You Always Were and Always Will Be Whole and Complete

“Always engage in the quest for life’s meaning, which is inner peace.” ~Longchenpa

When is a person complete? When have they finally “made it”?

Is it when they find love? Success? When they prove themselves?

I must have asked myself these questions a thousand times growing up. As soon as I recognized that you could be deemed successful or not, accepted or not, loved or not, I wondered where I fit in.

I questioned whether I was on the right path and when I would finally arrive. I wanted to be a total package. You know, the real deal. A real catch. In a word, complete.

Of course, at the beginning, I didn’t have much to go on. Just the minor dramas and bothers of middle-class suburbia, but I put those pieces together as best I could and set off to become complete.

During adolescence, being complete meant getting the good grades, wearing the right sized jeans, and being “nice” or “sweet” or “cute.”

Later it was awards, relationships, and status.

Then came the Ivies, the ring, the house, the kids.

I wanted to be successful, so I did what I was supposed to. I followed rules, checked boxes, and really applied myself.

I wanted to be happy, so I planned out everything with precision as if my lasting happiness lay in getting the details just right.

I wanted connection, so I tried to please everyone. I figured it was easier that way and a small price to pay for being universally loved.

When all was said and done, I was good, but I could have been kinder.

I did everything I said I would, but I could have done more.

I was a real powerhouse, but I didn’t feel confident.

And I still wondered when I would feel complete.

At least half of me felt unsuitable to be seen by the rest of the world.

I was painfully shy. I gave myself a pep talk every day just to make it out of my room. I cried without warning. I worked out too much and didn’t eat enough. I wore too much makeup.

By adulthood, I’d become hurried and hardened.

I denied myself the simple pleasures, and I didn’t even remember what listening to myself felt like. And as much as I longed to be known, I avoided being seen.

There was no room in my life for sweet contentment or stillness. Living was about getting to tomorrow, not being right where I was.

Somehow, I must have confused complete with perfect.

Complete meant existing within a narrow scope of our human experience. It meant having all of the light and none of the dark. Having flaws or struggles made me less than. (I held my attachment to my ego against myself, too.)

So, round and round I’d go.

The more I held on to these beliefs, the more they let me down. I didn’t feel successful, happy, or connected, and I sure wasn’t confident. None of my planning and plotting stopped me from being hurt or rejected. None of the hardness made me stronger.

How can anyone feel complete when they only ever accept a fraction of themselves?

There were plenty of times I considered letting it all go and making a big change, but I feared that my empty hands wouldn’t find something else to hold on to. We need a way to understand how the world works and where we fit into it. Once we’ve got it, we’ll hold on—even if it hurts.

All I ever wanted was to feel secure, connected, and fulfilled, and you don’t just let go of that. But, I also felt misled, and I was ready to uncover the truth.

I started by asking different questions, like what gives a person meaning, how do you define success, and what makes a person whole?

Whole. It was an interesting thought. Whereas complete felt like finding the missing pieces and becoming something, wholeness felt like being what you already are.

Slowly, softly, things shifted.

I started looking at the whole of me, not just the shiniest parts. This wasn’t easy. We all have that side of us we’d rather not see, and I’d pushed mine far, far away.

Even with this desire for something deeper and more authentic, I worried that maybe I’d missed my chance. Maybe I really was incomplete.

Oddly, that’s when it clicked.

Those parts of me, even the one struggling with this whole being whole thing, are all part of my wholeness. Being whole means seeing perfection and imperfection, hurting and healing, fear and courage as one in the same. It’s the shadows that give the light away.

Okay, I thought. What if wholeness included all of me?

Like being a painfully shy child?

Or the years of abusing my body?

Or crying in the car outside work?

What if it included the dysfunctional relationships I stayed in too long and the healthy ones I ran away from?

Or the ways I allowed myself to be changed and the times I resisted authentic expansion?

This shift has been richer than being kinder to myself, though I have learned to be my own best friend. And it’s deeper than having confidence, though I feel bigger and stronger than ever before.

This shift toward wholeness is about loving the whole of me fully and openly. Not in spite of the flaws but including the flaws. It’s those parts of you that you probably don’t want to see, the ones that are struggling to keep up, that need your love the most.

I’m not perfect about this by any means. Sometimes I forget and slip into old patterns, sometimes on autopilot, and sometimes with full awareness of what I’m doing. But perfect has nothing to do with it anymore.

There’s nothing to hide or change when you’re focused on wholeness. Being whole is simply a matter of being.

Whole is complete in itself, and it’s always enough.

Right now, whether you’re standing in the shadows or basking in the light, you are whole.

You’ve hoped and dreamed, doubted and feared.

You’ve surprised yourself (for better and for worse).

You’ve done exactly what you set out to do.

You’ve fallen flat.

You’ve succeeded and failed, fallen and risen, hurt and healed.

You’ve loved, lost, and lived to love again.

You’ve stood in the shadows and danced in the light.

You’ve sung and cried, whispered and yelled.

You’ve been winter, and you’ve been spring.

In your lifetime, you’ve learned to crawl, to walk, to run, to soar.

You’ve said just the right thing at the right time and the things you didn’t mean.

You’ve been right and wrong, hard and soft, fearless and afraid.

You’ve felt pride, shame, joy, sorrow, serenity, distress.

And you will again.

All the things you’ve done and the things you’ve seen, the people you’ve known, the heartbreaks you’ve stitched back together, the plans you’ve made, and the plans you’ve had to let go, the celebrations and growing pains are part of your wholeness.

Maybe you’re feeling like you’re really not okay. You’re still whole.

The key to making this shift is trusting in the process of working it out as you go and picking up the little gems along the way. No part of this needs to be perfect.

So, take a step, any step in the direction that feels closer to whole.

If you can, give thanks to the shadows as much as you would to the sunlight.

Thank you falling for teaching me I won’t break.

Thank you sorrow for reminding me to care for my heart.

And learn to look at all of yourself from the most loving perspective. You are the exact right combination of experiences, insights, strengths, and imperfections that make a person whole.

You always were and always will be wholly beyond compare.

About Leslie Ralph

Leslie is writer and artist who hopes to leave the world a little brighter than she found it. Her people are soul-searchers, deep feelers, and big-hearted dreamers that crave inner peace and inner truth. Download her free ritual for receiving to bring true healing, inner peace, and lasting joy into your life.

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Why You Can End the Search for Your Purpose Now

“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” ~Eleanor Roosevelt

For some of us, like me, the question, “What is my purpose?” creates a ton of anxiety and a feeling that our self-worth is being undermined.

It’s hard to escape this question because everywhere we turn, finding our purpose and living on a large scale seem to be the main themes of the day. The mounting pressure created by social media and the need to have it all figured out by a certain date exacerbate this search.

I used to succumb to that pressure, until I said enough and changed my entire outlook on life.

During my moments of deep reflection, I have found that the answer to this question is as fluid and as complex as life itself.

Our purpose isn’t really one thing. I think our purpose is multi layered, rich and yet simple, and it should not be pigeonholed into one career or grand master plan, though some of us commit ourselves to one purposeful path. I also believe that our purpose can change throughout our lives.

I believe that our deepest purpose is to discover our true nature, to cherish our true selves, to listen to the call of our soul, to heal the wounds that keep us in the shadow, to become more compassionate, to love the ordinary as well as the extraordinary, to serve, and to enjoy doing nothing from time to time.

When we discover ourselves, our purpose reveals itself naturally.

How do we discover ourselves? We experiment every single day. We become our own scientists. We start to pay attention to what brings us nourishment and joy. We pay attention to what feels natural. Purpose is not one thing; it’s everything.

I like to call myself a lawyer by day and spiritual warrior by night, but the truth is that I am a light warrior all day.

Despite the fact that my current career may not be the highest expression of my true calling, which is to teach, my current career has undoubtedly taught me many lessons about helping people, having integrity (go ahead with the lawyer jokes, I will laugh along with you!), becoming a great listener, and also counseling others.

These are all virtues of a teacher, so even though I am not a full-time spiritual teacher yet, I still get to bring the energy of a teacher to my everyday life—not only in my job, but also in my home and family life.

I am an aunt, niece, spiritual seeker, friend, sister, daughter, partner, and so much more. I am not just a lawyer. And I am living my purpose every day by bringing the qualities of a spiritual teacher to everything that I do and everything that I am.

Our default thinking leads us to believe that having a purpose involves something on a grand stage or having a large audience with whom to share ideas, but that may not be your calling or your day-to-day purpose. Your purpose can be manifested in so many different ways.

Take being a parent, for example. It’s the greatest job and blessing in the world. I am not a parent, but I have happily been involved in my nephew’s and niece’s life since the day they were born. I can appreciate the enormous responsibility one undertakes when they say yes to becoming a parent.

Recently, I had this very conversation with my sister-in-law. She has a yearning desire to share a great message with the world and help others heal, but at the moment her hands are full because she is a super full-time mom. We came to the conclusion that her purpose right now, meaning today, is to raise four beautiful angels, which she is doing so beautifully.

I told her I could not think of a greater purpose. Giving endlessly, serving, giving your heart, time, and energy to the well-being of precious souls. Perhaps a few years down the road that will change when she has more time on her hands. In the meantime, motherhood is teaching her many things that one day she may use to help spread her message.

So even if you’re doing something you don’t want to be doing and you’re in the middle of transitioning to something else like me, your purpose is to be present to whatever is happening in your life right now.  

Being present helps us learn about ourselves, because the truth is that we are always preparing for the next step, which is sometimes a mystery. So don’t take one second for granted. Every minute of your life means something.

Another great piece to add to this discussion about purpose is patience. I never really understood divine timing until this year. I believe life unfolds perfectly for each of us. If we can stay present, our purpose will never evade us.

I also believe that we do not arrive at one single destination. So, today, and only today, your purpose is to find as much joy and magic in the little moments as possible, even if you are having a tough day. This day is here to teach you something too. Your purpose is to find and honor the lesson. Your purpose is to allow your life’s plan to unfold perfectly for you.

There’s no need to put more pressure on ourselves to think about our purpose because we can’t get there by obsessing about it anyway.

Life is multi-faceted. You are a rich, dynamic, beautiful spark of life. You are not just one thing, and your life is not just about one thing or one career. You are so much more than that.

So find your purpose in being a friend, daughter, son, partner, activist, or in being your own best friend. Find your purpose in loving who you are. You are an original creation and, I believe, here for a reason. You are here to do all the beautiful things that I just described, and to do them with intention and consciousness.

The world needs you just because you’re here. Do not worry about the limitations in your head about time or age. You are here to contribute. You have your own unique expression, your own way of thinking, your own preferences, and your own feelings. Honor all of who you are. Walk down the street and smile. That may be your purpose for today. I assure you there are people that need you, and you them.

Enjoy the mundane—the drive to work, the meal preparation, the chores. Connect with yourself daily, honor your feelings, and follow your inner guidance, your nudges. Life is always sending us messages.

We do not need to look anymore or find anything. We came here to experience the gift of being alive and that is truly our purpose.

About Christine Rodriguez

Christine Rodriguez is a spiritual life coach dedicated to helping others transform beliefs, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that no longer serve them so they can create a life that’s aligned with their true desires and capabilities. To work with her, please visit miraculousshifts.com. You can find her on Instagram @Miraculousshifts.

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Creativity Coloring Page for Tiny Buddha’s Worry Journal

Hi friends! Since Tiny Buddha’s Worry Journal launches in three weeks, I’ve recently been sharing some of the coloring pages, which all depict things we can do to minimize anxiety in our daily lives.

So far I’ve shared:

Today’s tip: Create something with your hands.

If you’ve ever immersed yourself in any type of creative activity, you know how meditative and calming it can be.

When we’re focused on the next brush stroke, bead, or stitch, we’re deeply immersed in the present moment—not caught up in our thoughts, fears, and worries.

This is why I decided to include doodling and coloring pages in this journal. Research has shown that coloring calms down our amygdala—the fear center of the brain—and it also activates the parts of the brain that are responsible for focus and concentration.

Beyond that, coloring and other creative activities bring us back to the ease of a simpler time—before we had to worry about bills, bosses, and other stresses of adulthood.

When we were kids, we didn’t need to make time for creativity; it was as natural as breathing and saying no to things we didn’t like. Whether we were pretending to be pirates, fairies, or superheroes, we were always eager to pick up some cardboard and markers to make our own accessories and props.

And for that brief flicker of time, all we saw was the fantasy in our head, projected onto our bedroom or yard.

For many of us, childhood wasn’t all rainbows and butterflies, but the time we spent creating was.

When I look back on my life up until now, I see that all the happiest and most defining moments involved some form of creativity.

Like the decade I spent working at an afterschool program for kids, where I directed them in plays, made some of their costumes, and often designed arts and crafts projects for us to try.

And the years I spent sketching in my book of shadows (during my teenage wiccan years), trying to create a guidebook for magic and light in the dark ages of my adolescence.

And the time I spent crocheting afghans for everyone I love—first during the three months I spent at a residential treatment center for eating disorders, and later while traveling across the US with assorted mobile marketing tours.

These days, I don’t create with my hands often enough. I’m more likely to create something digitally (like the many coloring posters in the fun & inspiring section). But whenever I disconnect from technology and focus on making something from nothing, it’s like the whole world stops—along with my thinking mind. And for a brief flicker in time there’s only heart. Just love, joy, and pure presence.

I know there are a lot of you out there who also enjoy creating, and I would love to connect with you. So please, take a minute or two and say hello. Introduce yourself if we’re not acquainted, and tell me about something you’ve recently created, or you’d like to create. You can even share a picture if you’d like. Whatever it is, it’s a piece of your heart, and I would love to see it.

From now until June 26th, you’ll get three bonus gifts, including a guided meditation series on letting go, when you pre-order Tiny Buddha’s Worry Journal. All you need to do is order a copy here and forward your purchase confirmation email to worryjournal@tinybuddha.com

About Lori Deschene

Lori Deschene is the founder of Tiny Buddha and Recreate Your Life Story, an online course that helps you let go of the past and live a life you love. Her latest book, Tiny Buddha’s Worry Journal, which includes 15 coloring pages, is now available for pre-order. For daily wisdom, follow Tiny Buddha on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram.

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How to Get Past Blame and Shame and Strengthen Your Relationship

I used to think that if I told my wife exactly what’s wrong with her, her response would be, “Yes, I see it now! Thank you for showing me the errors of my ways.”

To my surprise, that never happened. Finally, I saw that I was going about things the wrong way. Complaining, blaming, and shaming were simply not an effective strategy for creating more love and harmony with my wife. Duh! Once I realized this, I went in search of what really did create more love and harmony. Fortunately, several great strategies—backed by actual research—helped show me what could work.

So why do so many couples continue to use the “blame and shame game” to try to get their mate to change? Because they don’t know of another alternative. In this culture, that’s what we’ve learned. Fortunately, there are three simple methods that can help you overcome blame and shame and get back to the love and connection you really desire.

Positive Intention

One way I learned to let go of blame and shame was to tune into my wife’s “positive intention.”

A positive intention is the ultimate positive reason your partner is pursuing a certain behavior.

For example, if your partner complains a lot, you probably don’t like that behavior. However, you can tune into the positive intention motivating it. The positive reason someone complains may be a desire for more comfort or pleasure, or to feel better. Those are all fine things to want. The problem is that your partner’s strategy for obtaining them may be counterproductive in the long term.

Trying to figure out what your partner ultimately wants from his or her “irritating” actions can be a major step in establishing empathy. As I started to understand my wife’s positive intention for behavior that irritated me, I was better able to respond with love and kindness.

Try it for yourself right now. Think of a behavior your partner does that you don’t like. Stop reading for a moment and really do this. Now ask yourself: “What could the positive intention be behind that behavior?”

If you can imagine your partner’s positive intention, it will help you let go of judgment and allow you to be more accepting. Such acceptance is often the first step in helping your partner find a more effective method for achieving what he or she really wants.

Knowing What You Really Want

Knowing your partner’s positive intention is a great way to let go of blame and shame, but so is knowing your own positive intention. What are you really after by trying to blame, shame, or change your partner? In other words, if your partner changed in all the ways you wanted them to, what would you have that you don’t have now?

Usually, we are ultimately trying to experience a different feeling with our lover, such as more love, safety, trust, intimacy, or belonging. Unfortunately, blaming and shaming one’s partner never leads to the feelings we really want. Therefore, it’s a good idea to come up with a new strategy for getting what you really want.

Ask yourself, “What is a new way I can interact with my partner that is likely to lead to the feelings I truly desire?” Try to answer this question as specifically as you can.

When I asked myself this question, the answers were painfully obvious. The simple act of refraining from blaming and shaming my wife was an obvious good start. Then as I thought about it more, I realized that if I wanted safety, love, and acceptance, that’s what I had to give to my wife.

Initially, as I tried to do this, I saw how often I failed at it. Yet, seeing my failures were part of the process of getting it right. Over a few short months, I was amazed at how much it seemed that my wife had changed—she seemed much more loving. When I mentioned this to her, she responded, “I thought it was you that had changed. I’m just reacting to how you’re different.” What goes around comes around…

Asking yourself, “How can I interact with my partner in a way that will lead to the feelings I desire?” is a good start. Of course, there is no single right answer to that question, yet if you ponder it for a bit, some answers will likely emerge.

For example, you might realize that if you do small acts of kindness for your partner, or frequently say what you appreciate about him or her, it could lead to more intimacy, safety, or trust.

Just the simple act of no longer blaming and shaming your partner is likely to lead to a positive change in the relationship. Yet, there are many other ways to create the connection you desire—as long as you focus on what you ultimately want and are willing to let go of old, unproductive habits.

Just Like Me

A final approach to overcoming the blame and shame game is to be able to quickly let go of the judgments we have about our partner.

When we judge our partners, we express a belief that they shouldn’t be the way they are. I confess that sometimes I get judgmental about my wife’s behavior. Occasionally, I see that her strategy for satisfying her desires is ineffective, or even opposed to her ultimate goal. Then, I fall into a feeling of self-righteousness and superiority.

At such times, I say three magical words to put a quick halt to my judgements. Those three magical words are: “Just like me.”

The words “just like me” are a very effective antidote to the blame and shame game. After all, I often behave in ways that don’t lead to the intimacy I desire, so when I see this behavior in others, it invokes a feeling of compassion.

We’re all human, and we all let our past conditioning influence our actions in detrimental ways from time to time. When you see something you don’t like in your mate and you want to let go of your judgments quickly, try thinking the words “just like me,” and notice how it makes you feel. For me, it often brings up a feeling of compassion—or, at the very least, it helps me to let go of my judgments quickly.

Blaming and shaming are like a cancer in a relationship. If they are allowed to live and spread, the entire relationship can slowly wither away and die. By focusing on the three ideas presented here, a whole new way of dealing with the inevitable frustrations in a partnership can be born.

Yet, it takes practice. Due to no fault of our own, we’ve been taught to blame and shame each other despite the fact that such behaviors don’t get us what we want. In this culture, that’s what we’ve learned. Fortunately, there are three simple methods that can help couples overcome blame and shame and get back to the love and connection they really desire.

Once you learn the key ways to get past blame and shame, your partner will likely reward you with a lot more love and a lot less conflict.

**Adapted excerpt from More Love, Less Conflict, reprinted with permission from Conari Press, Copyright © 2018 by Jonathan Robinson

About Jonathan Robinson

Jonathan Robinson is a psychotherapist, the author of More Love, Less Conflict, and has been a frequent guest on Oprah. You can download free methods and info at MoreLoveLessConflict.com.

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Understanding the Cycle of Pain: How to Transmute Anger into Empathy

“When we get angry, we suffer. If you really understand that, you also will be able to understand that when the other person is angry, it means that she is suffering. When someone insults you or behaves violently towards you, you have to be intelligent enough to see that the person suffers from his own violence and anger. But we tend to forget … When we see that our suffering and anger are no different from their suffering and anger, we will behave more compassionately.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh

There is so much to be angry about every day because life is unfair.

My own situation right now is infuriating. I left my job and my home country in large part to return back to the US and help my mom care for my father. During that time, my mother’s frustration with her role as caregiver, along with the emotional stresses and practical limitations it placed on her, often boiled over into rage directed at me. This situation persisted for ten months.

Immediately after that, she herself became terminally ill, and now my role is caregiver. My whole life plan has had to change as a result, so my hopes of going back to my old life now need to take a backseat to my mother’s illness, which was brought about by her own behavior (smoking). For so many years I had asked her to quit, to which she reacted—you guessed it—angrily.

When it was clear she wasn’t doing well, I encouraged her to see a doctor. She got angry with me.

While in the hospital, she was frustrated at being confined to a bed. She took her anger and frustration out on me for that too.

Now, faced with difficult treatments and limitations on her lifestyle, she lashes out at me every day or two. Me—the only one at home with her, and the only one of her four children who has the will and/or ability to care for her in this way.

I’m not going to lie—it’s difficult to refrain from reacting in kind, and sometimes I do just that.

In my cancer caregiver support group, I found this is a common thread—people are angry, and they have difficulty directing and dealing with that anger.

One woman has a husband whose blasé attitude toward his cancer puts him in a lot of dangerous situations. This completely stresses her out because she is in a constant state of worry about his health and safety. But, rather than expressing these sentiments, she has internalized them, allowing anger to slowly fester.

It was a significant and therapeutic step for her to actually admit that she was angry. Her way of coping thereafter was to withdraw from her husband in order to preserve her own emotional well-being.

Another woman was angry because her husband, sick on-and-off with cancer for nearly twenty years, was also depressed through his illness, leaving her as the sole caregiver and breadwinner. Needless to say, her marriage was far from the storybook version she’d originally had in mind. Her way of dealing with her anger was to be productive—to be the best mother and caretaker she could be—and occasionally vent or break down to some trusted friends or our group.

There is nothing wrong or shameful about either of these two approaches. Both women have shown incredible fortitude in the face of difficult situations. Furthermore, their reactions were certainly much more constructive and peace-promoting than simply popping off and reacting temperamentally.

However, I have found it helps take me to an even more peaceful state to remind myself of the cycle of pain.

In this cycle, as succinctly described by Thich Nhat Hanh above, people act out in negative ways (e.g. aggressive, uncaring, etc.) as a result of inner pain. Even if that pain is difficult for us as outsiders to understand, it is there as a matter of fact.

Though it may help to intellectually understand the specific causes and dynamics of the individual’s pain, in most cases that isn’t possible because you cannot get inside someone else’s head. But we can still accept that the other person is in pain. Once we accept this, we can relate it to our own and therefore feel empathy.

This is very difficult to do in the moment. What helps me when I feel the flush of temper is to take a deep breath and close my eyes. When I take in that breath, I imagine myself “breathing in” the other person’s pain, which appears to me internally as smoke or pollution.

I then imagine in my head what they are going through. That is why it helps to understand what the pain is. In my mother’s case, it’s the fear of her disease as well as the discomfort with suddenly having to deal with the restrictions it places on her time and activities.

I imagine them dealing with that pain, and as the breath comes in I feel a sensation permeate my body. I then let out the breath, which I imagine to be a vapor of peace. I feel lighter and calmer.

I call this alchemy for the soul—transmuting anger into empathy.

When I expressed this in the group, I was met with crickets, except for the woman who was angry about her husband’s careless attitude about his condition. She had two comebacks.

First, she said although that was a “nice” sentiment, she needed to take care of herself at this point and not worry about her husband’s emotions. After all, as the cancer sufferer, he was receiving all kinds of sympathy from every corner. Fair enough.

Secondly, she said that it takes a lot of energy and effort to “suppress” your feelings when you’re already feeling exhausted from being the caregiver. I understand that too.

At that point, I dropped the matter, firstly, because I sensed her slight agitation and secondly, because I thought it might strain the dynamics of our safe place if I came across as a preachy teacher in a group of equals.

What I wanted to say was that this is not about her husband’s feelings. In fact, quite the opposite—doing this would be all about her emotions.

To hold onto anger and need to direct it somewhere, to me, is draining. I need to carry it around and find where to put it. I need to put effort into not blowing up at someone. To me, this exercise of alchemy for the soul feels like the opposite of “suppression,” whose Latin origin literally means to “press down.”

When I perform my little alchemy ritual, the feeling is much more of a lightening up or dissolving kind of sensation. Rather than doing someone else a favor, I feel like I am treating myself well, which allows me to treat others well too (and not begrudge them for it!).

Even when someone else is clearly the “cause” of your anger, it helps to remember that it isn’t really him or her—it’s his or her suffering that is at the root of the hurtful actions. Yes, they are responsible for what they do, but it helps to remember that it’s human to sometimes act out when you’re hurting.

If you feel that this thinking lets the person off the hook too easily, remember that however hurtful someone’s actions are, no one can “make” you feel a certain way. Ultimately, how you react internally to someone’s actions, what you choose to focus on and how you think about it, is your own responsibility. To blame another person for how you feel is to give him or her power over you.

To be clear, I’m not making excuses for bad behavior. If someone does something cruel or thoughtless or aggressive to you, it is his or her failing for doing so. But however hurt you may feel in the moment, that person does not have the power to make you carry that hurt with you in the form of anger.

Once again, this has nothing to do with you being a saint and deigning to give that person compassion or forgiveness; it’s about you taking care of yourself by stopping the angry chain reaction that can lead to all kinds of hurt and unfortunate behaviors.

Why not just allow yourself to just be angry and make up a sad story about what was done to you in which you are cast as the victim? In a sense, you’re totally justified in doing so, but where does that lead? How does that help you? The truth is, you very well might have been a victim of someone’s aggression in that moment, but only you can make yourself remain a victim by carrying around the negativity.

When you help yourself by letting go of your anger, you help everyone else around you too.

This is a practice that has very much helped me, but it’s not the only way to deal with anger. I’m always in search of new strategies myself, so please feel free to tell me what’s helped you cope.

About Joshua Kauffman

Joshua Kauffman is a recovering over-achiever and workaholic. Leaving behind a high-powered life in business, he has become a world traveler, aspiring coach, and entrepreneur of pretty things. Amateur author of a recent memoir Footprints Through The Desert, he is trying to find ways to share his awakening experience, particularly to those lost in the rat race like he was.

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Hugging Coloring Page from Tiny Buddha’s Worry Journal

“Sometimes in life all you need is a hug. No words, no advice, just a hug to make you feel better.” ~Unknown

Hi friends! Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been sharing coloring pages from the soon-to-be-launched Tiny Buddha’s Worry Journal, which also includes doodle prompts, writing prompts, and questions to help you minimize anxiety in your daily life.

So far I’ve shared the music coloring page and the meditation coloring page.

Today’s page is one of my favorites. The tip: Hug someone to release the feel-good chemical oxytocin (a hormone that some have called an “antidote to depressive feelings”).

“Hugging is good medicine. It transfers energy and gives the person hugged an emotional lift. You need four hugs a day for survival, eight for maintenance, and twelve for growth.” ~Unknown

As someone who works alone, I can sometimes feel a little starved for connection during my day—which is ironic, since I connect with so many people online. But you can’t look into someone’s eyes in a comment. You can’t hear their heartbeat in an email. And you can’t touch their hand in a Facebook exchange.

Whenever I’ve had a tough day, it’s tempting to want to talk it all out—more thoughts, more words, more analysis. And sometimes, this helps. But more often than not, I just need a hug.

I just need to feel close to someone I love and to melt into their arms.

Sure, it feels great to be heard. But sometimes I just need to be held so I can remind myself what it feels like to let go.

We all need this sometimes. We all need this connection, this comfort, this release.

Everything seems easier when we feel supported, and everything feels more manageable when we remember we’re not alone.

“Hugs are so underrated, especially those hugs that are so tight you can literally feel the other person’s heartbeat and for a moment everything feels so calm and safe and like nothing can hurt you.” ~Unknown

Hug someone today. Put down your phone, reach out your arms, and feel their heartbeat. It could help you more than you think, and the person you give it to could need it more than you know.

From now until June 26th, you’ll get three bonus gifts, including a guided meditation series on letting go, when you pre-order Tiny Buddha’s Worry Journal. All you need to do is order a copy here and forward your purchase confirmation email to worryjournal@tinybuddha.com

About Lori Deschene

Lori Deschene is the founder of Tiny Buddha and Recreate Your Life Story, an online course that helps you let go of the past and live a life you love. Her latest book, Tiny Buddha’s Worry Journal, which includes 15 coloring pages, is now available for pre-order. For daily wisdom, follow Tiny Buddha on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram.

Get in the conversation! Click here to leave a comment on the site.

The post Hugging Coloring Page from Tiny Buddha’s Worry Journal appeared first on Tiny Buddha.

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The Past May Have Shaped Us, But We Have the Power to Change

“If you want to fly, you have to give up the things that weigh you down.” ~Toni Morrison

Our very first relationship is the one we develop with ourselves. However, even that one is shaped by outside forces.

You may or may not believe that we choose our family. Regardless of your position regarding how your soul made it to your parents’ household, the truth is that the environment we are born into determines a great deal of the rest of our lives. This is especially true about the way we relate with ourselves and others.

We learn by observing and experiencing the dynamics in our home. Our brains absorb the discourses. The judgments passed over us and the stories told about us become a part of our personality. The words we hear from the voices around us become embedded into our inner voice.

We end up with a creation from the hands of Dr. Frankenstein: a patched up combination of voices that we later adopt as our own. That voice plays a huge role in how we develop a relationship with ourselves and, therefore, with those around us.

The outside world shaped the inner reality that, in turn, will facilitate how we relate to that outer world.

We learn from the way that our caregivers react to stress, from how they manage their anger, and how they engage in arguments.

We learn from how they treat themselves, us, and the rest of the world.

We learn about limitations and about fear.

We learn to worry and to lie.

We learn to yell out and to bottle it all in.

We learn to over-react and to act like leaves at the mercy of the wind.

We learn to micromanage and to be oblivious to life.

We can learn the extremes. However, we can also learn balance.

What is your vision for yourself? I’m talking about a real life vision, not about your annual income goal, or your income-to-debt ratio, or that degree you’ve been meaning to get. I’m not talking about the car you want or the trip you’ve dreamed of. Not that those things are bad or meaningless; they’re simply not a vision, they’re goals.

What I am asking is: What is your vision? What state of being do you wish to create for yourself? What kind of relationships to you want to nurture? How do you want to feel? 

My parents did their best to give me the best they had to give. I learned about hard work, being of service in the community, and believing in the divine. However, I did not develop anger management and conflict resolution skills, calming strategies, a healthy self-concept, or effective communication and decision-making skills.

In other words, I was a typical clueless adult who was able to make money and run the rat race functionally. But I knew very little of myself, or how to develop healthy relationships with myself and others.

As a matter of fact, I had no idea what healthy relationships looked and felt like. This led to a bumpy road that involved quite a few panic attacks, aggression, toxic relationships, isolation, and a social media and sugar addiction. The details of my journey are truly irrelevant. However, the lessons gained do have value.

It started with answering questions I had never asked myself. Also, tools such as meditation, counseling, spiritual work, a lot of reading, journaling, praying, and developing a support village assisted me in the journey.

Being open to the process is quintessential. So, I invite you to address the following questions with an open heart and observe your thoughts about yourself and others.

Take note of the things you visualize on a daily basis. Do your visualizations match your vision? Or are they hindering it?

What does a healthy relationship with yourself feel like?

How about the conversations you have with yourself? How did that voice form?

Where do these stories about yourself come from? Are you truly that person?

How is your relationship with yourself? Are you hyper-critical? Do you “bash” on yourself? Or do you make excuses for yourself?

What type of relationships do you envision for your journey?

What type of narratives do you create in your mind with those who surround you? Do you imagine arguments? Do you mentally practice “come back phrases”? Do you spend time rehearsing irrelevant hypothetical situations? Do you declare negative labels on the rest of the world?

Your early caregivers started the work of raising you, but you are the one responsible for continuing it. We are never done growing. You are not done. The universe is not done with you. Now it’s your turn to help yourself create the reality you envision for yourself.

About Oñi Adda

Oñi Adda is a Yoruba Iyalosha. She is also a teacher of children with special needs, a mother to a wonderful four-year-old walking piece of sunshine on Earth, and a legendary bathtub singer. She believes that our journey on the material plane has one purpose: to grow. That growth leads to Light and Light leads to unity in our communities.

Get in the conversation! Click here to leave a comment on the site.

The post The Past May Have Shaped Us, But We Have the Power to Change appeared first on Tiny Buddha.

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Life Is in the Little Things: Finding the Extra in the Ordinary

“The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little extra.“ ~Jimmy Johnson

“Write about what we did today,” my daughter said. She knows I often write once she is asleep.

Dully I thought, “What we did today wasn’t that exciting.” Yet, for her, it obviously was.

She gets lost in her experiences, deeply entrenched in the realms of her imagination that continue to weave each experience she is having.

From my perspective, I took the kids and their friends to a nature reserve so they could get muddy and play. I needed them outside, away from the house where cabin fever sets in quickly and the mess builds up even more quickly along with my stress levels.

Instead, we had a nice walk, first to see a waterfall, then for them to play in a stream and slide in the mud. After that, we had a picnic and I watched them all get lost in game after game led by their imaginations.

When we got home my daughter set about making a Lego creation; there is a national competition going on and she wants to enter. She created a platform with a throne for the queen to sit upon after she climbs the magical rainbow-colored staircase. She had been reflecting upon that staircase the night before long after she should have been asleep.

To the side of the queen was her courtier, and they overlooked a courtyard where many of her subjects had gathered so they could have a conversation. The courtyard was filled with beautiful flowers and another large plant that stands in the corner.

The nuances of this creation I am sure to have missed, but I glimpsed beyond the plastic bricks that my mind wanted to adjust here and there, resisting the urge to ‘fix’ them. It was a thing of beauty.

As is her habit every day, she also drew several pictures, each with its own story, ever evolving with lots of princesses and fairies. Then there was the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory audio book that she finished listening to, and the story of the Unicorn Riders we read at bedtime, each with their own stories and life lessons to untangle and reflect on.

Not to speak, of course, of the majestic bun she has insisted upon having in her hair these holidays, with four braids that I carefully reproduce every few weeks (after a trip to Fiji last year). My hair dressing skills seem to have unwittingly evolved in all these requests.

For me, I was just getting through another day of the school holidays. For her, though, she was a princess dreamily going about her day.

After the kids were asleep, I pulled out the journal I keep to record all the things to be grateful for, or that were uplifting. Here is the sad effort I wrote:

“The sun shining through the leaves at the reserve warmed my soul.” That was it, other than noting with thanks that my partner had gone to work all day long to provide us with money.

Yet when I’ve sat down to fill my cup with a little writing, another voice speaks from within. One that sees much more in the day than I obviously had at first glance; it sees the ‘extra’ in the ordinary.

When my daughter said to me a few days ago “It seems like I’ll have more fun when I’m young than when I’m old, Mum,” I understood why she thought that, but it also made me a bit sad.

I lamely told her adults experience fun in a different way, then I realized I was just kidding myself. While that in itself is true, I knew there was no kidding the kids; they know when you are having fun or not.

It’s time for an attitude shift. Sure, when I took the kids to the pools the other day, I did it to get it over with, since they have been nagging me for months to go. It’s an indoor pool, noisy, busy, and it stinks of chlorine. When I was a kid, I would have loved it too. Even as an adult, if I had peace to swim in the large pool it could be enjoyable.

But being responsible for the lives of two little kids who are not yet able to swim properly yet go hurtling into the depths when the wave machine comes on, and in separate directions, it’s not so relaxing.

Today, however, was more relaxing. No chlorine smell, only the smell of freshly cut grass. No loud echoing background noise, just the sound of kids laughing and playing.

Come to think of it, we passed a really tall tree with fruits scattered all over the ground underneath; they looked like lemons. Except this tree was about twenty meters tall, so it was a bit of a mystery to me, and it was quite nice just to notice it and wonder what it was.

It was also quite lovely to see the various dogs going past with their owners, clearly loving being out running around just as much as the kids were.

After our picnic I even joined in the fun by doing a pretend tap dance while all the kids sat on a bench watching and giggling.

When we got back to the house, the kids had all enjoyed their time in the fresh air and sat quietly drawing while I was able to hose down the clothes caked in mud. I have to admit to some satisfaction in seeing the colors of those clothes emerge again from the mud-brown-grey they had turned.

I enjoyed listening to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as much as the kids did, and it was interesting to connect the dots on a recurring dream I used to have, any time my life got a bit out of control, about the lift that went sideward and upside down.

And when I came to read them their bedtime story, the Unicorn Riders pulled me in to their mythical world and left me on a cliffhanger as it was time to turn out the lights.

Now, here I am, sitting contentedly tapping away on the keyboard. My cat is curled up next to me purring away. I am now reflecting on what a joy it is to have these kids that I waited for so long to come.

Even though they drive me nuts at times, and life can be pretty intense, it is worth it to glimpse life through their lenses.

I’ve also just realized that my long awaited new pillow arrived today, contoured to cater for exactly the way I sleep; this is not just great news, it is sheer bliss. How could I have left this and all these other snippets out my journal?

All these years spent longing for things, recording my dreams, and yet once they are here somewhere in my psyche they turn to hum drum, stressful even. “This is what it is to be human,” I remind myself. “To always want something more.”

It’s the age-old paradox of noticing what about my experiences I would like to change, while still appreciating in the moment the things that I do have. Instead, I seem to have slunk down into just taking for granted what I am experiencing and getting frustrated that what I want isn’t here yet.

This is dumb, I know. It would be healthier to celebrate the sheer miracle that this life I am leading has been entirely of my own making. There is so much power in that. I remember a few years back, when my partner complained to his godparent about how hard it was to look after the kids, she reminded him that this was his dream.

It’s true, it was our dream to have a family, and we spent years trying to make that happen. My partner even wanted two girls; he had names for them and everything. After we realized we needed to stop trying so hard, our wish came true.

But it’s not just about kids; it’s about the place we live, the life we lead, the people around us—it’s all of our own making. And it’s actually pretty spectacular.

I’m reminded of a little exercise of Marisa Peer’s I did one day, where I had to imagine seven-year-old me turning up at the front door of our house in my mind’s eye. I had to invite young me in and show her around. It was quite an emotional exercise. Looking at my life today through young me’s lenses was pretty gratifying.

Thanks to my daughter, the dull response to her initial thought that I should write about today has turned to a sparkle. It wasn’t so unspectacular after all, I realize. In fact it was quite extraordinary and really quite fun.

So often we focus on what’s lacking, or what didn’t meet our expectations, but we’re a lot happier when we appreciate the little things and recognize the beauty in the ordinary.

About Shona Keachie

Shona teaches by the power of example how to find our inner truth among the often harried day-to-day practicalities of life. She regularly provides people from all walks of life with a fresh perspective on anything they feel stuck with and is happy for you to get in touch. To follow her blog click here.

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In Search of the Sacred: Escaping Facebook’s Sticky Web

“You leave the present moment every time you check your phone.” ~Deirdre Jayko

Facebook was driving me to distraction! One late-winter evening, I prepped for a mood-saving hike in the snow. Magic happened on the trails in the moonlight. I decided to check Facebook for a friend’s answer to a message.

Who knows what caught my attention, but I ended up skipping from post to post. Once I emerged from my Facebook haze, I realized it was too late to walk safely. What had I accomplished in place of my hike? What did I even read about?

As I put away my warm clothes and went to bed, I promised myself I was going to change my Facebook usage. It was eating away at my life. I was driving myself to distraction.

Social media usage bothers people for a variety of reasons. Drilling down on those reasons reveals a larger theme of loss of control. In spite of ourselves, we spend way too much time scrolling through mindless content. Seemingly against our best intentions (sometimes, against our will), we waste countless hours on the site.

My frustration level only escalated once I made the decision to torch my Facebook profile. Getting off the site seemed impossibly complex! What about people I only had contact with through Facebook? What about seeing photos of relatives and friends? What about the writings and photos I loved to share? Each time I planned on hitting “delete,” I would give up and decide it was too complicated.

Every morning, I would roll out of bed and check Facebook. The silly thing was: I didn’t want to check Facebook. It was a subconscious habit. I didn’t even realize I was doing it.

A red notification of some type would fuel my addictive response. Someone liked my post. Someone commented on a post. A close friend posted something new or had messaged me! That little red symbol is addicting, especially if your life is stressful. It gives your monkey mind an unsatisfying play date with the inane.

One of my passions has always been escaping to the woods for a solo hike. One cold, crisp February morning, I chucked my smart phone into the trunk and set off down the trail into the woods. I was the only human on the prowl, and it felt great.

Clambering along, I took a hard look at my Facebook addiction. I was bothered by the unhealthy anxiety reliever and the gambling-like satisfaction of the red-symbol jackpot. Yet, it seemed something deeper was bothering me about my Facebook use. I wanted to explore this feeling in more detail.

I sat watching squirrels scampering through the tree heights. I reflected on that slightly sick feeling accompanying social media usage. We become caricatures of ourselves on Facebook. The nature of the beast is such that experiences are condensed into soundbites for public broadcast—an exaggerated and polished version of a moment. My real-time sharing with family and friends was much different than this public sharing.  Online interactions lacked substance and depth. On some level, they are not authentic.

Thesaurus.com shares some synonyms for caricature: cartoon, parody. distortion… mockery? And (ouch): travesty and sham. Maybe too harsh in some situations, but, honestly, these words reflect my feelings about posting.

Instead of chilling with my squirrel friends, I would scroll mindlessly as time slipped away, as my life slipped away. I made a pact with myself to delete my Facebook account. I created a statement of intent in my journal, signed and dated it.

I still didn’t get off of Facebook.

A few weeks later, I cruised to work, jamming to my favorite Gordon Lightfoot songs. The open road and dreamy music made me feel young, wild, and free. Suddenly, texts from my kids began interrupting the music. I had notifications coming in on Messenger.

As a result of some of those messages, I began fighting the urge to check my work email before I arrived. I cursed silently that I had not taken the time to learn how to disconnect the damn phone, so I could just hear my music. Constant bombardment of stimuli. Not only irritating but also unsafe.

I turned my phone off and threw it in the back seat. SILENCE. As I watched the trees and fields skimming by, I thought about my life before all this technology. I was beyond revolted with perpetual connectivity. I drifted back to my resolve to delete Facebook.

I practice my spirituality in the woods. My nature time is sacred time, my interface with the Great Mystery. As I added gadgets, my secret, unique, sacred relationship with the earth had seemed harder to access. Would I ever feel that connection again? A hypothesis began shaping in my mind. Would I feel more spiritual and be able to access a deeper level of awareness if I got off of Facebook?

I thought about the sticky web that is Facebook. Not only did I have over 200 “friends” of varying levels of intimacy, I had hundreds of photos and memories all neatly time-lined for my reminiscence. I felt the stress of giving up a potential audience for my creative works.

I was stuck in an uncomfortable spot for several weeks. I wanted to get off Facebook to test my hypothesis, but I inexplicably felt trapped on the social media. I began to realize how I was being manipulated in an unhealthy way.

I couldn’t torch my Facebook despite my great desire to plunge deeply into my spirituality. I was hooked. I hate being hooked or controlled by anything. So, I redoubled my efforts.  I developed a plan to get off Facebook in steps.

In the first step, I deleted people I really didn’t know. I quickly deleted about thirty people. It felt good to finally start on my goal. I focused on being more in tune, being more aware, being more spiritual.

As I whittled down my friends, the people became more intimate. People that mattered in my “real” life. I started getting confused about who to delete next and how to delete them. Should I send them a note? Would that be strange? Should I make a public post?

I stalled for another couple of weeks. I was acutely aware that social media traps people and creates a labyrinth of complexities, a maze of prisons. I didn’t like how that made me feel.

A few weeks later, I opened my journal to write. My signed pact stared back at me, forcing me to address this disturbing phenomenon of being trapped on Facebook.

That evening, I curled up on the couch with a cup of coffee. My sole intent was to reduce my social media presence. I sent a private message to select people, explaining I was leaving Facebook and providing my contact information.

A few wrote back, asking, “What’s wrong? Are you okay?” My ego raised up a bit. Wow, they think something has gone wrong in my life. I should stay on Facebook to prove nothing is wrong. I slayed that ego dragon and pressed on with my quest.

As I mass deleted my friends, Facebook acted like a real creature, bombarding me with more “people I may know” than ever before. It made me wonder if the site is programmed to recognize when someone starts deleting friends. Maybe not…but the new potential friends were very intriguing.

How did they manage to target my profile with these people? I was tempted to click on some of the new profiles but moved on towards the goal. At times, the process of deleting friends felt great, but mostly I felt a sense of loneliness.

Eventually, I had no friends. I experienced a mix of relief, sadness, and anxiety.

Even the shell without friends proved a sticky trap. I belonged to groups that only posted on Facebook. I also had “liked” very entertaining pages. Could I give up Randy Rainbow videos, and adorable pictures of cows and elephants from the Gentle Barn and the Elephant Sanctuary? Yes, I can access their websites when I need a fix. I ‘unliked’ all my awesome pages.

The hardest sacrifice was abandoning all my kids’ pictures and my life experiences neatly time-ordered. I pressed on because I wanted a deeper, more authentic life.

I was ready for the final step—deletion! I couldn’t find the deletion button. Deactivation is not the same as deletion. All your info is stored and ready to be resurrected. I didn’t like this privacy issue, and I didn’t want the option to reactivate! I found it easier to google “delete Facebook account” and follow a link from a separate website, than try to find the instructions on Facebook.

Finally, I found the delete account button and smelled freedom. Like a creepy, ex-partner who decides he isn’t going to be rejected, Facebook notified me deletion would take two weeks, and I could hop back on anytime in that two weeks.

Thinking back on all the sticky traps of Facebook and the recent media attention on privacy breaches, I thought, “Why do we allow this? Why are we okay with this?” It is not authentic or satisfying to live this way.

The first afternoon free of Facebook felt super!  A few days later, I felt similar to when I left home for a new job in a new city. Kinda lonely and lost, but ready for a new adventure. I definitely missed my friends back in Facebookland. I wondered if I would ever talk to some of them again.

I jokingly asked my kids, “Do I still exist?” Sometimes, I caught myself clicking through news sites more often, simply out of habit. I realized some of my clicking provided a method of anxiety relief. The other sites just didn’t have the addictive quality of Facebook, and I eventually quit the mindless clicking.

As the days move on, I notice subtle differences in my thinking. I feel a soft, calm sensation as I drive to work or create projects. I notice light patterns as the day shifts to dusk. I am more present in my own life. I feel a novel sense of boredom from time to time. Surprisingly, I really like feeling bored. It has stimulated my creativity and my humor. You have to work a little harder when there is nothing to do.

One morning, I was goofing around with my dogs on the couch, playing with their paws, scratching their ears. I had not really connected with them in that manner in a long time. A kind of bored goofiness came over me that had been destroyed by the constant clicking. I felt like a little kid, lazing on Saturday afternoon. Boredom is not a bad thing.

I also became really aware when my loved ones were ‘hooked up.’ It seemed weird that they would be so intent on staring at screens. It should seem weird, shouldn’t it? We’ve been deconditioned to this insanity.

Occasionally I have moments of discomfort about my exodus. What about when my son graduates? Or, I have an article published? Or I travel to an exotic location? What if I take a killer photograph or observe a rare animal in the woods? Who will know?

I guess I’ll share these experiences, successes, and photographs during lunch with my close friends and around the table with my family. At this point in my life, that feels so right to me. My smoother, more relaxed, unplugged mind is savoring the days I have left.

I went to the woods today. I walked quietly and softly on the earth. I left my iPhone at home. The perfect scene for a photo and an unexpected animal sighting went uncaptured. With no phone to grab, these snapshots won’t be shared with the masses. How refreshingly beautiful.

A little squirrel scampered on a tree, chattering to me. It was so quiet, so calm in the woods. I became lost in the moment. I felt that deep, sacred connection with nature that is so precious to me. I transcended into that other world, the world that remains hidden from a noisy mind. A place void of anxiety, of ego, of caricature. A place rich with connectedness, with earthiness, with authenticity.

About Amy Funk

Amy has degrees in psychology, gerontology, and nursing. She loves to hike, bike and canoe. Her passion is empowering others by presenting on the topics of aging, grief and nature. She writes a quarterly post on authentic living. You can sign up for the newsletter here and learn more at agingwithamy.com.

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The post In Search of the Sacred: Escaping Facebook’s Sticky Web appeared first on Tiny Buddha.

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Meditation Coloring Page from Tiny Buddha’s Worry Journal

Hi friends! As I mentioned last week when I shared the music coloring page from Tiny Buddha’s Worry Journal, I’m planning to share some of the other pages, twice weekly, until the journal launches on June 26th.

Each page depicts one simple thing we can do to help ease our worries.

Today’s tip: Make time for meditation.

Of all the healthy habits I’ve adopted, meditation has been, by far, the most transformative.

It’s enabled me to observe my negative, obsessive thoughts instead of getting caught up in them, and it’s helped me create space between my thoughts and my response, so I’m less apt to do and say things I’ll later regret.

The beautiful thing about meditation is that there are many ways to do it, to suit your schedule and needs.

You can use guided meditations (I’ve included four in the pre-order bonus package!); you can learn any number of different techniques for seated meditation; you can practice deep breathing; you can try a movement-based practice, such as yoga, qigong, and meditative walking; or you can simply practice mindfulness in your daily life—while eating or doing the dishes for example.

And even if you only have five minutes, you’ll experience the benefits.

Research has shown that anxiety can change the structure of your brain, increasing the size of the amygdala (the part responsible for your fear response), causing you to become even more anxious.

A regular meditation practice can reverse this. It can literally change how your brain works and, consequently, how you respond to the events in your life.

My preferred forms of meditation include:

-Yoga (Vinyasa, hot yoga, and yin yoga—which a teacher recently described as “basically a nap with light stretching”)

-Guided meditations (I’ve found tons of free options on YouTube)

-Deep breathing (alternative nostril breathing being my favorite)

If I have the time, I’ll go to an hour-long yoga class at a studio down the street (which also allows me to clear my mind a little on the walk) or find a thirty-minute guided meditation online.

If I have less time available, I’ll do five to ten minutes of poses, a five-minute guided meditation, or a few minutes of deep breathing. No matter what I choose, I always feel calmer and more centered after.

Do you have a regular meditation practice? If so, what’s your practice of choice, and how has it changed your life for the better? Your experience could help other readers find peace, calm, and healing, so please share the good!

From now until June 26th, you’ll get three bonus gifts, including a guided meditation series on letting go, when you pre-order Tiny Buddha’s Worry Journal. All you need to do is order a copy here and forward your purchase confirmation email to worryjournal@tinybuddha.com

About Lori Deschene

Lori Deschene is the founder of Tiny Buddha and Recreate Your Life Story, an online course that helps you let go of the past and live a life you love. Her latest book, Tiny Buddha’s Worry Journal, which includes 15 coloring pages, is now available for pre-order. For daily wisdom, follow Tiny Buddha on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram.

Get in the conversation! Click here to leave a comment on the site.

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Don’t Forget to Appreciate How Far You’ve Come

“Remember how far you’ve come, not how far you have to go. You are not where you want to be, but neither are you where you used to be.” ~Rick Warren

We’re always talking about how we should live in the now and “be present.” We shame ourselves for looking back at the past or into the future, thinking that we shouldn’t look too far ahead or worry about what’s to come, and we shouldn’t get too caught up in events that have already happened. We want to be focused on being the best person we can be right now.

We often forget, though, that it’s possible to look at our past with love, not ruminating in it but appreciating it. We’re often so focused on living in the present that we forget to be mindful of where we’ve been and how far we’ve come.

You could say that I’m a bit of a productivity addict. I love doing things that are beneficial to me in some way. I love the feeling of doing something positive or productive for myself, whether it’s squeezing in that extra thirty-minute yoga practice or ten-minute meditation, or listening to podcasts or reading the news instead of watching TV. I get so caught up with being a “better version of me” that I forget to appreciate my current version.

Last week when I was walking to work, listening to lines to practice for an audition, I felt this sense of pride.

I had always wanted to be an actress growing up. It was my dream to be able to transform into a different character and tell a story through film or television. I wasn’t where I wanted to be in my career, but how cool was it that I was actually doing it? I was going to auditions and training with teachers and acting—something that I had dreamed of since I was a kid.

This realization then snowballed into this moment where I looked at my life and said to myself, “Wow, I’ve done all these things and I’m living a life I’ve always wanted.”

I began to list in my mind the things I have accomplished: I moved away from my home city, a place I hated; I’ve traveled to many different countries and even seen the pyramids; I went back to school and pursued a career in the arts; I continue to work toward making my childhood dreams come true…

I realized that I sometimes get so caught up with my big dreams, like being a published author or working actress that I forget to recognize all the little dreams I’ve made come true!

Even writing this I feel a bit embarrassed. A lot of the times it can feel like we’re bragging or that we don’t have a right to be proud of the things we’ve done. Maybe we have this feeling that we shouldn’t be proud of the things we’ve accomplished because we aren’t where we want to be.

But for a daughter of a single mother who moved to Canada as a Vietnamese refugee, I’ve come far, and it’s important to recognize that.

I recently said this out loud to my therapist, but it was different from how it felt in my mind. I had said it to myself with pride, but it didn’t really settle in how big that feeling was, to recognize my own journey and how far I’ve come.

When I said to my therapist, I was also speaking it to my deeper self. I felt it in my soul.

I said it to my younger self—the preteen, bullied girl who rode the train back and forth to avoid school. I said it to my early twenties, addicted self, and I said it to my current self: look at the things you’ve made happen.

When we speak to our deeper selves and feel this connection with our past, this recognition of our journey, it can be groundbreaking. I had never felt that proud of myself, or that impressed with myself before. I cried and felt this amazing gratitude for my life, my own resilience, and most of all, myself.

And again, it can feel so weird to go there, to try to find something to be proud of or to just be proud of where we are. So, how about we do that check-in with ourselves?

How about we look at the past to appreciate it? How about we appreciate our own journeys? Our own resilience? How about we look at the places we’ve been, the relationships we’ve formed, the things we’ve achieved, not with regret or the longing of “if only” or “what ifs” or “I wish I was still there,” but “Wow, I did that? That’s where I used to be? That’s pretty cool.”

We can get so caught up looking at where we should be, where we aren’t, and where others are in comparison that we forget to appreciate where we’ve been and where we’ve come from.

This was the first time it really hit me how big this is, and how important it is to celebrate my progress. I felt like I had a true sense of perspective on life as a whole, from the triumphs to the failures, from obstacles to mistakes to perfect coincidences.

It’s amazing that we’re all living and growing, trying to be the best we can be and moving forward every day. It’s a beautiful thing to be mindful of the present, but don’t forget to honor yourself, your past, and how far you’ve come. Odds are, it’s further than you think.

About Rose Nguyen

Rose Nguyen grew up with her head always in the clouds. She is a writer and actress who currently resides in Toronto. She started SexandVegetables.com a feminist and mindfulness blog. She is currently completing her Creative Writing degree and working on her first novel.

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The Little Things in Life Are the Ones That Matter Most

“It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it’s the pebble in your shoe.” ~Muhammad Ali

I followed a little boy in Walmart today. He didn’t look like my son and yet I trailed him and his mother all over the store. I curled my fingers around the shopping cart so I wouldn’t be tempted to reach out and touch him.

He didn’t walk with Brendan’s bounce or jerk his head back, trying to slide his glasses back onto his nose. He didn’t have his sarcastic smile or those tiny freckles scattered across his cheeks.

But he had the same cowlick sprouting from the back of his head. I wheeled my cart around and followed this little boy who looked nothing like my son. I itched to brush this boy’s hair, just like I did before Brendan grew too old and wiggled away.

I used to smooth his spikes down and then laugh when they sprang back up, no matter how much gel I used. By the time he became a teenager, he gave up trying to tame them and left it messy and wild.

And now, I’ll never get a chance to touch his hair again. My son died in an accident a week before his first day of high school.

I followed this little boy through the aisles, zigzagging across the store. He spent a long time debating which Lego set to buy. I knew the perfect one, the Star Wars battleship, but I said nothing.

A few minutes later, he and his mother walked out of the store while I stood there, that hollow feeling gnawing me from the inside. I’d learned to steel myself when I saw Brendan’s friends at the high school or celebrated his cousin’s sixteenth birthday, but I didn’t expect something so small as a wisp of hair to make me stumble.

That boy’s hair was my pebble.

You’re never sure what tiny thing will make you stumble. A few months after Brendan died, my husband went to a funeral. It was for his friend’s grandmother, a sad passing, but not tragic like losing a fifteen year old son.

We both feared it would be too much for him. He prepared himself to see the coffin, to hear the sobs, to smell the roses and carnations in the room.

“None of that bothered me,” he told me later. “I was fine. But then I went into the bathroom.”

He stopped and shook his head. “I dried my hands on the air dryer and all I could see was that first time Brendan used one of them. I think he was four and he loved it. Again, he said, over and over. He kept washing his hands just so he could dry them again.”

It wasn’t the tears of the mourners or the wooden casket covered in flowers that made him break down. It was the memory of Brendan laughing while watching the skin on his hand bubble and dance. Michael had steeled himself against the mountain, but it was the pebble that brought him down.

A tiny pebble will forever make us stumble.

And yet, it’s that same pebble that fills us with the sound of Brendan’s laughter. There will be days when I follow a little boy and his hair, limping in pain. But there will also be days when I’ll smile, my fingers warm with the memory of smoothing down Brendan’s wild and messy hair.

Life is made up of these moments. Joy and heartache are woven into a tapestry of love. There are day when I want to pull on the threads of pain, but I know I risk unraveling it all.

After Brendan’s accident, icy shock seeped inside me and froze my memories. I couldn’t remember his favorite foods or the nickname he called our dog. I couldn’t even say what we’d had for dinner on our last night together.

But my daughter Lizzie remembered the special nachos he’d made after dinner that night. “He called them victory nachos,” she said and I smiled, picturing him slicing salami into perfect strips. He’d sprinkled them on top and dove into the pile, eating only one chip at a time.

And Zack remembered the way he and his brother would lie on their backs on the trampoline, waiting until the sky grew dark. They’d search for the first star to twinkle in the sky and then close their eyes and wish that pigs could fly.

We shared our memories in a notebook we left on the kitchen counter. The pages filled up, but not with big highlights like our vacation to Disney World. We wrote about the ordinary moments that are so easy to take for granted.

Like the marathon Monopoly games in our basement and how Brendan always tried to get Park Avenue, even if he bankrupted himself. And the hours Brendan and Michael spent sitting by the firepit they’d built out of bricks. Or the coupon he made me when he was fourteen, inviting me on a bookstore date.

I still have the slip of paper with his messy words scrawled on it, but what I cherish more is the memory of him hovering by my side, his eyes watching mine as I read his invitation. He’d seen me cry that morning and was desperate to make me smile again.

This is how love endures. We gather tiny moments and string them together, like beads in a never-ending necklace. And yet, it took the loss of my son to make me realize the little things in life are the ones that matter the most.

Our family life was a whirlwind of track meets and baseball practice and business meetings. In the chaos, it was far too easy to let those moments slip away. We carved out time for big vacations, but forgot to treasure the tickle fights late at night.

Don’t wait for a loss to make you realize what you’re missing right now. Push away the distractions that will always be there and hold onto your loved ones and the everyday memories you make together.

I still keep a notebook on my counter. I write down the piano song Zack played on my birthday or the way my daughter giggles when I touch her knee.

And I pick up pebbles on my walks. I slip them into my pocket, its gentle weight a reminder to cherish the smallest moments in life.

About Linda Broder

Linda Broder is a writer and musician living in Northern New Jersey. She is currently working on a memoir about faith, mystery and the healing magic of playing the harp. Her blog is at LindaBroder.com.

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You Aren’t Stuck in Life: Commit to Change and Get Started

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” ~Mark Twain

We all have big dreams, big goals, and big ideas on what we think our life should look like, or how we think life will end up.

Some of us meticulously plan out our lives, envisioning and letting ourselves daydream as we think about all the stuff we’d love to accomplish. I’d wager that our plans include some pretty big things in life that would make us feel pretty proud.

The problem is, a lot of us have trouble reaching the potential we’ve set for ourselves. Time kind of flies by, and we end up looking back and wondering what went wrong.

Well, one reason stands out like a sore thumb: We never really get started doing the things we truly want to do. We’re all guilty of it, and that includes me.

I’ve cooked up dozens (literally dozens) of ideas or things I wanted to try over the years. How many did I actually try? Far less than dozens; let’s just say the ratio isn’t exactly working in my favor.

Now, as time has gone by, I’ve been able to explore more of them. But as you know, some of them got shelved for good. I probably don’t even remember half of the things I wanted to try and never did.

Why did I not try? What was the reasoning behind it? Why did I lack the forward motion necessary to at least attempt something and see if it sticks? I, like you, are fully aware that not everything we do will end up being a calling in life. But you won’t know until you give it a shot.

To help you better understand this idea pertaining to a lack of motion, one must take a step back and realize that life, in a very big nutshell, is a series of decisions and actions. These two components are crucial for our self-growth and success in life and unfortunately are not mutually exclusive.

Without making a decision and following it up with action, we could spend our entire lives stuck in the exact same place.

If you make a decision but don’t take any action, not much will happen. On the other hand, if you take a bunch of actions without any decisions driving them, you’ll aimlessly float around.

Being stuck in the same place or floating around aimlessly sounds torturous, doesn’t it? It is, and a lot of people must be living real-life nightmares. I had to wake up from my own years ago.

Good or bad, where you are in life at this very moment is a reflection of all the past choices you’ve made. Some of us will read that and smile, maybe even give ourselves a little nod of appreciation if it’s good. On the other hand, a fair number of us will probably have a hard time digesting it.

If you aren’t quite where you thought you’d be, I’d like to start by just saying that it’s perfectly okay. Most of us aren’t really where we thought we’d be, and we’re still giving it our best shot.

There are generally two reasons you aren’t at your “ideal” place. A small chance is that life gave you an obstacle course with things completely out of your control; in other words, life got in the way temporarily. But there’s a bigger possibility you aren’t where you thought you’d be: you just flat out didn’t pursue something. And it was likely out of fear.

In other words, you didn’t really ever get started.

The Good And The Bad News

Let’s start with the bad news: You never got started, and now you’ve wasted some valuable time moving toward your goals. Your life isn’t really playing out like you thought it would, and you feel somewhat stuck with your current habits, lifestyle, relationships, career, and other things.

Pause for a moment and take a deep breath, as this might have hit closer to home than you’d prefer.

Good, you’re still with me.

Now let’s transition to the good news, because it’s actually really good:

You’re never stuck, and while the best time to start something was yesterday, the next best time is now.

You, yes you, have the ability to create the life you want, but it requires you to make moves. And while you may have fallen short previously, it doesn’t mean you will fall short going forward.

Here’s the bottom line: your past does not dictate your future. Your past habits and lifestyle do not have to determine your lot in life.

The Idea Behind Starting

You’ve probably heard the quote “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” Well, it sure is true. Because really, is anything built in a day?

Was your house fully built on top of a piece of land in a day? Was that skyscraper completely erected in a day? Did you apply for, interview, and start working at your job in the span of twenty-four hours?

Things take time to build. Let’s say you’ve been wanting to switch careers because your soul has been sucked completely dry. You planted the career switching seed a while ago, and you’ve been letting it marinate for far too long.

Yet you haven’t made any moves, and in the meantime, nothing has changed. Does this sound familiar? I found myself in this exact position years ago. I was miserable at a job I didn’t enjoy. I wanted to change, but I got scared of the unknown and didn’t make any changes.

Years passed by before I got a kick in the pants and decided to take a change. It took getting laid off, but it was the best thing that happened to me. I decided enough was enough. It was time to ultimately change my entire career, and also start exploring other smaller avenues on the side.

But unfortunately, I didn’t really know the one thing I needed to do professionally in order to be more fulfilled. I knew what I didn’t want to do (hello old career), but I also didn’t know what I wanted to do.

I began formulating. Writing goals. Crafting some business plans. Attending meetups and networking around areas I found interesting. It was through this meetup that I came across a three-month program being offered in a particular field that I had once tinkered with in high school, but walked away from.

And voila, I am now in my new career. You can put the pieces together, but I took a leap and joined the program. Fear and all. I was scared, but now I am in a field that is 180 degrees from my previous one. And all it took was attending a meetup. Funny how life works.

Self-doubt and fear are the two biggest barriers in our quest to make moves. A third, and less talked about one, is pure overwhelm: seeing where you are and looking where you want to go leaves you exasperated.

This is where movement comes into play. You take steps, however small, toward your visions and goals. You make sure you’re moving forward.

And here’s the cool thing: The force that you apply, in other words the actions you take, can be extremely small and still produce positive results. This is the idea of micro-movement.

What does this mean? If you’re scared to make a move because you’re overwhelmed by the end result of where you think you need to go, it’s really important to realize one big thing: your collection of small steps equals big results.

No one takes a leap of faith and accomplishes life’s biggest goals in the same breath. Life rewards those who take consistent, measurable action, while enjoying a dose of patience and commitment.

Putting All The Pieces Together

Most people have an idea of some higher-level goals they’d love to accomplish in their lives. Be it personal, health, finances, career, relationships, or all five, every single one of us has fallen victim to overwhelm and the paralyzing nature of fear.

But a few things are happening in your favor.

Namely, the universe is here to aid you in your dreams and desires if you let it.

It just requires a few things:

  • A decision made internally to change
  • A desire to take the steps required
  • A realization that micro-movements forward are perfectly normal
  • Actually making moves
  • A dose of patience and commitment

Then, the laws of motion will help you take care of the rest because you’ll have built movement and momentum.

You aren’t stuck in life. You are capable of making a lot of power moves.

The key is just getting started.

About Adam Bergen

Adam Bergen is the founder of Monday Views, a site aimed at showing others how they can reach their potential through focusing on themselves and staying authentic. Generally most people don’t enjoy Mondays, but it’s not Mondays that are the problem; it’s your mindset. Change that, and you can change your views. You can find Adam at mondayviews.com and instagram.com/mondayviews.

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5 Journal Prompts to Help You Let Go of Anxiety and Find Peace

“You don’t have to control your thoughts. You just have to stop letting them control you.” ~Dan Millman

There was a time when my mind was completely consumed by worries, and I lived in a perpetual state of panic.

I worried about things I’d said and whether people were judging me, things I should be doing and whether I was using my time well, the state of my life, the state of the world, and just about anything else one could worry about.

Life always felt scary and uncertain, so I always felt unsafe, and worrying gave me the illusion of gaining some semblance of control.

Well-intentioned people advised me to just be positive—then I’d feel a lot better about life. But I’ve always found the concept of positive thinking somewhat frustrating.

First, it made me feel guilty, since no matter how hard I tried to avoid negative thoughts, they’d inevitably pop into my head. Secondly, it was exhausting. To constantly monitor your mind takes monumental effort, and it seemed contrary to my goal—to be less burdened by my brain.

Still, there’s no denying that our thoughts influence our feelings. When we sit around dwelling on everything that could go wrong, or everything we think we did wrong, we end up feeling drained and depressed.

So what’s the solution, then? How can we allow ourselves to be human and simultaneously ensure we don’t drown in our fearful thoughts?

For me, journaling has been key.

Journaling has helped me find solutions to my problems, identify and let go of things I can’t control, and change my perspective on the things I want to change but can’t.

It’s also helped me recognize my own strength so that I can worry less about what’s coming and trust more in my ability to handle it, whatever it may be.

If you’re looking for a little mental relief this week, I recommend starting each weekday with one of these five journal prompts from Tiny Buddha’s Worry Journal: A Creative Way to Let Go of Anxiety and Find Peace

The beauty of these particular prompts is that they help us focus on the moment, be kind to ourselves, and have faith in ourselves and our journey, wherever it may lead.

5 Journal Prompts to Help You Calm Your Anxious Mind

1. Today, I choose to let go of the things I can’t control, including…

2. I recognize that I don’t need to have all the answers right now. Today, I give myself permission not to know…

3. Dear inner critic: You always focus on everything I’m doing wrong, but I know I’m doing a lot right, including…

4. I know I’m strong enough to handle whatever comes at me, because I’ve survived a lot, including…

5. Instead of worrying about making the “wrong” choices, I trust that no matter what I choose…

You don’t need to write anything specific or lengthy, though you can take all the time you have and need. The important thing is that you get in the habit of thinking about yourself and your problems in a new way.

It’s not about suppressing thoughts or replacing them with positive ones. It’s about directing your mind to useful thoughts so you can spend less of your life feeling worried and overwhelmed.

Just like gratitude journaling can help us feel happier and more optimistic, keeping a worry journal can help us feel calmer and more at peace.

If you’re interested in pre-ordering a copy of Tiny Buddha’s Worry Journal, which officially launches on June 26th, you can reserve a copy here.

Once you receive your purchase confirmation email, forward it to worryjournal@tinybuddha.com and you’ll receive access to the following free bonus items:

  • Four guided meditations on letting go (of control, the need for approval, stresses/pressure, and self-judgment)
  • Three colorful desktop wallpapers with cute Buddhas and calming quotes
  • An exclusive interview with me and Ehren Prudhel, founder of the soon-to-be-launched podcast Next Creator Up, in which I discuss how I’ve overcome worries related to writing my first feature film

I hope these prompts (and the other activities in the journal) help you as much as they’ve helped me!

About Lori Deschene

Lori Deschene is the founder of Tiny Buddha and Recreate Your Life Story, an online course that helps you let go of the past and live a life you love. Her latest book, Tiny Buddha’s Worry Journal, which includes 15 coloring pages, is now available for pre-order. For daily wisdom, follow Tiny Buddha on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram.

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The Power of Waiting (When You Don’t Know What to Do)

“Waiting is not mere empty hoping. It has the inner certainty of reaching the goal.” ~I Ching 

Waiting has a bad rap in modern Western society. It’s not surprising that I had to look to an ancient Chinese text (the I Ching) in order to find a suitable quote to begin this article. We don’t like to wait! It’s far easier to find quotes on the Internet about “seizing the day” and making something happen.

I’ve been an impatient person for much of my life. I wanted things to happen to me! I had a definite agenda in my twenties: finish college, start my career, get married, and have a family. So I declared a major and started knocking off my goals. When it was “time” to get married, I picked the most suitable person available and got on with it.

I really didn’t know much about waiting. I thought it was something you did if you didn’t have courage or conviction. It was just an excuse not to take action. I know better now.

What I’ve learned since then is that waiting is one of the most powerful tools we have for creating the life we want.  

The ego, or mind, is very uncomfortable with waiting. This is the part of you that fairly screams, “Do something! Anything is better than nothing!” And, because we are a very ego-driven society, you’ll find plenty of external voices that back up that message.

The mind hates uncertainty, and would rather make a mistake than simply live in a state of “not knowing” while the right course unfolds.

There’s a term I love that describes this place of uncertainty: liminal. A liminal space is at the border or threshold between possibilities. It’s a place of pure potential: we could go any direction from here. There are no bright lights and obvious signs saying “Walk this way.”

Liminal spaces can be deeply uncomfortable, and most of us tend to rush through them as quickly as possible.

If we can slow down instead, the landscape gradually becomes clearer, the way it does when your eyes adjust to a darkened room. We start to use all of our senses. The ego wants a brightly lit super-highway to the future, but real life is more like a maze. We take one or two steps in a certain direction, and then face another turning point. Making our way forward requires an entirely different set of skills, and waiting is one of the most important!

There’s a proper timing to all things, and it’s often not the timing we want (now—or maybe even yesterday). There are things that happen on a subconscious level, in ourselves and in others, that prepare us for the next step. Oddly, when the time to act does come, there’s often a sense of inevitability about it, as if it was always meant to be this way.

Look back over your life and you’ll see this pattern. First, look at the decisions that you forced: how did those turn out? Then look for times when you just “knew” what to do, without even thinking about it. What happened then?

The key to the second kind of decision is waiting for that deep sense of inner knowing.

That doesn’t mean you’re certain that everything will turn out exactly the way you want it. Or that you don’t feel fear. But there is a sense of “yes, now’s the time” in your body that I liken to the urge that migratory birds get when it’s time to leave town. They don’t stand around debating whether to go, consulting maps and calendars. They just go when the time is right.

We’re animals too—we have and can cultivate that inner sensitiveness that lets us simply know what to do when the time is right. But to do that we have to unhook from the mind. Thinking is useful up to a point, but we usually take it far beyond the point of usefulness!

We go over and over various options, trying to predict the future based solely on our hopes and fears.

We talk endlessly with others about what we should do, hoping that they have the answers for us (and, ideally, trying to get everyone to agree).

We think about what we “should” do, based on any number of external measures: common sense, morality, religion, family values, finances, and so on.

And then usually we add this all up and just take our best shot.

A better way is to take stock of what you know (and, even more importantly, what you don’t know) and then… wait.

If there’s some action that calls to you, even if it’s seemingly unrelated to the question at hand, do it! Then wait again for another urge to move. Wait actively rather than passively. That means: keep your inner senses tuned to urges or intuitions. Expect that an answer will come. As the I Ching says, wait with the “inner certainty of reaching the goal.”

This is not the same kind of dithering and procrastination that come when we want to try something new but are afraid to step out into the unknown. If your intuition is pulling you in a certain direction and your mind is screaming at you to “Stop!” by all means ignore your mind.

There’s a subtle but very real difference between the feeling of fear (which holds you back from doing something you long to do) and misgivings (which warn you that a decision that looks good on the surface is not right for you).

In both cases, look for and trust that deep sense of inner knowing, even if your thoughts are telling you different. A friend once told me that her father’s best piece of advice to her was: “Deciding to get married should be the easiest decision of your life.” How I wish I had known that when I made my own (highly ambivalent) decision!

My head was telling me that this was the sensible thing to do, and he was a good man. My gut, however, was far from on board. I still vividly recall the many inward debates I held about whether to marry him, and even the dreams I had that revealed my inner reluctance. Unfortunately, I went with my thoughts over my instincts.

Now I know this: If you have to talk yourself into something, try waiting instead. More will be revealed, if you give it some time.

Ignore that voice in your head that says you need to make a decision now. Don’t rush through life. Linger in the liminal spaces and see what becomes clear as you sit with uncertainty. Learn to trust your gut more than your head. Have faith that the right course will unfold at the perfect time. And then, when the time comes, just do it, as simply and naturally as the birds take flight.

About Amaya Pryce

Amaya Pryce is a life coach and writer living in the Pacific Northwest. Her books, 5 Simple Practices for a Lifetime of Joy and How to Grow Your Soul are available on Amazon. For coaching or to follow her blog, please visit www.amayapryce.com.

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Where My Social Awkwardness Came From and How I’m Getting Past It

“We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known…” – Brene Brown

I’ve recently become increasingly aware of my social awkwardness. In fact, my awareness of it sharpened quite suddenly one day as I was innocently talking to a colleague about work-related matters. When I managed to provide a possible solution to her dilemma, she was full of praise for me.

To make matters worse, she looked me in the eye and told me, “You’re simply wonderful!” Then she remembered a previous comment I’d made about feeling that I did not quite fit in to my workplace, and she added, “I just want to let you know that we all value you in our team. We love you.”

The effect on me was immediate. I went into a panicky and self-conscious flap and fired back with one self-deprecation after another to deflect such exposing attention on me. I could tell that my colleague looked surprised at my reaction, so I managed to stammer out my thanks.

At another time, I was speaking to another colleague about a project I was doing when he suddenly revealed that his marriage was struggling. Again, I had the same cold, panicked feeling, only it was much more intense than the first encounter. I think I froze then.

These encounters brought up other memories in my personal and professional life where I had a similar felt sense of cold panic that foreshadowed a socially awkward interaction. Now that I was doing an actual tally of how many times I’d felt this social awkwardness, I was aghast at how frequently these occurred for me.

So why was I beset by it? Surely I was not born with it. My young niece and nephew are testament to that, as they lack any social awkwardness or self-consciousness whatsoever. Or as my brother observed, “Look at them! They’re shameless!”

Could this mean that I picked up my social awkwardness (and self-consciousness) somewhere along the way? If that were true, then I have hope of becoming more comfortable in my own skin, because it is not hardwired into me. I might even someday achieve shamelessness.

Getting Under My Own Skin

I’ve since set out to learn more about my social awkwardness because I sensed deeply that merely plastering it over with manufactured shamelessness would not work. Shamelessness had to come naturally, and I sensed that social awkwardness was in its way.

I started by exploring how my body carried (and still carries) social awkwardness and self-consciousness. Looking back, I see that my responses to people happened like a bodily reflex, without conscious thought. So I looked out for those times when I was interacting with people that brought up the bodily reflex.

This is what I discovered over time: The body-feeling of my social awkwardness had layers. In my journal I described it as a cold panic on the surface with a slippery feeling underneath.  It feels like a melon seed, hard to grasp. Why slippery? The words “I slip away” fit this feeling. Why was there a necessity for me to slip away?

Yes, because I was overwhelmed by the sheer raw and undisguised nature of these personal encounters. Social awkwardness is, at heart, the fear of being vulnerable in the face of unmasked intimacy.

When my colleague praised me, it brought me into focus, without my masks or facades or roles. When my other colleague talked about his marriage, it brought his humanity into focus. It also put me in a place where I had to be purely me, uncovered, to meet his humanity.

All this was way too intense for me, and I didn’t know how to respond to it. What would have happened if I showed myself fully to the other person and it was shameful? What if the other person became too needy?

These encounters are not in themselves overwhelming. Rather I am the one being overwhelmed. I feel that I do not have what it takes to be exposed, like I am paper-thin and will burn out in the intense heat of the raw human connection. It is a child-like feeling, like something very young in me has to handle the serious adult-ness of these kinds of connections.

As I focus on this feeling, memories connect. Some of them include the intense and dramatic fights I used to have with my family, and also the nerve-wreaking shouting matches I witnessed among them. Thinking about these episodes even now makes me feel kind of repulsed. The unbridled emotions and the ugly way they are expressed make me recoil.

More so, when I recall myself being emotional, I feel repulsed with myself—more embarrassment and shame. I remember further that for the most part in my younger years, my clumsy attempts to express my strong feelings, or to express myself in general, were usually disregarded at best or met with scorn at worst.

There was a big pervasive sense that these feelings and being “true to oneself” was a bad thing, whether applied to myself or others. No wonder I closed myself off and slipped away.

And straight on the heels of this notion comes a question: What happens if I show myself and my feelings to someone who responds in the exact opposite way? Someone who would welcome my feelings instead of rejecting them? Take them seriously without making a big deal out of them? Would I become more comfortable in opening myself up?

The possibility of this fills me with excitement, although there is also a sense of caution. It says, “Not now, not yet, it’s too much to risk.” I leave it because, for now, this knowledge is enough in itself.

Strangely enough, making these discoveries brought about a series of small releases within me. It was as if I had made a real-time connection to the truth behind my social awkwardness and self-consciousness, and the connection alone allowed these feelings to loosen a little. I felt like I’d opened up a tiny bit more.

What I’ve Learned So Far

I have only begun what I sense to be a fairly long journey of self-discovery, and I would be lying to say that I am now happily shameless. However, I feel empowered by what I’ve learned about the process of self-discovery. I also feel hopeful that I could one day become shameless, because I can find out what I need to get there.

I’ve found that if I interact in a curious way with the real-time feeling of social awkwardness, I can learn fresh information from it. It is the quality of interaction with my feeling, one coming from a position of not-knowing and wanting to discover more, that allows the feeling to change. From its not-knowing stance, the discovery process is pretty scientific.

In fact, I find that this kind of interaction is identical to times when we meet someone new and we interact with them to find out more about them. We are trying in these cases to get underneath the initial encounter with this person, to learn about who they are inside. Just watch children. They do it all the time.

I also feel that these kinds of internal interactions are very crucial in those of us laboring with social awkwardness and self-consciousness. After all, these feelings happen in the context of human interactions, and I believe that the very first of these human interactions is with ourselves. When we are able to be open to ourselves (which is a less risky option than being open with others), we regain the capacity to open up with others.

Try This Out—Interacting with Yourself

If you too have always felt a visceral barrier between yourself and others, and even with your own true feelings, try having these kinds of interactions with the feeling parts of yourself. In this case, it is the parts of yourself that feel socially awkward.

Take a moment to sense how they feel in your body. Then start interacting with them with the attitude of “I wonder what I can discover at this moment.”

I’ve found that it helps to address these feeling parts as “you,” although this is more a matter of personal style. I’ve also found that it helps to be welcoming of all notions, no matter how illogical they might seem. After all, feelings do not need to be logical to make sense.

Here is a list of useful guiding questions you can ask your socially awkward feeling part:

  • What do you feel like? How can I describe you?
  • What are you connected to? (Gather as many connections as you can.)
  • When else have I felt you? What is it about these situations that bring you up?
  • What more can I learn from and about you?
  • What would make a difference for you?

Take your time, revisit this feeling part often, and learn as much as you can from it. It will start to soften and change then.

Happy self-discovery!

About Dr. Eric Tan

Dr. Eric Tan is an Australian-Based clinical psychologist who is interested in helping people transform their emotions deeply. His own way of doing Focusing (the Snowflake Method) is distilled in his book (with Dr. Sam Tan) A Little Book on Being Naturally Joyful. Their other book is Dying to Connect But Scared to Death: Moving Beyond Social Anxiety.

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How I’ve Learned to Fully Appreciate the Little Time I Have on Earth

“Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live.” ~Norman Cousins

Recently, my grandfather passed away. His departure was difficult for me but it has also left me with something I’ll keep for the rest of my life—an unlikely lesson about life and gratitude.

I hadn’t seen my grandfather often before he died because I’ve been living abroad for the last couple of years. But I was still fond of him and I warmly remembered the days we had spent together when I was young. So his passing was a shock and a tragedy for me. I felt the grief of losing someone close for the first time.

Yet, amid all the pain, some other feeling started to come up: a sense of gratitude. I began to feel grateful that I got the chance to say goodbye to him in person. I felt grateful for having known him and having shared so many good moments with him. And I felt grateful that he was able to live his life and even die the way he wanted.

At first I couldn’t figure out what to make of this weird mix of feelings. I did feel sadness and grief, no doubt. But how could I also experience gratitude? How was I supposed to react? Was it okay for me to feel gratitude or should I only feel sadness?

It took me a little while to give myself permission to just feel the way I felt. And then I realized that I could take this as a parting gift from him. I began to experience, firsthand, that even in the midst of tragedy, there is still hope. And there are things that I could still be grateful for.

Gradually, all those good things that are so easily overlooked became more obvious. The people we love, those daily moments of joy that we let go by unnoticed, the little things that make life easier. I began to appreciate all those things as I turned my attention to what I already had instead of what I thought I needed to become happier.

For my own sake and for the sake of my grandfather, I decided to keep this gratefulness alive and nurture it. Here are the four steps that I’ve been taking since.

1. Starting the day with gratitude

At first, the feeling of grief kept reminding me of my desire to be grateful. As long as my grief was fresh, it was easy to stick to this new intention. But I knew I needed something to keep me going when those strong feelings eventually subside.

That’s why I began to form a daily gratitude routine. It’s the simplest gratitude exercise imaginable and based on an idea that originally came from a positive psychology intervention (a scientifically validated exercise to increase one’s happiness) named three good things.

Every morning before starting my work, I now write down three things I’m grateful for. I usually think of someone or something that makes my life better until a feeling of gratitude arises. And I stay with this feeling for a little while, maybe a minute or two.

At times, it can be hard to connect with this feeling. That’s when I use a little trick that psychologists call mental subtraction. That means I’m not simply thinking about what is good in my life but I’m deliberately imagining it wasn’t there. This makes it much easier to feel grateful.

When we think about how great it is to be able to walk, it can be hard to appreciate. On the other hand, when we think of how much worse life would be if we were paralyzed, it’s easier to experience a sense of gratefulness.

I’m not suggesting we compare ourselves to people who have it worse than us. I don’t think gratitude is the appropriate response to other people’s misery. I’m simply saying that if we imagine our own life without something, we can help our brain see and appreciate it more.

2. Enjoying the present

A blow like the death of a loved one often makes people reflect on their lives. This was also true for me. I couldn’t help but notice how many of my life’s moments I have wasted.

There were so many evenings I spent alone instead of calling a friend to grab dinner. So many conversations when I didn’t listen properly in order to get to what I wanted to say. And so many unused opportunities to say I love you to my family.

But the past is gone, what’s left is to enjoy this very moment. Right now, I am grateful. I’m not in pain and I’m safe, I have enough to eat and a roof over my head. And I don’t have to fear any of this will be taken away from me any time soon. So this moment really offers everything to be enjoyed. It’s a fact that’s true for most moments.

Of course, being fully present for every moment is an impossible ideal (unless you’re an enlightened person, I guess). But aspiring toward more presence is something that we all can do.

To help me bring more awareness to my moments, I started to use an app that rings a mindfulness bell once every hour. It serves as a reminder to pause for a few seconds and simply enjoy life as it is. Every time the bell rings is an opportunity to be present.

3. Saying thank you

Not just moments of joy go by unnoticed; so do opportunities to say thank you. We overlook the kindness of the people closest to us because we take it for granted. Yet there are so many small acts of kindness that we could be grateful for.

In my case, it had never occurred to me to express my gratitude toward my grandfather. In fact, I haven’t really felt much gratitude toward him at all, because I never truly thought about all the sacrifices he’d made to provide for his children and grandchildren. It only dawned on me recently as I’ve thought (and read) about his life.

It’s likely that all of us have a person like this in our lives, or several people who have influenced our lives in a positive way who we’ve never properly thanked. There’s another positive psychology intervention that aims to remedy this situation. It’s writing a gratitude letter.

The exercise goes like this: You think of a person who’s had a positive impact in your life and then write a letter that tells them what they did and how it has affected you for the better. The letter can take any form, but the basic idea is to write as if you’d deliver it at the end.

Even though we don’t necessarily need science to tell us whether or not we’re happier after writing a gratitude letter, it’s good to know that research shows that this is one of the most powerful happiness exercises out there. I have to admit that I haven’t yet written a gratitude letter myself. But it’s next on my list. I don’t want to miss another opportunity to say thank you to the people I love.

4. Savoring good memories

There’s one more ingredient for gratefulness and it is hidden in our past. It’s those wonderful memories of joy and love that we carry around with us. Some of those memories might even seem forgotten, but that’s exactly why it’s so important to bring them back to life.

Looking through old photo albums and reminiscing with childhood friends about growing up are great ways to do that. Similarly, I’m glad that I’ve heard so many stories about my grandfather. They provide something to remember him by, and they’ve brought me closer to him and the rest of my family. Besides, it’s comforting to be able to keep him alive in my memories.

I now keep a picture of him at my desk, and he’s smiling back at me as I’m writing this post. And occasionally, when I feel bad, I remember those long gone days together—driving around in his car, walking in the woods, visiting his friends. Because sometimes, especially when life is difficult,  it can seem that all we have left are some good memories of the past.

I believe doing these four things regularly helps us appreciate how precious our little time on earth is. Of course, gratitude doesn’t inoculate us against feeling bad at all times, and it sure as hell doesn’t take away the grief. But it can be a powerful practice to help us live life fully while we have the chance—and to keep those alive who we have lost.

About Manuel Kraus

Manuel Kraus is the founder of Pocketcoach. It’s a chat bot that guides you through a program to manage stress and anxiety—step by step and one day at a time. You can try it for free here.

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Forget What Other People Expect and Do What’s Right for You

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.“ – Steve Jobs

When we come to this world, we know nothing. We are all products of the societies that raised us and shaped our belief system with things labeled good or bad, right or wrong, normal or abnormal.

I was raised in an Eastern European culture that led me to believe every single woman on Earth must tick off certain boxes.

During the time I was single, especially once I turned thirty, many people started to wonder “what was wrong with me” and why I couldn’t find that illusionary person that was supposed to be “The One.” The prince on the white horse who was supposed to make me forever happy. I was perceived as smart, healthy, funny, and beautiful, so “why I was single?”

I used to think about my biological clock ticking, and the societal pressure to marry felt high, as if a woman without a romantic partner were unlovable, miserable by default, or incomplete.

I think asking single people when they are getting married is rude and unfair. No one asks married people when they are getting divorced.

I met my husband four years ago, many years after I was expected to marry. At the time, we were two Romanians living and working in Asia, within the same company but in two different countries. I was in China; he was in South Korea.

Our relationship started as a beautiful, genuine friendship. After three dinners in Shanghai and many long telephone conversations that felt like a deep, soulful connection, he proposed. I will never forget that day. It came like thunder. Totally unexpected. Surreal. A miracle of love.

I was thirty-five and very clear on what I wanted from a romantic relationship. My wish was to feel loved, supported, cherished, and appreciated. I wanted a partner—a lover and a friend—not to complete me, because I was already feeling whole and complete. I wanted to spend my precious time with someone I could share new life experiences with while building a solid foundation together.

Once we got married, some people started to ask me about pregnancy plans. Some ask this question without even thinking that some women can’t conceive, or just don’t want to have children. In fact, it’s nobody’s business.

Motherhood is not for everyone, and every woman has the right to her own choices. Having children is not a game to play; it’s the most difficult job in the world, and it has to come as a conscious decision, not an obligation or another box to tick. Some people adopt, and some don’t. Some women make amazing aunts, friends, caregivers, or mentors. There are various ways to give, nurture, and be of service.

I know women who’ve been advised to have a second child right after delivering their first baby, as if a mother should not act “selfish” and “only think of herself.” To some people, part of being a good mom is providing the first born with brothers or sisters.

Why so much pressure? In our lives, who makes the rules?

Someone recently suggested that I hurry up and have a child now, as I’m still young enough to conceive. “What if you end up alone when you’re old?” they asked. “Who’s going to take care of you if you get sick?”

But here’s what I think: I would never decide to have a child out of fear. It’s not a child’s job to complete their parent or make them happy, just as it isn’t our partners’ job. Children are meant to come to life for themselves, not to fill a void or make us feel whole and complete. Happiness is a personal responsibility, with or without children. But not everyone sees it this way.

So many people live their precious years ticking boxes or following norms imposed on them by others, trying to fulfill other peoples’ requirements and expectations. I find this heartbreaking. Some do not go for their dreams because they feel afraid or guilty. They wouldn’t want to disappoint anyone, especially their dear ones.

In reality, we can’t disappoint anyone. People disappoint themselves with the expectations they set for whom they want us to be, or what they want us to do. People with no agenda cannot get disappointed, nor can they get involved in drama. They accept and love us unconditionally, as we are.

I wouldn’t want anyone to enter co-dependent romantic relationships with someone out of pressure.

I wouldn’t want anyone to do a job they dislike or even hate because that’s what someone in their family wanted for them. Or more precisely, their family member wanted that for themselves.

Descartes was right: by nature, we are all “social animals.” No matter our gender, race, age, or social status, we all have a basic human need to feel seen, heard, liked, appreciated, and loved. Most of us need to belong to particular groups or communities of like-minded people and feel socially accepted. There’s nothing wrong with that.

The problem occurs when we are not able to satisfy some of our human desires by ourselves, using others as a source of happiness, an instrument for validation, or a means to avoid ourselves.

I’ve been there myself in the past. I can recall many situations when I did things I didn’t really want to do to please others, like going to a movie with someone on a Sunday when my body wanted to stay home and take a good nap.

I was a master of people pleasing and, to be honest, it wasn’t always because I wanted to make everyone happy. The truth is that I wanted people to like and approve of me. I expected them to give me the things I wasn’t giving myself: love, time, care, and attention.

Again, being loved is a human need. However, being needy for love is something different. When we have a harmonic relationship with ourselves, we don’t need to spend time with others to fill a void in ourselves, but rather to feel a sense of connection and belonging. And we don’t need to make choices just to get their approval. We’re able to do what’s right for us, and accept that may or may not approve, and that’s okay.

You are the sum of your choices. Do whatever feels right for you. You don’t owe anyone any explanations for the way you choose to live your precious years, and with whom. Your time is your life, and it’s never coming back.

Spend your life with people who bring the best in you, who support you and accept you just the way you are. Relationships in which you need to pretend are toxic. If you don’t feel at ease with people, don’t try to change yourself; change the people you surround yourself with.

Mind your own journey and sing your own song. If it sounds like something you “should” do, don’t do it. Your needs matter. Don’t let anyone else write your story. Your life is about you, and you deserve to be happy. The world doesn’t need more counterfeit people. The world needs you to be you.

About Sara Fabian

Sara Fabian is a women’s career and empowerment coach and inspirational speaker, on a mission to help professional women to discover their unique strengths, gifts and talents, boost their confidence, find their calling and live a meaningful life of purpose. For weekly inspiration, subscribe to her free newsletter at sarafabiancoaching.com or follow her on Facebook.

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3 Ways to Stop Worrying and Feel Less Anxious

“There isn’t enough room in your mind for both worry and faith. You must decide which one will live there.” ~Sir Robertson

Do you consider yourself a worrier?

Maybe even a perfectionist or Type A personality?

When I’m not at my best, I can be all of those things combined. (Not cute, I know.)

Because of this, I know exactly what it feels like to be stuck in my head, with tightness in my chest and emotional wrenches in my gut.

If you also struggle with worry and anxiety, then I feel you. I rode the worry struggle bus for a long time—until I finally addressed my psychology.

Why Your Psychology Matters Most

My aunt once told me (after I called her in the middle of a freak out), “You’re worried because you’re trying to control the future Kari, and that’s impossible.”

Woah. Paradigm shift. That’s when it all ‘clicked’ and I realized that my issues with worry and anxiety were all self-created.

Then it got me wondering… If I created this worry and anxiety with my thoughts, maybe I can create relaxation with my thoughts too.

After researching the psychology of worry, I learned some practices that helped transition me from an uptight chronic worrier into a pretty relaxed person. I still have my moments, but it’s nothing like before.

Today, I’d like to share three of my best practices with you. I hope they can help you reduce your worry and anxiety too.

Let’s start with the most practical piece of advice.

1. Practice using coping imagery.

This involves visualizing yourself handling worst-case scenarios with confidence.

And just to be clear: You’re visualizing the worst-case scenario, not the best case. It’s like defensive pessimism, which can actually help with anxiety more than positive thinking.

So instead of worrying about being crushed by the worst-case scenario, try visualizing yourself handling it with confidence.

Here’s an example (that I cringe to share with you because it seems so silly in hindsight):

I recently started dating a guy who I developed some serious feelings for. I had the most successful first date of my life with him, and it’s been amazing ever since.

But instead of getting excited about the potential, I started worrying about all the things that could go wrong. (Like I said, being a worrier is self-created misery!)

Specifically, I was worried that in the future we wouldn’t be able to see each other for weeks because he was crazy busy. I grew anxious over feeling devastated in the future by the potential lack of quality time I crave.

Although it wasn’t even a problem yet, I started worrying about making plans to the point where I started sabotaging the romance by “trying too hard.”

I let my anxiety consume me, and I became the chaser instead of allowing something beautiful to naturally unfold. I hated that I started to sabotage something beautiful, but in that moment, (it felt like) I couldn’t help myself.

And this is where the switch happens.

Instead of worrying about how devastated I would feel if we couldn’t spend time together, I started visualizing myself feeling okay if I didn’t get to see him. (I chose “okay” instead of “happy” because it needs to be realistic.)

Instead of thinking about the void, I thought about all the other wonderful things I could do with my time, like surf or entertain my hobbies.

This seriously helped put my mind and body at ease! Here are more details for the process:

How to Do It

To practice using coping imagery, start by imagining the situation that brings you anxiety. How do you feel? What are you thinking?

Then, start to imagine a warm glow of confidence radiating from you. Imagine being in that situation feeling totally confident and capable. How does it feel? What are you thinking?

Then, imagine something going wrong—something that you’re worried about—and imagine yourself handling that situation with confidence and ease too. What thoughts and feelings helped you handle it

Get comfortable with these thoughts and feelings and keep mentally practicing them.

This “mental rehearsal” helps activate neuroplasticity, your brain’s ability to rewire itself and form new neural connections, like new thought loops.

The more you practice using coping imagery, the more you strengthen the new thought loops for positive thinking (or defensive pessimism) and weaken the thought loops for worrying.

In time, you’ll naturally become less of a worrier because your brain has been trained to think confident thoughts instead of worrisome thoughts.

2. Be willing to feel uncomfortable.

Worry and anxiety often come from trying to protect yourself from pain. And I don’t blame you. Our primal brain is wired to seek pleasure and avoid pain; and anxiety is often caused by worrying about the potential pain that we might feel in the future.

Sometimes we’re so afraid of emotional pain and loss that we forget that they can’t physically harm us.

And this is where the saying “make peace with discomfort” will serve you very well; because your ability to be uncomfortable is directly related to your ability to be a relaxed person.

Sometimes we assume that we need to be comfortable in order to be relaxed. But sometimes being relaxed simply means feeling uncomfortable and being okay with that.

The more discomfort you’re able to tolerate, the less you’ll worry about preventing it from happening.

For me, I had to develop the skill of tolerating uncertainty (which is an uncomfortable feeling for me) in my dating life. Although uncertainty feels uncomfortable, I learned to make space for it instead of worrying about making it go away.

If you want to develop the skill of tolerating discomfort too, here’s how you can do it:

How to Do It

A great way to train yourself to tolerate discomfort is to take cold showers. Yup! Even just a five-minute cold shower a day can train your brain to tolerate discomfort.

Not into cold showers? Another great practice is setting aside fifteen minutes every day as your “uncomfortable practice periods.” These practice periods will help you develop the skill of tolerating discomfort.

So whenever you start to feel uncomfortable in your daily life, use it as practice. Hold space for the discomfort and make peace with it as best you can.

For example, if you really hate public speaking, then use your weekly company meeting as a place to practice being uncomfortable by speaking up at least once.

The more you practice feeling uncomfortable, the better you will get at being uncomfortable. And the more uncomfortable you’re willing to be, the less worry and anxiety you will feel.

You’ll learn to let life unfold naturally without worry.

3. Plan what you can and let the rest unfold.

During the months preceding graduation from college I experienced the biggest bout of anxiety and worry that ever consumed me.

What if I don’t get any interviews? What if I totally flunk the interview I get? What if I get the job and hate it? What if, what if, what if?

Fueled by tons of stress, I worked really hard to apply to dozens of jobs before I graduated. In constant panic mode, I refused to leave my desk to play because I was convinced that every ounce of my energy needed to be dedicated to solving this problem.

In the end, I ended up getting a job through a friend who happened to mention the opportunity through random conversation.

I couldn’t have planned for that.

All my preparation paid off, but there was one lesson that I took away from all the unnecessary worry and anxiety:

If I had done everything the same, but did it all in a relaxed fashion, I would have created the same result.

“Let go of the idea that gentle, relaxed people can’t be superachievers… One of the major reasons so many of us remain hurried, frightened, and competitive, and continue to live life as if it were one giant emergency, is our fear that if we were to become more peaceful and loving, we would suddenly stop achieving our goals.” ~Richard Carlson

Sometimes we get tripped up thinking that stress is somehow essential for getting things done. And while some stress is beneficial, extreme stress and anxiety are not necessary for success.

You can be a totally relaxed person and still get everything done—without worry.

How to Do It

Sit down and write down all the things you’re worried/stressed about. Then pretend like you’re coaching someone else with those problems.

What advice would you give them? What steps would you have them take?

Then, follow those steps and stop there. Don’t worry about whether or not you did enough. You followed your own advice, and you can relax about the rest.

Plan what you can, and then breathe. Don’t let your mind continue to race about all the things that could go wrong (unless you’re using Coping Imagery).

Just have faith that what’s meant to be will be, and let the universe carry you for a while.

You’ve Got This

Together, these three steps helped me seriously reduce my anxiety and worry. Will you join me and try them too?

Start by making coping imagery and “uncomfortable practice periods” daily habits. This will help you develop the skill of tolerating discomfort, and your worry and anxiety will lessen.

In time, you will get better at letting life unfold the way it was always meant to be.

Some days you might still find yourself on the worry struggle bus. But maybe this time you’ll feel like you’re in the driver’s seat.

About Kari Dahlgren

Kari Dahlgren is an anti-diet weight loss coach with a radical philosophy: You can love yourself lighter. Learn the tools to stop binge eating and love your body by subscribing to her new YouTube channel and following her blog!

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Whatever Is Taken for Granted Will Eventually Be Taken Away

“They say ‘you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.’ The truth is, you knew exactly what you had. You just didn’t think that you were going to lose it.” ~Unknown

She was a mother of eight children. She lived with her family in a small village in the countryside.

Living in a poor family, with eight mouths to feed, she worked every possible job from dawn till dusk, from working in her family’s own rice field to accepting gigs from anyone who’d hire her.

Many people told her not to put her children in school so she could have some help with work. But she insisted on letting her children be educated so that they could have a shot to live a better life than hers. It meant working ten times extra, but she did it anyway.

She lived more strictly than a monk. She didn’t eat enough, because the less she ate, the more her children could eat.

Fast forward nearly forty years later, she suffered from heart disease, blood pressure problem, and many serious illnesses. According to the doctor, the main reason was that she’d neglected herself for so long.

In the last couple months of her life, she couldn’t walk or talk. She became paralyzed and she forgot her children and grandchildren. Later she died in the arms of her family.

That was the life story of my grandmother, the woman who sacrificed her entire life to take care of other people and expected nothing in return. And everyone took her for granted.

It’s not because we didn’t love her. But we were just too busy with our lives. And most importantly, our society raised us not to express our love and feelings to others, because it was considered a sign of weakness.

I remember just a couple hours before she died, we were all expecting it and we gathered together to be with her.

My mom said, “Grandma is so weak.” I hugged her.

It was the first time I saw her cry.

A couple years later, my aunt told me she never hugged my grandma and told her how much she loved her. She didn’t know better at that time. She does now, but she’ll never have that chance again.

They took her for granted. And now she’s gone.

My grandma’s love and sacrifices seem to repeat themselves—with my mom.

A mother of four children, she found herself in a familiar situation.

She raised her four children herself while her husband was away to work for many years. She never had good food because she tried to save money to provide for her family.

And honestly, I also took her for granted.

She was always there for me when I needed her. She never left me when I got sick. She fixed my clothes and bought me some pretty shoes when I asked for them, even though money was tight. She provided me with everything I’ve ever needed. And magically, she still managed to do the same for my siblings.

She was a superwoman to me.

It was not uncommon for her to do all the household chores while we just sat around, studying, chatting, or playing.

I knew she worked hard, but I also thought that’s how all moms were. I never remembered to say “thank you” to her. She plays a huge part in my life, and for a long time I just didn’t realize it. Until she was diagnosed with cancer.

My world collapsed. Life was so brutal.

When she was in the chemo, the house was a mess. No one cared to clean, cook, or talk. My family and I only talked about Mom, who was becoming weaker by the day.

I remember when she finally came home after the first chemo session, we kept asking her what food she could eat and how she felt. That was the first time she received so much attention.

I also remember she got up, ran outside the room, stood in the dark, and cried. She cried not because she was scared of death, but because she was scared that no one would take care of her children.

I had taken her for granted, but I still had a chance. Since then, I learned to take care of her as well as she took care of me.

Even after my mom was cured, the fear of losing her still scared me to death. But it also makes me realize that we all tend to take people around us for granted, especially the people who are closest to us. We only remember to cherish them when we are about to lose or after we lost them.

I now make it a goal to never take anyone for granted. I make sure I appreciate everyone around me. If you think you might also be guilty of taking people for granted…

Remind yourself that nothing is permanent.

Nothing you have today will last forever. Not your job, your house, or your car. Not the people who are closest to you. Not even the people who vowed to never leave your side.

Take a moment and accept the fact that life is short and you don’t have a lot of time to be with your loved ones. Someday all those people will no longer be around you, and you can’t possibly know when. Cherish them while you can.

Expect nothing. Appreciate everything.

No one is responsible for you and your life. No one is obligated to show you affection and kindness. Even if they are the people you love, it doesn’t mean they must love you back. They don’t have to do anything for you, even the smallest things.

So when they do, recognize their efforts and thank them for everything they do for you. Everyone appreciates knowing they’re appreciated.

Express your love with little gestures.

Born in a third world country, I wasn’t raised to express my feelings for other people. Many times I struggled to tell my mom how much I love her. I thought she knew because she is my mom. But it doesn’t mean she would not feel happier if I chose to share how much I cared.

It was strange at first, but now I call her every day and kiss her over the phone camera. I send her random text to tell her I love her and arrange flowers to be delivered to her house.

Even if you’re busy, put in the effort to show how much you care. It doesn’t have to be anything big. As Robert Brault said, the little things are often the big things.

Stay in the moment.

Sometimes we are so busy with our work, our hobbies, and our relationship problems that we don’t focus on the people who are right in front of us.

But if you don’t, when you look back on those moments, you will regret not being in the moment and enjoying time with your loved ones.

Make a commitment to yourself today: Stop worrying about things you have no control over. And if you can’t stop worrying altogether, at least vow to put your worries aside for a while every day so you can be there for your loved ones, both physically and spiritually.

It is easy to get used to all the sweet and kind gestures people do for you. But don’t take them for granted.

Go ahead. Call your mom, dad, or someone else you love. Tell them how much you love them and thank them for everything they do.

Send a text to your significant other, if you have one. Thank them for cooking a big breakfast for you, or even just for listening.

Buy a bouquet of flowers and send it to your spouse or friend, along with a note to tell them how much you appreciate they little things they do for you every day.

“Smile big. Laugh often. Never take this life for granted.” ~Unknown

About Mai Pham

Mai Pham believes we can create our own happiness. She helps overwhelmed and frustrated people to ditch their stress and enjoy their lives again. Grab her free actionable cheatsheet: 5 Simple Tips to Release Stress and Bring You Calm in Under 5 Minutes and join her free 7 Joyful Days Challenge email course.

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How Forgiving Yourself and Others Changes Your Brain

“Be quick to forgive, because we’re all walking wounded.” ~Anonymous

People often behave in ways that we find irritating, annoying, or worse. This can happen especially with people close to us.

They can speak with little consideration for the impact of their words. They can criticize us and pounce on our mistakes. Sometimes they do unfair things that seriously disadvantage or damage us. Or they let us down when we’re counting on them.

All these behaviors can lead to us feeling wounded. The scars can persist for years or even decades. The closer the offenders are to us, the greater the impact tends to be.

Most of us would like others to understand us, to act reliably, and to be approachable when things go wrong. We’d like them to be kind in dealing with our mistakes or offences. We’d like them to understand that we aren’t set in stone, that we aren’t just the sum total of our mistakes.

We deserve a chance to recover and show our better side. We’d like them to be more understanding and put a more favorable interpretation on what we did or failed to do.

However, it can be different when others behave badly. Often, we spend a lot of time and energy going over the way we were wronged, mistreated, disappointed, disrespected, or disregarded.

Dwelling on the perceived wrong kindles the fire of a grudge. The more we dwell on it, the bigger this fire grows.

Can this fire burn us?

When I was in high school, some of the coolest kids formed a band. Everyone wanted to be in that band. I played the piano, so I too wanted to be in it.

One of my closest friends also played the piano, but not as well. It became a bit of a tussle between us. I was chosen, to my delight.

When we started playing gigs, a piano was not always available. So I took to the melodica, a little instrument into which you blow. It has a keyboard.

We started playing gigs, with quite a good response from audiences. Everything was going well, until we were invited to play a gig in a venue right near my home.

The melodica was at the band leader’s house, because we rehearsed there. I asked for it to be brought to the gig.

On the evening of the gig, my bandmates turned up. Unfortunately, the melodica could not be found. Apparently, it had been brought to the venue by the band leader but had disappeared.

This was a bitter blow. I had so looked forward to strutting my stuff before a home crowd. I rushed around to various people who might have a melodica, but could not find one.

The gig happened without me. I was downcast.

Eventually, the real story came out.

The melodica had been brought to the venue. The close friend I mentioned, who also played the piano, had simply taken it away and hidden it.

I was outraged. I felt betrayed, violated, and angry. I felt ready to run my friend over with a large truck.

We didn’t speak for a couple of years. Then I got an apology of sorts. Somehow, things were never the same between us.

I went off to medical school and our paths have never crossed since.

What happens to your brain when you cling to a grudge?

The parts of your brain that specialize in criticism grow more active. They feed on your thoughts about the grudge. The neurons involved lay down more connections, strengthening this response.

The next time someone behaves in a way that you disapprove of, your brain more readily jumps to criticism and judgment.

All that is understandable, you’re not alone in practicing criticism. But there’s a price to pay for this practice.

The same parts of your brain that criticize others also criticize you. You tend to become more unforgiving about your own mistakes. Self-acceptance recedes. It becomes harder for you to like yourself.

Further, this can lead to a cycle of mutual criticism between you and people who matter to you. It tends to weaken the supportive relationships we all need.

A recent study among 5,475 men and 4,580 women aged over 50 showed that a single point increase in negative social support score resulted in a 31 percent rise in the risk of eventual dementia. Negative social support is where you experience a lot of critical, unreliable and annoying behaviors from others, especially people close to you.

What can you do to start breaking this downward spiral of mutual criticism and self-criticism?

First, ask what stresses or problems may have led to the undesirable behavior. Try to find explanations that weaken the impact of the “bad” behavior on your mind. This is as true for self-criticism as for criticizing others.

Perhaps there were circumstances that led to you acting in regrettable ways. If you regret it, don’t wallow in the regret. Find explanations to understand why you did what you did.

Give yourself the gift of forgiveness, strengthen your resolve to do what is good and important going forward, then move on. This same gift of forgiveness may be given to others, recognizing that all human beings are vulnerable to errors or even terrible behavior.

Forgiveness is not the same as reconciliation with the offender. Reconciliation is the re-establishment of mutual trust. That requires a further step as part of negotiation.

But forgiveness can proceed regardless of reconciliation and mutual trust.

The more you practice understanding and forgiveness, starting with yourself, the more you strengthen the self-reassuring parts of your brain. These are the same parts that show empathy and compassion to others. They make you more accepting of yourself, with all your flaws and stumbles.

We all have flaws and stumbles. That’s okay. It’s part of being human.

If I could go back to my youth and replay my friend’s apology, I hope I would respond with more understanding. After all, if our positions had been reversed and I’d been blinded by envy, who knows what I might have done.

For a better quality of life right now, with more self-acceptance, and for a lower risk of cognitive decline, try loosening your grip on grudges. And be gentle with yourself when you slip up in this effort. The steering wheel of your life often requires a little time, patience and practice before you can turn it reliably.

I’m still practicing. That’s okay.

Illustration by Kellie Warren. Find her on Instagram @kellistrator.

About Joel Almeida

Joel Almeida PhD mentors busy doctors and other professionals to protect the one thing that makes all of life better: their brain. His science-based Brain Care guide reveals 10 one-minute practices for better brain health at any age, with more peace and joy now and lowered risk of Alzheimer’s. Now you, too, can get the guide (free today).

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How I Stopped Emotional Eating and Started Feeling Better About Life

“Don’t forget you’re human. It’s okay to have a meltdown, just don’t unpack and live there.” ~Unknown

For the longest time, I wanted to lose weight. I wasn’t terribly overweight but it seemed to me that if I could just have the perfect body, life would be amazing.

So, I threw everything but the kitchen sink at my food and exercise habits.

Never one to settle for small wins, I pushed myself to have the perfect diet—I prepped meals at home, didn’t eat out very much, and worked out as often as I could. Yes, the kind where I would run myself ragged and feel exhausted for the next two days.

My day until 7 p.m. would go according to plan. I’d use all of my willpower to eat right. The moment I finished work, though, life would go downhill. I would self-sabotage, stuffing myself at dinner and snacking until midnight to feel better.

I would fall asleep feeling guilty, sick, and ashamed of what I was doing. I would berate myself for not having the self-control and the discipline—this was just a pack of cookies and I couldn’t even say no to it?

I hated myself while I walked to the convenience store at midnight to sneakily buy another pack of chips. It seemed like I was compelled to eat against my will. My life felt out of control and there was nothing I could do about it. More than anything, it was this feeling of helplessness that really hurt.

At the same time, I had a career in Fortune 50—by all outward means a great job at an amazing company—yet I was sad, disenchanted, and felt like I didn’t belong in my first couple of years there.

In hindsight, I can see how I turned to food for comfort; it was why I always overate at night when I was drained out after a long day. It was the time when I needed soothing to make myself feel better, to numb the voices in my head that told me I didn’t belong, and to quieten my mind, which was always searching for answers to existentialist questions of “what is my purpose in life?”

The more and more I ate to soothe myself, the more and more my body craved food. I felt restless if I wasn’t stuffed. Instead of stopping to deal with the pain rationally, I tried to use diet, exercise, and willpower to exert some semblance of control over my otherwise clueless life.

Soon, I realized that I was in a deep hole and that all conventional attempts to get myself out of it weren’t working. I couldn’t go on feeling like this day in and day out, so I began to make a series of mindset and behavioral shifts to start feeling happy again.

As a bonus, I also lost twenty pounds in six months, stopped having cravings, and finally felt in control of my life again.

My biggest mindset shift was being compassionate with myself.

  • Where previously I judged myself harshly, now I try to do my best without criticism.
  • Where previously I would look for perfection, now I accept that I am dealing with a difficult period in my life and it’s okay to fail sometimes.
  • Where previously I would try to numb my emotions, now I accept that I can’t fix them immediately.
  • Where previously I would expect myself to overcome challenges in a jiffy, now I realize that these things take time.

My biggest behavioral shift was noticing and facing my emotions.

1. I began to notice and realize for the first time when I actually overate.

For me, it was at night after work, and no degree of willpower or keeping trigger foods out of reach seemed to help. Just noticing this pattern, however, helped me anticipate what was coming so I wasn’t caught off guard. Automatically, this made me feel more in control of what was going on with my eating.

2. I started noticing my feelings during the urge.

What was that emotion, raw and murky, that I sub-consciously didn’t want to face? Was it tiredness or sadness? Exhaustion or a pick-me-up? Often, the reality of a purposeless existence hit me hard once I was back home and all alone. The last thing I wanted to do at that point was deal with it, so I ate to forget it instead.

3. I honed it on what I actually wanted to feel—what was it that food would give me?

Did I want to be warm and comforted? In control? Alert? I was always seeking comfort, so I made myself some hot tea and sipped it mindfully, feeling the tea warming my entire body. I always eventually took a deep breath at the end of it and I felt much better.

Sometimes this relief was only temporary; I would be fine for a few hours, but by midnight I would be reaching out for food again. That’s when I realized that I also needed to face my emotions.

4. I had to take the hard step and allow myself to feel my emotions.

For me, it was sadness and hopelessness. I didn’t try to forget it. I didn’t try to distract myself from it. I just accepted the feeling.

Sometimes, it would wash over me like a tide and I’d feel like crying. At other times, I felt numb and empty. All of these feelings were only natural and perfectly normal. My body and mind were just seeking some acknowledgement and I would feel a sense of relief that the knot of emotion that was so tied up inside me was finally out.

5. On some days, allowing myself to feel my emotions was enough. On other days I had to address my feelings head on even if they made me uncomfortable.

I asked myself why I kept feeling this way. Was I just tired and overworked? Was I unhappy at where I was in life? I kept asking myself why again and again until I found a reason that resonated with me, that wasn’t just another justification to myself. I was experiencing a quarter-life crisis, it was affecting me every day and that was okay, because now I could deal with it rationally.

6. Lastly, I always gave myself the choice to eat at the end of this exercise.

If I still wanted to eat, that was fine. If I didn’t, that was fine too. It was important to me that I controlled my actions, and wasn’t a victim to my feelings.

In hindsight, I realize that at the end of the day, it’s not our conscious habits or behaviors that determine our happiness. It’s our unconscious desires, fears, and emotions that go unaddressed that eat us up from within, literally in this case.

If you want to stop emotional eating, recognize that it started as a symptom of something much larger—perhaps dissatisfaction with your career, finances, or relationships—something you didn’t want to face head on.

As the eating habit evolves, it gets more and more compulsive so there is a combination of mental, behavioral, and emotional hacks that all need to work together to heal. That is why conventional dieting and fitness advice doesn’t work. That is why relying on willpower doesn’t work. It’s normal that these things don’t help, and you’re normal for feeling this way.

Remember that how you respond to an emotion or a craving is your choice, always.

However hopeless you may be feeling now, know that you have the power to make changes that can transform your life. You just have to start again, even if you fail sometimes—but this time, start differently. Use your emotional awareness to beat comfort eating at its own game.

About Sai Aparajitha Gopalakrishnan

Sai helps ambitious women quit emotional eating and cravings so they can focus on their careers and families instead of fighting food all the time. A childhood psych buff and big-time foodie, Sai blogs at My Spoonful Of Soul. Get her three exclusive free gifts for Tiny Buddha readers that step-by-step guide them on their journey to quit emotional eating.

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Yes, I Do Matter

“Love yourself like your life depends on it. Because it does.” ~Danielle LaPorte

Thank you website impersonator. I appreciate you. In fact, you may be one of my best teachers.

Whoa. What?

Most people wouldn’t normally think of extending gratitude for someone who steals your words, impersonates your personal story, and uses your images online. Neither did I when I realized that an anonymous source had lifted not just my blog posts, but images of my daughter and specific characteristics of my life on their website.

Truth be told, I was outraged. This took intent. This took more than just a simple action of copying and pasting a few blog posts.

I’d only discovered this copycat website by chance. After a month of ignoring what I assumed were marketing emails from my website hosting company, I stopped long enough to pay attention.

Hadn’t I shut down this website a year ago? Indeed. I had allowed an old blog to go dark without ever realizing that the day after my site went offline, another was born—with not just the same URL, but an author who presented herself with my first name, my past career, and my medical history. The resemblance was remarkable.

Once the outrage simmered to a low boil, I went into action mode. Google and Facebook became my teachers for cease and desist language and the protocol for a digital takedown. But the more effort I put into wanting to “fight,” I also felt resistance.

Does it really matter? The pirated site was about to expire anyway—was this really what I wanted to put my energy into? Wouldn’t it take away from my real work? My soul’s purpose? I wondered if maybe this was an invitation to practice acceptance and compassion. Could I just let this go and release the grip on my story?

The more I struggled with how to feel and what to think, the more detached I became. The more others around me took up the fight, with rage-y anger and thoughts of legal action, the more I retreated into a chorus of “I don’t have the energy for this.”

It felt too overwhelming. Too daunting. Just too much.

I didn’t know much that day, but I knew I needed to get myself to a yin yoga class.

And then it hit me. Or rather, the importance of this lesson found me.

There I was, supporting myself with elbows pressing into my mat in sphinx pose. Our teacher invited us to allow our bellies to soften toward the earth. At once, it was as if all of the emotions that I’d been trying to resist were leaking out of me. I couldn’t have stopped the tears from flowing if I tried. Drip after drip, the feelings started to spill out. And as they did, I heard a voice from within.

It does matter. It is important. It is worth your energy. You do matter. You are important. You are worth your energy.

It wasn’t just about the website that used my first name and life story anymore. I started to feel the flashes of the past move through me.

The moment that I told myself that my (ex) fiancé cheating on me and leaving me right before my bone marrow transplant was okay because we’d been handed circumstances that we could never have envisioned at a young age.

The time that I divorced my first husband and made peace with mediation and his wishes because it would just be better for my young daughter if I made things easy.

Decades of never correcting people when they mispronounced my first name, because really….”I answer to anything.”

It was as if I was looking at the lifetime of “it doesn’t matter” moments in a mirror, each one, burying my own self-worth even deeper into the ground.

I matter.

These two simple words, layered with so much emotion, burst out of my heart through the tears.

Of all the moments in my life, it took a website impersonator to help me decide that I matter. That I am worth it.

Perhaps I hadn’t been ready before to find this sense of devotion to my worth. Perhaps the challenges and obstacles of my past were all part of the training that I needed to tend to my wholeness.

How many times had I relied on the theory that I should pick my battles? Not standing up for what was important because, in the big scheme of things, it wasn’t that big of a deal.

I’m a mom of a teenager, so picking my battles is par for the course. And I believe that there are, indeed, something things that are better released than forced. But at what point does each decision actually chip away at our own self-worth? How can we be compassionate and empathetic beings while still honoring our worthiness and value?

At what point do we decide that our hearts are sacred altars that need tending?

The good news is that a simple and not very legal sounding email did the trick to entice the anonymous website owner to take down images and stories that were mine. And I’m thankful for that. But I’m even more grateful for this gut-punching nudge because the days of self-deprecating not-a-big-deal moments are over. They have to be.

So many of us wrangle with the beast of mattering and worthiness. I’d even believed that I’d tamed it in the past, but in fact, the thread of stories of making things easier for others or feeling like it would be better to blend into the background was sturdier than I thought.

It is in these moments of challenge or contrast that we have a choice. To stand up for our self-worth. For our voices. For our stories. To make the decision to finally stand tall in the belief that we matter.

While picking and choosing our battles might be a powerful parenting tool, we have every right to speak up when someone disrespects us, disregards our needs, or minimizes our feelings. It does matter. And it’s not being oversensitive, rude, or dramatic.

Every time we speak up and recognize that we are honoring our inner value, we reinforce to ourselves that our feelings and needs are important—that we are important, just as important as anyone else.

When we believe this, we act like it. We take better care of ourselves. We set healthy boundaries. We listen to the little voice inside that tells us when something isn’t right for us. And we allow ourselves the space to pursue our dreams and reach our potential, which enables us to make a positive difference in the world. The flip side is true as well. The more we act like we matter, the more we believe it.

It all starts with saying, “Yes, I do matter.” Now, I know I do. Do you?

About Elena Sonnino

Elena Sonnino is a life coach and speaker. She guides women who struggle with not-enoughness to see themselves with curiosity, vulnerability, and self-love. Her superpower is to be the mirror that helps you tap into your inner guidance and light up your own world. Learn more about Elena’s work and download a free guided meditation to tend to your inner garden.

Get in the conversation! Click here to leave a comment on the site.

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3 Things That Are Helping Me Deal with Stress, Pain, and Loss

“Being on a spiritual path does not prevent you from facing times of darkness; but it teaches you how to use the darkness as a tool to grow.” ~Unknown

Life has not been kind lately.

My aunt passed away in October. She had been suffering from cancer, but her family kept the extent of her illness to themselves, and hence I did not have a chance to see her before she passed away. I felt bad about that.

My father followed her a month later, just after Thanksgiving. He had been ailing from Parkinson’s Disease, but his death as well was not expected when it happened.

Two weeks after him, a friend of mine who lives abroad informed me of her diagnosis with a rare form of incurable cancer. She has since passed away before I had a chance to visit her. She was not yet fifty years old.

Right after that happened, the veterinarian diagnosed my dog with heart failure, and his days too are numbered.

In mid-January, my mother, who had been depressed after my father’s death, collapsed with a seizure. A tumor was discovered in her brain. Though easily removed, it was traced back to her lung. She too has a rare form of aggressive cancer and though outwardly healthy, her life will probably be limited to months or a couple of years.

The whole ordeal until diagnosis unfolded over the course of an extremely stressful month, and the future is both frightening and terribly uncertain. Because of this uncertainty, I have needed to change my life plans—I had been ready to relocate and change jobs.

In the last two weeks, I have had another friend in her forties diagnosed with advanced cancer with a poor prognosis, and my sister’s marriage has come apart.

Every week it seems brings some new tragedy. As just about everyone who knows me has said: “It’s a lot.” It certainly is.

I can’t put a happy face on this. Life has just been awful, and I wake up each day praying for no more bad news. There has been such a procession of misfortune that I feel more numb than anything else.

And yet, I haven’t been destroyed. I’m not depressed. When someone is depressed, whether it’s situational or clinical, they often become self-obsessed and turn just about any event, however positive, into a negative commentary on their life. I’ve been there before, and this is not depression.

I’m scared, but I feel strong. I know I can handle this. And, I’m very thankful—thankful for what gave me the strength to endure these times: my spiritual journey.

In 2012, after a years-long series of illnesses, bad romantic relationships, frayed friendships, work drama, and general instability in my life, I had a total breakdown.

By “breakdown” I mean the whole nine yards—massive depression, professional psychological help, medication, and inability to work or even function normally. However, following this breakdown came the clichéd spiritual awakening.

This spiritual awakening taught me so many things, most of which you’ve probably already read about, for example: the ego, the importance of being present, the power of vulnerability, etc.

It was such a fragile period of intense learning and growth built atop a well of deep suffering. It felt terrible, but I learned and changed so much. Though it’s unlikely that I will experience such drastic spiritual growth in such a short period of time again, I realized that I had embarked on a life-long spiritual journey with no end.

Along the way, there have been fewer but no less rewarding “Aha moments” and new realizations made possible by the consciousness I had gained. Furthermore, there have been many spiritual tests, and each time I worry that I will fail to live the lessons I’ve already internalized, I surprise myself and come through.

And now I’ve reached an objectively extraordinarily difficult time. This is not a crisis of egoic drama or hurt feelings but real pain—physical suffering and death for so many people who I care about in a matter of months.

While the spiritual journey is a continuum with multiple themes that are difficult to unravel from each other, there are a few concepts that are sustaining me through it all:

1. Presence and the now

The weight of all of it has pushed me into a very intense NOW. I try not to hope because hope has let me down a lot recently, but perhaps more importantly, hope is focused on an unknowable and largely inalterable future. Though in the context of a lot of terrible events, rarely is there anything wrong with this very moment. Despite the pain of recent events, right now there is so much going right.

Choosing to focus on the good isn’t delusional—it’s an accurate reflection of reality.

My mother is dying. We don’t know when and there isn’t too much we can do, but thinking of that future is enough to ruin every day. And yet, with our time together now so valuable, I have no choice but to be fully present with her as much as I can.

I have experienced so much loss recently, but bitterly clinging to that loss will distract me from the precious time I have left with my mother and friends, and it will do nothing to bring back my dad, my aunt, or anyone else.

However, there isn’t much wrong with right now. My mom isn’t suffering, I’m lucky to be free from work to be with her, and my family has come together in support of each other. The birds sing each morning, the weather is fine, and the forest near our house is beautiful. That’s all real too, and there is much joy to be had in each moment.

Should something arise in the moment, that’s when I’ll deal with it. While I do occasionally find myself worrying over the future, that serves no purpose and only spoils the now.

2. Boundaries

In times of extreme stress when so many things are going wrong, it is critical to exercise self-care; you cannot be a positive force in the world if you’re falling apart inside.

Boundaries are key to protecting your time and energy, which are particularly challenged in very difficult times, from behaviors that drain them. However, most of the time life is much easier, so we allow people to skate by and “go along to get along” as not to be difficult. After all, we don’t want to seem mean or selfish or unforgiving. We aim to please.

However, while the importance of boundaries is particularly stark in times of crisis, even in normal times they play an important role in self-care and building healthy relationships.  This is clear when we see what can happen when we don’t enforce boundaries.

Oftentimes, trying to be nice and agreeable, we allow someone to repeatedly cross the line with no repercussions. As our resentment builds, we may act out in retaliation, doing nothing helpful for ourselves or the world.

A relationship of true intimacy and mutual respect should be able to easily withstand one party making his or her boundaries clear. If the other can’t handle that, then how deep of relationship is it anyway? In fact, establishing a level of trust with someone to feel comfortable enough to discuss boundaries is in itself a sign of a strong relationship.

Enforcing boundaries involves a level of honesty that can deepen relationships.

During my mother’s time in the hospital, frustrated with being confined to bed, she unleashed a stream of vitriol at me that were without a doubt the most hurtful words anyone has ever said to me.

As difficult as it was to do with her health in such a fragile state, I felt I had no choice; I had to enforce my boundaries. If I am to be her primary caregiver, I couldn’t endure a situation in which she directs her frustrations at me—it wouldn’t work for me, and it wouldn’t work for her. Unfortunately, it was a repeated behavior of hers over many years.

Without getting into the details, we had a very frank discussion about this, and to be fair, it’s something I let her get away with for a long time by not enforcing my boundaries.

While initially very painful, this talk led to me sharing deep dark memories and thoughts I never would have otherwise said and clearing a lot of what stood in the way of our relationship as mother and son. That very likely would not have happened had I not stood firm, and I never would have established that open a relationship with her.  However long she has left in this world, I know that this issue, my past hurt from her actions, won’t stand between us again.

3. Having an open mind

When faced with a diagnosis as dire as what my mom was given, unless you completely give up, keeping an open mind is often the only way to find good news that you would have otherwise overlooked.

For example, in beginning my research on this type of cancer, I was dismayed to learn that there has been no material change to the standard of care in about forty years. All of those recent breakthroughs in cancer treatment you’ve heard about, they don’t apply to this one!

However, rather than declaring defeat right away, I did decide to dig a little deeper. What I found was that there actually are a lot of clinical trials going on in our area for this type of cancer, many of which may provide a good second-line treatment option. Moreover, one of the trial drugs is very likely to get FDA approval in the next year, giving us some options where before there was none. Taking advantage of these would require changing hospitals, so these are developments I never would have learned about had I given up.

I’ve been reminded to keep an open mind about people too. My mother, typically pretty volatile, has faced this all with amazing strength and equanimity—certainly more than I’ve shown! For someone totally uninterested in spirituality, she shown a remarkable perspective on all of this in the context of her life, with which she is very satisfied.

My sister, also going through marital problems while taking care of her baby and usually very emotional, has coped perhaps the best of any of us and has exhibited some very healthy habits for staying even. My brother, on the other hand, himself a doctor, has probably been the most scattered and emotionally crippled by the recent events.

The point is that whatever you think you know about a person, it can change any day, any time. People can surprise you, for better or worse. While it’s totally rational to make judgment calls about peoples’ strengths and weaknesses, abilities and attributes, you must always realize that you can be wrong, or that the person might change—in fact, people are changing all of time!

Spirituality is not about finding a happy hiding place insulated from temporal concerns. It’s quite the opposite—it’s about moving through life with eyes and arms wide open to whatever happens. It’s the way we get down in the mud and go through the wringer and remain who we are.

Spirituality is a muscle. It gets stronger with exercise, and exercise causes discomfort. But once recuperated, you find you’re able to lift even more weight than before.

I’ve never had to deal with such a painful series of events, and hopefully I never will again. But however insignificant what I’ve already been through seems in comparison, that past started me on a spiritual journey that prepared me for this present time. Whatever happens, I know I’ll emerge stronger from this too.

About Joshua Kauffman

Joshua Kauffman is a recovering over-achiever and workaholic. Leaving behind a high-powered life in business, he has become a world traveler, aspiring coach, and entrepreneur of pretty things. Amateur author of a recent memoir Footprints Through The Desert, he is trying to find ways to share his awakening experience, particularly to those lost in the rat race like he was.

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It’s Okay to Have Feelings, So Stop Saying “I’m Fine” When You’re Not

I’d rather be honest and authentic and disappoint some people than to exhaust myself trying to keep up the façade of perfection.” ~Crystal Paine

So many people walk around each day masking their true feelings because they are considered the “strong one,” “the upbeat, bubbly one,” or, since they give so much of themselves supporting others, they’re not seen as having any emotions other than happy. If you’ve ever felt like you had to hold it together all the time to keep up a façade for others, there’s freedom in letting people know that you have feelings too.

Keeping it together has always been my thing. You know the phrase “never let ’em see you sweat”? Well, even in my worst moments, I would keep it all in place and poised for the public, but I’d be secretly dying on the inside, because of the pain or challenges I was going through.

It can catch some people off guard to see you be real, revealing that you don’t have it all together, and at times their responses can leave you wounded. I know that feeling all too well.

A few months back, I attended an event to support a colleague and I bumped into someone I knew well. He asked me how I was doing, and I responded honestly with “I’m hanging in there, but I’m fine.”

He immediately made a face and seemed disturbed by my response. He said, “Woooooah, you gotta change that. You sound too defeated and that’s not what I want to hear from you.”

He went on to say, “What you said makes me want to back away from you and go the opposite direction. It’s too much for me. You must always answer with a positive response.” He then went on to provide ways for me to respond in the near future.    

What this person didn’t know was, I was feeling down and discouraged because I felt I wasn’t as far as I should be in my life and business.

I had poured all of myself into doing things to get the business running consistently; however, whenever I looked at all the effort I put in and saw things not happening as quickly as I thought they should, I felt as if I’d failed. So, it was a tough time as I sorted through those different emotions.

At first, I felt lousy about my response, because with me being considered the “upbeat, strong one,” always smiling and helping others to feel better, there is an assumption of how I should be at all times. I thought I had somehow let that person down by revealing my true feelings in that moment. I also felt embarrassed, because I’d exposed a small part of myself and felt like I was rejected and told how I should sound.

But after I thought about it, I realized I was fine with my response because it was a genuine answer. I am on a path of making true connections with others, and I no longer want to “act” and pretend to be fine when I’m not.

While this person didn’t have any ill intent and actually thought he was being helpful in telling me how I should respond, it clearly made it uncomfortable for me to open up to him the next time around.

It made me think about why some people try to force others to hide behind a mask. Why do people expect you to always be “on”?

This was a moment for someone to find out what was truly going on with me, to find out why I seemed so down and to make a true connection, instead of offering me another mask to wear in his presence.

This led me to wonder, when we ask people “How are you doing?” are we really open to an honest response or are we looking to hear the template response we so often hear, “I’m fine”?

I also thought about how many people wear a mask every day or keep a façade to avoid showing their humanity and potentially making others feel uncomfortable. The people we interact with every day are carrying worries, concerns, and emotional pain within, and we cannot ask them to put on a fake smiley face and tell them to be on their way. These people need someone to truly see them.

If you sometimes hide your true feeling behind a mask, here are a few ways to begin opening up.

Practice honestly connecting with people, even if you start small.

As psychotherapist Barton Goldsmith wrote, “When you open your mouth, you’re also opening your heart. And knowing that someone truly hears what you are feeling and understands you is soothing to the soul.”

If you’re not accustomed to opening your heart to people, start small by sharing one thing you’re thinking or feeling but may be tempted to keep inside. Opening up to others will allow you the space to be yourself, and from there you’ll clearly see who’s willing to receive what you have to say with an open heart. You’ll also begin to forge deeper relationships through your honest connections.

Also, be the person who allows others the space to just be, and offer support and guidance as needed. Ask about their lives, and let them know you’re happy to be a nonjudgmental ear. Giving people room to share pieces of themselves lets them know you’re there for them and they can be honest with you.

Allow yourself space to feel.

Many times when we avoid sharing our feelings with others, it’s because we haven’t given ourselves space to identify and process our emotions. We try to cover them up or engage in activities to mask the pain, but they don’t go away when we do this. Left unprocessed, our feelings tend to leak out in other ways. For example, we may overreact in unrelated situations.

Give yourself permission to feel whatever you feel, without judgment, and learn to recognize when you’re lying to yourself, telling yourself you’re “fine” when you’re not. The first step to being honest with others is being honest with yourself.

Be kind to yourself.

We tend to beat ourselves up when we do not respond, act, speak, or think how others believe we should. This can put pressure on us to shift to meet everyone else’s needs without truly acknowledging our own.

Get in the habit of checking in with yourself and meeting your emotional needs, whether that means processing your feelings in a journal or practicing self-care. The more you respect your truth and your needs, the better you’ll be able to communicate them to others.

It’s a heavy burden to hide behind a façade or wear a mask. Allow yourself to experience the freedom of being authentic in each moment and making genuine connections with people who can receive your feelings.

There’s power in putting down your super hero cape, being vulnerable, and sharing your truth. You don’t have to hide, pretend, or feel bad about not always being the “strong one.” You’re not weak, you’re human, and you never have to apologize for that.

About Raphaela Browne

Raphaela Browne is a Certified Transformation + Career Coach and Nonprofit Organizational Consultant, committed to supporting professional women and organizations with embracing change and transitioning seamlessly to their next big thing. Schedule a complimentary session by clicking the link Schedule your session here or visit her at www.raphaelabrowne.com for more information.

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How to Tune Out Your Inner Critic and Enjoy More of Your Life

“Be careful how you are talking to yourself because you are listening.” ~Lisa M. Hayes

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always had a laser-sharp focus on achieving “success.” From the outside, it looks like I’m pretty close to it, too. But on the inside, I wasn’t allowing myself to acknowledge any of it.

I never gave myself the chance to feel like I was doing something right. I started to think that the only way to ensure I keep growing, improving, and achieving was to stop allowing myself to experience the little victories completely. Satisfaction became a dangerous word.

My self-talk turned into “Okay, that was decent, but you can do better…” or “Alright, that’s over, and you need to focus on this now…”

I was giving myself no time to congratulate myself or realize my competence, and this mindset was draining.

In his book The Charge, Brendon Burchard wrote “if we don’t recognize what we’ve accomplished in life—even the small things—then we never feel accomplished.”

I can confirm this from personal experience.

When I was sixteen, I won a national track race in the 800m. When I look back at it, I realize how incredible of an accomplishment that was, and I’m proud of myself. But, in that moment, when I crossed the finish line first, I didn’t feel that amazing feeling of success that I had dreamed of. Don’t get me wrong, I was fully aware of what I had just done and how impressive it was, but the spark wasn’t there.

And that’s because I had dulled it. I hadn’t allowed it to have a voice, so it stopped talking. Instead, the voice that I was giving all the power to was my inner critic, and she definitely was not helping.

Not only was my inner critic present when I was achieving great things, but she practically took over when life was going downhill. After my successful track season, I was determined to reach my wildest goals and dreams in the next one. However, my perfectly defined plan got destroyed when I experienced my first real injury.

One week of disappointment turned into six weeks of agony. I couldn’t run, and I felt myself getting more and more out of shape every day. I was panicking, and my happiness disintegrated.

But I don’t even think that was the hardest part. I was severely mentally tested when I finally did get to train again.

I was so behind, and I was getting my butt kicked in every workout. My previous joy of crushing workouts was now replaced with merely trying to survive. I quickly realized that I couldn’t place my happiness in reaching goal times and slaying 400 repeats—I had to find something else to fuel my fire.

And I found it in gratefulness.

Instead of worrying about embarrassing myself in the next workout, I focused on this: I’m grateful I’m healthy, I’m grateful I get to do it, and I’m grateful that I get to experience the beautiful burn of getting in better shape.

Screw the outcome; I’m grateful for the process.

I wish I could say that I had an awesome track season, but I didn’t. I felt like I was getting thrown on the ground, kicked in the head, allowed to get back up, and then thrown down again.

I went back to the national meet and didn’t place anywhere close to where I had the previous year, got beat by people I knew I should’ve beaten, and got rejected from multiple colleges I was hoping to run at.

But, throughout this dark time, I found something that I had previously covered up and thrown in a dusty corner of my brain: my inner cheerleader.

Yes, I got beat badly at the national meet, but I ran with guts. Yes, my body was not in peak fitness, but I believed I would eventually get there. My inner cheerleader started to experience greater strength as I allowed myself to remember my little victories, and as she came to power, my inner critic began to weaken.

When it came time to prepare for track again, I decided that things were going to be different. I was done being stressed, worried, nervous, unhappy… I was going to run because I loved to run.

The focus was on gratitude. Yes, I was going to go for my goal times in workouts, but if I worked hard and didn’t hit them, it was okay. I was grateful I got to run.

Yes, I was going to put lots of emphasis on getting an adequate amount of sleep, but if I had to stay up later one night to finish a paper, I wasn’t going to beat myself up. I was grateful that I had the work ethic and motivation to do my paper.

In his book How Bad Do You Want It? Mark Fitzgerald wrote “‘Gratitude’ is about letting go of desired outcomes and fully embracing the privilege and process of pursuing goals and dreams.”

This mindset has not only helped me to regain that spark I had been missing, but it’s given me better results. I record all my workouts in a training journal, and ten times out of ten, my best workouts come from the ones when I am grateful and focused on the process, and not trying to force myself to hit certain times.

Even though I’ve made leaps and bounds, it’s a battle every day. And that’s okay, because all worthwhile things require a battle. When I do crush a workout, I find myself wanting to return back to my super-intense, outcome-focused, controlling mindset.

And sometimes I slip up and get consumed by my inner critic, but I always come back to my inner cheerleader once I realize I’m sucking all the fun out of my life. It’s an ongoing process, but it is one that I’m willing and excited to go through.

Turning off your inner critic can help everyone; if you want to succeed in life, giving power to your inner cheerleader will send you in the right direction. Here are three ways to get started:

1. Take out a piece of paper and a pen. Start writing down all the awesome things you have done in the past five years.

Make sure you include even the smallest, seemingly trivial accomplishments. Give yourself at least five to ten minutes to do this (more if you want!) and once time is up, read it over. Use this to remind yourself that you are capable, competent, and amazing.

2. Know that you have power to choose your own conscious thoughts.

We all fall prey to negative thoughts, but at the same time, we all have the choice of how much strength we are going to give them. Your inner critic will continuously try to show up, but let the words pass by without giving them any weight or importance, and replace it with something from your inner cheerleader. It’s not a forced shunning of your inner critic, but instead, lack of response to it.

3. Laugh more.

I interviewed a man who ran 100-mile races, and his suggestion for dealing with negative thoughts was “laugh them off as soon as they pop into your head.” Don’t stress about everything, instead, finding it funny that you are even stressing about it.

As a final thought, life is meant to be enjoyed. It’s a gift. Stop worrying about being perfect, doing everything right, and achieving “success,” and start living. When you focus on the journey, life is so much more beautiful, and it will allow you to appreciate the victories so much more. And I promise you, you’re going to have victories. So, smile, because the future is bright.

About Brynn Sauer

Brynn Sauer is a high school senior who loves running, reading, yoga, and studying successful people. She is obsessed with the brain and how much power it holds, and loves to listen to podcasts and read books on the topic. You can find her at theedgepublications.com where blogs about ways to get an edge in life, and follow her on Instagram @brynn_sauer.

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The Lost Art of Silence: Get Quiet and You’ll Know What You Need to Do

“Silence isn’t empty. It’s full of answers.” ~Unknown

Last week I was visiting the Scandinave, a Scandinavian-style bath spa, with my mom, when it struck me how rare true silence has become. By true silence, I mean silence in the form of not speaking, but also silence in the form of reflection, pause, a capacity to become still, a capacity to just be and not do.

The art of silence was lost. Even at these baths, where the goal was to disconnect and enjoy the stillness of nature, there was constant chatter among groups with voices audible across the pool. It didn’t matter that signs were posted around the area, encouraging silence:

Honor Silence.
Speak Quietly.
Absolute Silence.

As a society, we have forgotten how to become quiet, how to become still. We are always on the move, always busy, always doing. We’ve forgotten how to just be.

This lack of silence pervades our lives. It’s in the moments filled with meaningless small talk about the weather to avoid simply sitting in silence. It’s in the moments on the subway, filling our ears with music, busying our minds with our phones, to avoid simply sitting in silence.

As a yoga teacher and practitioner, I have seen it showing up in the form of teachers filling classes with an endless stream of cueing. I have seen it showing up during savasana, the final resting pose, which gets cut short to avoid the anxiety of watching students fidget in the uncomfortable silence.

To me, this is a tragedy.

Silence creates space in our lives. It allows us to pause between moments, to process and reflect, to see beyond the surface into the depths of our lives. When we cut out silence, we cheat ourselves out of the fullness that life has to offer. Only in the silence can we truly hear the whispers coming from within us, urging us towards our highest potential.

Silence breeds deep connection, not only to ourselves, but to the world around us. The energy of a silent room filled with people is almost palpable. In silence, we are all powerfully connected to our higher selves, to the universe, and to each other.

For one moment at the spa, I felt this. Sitting in absolute silence in the sauna, silence brought a group of strangers together. We were all present, sharing the same moment, connecting with the world and not with our phones. It gave us space to turn inward, to take stock of our internal landscape, to let go of what no longer served us, and to renegotiate who and how we wanted to be in the world.

Without silence, we keep moving forward, not really knowing where we are or where we want to go.

I came away from that day of silence and quietude with a new awareness of what was happening in my life. In those moments of silence, I could hear my inner voice growing louder. Where it was once only a whisper, easy enough to ignore, it suddenly became deafening.

After a day of silence, I had no other option but to face it. I went home that day and had a hard conversation. Potentially one of the hardest I’ve ever had.

I realized that I hadn’t been honoring myself in my relationship because I had been afraid of losing something that I loved. My partner and I weren’t on the same page with what the relationship meant to us and what we wanted from it. Unintentionally, I lost pieces of myself to the relationship—by being the one to compromise, by being the one to follow, by being the one to give in. In this way, I put my relationship with myself last.

I stopped cultivating things I loved that were separate from him, in order for us to spend time together. I didn’t go out of my way to make my own plans on the weekend.

In the silence, I heard my inner voice becoming louder and clearer. I couldn’t go on feeling this way or being this way. The silence gave me the space to hear what my heart was saying and the strength to listen. Something had to change.

I had to stop sacrificing my own needs and desires just to please someone else. I had to start standing up for myself and making it clear that what I wanted mattered too. I had to start making my own plans and doing things just for myself, and not always waiting to see if he had other plans in mind. I needed to be me, wholeheartedly me, first.

It was scary to have that conversation, to feel like I might lose it all, by voicing what was in my heart. I was scared of what would happen if I stopped going along with it, if I started putting myself first. But I couldn’t avoid the conversation anymore. The silence roared.

Perhaps that is why we avoid silence—because once you hear the voice in your heart calling out, you can’t ignore it. You can’t go on denying what’s in your heart once you create the space to hear it out. And that can be scary.

Usually the voice within wants you to do the hard thing. The voice doesn’t want you to settle. It doesn’t want you to give up. It wants you to live to your highest potential. It wants you to climb mountains. It wants you to dream big and live big. And living that way isn’t always the easy thing. It’s not always the comfortable thing.

Leaning into silence might seem scary. It might even be painful at first because your mind and body will fight it. But I urge you not to run from the silence any longer. Embrace it. Allow it to create space in your life, because it will transform your life. Ultimately, the silence pushed me farther into the life I dream of, into a life of passion, of meaning, of giving myself my best shot.

Here are some ways you can rediscover the lost art of silence:

1. Start small.

The more time you spend in silence, the more powerfully it will impact your life, but diving straight into a ten-day silent retreat might not be the best approach. In fact, it might have the opposite effect.

Instead, slowly introduce small pockets of silence into your day-to-day life. If you drive on your daily commute, try turning off the radio. If you take public transit, take out the headphones and put away the phone. Feel this silence and notice what’s happening around you and within you.

2. Set aside time for meditation.

Block out a specific time in your day or week for a meditation practice. Perhaps it is first thing in the morning, or before you go to bed at night. Set a timer for five or ten minutes, sit or lie down with your eyes closed, and simply breathe. Watch your breath move in and out of your body.

3. Use mantras.

While at the baths, I used mantras to move into the silence. My mantra of the day was “Life flows through me with ease.”

In the silence, I heard myself fighting against the ebbs and flows of life—holding on to expectations, worrying about how things might turn out, resisting where things were going.

Sometimes our minds see silence as an opportunity to berate us with thoughts, thoughts about not being good enough, about missing out, about being in a hurry, about not having enough time. Our minds will be particularly active if we aren’t used to the silence. Your mind will fight the silence. A mantra can help you to quiet the mind and settle into the silence.

4. Use movement, such as yoga.

If our minds are particularly active and we have a hard time just sitting in silence, we can start with gentle, mindful movement to ease ourselves into it.

If we aren’t used to sitting in silence, our bodies can get very antsy. Silence can make us anxious. By using movement, we can soothe our nervous system and our minds, to make it easier to ease into a state of being.

When I first got to the baths, I used a few neck and shoulder stretches to relax my body for stillness. This focus on the body in turn helped ease my mind into the silence.

Embrace the lost art of silence. Your highest self will thank you.

About Kiara Elliott

Kiara Elliott is a Pranalife Certified Yoga Teacher and aspiring workplace wellness health promoter. Her mat is her practice ground for making changes in her life. She loves sharing her passion for yoga and wellness with others so they can reach their fullest potential. She also loves reading and having coffee with friends. Check her out on Facebook here or Instagram (elliott_kiara).

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Loving Yourself Through Addiction and Relapse: Be Patient with the Process

“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” ~Nelson Mandela

It’s a cold winter day. As I plunge my hand down into the wax paper bag, I fully expect to find another bite or two. But, alas, there are only crumbs.

A distinct wave of sadness shoots through my heart. The chocolate scone is gone. And I don’t even remember eating it.

It is in this moment that I wake up. I quickly shake my head from side to side, as if rousing myself from a long night of troubled dreams.

What have I just done? What about the vow I’ve made to myself, again and again?

For years I have known that the best thing for my body’s healing process is to eat fresh, whole, organic foods (lots of leafy greens, fruits, and nuts!) and to avoid ingredients that overstimulate my endocrine and nervous systems, such as sugar and wheat flour.

And yet, today, here I am again. Eating some stupid, cheap scone I picked up on impulse at the local bakery. Full of who-knows-what ingredients.

Here I am again. Ignoring my own wisdom. Falling back into the food addiction that has plagued me since childhood.

Today I have lost control.

I pull my car over into a parking lot. (Yes, I have been mindlessly scarfing that darned scone while driving!) I take a deep breath.

Now is definitely the time for some self-love.

Addiction is a Dirty Band-Aid 

Whether you struggle with a food addiction like I do or you deal with drug or alcohol addiction, every addiction is the same. An addiction is a loss of control over one’s behavior.

Our addictive behaviors don’t just randomly happen for no reason. They are a symptom of a deeper issue.

Why do we get addicted?

That scone or that cocktail or that cigarette brings about a temporary cessation of suffering. They block sadness, tension, fear, pain, boredom, and anger. They numb any and all negative emotions.

To put it simply, an addiction is a coping mechanism. It allows us to trudge onward in life, but without really looking toward the deeper issues.

An addiction may be a short-lived, temporary cure for the pain—but, as we all know, it’s not a long-term solution.

Running to our addiction is like slapping a Band-Aid on the wound—a Band-Aid that is dirty. Over time, the wound gets infected with the dirt and grime, and it worsens rather than heals.

The Addiction is Not the Problem

Here’s the thing about addiction, dear friends: The addiction is not really the problem. The addiction is the glaring symptom.

If we can look deeper than the symptom and see the situation from a holistic point of view, then we may begin to bring about a resolution to much of the suffering in our lives.

So, what is the deeper issue? What lies at the root of addiction?

Ultimately, all addiction—no matter the type or the severity—stems from a lack of connection. When we feel disconnected from other people, from our society, from our deepest hopes and dreams, and from a sense of love, then this disconnection brings about powerful emotions. These emotions hurt, and so we run to the seeming solace of the addiction.

The addiction may seem, on the surface, as if it’s the problem, but actually it’s not. The addiction is, in reality, a helpful pointer, showing us that there’s some internal healing we need to do.

The wonderful thing about addiction is that it is a powerful red STOP sign. It screams loudly: “Look! There’s a problem!”

Addictions help us get in touch with our inner self. Just like a cough helps us connect with the needs of our lungs (do I need fresh air? do I need more exercise? do I need to take certain herbs?), an addiction helps us get in touch with the needs of our heart.

Our heart is the seat of all emotion. Our heart is where feelings arise, are felt, and then released.

When we feel a lack of connection and love, we do not feel safe. We do not feel safe enough to explore the many emotions that can arise as a human being in our daily lives.

When we feel disconnected, negative emotions can feel overwhelming and scary. This is particularly true for those with abuse or trauma in their life history.

The addictive behavior is a misguided attempt to self-soothe. We believe that if we eat that scone or we drink that beer, then those scary emotions will stop and we will somehow be safe, somehow feel connected again.

But we all know that doesn’t work. What ends up happening is that, once the temporary high wears off, we are left feeling crappier than ever.

The addiction is not the problem. The problem, rather, is the false perception that there is no love, no connection.

Rising from Bottom

The cliché of the “rock bottom” is a cliché because it’s true. Most addicts eventually experience it.

Rock bottom looks different for everyone. It will have varying levels of intensity and consequences.

For some, the bottom is drastic: a suicide attempt, an illness, or a hospitalization. For some, it will simply be a very sad day when they realize that the time has come to change.

This time of rock bottom is the moment when we begin to wake up. It’s the time when the healing can truly begin.

For me, my rock bottom with food addiction came when my body had disintegrated nearly to the point of death.

I was on my perhaps my tenth round of antibiotics that year and having a severe allergic reaction to the medication. Delusional with a high fever, unable to lift myself from bed and barely able to call for help, I realized I probably would not live much longer if I did not change just about everything in my life. Shortly after, I began to explore the world of alternative medicine and began to clean up my diet.

We can think of this rock bottom—this intense realization that things need to shift—as the bottom of a spiral. This spiral begins at ground zero, and it moves upward through time.

As the days, weeks, and months pass, and we dedicate ourselves to a new way of being, we will have various challenges that arise. We will learn and grow and allow our emotions to be felt, rather than running from them. We will heal old wounds from childhood that have been lurking for many years.

Over time, with patience, we will be slowly shifting our perspective. We will become a new and better version. We will be moving from contracted perceptions of disconnection, lack, and fear, into expanded perspectives of connection, abundance, and love.

Through the adoption of various healing practices such as meditation, support groups, therapy, prayer, Reiki, or exercise, we come into greater harmony within ourselves. We learn to love ourselves.

Relapses and the Spiral of Evolution

In my struggle with addiction (not just with food, but with many other substances over the years), I have realized I am grateful to addiction. Addiction has played a very powerful role in my spiritual evolution.

Addiction is a powerful point of change. It is a journey inward. It the journey of becoming aware and conscious.

As we humans make this journey, and break the cycles of addiction, it’s so important to remember that change is not linear and it’s often not easy. Relapses happen.

The spiral analogy can be helpful. If we imagine that we are travelling upwards in consciousness, to greater and greater levels of joy, power, and self-awareness, then we can avoid traps of self-blame when we do occasionally relapse.

That day when I woke up to find scone crumbs on my lap was a challenging day indeed. I’d just had a disagreement with my roommate and was struggling with money issues. When I stopped at the bakery that day, intent on buying some tea, those scones whispered sweet love songs to me and I could not find the willpower to resist.

In that relapse, I temporarily lost sight of my own truth: That I want to avoid sugar and wheat flour in order to heal my body.

In that relapse, I was returning to the particular side of the spiral that was so known and comfortable: running to unhealthy food for comfort.

And yet, even though I had returned to that old familiar side of the spiral, I actually experienced this relapse from a greater height! In other words, in this relapse, I was able to more quickly move past it and get back to my own power.

It took just a few minutes and I forgave myself and moved into self-acceptance. I did not beat myself up.

In that cold car on that cold winter day, I placed my hands on my heart, and whispered some words of love and reassurance to myself. In the past, in the beginning of my healing journey with food, I might have added a cookie or a brownie on top of the scone, as a way to escape the terrible emotions of self-judgment and guilt. But—this time I didn’t! 

Love Yourself and Heal 

A relapse is nothing to be ashamed of. It happens.

If you or someone you love has been healing a pattern of addiction, please know that patience is key.

The spiral of evolution will bring you situations that will test your courage and self-awareness. Sometimes you will succumb. And that’s okay!

If you wake up and suddenly find yourself acting in a way that you know is not your highest good, then congratulate yourself for waking up. Take stock of your long-term changes and pat yourself on the back for coming this far.

Notice how you can more quickly bounce back from the relapse, with greater levels of patience and self-love. Notice how awesome you are!

Ultimately, the journey of addiction recovery is a journey of healing. And it’s a journey all humans go through, as we refine to greater and greater levels what it means to love and care for ourselves.

About Anya Light

Anya Light, PhD, is the author of Opening Love: Intentional Relationships & the Evolution of Consciousness. Her soul mission is to inspire people to greater and greater levels of self-love. Anya offers intuitive life coaching sessions at AnyaLight.com.

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The post Loving Yourself Through Addiction and Relapse: Be Patient with the Process appeared first on Tiny Buddha.

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Easing a Broken Heart: 5 Ways to Reframe Rejection

“When the wrong people leave your life, the right things start to happen.” ~Zig Ziglar

The end of a relationship triggers many grief emotions, but when a couple breaks up because one person decides that it’s over, there is a very distinct pain: the sting of rejection. It doesn’t matter whether things had been difficult for some time or if the split came out of the blue; either way, rejection feels cruel.

At the end of my marriage eight years ago, I had no idea that the breakup was coming. On top of the shock that the relationship was suddenly over, I carried the intense and overwhelming feeling of rejection; I was no longer valued, wanted, or needed.

Rejection can trigger feelings of shame, low self-esteem. and diminished confidence as well as helplessness and victimization. If you are left for another person (which was my experience) the intensity of rejection increases further. I experienced anger and resentment about betrayal; this makes healing feel much harder than in those cases where a decision to split is mutual.

When I began move through my initial grief, I found that the biggest shift in moving forward came through changing how I viewed rejection. I realized that by identifying with the feeling of rejection I was telling myself that something was wrong with me; that the marriage was over because I hadn’t come up to scratch and, therefore, needed to be let go.

Of course, this was not true but in the mind of the injured party, it was natural to feel this way. By shifting my perspective, I eventually began to realize that my husband’s decision to leave was not a reflection on me.

It is always hugely important to acknowledge and process feelings of grief; reframing is not about burying your emotions. However, as I’ve learned from my experience, rather than simply waiting for time to be your healer, you can move through pain far sooner and more effectively by viewing your situation in a different way.

Here are five ways I helped myself reframe the rejection.

1. It’s not necessarily about you.

It’s almost impossible not to take rejection personally. My ex-husband said he left because he wasn’t getting what he needed from our relationship; he needed to follow his “truth,” which no longer included me. His narrative of the breakup became about my inability to be what he needed.

This is where shame really kicks in. Rejection tells you that you weren’t enough to keep your partner from leaving and, in some cases, you’ve been replaced with someone who can make them happy.

But what if it’s not all you? As personal and hurtful as the rejection feels, sometimes it happens because the other person is unable to give enough or be enough of what the relationship needs. When someone is unable to love you fully, they will either reject you, or stay in the relationship and treat you badly or indifferently enough until you decide to end it.

We are all human and it’s very rare that one person is flawless within a relationship. I felt far less rejected when I realized that my ex-husband had his own considerable struggles and issues that led him to choose to leave; it wasn’t all about me.

2. Relationships are assignments.

There is a spiritual school of thought that views the people in our lives as lessons. The theory goes that we meet no one by accident; we are all in relationship to further our growth and deepen our connection to ourselves and the universe/each other. Partnerships with a significant other are huge vehicles for growth, but when the learning has gone as far as it can go with one person, it must end.

Sometimes people leave our lives naturally and comfortably, other times we face the pain of rejection. The lesson is not always obvious at first, especially through the pain of grief, but what is initially perceived as rejection can also be viewed as a release from a completed assignment and an opportunity to learn.

Consider that you still have much more to achieve with your life, and maybe your partner was not the person to show you the way. Perhaps being released from your relationship will allow you to find what you really need to become the person you are meant to be.

This reframe can be wonderfully comforting if you choose to find love again in the future. If you learn your difficult lessons from the old relationship, you will grow, and the person you share the next stage of your path with will bring more fulfilment and easier challenges.

3. Change the ending.

When someone chooses to leave you, they not only decide that the relationship is over, they also determine “the story” of why it ended. So, why did my marriage end? The event that ultimately broke us apart was his leaving to be with someone else. However, on another level, there was more to it than that.

I had changed within the marriage; I had been working through a deep personal issue a year or so previously, and had come out of the other side stronger, more content with life, and ready for a happier future with our family. I had grown, but my husband had not changed with me.

When I became aware of this, I started to view the ending as less about rejection and more about an incompatibility between who we both were. It was an empowering reframe because it allowed me to feel far less victimized. The way he ended the marriage was not excusable, but it held far less of an emotional grip over me.

Think about ways that you might have been rejected, not for anything you did “wrong,” but for something that altered the nature of the relationship.

  • Did you refuse to have your boundaries crossed or to put up with certain behavior?
  • Have you changed for the better in a way that your ex-partner could not handle?
  • Were you simply yourself and refused to change to please them?

If you can view the ending in a way that empowers you, even a little bit, it can really ease your pain.

4. Remember you are still whole.

The feeling of rejection is greatly fuelled by the beautiful, romantic idea that two people “complete” each other. The conclusion is quite demoralizing; are we are no longer complete because someone doesn’t want us? What is our role in life now that we are not required to complete the other person?

Losing a partner is painful and the grief of loss is real, but the pain is heightened and prolonged unnecessarily when we believe that we have been rejected by “the other half of ourselves.” It can feel like life has no purpose or meaning anymore. When I began to accept that I was still whole and valuable, it took away the feeling of despair that I was somehow diminished and “less than” because my husband had decided to walk away.

5. Focus on gratitude.

I love using gratitude as a tool for helping to shift into a more positive state of mind. Admittedly, in the early days of grieving, it’s not easy to feel grateful for anything at all, so I found it easier to start with making a list each day of the small blessings in my life—the day-to-day things we usually take for granted. I really recommend this as a practice.

As your mindset starts to shift, you will come to realize that there are genuine reasons to be grateful that you were rejected. Mine included:

  • Finding out about my husband’s affair and my divorce. Who knows how long I could have remained unaware, believing my marriage was something it wasn’t?
  • The chance to learn to value myself more highly and to become aware of how resilient I am.
  • The new life opportunities which came my way once I began to see the loss as an opportunity to have a better life; I know for certain that I would not have the career, and sense of purpose which I have now, without that crisis in my life.
  • The chance to understand myself more fully and begin a new healthier and happier relationship.

A heart broken by rejection can be a perfect example of a blessing in disguise. The best way to move forward is to allow yourself to feel the pain, then go on to reframe the loss as an opportunity. Trust that the right things will start to come!

About Marissa Walter

Marissa Walter is a counselor and the author of Break Up and Shine, which inspires those struggling emotionally with breakup and divorce to heal and see opportunity from the loss. Check out her free guide 10 Ways To Change How You Feel About Your Break-Up. You also can follow Break Up and Shine on Facebook and Twitter.

Get in the conversation! Click here to leave a comment on the site.

The post Easing a Broken Heart: 5 Ways to Reframe Rejection appeared first on Tiny Buddha.

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