’s a pretty big differential.

What they tell themselves and what they believe about themselves is what creates the worry not whether or not they actually have money. Taking this one step further, The Law of Attraction states that what you tell yourself and what you believe will attract more of the same to you. So, if you believe you have insufficient funds you will attract more lack of funds into your life If, however, you believe that you are in abundance you will attract abundance to you.

An effective and easy step-by-step Neuro-Lingustic Programming Technique is below. It is a simple exercise to help you to shift any negative beliefs and create a belief system that attracts wealth to you. The cup is now half full.

1-   Make a list of all the ways and feelings you believe money will bring you happiness.

2-   Choose one way from your list. Recall a time when you strongly felt that way. Allow yourself to fully return to that memory NOW…see what you saw, hear what you heard, and feel how good you felt.

3-   As you continue through this memory allow the colors to become richer, brighter, the sounds louder, clearer, and your feelings stronger.

4-   Continuing to feel these good feelings, squeeze the thumb and middle finger of your right hand together and say the words “I am in abundance” silently or out loud.

5-   Practice doing this with all the ways/feelings on your list.

6-   Anytime you feel ‘out of abundance’ just squeeze the thumb and middle finger of your right hand together and say “I am in abundance”, this will immediately bring you to feeling in abundance.

Now that you’ve allowed yourself to shift your believes, creating a more harmonious balance, you will see that over time, you will feel more successful—in wealth of any form, even beyond the monetary.