June 24, 2005 Controlling Your Mind Unwanted Thoughts
Negative thoughts exist for most of humanity. When they arise, they can spiral into a deluge of gloomy thoughts or even depression. There are times when it seems impossible to stop thinking of the world's ills or replaying every moment of a bad memory. It's like having a song stuck in your head, only more intense and emotionally draining. Unwanted thoughts that persist can distract you from your life. Luckily, there are ways to consciously release them and to trick your mind into refocusing its attention on more positive subjects.
When unwanted dark thoughts are swirling in your head, it can be difficult to concentrate on anything else. You need to take back your attention and to refocus it. Start by shouting out loud or inside your mind something jarring and to the point, such as "Stop!" or "That's enough!" Any word or phrase is fine, as long as it is momentarily shocking. Doing so may be enough, or you may want to try thought stopping. First, take a few deep breaths, relax, and picture a scene in which you feel comfortable, optimistic, and good about yourself. Note every detail, even if the setting isn't a real place. Next time unwanted thoughts occur, yell "Stop!" and then immediately begin imagining your scene, replacing the unwanted thought with something positive.
Never try to 'think away' an unwanted thought because you will simply strengthen it. It can be helpful to share your unwanted thought with someone, thereby lessening your mind's preoccupation with it. If you're uncomfortable doing so, simply distract yourself when unwanted thoughts begin cycling. Recite the alphabet, tackle some chores, do a puzzle, exercise (which released hormones that may quell unwanted thoughts), or perform a conscious breathing meditation.
It's natural to experience negative thought patterns or even obsess over a memory, but there is no need to let it overwhelm you. It may be difficult at first to replace negative thoughts with positive ones or to concentrate on a puzzle when you can't let go of a thought. Techniques like thought stopping and using other forms of distraction to rid you of unwanted thoughts get easier and easier with time and it really does work
Why can we only send ONE green star a week to the same person?! Every time I read your postings, I'd like to express my appreciation by sending you a star... and another star... and another star...
Seriously, the techniques that you recommended are very effective! I would encourage all of us to keep them in mind. I remember learning them when I was still taking courses for my B.A. in Psychology (that was also when I realized how little I knew about the subject and how much more I needed to study!).
In any case, yesterday I had what Tony would have described as a "Tony attack"... some memories of him came back and I found myself weeping... Perfect time to purge my files! That distracted me alight!
June 27, 2005 You Are What You Speak Power Of Words
Words have power. Despite reassurances of the old childhood rhyme, "sticks and stones will break your bones, but words can never hurt you," we all know words can hurt. Hopefully, most of us try to refrain from saying hurtful things, but we can take a step further on the path to enlightment by being conscious of all the words we use. To become conscious of one's speech means to become aware of the power of words and the energy behind them.
Speaking consciously is very effective in bringing about positive change. You can actually change your life for the better, by being more aware of the things you say. For instance, if you're constantly putting yourself down, "I'm fat, clumsy, unpopular, etc." then you will no doubt feel as such. However, if you stroke yourself with positive affirmations, "I'm fit, athletic, friendly..." you will feel more positive about yourself to aspire to such admirable qualities.
Having a positive attitude and being aware of our words is equally important when speaking to others. Everyone knows how draining it is to be around people who complain,or gossip all the time. However, we are drawn like magnets to cheerful people who are free with compliments or make us laugh.
Be conscious of your words and your intentions in speaking. Speak truthfully, so that you truly mean and feel what you say. Try to be fully aware of those that you are speaking to and the effect of your words on them, this way you will be less likely to speak negatively.
June 28, 2005 Anatomy Of A Flower Being Part Of The Whole
As with all living things, a flower's intention is procreation. All the various parts of a flower work together toward this purpose, and each plays an essential role in the process. The vivid, delicate petals attract pollinators (birds and bees) who aid in the transfer of pollen. The center is the source and inspiration for the visually stunning petals and the petals, in turn, attract what the flower needs to create seeds and multiply.
When you have an opportunity to serve something larger than your individual self, you are like a petal on a flower, offering your particular brand of beauty and charisma in the service of a centralizing force. This centralizing force might be a person with a higher vision, a community with a common goal, or a spiritual path. Contemplate the ways in which you are a petal on a flower in your life. Who or what is at the center? What core values are you serving?
Consider also any situations in which you are the center of the flower, offering the nourishing seeds of an idea or quality that others are willing to gather around and perpetuate. It takes confidence and vision to be the nucleus. It also takes humility to empower the "petals" around you helping to feed your vision and enabling it to grow beyond you.
Like the parts of a flower, we are all here working together to create and be creative. Whether we are the center or the petal, it helps to be conscious of the seeds we are sowing in the world, as this is how we create the future.
In essence, we are all petals radiating outward from the unified source of energy that is life. Our time on this earthly plane is finite and fragile, and yet we branch out from our invisible source vibrantly and powerfully, attracting energy and making fertile connections that contribute to the continuation of life itself.
June 29, 2005 Challenging Perspective Good Stress Vs. Bad Stress
In recent years, stress has gotten a very bad name, but studies show that some stress is good for us, increasing our immune systems' capabilities and sharpening our intelligence. Bad stress, on the other hand, has the opposite effect, weakening our immune systems and causing us to feel mentally confused and disoriented.
Good stress tends to inspire us to rise to a challenge, so that we discover and experience more of our potential. After encounters with good stress, we generally feel stronger and more confident, knowing that we have what it takes to pass the tests and surmount the obstacles that life inevitably throws our way. Exposure to bad stress, however, leaves us feeling depleted and anxious. Noticing how you feel is a good way to determine what kind of stress you are experiencing at any given time.
The difference between good and bad stress can sometimes lie in our attitude. If you doubt yourself and habitually employ the mantra, "I can't handle this," every time life throws you a curve ball, you may be turning good stress into bad stress. When stressful situations come your way, take a deep breath and say, "I can handle this." It's hard to believe that such a simple change can make a difference, but it really can. Expressing confidence in yourself often gives you the power to turn a crisis into a confidence-building challenge. However, if you find that you truly are too depleted to face the challenges that come your way, you owe it to yourself to consciously eliminate as much of the stress in your life as possible. Take time to restore and make any necessary changes to your lifestyle.
Different people have different levels of tolerance for stress. Some people actively seek out adrenalin-inducing activities in their spare time. Other people find daily life stressful enough that they spend their downtime resting and restoring themselves. Know yourself and adjust your stress factor accordingly.
June 30, 2005 Fostering The Good Within Self Respect
As youngsters, we learned that one aspect of harmony stems from respecting those around us. Comprehending the value of respect and the behaviors worthy of respect, in turn, prepared us to develop a sense of respect for ourselves. Self-respect is a unique trait because forging it does not require that we compare ourselves to others and it peacefully coexists with failure. While it can be simply described as liking yourself the way you are, the conditions behind that sense of like are complex. Self-respect is a product of your esteem for yourself and your respect for others. It is an amalgamation of self-love, confidence, independence, courage, and responsibility. The Chinese character for "self-respect" means "respecting your own." Where self-esteem fails us, self-respect is there to help us maintain crucial peace of mind.
People with strong feelings of respect for their minds and bodies typically avoid situations that are potentially harmful and they don't compromise their own beliefs or put themselves down to please others. They accept their identities, such as businesswoman, father, or baker, without feeling pressured to become anxious over what they are not. Self-respect means being able to take responsibility for one's own actions, accepting the consequences without worrying about the opinions of others. Self-respecting people have the courage to fix their mistakes. There can be pride in self-respect, in taking satisfaction in positive accomplishments and honorable behaviors. It is a form of contentment, yet one that strives always to reach new heights of goodness, self-control, and caring.
People with self-respect tend to encourage self-respect in others by reminding them that everyone has value and everyone is deserving of acceptance. But self-respect is not something taken from others. It is a wonderful feeling that comes to us when we begin to realize the good within ourselves.
July 1, 2005 Marking Our Lives Celebrating Rites Of Passage
Birthday celebrations, graduations, weddings, baptisms are all rites of passage. We acknowledge these and many other events by taking part in ceremony and ritual with friends and family, or by ourselves. We sing, dance, make speeches, drink, and eat. The ceremony and rituals may be very formal and/or quite elaborate with an abundance of flowers, candles, and decorations. Or, a rite of passage may be marked quietly and simply just by acknowledging it. Sometimes we perform a ritual quietly, in private, to note a personal milestone.
Rites of passage mark a transition in our lives. We are a year older, an institution has deemed us wiser, we are united in a loving relationship, we have entered a sacred covenant. We are somehow changed, hopefully for the better but always different than we were before. In some sense, we are transformed and we acknowledge such transformations with ritual celebrations. Traditional ceremonies honor our ethnic and/or spiritual background, even our history. Special words, music, and food are customary and connect us to each other.
Then, we may wish to create new rituals of our own. People now partake in ceremonies that celebrate menopause, or mark years of surviving a major illness. These new rites of passage allow us free license to make up our rituals. Instead of feasting, we may fast, choose to be in solitary reflection rather than throwing a big party. We may plant a tree in commemoration of a birth or swim with dolphins to celebrate our 30th birthday. Such do it yourself rituals create new cultural and personal histories, unique to who we are now. Yet, whether we walk a labyrinth alone or chant sutras with family and friends, when we engage in ceremony we are connecting - to the entire universe. Rites of passage honor the past, acknowledge the present, and give us hope for the future.
The origins of Ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arrangement, date back to about 538 AD, when Buddhism came to Japan. It became common at that time for monks to decorate altars with cut flowers. Over the next millennium, the Japanese art of flower arrangement went through many shifts, becoming more secular and art-oriented, rather than religious. Its main intention as an art form is to allow the artist to express the beauty and integrity of nature and to allow the viewer to experience that expression.
Different schools of Ikebana attempt to express different qualities of life and nature. Some focus on how the arrangement symbolizes the source of life itself (the vase) and its external manifestations (the flowers rising up from the vase). Other schools are concerned with representing the wholeness, intricacy, and variation of an entire landscape within one flower arrangement. In all cases, Ikebana is a celebration of the beauty and wonder of life and the natural world.
There are many schools of Ikebana, the most formal of which is called Rikka. There are strict rules in this school about how many stems can be used and how each stem relates to the others geometrically along the central axis of the arrangement. Most schools of Ikebana are similar to Rikka in that the artist must adhere to very specific mathematical relationships within the arrangement.
Unlike floral arts in the west, Ikebana is considered a fine art along the lines of painting or sculpture. Like those western arts, Ikebana has evolved to allow the artist to express more freely. There is now a Free Style school of Ikebana, wherein the rules are much more open and the meaning of the arrangement is left in the hands of the artist.
Next time you buy flowers, imagine arranging them in the interest of expressing a universal theme, like joy, transcendence, or even sorrow. Think outside the box when choosing containers. Be creative!
July 5, 2005 Seeing Differently Changing Your Perspective
Some people have a knack for looking at a scene or situation and perceiving things not only in terms of their own experiences, but also in terms of the experiences of others. They embrace changes in perspective and look at things from many vantage points. Others, however, will see what they see, and may not be convinced that someone else might see it differently. A change in perspective can be a valuable tool in interacting with others, remaining open to new ideas, and increasing creativity. Your perspective normally reflects a reality that is uniquely yours. But think of viewing a room from two different positions; you will see different items depending on your position. Or consider the difference in looking out over the rolling ocean versus seeing into its depths while snorkeling.
Most people have at one time or another tried looking at a situation through someone else's eyes. But changing your perception can be applied in many different ways. You might try seeing the disappointment of not having funds to travel as an opportunity to more deeply explore activities offered in your own neighborhood. When you are faced with a challenge, try to see the problem from all angles in order to solve it. In changing what you perceive, you will be more likely to come up with a novel solution. Changing your perspective enhances objectivity while refreshing creativity. In fact, it's said that the most creative people see what everyone sees, but look at it in ways most people do not. Try finding the angular beauty in a cityscape or the opportunities for fun on a wet, dreary day. They're there.
The universe is a vast conglomeration of all perspectives. Changing or expanding your perspective is not about avoiding another perspective or ignoring the parts of life you find unpleasant. Everything that exists continues to exist whether you choose to focus on it. Rather, a shift in perception can help you understand the world in a different way, from a new angle, which in turn can solve problems, create things of beauty, and lead the life you truly desire.
July 6, 2005 Giving The Freedom To Live Accepting The Journeys Of Others
Each of us, in life, walks on the special path that the soul is destined to undertake. Our journeys are very different and we progress at different rates. The pitfalls and blessings we encounter are unique, yet we are all learning and no one form of knowledge is more important than any other. Even so, when we observe others, it can be easy to pass judgment on their decisions and to assume their actions will correspond with what we feel is right. But for every problem, there are a multitude of solutions. Everyone makes mistakes and, while watching others do so can be frustrating, it is important that you accept each person's unique way of doing things. Giving others the freedom to act in the way they feel are best without the fear of harsh judgments honors the capacity for growth that all people possess.
It is helpful to practice accepting others as they are. Never judge the decisions of others based on the path you would have taken because every person lives by different values and experiences. Challenge is a universal concept, but we all deal with difficulties in our own way. Give others the space to fail, but don't harden your heart against their experience. It isn't wise to try and fix people or control situations. You may feel compelled to intervene when difficulties arise, but it is important only to offer guidance when asked unless the person is involved in a truly dangerous situation or cannot act for themselves. Failure to choose the right path or to make enlightened decisions is simply another step on the journey. It is a means to experience and wisdom. Letting go of the need to influence others does not discount offering loving support and it does not mean that you need to stop caring. It does mean stepping back, dissolving judgment, and gracefully allowing others to live their own destinies.
Giving others the freedom to blossom in their own journeys gives you the freedom to take more notice of your own. You may not condone the actions you see taking place, but your reactions will be more loving by letting them be. And you will be able to focus on just being yourself, confident that the path you take is as right, valid, and special as any other.
Posture by posture, breath by breath, the mind/body integration that is Kripalu Yoga awakens the deepest levels of self-awareness. For it is through such recognition that a new level of caring and compassion is attained. Kripalu means compassion and this is a yoga of consciousness, practiced not only on the mat, but just as importantly "off the mat," as well.
Referred to as a "meditation in motion," Kripalu Yoga is practiced through a unique combination of disciplines. Asanas (postures), meditation, devotion, and selfless service are intended to establish a conscious communication of body, mind, and spirit. The practice combines moving through progressive stages of relaxation, absorption of sensation and movement, conscious attunement to experience, and free expression of released energy.
Kripalu Yoga begins with listening to the wisdom of your body and then focusing your mind on the awareness of the posture and your internal state, taking into account sensations, emotions, and thoughts. A method of "power points" aids you in attuning to your body, so that your mind can relax and allow your body to align itself to its full potential. Focusing your mind with non-judgmental awareness allows for proper, safe, body alignment in a relaxed way, without force. The emphasis is not on perfecting postures, but rather tuning into your body's wisdom to allow the posture to reveal insights to your mind and spirit. Kripalu Yoga postures are not static, but alive.
A tool for self empowerment and personal growth, Kripalu Yoga teaches you to tap into an inner-knowing. While you stay open to learning from others, the self-awareness that comes from Kripalu Yoga gives you the power to reason and make solid decisions for yourself. The confidence gained through Kripalu yoga then overflows into your life, encouraging you to embrace every experience and to let life flow without resistance. The intimate and nurturing relationship you establish with your own body makes every sensation sacred. Such wisdom enables you to adapt and meet life's challenges with a clear, open mind. Free from insecurity, fear, and ignorance life is lived with compassion.
July 8, 2005 Thinking Small Life's Little Victories
Many of us are taught, from an early age, to strive mainly for big dreams and to seek out equally large successes. We find inspiration in those who have overcome the greatest odds and those who have built the largest empires. But seldom do we look to our own lives for examples of victories, forgetting that any accomplishment deserves a moment of triumph. Life's little victories encompass both the moments that make you give an inner shout of joy and simple things like a job well done, finishing a daunting task, or making it through a less-than-pleasant situation.
Little victories can keep you optimistic about the big victories and help you retain a positive attitude, even when things are going wrong, because the small successes will stick with you if you take time to honor them. Look carefully, you will no doubt find little victories occurring throughout your day. Did you keep your cool in a tense situation? Resist the urge to spend unwisely? Find time to spend with your family? Pat yourself on the back when you notice a small success and make a mental note of it. Or write down a few things each day that can be considered little victories. Make your accounts detailed by outlining exactly what caused you to feel triumphant.
When we choose not to acknowledge life's little victories, deeming them insignificant, it is easy to become frustrated. Instead of staking your happiness on getting a promotion, buying a new car, or being the winner, stake it on your ability to conquer the ups, downs, and responsibilities inherent in living. In doing so, you will find yourself able to avoid being caught up in negative feelings by keeping one eye toward your next triumph.
July 11, 2005 Incredible Coincidences Synchronicity
Everyone has experienced the pleasantly surprised feelings left behind by a meaningful coincidence. The situation itself may be insignificant - the book whose title you couldn't remember falls off the bookstore shelf or an acquaintance who seems to enter your life again and again - but the message inherent in the coincidence may not be. Synchronicity, or the unlikely conjunction of events, can be an eye-opening experience. Psychologist Carl Jung theorized that synchronicities occurred when universal forces were aligned with the experiences of an individual, leading to coincidences that appear to be more than just chance. These incidents happen because everything is innately connected. He believed that such events can be called forth by an individual's unconscious needs. Nothing occurs randomly. Rather, we draw certain people, situations, and blessings to ourselves.
A synchronistic event such as a chance encounter can be positive, negative, or neutral, and feel deeply mysterious or commonplace. Some coincidences are obvious while others are not apparent until after careful analysis. Perhaps during an ongoing financial crisis, you always found just enough money to get by. Or a recurring dream prepares you for an eventual physical event. Many times, synchronicities represent opportunities to learn about ourselves and the external world. If you feel touched by multiple coincidences or intrigued by a single one, ask yourself why you may be attracting the people involved or the situations. Is it highlighting some aspect of your life or suggesting a course of action? The soul, believed Jung, whispers to us through synchronicity calling us to attention.
Seeking the meaning behind a synchronistic event can help you know yourself better, kick start your creativity, or show you future pitfalls to avoid. The most profound coincidences often occur at life's crossroads, stopping us in our tracks and leaving us to find the meaning within.
July 12, 2005 Pennies From Heaven Spending Play Money
In our society, money is almost certainly a necessity, but the paper bills we carry around have no real value other than what we impose on them. To a small child, one dollar may seem like a huge amount of money while to a wage earning adult that same dollar may be inconsequential. And, like so much of what we value in life, we attract or repel money, depending on our thoughts and actions.
A fun exercise and valuable learning experience is to make your own money. Make your own bank notes, use play money or write yourself a fake check for whatever amount you desire. If you desire, why not see what it feels like to carry around a million dollars. Notice if being a millionaire makes you more generous or frugal, secure, or even perhaps a bit paranoid.
Make as much money as you want. Notice if you make a lot or a little and pay attention to what your currency is worth. Do you use your money to help make the world a better place or give to your favorite charity? Notice how much you spend on yourself and on others and how that makes you feel. Do you feel a sense of freedom or do you feel bogged down by the responsibility and challenges of keeping track of your money.
The exercise may seem silly to some people and exciting to others. What it is meant to do is to help you understand your relationship to money and how important it is to you. The play money you make may only be paper, but the prosperity you create is very real.