Why do we need one another?
What does it mean to be absolutely human?
What is our purpose in this world and how is that purpose related to our responsibilities to each other?
What are we meant for?
What are the deeper things we are meant to do?
If you wish your heart to be bright,
you must do a little work.
– from Be Lost in the Call, a poem by Rumi
Featured Mutated Swamp Girl by David Choe
Kindness and 1+1 = love – Banksy
What are Keystone Habits?
Habits are what we do every day. Habits can help us grow or hold us back. Some habits are more important than others — they have the power to transform our lives.
Keystone habits lead to the development of multiple good habits. They start a chain effect in your life that produce a number of positive outcomes.
Getting enough restful sleep every night is a keystone habit. It will help you face the next day with energy, help you be more productive and think more clearly.
Exercising everyday is a keystone habit. Walking and working out will give you strength, keep off unhealthy pounds and boost serotonin to the brain, a chemical that will keep you serene.
Saving some money for the future is a keystone habit. Socking away a few bucks will keep each week will have you feeling more secure about that unpredictable rainy day ahead.
Read more about keystone habits in The Power of Habit.
Keeping Calm, A Crucial Keystone Habit
Chances are if you are reading this, you are to some degree stressed out. Focusing on managing our emotions while nurturing a peaceful mind is imperative to navigating the chaos of every day living.
The Multitude of Benefits that Come from Keeping Calm
- Keeping a cool head, remaining calm, no matter what situation arises is key to retaining common sense and gaining others’ respect.
- Managing our emotions in times of stress helps us maintain control over our lives.
- Standing composed while all around you is flipping out in a chaotic crisis helps keep your thoughts collected.
- A calm mind will bring about peaceful contentment.
- No matter what is happening, remaining calm will give you a sense of confidence.
- A peaceful and clear head will keep your vision for the future clear. Calm begets clarity.
- Staying calm during the biggest of battles will help you appear less crazy than your colleagues.
- Your concentration increases with each calm breath you take.
- Your worries become lighter and your state-of-mind more carefree.
- The thoughts that you have and words that you speak are less crass and more compassionate.
- Life is easier when we move with through challenges creatively in a calm way.
- We become more proactive and less reactive.
- We become kinder and less cruel when we are calm and take more thoughtful calculated risks instead of impulsively moving in every direction.
Okay, My Ideas on How to Stay Calm
Know that things are bound to go wrong today. They just are. Ain’t no getting around it. Someone will piss you off, drive you crazy, make you angry, but on the other hand, something good will happen today too. Guaranteed. Life is peppered with a bit of both.
Redefine what stress means to you. A dropped cell call? A cracked laptop screen? The wrong dressing on your salad? What does life-threatening stress look like to you? Define what a real threat looks like. Categorize what constitutes a real problem before you get hit with one. Everything else is easy.
Slow your speech and your gait. Seriously. Walk like a old wise spirit. No rushing, just simple, confident steps with your posture strong and your head held up high. Or sit still. Unless the house is burning down or someone is bleeding out, don’t react. Process the pain in the moment and then decide how you will react.
Put your hand on your heart. Close your eyes. Breathe deeply. Remember what really matters. Remember how short life really is. Ask yourself, what is most important to you right now?
Smell your way to serenity. Use calming oils throughout the day. Inhale lavender, rosemary or geranium before you send that scathing email or make that frustrating phone call. Keep an oil by your desk or burn a soy-based scented candle in your home or office.
Take calming action. Take care of what is in your control. Don’t hesitate. Get what you can get done. Don’t know what to do first? Make a priority list and check it off. Realize that life is 10% what happens and 90% how you react to it.
Clear all the clutter from your life. Your home, your desk, your relationships. If it isn’t serving you well, get rid of it. If you are going through a crisis, keep everything in your life really, really simple.
Carve out moments of joyful time. Hack your happy chemicals. Slip away for a while, get lost in a book, go for a walk, ride your bike, safeguard your sanity.If you are in the midst of a long-standing stressful situation, like caregiving for the terminally ill, making your way through a divorce, trying to find your next job, take a moment to do what you enjoy. Lower your level of cortisol by doing something that makes you happy.
Ask yourself what is good about this? Even though this horrible thing is happening right now, what is good about it? Perhaps it is a problem that finally came to a head? Maybe it will finally move you in a new direction that you knew you were suppose to go? Perhaps this problem offers you an opportunity to try something new?
Slow down on the consumption of everything. This includes drugs, alcohol, food and caffeine. Purposefully chew more slowly. Talk more slowly. Walk more slowly. Slow down to a very soft and gentle pace. Rushing to nowhere will bring no good effect.
Watch a sad, sad movie and cry really fucking hard. Cry until your eyes sting with pain. A list of heartbreaking movies to get you going here.
Realize how short life really is. Check out the internet’s friendly reminder of how long you are going to live, aka the Death Clock.
Give up your mind. Listen to a guided meditation. Author of Radical Acceptance and mindful meditator, Tara Brach offers a free podcast.
Play with puppies or watch puppies. Check out these live puppy cams.
and. . .
I’m grateful for another chance. The opportunity to start from scratch. An opportunity to improve my attitude and behavior. This day is fresh, clean, unworn with emotional stains.
An opportunity to control my short temper, release my self-pity and remove envy of others.
I can help those right in front of me that need my help.
I am given this day as an opportunity to finish projects and work that has been nagging to be done.
Perhaps I will start something new that I’ve been wanting to try.
Maybe I’ll apologize, sympathize, empathize with others.
What are your grateful for right now? How will you use this day?
I have become so wildly obsessed with staying on top of technology, trends and the critical skills for my career and profession that I somehow have forgotten about the most important skills of all. Human skills. Hell, LinkedIn should consider endorsements for human skills. Imagine. What does Jane know about kindness? Consideration? Compassion?
Building Trust is a Skill
In the middle of reading Kevin Kelly’s book The Inevitable something really important resonated. While technological advances in artificial intelligence and robotics will replace many jobs, careers and professions, trust is something very difficult to replace. Trust between you and me. No amount of AI instances can reproduce this in bulk. No you simply can’t cut and paste someone’s faith and assurance.
Human skills. It takes practice and talent to be human. I even wonder if we are born with the essential skills of empathy and kindness or if some of us are just smart enough to learn them.
The Human Skills Workout Routine
Regardless of how we become aware of our human skills, it wouldn’t hurt to practice, to train each day. Much like hitting the gym or a spin session at Soul Cycle we can develop a human workout routine. Unless you are a hermit bunkered down somewhere waiting for the apocalypse to announce itself, than you are given opportunities throughout the day to practice these skills. Some obstacle courses are harder, some weights are heavier. The cranky husband, the entitled child, the angry mom. The nasty passenger on the train. Yes, they are all there for us to develop our human skills and strength.
Oh and how we are blessed with the circuitry currents and tools to practice these human skills.
- hands to hold on tight
- hearts to give patiently, freely and compassionately
- ears to listen intently
- lips to speak softly and gently
- a mouth to smile wide at the world
- eyes to see behind the masks and hardened armor
Empathy is the current that connects us all. To tap into the sympathetic nervous system that is wired to feel each other’s pain. To feel it effortlessly.
Empathy is the engine that powers all the best in all of us. It is what civilizes and connects us all. For more of this wisdom, listen to Meryl Streep’s 10 Life Lessons here.
Who knows, maybe these skills will even outweigh, out run and succeed any technological disruptions in our lives. The more human you can be, the more sympathetic and compassionate, a human of good character, then the more relevant and necessary you will become.
Somewhere along the line, in this thing called life, I believe I have suppressed my true human skills in order to be accepted, liked and maybe even appreciated. Sometimes protecting my heart, so I won’t get hurt. How mixed up can it be. I’ve held back so much in order to attempt to keep the chaos in order. To control things beyond my grasp. Trying to keep the waters calm. This has not served me well.
It is time to wrangle up the pieces of me for a reassembling. All the humanness that is me. The time is now, to begin again. To retrain my human soul.
Perhaps to even soar.
About the artist.
Born in 1975 in Seoul, Korea, Choi Xooang works in sculpture and installation.
To Choi, the body is a vessel through which we perceive and express ourselves, and one that provides him with an ideal medium to explore the possibilities of the human condition. What might seem brutal at first glance is actually Choi’s method of dealing with life’s wounds and scars, and even in his most grotesque work, his figures seem to evoke our awe and sympathy.
Meditation is not just all breathing and quieting the mind. There are many types of meditation techniques including my absolute favorite, Smile Meditation. So, in honor of #worldsmileday I share with you a simple way to lighten up and spark joy.
To begin the inner-smile meditation, sit comfortably on a pillow or chair with your palms on your knees. Straighten your spine, lifting it up from the top of your head. Then relax the muscles in your neck and throat. Take a few deep, slow breathes.
Close your eyes. If you are tense, gently move your neck from side to side and take one or two deep breaths that fill your abdomen and chest, then slowly exhale.
Next, smile outwardly. It might be helpful to use a positive memory to evoke the feeling of joy. Once you have a grin on your face, it’s time to smile inwardly.
Picture a smiling face in your mind. Bring the smile to the space between your eyebrows – your third eye or “yin tang” in Chinese medicine – and allow it to rest there for a few breaths.
Now take the smile and glide it in turn to each part of your body. You can imagine your body as hollow and the smile as a glowing ball of light filling every dark corner. Alternatively, you can picture every organ, tissue and bone smiling. If your smile gets stuck or fades at a tense or painful spot, breathe gently into that part of your body. Imagine inhaled breath moving into that area.
Read more about inner smile meditation here.
Anyway, as I climbed the steps of the Supreme Court building (in much need of some TLC I should say), I made the deliberate decision that I would approach the day with a mindful curiosity, looking forward to learning a thing or two about our judicial system and the right to a fair and just trial. I have never been in a courtroom before. Judge Judy my only reference.
Although I can go on and on about how even just a tad of technology could greatly improve a very antiquated system, I want to point out one single moment that left me absolutely dumb-founded.
It was filling out the 2010 (yes 2010) census questionnaire.
Seriously? In a racially diverse world where people consider themselves to be “global citizens”, we are still asking these questions? According to Pew Research the US Census bureau is looking into changing the questions on the next census because more and more “Americans” don’t know how to respond to the “race” question. The Census Bureau’s overall goal is to reduce the number of people who select “some other race.” Read more here.
Now, my husband’s family is of German, Irish and English decent. My side of the family is Italian and Brazilian. Although our grandparents came to the US in search of the glowing promise of the American dream, we were both born here in America. Which leads me to a question my daughter asked me this morning.
“How do you feel about interracial marriage?”
Photo: Richard and Mildred Loving never asked to be heroes of the Civil Rights movement. But when the state of Virginia deemed their interracial marriage illegal, the couple fought back. And won. More here.
I believe that love rules and color/race/nationality is irrelevant. If you are a loving and kind human, you deserve to be in a happy and beautiful relationship with another loving and kind human or alien for that matter. As long as the two, three, five of you are giving your best back to the world. Period. That’s what I believe Ariel.
I have had fantasies about starting a website or podcast based on this whole “race” thing – this ridiculous act of defining ourselves by the color of our skin or the place we come from. Sure we have cultural and belief differences but I believe it is our duty to tolerate those differences with compassion and empathy as we raise our collective consciousness. I hope you do to.
Note: Now, I completely appreciate the importance of gathering demographic data after all, I have spent my career as a marketing professional.
The reality and truth is, when the eastern sages spoke about karma, they were speaking about selfishness. The word “karma” in Sanskrit means “action” and the Buddha believed in two types of action. Bad selfish action and good selfless action. Bad selfish action promotes, protects and aggrandizes the ego which in turn leads to inner suffering, distress, remorse and guilt.
I stumbled upon this explanation and more from Leo Gura on Actualized.org. What Is Karma exactly? – Watch a rational explanation of how karma really works and why it’s extremely relevant to your happiness levels.
On My Book Shelf
Instant Karma is a collection of thousands of ways to create good karma for yourself and others. The advice in Barbara Ann Kipfer’s book is based on the principles of Buddhism and emphasizes the importance of physical health, spiritual growth and peace.
- Throughout the day, ask yourself, Am I paying attention?
- Then ask yourself, Why judge?
- Do not expect praise or reward.
- Give confidence to others.
- Life is positive, only your thinking is negative.
- See everything in your life as a gift.
Remember that looking for happiness outside yourself is like expecting to get in shape by watching others exercise.
Read more, here: Instant Karma
Believe the best is yet to be.
My favorite morning tea
If you suffer from even just an occasional attack of anxiety, worry or ruminating thoughts, this post has some very useful tips on how to stop the spin cycle of subcortical looping, ie. excessive, repeating thoughts of worry and fear. These are therapies and tips that I have been researching and trying on myself. They are not to replace professional medical guidance.
First, a few book quotes from Awakening Joy: 10 Steps to Happiness
Worrying as a Way of Controlling the Future
The thoughts spinning around and around in our minds can be very convincing. We build elaborate scenarios of failure and chaos and believe them to be true. This may be very creative, but not conducive to happiness! Worry is a very real kind of mental suffering. I know because I come from a lineage of worriers myself. My mother used to joke that when she couldn’t think of anything to worry about, she’d really get worried. “It was my way of making sure I was taking care of things,” she says.
These are the thoughts that hold us back from doing the things that will bring us success.
Our minds can get stuck in worrying about phantom problems that we convince ourselves are real. As Mark Twain put it, “I have been through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.”
Reasonable planning for the future can give us direction, but obsessing about what might go wrong puts us in a perpetual state of stress and rarely brings about positive results.
The Problem with Chronic Worry is that it Solves Nothing and Causes Stress
“New solutions and fresh ways of seeing a problem do not typically come from worrying, especially chronic worry. Instead of coming up with solutions to these potential problems, worriers typically simply ruminate on the danger itself, immersing themselves in a low-key way in the dread associated with it while staying in the same rut of thought.” – Daniel Goleman, Emotional Intelligence.
Health Problems Associated with Obsessive Worry
Not only does worrying drain your energy, chronic worrying will eventually manifest into insomnia, sleep disorders, stomach problems, heart issues, binge eating, headaches, anxiety and depression. I personally have suffered through IBS and severe panic attacks and have been seeking guidance and help my whole life. However, I no longer want to feel this way.
Your Worry and Thoughts are Real, but Not True
So how do we wake ourselves up from the suffering of obsessive worry and anxiety? Tara Brach, Clinical Psychologist and Founder of The Insight Meditation Community of Washington, DC (IMCW) suggests you shine some light on the worry by asking yourself a series of questions that begin with – What am I believing right now? Are you believing you will fail at something in the future? That something is wrong with you? That doom and gloom is right around the corner?
While the beliefs you have and those ruminating thoughts running your mind may feel very real they not necessarily true and they may be causing a very real physical effect on your body – like tightness, anxiety and fear.
Illusion exists because it’s not investigated.
As soon as you start questioning these thoughts and beliefs and shine a light of investigation on your fear-based loops you can begin to wake up out of their grip.
Question Your Beliefs
Shining the light of awareness on our worry really helps. Byron Katie the founder of Byron Katie International (BKI), an organization that includes The School for the Work and Turnaround House in Ojai, California recommends we ask ourselves some powerful questions as we investigate the validity of our worry.
Take a moment to answer these questions. (Note, this is not a one time quick fix, in order to really do the work, these questions should be asked over and over again, it’s a practice.)
What am I believing right now?
Is it true? Do I really know that this is true?
What is it like to be living with this belief? What does it feel like? Do I feel small? Contracted? Sad? Defeated?
How has this affected my life to be believing this?
How would I be if I didn’t believe this to be true?
These questions and post was inspired today by this amazing talk by Tara Brach. Click here to listen to more Releasing Limiting Beliefs
Suggested Reading: True Refuge: Finding Peace and Freedom in Your Own Awakened Heart
Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT)
I am researching and studying the benefits of a mindfulness-based stress reduction program. Here are a few tips I have picked up a long the way. They have certainly helped me lighten up from the weighted suffering of worry.
Pause and Breathe
Mindfulness interrupts the tape loop by bringing us back to the moment so we can respond to what is actually happening right now. Mindfulness meditation shifts the mode adopted in response to thoughts and feelings. Mindfulness meditation involves a particular kind of attention and mental stance: deliberately, intentionally and non-judgementally paying attention to the present moment. Just one minute of mindful awareness can break the sub-cortical looping and rumination. Close your eyes and take a deep breath in and out. Just focus on that breath moving in and out of your body.
Look for Triggers
Triggers are warning signs and triggers for rumination include tiredness, inactivity and irritability. It is important to watch your mind and become aware of any of these emotions, which can lead to bouts of anxiety and obsessive worry. These can be counteracted by taking better care of yourself ie. plenty of rest, exercise and nutrition.
Get up and Move and maybe Join a Team
Cognitive behavior therapy has found that exercise and sports that are action focused and have us directly engaged in an experience can help release worry and rumination. Think yoga, tabata, tennis, skiing and team sports. Participating in sports that require your attention and engagement may really help you immerse in a sensory experience which will help you break the pattern of fear and worry.
Start a New Project
Shifting your activities from routine chores and obligations towards more self-fulfilling and absorbing activities will help you refocus your mind on something new. So will taking a more mindful approach to cleaning the house, running errands and folding the laundry.
Slow Down and Reduce the Rush
CBT therapists will encourage patients to slow things down while only focusing on one thing at a time. They will ask their patients to pace their activities without taking on too much which also may help reduces the sense of “rushing around” and “being under pressure”.
When we lighten up and let go of real but not true thoughts, we make room for more in our lives.
What have you tried that has helped? I’d love to learn more.