Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Gratitude and affirmation

Every night before you fall asleep, replay in your mind the good moments of the day, and give heartfelt thanks for each one of them. Think about the next day also, and intend that it is going to be amazing, that it is going to be filled with love and joy, and that all good is coming to you. Intend that it is going to be the best day of your life. Then when you wake in the morning, BEFORE you get out of bed, declare your intentions again for the day and give deep thanks as though you have received them all. 

May the joy be with you,

Rhonda Byrne

1. “He who is not contented with what he has, would not be contented with what he would like to have.
- Socrates

If we appreciate the items in our life that are now considered "necessity" we will not appropriately appreciate those that are luxuries. Those luxuries that are now necessities (depending on your location and age) are cell phones, answering machines, email, warm water, indoor plumbing, cable tv, electricity and the list goes on.

If we don't appreciate how we live now or how we play, we become numb as new items, new ideas and new people come into our lives. We appreciate the moment or the item but then it becomes part of our everyday life and we then feel we deserved it in the first place.

2. "Gratitude is riches. Complaint is poverty."
- Doris Day

When I have paused and looked around me at my friends, family, and everything that is important to me I realize how truly rich I am. Appreciation for the birds singing in the morning as they wake me up makes me feel part of something bigger than myself. It takes the focus off of me and lifts my spirits.

Complaining simply drains the speaker and the listener mentally, putting a tarnish to everything we see around us. All we see is that nothing is good enough and has worth.

3. "Gratitude is the memory of the heart."
French proverb

If I take a moment to be grateful for someone or something, I recall the original reason I appreciated that person or thing coming into my life. It is like taking a step back into time and the emotions that were there on the first meeting come flooding back. A smile may come to my face as I recall the importance it brought to my life.

4. "The best way to pay for a lovely moment is to enjoy it."
- Richard Bach

We don't savor much anymore. We eat in our cars or standing over the sink, so we don't have to clean up as we head to somewhere else. We leave before the 9th inning or the final bow at the show to get to the car and beat the rush of traffic if we can. It seems the only time we slow down is to watch tv or go to sleep. Neither of which allows us to enjoy the moment of time, the people around us, or the world that moves on outside.

I sold a sofa to a man on Craig's List and before we even exchanged money for sofa, we talked, for a good hour. Initially, I was perturbed that he was so talkative and didn't just pay and leave me alone. I had to realize that this isn't always about me. Sometimes I need to slow down and go with the flow. I don't recall anything major about the conversation but I learned to make myself slow down and just enjoy the time I had in front of me.

5. "Real life isn't always going to be perfect or go our way, but the recurring acknowledgment of what is working in our lives can help us not only to survive but surmount our difficulties."
- Sarah Ban Breathnach

Sometimes I feel so horrible about life to really think of anything to be grateful for, so I go with the easy basics.  A roof over my head, a comfortable bed to sleep in, food to keep me alive, a group of family and friends that care. Eventually I start to remember more and more items and,  my attitude changes and in turn helps me through the day better than any shot of caffeine, pill, or ray of sunshine could do.

6. "No one is as capable of gratitude as one who has emerged from the kingdom of night."
- Elie Wiesel

When good days, weeks, or years come, I must be appreciative. Not because I am doing well but because it is when I am doing poorly that the times I am good are that much sweeter. I need those valleys to help me appreciate those high hills and when I am on those high hills, I need to look on those valleys and be grateful for them as well. Good times are the other side of the coin to the bad times. We can't have the beautiful world in the daylight if we don't also have the night to make it so bright.

I hope these thoughts and quotes have opened up a river of gratitude for  you and I thank you for taking your time to stop and read. 

by Dawn  

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Charity Begins at Home

excerpt from Arvind Devalia

What does the word “charity” mean to you?

No matter wherever you are in the world, there will always be something or someone whom you can support and help if you wished to make it a better world all around. One can support umpteen causes, most of which are worthy and deserving, whereas some can be rather frivolous and obscure.

There is only so much of you to give and only so many resources you can share.

There are a variety of things that drive people but a key one is this deep desire and longing to make a difference and contribute to others.

Ultimately we all want to help and make a difference, it’s a question of just how we choose to do so. Sometimes we are simply held back from helping others through lack of knowledge or even fear of stepping up.

What is your definition of charity?

Wikipedia offers a number of definitions but generally being charitable refers to providing help or relief to the poor and needy. On a broader scale it is about benevolence or generosity toward others and toward humanity.

The word “charity” is also commonly used to describe an organization that facilitates charity benefiting people in need. It also refers to the act of giving your money, time or resources to others without expecting a reciprocation or a direct return. Of course you go get the satisfaction and fulfilment of having helped someone.

Ultimately, charity is benevolence, or an act based upon a belief in the goodness and worth of other people.

There is literally someone you can help in every street, and sometimes in every nook and cranny.

There is this famous story of Mother Teresa holding and hugging a dying man in Calcutta rescued from a gutter. The man was not bitter, but happy and grateful that he was going to die with some dignity and love.

At least for the last few moments in his life, this man felt wanted and loved. And how amazing it is to be able to give such a gift.

Charity begins at home

There is this well known saying that charity begins at home – this really means that you should try to help your family and friends before you help other people.

Charity certainly begins at home – and it is key to understand and accept this. Once you accept that charity begins at home, you can then consciously look for opportunities in and around your home and not wait for one future day to pack your bags for Africa, or indeed anywhere else where a worthy charitable cause appeals to you.

Of course, charity at home is much more than giving donations and giving your unwanted clutter to others.

There is so much more we can all do for all the people around us – my friend John Sherry recently summed this up beautifully in his article about how to contribute to the world from the heart and not just the pocket.

So yes, contribute to the world from the heart and not just the pocket – and begin in your own backyard. Change the world around you first and one day you can take on the rest of the world.

Even more importantly, remember that “charity” begins with you. Look after yourself first and then the people around you and ultimately the world.

I am not advocating being selfish and ignoring others at all costs, but saying that you look after your own needs first – after all, if you can’t look after yourself, how will you look after anyone else?

Enjoy being charitable

At the same time enjoy all the abundance around you, both natural and material – it’s there to be enjoyed to the full and shared as appropriate and as much as possible.

I don’t belong to the school of thought that one should deprive themselves of material things, and suffer in sympathy with those suffering and who have less material goodness than you.

“No one would remember the Good Samaritan if he only had good intentions. He had money as well”. – Margaret Thatcher

Of course, don’t go too far the other way in terms of chasing and gathering materials and building up your clutter – keep your life simple. Learn to be a minimalist – please do check out this “Minimalist Guide” from my friend Leo Babauta.

To end, no matter where and how you are drawn to carry out an act of charity, always remember these famous words from St Francis of Assisi:-

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury,pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Walk In Joy

by Alexys Fairfield

Remember when you were a child and people asked you what you wanted to be when you grew up?

You may have said a firefighter, singer, athlete, banker, artist, etc. You may have wanted to be more than one thing. 

You may have wanted to travel the world, explore new scenery, meet different cultures, and let life take you into it’s loving arms.

Whatever it was at the time sparked joy in you. You imagined yourself in that occupation and you felt that you could be anything. 

As you grew up, you may have gone in another direction by your own will or the wheel of life and something may have been left unsettled in your heart. Your joy may have been suspended.

I know people with multiple degrees and they still don’t know what they want to do. They search for contentment in the outer limits instead of the inner unlimited.

By reaching outside of themselves, they sometimes wind up in a sea of “iction;” addiction, confliction, affliction, constriction, infliction, fiction and transfixion.

My theory is that it can be traced back to the initial suspension of joy. That suspension subconsciously leads some of us astray and many of us never get back.

Until you know what you like - what you really like, you won’t be satisfied with anything else. Until you start making steps to feel joy, you will be floundering in dissatisfaction.

It takes real dedication and application to be happy and joyful. It’s a conscious accommodation. Reach for that childhood abandon to inspire you.

Change the “iction” for “ation;” cultivation, vibration, sensation, navigation, imagination, elation and animation.

If doing something is making you unhappy, stop doing it. If it is not that easy, take small steps until it gets easier. With each step, you are walking towards joy.

Small steps turn into big steps. Big steps turn into miles. Miles turn into journeys. Then you’re walking in joy.
What do you want to be when you grow up? The point is to be. Be joyful and just be. Walk in joy.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Everlasting Tips To A Better Marriage Relationship

better marriage relationship 1Today happens to be my 10th wedding anniversary. We had a rocky start – one beset with frequent clashes over the silliest of things; our quarrels reflecting our very different thinking, upbringing and background. Yet, despite the rocky start, our marriage relationship is one that grows from strength to strength. So to have made through ten years is a celebration, don’t you think?

Different or the Same?

On first look, we cannot have been more different. My husband is of mixed parentage (half Caucasian – half Chinese) and myself, a typical Chinese family. Our individual upbringings were so different that they contributed to the beliefs we held about life and how we like to get things done.
wedding anniversaryLike most other marriage relationships, ours did not start out being disastrous. Romance began almost like a modern day fairytale over chat lines. When we first got to know each other through a mutual friend, he was in the States for a work stint of a few years. Our first meeting was in Washington D.C. I was holidaying in the States and decided to fly across from San Francisco to meet him.
It was a marriage fraught with many ups and downs – in fact, more downs in the beginning. A big part of it came with the stress of raising young children. With little awareness, we gave in to each of our individual egos. The result was drama amidst lots of tears, confusion and hurt. We had a lot of difficulty relating to each other. (We have better acceptance; now that we realize that we operate from very different Enneagram Personality Types).
We managed to experience a turn for the better in the last few years. The turn happened at a time when we started on our personal development journeys. There have been several periods in the past when both of us individually felt the despair of being with a partner who did not share the same ideas about life. In a funny sort of way, we now realize how similar we are – and in more ways than one. The best part of it all is that we are very serious about our personal growth. We see our ideas becoming more congruent with the passing of time!
Tips To A Better Marriage Relationship

The keys to relationship success are nothing new. Many of you probably already know them. Then again, knowing what these are and actually applying them can be a pretty separate thing in the lives of many married couples. The statistics are revealing: there is an increasing number of people filing for separation and eventually divorcing. Singapore – with an urban modern lifestyle that encourages both parties to work hard thus leaving little time for developing family life – is no exception.
I have often felt that I would be the last person to give any sound advice on marriage relationships. After all, with so much storm going on in my personal life previously, who am I to be an expert? However, I would like to make an exception today. I would like to think that my husband will be pleasantly surprised if he reads this post. After all, they are tips that he often espouses to me in his vision of what a marriage is. So here they are – a list of ten factors that have worked for us even though they have not been all that easy to apply –

Marriage Relationship Tip #1 – Spend Time Communicating.

In the dating phase, we found that we could never chat enough. We spent thousands of dollars on long distance calls! Then, as we took up more and more responsibilities that comes with a marriage and children, we found ourselves having less time for things. Yet I have come to realize that if I wish to know my chosen partner truly, I should never stop communicating. Getting to know someone – who happens to be your other half – needs your presence.
I am not that much of a talker but my husband is. He will insist on dissecting every problem or issue we have. While I have often gotten pretty worn out with his long analyses, I do acknowledge that it is through the communication that we found out more about each other.
My married friends tell me that their broken marriages are due to lack of communication. Well, no communication is also talking. When two persons in a marriage are not making an effort to talk through their problems, then each is silently saying that “I am not interested in building a stronger relationship with you.”
Marriage Relationship Tip #2 – Discover the Intent.

Have you heard of the NLP presupposition “behind every behavior is a positive intention”? NLP presuppositions are assumptions and beliefs that we work with in order to do change work. Should you apply it, you will find it easier to forgive anyone – including your partner.
I found myself being able to look beyond my feelings of hurt and to understand that there is a higher intent behind my husband’s words. So my perspective change from “he is criticizing me” to “he cares enough to share his honest opinion”. Sometimes his actions and behavior – though not totally acceptable – is a result of his own hurt. His higher intent is to manage his own pain with the only way that he knows best.
Marriage Relationship Tip #3 – Commit to Each Other.

In this day and age, divorces are taking place much faster than there are marriages. Don’t be part of a growing statistic! Intent for your wedding vows to be true. Feel the commitment deeply towards each other. Visualize being together in your future.
Marriage Relationship Tip #4 – Trust Each Other.

No marriage can sustain without mutual trust and respect. Either party can have opportunity to stray. However, have faith that your partner will make a wise choice in not attempting anything that will jeopardize what you have together. Trust and respect needs to be mutual.
Marriage Relationship Tip #5 – Go On Dates.

It is easy to drift apart when you don’t spend time together. Taking some time to having fun is important. Tease other good humoredly. Share a joke. Watch a funny movie. If you find your life constantly ruled by your day-to-day events, then you need to make an effort to set aside time. Obviously, your partner needs to do the same too!
Marriage Relationship Tip #6 – Admit and Take Responsibility.

We would not be where we are if each of us have not taken responsibility in the parts we play in the marriage. We took charge by each acknowledging that we have our own deeper inner issues. Then, we took the time to doing inner work; sometimes individually and sometimes together. And believe me….we spent hours and hours doing inner work. The hard work did pay off! In the process, we found ourselves inspiring and encouraging each other.
Experiencing delight in the joy of evolving together is a bonus that we never quite expected. Our aim was to resolve differences but in the end, by taking responsibility, we found a treasure of true love and compassion – a unique and special feeling in the oneness.
Marriage Relationship Tip #7 – Have Your Own Space.

While spending time together is important, it is also crucial that both parties find their own space. Space can be found through meditation, spending time individually with own friends or in some special hobby. My husband knows that I have a deep need for space and tries his best to give me allowance every week! Coming together after being apart for a while helps to reaffirm our relationship.
Marriage Relationship Tip #8 – Be Honest and Open.

In the beginning, I was afraid of being real. I was afraid that my husband would not like me for my vulnerability, weakness and faults. And so I was fearful of being truthful about what I really felt inside. Needless to say, not being totally honest created problems. I would say one thing but I really meant something else (more often, a deeper truth).
During my learning journey, I became more aware about the need to be honest. Initially, I faced a lot of difficulty in expressing myself. Raised in a typical Chinese family, I was never encouraged to speak up. So I had to learn how to speak as an adult! As I think about it now, it is like getting a stubborn mule to open its mouth.
In the end, I found out that it was far better to be let my partner understand my inner world. When he does, he is a much better position to understand some of my idiosyncrasies and be accepting of who I really am.
Marriage Relationship Tip #9 – Support Each Other.

I used to be selfish. I would be so wrapped up in my own little world that I would forget his needs. However, I have learned to give support to my husband by being present. Be kind to your partner’s needs and he or she will be thoughtful to yours.
Marriage Relationship Tip #10 – Show Appreciation.

Show your appreciation in little and big ways. Send an sms, write an email to make your partner smile or help in something. Showing appreciation keeps your relationship alive in its meaning for both of you!
Happy Tenth Anniversary

(Photo taken a few weeks ago in Tokyo DisneySea)

More than ten years ago, we got engaged over a Tiffany diamond ring while we were in Miami. To celebrate our wedding anniversary, my husband asked me to pick out a gift. As I ponder over what I would like as a gift, I realize that I have already been been blessed far more than I can ever imagine.
I take the opportunity to thank my husband – my soul mate across time – for being the special person he is. There is a lot that he has done for me!! I will be saving more words of appreciation for later in a special dinner date this evening.

In Celebration of Love and Romance,

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Eye on the Path

“I know some people say “Keep your eyes on the prize,” but I disagree. When your eyes are stuck on the prize, you’re going to keep stumbling and crashing into things. If you really want to get ahead, you’ve got to keep your eyes focused on the path.”

~ Russell Simmons from Do You!

I love that.

And Russell follows it up with “Always focus on your effort, instead of the results of that effort.”

Brilliant 21st century application of the classic Bhagavad Gita wisdom: “The awakened sages call a person wise when all his undertakings are free from anxiety about results.”

How about you? Once you’ve frozen your ideal vision in your mind, do you obsess about the results or do you put yourself on “super pilot” (as John Eliot would say in his great book Overachievement (see Notes)) and completely immerse yourself in doing your best moment to moment?!?

Keep you eyes on the path and soon enough you’ll be holding the prize!!! :)

Brian Johnson

Quote from the Note

“In my experience, there’s only one thing that will always steer you toward success: That’s to have a vision and to stick with it… Once I have a vision for a new venture, I’m going to ride that vision until the wheels come off.”

~ Russell Simmons quotes from Do You!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Greatness in Others

Recognizing Our Own Greatness

We cannot recognize greatness in others unless we too posses that same quality in ourselves.

A person who is said to possess greatness stands apart from others in some way, usually by the size or originality of their vision and their ability to manifest that vision. And yet those who recognize that greatness, whether they display it themselves or not, also have greatness within them; otherwise, they could not see it in another. In many ways, the achievements of one person always belong to many people for we accomplish nothing alone in this world. People who display greatness rely upon others who are able to see as they do, to listen, encourage, and support. Without those people who recognize greatness and move in to support it, even the greatest ideas, works of art, and political movements would remain unborn.

We are all moved by greatness when we see it, and although the experience is to some degree subjective, we know the feeling of it. When we encounter it, it is as if something in us stirs, awakens, and comes forth to meet what was inside us all along. When we respond to someone else’s greatness, we feed our own. We may feel called to dedicate ourselves to their vision, or we may be inspired to follow a path we forge ourselves. Either way, we cannot lose when we recognize that the greatness we see in others belongs also to us. Our recognition of this is a call to action that, if heeded, will inspire others to see in us the greatness they also possess. This creates a chain reaction of greatness unfolding itself endlessly into the future.

Ultimately, greatness is simply the best of what humanity has to offer. Greatness does what has not been done before and inspires the same courage that it requires. When we see it in others, we know it, and when we trust its presence in ourselves, we embody it.

Give and Do What You Want To Be and Have

& consider
Creative Commons 
License photo credit: denise carbonel

Give and do what you want to be and have.

If you want a loving relationship increase your love of self and life.
If you want your teenager to respect you offer her acceptance and understanding.
If you want to make your dreams come true help a coworker or colleague with theirs.

If you want more calm and peace speak and treat others kindly.

If you want new friends become the one you wish to have.

If you want to be bold tell your fears you'll get back to them next Tuesday.
If you want to laugh learn to smile, lighten up and share your joy.
If you want to increase your abundance give freely with no expectations.
If you want to be healthy change your diet and exercise.
If you want to be more creative spend time in nature or learn something new.
If you want a more loving world live in a more loving state.

We create our own reality. To me this means we take responsibility and make the changes we want to see in our lives. When we change; our world changes. 
What changes are you making in your life today? Let me know how I can help.

Related posts:

Be Patient

When you plant seeds in the garden, you don’t dig them up every day to see if they have sprouted yet. You simply water them and clear away the weeds; you know that the seeds will grow in time. Similarly, just do your daily practice and cultivate a kind heart. Abandon impatience and instead be content creating the causes for goodness; the results will come when they’re ready.” 

- Tibetan Buddhist nun and author Bhikshuni Thubten Chodron, "Meditator's Toolbox" (Fall 2007)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Good judgment

“Success is the result of good judgment, good judgment is a result of experience, experience is often the result of bad judgment.”
Hmmmm…so if success is the result of good judgment, and good judgment is a result of experience and experience is often the result of bad judgment, then…
Where do we start?!!? Well, failing, of course! :)
We need to quit taking ourselves so seriously and get on it! Emerson tells us that all life is an experiment anyway, so what’re we worried about?!?
Brian Johnson

Quote from the Note

“The only people without problems are in cemeteries. If you don’t have problems, get on your knees and pray.”
~ Tony Robbins

Thursday, June 3, 2010

On Praise and Blame

The Dalai Lama reflects on praise and blame in his commentary on lines from Longchen Rabjam's Finding Comfort and Ease in Meditation on the Great Perfection.

By The Dalai Lama

See the equality of praise and blame, approval and disapproval, good and bad reputation,
For they are just like illusions or dreams and have no true existence.

THIS VERSE REFERS to the Eight Worldly Concerns: wanting to be praised and not wanting to be criticized, wanting happiness and not wanting suffering, wanting gain and not wanting loss, and wanting fame and approval and not wanting rejection and disgrace. We all experience these, don't we? Even animals probably have them in some slight measure.

I think all of us are concerned in particular about maintaining a good reputation. For example, when I am up here on this throne teaching, from time to time, somewhere in the back of my mind, there appears the thought: How am I doing? How are people going to react to this? Are they going to praise me? Maybe not . . . Oh! That did not go well. Will people criticize me? Whenever this happens I need to catch myself and say, Look, now that I am here on this throne transmitting the dharma teachings, I should not allow myself to be affected like this by the eight worldly concerns.

However, we will find that hopes, fears, and discursive thoughts of every description will come into our minds. Even very pure monks might sometimes harbor a concern in the back of their mind about whether or not people give them a few words of praise. Even worse, they might start trying to impress others in order to receive offerings or be invited to perform rituals. Thoughts like these are really dreadful. The Eight Worldly Concerns can creep up on us, quite stealthily and sneakily, and even when we do something virtuous, they will try to find a way to slip in.

As it says in The Way of the Bodhisattva, praise and a good reputation do nothing to increase our longevity or good health. Maybe if lots of people praised us we might get a bit richer! But apart from that, praise does not make us live longer or in better health or help us in any other way. If people criticize us, it does not make us sick or unhealthy and nor does it shorten our lives. It does not affect us in any substantial way at all.

If we really stop to think about praise and criticism, we will see they do not have the least importance. Whether we receive praise or criticism is of no account. The only important thing is that we have a pure motivation, and let the law of cause and effect be our witness. If we are really honest, we can see that it makes no difference whether we receive praise and acclaim. The whole world might sing our praises, but if we have done something wrong, then we will still have to suffer the consequences for ourselves, and we cannot escape them. If we act only out of a pure motivation, all the beings of the three realms can criticize and rebuke us, but none of them will be able to cause us to suffer. According to the law of karma, each and every one of us must answer individually for our actions.

This is how we can put a stop to these kinds of thoughts altogether, by seeing how they are completely insubstantial, like dreams or magical illusions. When people praise us and we glow with delight, it is because we think that being praised is beneficial. But that is like thinking that there is some substance to a rainbow or a dream. However much benefit appears to accrue from praise and acclaim, actually there's none at all. However convincing it seems, it is as unreal as a magician's illusion. And so Longchen advises:

Learn to bear them patiently, as if they were mere echoes.

In exactly the same way, when somebody says something unpleasant or hurtful to us, we need to learn to be patient and forbearing and remind ourselves that their words are just like the sounds of an echo, equally insubstantial and unreal.

From Mind in Comfort and Ease, © 2007 by H.H. the Dalai Lama. Reprinted by arrangement with Wisdom Publications, Inc., wisdompubs.org

Taking In the Good

Psychologist Rick Hanson explains how we can make good feelings last.

Much as your body is built from the foods you eat, your mind is built from the experiences you have. The flow of experience gradually sculpts your brain, thus shaping your mind. Some of the results can be explicitly recalled: This is what I did last summer; that is how I felt when I was in love. But most of them remain forever unconscious. This is called implicit memory, and it helps form your expectations, models of relationships, emotional tendencies, and general outlook. Implicit memory establishes the interior landscape of your mind—what it feels like to be you—based on the slowly accumulating residues of lived experience.

But here’s the problem: Your brain preferentially scans for, registers, stores, recalls, and reacts to unpleasant experiences; it’s like Velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positive ones. Consequently, even when positive experiences outnumber negative ones, the pile of negative implicit memories naturally grows faster. Then the background feeling of what it feels like to be you can become undeservedly glum and pessimistic.

Sure, negative experiences do have benefits: Loss opens the heart, remorse provides a moral compass, anxiety alerts you to threats, and anger spotlights wrongs that should be righted. But do you really think you’re not having enough negative experiences? Emotional pain with no benefit to yourself or others is pointless suffering. And pain today breeds more pain tomorrow. For instance, according to research by psychiatrist Vladimir Maletic, even a single episode of major depression can reshape circuits of the brain to make future episodes more likely.

The remedy is not to suppress negative experiences; when they happen, they happen. Rather, it is to foster positive experiences—and in particular, to take them in so they become a permanent part of you.

Here’s how, in three steps.

1. Turn positive facts into positive experiences

Good things keep happening all around us, but much of the time we don’t notice them; even when we do, we do, we hardly feel them. Someone is nice to you, you see an admirable quality in yourself, a flower is blooming, you finish a difficult project—and it all just rolls by. Instead, actively look for good news, particularly the little stuff of daily life: the faces of children, the smell of an orange, a memory from a happy vacation, a minor success at work, and so on. Whatever positive facts you find, bring a mindful awareness to them—open up to them and let them affect you. It’s like sitting down to a banquet: don’t just look at it—dig in!

2. Savor the experience

Make positive experiences last by staying with them for 5, 10, even 20 seconds; don’t let your attention skitter off to something else. Loyola University psychologist Fred Bryant has shown that savoring positive experiences intensifies our positive response to them. And research by Marc Lewis at the University of Toronto has found that the longer something is held in awareness and the more emotionally stimulating it is, the more neurons that fire and thus wire together, and the stronger the trace of it becomes in our memory.

Pay particular attention to the rewarding aspects of the experience—for example, how good it feels to get a great big hug from someone you love. Focusing on these rewards increases dopamine release, which makes it easier to keep giving the experience your attention, and strengthens its neural associations in implicit memory. You’re not doing this to cling to the rewards—which would eventually make you suffer—but rather to internalize them so that you carry them inside you and don’t need to reach for them in the outer world.

You can also intensify an experience by deliberately enriching it. For example, if you are savoring a relationship experience, you could call up other feelings of being loved by others, which will help stimulate oxytocin—the “bonding hormone”—and thus deepen your sense of connection. Or you could strengthen your feelings of satisfaction after completing a demanding project by thinking about some of the challenges you had to overcome.

3. Let the experience sink in

Finally, imagine or feel that the experience is entering deeply into your mind and body, like the sun’s warmth into a T-shirt, water into a sponge, or a jewel placed in a treasure chest in your heart. Keep relaxing your body and absorbing the emotions, sensations, and thoughts of the experience.

Healing pain

Positive experiences can also be used to soothe, balance, and even replace negative ones. When two things are held in mind at the same time, they start to connect with each other. That’s one reason why talking about hard things with someone who’s supportive can be so healing: painful feelings and memories get infused with the comfort, encouragement, and closeness you experience with the other person.

These mental minglings draw on the neural machinery of memory. When a memory—whether implicit or explicit—is made, only its key features are stored, not every single detail. Otherwise, your brain would become so crowded that it wouldn’t have space to learn anything new. For example, remember an experience, even a recent one, and notice how schematic your recollection is, with the main features sketched in but many details left out.

When your brain retrieves a memory, it does not do it like a computer does, which calls up a complete record of what’s on its hard drive. Your brain rebuilds implicit and explicit memories from their key features, drawing on its simulating capacities to fill in missing details. While this is more work, it’s also a more efficient use of neural real estate—this way, complete records don’t need to be stored. And your brain is so fast that you don’t notice the regeneration of each memory.

This rebuilding process gives you the opportunity, right down in the micro-circuitry of your brain, to gradually shift the emotional shadings of your interior landscape. When a memory is activated, a large-scale assembly of neurons and synapses forms an emergent pattern. And Rutgers University neuroscientist Denis Paré has found that if other things are in your mind at the same time—and particularly if they’re strongly pleasant or unpleasant—your amygdala and hippocampus will automatically associate them with that neural pattern. Then, when the memory leaves awareness, it will be reconsolidated in storage along with those other associations.

The next time the memory is activated, it will tend to bring those associations with it. Thus, if you repeatedly bring to mind negative feelings and thoughts while a memory is active, then that memory will be increasingly shaded in a negative direction. For example, recalling an old failure while simultaneously lambasting yourself will make that failure seem increasingly awful. On the other hand, if you call up positive emotions and perspectives while an implicit or explicit memory is active, these wholesome influences will slowly be woven into the fabric of that memory.

Every time you do this—every time you sift positive feelings and views into painful, limiting states of mind—you build a little bit of neural structure. Over time, the accumulating impact of this positive material will literally, synapse by synapse, change your brain.

Why it’s good to take in the good

Given the negativity bias of the brain, it takes an active effort to internalize positive experiences and heal negative ones. When you tilt toward what’s positive, you’re actually righting a neurological imbalance. And you’re giving yourself today the caring and encouragement you should have received as a child, but perhaps didn’t get in full measure.

Focusing on what is wholesome, and then taking it in naturally, increases the positive emotions flowing through your mind each day. Emotions have global effects since they organize the brain as a whole. Consequently, as research by University of North Carolina psychologist Barbara Fredrickson has shown, positive emotions don’t just feel good in the moment; over time, they produce far-reaching benefits, including a stronger immune system and a cardiovascular system that is less reactive to stress. Fredrickson has also found other long-term benefits of positive emotions: They lift your mood; increase optimism, resilience, and resourcefulness; and help counteract the effects of painful experiences, including trauma. It’s a positive cycle: Good feelings today increase the likelihood of good feelings tomorrow.

These benefits apply to children as well. In particular, taking in the good has a special payoff for kids at either the spirited or the anxious end of the temperament spectrum. Spirited children usually zip along to the next thing before good feelings have a chance to consolidate in the brain, and anxious children tend to ignore or downplay good news. (And some kids are both spirited and anxious.) Whatever their temperament, if children are part of your life, encourage them to pause for a moment at the end of the day (or at any other natural interval, such as the last minute before the school bell) to remember what went well and think about things that make them happy (e.g., a pet, their parents’ love, a goal scored in soccer). Then have those positive feelings and thoughts sink in.

Taking in the good is not about putting a happy shiny face on everything, nor is it about turning away from the hard things in life. It’s about nourishing inner well-being, contentment, and peace—refuges to which you can always return.

About The Author
Rick Hanson, Ph.D., is a neuropsychologist, author, and teacher working at the intersection of psychology, neurology, and Buddhism. This essay is adapted from his latest book (with Rick Mendius, M.D., Foreword by Daniel Siegel, M.D., Preface by Jack Kornfield, Ph.D.), Buddha's Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Lessons Children Teach Adults About Living Happily

Oh to be young again. 

Be carefree, pressure free and free to enjoy life to its fullest. With gusto and enthusiasm. Fresh faced and full of spirit.

To re-live and re-discover our fun formative years. To put a smile on our face and a spring in our step once more. To live happily.

The good news is we most certainly can. And the way to achieve this is to take lessons from the very people still doing this every single day.

Children! Our younger ‘us’.

Children have a different take on life. Not encumbered by conditioning or less damaged by events that bother us adults, they dive into life and make the most of it. They swim in all life has to offer and teach us what we are missing and have left behind from our own childhood.

So what are these lessons?

Lesson 1: Play

Youngsters are permanently engaged in play. Whether on their own or most likely with other children play is air to them. From make believe to making up games they play at life, with life and in life. It’s one big playground. Play is their non-serious, fun exploration of their world around them. Their minds conjour up thousands of possibilities which they then exuberantly bring to life as they move joyously from a real physical world to a real created one. What’s wrong with painting frog faces in the garden or riding blue mushrooms over polka dot skies to the wizard king’s chocolate castle?

Play more! Not sport or competition but play. Let your serious what-will-others-say side drop. Getting playing. Kick leaves in the park. Pretend more. Do silly games. Put energy into fun activities. Play, play, play.

Lesson 2: Laughter

It’s a fact that children laugh up to 300 times a day compared to only 15 laughs for adults. If something makes them giggle they let it out. They also have a relaxed manner with life so that more appears funny or amuses them. Worry to them is rarely part of their internal make up so more sparks humour and cheers them up. With an attitude of positivity they can’t help but look for and find amusement in all they do, see and discover.

Are you a laugh-a-lot? If not get giggling. Adults tend to study something and chew it over more before dropping their guard so that hilarity can get in. Our older minds are more developed to ponder and check as a self protection radar. Turn it off. Release worry. Look at things for what they are. See the funny side of life more. Or the absurd. And the plain stupid and laugh at it…and don’t stop. It’s good for you.

Lesson 3: Honesty

Children are consumately honest. If they feel it or see it, they say it. Not in a hurtful way, just in a simple disarming manner. If it matters on the inside it comes out in innocent fashion. Never to hurt or get their own back, always to state what’s going on for them. Be it upset or happy, questioning something you have said they don’t understand or merely to let out an emotion like their love for you. Even if it’s in the middle of the supermarket or during a church service. Always with gentle charm and pure accuracy in their observations.

Let’s be more innocently honest. When adults think honest it’s to let fly and tell someone what we really think of them. An anger driven tirade or a release of pent up frustration. What’s required is more genial truth. Basic stuff like, “I love your neck” or “I don’t like custard with apple pie”. Nothing heavy or hurtful. Childlike joy in the words, “You look beautiful Mummy” will do it everytime.

Lesson 4: Love

This is easy for kids. Love is pretty much their over-riding emotion. They show it, share it, give it, talk it and exude it. It seeps out of them. They wear it on their face. Offer it in their hugs. Speak it in their words. Live it in their spirit. Love in all forms especially for their parents, animals, people they know, places they like, activities they enjoy, food that’s a favourite and friends they make. They are the centre and the source of love in action.

Love is often an adult challenge. Things get in the way of it. Relationship failures. Society influences. Ingrained behaviours etc etc. Showing love attracts love; plain and simple. Start with safe stuff like the things you love to do or people you love being with and show that love. Then take it from there and  let that love flow .

Lesson 5: Adore life as it is

Children firmly live in the moment. They are 100% involved in what they are doing. Immersed in the now and no other time. Watch them play or enjoying a game and you’ll see. Life is brilliant right here, right now. Why consider any other when it’s so great today? They rarely scan for future events (unless it’s tomorrow’s birthday party) or say, “Do you remember when..?” Life is magical and if NOW isn’t they go find a way to make it that way, straight away. No can’t-do-that thinking. There’s no waiting, this is as good as it gets.

You may be thinking that it’s not that easy for us grown ups. Why? If you don’t adore your job, social life or where you live, then change it! If not for real, in your approach to it. Find ways to love and adore life as it is. Or work towards it being that way. Like a child don’t be swayed by doubts or excuses (you will call them reasons). Find the adoring in your world and focus on constantly.

Lesson 6: Express themselves

Whatever is going on with a child comes out. Nothing is held back. They have a natural ability to express their happiness or pain, confusion or excitement. Chiefly because they find ways to express them. No subtle clues or hidden messages. They express the feeling in words backed up by gestures, body langauge and energy plus the odd cheeky grin or hang dog look. If they feel it they have an expression for it. That way you in return always know what you are dealing with. It’s honesty in emotion.

Boy are we good at not sincerely expressing ourselves. Hiding our true feelings. Blanking that person we fancy like mad. Or taking out our anger at our boss on drivers on the road or the shop assistant. Children deal with it and let it go. We fear the response and keep it in. There’s a lesson right there. We need to learn to express ourselves as it’s never as bad as when we don’t.

Lesson 7: Imagination

Imagination is a permanent state with children. Day dreaming is their reality. Creating made up worlds is par for the course. They also imagine themselves in these worlds having a ball or the time of their life. Or fantasising…..
  • What they are going to do later that day
  • Colours, shapes and sounds  that feed their senses
  • By re-creating known places or people
  • What is possible or could be created
  • Who they are be it princess or pirate
Imagination has become more of a child talent fast appearing in the adult world. Cosmic ordering and the process of intention has struck a chord with the masses that your creative mind can actively imagine into life anything from events to abundance all  backed up by science.  Keep that up people. Feed your imagination. Expand what’s possible. Live in your dreams

We are supposed to teach children but, in reality, we can learn from them. They have the outlook and attitude to life we have lost and let go of. Many adults would love to be young again. Well here is a perfect place to start.

The lessons in life from our happy ever after children.

The Magic of a Defenite Chief Aim

by Kate Corbin
"Would you tell me please, which way I ought to go from here?" asked Alice.
"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to," replied the Cat.
- Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

The term, Definite Chief Aim, comes from the success philosophy of Napoleon Hill - especially his landmark books, The Law of Success (1928) and Think and Grow Rich (1937). Thirty years ago, my boyfriend's mother gave me a copy of Think and Grow Rich. The boyfriend didn't last long but the gift from his mother started me on a lifelong journey of discovery into the power of thought. I remember the thrill of recognition I felt upon first reading these words:

"Truly, thoughts are things, and powerful things at that when they are mixed with definiteness of purpose, persistence, and a burning desire for their translation into riches, or other material objects."

A strongly held Definite Chief Aim transforms your mind into a powerful magnet which attracts the people and circumstances necessary for you to accomplish your desire. It's the first step in turning invisible desires into visible reality. Without a clear direction, it's all too easy to drift through life, like a ship without a rudder. The Magic of a Definite Chief Aim helps you organize, direct and harness the infinite power of your mind.

Once you have clarity about what you want and why you want it, you're ready to follow these Steps to Attain Your Definite Chief Aim:

1) Write a Clear Description of your Definite Chief Aim. Years ago, before Arnold Schwarzenegger had made his mark on Hollywood, he stated his Definite Chief Aim: "I am going to be the number-one box-office star in all of Hollywood." Explaining how he intended to accomplish this feat, he said: "What you do is create a vision of who you want to be and then live into that picture as if it were already true." Years later, in 1991, receipts from Terminator II confirmed Schwarzenegger to be the most popular box office draw in the world, thus successfully accomplishing his Definite Chief Aim.

2) Include a Clear Statement of What You Intend to Give in Return. As I'm sure you agree, there's no such thing as something for nothing. To get what you want, it's important to decide what you will give in return. Oprah's Definite Chief Aim has been to make a positive difference in the lives of millions of people. Per Oprah, "As far back as I can recall, my prayer has been the same: Use me, God. Show me how to take who I am, who I want to be, and what I can do, and use it for a purpose greater than myself." Oprah has achieved phenomenal success for herself and others by focusing on a purpose greater than herself.

3) Believe You Can and Will Attain It. What you attain is limited only by your capacity to believe you can have it. To believe you can have what you want, keep thinking thoughts of having what you want. Magnetize your mind with positive affirmations. Visualize, imagine and feel yourself already in possession of your desire. In 1987, Jim Carrey was a struggling comic and part-time dishwasher, dreaming of fame and fortune. In addition to affirmations and visualizations, he wrote himself a check for $10 million and dated it Thanksgiving 1995, adding the notation "for acting services rendered." In the Fall of 1995, he did in fact reach his Definite Chief Aim when he signed a $10 million contract to film "The Mask."

4) Take Inspired Action. Tune in to guidance and inspiration from your Non-Physical Partner. When you listen to your inner voice and follow the guidance you receive, you are truly co-creating with Source. You don't have to do it all alone. Your intuition will lead you step by step in the direction of your Definite Chief Aim.

5) Persevere. To accomplish your Definite Chief Aim, you must stay the course. If your Definite Chief Aim is based on a burning desire for its achievement, you will be able to persevere through doubts and difficulties. Remember that the dominating thoughts of your mind WILL transform themselves into physical reality. Thomas Edison had a Definite Chief Aim to create the electric light bulb. He persevered through 10,000 failed attempts before successfully realizing his dream.

"If you don't have a dream, how you gonna have a dream come true?"
- from the movie, South Pacific

Vitalize and thoroughly saturate your mind with your Definite Chief Aim. Concentrate on the end result as you see and feel and believe yourself already in possession of it. Your Definite Chief Aim is a blueprint that will lead you, step by step, toward its attainment. It's a bridge between your dream and your reality. Remember to keep your vibration high while following the above steps and you'll joyfully engage The Magic of A Definite Chief Aim!

Kate Corbin

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

6 Key Lessons in Life from Gandhi

gandhi 140 years young
Post written by Arvind Devalia.
On 30th October 2009, it was the 140th anniversary of the birth of  Mahatma Gandhi. So he would have been 140 years old now had he not been  assassinated in 1948.

Gandhi may not be around anymore but his  legacy and his message of non-violence lives on and he is indeed  the light the world needs today.

He has always been one of my heroes from a young age and I remember crying after watching  Richard Attenborough’s famous film Gandhi.

We had made a special trip to London and watched the film in Leicester Square just a few days after its release – watching it was a defining moment in my life.

I have watched this remarkable movie about a remarkable man many times since then.
“Generations to come will scarcely believe that such a one as this walked the earth in flesh and blood.” –  Einstein
I have read a lot about Gandhi since then and also been influenced by  my late father who collected a huge library of Gandhi’s teachings.

It is now up to all of us to apply Gandhi’s teachings in our daily life – after all his message about peace and non-violence is more pertinent than ever before today.

On this 140th anniversary of his birth, here are 6 keys lessons for all of us to apply in our life from today

This is possibly Gandhi’s most famous phrase and tells us that before we can go and change the world, we have to change ourselves.

From the being, comes the doing and ultimately the having.

So we now have the message – “Do the change you wish to see in the world”.

Focus on changing yourself and being the change you wish – and soon we can begin to look at the bigger picture and solve the world’s challenges.

There is this anecdotal story about how a mother came with her son to see Gandhi. She wanted Gandhi to tell her son to stop eating too much sugar as it was harmful for his health. He asked her to come back a month later by which time he himself had cut down on his own sugar intake.

The point is that before you can get anyone to take on your own teachings, you have to apply them to your own life. There are various phrases to reflect this message such as “practise what you preach” and “walk the talk”.
“Let your life be your message” – Gandhi
Is your life the message you want to give the world?
When will you be the change you want the world to be?

2. Reduce, reuse and recycle
“There is enough in the world for everyone’s need, but not for everyone’s greed” – Gandhi
Even in Gandhi’s time there was vast disparity in the world between the rich and the poor. He could see how the world’s resources were being pilloried to satisfy the excessive demands of the West whilst most people in the rest of the world were barely surviving.

Today I would argue that the way we are all living in the West and elsewhere, there is not even enough for everyone’s needs. We must revisit how we live our lives and truly learn to reduce, reuse and recycle – the 3Rs.

The time has come when we cannot just rely on others – each one of us has to do our bit. Increasingly, more and more people and also businesses are waking up to their responsibilities to the environment, the larger community and the global implications of their activities.

Start today and apply the 3Rs in your life.

3. Live a simple, minimalist life.

Gandhi lived a very simple, frugal life. He died with very few possessions and he preached simplicity and minimalism in all areas of life.

He also dressed simply and even persisted with his simple Indian loin cloth when he visited England and met the King. When asked if he was under dressed for a meeting with the King, Gandhi replied that the King had enough clothes on for both of them!

Minimalism is something I am beginning to apply in my life too. To get you started, please check out this excellent “Minimalist Guide” from my blogging mentor and friend  Leo Babauta of Zen Habits.

Leo is a man Gandhi would have approved off for his humility, sharing, compassion and also his hairstyle:-)

Please get your copy of Leo’s minimalist ebook here.
Start living a simpler minimalistic life from today – and you will release a lot of time and energy to bring more of Gandhi’s teachings into the world.

Walk your path no matter what others do

Believe in your cause, follow your truth and stick to your journey even if you have to walk the path on your own.

Gandhi at the end of his life was said to be heart broken with the partition of India as millions were killed and displaced. Even then, he still had a message for the world – it takes just one man to make a difference.
If no one responds to your call, go forward alone.
If no one talks to you, oh luckless one,
If everyone turns away from you in fear,
Reveal your thoughts and express your ideas to yourself.
If everyone leaves you while you are travelling a dangerous road,
If no one wants to look after you,
Walk on alone, on the road strewn with thorns, trampling on them with bleeding feet.
If no one shows a light, if in the dark stormy night everyone shuts their doors,
Use your rib as a torch, lit from the fire of thunder. –  Rabindranath Tagore
So anything and everything you do counts and will make a difference.

5. Get your power through humility

be humble and powerful

Gandhi was a very humble, down to earth, ordinary human-being but therein lay his power and authority. His power came from being very clear about who he was, his values and his mission.

So the clearer you are about who you are and what you stand for,the more power you will exert in the world, whilst remaining humble and as down to earth as you wish.

Of course, by power what I mean here is not the power that corrupts but one that changes the world and makes a positive contribution.

6. Start today
“The difference between what we do, and what we are capable of doing, would solve most of the world’s problems” – Gandhi
Believe that what you do matters, and that it will make a difference.

You can’t save the whole world single-handedly, and we can’t all be a Gandhi or a  Mandela, but you can certainly make a difference to one person at a time. So look for ways to contribute.

Ask yourself what special skill or knowledge you have that can solve a problem or make the best of a situation and that will help or support others.

And actually, maybe we can all be a Gandhi or a  Mandela:-)

Start small – and get started no matter what. They too started small one day at the beginning of their own life journeys.

So fear not – you already have and know enough – new skills will come for sure as you progress on your journey. And whatever you choose to do, it will make a difference.

The point is that everything we do matters and makes either a positive or a negative impact on everything around us.

You can start today to apply Gandhi’s message in your life, simply by focussing on this one question:

-How can I bring more love and peace into my life today?

Just know that every little bit helps and by you being more loving and peaceful, the rest of the world becomes more loving and peaceful too.

After all, we all have a “Gandhi” inside of us, just waiting to emerge.

As for me, I too shall continue to work on letting my own Gandhi emerge, but perhaps not his dress sense!

The way forward – become crazy to change the world!

What makes one person a Gandhi or a  Dr Martin Luther King? Is it pure coincidence or do such inspirational historic figures have some special powers?
 Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules, and they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify and vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as crazy, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” –  Steve Jobs, Apple
So just how crazy are you?

And how will YOU change the world?
To get you started right away, please check out this related post at once: