3 Reasonable Responses to Steady Us When Life Feels Unstable by Rachel Macy Stafford, author of Live Love Now       5-1-2020

Because I wrote a book called LIVE LOVE NOW, you might think I am going to tell you how you can live in a constant state of love and positivity now and forevermore. That is not the case, nor is it realistic. As we live life, we inevitably encounter distressing situations and tough periods which can bring forth unloving responses. But when we begin practicing living love, we learn over time how to choose empathy and kindness for ourselves and others, even during times of conflict and instability.

Living love is often messy, and it’s not always easy—but it becomes a recurring gift we can give ourselves and the ones we love. Take a look…

While working on breaking a long and unhealthy relationship with diet soda one summer, I had an emotional outburst. At the time, my head was throbbing from the caffeine withdrawal, and I was mad at myself for not listening to my urologist when she said it was imperative that I stop drinking soda.

As I grumbled to myself in the kitchen that morning, every crumb on the floor glared at me. I hollered at my daughters to help sweep and was met with a very lethargic 10-year-old who had a sore knee. She half-heartedly pushed the broom across the floor in no particular direction.

After watching for a few minutes in irritation, I aggressively instructed her to “put some muscle into it!”

When she made minimal improvement, I spouted off a tirade of complaints. As the harsh words tumbled out of my mouth, I cringed. I sounded so unreasonable. So erratic. So irrational. So unhinged.

But in my state of duress, I could not pull it together.

The mediocre sweeping stopped abruptly and the girl pushing the broom began to cry.

My older daughter intervened calmly. “Mom,” she said, “we know you’re trying hard to break an unhealthy habit, but please don’t be mean. Avery is trying.”

My daughter Natalie saw to the root of the problem, and she responded compassionately and calmly—a winning combination.

Natalie is being reasonable,” I thought to myself. “I am not. I should follow her lead.”

I instantly calmed.

Irrationality loses power in the face of reason.

Fear wanes in the presence of calm.

Conflict eases in the light of compassion.

This is what I know.

If it hadn’t been for the diet soda meltdown, I might have forgotten about my long and unhealthy relationship with ‘Unreasonable.’ For decades, I’d clung to it when I was fearful, anxious, angry, sad, or stressed. My sister, Rebecca, was the best one at spotting the deeper issue behind my unreasonable behavior and addressed it with a calm and steady approach, “How can I help, Rachel?”

Rebecca’s response had always had a profound impact on my anxiety.

Irrationality loses power in the face of reason.

Fear diminishes in the presence of calm.

Conflict eases in the light of compassion.

This is what I know.

Over the past several years, I’ve learned to detect when I’m starting to latch on to Unreasonableness. I start to feel it weigh down my body. My heart begins racing. I can’t breathe or think straight. I start barking orders at loved ones or myself, as if to control an uncontrollable situation.

Those unpleasant feelings and behaviors alert me to repeat my sister’s words. I say to myself: How can I help, Rachel? Those words help me stay in a rational place where communication opens up and help can be received.

Although it may sound odd, I’m thankful for my relationship with Unreasonableness. The growth and awareness stemming from it has prepared me to be a loving Guide to my kids as they navigate the teen years, a time that often seems to invite instability. Although I am still a work in progress, I am able to look past my daughters’ behaviors and see the deeper source of pain. As a result, they are often able to recognize it themselves.

One afternoon, I received a frantic call from my older daughter about a neighbor’s house key she’d misplaced. In her moment of despair, she lashed out at me. I felt my frustration rising and my defensiveness go on high alert. But instead of matching her unreasonableness with my own, I reminded myself: That’s fear talking. She’s afraid the key is gone, and she won’t be able to do her job and she may get fired.

I understood that fear, and I knew what to do.

I can’t help you look right now, but I will in an hour when I get home. This is not my fault, but I will be glad to help you look. I’m sure we’ll find it.”

Okay,” she said curtly.

An hour later, I received a heartfelt apology via text. “I am sorry for how I acted. I was mad at myself and took it out on you. I found the key once I calmed down,” she said.

Thank you,” I responded. “I do that too when I am upset and things are out of my control,” I admitted.

My daughter and I are both learning to look past the behavior we see to the hidden pain that is motivating it; this is helping us maintain compassion for ourselves in the face of uncertainty.

Irrationality loses power in the face of reason.

Fear wanes in the presence of calm.

Conflict eases in the light of compassion.

This is what I know.

One of the best tools for living love is something I call The Reasonability Test. It is most helpful when I am met with pushback or at times when conflict is quickly escalating. During these times, I check in with myself using the following three questions:

  • Is what I am asking or saying reasonable?
  • Do I sound like the voice of reason?
  • Does my body language match my calm voice and words?

If the answer to any of these questions is no, there’s a good chance I’m contributing to the instability and conflict. I make adjustments to my words, tone, body language, and/or expectations so I can better understand and be better understood.

If the answer to any of the three questions is yes, and the other person is not responding reasonably, it most likely means there is a deeper issue at hand.

That’s when I offer one of three reasonable responses to get to the root of the issue:

  • Help: “I know you are under a lot of stress right now, how can I help?”
  • Validation: “You really wanted it to work out differently. I am so sorry it didn’t work out that way.”
  • Space: “I’m going to give you some time to yourself. I’ll be right out here if you need me. Perhaps in a bit we can talk about why you’re so upset.”

To a scared soul, these responses feel like comfort.

To a drowning mind, these responses feel like oxygen.

To a rejected heart, these responses feel like acceptance.

I can’t help but see how valuable The Reasonability Test is right now considering the current state of our world.

Consider the possibilities…

What if we were to see beyond the defensiveness, anger, and frustration of our fellow human beings to acknowledge the pain and fear within?

What if we were a calm and steady voice of reason in our communities and our world – the voice that says, “I see you are having a hard time. Lean on me through this storm. We’ll get through it together.”

Just think of the progress we could make if we offer compassion and seek understanding in a time of great uncertainty. Just think of the healing that could happen. Just think of the hope we could create.

Irrationality loses power in the face of reason.

Fear wanes in the presence of calm.

Conflict eases in the light of compassion.

May we come to know this.

May we come to live this.

Author Bio: Rachel Macy Stafford is a New York Times bestselling author and founder of handsfreemama.com. In her newly released book, LIVE LOVE NOW, Rachel Macy Stafford does what she does best: she lovingly encourages, guides, and challenges us to choose love for ourselves and for those around us. Through stories, reflections, and tangible tools, Rachel reminds us that simple changes yield positive results.

Special note: If you interact at all with kids (calling all parents, teachers, neighbors, friends) you need to get Rachel Macy Stafford’s new book.

Rachel is my go-to parenting author. Over the past five years, her books have helped me show up every day with more heart, love, patience and acceptance towards myself and my family. I am a better mother because I started following her work. And I am constantly blown away by the way she shows up in the world, clarifying and calming my heart and mind even on the toughest of days.

Here’s some food for thought from LIVE LOVE NOW, on page 49:

Do your kids know that they do not need to do anything, be anything, or change anything to be loved by you? Instead of assuming they know, make it a point to frequently say, ‘I love you just as you are. Exactly as you are. I love you because you

NEED A CHANGE? 3-17-2020

Do you feel like something “needs to change” in your life?

If so, this might be the most important email you read today.

But first, I want to share a powerful story about an amazing woman…

Her name is Michelle. It’s been 10 years since she answered a “wake-up” call and began to RADICALLY, yet gradually, change her life.

In just a decade she has:

  • Overcome a heartbreaking divorce
  • Transformed her diet
  • Paid off a substantial amount of debt
  • Massively decluttered her physical and mental space
  • Deepened her most important relationships
  • Owned her imperfections
  • Made incredible progress toward a big lifelong goal
  • And took her life back

Maybe her story can be your wake-up call.

Michelle didn’t “plan” to make all of these changes. But here was the incredible discovery:

Each ONE change inspired and encouraged the next. Like domino’s falling in line, the momentum carried through to help her make the other changes easier and faster.

So what was Michelle’s wake up call that later went on to transform her entire life?

A phone call from her neurologist’s office telling her that all the intense migraine headaches she was hopelessly battling were basically self-created. She was not effectively handling the stress in her life, and it was physically and mentally incapacitating her.

Michelle had other wake-up calls earlier on, but she was too busy and distracted to answer them.

As Elaine St. James so wisely said:

“One of the reasons we keep our lives so complicated is so we won’t have to listen to our inner voice telling us what we need to do to make our lives work better.”

Can you relate to keeping yourself busy and distracted so you don’t have to listen to that inner voice?

If so, here’s the good news: once Michelle made a little time and space to hear her inner voice – to really listen – changing got easier, exciting even.


As her inner voice became easier to hear, she was able to gracefully let go of the things and people not meant for her and gain more clarity about what she really needed in her life.

Before then, she had basically forgotten that she had a choice.

And the funny part is that even though “letting go” was at the core of every powerful change she made, she didn’t realize this until she looked back years later.

Had she realized that eliminating distractions, reducing stress, and rejecting busyness is the fastest path to building a happy, beautiful, joyful life… it wouldn’t have taken a decade.

She may have been able to make massive changes a lot quicker.

Is this email your wake up call?

How many times have you thought “this isn’t working” or “something is not right” or “things have to change”? – those thoughts and words are from your inner voice. It’s your wake-up call calling.

You don’t need a neurologist’s diagnosis or major crisis to wake up. No one needs to tell you because you already know. Your inner voice has been trying to tell you, but in case it’s been a challenge to find time and space to listen through the chaos, maybe you’ll resonate with one of these situations.

  • If your life is on auto-pilot, this is your wake-up call.
  • If you never put yourself first, this is your wake-up call.
  • If you’ve become someone you don’t recognize to please other people or to chase some version of success that doesn’t resonate with you, this is your wake-up call.
  • If you are constantly numbing out with food, shopping, booze, TV, or other distractions, this is your wake-up call.
  • If you are worn down, beat up, stressed out, and completely depleted, this is your wake-up call.

Getting your wake-up call is not the hard part, answering the call is. Choosing to answer the call instead of ignoring it is hard. Right now, it may feel easier to keep going, and going, and going. But you know if you don’t find a way out of the endless cycle you’re in, it’s going to get worse.

So take the time to stop – really stop doing all activity. Get still and centered. Allow your body to be nurtured by your deep breaths, and begin to let your thoughts settle down and quiet in your mind. Affirm that you are ‘open and receptive, willing and responsive to my own inner guidance and wisdom.’ Listen, really listen.

As you do so, you will begin to feel your body relax, your shoulders drop, the tightness in your chest, the stiffness in your neck and tension in your arms, legs and torso release. Great! Now you are truly in that precious receptive state of being. Keep practicing this until it comes so naturally and easily and quickly that you can ‘drop in’ whenever you are feeling really stressed or stretched out.

And always know, many of us are right there with you, trying our best for ourselves and cheering you and one another on in our efforts. Keep on keeping on. WE are right there with you.

 It’s Sunday… 3-17-2020

It’s Sunday, and I want to remind you of another effective method for quieting that negative inner voice of yours. But first, let’s examine a super-common mistake negative people make…

Negative people are often proud to describe themselves as “realists.” Of course, anyone who holds a strong belief thinks they are being “realistic” by holding it, whether it involves UFO encounters or perfectly truthful politicians.

The “being more realistic” declaration is a favorite of cynics everywhere. And in a way they are correct. But only because negative thinking causes us not to try – or if we do try, to do it halfheartedly and give up sooner – so the negativity itself influences our outcomes. Self-fulfilling predictions like this really do happen. Research has even found that in some cases what we believe about our health can have more bearing on how long we live than our actual health.

What makes all of this so scary is the fact that it means negative thoughts can plague us even when things seem to be going relatively well. For instance, the thought “It’s too good to last!” quickly wrecks havoc on a positive situation. Thus, my tip today has to do with how negative thinking can distort your perception…

Stop yourself from over-generalizing the negative (and minimizing the positive).

Ask yourself: “If something negative unexpectedly happens, do I over-generalize it? Do I view it as applying to everything and being permanent rather than compartmentalizing it to one place and time?”

For example, if someone turns you down for a date, do you spread the negativity beyond that person, time, and place by telling yourself: “Relationships never work out for me, ever”? If you fail an exam do you say to yourself, “Well, I failed that exam; I’m not happy about it, but I’ll study harder next time”? Or do you over-generalize it by telling yourself you’re “not smart enough” or “incapable of learning”?

Remember, negative thinking stops us from seeing and experiencing positive outcomes, even when they happen often. It’s as if there’s a special mental block filtering out all the positives and only letting in data that confirms the ‘negative bias.’ So, do your best to catch yourself today.

Being able to distinguish between the negativity you imagine and what is actually happening in your life is an important step towards living a happier life.

And of course, if you’re struggling with any of this, know that you are not alone. Many of us are right there with you, working hard to feel better, think more clearly, and get our lives back on track. Strive to “think better, so you can live better.”

Calming Your Mind

It’s not what you say to everyone else that determines your life; it’s what you whisper to yourself that has the greatest power.

You know this is true.

The happiness of your life depends on the quality of your thoughts. The mind is indeed your battleground. It’s the place where the greatest conflict resides. It’s where half of the chaos you thought was real, was completely fabricated. There’s no escaping the fact that you are what you think—that you can’t change anything if you can’t change your thinking.

The key is calming your mind…

As you begin each day, be mindful and take a second to think about what a privilege it is to simply be alive and healthy. Breathe onto the bathroom mirror, just to see how amazing your breath looks. When you start off in a mindful state like this, it’s easier to focus effectively, step into the day on the right foot, and carry the momentum forward.

Easier said than done, of course, but practice always helps. So, practice reminding yourself…

  1. The problem is rarely the problem—the problem is the incredible amount of over-thinking and over-analyzing you’re doing with the problem.
  2. Many people make themselves unhappy simply by finding it impossible to accept life just as it is presenting itself right now. You don’t have to be one of them.
  3. Never force anything. Do your best, then let it be. If it’s meant to be, it will be. Don’t hold yourself down with things that are out of your control.
  4. Learn to trust the journey, even when you do not understand it. Sometimes what you never wanted or expected turns out to be what you need.
  5. RELAX. You are enough. You have enough. You do enough. Inhale. Exhale… let go, and just live right now in the moment.

Again, making these kinds of perspective shifts—thinking better—takes guidance and practice. So, keep on keeping on! You are sure to make it!

 

10 LITTLE HABITS THAT WRECK LIVES ONE DAY AT A TIME 3-17-2020

In a culture that seeks quick results, we must learn the beauty of effort, patience, and perseverance.

Have you ever told yourself that you’re going to make something happen and then nothing happened? All details aside, it’s because you didn’t have the right habits in place—the little things you do every day that build up to something bigger.

Habits define you. All the results in your life come from your daily habits.

If you’re out of shape and overweight, you have different habits than someone who’s physically fit. If you’re fit, you jump out of bed early every morning and sweat before preparing a healthy breakfast. If you’re out of shape, you sleep in and eat whatever is fastest and easiest.

This may be a bit of a generalization, but it’s not far from the truth for the average able-bodied person.

In all walks of life, you don’t become an overnight success. You become successful over time from all the little things you do one day at a time.

Failure occurs in the same way. All your little daily failures (that you don’t learn and grow from) come together and cause you to fail…

  • You fail to check the books.
  • You fail to make the calls.
  • You fail to listen to your customers.
  • You fail to innovate.
  • You fail to do what must be done.

And then one day you wake up and your business has failed. It was all the little things you did or didn’t do along the way—your daily habits—not just one catastrophic event.

Let this be your wake-up call.

YOUR LIFE IS YOUR BUSINESS!

YOUR HABITS ARE YOUR BUSINESS!

So today, let’s discuss some super-common habits I have seen plaguing many people – over the past decade—little things too many people do every day to gradually wreck their own lives:

1. Change nothing and expect different results.

There’s a saying that the definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Take this to heart. If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you’re getting. Period.

Oftentimes the only difference between a successful person and a person who makes little progress is not one’s superior abilities, but the courage that one has to bet on one’s ideas, to take calculated risks, and to take steady steps forward. In other words, some people sit and wait for the magic beans to arrive while the rest of us just get up and get to work.

2. Keep waiting and waiting and waiting for the right time.

Remind yourself of how often we waste our time waiting for the ideal path to appear. Then remind yourself of how often it never appears. Seriously, we forget that paths are made by walking, not waiting.

So think of today as the beginning—the conception of a new life. The next nine months are all yours. You can do with them as you please. Make them count. Because a new person is born in nine months. The only question is: Who do you want that person to be? Now is the right time to decide.

And no, you shouldn’t feel more confident before you take the next step. Taking the next step is what builds your confidence and fuels your inner and outer growth.

3. Expect good things to come easy.

A goal is a point of achievement that requires effort and sacrifice. There are no esteemed ventures worth participating in that don’t require some level of effort and sacrifice. Trust me, decades from now when you’re resting on your deathbed, you will not remember the days that were easy, you will cherish the moments when you rose above your difficulties and conquered challenges of magnitude. You will dream of the strength you found within yourself that allowed you to achieve what once seemed impossible.

So don’t do what’s easy, do what you’re capable of. Astound yourself with your own abilities. And as you struggle forward, remember, it is far better to be exhausted from lots of effort and learning than to be tired of doing nothing. Effort is never wasted, even when it leads to disappointing results. For it always makes you stronger and more experienced in the long run.

4. Refuse to accept necessary risks.

Living is about learning as you go. Living is risky business. Every decision, every interaction, every step, every time you get out of bed in the morning, you take a small risk. To truly live is to know you’re getting up and taking that risk, and to trust yourself to take it. To not get out of bed, clutching to illusions of safety, is to die slowly without ever having truly lived. This isn’t drama—it’s real life.

Think about it. If you ignore your instincts and let shallow feelings of uncertainty stop you, you will never know anything for sure, and in many ways this un-knowing will be worse than finding out your instincts were wrong. Because if you were wrong, you could make adjustments and carry on with your life, without looking back and wondering what might have been.

5. Make the rejections of yesterday the focal point of today.

Be okay with walking away when the time comes. Rejection teaches us how to reject what’s not right for our well-being. It won’t be easy, but some chapters in our lives have to close without closure. There’s no point in losing yourself by trying to fix what’s meant to stay broken.

All too often we let the rejections of our past dictate every move we make thereafter. We literally do not know ourselves to be any better than what some opinionated person or narrow circumstance once told us was true. Of course, this old rejection doesn’t mean we aren’t good enough; it means the other person or circumstance failed to align with what we have to offer. It means we have more time to improve our thing—to build upon our ideas, to perfect our craft, and indulge deeper in to the work that moves us. And that’s exactly what you need to do, starting now.

6. Refuse to take responsibility.

You aren’t responsible for everything that happened to you, but you need to be responsible for undoing the thinking and behavioral patterns these outcomes created. Blaming the past for a limiting mindset today doesn’t fix it. Change your response to what you remember, and step forward again with grace.

A combination of your decisions and external factors for which you had no control brought you to where you are in the world today. Negatively blaming someone else, or some other past circumstance, will change nothing. Positively taking full responsibility for your situation and your path forward can change everything. Leave the unchangeable past behind you as you diligently give yourself to the present moment. In this moment is every possibility you seek. Take responsibility for it,and bring these possibilities to life.

7. Close your mind to new ideas and perspectives.

Even as you grow wiser and wiser with age you must remind yourself that an understanding is never absolutely final. What’s currently right could easily be wrong later. Thus, the most destructive illusion is a settled point of view. So, remember that success in life does not depend on always being right. To make real progress you must let go of the assumption that you already have all the answers.

Bottom line: Don’t stop learning. Don’t stop investing in yourself. Study. Read. Devour books. Engage with people, including those who think differently. Ask questions. Listen closely. And don’t just grow in knowledge. Be a person who gives back. Use what you’re learning to make a difference.

8. Let a few negative people fill your mind with garbage.

Your mind is your private sanctuary; do not allow the negative beliefs of others to occupy it. Your skin is your barrier; do not allow others to get under it. Take good care of your personal boundaries and what you allow yourself to absorb from others.

Of course, there will inevitably be a few people in your life who will be critical of you regardless of what you do or how well you do it. If you say you want to be a dancer, they will discredit your rhythm. If you say you want to build a new business, they will give you a dozen reasons why it might not work. They somehow assume you don’t have what it takes, but they are dead wrong. Let that sink in.

It’s a lot easier to be negative than positive—a lot easier to be critical than correct. When you’re embarking on a new venture, instead of listening to the few critics that will try to discredit you, spend time talking to one of the thousands of people in this world who are willing to support your efforts and acknowledge your potential, respectfully. And go ahead and leave us a comment on this post if you think you can’t find one.

9. Hold tight to something that’s not real.

One of the most important moments in life is the moment you finally find the courage to let go of what can’t be changed. Because, when you are no longer able to change a situation, you are challenged to change yourself—to grow beyond the unchangeable. And that changes everything.

Seriously, remind yourself right now that not everything is meant to be. You have to seriously sit down with yourself and come to grips with the fact that you were wrong about it all along. It was just an illusion that never really was what you thought it was. It’s one of the most difficult realizations to accept, to realize that you feel a sense of loss, even though you never really had what you thought you had in the first place..)

10. Maintain rigid expectations every step of the way.

Simple things become complicated when you expect too much. Expectation truly is the root of all heartache. Don’t let it get the best of you. Every difficult life situation can be an excuse for hopelessness or an opportunity for personal growth, depending on what you choose to do with it. So start by choosing to let go of the ideas and expectations that aren’t serving you.

Remember that there’s no such thing as a perfect life. There’s just this moment you’re living through and what you choose to do with it. You can be disappointed in this moment and do nothing, or you can practice being satisfied with the opportunity to make the very best of it.

Closing Exercise: Build Better Habits

Choose any area in your life that you want to improve, and then:

  1. Write down the specific details about your current circumstances. (What’s bothering you? What’s wrong? What do you want to change?)
  2. Write down your answer to this question: What are the daily habits that have contributed to your current circumstances? (Be honest with yourself. What are you doing that contributes to the situation you’re in?)
  3. Write down the specific details about your ideal circumstances. (What would make you happy? What does your ideal situation look like?)
  4. Write down your answer to this question: What are the daily habits that will get you from where you are to where you want to be? (Think about it. What small, daily steps will help you move forward?)

 

KEEP MOVING FORWARD, KNOWING THERE IS A WHOLE CONGREGATION OF FOLKS HOLDING THE HIGHEST AND BEST FOR YOU EVERY DAY.

 

TRUST YOUR INTUITION 8-21-19

There is nothing more powerful than unapologetically knowing what you know and standing in it – without the need for anyone else’s approval.

As a recovered (and constantly evolving) child of abuse and addiction, I used to doubt and undermined my own intuition on a regular basis.

I looked to other people to validate what I knew on an intuitive level to be true, but couldn’t trust.  I thought if my best friend, the men in my life, heck –  the stranger on the street said it was true, then it must be so.  If they told me that I was

a)  imagining things

b) being too sensitive

c) over reacting

d) or just plain crazy and had no idea what I was talking about,

I would disregard what my gut (my soul-intuition) was trying to tell me and catapult myself into a sea of confusion, drama and overwhelm.  Why?  Because my decisions were not matching what I felt in my gut, my soul and my heart.

Are you doing that beloved?

If you are, it’s not your fault.  It’s how you were trained and conditioned in your familial, generational and ancestral paradigm.  It’s just another way that the emotional addiction to unworthiness and feelings of not being good enough show up.

I cannot tell you the awe, wonder and gratitude I felt the first time I made a decision in my life, and didn’t ask ANYONE’S OPINION ABOUT IT, or the first time I responded to someone’s inappropriate comments or actions  from a place of clarity, empowerment and certainty – and DIDN’T NEED VALIDATION from a million people to tell me that it was okay.  Wow! I felt so bad ass GOOD!

When we are disconnected from the authentic self, we overreact, under-react or just shut down and don’t respond or react at all. Our emotional wounds cause us to feel confused and unsure of what we are thinking and feeling. But guess what? You don’t have to pull over and park there.

In the promises of the 12 Steps, it states: “we will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us”. This is the promise of reconnecting to your highest and authentic self.

Loving Practices: 8 Ways to Bring More Love Into Your Life

By Roger Gabriel (Raghavanand) 2-12-19

 

As the Beatles told us, “All you need is love” and how sure this is. Your highest vibration, your essence, who you really are, is pure love. When you love, you connect with the deepest part of yourself. The part of yourself which is always ready to present whatever you need in a perfect way, at exactly the right moment. If you make love the foundation of your actions, life flows. When you exclude love, life becomes a struggle.

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi expressed it beautifully when he said, “Love shall forever shine on our way and the light will guide our steps, whether we go slow or fast. The light of love shall forever be with us on our way. Love shall forever be the anchor of life. We shall be in love and love shall be in us. We shall live in love, shall grow in love and shall find fulfillment in love eternal.”

In his book The Path to Love, Deepak Chopra recommends a series of loving practices for you to incorporate into your life. Meditation is the greatest loving practice you can follow. Meditation directly connects you to your field of love and allows you to reinstate its beauty in your life.

Meditation and the other loving practices you’ll explore merge the inner and outer worlds to create a life of love. Here are eight loving practices you can try to bring more love into your life.

1. Purify the Heart Center
Pure love manifests in life through the Heart Center. Repressed stresses, emotions, doubts, and fears all distort or block the flow of pure love.

Your first practice is to purify the Heart Center so your life is filled with and guided by love. To do this, try the following meditation:

Sit quietly, close your eyes, and simply be aware of your breathing.
Now move your attention to your Heart Center in the middle of your chest.
Be aware of the breath here. Not focusing or concentrating, just simple awareness.
You may become aware of a soft light or warmth in this area, just continue breathing with it, resting your awareness in your Heart Center.
Allow any repressed emotions, fears, doubts, or desires to spontaneously rise up. Simply notice them without judgment or evaluation and let them go. They no longer serve you.
Do this for 5-10 minutes every day as is comfortable.
2. Awaken the Qualities of the Heart
2. Awaken the Qualities of the Heart
At the end of the above exercise or separately, awaken or activate the qualities of your heart that may have been lying dormant with the following meditation:

Still with your eyes closed and your awareness in your Heart Center, silently repeat each of the following words. Repeat each one 2-3 times, pause for a few seconds between each repetition before moving to the next:

Peace
Harmony
Laughter
Love
Don’t try to evaluate the meanings of the words, just repeat them and let them settle back into the silent field of Infinite Organizing Power.
Allow these qualities to grow in your life. Let them radiate from your heart.
3.  Ask for What You Want From Love
Love has many other qualities. It is healing, nurturing, and nourishing—bringing a renewing sparkle to your life. Love is also fearless, powerful, and invincible, allowing you to feel safe and secure. Love is also compassionate and harmonious, and dissolves all your doubts and worries.

This practice is to ask for what you want from love. Which quality is important to you right now? Choose from one of the above qualities you were repeating, or something else, then try this meditation:

Sit quietly, close your eyes, bring your awareness into your Heart Center, and simply ask for what you want from love.
Plant the seed of your intention. It could be just one word or a short sentence but be bold (wimpy desires produce wimpy results).
Now let go, detach from the outcome, and let love organize it for you.
4. Listen to Love
Pure love holds the message of truth. Its voice is always there whispering to you; you just need to learn to listen. When you don’t listen to love, you can have:

Doubts about yourself and others
Your expectations and hopes not met
Regrets
Confusion about your feelings
When you listen to love, you stop complaining and casting blame, you trust yourself and others, and you practice forgiveness and feel inspired.

As you purify your Heart Center, begin to ask its advice and listen. The answers will start flowing from pure love.

If you’re not sure whether the answers are coming from love or from your ego, ask your body how it feels:

If it feels tense, angry, frightened, suspicious, fidgety, or uncomfortable, then it’s your ego talking.
If it feels peaceful, relaxed, safe, content, comfortable and has a warm glow, then you know the messages are flowing from love.
Learn to think with your heart and love with your mind. Be open, alert, and connected to life. When the heart and mind combine, your thoughts and actions are inspired. Projections, fantasies, and judgments fall away, leaving you with clarity, insight, and compassion. Write down your inspirations whenever they arise and allow them to guide your journey.

5. Accept Your Ambiguity
Ambiguity makes life fascinating. Accept all aspects of yourself. Embrace your weaknesses as well as your strengths. Explore and embrace your shadows. To show your positive and negative qualities is to be complete. This is what makes you attractive. Start feeling good about yourself. When you accept the good and bad within yourself, you’ll find it easier to accept and forgive others.

Let love reflect your truth. Love no matter what.

6. Drop the Conditioning
Pure love is with you right now, always has been, always will be. Pure love is in the spaces between all the noise and activity. You glimpse love when you feel safe in a crisis, feel a deep silence within, lose track of time watching a beautiful sunset, or feel connected to everyone and everything.

You block the flow of love in your life because of the conditioning and behavioral habits you have imprisoned yourself within. Begin to look beyond the limitations you’ve created in your life. Look for pure love in everyday experiences. Attune yourself to love and let it be your guide. Nothing happens to you, it happens for you and everything that happens is necessary, because it happened. When you let go of limiting beliefs, you will rediscover yourself as Pure Love, which lacks nothing.

7. Surrender to Love
Surrendering to love is a process of nonattachment, letting go of how things have to be, stepping free of the ego, and opening to infinite possibilities.

The first step here is to be aware that you have choices and then begin making your choices consciously by listening to your heart:

Let go physically by directing love into any areas of tension in your body.
Let go mentally by being open to new ideas and looking for new opportunities.
Let go emotionally by expressing your feelings rather than suppressing them.
Security comes from facing your inner fears, love is always here to support you.

8. Recognize Love in Others
It’s easy to see the love in those who you are close to but try to see love in everyone. Remember that everything out “there” is a reflection of what’s in “here.” Bringing your palms together in front of your Heart Center with the simple greeting Namaste, helps you to recognize the love in yourself is also the same as the love in others.

When you open yourself to love, when you live from love, and when you allow love to radiate to everyone you meet, your life will be filled with love and you will see the love in everything. Be the wise person and enjoy love’s bounty.

“Only love can save the world.” ~ Wonder Woman

 

LETTING GO OF SOMEONE 1-2-19

This morning I met up with an old friend, someone whom I care about deeply but have internally struggled with for years because I’ve always been worried about her health.

I want to help her heal, because I feel I’m losing her.

I want to teach her the time-tested tools for living a happier, simpler, healthier life that I’ve helped so many other people with, so she can give up her unhealthy habits, take up exercise and mindfulness, nurture her needs, and be transformed into a healthy person again.

But that’s not reality. I want to control something that frightens me, but I can’t do anything about it. Because I’m not in control of anyone but myself. I want to help my friend, but she’s not interested in being helped. She’s actually told me so a dozen times in the past.

So today, I let go.

Not “let go” as in “let her go.” I “let go” as in I stopped trying to control and change her, and instead took a deep breath and accepted her for exactly who she is.

And guess what? I discovered that who she is is a blessing. Who she is is someone so ridiculously special and unique I have a hard time expressing it. She’s hilarious and passionate and compassionate and wise and wild and thoughtful and loyal—and did I mention wild?

When I let go and accepted her whole truth, only then could I actually enjoy all of her, instead of worrying about losing her or changing her ways.

And this, I’ve learned, is the best way to be in most areas of life. As long as a person isn’t in immediate danger, or causing someone else to be in danger, you can stop trying to change them. You can just let go and dissolve into their presence, notice who they really are, appreciate every quirk. You can stop complaining about your life circumstances and your losses, and about how the world is, and just let go and love what is.

Just be. Just accept. Just appreciate.

Just breathe.

When you let everything and everyone breathe in this way, you begin to understand what letting go is all about. It can be a life-changing practice. And it starts with your thinking.

Think better, live better.

I HAVE CHOICES

Regardless of what you’re going through today, YOU HAVE CHOICES… “Will I allow this to upset me?” “Will I choose to make this bad or good?” “Will I choose to stay or walk away?” “Will I choose to yell or breathe?” “Will I choose to react or take the time to respond?”

When someone comes to me feeling down about a life situation they can’t control, we typically start by reinforcing the hard truth: sometimes changing your situation isn’t possible, or simply not possible soon enough. You can’t get to a new job in an instant. You can’t make someone else change against his or her will. And you certainly can’t erase the past. But…

You CAN always choose an attitude that moves you forward. And doing so will help you change things from the inside out, and ultimately allow you to grow beyond the struggles you can’t control.

Here’s one powerful question that will support you with a positive attitude adjustment when you need it most:

Who would you be, and what else would you see, if you erased the thought that’s worrying you?

Honestly, worry is the biggest enemy of the present moment. It does nothing but steal your joy and keep you very busy doing absolutely nothing at all. When you spend time worrying, you’re simply using your imagination to create experiences you don’t want.

Realize that, somewhere within us all, there does exist a Supreme Self who is eternally at peace. Because inner peace does not depend on external conditions, it’s what remains when you’ve surrendered your ego and worries. Peace can be found within you at any place and at any time. It’s always there, patiently waiting for you to turn your attention toward it.

Peace of mind arrives the moment you come to peace with what’s on your mind. It happens when you let go of the need to be anywhere but where you are, physically and emotionally. This acceptance of the way things are creates the foundation for inner harmony. The need for something to be different in this moment is nothing more than a worry, and worries simply lead you in circles.

So again, think about it: Who would you be, and what else would you see, if you erased the thought that’s worrying you?

Identify a specific thought that’s been troubling your worried mind lately, and then visualize how your life would be different if you removed this thought:

How would it change your outlook on your present life situation?
Would you treat yourself and others differently?
How would you feel?
How would you behave?
What else would you be able to accomplish?
And of course, if you’re struggling with any of this, know that you are not alone. Many of us are right there with you, working hard to feel better, think more clearly, and get our lives back on track. This is one of the primary reasons we benefit from being a part of a spiritual community, we have unending support.

Stepping Into Grace by Alan Cohen

July 10, 2016

The following piece from Alan Cohen was the inspiration for this Sunday’s talk (July 10, 2016). Ellen Fannin read the piece in her Opening Prayer and we are providing it here along with a link to his e-newsletter. God Bless You!

 

From Alan Cohen’s July 2016 Easeletter:

This month our country will experience two political conventions that represent more disunity, chaos, and lack of confidence in potential leaders than our country has ever known. Political rallies have been characterized by fistfights. Our country has been at war for 14 years, with no end in sight. Terrorists are bombing airports. Random shooters are taking out large numbers of innocent people. Fear, greed, corruption, racism, lying, and selfish interests seem to rule. Is this madness an indication that humanity has sunk to the brink of oblivion?
I have a different take on the craziness. I believe that we are in the midst of a huge transformation—of which you are a vital part—and as a result, a dirth of muck, insanity, and weirdness are coming up for cleansing and healing. This process is like the agitation cycle in a washing machine. All the dirt comes to the surface so it can be purged. If you didn’t know this was just one phase in a larger cycle,  you would be disgusted by the sight and smell, and you would think that muck has triumphed. But it hasn’t. It is in the final stage before it is  flushed away.
Behind the horrid news stories and media hypes, fundamental human goodness thrives. The darkness actually calls forth the light because it presents us with the stark and unmistakeable contrast between what we want and what we don’t want. When we make that vital choice, goodness ensues because it is connected to Spirit, and dysfunction is not. Nature bats last, and our deepest nature is to be divine.
For three years I have been searching for and finding demonstrations of the presence and power of grace as the abiding redeeming quality of humanity. Such moments give me faith that there is an element of our psyche that, when given the opportunity, chooses mercy over abuse; kindness over separateness; and love over fear. Here are a few of them:

When Julio Diaz stepped off the No. 6 subway train in the Bronx, he was faced with a teenager pointing a knife at him. The mugger demanded Julio’s wallet, which he gave willingly.  As the robber began to flee into the night, Julio called to him, “Hey, wait a minute. You forgot something. If you’re going to be robbing people for the rest of the night, you might as well take my coat to keep you warm.”
Stunned, the boy turned and asked Diaz, “Why are you doing this?”
“If you’re willing to risk your freedom for a few dollars, then I guess you must really need the money. I mean, all I wanted to do was get dinner. If you really want to join me . . . Hey, you’re more than welcome.”
In a real-life scene that would strain credibility as fiction, the two made their way to a diner where they sat in a booth, shared a meal, and talked about their lives.  When Diaz asked the teen what he wanted out of life, he couldn’t answer. He just displayed a sad face.
When the time came to pay the bill, Diaz told the fellow, “I guess that since you have my wallet, you’re going to have to treat.”
The young man gave Diaz back his wallet, Diaz paid for dinner, and gave the fellow $20. Diaz asked for something in return—the kid’s knife—and he gave it to him.  “If you treat people right, you can only hope they treat you right,” Diaz later concluded. “It’s as simple as it gets in this complicated world.” (Click here to see a touching dramatization of the event.)

Fifty-year-old Wesley Autrey, while waiting for a Manhattan subway train, watched a young man be overtaken by an epileptic seizure and fall off the platform into the path of an oncoming train. In a flash, Autry jumped onto the tracks, covered the man’s body with his own, and pushed himself and the fellow into the gutter between the tracks.  The train, unable to stop, hurtled over the two men. When it finally passed, onlookers were amazed to see both men emerge unscathed. The train had passed so close to Autrey’s head that his ski hat was smudged with grease from the train’s undercarriage.
In an NPR interview following the incident, Autrey revealed that years earlier a street thug had pointed a gun at his head and pulled the trigger. Miraculously, the gun did not go off. “I figured I still had a purpose on earth,” he remarked. “Maybe helping the man who fell was why I had to stick around.”

(This is an older story, but it represents the greatness of which we are capable when we stay in our right mind.) On a bleak January night during the Great Depression, court was about to convene on the poor lower east side of Manhattan.  Suddenly a gray-coated figure entered the courtroom and approached the bench. The visitor was Fiorello LaGuardia, flamboyant Mayor of New York City, who was known to ride on fire engines, read comics over the radio to the city’s children, and drop in unexpectedly on sites of municipal services. LaGuardia informed the judge that he would be taking over the bench for the evening, and the judge went home.
The first case of the evening was that of an elderly woman accused of stealing a loaf of bread from a bakery. In her defense, the woman explained that she needed to feed her hungry grandchildren. The baker, outraged at the theft, demanded justice.
LaGuardia pounded his gavel and proclaimed, “I have no choice but to punish you. Ten dollars or ten days in jail.” With that, the mayor threw ten dollars into his hat and passed the hat around the courtroom. “I hereby fine everyone present 50 cents each for living in a city where a grandmother has to steal a loaf of bread to feed her grandchildren.”  When the hat was returned, the woman paid her fine and took home an additional $47.50.

Old systems and paradigms have to break down before they can be replaced. Breakdown is the precursor of breakthrough. The darkest time is just before the dawn. We can each contribute to accelerating this transfromation by choosing grace over karma; to give mercy and to receive it. Letting yourself be loveable and loved is as important as giving love to others. Every day we have many opportunities to recognize and deliver grace. As we do, we fulfill our purpose and destiny as the offspring of God.

STOP PROCRASTINATING 2-21-18

We all procrastinate some times. Often it is a matter of trying to put too many things to do on our list for one day. And we choose those that we can quickly check off the list first – for me this is the ‘atta-girl, look at all you got done today.’

Of course, the hard things are often the easiest things to avoid.  To procrastinate.  To make excuses.  To pretend like they somehow don’t apply to you and your life situation.

But reality always rears its head in the end.  And the truth about how ordinary people achieve immense happiness and incredible feats of success is that they step out of their comfort zones and do the hard things that their more educated, affluent and qualified counterparts don’t have the courage, drive or determination to do.

So for your own sake, start taking action on the hard things TODAY.  I guarantee, you will be blown away at just how remarkable you really are and just how amazing life can be.  Here are three key ideas to get you started:

1.  You need to take small chances every day. – It’s the best way to face any problem, crush every fear and overcome life’s greatest challenges.  And you get just about as many chances in life as you’re willing to take.  So never let your fear decide your future.  Take small chances every day, one step at a time.  Some will work out and some won’t.  But good choices or bad, if you never take these chances, someone else will build your life for you.  And you don’t want that.

2.  You need to walk the talk. – Do not ask others or the universe to guide your footsteps if you’re not willing to move your feet.  If you really want it, prove it!  Happiness will come to you when it comes from you.  Success will be yours when you take responsibility for making your goals a top priority.  NO shortcuts.  NO quick fixes.  NO blaming others.  NO “I’ll do it tomorrows.”  NO MORE EXCUSES!  Just get started.  Quit talking and begin doing!  Laziness may appear attractive, but work leads to happiness.

3.  You need to refrain from feeling sorry for yourself. – If you’re hurting, I understand how rough things are right now.  I just want to let you know that things will get better, I promise.  Keep pushing forward.  I know you feel like nobody really cares, but you’re wrong.  People care.  I care, otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this.  This is a group effort.  We may be miles apart, but we’re all going through similar challenges.  Realize that self-pity is not helpful.  Life is not about feeling sorry for yourself.  It’s about forgiveness, acceptance and looking forward to what makes you stronger and better off in the long run.

And of course, if you’re struggling with any of this, remind yourself that you are not alone.  Many of us are right there with you, working hard to feel better, think more clearly, and get our lives back on track. Take charge. Take a deep breath. Smile. And, Think Better!

Uncomplicate Your Life 2-21-18

This is your year to take action towards living a life uncluttered by most of the needless things people fill their lives with, leaving you with space for what truly matters. A life that isn’t constant busyness, rushing, and stress, but instead contemplation, creation, and connection with people and projects you love.

But I know what you’re thinking: “HOW? I’m not so sure it’s possible right now…”

Your days fill up fast, and they are rushed and packed with things to do and people to see – sometimes they literally seem to be bursting at the seams. Right?

Yes, I know exactly how you feel. That used to be my life too.

Before I started simplifying my life, I was being pulled in dozens of different directions every day and never had enough time to get everything done. Naturally, I wanted to do a great job with each obligation I had, and somehow I had convinced myself that I could do it all. But the reality was I was stretched way too thin, and thus I was doing a lousy job at everything and completely stressing myself out in the process.

This feeling of being mind-numbingly busy and overbooked is a huge source of stress for most people, and stress is perhaps the single most important determining factor of whether we’re healthy and happy, or sick and tired, in the long run.

Unless you want your health to decline and your stress to continue to skyrocket, you must start simplifying.

So how can you simplify your life this year? It’s not as hard as you might imagine…

1. Focus on being productive (not being busy or perfect).

Don’t just get things done; get the right things done. Results are always more important than the time it takes to achieve them. Stop and ask yourself if what you’re working on is worth the effort. Is it bringing you in the same direction as your goals? Don’t get caught up in odd jobs, even those that seem urgent, unless they are also important.

And don’t get caught up in the idea of perfection either. Smile every chance you get; not because life has been easy, perfect, or exactly as you had hoped, but because you choose to be grateful for all the good things you do have, and all the problems you know you don’t have. You must accept the fact that life is not perfect, that people are not perfect, and that you are not perfect. And that’s okay, because the real world doesn’t reward perfection. It rewards people who get GOOD things done. And the only way to get GOOD things done is to be imperfect 99% of the time.

2. Leave space between everything that’s important to you.

It’s tempting to fill in every waking minute of the day with tasks. Don’t do this to yourself. Leave space.

The space between the things we do is just as important as the things we do. So leave healthy gaps between your tasks. Take a break to stretch, take a short walk outside, drink a glass of water, perhaps do some simple deep breathing exercises. Enjoy the space, and breathe.

Again, your overarching goal is living a life uncluttered by most of the things people fill their lives with, leaving you with more space… for sanity… and for your priorities. Let go of all the purposeless drama, aimless time-wasters, and clutter that keeps getting in your way. It’s time to focus on what truly matters.

3. Exercise your appreciation for what is.

A simpler, more positive mindset can be created anytime and anyplace with a change in thinking. That’s right, frustration and stress come from the way you react, not the way things are. Adjust your attitude, and the frustration and stress evaporates. The simplest secret to doing this is letting every circumstance be what it is in the moment, instead of what you think it should be, and then making the best of it.

It’s about being grateful for what is, and then working WITH it, not against it.

This kind of humble gratitude always makes life easier to deal with. Because happiness comes easier when you stop complaining about your problems and you start being grateful for all the problems you don’t have.

Is this email your wake up call to a simpler life?

How many times have you thought “this isn’t working” or “something is not right” or “things have to change”? – those thoughts and words are from your inner voice. It’s your wake-up call calling.

You don’t need a major life crisis to wake you up. And no one needs to tell you because you already know. Your inner voice has been trying to tell you, but in case it’s been a challenge to find time and space to listen through the chaos, maybe you’ll resonate with one of these situations.

If your life is on auto-pilot, this is your wake-up call.
If you never put yourself first, this is your wake-up call.
If you’ve become someone you don’t recognize to please other people or to chase some version of success that doesn’t resonate with you, this is your wake-up call.
If you are constantly numbing out with food, shopping, booze, TV, or other distractions, this is your wake-up call.
If you are worn down, beat up, stressed out, and completely depleted, this is your wake-up call.
Getting your wake-up call is not the hard part, answering the call is. Choosing to answer the call instead of ignoring it is hard. Right now, it may feel easier to keep going, and going, and going. But you know if you don’t find a way out of the endless cycle you’re in, it’s going to get worse.

If you are having trouble with any of this, remember, you are not alone. We all struggle with one thing or another, each seeking in their own way to live a fulfilling life. Take time for yourself. Think Better – about everything in your life. Take a breath. Smile.