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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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.

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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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15 Ways Meditation Benefits Your Brain Power and Your Mood

These days, you feel like a robot.

You drag your feet into work and you have to deal with your boss. You’re hustling this year yet again to try and make more money than last year.

You come home to kids who always need something from you and all the things that need to be done around the house barely gives you any time to connect with your spouse.

You don’t even have a moment to yourself and it’s beginning to stress you out to the point of burnout.

But life doesn’t have to be this way.

What if there was a simple solution that’s been scientifically proven to decrease your stress levels? Something that will clear your mind of all the clutter and help you feel refreshed each morning with more focus and energy? Like you’re ready to take on the world?

This is exactly what meditation does.

In fact, over 50 years of scientific research has unearthed a whole bunch of evidence of all the different life changing meditation benefits. Here are 15 ways meditating regularly has been shown to significantly improve your brain function and mood.

1. You get fluent at making good decisions.

If you’re stressed out often, you’ve probably had those moments in your life where you made bad decisions as a result. Whether it’s details you missed for an important project or a big mistake you made that negatively affected other people, you know what it’s like when you’re not at your best.

What’s being impaired in moments like this is a skill called executive function.[1] Simply put, executive function is the part of your brain that helps you get results for goals you are trying to achieve. It’s what helps you do things like manage your time, pay attention, plan, organize and remember details.

Studies have shown compelling evidence that it helps people who have impaired executive functioning skills from conditions such as Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).[2] A study run by Dr. Lidia Zylowska showed 78% of adult participants with ADHD experienced a reduction of overall ADHD symptoms when they regularly used meditation practices.[3]

2. You become an expert at handling stress.

Moments of stress triggers your amygdala, also known as your “lizard brain”. It’s the primal part of your brain which is associated with fear and emotion and its primary function is to help you survive.

High levels of stress can make you enter into lizard brain mode where it is dominated by the amygdala. It can be described when one “flips his lid” and is controlled by overwhelming emotion such as fear or anger. Think about it as times you’ve been in a heated argument or deathly afraid of something that might hurt you.

When you are in this mode, other important parts of your brain like the pre-frontal cortex, which is the part of your brain that is capable of higher level thinking such as decision-making, self-awareness, empathy and morality, are turned off

Because the amygdala isn’t as great at logical thinking for the less straightforward situations of daily life, meditation can help decrease your stress levels by first getting you out of your lizard brain and back to being in the present moment, which then empowers you to respond to stress in a much better way.

For example, you might be in lizard brain mode thinking all the time about how to survive by making more money, but through meditation, you connect with what’s most important despite all the stress. You realize before it’s too late that you’ve been ignoring the more important things like connecting with your kids and maintaining intimacy with your spouse.

MRI scans have shown that after an eight-week course of mindfulness practice, the amygdala appears to shrink. And as the amygdala shrinks, the pre-frontal cortex becomes thicker.[4]

Basically, science has shown that meditation can help you become better at handling your stress by activating the part of your brain that makes better decisions.

3. You naturally remember useful information.

Imagine a time where you told yourself a list of items you wanted to buy at the grocery store without physically writing it down. By the time you get to the store, you’ve forgotten what some of those items were.

This is when your working memory capacity has fallen short. You use your working memory when you need to place a sticky note in your mind so that you can use it in the near future. The problem is sometimes those sticky notes fall off by the time you need it.

If your working memory is the information that goes on these mental sticky notes, then your working memory capacity is how long you can have these sticky notes stay on before it falls off. The longer time you have to hold information, the more time you have for reasoning and comprehension to occur.

Meditation has been shown to improve your working memory capacity.

One study had about 200 teenagers assigned to either a mindfulness meditation practice, yoga, or were wait-listed as a control group.[5] Results showed that the teenagers participating in the meditation group had significantly better working memory capacity than those participating in the other groups.

4. You become an amazing smooth talker.

If you’ve ever had a time when you were talking with someone and you had trouble finding the right words to express what you were trying to say, you’ve had a moment where your verbal fluency wasn’t at it’s best.

​Verbal fluency as defined by verbal skill expert, Min Liu, is the “ability to find the right words at the right time or in the right situation.”[6]

When sixty-three University of North Carolina, Charlotte students with no meditation experience volunteered for an experiment that studied the effects of meditation on their verbal fluency, results showed that there was a significant improvement in verbal fluency in those who engaged in mindfulness meditation versus those who did not.[7] And to add to these impressive results, the group who meditated only did it for 20 minutes a day over four day period.

5. You develop laser-like focus.

With all the information at our fingertips in this digital age, it’s easy to get distracted. We are exposed to an average of 10,000 marketing advertisements a day and it’s hard to discern what the important things we should focus on are. The artificial A.D.D. culture we’ve created has made us have significantly shorter attention spans due to information overload.

Taking as little as 20 minutes a day for five days to engage in meditate has improved one’s attention, which shows the power of simply making a subtle shift and spending a tiny fraction of your day simply being present.[8]

6. You superpower your brain.

All the signature folds you see on the outer surface on the brain that look like windy roads have been formed to help increase the speed of brain cell communication. The formation of these folds is known as gyrification. Since your brain doesn’t have any space inside your skull to get bigger, it undergoes gyrification to increase the capacity of your brain function.

Long-term meditators have been shown to have a larger amount of gyrifcation compared to those who don’t practice meditation.[9] More interestingly, a direct correlation was found between the amount of gyrification and the number of meditation years, which is proof of the capability of our brain to continue growing even as adults.

This means the more you meditate, the faster and more efficient your brain becomes at processing information, which can be especially useful in moments where you need to think fast.

7. You are better at problem solving.

When your brain is solving a challenging problem, it requires the skill to focus attention on what’s most important amongst a large amount of information.

A simple example of your brain at work engaging in such conflict resolution is when you’re at a loud party talking to a friend. If your brain didn’t detect and resolve all the conflicting stimulation around you by helping you ignore all the noise around you and focus on your friend, you’d probably have a sensory overload.

The same principal applies when you run into larger conflict resolution challenges. You need to be able to determine what’s most important and focus your attention on it.

Multiple studies have shown that participants in groups who partook in meditation practices had performed higher on evaluations that tested conflict resolution skills compared to groups that didn’t.[10]

This goes to show why those who meditate generally have a lower stress level. Their brains are more adept at conflict resolution.

8. Your creativity starts to flourish.

The Harvard Business Review has conducted experiments that have shown that 10-12 minutes of mindful meditation practices were enough to boost creativity.[11] The majority of participants who were part of the meditation arm of the study reported that it helped them “clear their minds, focus more on the task at hand, and come up with original solutions.”

Mindfulness meditation gets ideas flowing directly to your neocortex, which is where all of your creative thinking takes place. It’s no surprise why some of the most leading companies have introduced meditation in the workplace as a result:[12]

“The Walt Disney Company was an early adopter of meditation in the workplace, as they noticed a dramatic increase in creativity after employees meditated on creative solutions. General Mills is another company which reports improved innovation as a result of sitting in stillness and has meditation rooms available to their staff. Google has an in house mindfulness program called ‘Search inside Yourself’ and has built a labyrinth for mindful walking meditations.”

9. You kill your anxiety and experience more peace.

About 6.8 million Americans suffer from General Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and even if you’re not one of them, chances are you at least worry about something on most days.

When worrying becomes a normal part of your daily life, it can take its toll on you and you find yourself losing sleep, being tense and have a racing mind that won’t sit still.

Meditation has been long established as an antidote for anxiety. Researchers at Wake Forest Baptist recruited fifteen healthy volunteers with normal levels of everyday anxiety to test out this theory.[13] The participants had no previous meditation experience. After engaging in four 20-minute mindfulness meditation classes, it was reported that anxiety was noticeably reduced in every session that they meditated.

The brain imaging scans taken of these individual revealed that meditation was providing anxiety relief by activating the anterior cingulate cortex which is one part of the brain that helps with the control of worry. Scans also revealed decreases in the grey matter of the amygdala which is the part of the brain that plays an important role in anxiety and stress.

10. Your brain stays young forever.

Most of the neurons in your brain are contained within a portion known as grey matter. It’s within the grey matter where essential things such as memory, emotions, speech, decision making, and self-control take place.

After you reach 30-years-old, your brain begins to slowly shrink.[14] But evidence shows that those who keep their brain in shape by engaging in regular meditation practices can prevent the shrinking altogether.

One study from UCLA showed that in long-term meditators, age-related grey matter loss was less pronounced compared to those who didn’t meditate.[15] Brain scans of the participants who had been meditating for an average of 20 years even showed more grey matter volume throughout their brain than expected.

11. You become great at adapting to changes.

Cognitive flexibility is the vital function that’s been described as the ability to adapt behaviors in response to changes occurred in the environment.

Imagine if you started to live in a new country, your level of cognitive flexibility will determine how fast you can adjust to all the changes to your environment such as having the steering wheel on the opposite side of the car, learning the local language and figuring out the nuances of the new culture.

Meditators performed significantly better than non-meditators as examined in a study which brought participants through exercises that tested cognitive flexibility.[16] The study indicated that mindfulness is closely linked to improvements to cognitive flexibility.

So if you’re ever having trouble adjusting to a new situation, maybe a little meditation will solve your problem.

12. You begin to win your battle with the blues.

A research review published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) of Internal Medicine in January 2014 showed meditation was about as effective as an antidepressant.[17]

Another study on mindfulness meditation published by psychologists from the University of Exeter found it to be better than drugs or counseling for depression.[18] They found that after four months of meditating, about 75% of patients felt well enough to stop taking antidepressants.

Even if you aren’t suffering from clinical depression, meditation will uplift your mood if you’re feeling down.

13. You grow stronger and experience less pain.

Mindfulness meditation has been shown in clinical trials to reduce chronic pain by 57 percent and that seasoned meditators can reduce it by over 90 percent.[19] Brain scan studies show that meditation can physically alter the structure of the brain so that it no longer feels pain at the same level of intensity.

Hospital pain clinics now prescribe mindfulness meditation to help patients suffering from all kinds of diseases such as cancer, arthritis and heart disease.

Just like many other studies researching meditation benefits, you can see the results of meditation within a short time frame even if you’ve never done it before.

Wake Forest University conducted a study that took 15 healthy participants and performed brain scans while inducing pain. A certified instructor took them through mindfulness meditation over the next four days and by the fifth day, there was about a 40 percent reduction in pain intensity ratings while they were meditating compared to when they weren’t.[20]

14. Your ability of self-control goes up another level.

If you’ve ever found yourself giving into the temptations of eating that tub of ice cream when you’re on diet or lighting up that cigarette when you’re trying to quit, meditation might be the exact thing you need to give you that extra push of self-control.

In fact, meditation can even help people recover from various types of addictions. Meditation activates the anterior cingulate and prefrontal cortex which are the parts of your brain related to self-control.

One study showed that smokers who were assigned to do 5 hours of meditation spread over two weeks showed a 60% reduction in smoking compared to the smokers who didn’t meditate.[21]

15. You gain an overall sense of happiness up another level.

If you’ve ever experienced the pleasurable experience of the “runners high,” then you know what it feels like to have a release of endorphins in your brain. While endorphins are neurotransmitters that your body uses as a natural painkiller, it’s also responsible for the overall sense of happiness you sometimes feel.

When a study compared 11 elite runners and 12 highly trained meditators, results showed that both groups had noticeably elevated levels of endorphins after running and meditation. More interestingly, the pleasurable effects of endorphin release were measured in these groups and the meditation group scored higher.[22]

The easiest way to start meditating

On top of all these amazing meditation benefits, meditation is easy to do and you can actually do it right now.

Here’s a very straightforward and simple step-by step instructions that you can immediately implement to start experiencing the benefits of meditation:

  1. Set aside 5-10 minutes
  2. Find a safe space with little distractions.
  3. Sit comfortably in a chair or on the floor with your back straight.
  4. Take a few deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth
  5. Close your eyes or focus your gaze on the object you’ve chosen.
  6. Breathe normally and gently bring your focus to the breath.
  7. If your mind wanders, gently steer it back to focus on the breath.
  8. When finished, just take a moment to let the effects of your meditation feeling sink in before going about your day.

If you want some more live guidance or would love to learn more about meditation, Headspace is an amazing app that I use regularly. They do an amazing job of explaining what meditation is and walk you through how to do it even if you’re totally new to the concept.

The road to your best self

The ultimate solution to being happier in life isn’t to try and make things easier, but to make yourself stronger. Meditation will develop the mental strength you need and lift your mood.

Imagine yourself starting your day feeling ready and prepared to take on what comes. Stress keeps knocking on your door but you let it right in and send it right back on its way out.

You’re able to stay focused on what matters to you most and you feel intimately connected with yourself again. You feel like you’re in your prime. You’re no longer a mindless zombie who’s going through life in a daze. You’re finally living instead of just existing.

So take a moment, practice being present and soak it all in. You’ve now just figured out how to keep your life beautiful.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Web MD: What Is Executive Function?
[2] NCBI: Meditation, mindfulness and executive control: the importance of emotional acceptance and brain-based performance monitoring
[3] NCBI: Mindfulness Meditation Training for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder in Adulthood: Current Empirical Support, Treatment Overview, and Future Directions
[4] Scientific American: What Does Mindfulness Meditation Do to Your Brain?
[5] NCBI: A Randomized Controlled Trial Examining the Effect of Mindfulness Meditation on Working Memory Capacity in Adolescents.
[6] Min Liu: How To Increase Your Verbal Fluency
[7] Science Direct: Mindfulness meditation improves cognition: Evidence of brief mental training
[8] Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America : Short-term meditation training improves attention and self-regulation
[9] Frontiers in Human Neuroscience: The unique brain anatomy of meditation practitioners: alterations in cortical gyrification
[10] NCBI: Focused attention, open monitoring and loving kindness meditation: effects on attention, conflict monitoring, and creativity – A review
[11] The Harvard Business Review: Can 10 Minutes of Meditation Make You More Creative?
[12] Huffington Post: “How Mindful Meditation Boosts Creativity and Innovation”
[13] Psychology Today: How Does Meditation Reduce Anxiety at a Neural Level?
[14] Brainscape: 25 Facts About Your Gray Matter You Should Know
[15] Frontiers in Psychology: Forever Young(er): potential age-defying effects of long-term meditation on gray matter atrophy
[16] Science Direct: Meditation, mindfulness and cognitive flexibility
[17] Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) of Internal Medicine: Meditation Programs for Psychological Stress and Well-being
[18] Psychology Today: Curing Depression with Mindfulness Meditation
[19] Psychology Today: Can Mindfulness Meditation Really Reduce Pain and Suffering?
[20] The Atlantic: Treating Chronic Pain With Meditation
[21] Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America: Brief meditation training induces smoking reduction
[22] EOC Institute: How Meditation Boosts Melatonin, Serotonin, GABA, DHEA, Endorphins, Growth Hormone, & More

The post 15 Ways Meditation Benefits Your Brain Power and Your Mood appeared first on Lifehack.

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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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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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The post You Aren’t Stuck in Life: Commit to Change and Get Started appeared first on Tiny Buddha.

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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.

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

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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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How to Forgive and Live a Happy Life Again (A Step-By-Step Guide)

We’ve all experienced unmet expectations and painful experiences: when we hang onto them, we keep ourselves from soaring and enjoying our precious lives. Instead, we’re weighed down by pain and the burden of feeling betrayed. But it’s possible to let go, and I’m here to tell you that there is no better time than now for sacred personal healing.

In this article, I will share with you how by being forgiving, you can lead a happier life again; and the exact steps you can take to forgive someone who has hurt you.

Why it seems so difficult to forgive

I often see people stumble and get stuck on a loop because they believe that if they forgive, it will be as if the initial hurt or betrayal never happened. People that have been hurt feel that when someone has done something wrong, they should not be able to get away with it.

But that is simply not true. We don’t forgive someone else for their benefit, and we don’t try to pretend that nothing happened. Instead, we forgive for ourselves. We do it so that we can move beyond that hurt.

Another reason why it may feel hard to forgive is that we could perceive the act of forgiving as a betrayal to ourselves in some way, or we could feel that by forgiving we could be exposing ourselves to be vulnerable and get hurt again.

The hurt and wounds can leave feelings of bitterness, resentment, and anger for years. We can get to the point that we feel like victims because of what others did to us. When we feel like victims, our feelings are not protecting us, but are rather harming us. We find ourselves locked in emotional prisons filled with hurt. How can we live happy and expansive lives from that place?

The importance of learning to forgive

There are medical studies that show the link between forgiveness and health. Karen Swartz, a psychiatrist from Johns Hopkins Medicine shared that “There is an enormous physical burden to being hurt and disappointed”. She also stated that chronic anger puts you into a fight-or-flight mode, which results in numerous changes in heart rate, blood pressure and immune response. Those changes, then, increase the risk of depression, heart disease and diabetes, among other conditions.

Forgiveness, however, can lead to lower stress and anxiety levels, less depression, healthier and closer relationships, a healthier heart, lower levels of blood pressure, lower levels of physical pain, better sleep, better immune system function, and more. It’s very simple, by forgiving, we heal from the inside out!

Until we forgive, we are the ones paying the highest price. Our trapped emotions can become so overwhelming that they affect our current relationships and our ability to authentically and lovingly connect with ourselves and others. Only when we truly forgive will we be free of pain, hurt, and anger. If we hold onto them, we won’t be able to enjoy the present—and they will affect our health in many ways.

Here’s the thing: by forgiving, we won’t pretend that the initial hurt or betrayal never happened, we’re actually doing ourselves a favor. The person you forgive will still have their own karmic debt for all of their actions.

However, when we forgive, we’re becoming free. When we’re focused on resentments towards others or even ourselves, we won’t be able to listen to our soul’s messages. When we let go, we can tune in more deeply.

Forgiveness takes courage because beneath our personal story of pain and suffering, we always have the choice to access our wholeness, and to tap into our innate joy and compassion. Eventually, we will liberate our heart from the resentment prison, and we will be open to a new way of being and living that we might only dream of right now.

How to forgive someone who has hurt you (Step-by-step guide)

“Forgiveness is a conscious decision and a state of mind that we can cultivate through daily practice.” Here are some easy to follow steps that you can take to start your forgiveness journey:

1. Connect with your emotions

Honor where you are in this moment, without judgement. Be gentle with yourself and take ownership of everything that comes up. Just be with the experience without blaming anyone. Something that you could do is to write down your thoughts and feelings on a piece of paper, so that you can get clear on what they are.

Next, ask yourself what is it that you can do to find an outlet and work through those emotions: it could be going out for a walk, spending time in nature, doing something creative (paint, draw, color a mandala, sing, play music, etc), writing a Forgiveness Letter, getting help from a counselor or coach.

2. Release the past

In order to move forward in our lives, one of the key things we must do is release the past and live in the present moment. We often carry the past with us—and if we’re not aware of this, the past will weigh us down, and we will feel stuck. Without a regular practice of releasing, we develop a backlog of unprocessed emotions, and mental clutter. This clouds our vision, and can make it difficult to see the next steps towards a happier life.

Practice living in the present moment by sitting quietly and observing your breathing, or simply going outside and appreciating the beauty around you now.

You could also use journaling as another resource to be more present. You could ask yourself these questions as journaling prompts to help you release your trapped emotions: Who would I be without the anger, hurt, and resentment? How would my life be different?

3. Take your power back

Start writing a new story for yourself. You were not born a victim and forgiveness is not a one-time experience, you have to commit to keep choosing it over and over again. No one has the power to make you feel uneasy without your consent.

When the familiar hurtful feelings come back, remind yourself that you are choosing to forgive; you choose to take your power back, and you are choosing love. I have used this affirmation myself, and it has been very helpful:

“Today is the perfect time for me to take my power back, because I love myself enough to let go of those old memories and emotions. I choose to be free and happier NOW”

The willingness to change needs to come from deep inside of us. We find it when we begin to believe that having joyful, purposeful lives, full of loving and meaningful relationships is our birthright.

4. Embrace the lesson

Every experience we have is a learning experience. Sometimes we go through fire, but I can tell you that we come out stronger than before.

Even if we think that what happened to us is unfair, those experiences are part of our spiritual growth here on the planet. If we’re open to see it, those dark times transform us and help us see new perspectives and insights. I have seen many people experience hard times, which have been the catalyst to creating a new and inspiring story for themselves.

5. Send love and light

Once you’ve gone through the steps above, you’ll be able to start sending love to the people that hurt you. I know it is hard at the beginning, but this is a game changer! Instead of sending bad vibes to the people that hurt you, send them love and light. When you do this, there is no emotional debt between you and them, and you can celebrate your own freedom with a grateful heart!

As part of the forgiveness process, you also need to forgive yourself. We may have judgments about our own expectations. We may think about what should have or could have been.

However, when we forgive, we have to give up the idea that the past should have or could have been different or better. We can’t change the past, so we should not let the past hold us prisoners. Instead, we need to see the hidden value of what happened, there’s always a lesson. As we develop that clarity, we free ourselves from the past and begin to look forward.

Start forgiving now

Forgiving helps us to keep our energy clear.

When we embrace forgiveness, we also embrace peace, hope, gratitude, joy, and general well-being. As we embrace it, we also embrace who we are—love. When we forgive, we are retaking power and control over our own lives.

Forgiveness gives us freedom. Otherwise, we live carrying that emotional debt with us.

Start forgiving with the steps I mentioned above and you will also start living a happier life.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

The post How to Forgive and Live a Happy Life Again (A Step-By-Step Guide) appeared first on Lifehack.

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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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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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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.

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The post Easing a Broken Heart: 5 Ways to Reframe Rejection appeared first on Tiny Buddha.

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