Mid-Life Unfolds

Life Unfolds - Dedicated to "Attracting What's Next in Mid-Life and Beyond!" Have you reached mid-life or beyond and are you wondering what is next? Life Unfolds provides business and personal coaching and training to help you thrive while answering the what nexts. We specialize in helping mid-lifers achieve their dreams, change careers, retire happily and to thrive through transitions. More information can be found at http://www.lifeunfolds.com.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Key Instructions for Happiness

Key Instructions

by Lama Gendun Rinpoche

Happiness - An instruction expressed spontaneously

Happiness cannot be found
through great effort and willpower,
but is already here, right now,
in relaxation and letting go.
Don't strain yourself, there is nothing to do.
Whatever arises in the mind has no importance at all,
because it has no reality whatsoever.
Don't become attached to it. Don't pass judgement.
Let the game happen on its own,
emerging and falling back - without changing anything
-and all will vanish and begin anew, without end.
Only our searching for happiness prevents us from seeing it.
It is like a rainbow which you run after without ever catching it.
Although it does not exist, it has always been there
and accompanies you every instant.
Don't believe in the reality of good and bad experiences;
they are like rainbows.
Wanting to grasp the ungraspable you exhaust yourself in vain.
As soon as you relax this grasping,
there is space - open, inviting and comfortable.
So make use of it. Everything is already yours.
Search no more,
Don't go into the inextricable jungle
looking for the elephant who is already quietly at home.
Nothing to do,
nothing to force,
nothing to want
and everything happens by itself.

Quoted from the website Kagyu-Asia.com.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Putting the “Important but Not Urgent” Tasks Above the “Urgent but Not Important” Tasks

I subscribe to the blog "The Simple Dollar". It's my favorite "financial" blog, but it has lots of common sense advice written in an easy to read style. Here is Trent Hamm's latest article Putting the “Important but Not Urgent” Tasks Above the “Urgent but Not Important” Tasks

I think it is perfect for the readers of my blog and hope you enjoy it!


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Friday, October 02, 2009


"The most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire." — Field Marshal Ferdinand Foch

"Anyone can dabble, but once you've made that commitment, your blood has that particular thing in it, and it's very hard for people to stop you." — Bill CosbyComedian

"One person with passion is better than forty people merely interested." — E. M. Forster

"Chase your passion, not your pension." — Denis Waitley

"With out passion you dont have energy, with out energy you have nothing." — Donald Trump

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Sunday, August 09, 2009

Believing Can Hurt

We all have baggage from our childhoods, from our past. Some of it is good. It helps us cope, helps us to explore our world and expand our horizons. But some of it is harmful. It limits us, makes us inappropriately afraid, holds us back.

Our beliefs about the world are usually, just that, beliefs. It doesn't mean they are true, realistic, appropriate or helpful. One can build a case for any belief, but mostly we pick and choose our "facts". We all have personal filters through which all information is processed. We accept the information, facts, and events that support our beliefs and we discard or ignore or are even blind to the ones that do not. This actually applies to all areas in our lives, small beliefs and large.

Maybe you believe that folks are inherently dangerous, that the world is a dangerous place. Obviously, the world news would have you believe that. Most likely that belief came from your childhood or from traumatic events in your adult life. Either way, it's a hard way to live, believing that the world is dangerous and out to get you. It harms your ability to build supportive relationships. It can make it hard to get ahead at your work. So the question is, is that belief true and does it help you or harm you.

Maybe you believe that relationships are "hard", that you must work at all relationships and that your expectations should be low, or even that you shouldn't get too close because they all end badly. Regardless of how you came to this belief, does it help you or hurt you?

What if your sibling did something that really hurt you? Maybe said something negative or forgot your birthday. You can and probably would ascribe a harmful intention and believe that they are bad or meant to hurt you. Obviously this harms your relationship with your sibling, but also harms you with the negative energy and feelings that hang around, the thoughts you torture yourself with. What would happen if you simply chose not to believe that he/she meant to hurt you or that they meant anything negative at all by their actions? Could you choose not to believe?

If believing hurts you, I say choose not to believe. Change the belief. And you CAN change beliefs! You change them the same way they were created...practice, practice, practice. Every time your actions are playing out that belief, stop and change your direction. Every time you catch yourself replaying an event (based on a harmful belief) in your head, stop and move to a more helpful belief or statement. With regard to another person who you believe has hurt you, you might say to yourself, they were doing the best they could given their circumstances. Or they love me even though they aren't able to show it. Focus on the postive aspects rather than the negative. Another useful thought I often use is "it's not personal."

Another helpful way to change beliefs is to make a list of all the ways an event could be described rather than the way you saw it. For example, a friend calls you, yells at you for being non-supportive and hangs up on you. Here are a few ways to describe what happened.
1. My friend is a total jerk and has hurt me. She knew that this would hurt me and obviously does not want to be my friend any more. This always happens to me. I'm never speaking to her again.
2. My friend must be having a horrible day. She is usually so calm. I know she didn't mean what she said.
3. Wonder what's going on with my friend. Wonder why she said those awful things to me. Guess I better give her some time to cool off and then give her a call to find out.

Now, I'm not saying that you should put up with abusive behavior from others. I'm talking about beliefs that hurt you, that do not allow you to grow and expand and be joyful. Joy is a choice just as continuing to believe is a choice. Make choices wisely and be happier.

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Saturday, May 09, 2009

A tamed mind

"A tamed mind makes you peaceful, relaxed, and happy; whereas, if your mind is not peaceful and tamed, no matter how wonderful your external circumstances, you will be beset by frights and worries. Realize that the root of your own happiness and welfare rests with a peaceful and tamed mind. It is also a great benefit to those around you."
--from Mind of Clear Light: Advice on Living Well and Dying Consciously by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, translated and edited by Jeffrey Hopkins, Ph.D.

I found this quote today and wanted to share it with you.

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Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Mind is a Fascinating Place

Recently, I had a serious health scare. After numerous tests, the diagnosis is still unsure, but it's not the one I most feared and the doctors seemed to think was most likely. During the testing phase, my mind went to all the scary places. My ego took on the persona of "life as I know it is over". I ruminated on all the things I would no longer be able to do (including things I've never done nor ever intended to do). No more mountain climbing for me!! I wasn't depressed or overly worried, but seemed to be preparing myself for the worst and trying to come to terms with it.

One of the things I noticed was that I really regretted waiting so long to do some of the things that I'm really interested in. I waited until I was semi-retired, then I waited until I moved, then I waited until..., well you get the picture. And I was angry that I had wasted so much energy doing things like cleaning house and running around doing errands. I tend to "take care of business" (meaning tasks, work, cleaning, errands, etc.) before allowing myself to do what I enjoy.

I feel like I've been given a second chance at correcting my mistakes and taking charge of my life. I want to have more fun and be kinder. I want to do many more physical things like hiking and kayaking. I want to look and feel better, being more physically fit. I intend on meditating more and regularly.

I am grateful for this second chance, so few of us get one. I am making good on my promises to myself to make substantive changes in how I view fun and it's place in my life.

Wish me well!

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Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Too busy

"The feeling of being hurried is not usually the result of living a full life and having no time.

It is on the contrary born of a vague fear that we are wasting our life.

When we do not do the one thing we ought to do, we have no time for anything else -- we are the busiest people in the world."

--Eric Hoffer

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Friday, August 15, 2008


"If you can give your son or daughter only one gift, let it be enthusiasm." --Bruce Barton

"en·thu·si·asm: a strong excitement of feeling, passion, zeal or fervor."

Are you enthusiastic? What about? Your enthusiasms are signs from the universe (or God) of areas for you to explore in your life. The feeling of enthusiasm is a natural response to something that interests, intrigues or excites you. I believe that enthusiasm, along with curiosity, are two ways for you to tell what path you are supposed to be taking in your life. Another way of saying this is enthusiasm and curiosity can lead you to your purpose in life.

You may also be one of those (like I used to be) who didn't much get excited about anything. I generally used logic and thinking as my primary way of moving through the world. Someone wise mentioned to me that I was missing a lot in the world by not owning and expressing my more positive feelings, such as enthusiasm. I listened and changed.

Expressing enthusiasm can feel like being a kid again. You feel energized, freer and lighter, or at least I do.

Make a list of all the things that you are enthusiastic about now. Try to do at least one of these each day or week.

If you don't feel enthusiastic about anything, it's time for a change. It could be a sign of depression that you could explore with your doctor or therapist. If you're just in a rut, then try something new this week. See if it engenders enthusiastic feelings. If not, try something else that you are curious about. Your life will change for the better.

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Friday, July 25, 2008


Tintinnabulation! (the ringing of bells)

Looking for a really fun and super effective way to declutter your house? Just read on...

My husband and I are considering becoming perpetual travelers or possibly renting furnised homes in places we'd like to live for a few years. But we have a house full of furniture, doodads, art and just plain old stuff. We've talked about going ahead and starting to winnow out unnecessary things, but it seems overwhelming. Consequently we've made no movement towards our dream of living even more simply and being able to travel light. Remember, we have already downsized from 2100 Sq Ft to 1200 Sq Ft, but we still have a lot of stuff.

So my brainchild, Tintinnabulation (T!), was born! It's a game my husband and I play every day. One of us, either of us, at any time during the day, but usually only once a day, shouts "Tintinnabulation!" At that point, we must both get up and find ten things each to throw away, give away or sell (Craig's List, Ebay, Half.com, etc.) We've been doing it for about three weeks now every day. It's so amazing. We've donated 11 bags of books to the local library. We've listed 50 books on Half.com and made about $35 (11 books) so far. I've sold several items on Craig's list (craigslist.com). The best part of all is that we're having fun!

My 4 year old grandson visited and we did the Tintinnabulation game during his visit. He joined in and found 10 toys and books to let go of. If I had children or roommates, I'd ask each to participate. The decluttering would go even faster.

My husband started with his books, of which we have many. I've been shocked at what he has been willing to let go of. Stuff we've been carting around for years. I started with books, but have moved on to kitchen drawers, bathroom shelves and the closet. I just pick one drawer or one shelf and find at least 10 items to throw away or give away or sell. We've gotten rid of so many books, that I think we'll be able to get rid of a bookcase or two as well.

My friend, Dorothy, visited the other day. First thing she said was, "wow, it feels different in here, what's going on?" Now the room she was in hadn't had any significant decluttering, but she noticed the change in the energy of the house. She said everything feels lighter.

So what are the rules? Not many. First, anyone participating gets to begin the game by shouting Tintinnabulation! Then everyone drops what they are doing and finds 10 things to throw away, give away or sell. If you're going to give it away or sell it, it must be done quickly, say within a few days. The idea here is to get stuff out, not to move one pile of junk to another pile of junk! Things that qualify include trash, say picking up the newspaper off the coffee table and putting it in the trash. And no decluttering that is done at other times, counts towards the 10 items. So, for example, if you are picking up your living room in the morning and throw away a dozen items, and then later in the day you play the T! game, those dozen items do not count toward your 10 items. Why? Because you lose momentum and it's not as much fun.

Playing the game with someone increases the energy, the fun and the accountability. If you don't live with someone, get a few friends or relatives to play by phone. After you've done the clean-up, call by phone and talk about what you threw away.

So, are you ready to play? Get set, ready, Tintannabulation!

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Friday, July 04, 2008

Wishing you Freedom and Happiness

It's the fourth of July here in the US. A day to celebrate our freedom.

I'm going to celebrate today by being truly appreciative of all the freedoms I enjoy, something I don't give much thought to otherwise. Freedom in the US is much like water to fish, you just don't notice it until it's gone.

I deeply and truly appreciate....

Being free to move anywhere I want, whenever I want. I can move to California or New York, Mexico or Canada, to a Caribbean island or to Europe.

Being free to freely access information all over the world via satellite television, local stations, the Internet and telephones.

Being free to choose my own relationships, to love whomever I will, and to marry as I will or not.

Being free to walk out in public without hiding myself, my body, my femininity and without a male presence.

Being free to camp, hike and kayak by myself whenever I want

Being free to practice my own philosophy or religion in my own way without repercussions and with tolerance from my friends, family and neighbors, to say nothing of the government

Being free to have children or not have children as I wish

Being free to send my children to public or private schools or even to teach them at home

Being free to speak out publicly, to write editorials, to write blogs, to produce videos, to publish a newsletter saying whatever I wish whenever I wish without censorship

Being free to support my own causes with my energy, time, and money all over the world even when unpopular or in a minority

Being free to drive myself or to take public transportation wherever I want in relative safety

Being free to ride my bicycle at midnight if I wish without curfews

Being free to move about my city, state and country without restrictions whenever and wherever I wish...ah, sweet travel!

Being free to choose my own career, to be recognized in my field as a professional, to be paid what my services are worth, to change careers as I wish or to stay home if that is my desire

Being free to vote (or not vote) for my governing leaders and to vote as my head and heart dictate

Being free to change direction in my life whenever I feel the need

Being free to dress fashionably, unfashionably, to set new trends or to defy trends without repercussions

Being free to make as much money as my ability, my education and my desire will allow

Being free to make mistakes, fail and to learn

Being free to read books and magazines of my choice, no matter the content

Being free to affiliate with whomever I wish and to join clubs and organizations

Having choices in my life due to the incredible abundance in which I live

And finally, for today, knowing that freedom can be lost and is worth investing our time and energy for both here and around the world.

Highest joy and deepest peace to all of you!

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Monday, June 30, 2008

All Talk, No Do

Do you know someone who has or have you observed in yourself, the tendency to say you will do things that you don't mean? You know, when you say, I'm going to start dieting tomorrow, or I'll fix that window this afternoon, or tonight, I'm going to meditate, no matter how tired I am. Or even, I think I'll go to Spain this summer. Some of us are naturally more action-oriented than others. We have traits that allow us to be productive and industrious. And, of course, some of us are extremely action-oriented...all do, no thought. But some of us are more restrained in our activity. We talk a lot about doing, but rarely actually go and do it.

As a coach, I see this behavior frequently. Sometimes the behavior is generalized as a personal trait and sometimes it is seen in just one area, like at work or with a spouse. The most common problem area with most of us is taking our ideas and dreams and actually taking action to make them happen. The problem is not with the dreaming or knowing what the desire is, but with the doing.

I know someone who regularly and frequently says he will do things, but he doesn't take the necessary action to accomplish it. It's pretty much a steady stream of "I will" or "I'm going to" with very little follow-up action. On the one hand, you might say, "so what!". But this trait or characteristic is much more harmful than it seems on the surface.

First, if you say you are going to do things and don't do them, well, they don't get done! This affects your living environment and livelihood. You may find yourself disorganized, late in paying bills, financially insecure, in trouble at work and your house in a shambles. If you don't maintain your car, it may not work for you when you need it. If you don't monitor and manage your health, it could deteriorate.

Second, making promises you aren't going to keep affects your relationships. You'll find you've disappointed your spouse, friends and family. There have been many songs written about how the parent totally ruins his kid by promising to do things with him and then bailing out repeatedly. People learn not to depend on or even trust those who say they are going to do something and then don't do it. This carries over into a general disregard for everything the person says, as in "I don't believe you". You also may be "using" your friends and family to make up for your lack of action. You may expect your spouse and children to take care of the home, car and bills, instead of being a full partner in the doing. This builds resentment in those affected.

Third, you learn that you can't trust yourself. You see yourself as ineffectual and/or weak. Every time you set your intention to do something and then don't take action to follow through, you've learned something about yourself. You've learned that you say one thing and do another, which is the very definition of someone you cannot trust. You may have learned that you do not have will power or discipline. Or maybe learn that your words do not mean anything even to you.

If you see a little of this in yourself, what can you do to change it? First, it is important to fully realize what a negative effect this trait has. It really does harm those around you as well as yourself. And it definitely harms you!

Start with watching your language. Instead of saying, "I will do" say "I am thinking about doing" or "Maybe I will do". This is a start in being truthful both with others and with yourself.

The next thing is to look at the self-talk around not doing things. What is it you are telling yourself that keeps you from taking needed action? Here are some common thoughts that prevent us from taking action:

  • I don't feel well. I feel sick. My knee hurts. and variations around health. Note that this is sometimes a way of getting out of doing things you don't want to do, rather than truly debilitating illness.

  • I'm so put upon. I have to do more than my share. I shouldn't have to do this (it's too hard, beneath me, it's her job, etc.)

  • I go to work every day, therefore, I don't have to do anything else. I've made my contribution to the world/to my family.

  • I don't want to. On the surface, this seems like a good reason and some of us need to own this one more. But some of us overuse this reasoning. We all have duties and obligations that include some things we don't really want to do. After all, who really wants to change a dirty diaper or empty the trash?

  • He'll do it if I don't, so I won't do it. As in, if I don't take out the trash, he will so I'm excusing myself from the responsibility. Some of us have trouble with responsibility or with having obligations so we shirk them to feel more comfortable.

  • I'll do it later or tomorrow or next week/month/year. Always putting off what needs to be done.

What are your own thoughts that keep you from taking action?

What do you personally gain by not taking action?

How do you benefit?

Can you see other sides of this situation, take the viewpoint of someone to whom you have made a promise and then backed out?

Can you see how you might be viewed as undependable or irresponsible, lazy or untrustworthy?

How does this make you feel?

Make a real commitment to yourself to begin making small changes. Watch your thoughts and words.

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Forgiveness Journal

For the past couple of years, I've been focusing on forgiving and being forgiven. I think most of us think of ourselves as "good people". In our minds we say things like "I am honest", or "I don't lie", or "I always treat others well" or maybe "I would never steal". We look at others and think "I'd never be like that or act like that." We have numerous things our egos tell ourselves to make us feel special and better than others. But we all have hurt others, even if unintentional. We have caused harm to individuals, groups, our organizations (businesses, schools, churches, etc.), our families, our countries and even our world. It's almost impossible not to have done this if you are living your life and growing. After all, we were not always as wise as we are now (grin). The hurts do not have to be intentional nor do they have to be large. But each and every one, if not forgiven and made right, tend to hang on to you. They become part of your karma or your psyche and feel a little unclean (or a lot depending on the deed).

Forgiveness can be asked for and received without communicating directly with the person who was harmed. You cannot truly know if asking for forgiveness from the person directly will cause them to be upset all over again, thus causing more harm. It is really you who you are asking for forgiveness. Can you forgive yourself for doing harm? Can you even recognize that the harmful actions were yours and are your responsibility, regardless of the circumstance or your age or the provocation? This is sometimes a tall order! That's why the journal is so helpful, to work through these questions and to arrive at peace.


I don't have to sit down and do anything special to think of who I have hurt or harmed, they just arise in my thoughts at various times. Some trigger will make me think of a person and then I remember our relationship and what has occurred between us. I think this is my way of processing (working through) my own responsibility for harming others.

Recently I decided to begin journaling about this because sometimes they arise in my thoughts when it's not convenient to give my full attention and bring my thoughts to completion. My journal is fairly unstructured and begins by just writing the person's name. I then write whatever comes to mind. Some times it is the good times, sometimes the bad and sometimes just the event that causes me to ask forgiveness. At the end, I ask for forgiveness, say "I forgive my self for this hurt" and end with "May they be free and happy" (with feeling!).

Sometimes I find I write about the same person more than once. This just means I'm not completely free of this one yet. I just keep writing.

I've found a few patterns that come up and thought I'd share these with you.

First, you don't really need to agree (intellectually) that what you did was wrong other than to recognize that hurting another was wrong. For example, maybe your friend told you she didn't care if you dated her ex-boyfriend. So you did and she was devastated, so devastated she stopped being friends with you. On the surface, you can say to yourself that "hey, this is her problem, she told you it was okay, you're off the hook." And that's true on one level. However, the bottom line is your actions caused her pain and suffering. You need to forgive yourself at that level.

Second, this same example also brings up the idea of personal responsibility. I'm a big believer in personal responsibility for all your actions. Unfortunately, because we are not yet enlightened, we cannot always see the results of our actions until too late. In the example above, if you had known how hurt she would be, you might have made another choice. While it is true she is responsible for her own actions and her own reactions to the event, you also have a responsibility in the action and reaction. You may have been ignorant of the possible results, but they still occurred.

Third, you might also find yourself coming up with lots of excuses on why it really wasn't your fault. For example, you were too young to know better, you were in pain yourself, you were upset, they actually started it, etc. All of this may help you to work through the event and the results, but truthfully, the forgiveness still needs to occur, regardless of the extenuating circumstances. If these excuses are true, it should make it easier for you to forgive yourself, but they do not negate the need for forgiveness.

And lastly, another example is when you did something that you feel was wrong, but the other person either didn't notice, handled it well, or blew it off easily. Remember, it's your feelings that count in this situation. It is you that must forgive yourself. So in this example, unlike the one above, it doesn't matter how the other person felt, it is what you believe that counts.

Forgiving Others

Forgiving others for the hurt they have caused you is equally important. You don't want to hang on to these negative, harmful feelings any longer than necessary. They will continue to affect your karma (and your psyche) until resolved.

I journal in the same way, by starting with the name of the person who I believe caused me hurt or harm. Whatever comes to me is written out. I end the note with "I deeply and completely forgive you" and "May you have lasting happiness and freedom."

Things that may catch you while doing this work.

First is the need to wallow in the hurt. If you find yourself being very angry or very hurt, it may be too soon for you to forgive. It's never too soon to begin working on the forgiveness, but it may take longer the stronger your feelings.

This exercise has to happen in its own time. You cannot rush it, nor can you force it. The idea here is not to rehash the event with he said and she said. It is to bring light to the event and to forgive. This may involve some thoughts and feelings you find uncomfortable. For example, you may have to admit that the person who harmed you was ignorant (didn't know better), or very young, or under the influence, etc. It doesn't change the harm caused, but just as you would allow yourself some leeway because of these circumstances, you must allow others.

It helps me to understand that no matter what, all people have a basic need at the bottom of who they are: that is the desire to be happy. Most of the things people do are in pursuit of this desire, but because we are not enlightened, or mature or fully realized, we act harmfully in ignorance.

Keep writing and feel the peace.

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Friday, June 13, 2008

Magical Mantra

I have a magical mantra that instantly makes me feel (and act) better. It's "I have everything I need right now." Doesn't sound like much and you may be thinking, oh for goodness sake, how can she even say that? It's not true! But I am here to tell you that 99.9% of the time it is true and it's true for most of us. What do I mean?

If you think about each and every moment you live, you will find that most of the time, you do really have everything you need. You have shelter, food, water, clothing, a source of income, companionship, health, and so on. It is rare indeed that we actually lack anything. But that is not what most of us experience. And that is because we don't live in the present moment (or in the now).

Let's take the example of money. Let's say that you live paycheck to paycheck. You may not have saved much money and occasionally have trouble paying bills on time. In this example, at least once every month or so, you will not have enough money, so indeed you do not have everything you need. But that lasts only a few moments, when you write the check or have to call the landlord. The other 99.9% of the month you are fine. Even in this example, most people are able to make ends meet eventually. So most of the time we are fine and have everything we need, but we do not experience it that way. We instead worry about the anticipated lack of money each and every day, sometimes for much of the day. We lose sleep hashing it over in our minds. We talk about it with our friends and family, thus increasing the anxiety. We become anxious and even depressed. And this causes us to be unhappy much of the time. We are not living in the moment where we really do have everything we need. We are living in the future where we believe (rightly or wrongly) that we do not have enough.

This is true no matter what our issues are: health, love, careers, home, and so on. Most of the time, we do have everything we need in each and every moment. It is the rare moment when we do not have everything we perceive we need.

Can you imagine what it would be like to live as if you had everything you needed and wanted in each and every moment? Wouldn't that be the very definition of happiness and contentment? What if your life was such that you only worried 1% of the time or felt lack or unhappiness less than 5% of the time? Wouldn't that be a wonder?

How can we change to be more in the moment and to experience more happiness in our lives?

  • Meditate daily. Even 10 minutes of sitting meditation will help. Meditation will help you to know your consciousness or awareness (or Mind) directly. It will also help you to develop some distance so that your actions will be thoughtful responses instead of reactions.
  • Contemplate what actually happens in your life. What amount of lack do you really experience? How much do you already have? How does this lack affect your life and your happiness and how often does it occur? How much time do you spend worrying, being anxious over, thinking about, or talking about your problems? Is this realistically warranted? Does the worrying help? Or hurt? Try to gain an accurate picture of what your situation truthfully is or is not.
  • When you start to worry or feel anxious about your situation or to feel the need to discuss it, find something that will help you return to the present moment, when and where you have everything you need. Maybe it is my magical mantra "I have everything I need right now" or maybe it is a visualization or an activity like walking or meditating. Remind yourself that you have everything you need right now and that worrying/talking/ruminating will not help.
  • Take action to correct the problem if it is possible. Then forget about it.

    When I find myself worrying, I simply remind myself, "I have everything I need right now." It is a reminder to live now, not in the past and not in the future.

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Thursday, June 12, 2008

It's All In The View

I am now on my way back from a meditation retreat. I heard this story from one of the people at the retreat and thought I would share it. (Note though that I am not quoting this teacher but am paraphrasing what I understood him to say.)

Recently he, I'll call him John, and some other students as well as the Buddhist Lama were traveling around the southwest in a caravan of vans giving talks at various cities.

At one point, after travelling through the hot desert for several hours, people in the vans were getting cranky, were thirsty and hungry and needed to stretch their legs. John says they came upon a derelict gas station. It was in the middle of nowhere, looked like it was about to be condemned, and was not especially inviting. Inside, they asked for soft drinks and got lukewarm drinks that cost $4 a piece. The attendant was surly and unkempt. They paid more than $5 a gallon for gas. John said he felt appalled and upset that they were being taken advantage of.

Later that evening, the Lama was giving his talk at a local college. He started his talk with telling about the caravan trip they had just completed. He talked about how beautiful the desert was and how wonderful it was being able to travel this way. He then said that right in the middle of the desert, a palace appeared, rising up out of the vast desert. Inside the palace everything the group wanted was given to them, just for asking. Gas was available, drinks and restrooms, and a wonderful person who ran the place. Because she was there, they were able to finish their trip in comfort. And so on.

My friend, John, was shocked. He couldn't believe that the Lama had experienced the same event that he had. Later he asked the Lama about it, confronting him with his own terrible experience of the place. He asked the Lama how could he say those things about such an awful place? The Lama replied, "I was there." Basically, the Lama's experience was very different from what most of the others experienced, even though it was the same event.

This is what is called: "seeing everything on the highest plane." Can we change our perceptions to be more positive? Can we see the truth behind the facade, that everything is beautiful, just because it can happen? In the example above, the Lama was able to see how great it was that the place even existed at all, just when it was needed, that someone had the fortitude and foresight to live out in the middle of the desert just to serve others and to make a living at the same time. What a wonder!

What can we learn from this story? I know I often experience things negatively and make judgments, even without all the facts. I wish to live in the world as my teacher does, seeing things on the highest plane. I wish to be grateful that others provide food, and clothing, and clean rooms, services, products and everything else I need to live in the modern world. It takes practice to find the good and to see things positively.

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Stop Complaining 101

Have you ever noticed how often we complain? We complain about our situation, our spouse, our children, our jobs, our city, our world, our politicians, our street, the weather, and so on.

I recently went to a spiritual retreat with my Buddhist teacher, Lama Ole Nydahl. He is a living example of everything I wish to be. I have never, not even once, seen him complain about anything. I have been with him many times, sometimes for a week at a time and have never witnessed him in any kind of negativity. That is what I wish to live like.

But what do I do? Do I practice being in a positive state all the time? Do I emulate my teacher so I can become more like him? No, I complain!

Driving home from this retreat, I really began to notice how often I have a negative thought or negative comment about something. Here are a few examples:

"Look at all this flat land (in north Texas and southern Colorado). Who would want to live here? I think it's ugly."

"Wow, it's too hot out here." "Wow, it's too cold out here." "Wow, it's too windy."

When sitting in my brand new, air conditioned, fully loaded hybrid Camry, I "wonder why they put this button here, it would be lots more efficient over there."

"I think this steak is overcooked." "I think my Sprite is watery." "I wish I had more salad dressing." "They didn't give me enough ice."

My ego seems to be a never ending stream of negative commentary on everything around me. And I am basically a very positive person!! Much of the above was not expressed out loud, but the thoughts were still there.

I know a man who is probably the most negative person I've ever met. In the many hours I've spent with him, my guess is that 95% of what he says is negative. I ask, who are your friends and what are they like? He spends thirty minutes telling me how bad they are, how they are negative and unfriendly, how they have betrayed him, how they really aren't that interesting, and so on. Then I ask about his job, and he responds at length about how he doesn't like the people, the work is too hard or boring, the office is too small, it's too long a commute, and so on. Even his hobby which he says he loves, is expressed with negativity. He doesn't have the right tools and supplies, the outcome of his projects are bad, unskilled, crummy, and no one respects his hobby. And he wonders why he is so unhappy!

So I've decided to stop complaining. I am starting with making sure that I do not express what I think when it is negative. And I am starting to catch myself when a negative thought comes up. For example, in my thoughts about the flat land above, I immediately thought "yes, the land is flat, but I'm so grateful that farmers want to live here so I can have food to eat." And I actually felt the gratitude immediately. So that is transforming negativity into something positive. I expect that this will take a lot of practice, but I think I am on my way to being like my teacher in at least one aspect. No more complaining.

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What the Heck is Beginner's Mind?

Beginner's Mind..."refers to having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, even when studying at an advanced level, just as a beginner in that subject would." Deron Henson

"If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything; it is open to everything. In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities; in the expert's mind there are few."
From Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind By Shunryu Suzuki

"Everything is fresh and new; it is fabulous just because it can happen." Lama Ole Nydahl, Diamond Way Buddhism

Before a recent trip to Colorado, I always thought I knew, at least intellectually, what beginner's mind meant. I could think about what it meant, but didn't really have a real life experience to go with it. Now I do!

Just before the trip, we bought an electronic GPS. We opened the box after we started on the trip thinking we'd play with it on the trip and learn how to use it. It was our first experience with a GPS.

What a miracle! We were astounded by this tool, that someone dreamed it up, that someone somehow put all that data, roads, turns, traffic and road construction congestion, detours, altitudes, time and lots of other tools all in one palm-sized gadget. As we played with it and it showed us where to go, took us around roadblocks and traffic, talked us through course corrections, we were delighted, felt wonder and vast appreciation just because it exists. We fell out of our typical intellectual struggle with new electronics. We didn't feel the usual ho-hum, oh well, just another gadget. We feel excited, tickled, really joyous with the GPS.

When the feeling didn't go away after a day or two, we noticed something exciting was happening. We felt somewhat like a child with a new toy on Christmas day. Filled with wonder and delight, all related to this tool. We finally decided that this was what beginner's mind must feel like.

We could have, of course, put this tool into the conceptual bucket with all electronics. We could have been bored with it, or been critical of its shortcomings, could have felt threatened by it and a myriad of other feelings. But we didn't. For whatever reason, we fell into a different mind space with this new toy, one of simple wonder that it could exist at all.

We are encouraged by teachers and experts to approach all situations with a beginner's mind, that is to stop putting everything into a preconceived conceptual box and to be open to the real experience in the moment. We, as humans with egos, rarely actually experience anything. We are too busy living in the past or projecting ourselves into the future. You can see this for yourself at parties or business functions. Often, someone will walk up and introduce themselves and ask "what do you do?" As soon as you say I'm a secretary, or doctor, or whatever, you've lost them. They are busy putting you into their previously set up boxes through which they filter everything: "Oh, a doctor, I hate doctors, I need to move on" or "Secretary? She doesn't look very much like a secretary." and so on. They aren't actually experiencing YOU. They are just putting you through their own filter (concept) and pegging you as they peg all others. We do this continuously with most activities, thoughts and feelings during each day. You have to be in the moment, or to "be here now" as Ram Dass would say, to actually experience beginner's mind. It is looking at something with fresh eyes, just as a small child would.

So, now I know what beginner's mind feels like. How about you?

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Monday, June 02, 2008

Wanting What You Have

We are often told to feel and express gratitude as a way of being happier and a way of practicing the law of attraction. The law of attraction simply says that what you think and feel is what you get. So it follows that if you are feeling grateful for something you have or something you have experienced, then your thoughts and feelings are positive ones of appreciation, which then create more of the same in your life. For example, if you are very grateful for a loving, kind friend, it sets you up to receive more loving kindness. If you are grateful for the money you have, it sets you up energetically with the Universe to receive more and to have plenty of money. The thoughts and feelings of gratitude are the key to this, not the things you received themselves.

So how does this gratitude thing work? First, when you are feeling gratitude, then you NOT feeling anger, resentment, sadness, or angst of any kind. You are feeling and thinking positive thoughts and feelings. So when you are not feeling the negative emotions, you must be ... happy! Okay, gratitude may not equate to happiness for you, but it is positive. Second, gratitude is one of the highest (most positive) emotions vibrationally that you can have. You've gone straight to a home run, rather than lingering on first base. Third, it is the very opposite of wanting, grasping, feeling lack, needing, feeling greedy, etc. When you feel gratitude, you know in your deepest heart that you have what you want and need and you recognize it through your gratitude.

So how does one generate gratitude? For some of us it comes naturally. Maybe we've been trained that way or maybe it's our nature. But all of us can feel and express gratitude. If it doesn't come naturally, then practice it. I suggest writing out your "gratitudes" each day. At first they may not flow freely. But with practice, they come to mind more easily and you will find that some of the things you "think" you are grateful for, actually generate the emotion of "gratitude". For example, on my list might be "I'm grateful for a steady supply of electricity so that I can write this newsletter, that my husband makes smoothies each morning and serves them to me in a tall glass, that I have a top notch computer, that one of my grandchildren is able to visit me often, and so on." Now some of these do not elicit much emotion, they are just thoughts. For example, the gratitude for electricity was a thought, but didn't change my emotions; however, the longer I thought about it and what it would mean to do without electricity, to be in the dark, to not have all the tools we use daily (refrigerator, computer, phone, lights), the more grateful I become for it. The thoughts generated the emotion. The thought about my grandson generates an immediate emotion of gratitude. So from these examples, you can see that some gratitudes you may have to play with a bit to actually feel the gratitude. The important thing to remember is that we must FEEL the gratitude not just think it. It is the feeling of appreciation that is the key to feeling happier and to having more of what we really want.

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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Ten Ways to Add Gusto to Your Summer

Some of us need less stress and more calm in our lives and the summer is a great time to make inroads there. But some of us are in a rut and need a little more adventure to provide us with the zest and anticipation that makes life so much more interesting. These ideas are for you!

1. Go river rafting. Plan a trip to go white water rafting or kayaking. Trips can be guided or self-guided as your experience level requires. Expect thrills, a nature fix and to meet new people.

2. Take a language course. Sign up for a class at your local college or take them over the Internet with a friend. Instead of just learning the language, plan a trip to the country where your chosen language is spoken, even if you can't go this year. Planning the trip is half the fun. And make learning more about the country's geography, economics, and culture part of the experience. Expect to meet new people, a new skill and new attitudes.

3. Learn to barbeque or cook Thai or prepare gourmet. Take cooking lessons at your local upscale market, cookware store or even on the Internet. We all cook to some degree or another, but few of us take the time to master cooking. Expect new friends, new skills, increased pleasure in food and fun.

4. Go ice skating. Most big cities have ice rinks even in the summer. If you don't then try roller skating in a rink. Experience nostalgia and work your muscles at the same time. For an even better experience, introduce a child you know to skating. Expect sore muscles, a new skill and a sense of freedom.

5. Hike an entire trail over the summer. Most areas have hiking trails. You've heard of some of them such as the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, and the Continental Divide Trail. But there are hundreds of shorter, less strenuous, but still challenging trails available even for the novice hiker. In Texas, for example, there is the Lone Star Hiking Trail, doable in a summer on weekends. The planning is part of the experience, learning about equipment, food, trail maps and finding hiking buddies. Expect new friends, better fitness, new skills and a nature fix.

6. Take dancing lessons, yes, you! Learning to dance can be a blast. Ballroom, salsa, tango, western swing, any kind will do. The music is great, you'll gain confidence and nothing is like dancing to free you up a bit. Expect new friends, dance skills, better fitness and fun.

7. Do art. Even if you are not an artist, or especially if you don't think of yourself as an artist, art can be a great way of shaking loose your inhibitions, pumping up your creativity and creating something fun/beautiful/quirky. There are a million ways to be creative including paints, papers, clay, metals, wire, yard, textiles and every variation therein. Take an art class, or just buy some supplies and go at it. The hardest part will be giving yourself permission to create and to not judge the results. The goal here is to enjoy the process and not worry too much about the product. Expect unleashed creativity, new skills and self-knowledge, and something to hang on the wall or put on a shelf!

8. Read something new. For those of us who are readers, we typically stick within two or three genres such as mystery, science fiction, Oprah's book club, non-fiction, westerns, etc. I double dare you to read something that is outside your chosen genres. It may take some time in the library or bookstore to find one that looks really interesting and is also outside of what you typically read. Give it as much time as you can to choose just the right book for you. You may discover a whole new genre to add. Expect to add a little sparkle to your reading, to be more thoughtful and to be challenged out of your reading rut. Expect new ideas, new challenges and new books.

9. Challenge yourself to meet one new person every week. Introduce yourself in the grocery store or the library. Start a conversation with the doctor's receptionist. Talk to your postal carrier, call someone you've met for coffee. Ask questions and practice your small talk. See if by the end of the summer you haven't added to each of your relationship circles (close friend, second tier friend, acquaintance). Expect new friends, better social skills, and some very interesting conversations.

10. Listen to new music on a regular basis. Just like with books, most of us have a few genres we listen to and pretty much ignore every thing else. Most of us know we like a few kinds of music and know we don't like a few others, but there are probably lots of kinds of music you've never experienced. World music includes lots of different types...African, Latin, Eastern European, Asian and lots more. What about hip-hop, folk music, Americana, symphonic, opera, acid rock, and more. Even within the genres you don't like, there may be artists or compositions you would love if you only listened. So this summer, really expand your listening to include all kinds of music. Set your car radio to different stations and do Internet searches (try "music genres") to listen to free music. Expect new music you love and lots of listening enjoyment.

And because there are lots of brilliant ways to have fun this summer and to add pizzazz to your life, here are a few more: take surfing lessons, learn to tap dance, learn tai-chi or yoga, take voice (singing) lessons, or piano or guitar lessons, go to drumming circles, learn to meditate, take a silent retreat, get a massage every week during the summer, jump out of a plane or take scuba lessons, learn to ride a horse, join a soccer or rugby team, just have a ball!

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Want Less Stress?

One of the ways to reduce and even avoid stress is to have reserves. Having reserves means having space, mental, physical, emotional and spiritual space. It means having a little more than you usually need.

Here are a few scenarios where stress is dominant and there are little or no reserves.

Suzanne lives paycheck to paycheck. She rarely has enough money to buy extras and often cannot pay bills on time. She has only a few thousand dollars in savings and no retirement savings. She cannot buy a much needed replacement car, she cannot take vacations, she doesn't have the money to take night classes to improve her situation. She uses credit cards to buy things she wants and sometimes to pay bills, but this adds anxiety because she doesn't have the money to pay the credit card bills. She feels trapped, anxious, out of control.

James is lonely. He lives in a small apartment and works from there. He does have a couple of friends, but only sees them for lunch a couple of times a month. He is so busy with work that he doesn't have much time to make new friends or to start a love relationship. The more he is alone, the more he feels out of touch and as if he will always be alone. His self-esteem suffers which makes him even less likely to summon up the resources to meet someone new. His apartment is small and cluttered so he doesn't really want to have people over. He feels lonely, disgusted, angry and depressed.

Samantha is disorganized. She frequently loses things, and often cannot find information she needs for her business. She loses clients because of this. Her home and office are both messy, cluttered and chaotic. They mirror her own feelings. Each day she says to herself that she will start to get a handle on organizing and getting her space cleaned up, but feels overwhelmed at the thought of it. She feels confused, uneasy and overwhelmed.

In all these cases, there are little or no reserves to help, financial reserves, living space, time, energy and so on. To help ease stress, to add comfort and ease, reserves are a necessity. Reserves apply in all areas of your life, your finances, your home, your career, your relationships, your transportation, your spiritual life, and everywhere else.

Financial Reserves

The obvious financial reserves include having an emergency fund sufficient to cover 3 to 6 months of expenses in case of job loss, illness, burnout. But that is just the beginning. The first step to living stress free financially is to live below your means. No matter how little or how much you make, your expenses need to be less than what you make. At least 10% less, but 20% is better. This gives you a cushion and allows you to create an emergency fund, to save for a house, for vacations, for a new car, and to save for retirement. An additional reserve is that you have an organization for your bill paying activities. You know when bills are due, you pay them on time or early, envelopes, pens, addresses and contact information are all in one place to use when you pay bills. Another reserve is to have little or no debt. Best is to have no debt other than your home. One more is to pay close attention to being paid what you and your work are worth. Any two people in the same job or the same profession can make vastly different salaries. It is key for you to know what is fair and to be compensated fully. And the last area of reserve for your finances is to have knowledge about investing and to have a plan to reach financial independence and/or to retire to a comfortable living. If you are like Suzanne above, this may all seem a pipe dream. But all is achievable using small steps and starting now.

Health and Beauty

Nothing will cause more stress than being seriously ill. Illness can drag you down and make everything more difficult. Prevention is key. Health reserves include eating healthy foods in moderation, exercising, taking supplements, drinking water, and managing your stress through relaxation and meditation. But that is just the beginning. Of course, drugs, alcohol, caffeine and smoking add a great deal of stress, especially if in excess. Getting enough sleep is important as well. Regularly schedule doctor visits for screening tests will help catch any illnesses early. Knowing your blood test scores such as blood sugar, tryglicerides, choloesterol, and thyroid are essential. Dental health needs attention as well. Not only brushing and flossing daily, but regular cleanings and screenings at the dentist's office. Of course, you know all this, but have you ever related doing these things to reducing your stress? Can you connect how letting your teeth hygiene go by the wayside will cause you a great deal of stress when you have cavities and gum disease to deal with? To say nothing of cholesterol and heart disease, blood sugar and diabetes, etc. It all starts with the small things, what you put in your mouth each day and keeping up with your exercise regime. Start small, but start now.


Having enough room to live in comfortably and to store your belongings will go a long way to providing you with needed reserves related to home. It can be very stressful to have too much stuff in too small a place. Either get rid of the stuff, organize it better or get more space. The result will be less stress. Do you have a space in your home to relax, to be free of noise and clutter? Is your home clean and uncluttered? Do all systems and mechanics work well? Is your home a comfortable temperature inside year round? All of these can add to or take away from your sense of comfort and well-being. Your home should be safe as well. Do you have smoke alarms throughout your home and adequate locks on all doors and windows? Even if you can't move to a bigger space, you can declutter and eliminate extra belongings. Start with one shelf or one drawer today.

Time and Energy

The biggest change you can make here is your attitude towards time. As a coach, the excuse I hear most often is, "I don't have enough time." There are two areas to consider here: first is how much time do you waste doing non-productive activities such as watching mindless television, playing computer games, being disorganized, talking on the phone, etc. And the second point is that we always manage to find time for what is important to us. Even when we are terribly busy, we end up spending the evening with friends if they call. Or we watch that television show (even when it is a rerun). I believe that everyone can manage to find the time to add a little exercise to their day or to prepare nutrition food. Everyone can find a few minutes a day to start organizing or cleaning. Look for the timewasters first and try to reduce or eliminate them. Second is to raise the priority of putting reserves in place to reduce your stress. This is an important life transformation that deserves your focused time and energy. You'll have more energy when you have more reserves and less stress.

My prescription is to focus on one area and to take small steps. Pretty soon one area will be under control and you can play with the next area.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Play, Practice, Persist

Many of us are making changes in our lives. We use the law of attraction. We may be changing our health habits, creating wealth, developing better relationships and generally trying to be happier. But do you experience the same thing that I do when trying to make change?

It seems to come and go in fits and starts. Some of us start new habits or changes, but quit too soon. Some of us fail to create any momentum because we are distracted too often. Some of us are not motivated enough, that is, there's no real energy behind our desire to change. Some of us just think about change, but fail to take action.

So here's an idea to help: Persist, Practice and Play.

I've found that when I change my language to say, "I am going to play with this (new habit, new idea, new change)" it is much easier to stay engaged. When I say "I'm working on this", it has a heavier feel to it and is harder to stay with it. If you are playing with something, it is much easier to feel happier about it, and using the law of attraction intentionally requires positive feelings. Playing at something feels more energetic, more lighthearted, and as if there are no huge judgements about your performance waiting on the other end.

I've also found that practicing helps. I no longer expect perfection from my efforts. I assume I will need to practice whatever I'm attempting, whether it is changing my health patterns, developing relationships, or being happier. Practicing means you actually spend time doing whatever it is you've decided to do. Practicing means time and energy are focused on the change. Practicing also has a lighter feel to it, just as play does. If you are practicing something, there is much less judgement around the whole event. So what if you are not perfect yet, after all, you are practicing! Want to be healthier? Practice eating healthy and exercising. Want to have a quieter mind, be clearer, and be happier? Practice meditating. Want more wealth? Practice being wealthy (do what a wealthy person would do).

And most of all, persist. Don't give up the first time you drop the ball. Don't give up if you're not doing it perfectly. Don't give up if you're not making fast progress. Persist, practice, play.

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Tuesday, April 08, 2008

30 Day As-If

Often in the Law of Attraction teachings, we are advised to live as-if...as if we already are wealthy, or as if we are beautiful, or as if we are loved, etc. Great advice, and I always thought, easier said than done.

My husband and I have had big and fairly specific plans for our semi-retirement years. We would be healthier, exercise, meditate more, travel more. So here it is six months into that semi-retirement and none of those things were happening. Life kept getting in the way. Life-long habits persisted. We made many half-hearted attempts to do the things on our list but only travel really took hold.

I was frustrated and feeling defeated about the whole thing. then I remembered the as-if teaching. My husband and I discussed a plan to have 30 perfect days of living our plan. 30 perfect days of eating healthy, exercise and meditating as if we were already doing those things. This is different from just saying I have a goal of losing 20 pounds so I'll start dieting. That's a goal with a measurable accomplishment and an end. Notice that our plans didn't really describe goals, they described a lifestyle. We wanted to live healthier, live more spiritually, and experience the world through travel. So rather than wait until we could somehow set up goals, make plans and figure out how to do these things, we just lived as if they were already true for us.

Just as an example, here are some of the thoughts that kept us stuck: I'm not ready to lose weight, I'll start when I'm not so stressed, meditating two hours a day is too much, I'll have to work up to meditating that long, It's almost summer (in Houston) and too hot to start exercising, it will take me hours to figure out how to plan menus to eat healthy, I'm too tired, etc.

So when we decided to live as if we were healthy, fit, and spiritual, we simply decided what our days would look like. We'd eat healthy, we would buy healthy foods, we'd choose wisely, we'd exercise every day, we'd choose activity over sloth, we'd take our vitamins and supplements regularly, we'd take our prescription medicine religiously, we'd monitor our health, we'd floss every day, and meditate between 1 and 2 hours a day. And we would put all of this as our daily priority. For example, when friends called to ask us to meet them for dinner, we declined because they were going to eat Mexican and didn't want to change their plans. We thought this would be too much of a challenge for us given where we are right now. Another set of friends asked us out and we suggested a salad place.

I have to admit, I secretly thought we'd stick with it a day or two and then fall away or that we wouldn't even get started. But lo and behold, we're doing it. And it's easy. And it's fun. I'll keep you posted on how it's going.

But now, how does this apply to you? What is it you want? What is it you are putting off trying or "getting ready to get started" (my own personal favorite way to put things off). What dream do you have but don't really see any way to get there?

Many of you have already done one or more "dream boards". They often have pictures of wonderful friends and family gatherings, exciting activities such as travel or dancing or kayaking, loving relationships with a spouse or lover, happy times with children, satisfying careers, etc. Almost all of these are actually lifestyle choices. Can you choose to live that way starting today?

What would happen if you just started? What if you took the first step today towards that dream? Live as-if all the planning, all the getting ready, all the inner work, all the obstacles had already been taken care of. Just start, now.

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Monday, March 24, 2008

You've Gotta See This

A fascinating film that ties into the Oprah/Eckart (A New Earth) course. 18 minutes long. See link below if film does not play for you or takes too long loading.

Neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor had an opportunity few brain scientists would wish for: One morning, she realized she was having a massive stroke. As it happened -- as she felt her brain functions slip away one by one, speech, movement, understanding -- she studied and remembered every moment. This is a powerful story about how our brains define us and connect us to the world and to one another.

http://www.ted.com/talks/view/id/229 (link to video if above doesn't play)

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Saturday, March 22, 2008

You Are Not Your Story

Eckhart Tolle, in his book, A New Earth, talks about your story and how identifying with it causes so much suffering. So what does this really mean?

Here are some real life examples of life stories:

I met someone at a party. In the half hour I talked with her, a plain woman in her sixties, I found out that she had lost her trust fund at the age of 19 and couldn't go to college. Apparently, her relatives took/lost it and she was left with nothing. The way she talked about it, with such anger and blame and wrath, it sounded as if it had happened last week, not over 40 years ago. She was very attached to her story that she "should" have kept her trust fund and that she was a victim. She cited that the reason she was not well-educated and successful (making low money) was because of this event. Remember, she is telling this story with a lot of emotion to a relative stranger, me.

A beautiful 50ish woman friend of mine tells me that the reason she is not an artist is because her parents would not support her so she could study art in Paris with masters. She still cries about and wrings her hands over this injustice. She blames her parents and is still angry about it. She feels her life has been a failure because her parents wouldn't pay her way and support her. She believes most of her problems relate to this event and to the resulting stifling of her creative self.

Another story from an acquaintance: "I'm not very good with money. You know, I came from a poor family and there just wasn't much to go around. I guess I'm afraid of money."

And one more to make the point, "I have chronic inflammation that makes me tired so I can't do much. I had to quit my job and lost all my friends. No one wants to be around someone who is in pain all the time. It's not fair that this happened to me."

Now you may be saying, but wait, these things are real and they really happened. Why shouldn't they be angry, lonely, sad, grieving, etc.? And you'd be right from one perspective. It is normal behavior for people to react to the events in their lives. But we are trying to live differently, to be more aware, to be conscious and to be happier. Good and bad things happen to all of us. Any one event or an accumulation of events can turn into a story.

Each of us has many experiences, but not all experiences turn into stories. For example, the same situation, say, losing your trust fund as a teenager and not having money for college, could have happened to you. But you may have been angry for a few weeks or months and then got a job or applied for a loan and went on to college and had a good life. It didn't turn into a story. It was just an experience, a part of life, maybe even a learning experience. It is the "being attached" to the story as a part of your identity that causes the problems and suffering.

From my own life, I was attached to the story of the straight A student. Growing up, my identity in the family was as the "smart" one. In fact, I was no smarter than my siblings, but my role in the family was to do well in school. When I was in college and going to night school, raising a disabled child and working a demanding full-time job, I was exhausted because I had to make straight A's. When I made a B or even a C, it caused me a great deal of stress and embarrassment because it was not affirming my identity (story) of the straight A student. My ego was very attached to this story line. At some point, I decided to let go of the story. Notice that I had to see that I had a story and observe it's effects on my life in order to take any action. I didn't even know what "presence" or the "now" was at this point in my life. I signed up for a class, did not withdraw, never went to class and got an F! (on purpose) And lo and behold, nothing bad happened. People didn't look at me differently; my permanent record did not make the newspapers; and it didn't affect my grade point average. That story is gone from my life. What a relief!

Of course, I could turn the letting go of that story into a story as well. As in, "Look how well I did, aren't I special, I am the master at problems and letting go" and so on. Anything can turn into a story because the ego creates them as part of it's constant defense of the ego boundaries and identity.

The distance or observing that Eckhart talks about is what allows you to see the story and to let it go. Sometimes the observing is all that is needed, sometimes you may want to take action. In all cases, being present allows the story to fade away. The story cannot hook you if you are present in the now, to use Eckhart's terminology.

A few practical tips to let go of your stories:

1. Watch your language. "I am" is usually a tip-off to your ego's need to identify with something. "I am" not good with money. "I am" such a loser at relationships. "I am" an adult child of alcholics and can't be around people who drink. "I've always" been good with numbers, been beautiful, been overweight, etc. Watch for the "I am"s in your life and observe without judgment.

2. Don't share your story. Every time you notice you want to tell the story, observe the ego's need to assert your identity. Keep quiet and don't tell the story, don't make the story more real by repeating it, and don't give it any more energy. This is not the same energetically as "it's a secret", but more in line with "that is just a story, not the real me."

3. When you notice yourself identifying with your story, being hooked and dragged along with the story, tell yourself
  • "this is just a story"
  • "this story is not now, it is in the past"
  • "I accept that this story was mine, but I choose to live in the here and now"
  • "I see how this story makes me feel (emotionally and in the body) and choose to be present now"
  • "this is not personal" (especially useful when someone is doing something you don't like such as criticizing you, cutting you off in traffic, infringing on your perceived territory or liberty)
  • "this is just X being X" as in John picks a fight with you, you can say silently to yourself, this is just John being John, and is not personal (to me)
4. Don't fight the story. As the borgs say, Resistance is futile! Resistance gives the story more energy. Suppressing your feelings give the emotions more energy and make them expand. The idea here is to be gentle and to let go, not to "destroy" the story. This means not telling yourself you "should" be feeling one way or another or that you "should" not be thinking about this. It means simply choosing to be present now. When you are present (or observing), the story and it's resulting emotions simply fade.

5. Discover what keeps you attached to the story. We all get something from our stories. The stories feed our egos in some way. Some times it is to get attention, either negative or positive. Some times it is to elicit pity. At times it is to create drama and feel chaos, which for some is comfortable. Sometimes noticing what you are feeling and what you hope will happen or what does happen can help you make sense of the story and make it easier to let it go. Sometimes the story is to make people turn away from you because that makes you feel exposed. Observing your feelings before, during and after a story being expressed in your life can be helpful.

6. Watch other people's stories as they talk or react. The next time you have lunch with a friend or go to a party, choose to bring your "witness" or "observer" into front and center. Instead of being caught up in other's stories, try to listen in presence and really know that this is a story, not who this person really is. What difference does that make in your experience of them? How can you apply that knowledge to your own experience?

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Monday, March 10, 2008

The Deeper Question

A huge part of my practice is helping others to get the answers to the question: "What do I want?" Some of us know what we want, some of us think we know what we want and some of us have no clue. Depending on where you are spiritually, the answer to the question will come from your head, from thinking or "figuring it out" (that is, the ego) OR the answer will come from your spirit or better said, through your spirit. The only true answer will come from (or through) spirit. It is a deeper and more truthful and relevant answer than any you might come up with from your head or through figuring it out.

There are so many books available to help you "figure out" your life purpose. Believe me, I read them all! And nothing I did to "figure out" what my life purpose helped me find my life purpose. I had to look deeper for the answer. Look to the Universe, Consciousness, God or whatever your term for the source of all life for your answer. For me, meditation is the way I get in touch with my higher self or Consciousness. It is where my deeper questions are answered, by being still and listening.

I know that we all have purpose(s) on earth and our purpose will allow us to live who we really are and to excel, to express ourselves in a beautiful, abundant, conscious way. I believe that if we can be still, as Eckart Tolle calls it, if we can go beyond our daily existence as expressed by our egos, that the actions we need to take to express our purpose will come alive and will be known to

Trust in the deeper answer as expressed through your spirit.

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Friday, February 15, 2008

Motivation and Action

"Every act you have ever performed since the day you were born was performed because you wanted something." -- Andrew Carnegie

This is a powerful, albeit obvious, statement about the human condition.

First, it says that our desires, our dreams, our wants are powerful motivators. They spur us to get up out of our chairs and move. As a child, motivation came easily and naturally. We were motivated to crawl, to walk, to communicate. Motivation is the difference between something being difficult to achieve and being easy to achieve. The more motivated you are, the easier it is to take action. Even dull or difficult jobs take on an excitement and become easier when we are powerfully motivated. In fact, it is more difficult to not take action when motivated. I have dieted many times. When I was powerfully motivated, the weight seemed to just fall away by itself. Eating healthfully was easy. Exercising was easy. But when I just decided (in my head) to lose weight, every choice was difficult, with lots of backsliding and little success. The only real difference was motivation. It was certainly not knowledge, will-power or planning.

Second, it says that action makes things happen. Action is our way of building a life, fulfilling our desires and even fulfilling our destiny. When we take action we are building momentum, speeding up the fulfillment of our dreams or our desires. Your dreams are not created by sitting in a chair (unless, of course, that is your dream!). Dreams are created, brought into life, by focusing your energy on that dream. By making it as real as possible and then taking action to achieve it. Without the action, a dream is just that, forever a dream.

Think back on your past achievements. What desires and dreams did you have that led to those accomplishments? What was your motivation? What actions did you take to accomplish these things? Which ones were difficult and which were easy? What special qualities (such as persistence, intelligence, courage, gratitude, etc.) were used in each accomplishment?

What insight do you gain from these questions and answers to help you with a current dream, or a current obstacle in the path of your dreams? Have you clarified your dream and focused your energy (both inner and outer) on it? Are you motivated? Are you taking appropriate actions to create your dream?

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A Sin Against the Light

I just finished watching a British mini-series called "All Passion Spent". It is the story of an elderly woman in the British aristocracy whose husband died. She'd spent her entire life doing what was expected of her. She married well as her parents expected. Her husband was the prime minister of India and she fulfilled her duties as his wife with grace. She had children and raised them, created a home, and endured with love and without bitterness. By outward appearances she had a wonderful life. So what was the problem? She was "meant" to be an artist. She loved beauty and art, but had entirely given up this part of herself as it did not fit in with her expected life.

So now she is 85 and finally asserts her desires on her life. She moves to a small cottage (from the big mansion) away from her children. She has a beautiful garden and makes the home cozy and filled with light as she has always desired, but could never have. She surrounds herself with interesting people (some from the "trades") and meets up with an old gentleman acquaintance from India. Even though she doesn't remember him from 60 years before, he understands her now as he understood her back then. In their conversations about her life and her missing art, he says that her not pursuing her art was a "sin against the light." I really love that phrase although I'm not much into the whole sin thing. It has a double meaning, since light is so important in art. The light being sinned against can be the light we see or the inner light (soul, spirit or the source of all being).

It really describes what I think so many of us do with our lives. We "sin against the light" by not being all we can be. By not doing what we were truly meant to do. That thing we were meant to be and do can be anything. It doesn't have to be something as romantic as being an artist. It can be teaching, or being a mother raising good children, or being a whiz at gardening. The trouble is we often take our role in life and because we're doing a good and important job (such as raising children) and rationalize that this must be what we were supposed to do. All the while ignoring the tightening up of our hearts, the depression, the dis-ease that will come about when we ignore our most inner longings.

So what messages from your heart or soul are you ignoring? Can you explore them? Can you give yourself permission to take a few baby steps toward the light? Toward expressing your being in your own unique way?

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Friday, February 08, 2008

Feeling Bored (Yawn!)

When the winter doldrums set in and you're feeling bored and restless, I have just the thing. Take a free online course. Now I'm not talking about just any old thing, but courses from MIT, from respected universities the world over! I am a lifelong learner and can't tell you how excited I am about being able to take classes any time free. Go here to find out more.


What are you registering for?

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Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Flow Mojo

One of my desires is to stay in the flow as much as possible. To have ease in my life and have things just flow, without major obstacles, and stops. Everything can be thought of as a flow of energy. Money is a flow of energy. Love is a flow of energy. Creativity and creative endeavors are flows of energy. These flows can be encouraged or discouraged by our emotions, thoughts and actions. Let's look for just a moment on how to encourage the flow, to strengthen or amp up the flow so that abundance can be ours right now.

Money: If money is tight, you're feeling the lack of money and resources to fulfill your dreams, then your reality of money is following your feelings and thoughts. Your thoughts and emotions of lack and "not enough" are causing the very thing you fear the most. Your worries are playing themselves out by bringing you more to worry about. So, take a breather. Sit down and write the things you have right now and can feel appreciation for, especially around money. Examples might be, my rent is paid up, I have a savings account with a positive balance, I have a job that brings in money every week, I paid off a loan last year, whatever comes to mind. Remember, it's best if you can "feel" gratitude rather than just stay in your head "thinking" the appreciation. Now the next step is to take action. Prime the money flow pump by being generous. Donate extra books to the library or clothes to the local women's shelter. Give money to a charity. If you can swing it, tithe money to a group that involves your heart (spiritual works for me). While you are doing these things over the next few weeks or months, each time you feel tight or worried, give a little. Give without expectation of getting something back. Give because you already have abundance and can give.

Love: Love is a flow of energy, positive and life-giving. When we don't feel loved or don't feel like we are being appreciated, we tighten up and close off this energy. It becomes blocked. By love I mean any positive feelings about another person. It can be friendship, inspirational, romantic, or familial. Again, sit and write about what you do have already. It might include: I have a husband who takes care of my car every month, I have two best friends who have given me support, my sister loves me, and so on. Include the kind of detail you need to make you "feel" the gratitude. Then give love. The easiest way to get the flow going, to prime the pump, is to give it. Do something special for a friend or a neighbor. Be kind to a stranger or to someone who is down and out. Say heartfelt thank yous to your doctor, florist, postman and grocery store clerk. Every interaction can be completed with love (positive feelings). Again do these actions without expectation of return because you have an abundance of love and can give it away freely.

Prime the pump by giving.

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Friday, January 25, 2008

Your Obit

It's a horrible thought, that we might die before our time. No one likes to think of it. Having just lost my sister-in-law, it has made me think about my own life and death.

What if I had to write my own obituary today? What would it say? Would it be everything I wished for my life to say? Does my life really express who I think I am?

Use this as an exercise in assessing your life at this point. Write your own obituary. Include your accomplishments and the important areas of your life.

Now write the obituary you wish you could write. Include everything you would like to be said at your passing. Are the two similar, very different? Any insight into what areas you'd like to change in your life? Is there anything you wish could be said about you?

Here are some paraphrased quotes from others who have done this exercise:

"I lived a great life. I was often the life of the party and brought joy to many."

"I lived my life with courage and honesty. Others looked up to me."

"I made a difference in the world. My life was played out on a huge stage with many players. My actions made real, lasting changes all over the world."

"My family loved me and I loved them. My family relationships were open and honest. My grandchildren will remember me with love."

"I was president of my own company. This company employed thousands and served the community with excellence."

"I became a millionaire before age 40. I used my money to further the cause of cleaning up the global environment. I made a difference."

"I made myself and others laugh, often."

"When you look in the dictionary under the word 'kind', you'll see my picture. That's my legacy."

May you live a very long, healthy and very fruitful life.

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Talking Yourself Out of Life

One of the illuminating exercise we do in my workshops includes a list of questions designed to ferret out your inner desires or dreams. We spend about 30 to 45 minutes answering the questions individually and then share the answers. It is amazing to me how often the answers are easily achievable or could be done right now in a few minutes. Sometimes everything on their list is easily do-able, inexpensive and could be accomplished in a reasonable amount for time. And yet the desires remain unfulfilled.

Let me give you an example. One woman's answer to one of the questions was that she wanted red shoes. She said she's wanted them for years. Really didn't even matter to her whether they were high heels or tennis shoes, expensive or cheap, they just had to be red. When asked why she didn't just go buy some? Because they are "impractical" and she already had enough shoes. She practiced living simply and this didn't fit in with her rules about owning stuff. All of which is fine except that she really wanted those shoes!


When I suggested she go after class and buy the red shoes, she look amazed and said, "I guess I could do that." She talked herself out of something she wanted based on a life rule she made up (or was passed on to her). At the very least, she would have learned something about herself if she'd bought the shoes. Instead, she denied herself a little joy, a little self-knowledge and ignored a longing of hers. Therein lies the road to unhappiness.

I've noticed that all of us make decisions not to try something, not to go for what we want, not to have something we want or be different, often, before we even try. Sometimes it is because of the box we're stuck in. Another way of saying that is because we live within our own rules, ones we made up or inherited and can't seem to break away from them. At times it is because of "conventional" wisdom. Or we are listening to others instead of following our hearts. Sometimes we don't want to rock the boat.

I heard one of my clients say the other day that she didn't want to be disappointed so she didn't try for things. After all, why set yourself up to be disappointed? The answer is because if you don't try you will miss the great things, you miss delivering on your dreams, you miss all the self-knowledge that comes with trying and winning, and yes, trying and not succeeding. You can't win if you don't play!

So what are you stopping yourself from doing without even trying? What is missing from your life that you could easily do, be or have? What is the self-talk you are listening to that stops you before you make an honest effort to satisfy your desires and live your dreams? Write them down and label them appropriately. Are they excuses? Are they your thoughts or someone else's? Can you give yourself permission to get what you want even though there are "good" reasons not to go for it?

Going after what you desire is what makes life juicy. It's what brings on the joy and expands your life force. So open up the box and step outside of it. It's where all the adventure is.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

A Blank Slate

What if you had a blank slate for your life, right now in this moment? At one time, at birth, we did have a blank slate. Unfortunately, we were not the only ones writing on the slate. Our parents, churches, schools, friends and cultural communities all helped us to fill up the slate. The result? What we are living right now! Our life slate is filled with the good and the bad, the daily activities, the viewpoints and feelings and the people, places and things that we experience in each moment of our lives.

Can you imagine your life as a blank slate? Without all the problems, perceived limitations, and pressures? Without current obligations, duties and stress?

Sit down in a comfortable place where you won't be disturbed for at least half an hour. A couple of hours is even better. Imagine the blank slate. If your own life keeps intruding, mentally erase the images until you have a blank slate. Don't spend a lot of time here, because the result is in imagining the new, not spending time and energy on the old. Give yourself permission at the outset to be relaxed and playful with this contemplation. Allow yourself to really stretch your imagination.

Fill the slate with what you'd like your life to be like. Include the satisfying people, places and things you have now, and add the elements you desire. Or start completely new. The slate can be large and include your entire life or lifestyle or can be small and focus on a single element in your life. For example, you may focus on your career or job, or your relationships, or your financial situation.

Include people, places and things, but also include feelings, perceptions, world-views, and ambience or environment. For example, imagine yourself being even more patient or generous or kind. You might imagine you are more sophisticated or courageous or powerful that you perceive yourself now. You may include only people who respect and love you. Include smells, and visual and auditory and sensual aspects as well. After all, it is you imagining it and it can be anything you desire.

When judging thoughts intrude, such as "you can't have that" or "you don't really want to be rid of him, after all how would you live?" or "you're way too old to do that", just put them in a bubble and allow them to gently float away. If that doesn't work, remind yourself that you are simply playing with images in your mind and you are allowed to do anything you wish in that space. Simply ignore any other thoughts.

You'll know you are on the right track in your imaginings when you feel happy and excited. Keep playing with the images and sounds until you have what you desire.

When you are ready to complete the meditation, simply say to yourself, "I now have all of this and more."

I like to do this exercise every day for a few minutes. I just close my eyes and playfully allow vignettes to entertain me for a few minutes. One day my focus may be me hiking in a beautiful mountain setting. Another day it might be me looking at my bank balance and being overjoyed. Another day, I might focus on being with girlfriends in a spa, having a lot of fun and enjoying the friendship. The picture variety is endless, limited only by your own imagination.

The more you do this exercise, the more energy and focus you are giving your dreams. It is a fun way to practice bringing more of what you desire into your life. I'm betting that you will be amazed at what comes your way simply on the basis of this exercise, practiced daily.

After all, your life really is a blank slate. Everything you are experiencing today was caused by what you desired, and what you did in the past. Everything you are thinking and feeling today, every action you take is setting up your future. So spend more time thinking and feeling what you really want and see what happens.

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