Thursday, December 6, 2018


“Use what talents you possess: the woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those that sang the best.”

                                                                                                                -Henry van Dyke

For some of us, the holiday season brings to the surface feelings such as loss, loneliness, and regret as well as the tendency to compare ourselves to others.  We may feel that we are lacking and that others are living much more abundant lives. One of the ways to counteract these thoughts and emotions, which can truly dampen our spirits, is to practice gratitude. Gratitude injects us with positive energy that boosts our physical and emotional resiliency so we are better able to weather the challenges that come up. One way to practice gratitude is to focus on the external gifts in our lives, like, material comforts, awards/recognitions, and relationships within our families and communities, however, it is also helpful to recognize our internal gifts.  Our internal gifts are an integral part of our core selves.
These internal gifts include:

Wisdom- knowledge gained from processing and then reflecting on life experiences

Formal skills- procedural behaviors learned through schooling and mentorship

*Natural abilities/talents- logical, visual, auditory, physical, literary, interpersonal, intrapersonal

Helpful Habits- daily actions/self-talk that make up our self-care routine

When we become thankful for our own internal gifts, we are able to recognize and accept our true worth. This stimulates our ability to self-motivate and to work toward our goals. When we self-motivate we are more likely to engage in activities and embrace experiences for the intrinsic reward rather than the external one. This intrinsic reward becomes more tangible when we devote our time and energy to those activities which utilize our internal gifts.

Self- gratitude extends outward.  We may end up recognizing that many of our internal gifts are the direct result of our interactions with other people:  the person who taught us the skill, encouraged our natural talent, modeled emotional resiliency and self-care, or gave us the support and personal space to process and learn from our life experiences.

*A full description of natural talents is offered in the book, 7 Kinds of Smart by Thomas Armstrong.

May we all practice self-gratitude, progress on our life path, and be the best version of ourselves at each stage of the journey.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Live and Learn

Many of us are planners and researchers.  We gather lots of information (thanks to google), consult with friends, family, and professionals, and weigh all of the pros and cons before moving forward.  This is not right/wrong or good/bad, however, most, if not all, of our learning and personal growth is the result of our actions.  So, why do we proceed with such caution? There are several reasons:

·         To prevent making a ‘mistake’ or ‘failing’

·         To ensure there are no surprises and, if there are, to be ready for them

·         To eliminate feeling solely responsible for our actions if things do not work out

 All of the above share a common underlying factor-  FEAR.  There is a certain amount of planning that is beneficial to our endeavors, however, when this becomes excessive, we may be allowing fear to govern us and procrastination to set in.
Think of 2 very common learning experiences in childhood- swimming and riding a bike.  A child could read many books on these subjects that help him/her understand how a bike is constructed and the science of motion or become able to identify various swim strokes and swimming gear.  None of this will actually help the child to ride the bike or to swim.  Knowledge comes, essentially, from doing the activity.  In addition, the ability to accomplish the activity increases each time the child ‘fails’, reflects on the result, and then makes adjustments.

These adjustments may be physical, such as shifting body weight or relaxing certain muscles; cognitive, like making connections- ‘when I move my arms like this, that happens’; and emotional, such as reducing anxiety or impatience by taking a break and a few deep breaths.

We can also apply this process to building relationships: taking a step and engaging with someone new, then ‘failing’ in certain situations, reflecting on the result, like ‘did this help us to connect more?’ or ‘do I understand his/her perspective better?’, and finally, making adjustments to our words and actions. Ultimately, the only way to learn how to be in a healthy, fulfilling relationship is to simply BE in relationships with other people. 

When we step out of our comfort zone and set out to experience a new relationship, skill, or interest it is helpful to be aware of hidden fears and expectations.  Sometimes, it is this awareness that benefits us more than all of the research and advice we gather. In fact, looking inward can be an integral part of the preparation process. 

It is important to remind ourselves that whatever outcome our actions create, there is always something to be learned.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Embracing Joy in the New Year

“What you love is a sign from your higher self of what you are to do.”

                   -          Sanaya Roman (Living with Joy)

Many of us start off the new year full of ideas on how to be more productive, organized, punctual, and successful in our lives.  Behind these resolutions are our best intentions, however, we often overlook the bigger picture.  We can be all of those things listed, but they do not matter if we do not experience enough joy in our lives.  Discovering what brings us joy and taking steps to experience that joy is the foundation for fulfillment.  Essentially, joy is what makes life worth living. 

Here are some ideas to help you embrace joy in the new year:

Be present- When we practice being more in the here and now we are better able to catch ourselves experiencing joy.  Joy can be as fleeting as a single moment and we don’t want to miss it. If we miss it, we miss crucial information about what exactly creates that feeling within us.

Tame Your Expectations-  Many of us strive to be happy all the time and we think we are flawed in some way when we are not.  Joy is not a permanent state.  It is a feeling like any other and feelings come and go.  If joy were a permanent state, it wouldn’t cause us to feel so breathtakingly free and alive when it happens.  Its rarity is what sets the moment apart from all others. 

Redefine success- It is common for many of us to focus on what is tangible and to define success by what we ‘get’ monetarily and materially from an activity or experience.  We can shift our thinking and reach for the goal of achieving joy.  Consider the success of indoor activity centers like Chuckee Cheese and Dave & Busters. One can quickly and easily spend $50 in tokens/chips in order to win a prize that would cost $10 if purchased directly from the store.  If we look at the bigger picture, it is truly the joy of the experience that will outlive the entertainment value of the actual prize.

As adults, we can become bogged down in all that needs to get done.  Taking some time out for joy requires effort and commitment, but if we incorporate the above ideas into our daily routine, we will see that opportunities are all around us.

May we all be open to joy in our lives, believe we deserve it, and take steps to embrace it.

Monday, December 18, 2017

An Exercise in Letting Go

“The greatest meditation is a mind that lets go.” 



What does it mean to let go?  Some of us believe letting go is to just stop thinking about a problem.  Others see it as replacing a problem, in the form of a person or situation, with another person or a different situation. However, before we move on, we need to let go. Letting go is, essentially, how we heal.  Healing is made up of layers; heart, mind, body, and spirit.  When we let go we clean out the negative thoughts, feelings, and beliefs that hold us back from achieving what we want in life.  As we go on living, layers of dirt and grime accumulate and, like a drain pipe, the channels of our heart, mind, body, and spirit become clogged with past hurts, losses, and disappointments. It becomes necessary to unclog those channels in order to let go and to heal.

The following meditation can help us take a step in the process toward letting something go in our life.

·         Sit in a comfortable chair with your feet uncrossed and flat on the ground.  Close your eyes and think about the person or situation that you are having trouble letting go of.  Notice any images that arise related to the issue.  What emotion is coming up?  Identify the emotion; fear, anger, sadness, confusion, overwhelm.  Notice where you feel it in your body.  Be aware of any muscle tension, warmth, coolness, heaviness, or tingling.  Give the emotion a color that represents what you are experiencing.  There is no right or wrong color. It just needs to reflect what is happening in the moment.

·         Now imagine a big bubble floating in the air at eye level in front of you.  Take a deep breath in through your nose with your mouth closed.  Exhale through your mouth, forcefully releasing the air.  See it as your chosen color.  Imagine blowing the colored air into the bubble.  See the bubble expand with your colored breath inside.  Continue taking deep breaths and then exhaling into the bubble.

·         After several breaths, pause and notice the degree of emotion you are feeling in the moment.  Notice if anything has changed in your physical body.  Has the sensation moved, lessened, or increased?  Are there any new sensations?  If you feel the emotion has subsided to some degree and you are okay with that, you can proceed to the next step or, if you want to release more, take a few final breaths in and blowing out.

·         When you are done releasing, see in your mind’s eye, the image of the bubble filled with your colored breath.  Imagine taking your finger and popping the bubble, releasing the air.  See the air like colored smoke, floating up and dissipating into the atmosphere until it is completely gone.

·         Now, sit with your back straight and your hands resting on your thighs, palms facing up, fingers relaxed.  With eyes closed, repeat silently to yourself, “I am letting go.  I am receiving healing and freedom from ______________________________.”

                              (Fill in the blank with a specific emotion)

It is important to be gentle with ourselves and to know that, depending upon the intensity and the layers of “dirt”, we may need to practice this exercise more than once.  It may be more comfortable to release little bits at a time, rather than to let the feelings go all at once.  We need to be sure to listen to our inner self, to honor it, and to be fully present in the moment.

May we all practice moments of letting go, embracing a sense of joy and freedom in our relationships.


Sunday, October 29, 2017

An Exercise in Mindfulness

"Change your thoughts and you can change your world."

-                                                                       -          Norman Vincent Peale

According to the National Science Foundation, the average person has approximately 12,000 to 60,000 thoughts per day.  An anxious person could probably double that number.  Since our thoughts affect how we feel, whether we are conscious of them or not, it is beneficial to increase our self-awareness in order to change the thoughts that cause anxiety.

The following mindfulness exercise can help us to do this:

Find a quiet, comfortable place to relax. Make sure there are no distractions and that you are sitting in a supportive position or lying flat.  Rest your hands on your lap or at your sides, palms face up, open to receive feelings of peace and relaxation.  Begin to notice your breath. You do not need to alter your breath in any way. Just notice your chest or abdomen rising and falling.  Notice the air as it enters your nostrils, then as you exhale.  We hold a lot of tension in our face, so consciously try to relax your eyelids and your jaw muscles. 

After taking approximately 10 breaths, turn your attention inward to your thoughts.  See your thoughts as colored autumn leaves floating on the surface of a stream.  Notice how some of the leaves float continuously up the stream, while others swirl around in a circular pattern.  These may be repeating thoughts that play like a record and feed fears and insecurities. With curiosity and no judgment see these leaves in your mind and, one by one, allow them to break out of the circle and float up the stream, being led by the current.

Notice how other leaves are stuck behind a tree limb that juts into the water from the shore. These may be stagnant thoughts that do not serve you but that are so familiar you are hesitant to let go of them.  Again, with curiosity and no judgment, see a great ripple in the stream that stirs the leaves out and away from the limb.  See them bobbing on the surface of the water and then joining the other leaves floating up the stream and into the distance.

When practicing mindfulness, we need to remind ourselves that our brain is always generating thoughts; during sleep, in the form of dreams, even during moments of mindfulness. The goal is not to eliminate thoughts altogether but to simply be aware of them without judgment.

May we all be willing to give ourselves the gifts of peace and relaxation and to practice this on a daily basis.