Riding Shotgun in The Sky

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Well, I came upon a child of God
He was walking along the road
And I asked him, Tell me, where are you going
This he told me
Said, I’m going down to Yasgur’s Farm
Gonna join in a rock and roll band
Got to get back to the land and set my soul free

We are stardust, we are golden
We are billion year old carbon
And we got to get ourselves back to the garden

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Well, then can I roam beside you?
I have come to lose the smog,
And I feel myself a cog in somethin’ turning
And maybe it’s the time of year
Yes and maybe it’s the time of man
And I don’t know who I am
But life is for learning
We are stardust, we are golden
We are billion year old carbon
And we got to get ourselves back to the garden

We are stardust, we are golden
We are billion year old carbon
And we got to get ourselves back to the garden

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By the time we got to Woodstock
We were half a million strong
And everywhere was a song and a celebration
And I dreamed I saw the bomber death planes
Riding shotgun in the sky,
Turning into butterflies
Above our nation
We are stardust, we are golden
We are caught in the devils bargain
And we got to get ourselves back to the garden
  • Written by Joni Mitchell

 

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FEATURED ART BY EDWARD FAIRBURN

Origin of Riding Shotgun

Riding shotgun was used to describe the guard who rode alongside a stagecoach driver, ready to use his shotgun to ward off bandits or hostile Native Americans. In modern use, it refers to the practice of sitting alongside the driver in a moving vehicle.

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Firing Your Mind & Taking Stock of Your Personal Inventory

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Dear Mind of Mine,

Oh, how you trouble me so. Fretting and worrying about things completely out of your control.  I remind you today that I am not getting involved in your ridiculous melodrama.  As a matter of fact, it’s time you and I took an extended vacay. 

– Me, Myself & I

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Now that I’m not playing those mind games anymore, what will I do with all this free time?

I’ll start by taking inventory- pause, take that deep breath – oh, dear, what the hell is my heart feeling now?

What are my shoulders doing? How is my stomach feeling? How about my right toe? Is my mind wandering off into fantasyland and nightmares again?
Checking in with myself.

Stopping a moment to take my inventory. What am I lugging around that I no longer need?

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What Makes Life So Damn Complicated

You.
You make life complicated.
You think you’re so important.
You want it your way, or no way.
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You have a choice right now. A choice that can change everything. You can continue to choose to push against reality and struggle with it or you can choose to move with the world and use that energy to create something new.
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Use the forces you have within your power your strength, courage, and conviction.
Light
You always have something within your reach.
Today it may as simple your smile, but the energy of a smile can light up a room and lift spirits.
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Life is not complicated at all. We make it that way.
It’s when we behave selfishly.
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Take advantage of every moment that presents itself as an opportunity to be kind, compassionate and easy to be with today.
And if for some reason you don’t have the bandwidth for that, then do no harm.
How can we uncomplicate things today?
Be the missing ingredient.  The one to soothe each situation and to raise the vibes. Be the listener, the lover, the mender, the healer and the bigger person with a generous heart.
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Read The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer

 

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Artwork by Peter Beard.

He married a supermodel, photographed rock stars and came from a wealthy family.  Easy on the eyes too.

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Peter Hill Beard is an American artist, photographerdiarist and writer who lives and works in New York City and Kenya. His photographs of Africa, African animals and the journals that often integrate his photographs have been widely shown and published since the 1960s.

Emotions Over Thoughts and A Softer Way to Communicate

Three things I am working on right now.

Soul Singing

Question: What does my soul say today?

My soul doesn’t speak in thoughts. No, not at all. These thoughts that clutter my mind are just residual pain left over from the things I haven’t let go of yet. Thoughts of conflicts yet resolved.

My soul speaks in feelings, emotions, images, sounds, clues.

My soul speaks to me when I feel deep sadness, frustration, anger, contentment and happiness.

I can feel, see, taste, touch and listen to my soul when my mind is silent.

That’s why I meditate.

Weeding my mind garden so there is more room for a soul orchestra.

Good feelings can’t grow from grudges. Pure thoughts don’t come from residual pain.

These are the feelings from stories feared.

Letting these thoughts drift on by, help me weed my mind garden and clear the soil for a more softer, gentler and more compassionate state of being.

Recovering from the violent ways in which we communicate.

Judging, blaming, demanding, critiquing, name-calling.

Talk about your karma baby.

Softer thoughts lead to kinder words. Seeking more non-violent ways to communicate.

Inspired by Tribe of Mentors by Tim Ferriss & Turning Your Mind Into An Ally by Sakyong

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Seeking What Makes Us Feel Calm & Confident

I was thinking today about how it feels to be continually thrown off balance. To be provoked and manipulated by others, especially those that are harder-to-handle.  I was wondering how it is we can become reactive to every annoying thing that is thrown our way and what we need to do to remain composed in the face of unreasonableness. How we can train ourselves to cultivate an inner calm beyond meditation. How we can feel more centered and even more balanced, maybe top that off with a deeper faith and confidence in ourselves and humanity, and ultimately feel downright comfortable in our own skin.
When you are truly comfortable in your own skin, not everyone will like you, but you won’t care about it one bit. 
All day today, I thought about what makes us feel that we are all right with the world. What connects us with the wiser part of ourselves and what activities bring us the necessary strength to deal with the chaotic and the craziness that every day daily living can conjure up.  I look at these activities as the stamps in our passports to getting our own power back.
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They are the things we do to help strengthen us and stay balanced when life knocks us around. When we are beaten and busted and feeling agitated and disgusted. When we are overwhelmingly frustrated.
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A part of seeking what makes us feel strong is deciding the places and spaces and situations we put ourselves in order to build back that serenity and peace and stillness that keeps us sane.
I believe it is our responsibility to seek what makes us strong. I think it’s easier to do if we begin by relinquishing control of what we cannot possibly change.
One of the most rewarding moments in life is when you finally find the courage to let go of what you can’t change.
So what do we do to travel back home, to comfort ourselves, to relieve that pain and suffering brought on by this daily struggle called living.
Things we do to be present to our own selves. To show up for ourselves. Praying in church, meditating in the morning, running in the rain, crunching and squatting at the gym, journaling for ourselves,  browsing through a book store, enjoying coffee and croissants with friends, a long walk by the water. . .
We start by carving out some time for ourselves.
Seeking what brings us back to center gives us a sense of control, a boost of needed energy and a dose of self love that keeps us sustained and encouraged to keep the party moving forward.
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A healthy practice to embrace, we have become use to a low-level of generalized anxiety and confusion as we navigate our daily lives. We are so entrenched in the movement of go, go, go that we don’t even acknowledge how revved up and in knots our spirit and our essence has become.
Of course we are more reactionary when we lose ourselves in the daily nonsense and bull shit of life.
While turning inward can be helpful to touch the peace you oh so need, I also believe it is the activities we do, the places we choose to go and the people we decide get our attention that also activate and/or deactivate our inner peace.
We must seek more pleasurable moments. First we must identify how many we are having in a day.
Inspired by “Turning the Mind Into an Ally” by Sakyong Mipham.
Cheryl Richardson: Personal Growth: How to Give Yourself a Radical Upgrade
on The James Altucher Show.
Joe Dispensa – guided meditations
artwork by Barbara Kruger
 
I am experimenting with capturing the art of daily living on camera while creating short shorts that emotionally resonate on some level in your mind and heart.

(Some) of The Most Important Things That Matter

I use to fill every moment of my day with something I could cross off my list later. #thatain’tliving

Elizabeth CarlsonI am Falling in Love with My Imperfections“.  A poem to learn from.

The more time I spend with the aging and the dying, the more I am beginning to understand what really matters each day.

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Their regrets become my wisdom and the important lessons to win tomorrow, while there is still life to be lived.  This is the stuff I should’ve learned so long ago and the lessons that should be taught in school.

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1. This moment right now, make it matter.  Make this moment important, vital and worth living.

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For so long I made a pact with myself to seek the truth, until I realized, that . . .

2. The truth you seek is only a matter of your perspective. There are many different versions of the truth.

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There are many realities. There are many versions of what appears obvious. Whatever appears as the unshakeable truth, its exact opposite may also be true in another context. – Amish Tripathi

Embrace the ability to see all things as they are and not as we ‘think’ they are. Reality in all it’s forms, is our friend.

3. All of our experiences shape us. We should seek new experiences and adventures each day. Try stuff. All sorts of stuff.  Expand our borders.

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You may think your “story” is boring, ordinary and not worth sharing, but you are wrong. Very wrong. You have some experience with life and someone out there can learn from your mistakes. You hold the power to lift someone up with a single sentence, a lesson learned.  Share your lessons with strangers.

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4. We are so much more powerful than we even know. Our words can be weapons, a single sentence can be as sharp as a sword. You can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration.

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To play our roles in life well – whatever the roles are, brother, father, husband, wife, mother, sister, daughter, friend, mentor. . .we simply must be and do that which is right at the moment and do it with patience and kindness.

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5. The purpose of human life is to serve and to show compassion and the will to help others.

So listen deeply to friends and enemies. Listen quietly for all the missing words, the things they don’t say. All of it can teach you as well.

And remember, fear not the angry and rageful. To see compassionately how others may be in pain.

Stay soft and available always. Yes, you can train, practice and prepare for the future, but most importantly, be adaptable, flexible and ready to pivot, detour and move on when things aren’t going well.

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Sharing our gifts, bringing our best and leaving those we encounter feeling stronger and more inspired after we leave them.

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Be emotionally free, while letting go of all resentment and anger. Forgiving all.

6. Continue to strip life of all that bogs us down. Boiling our actions down to the most important.

Speaking fewer words, owning less of everything, accomplishing more by doing less.  Every so often, it is our duty to cleanse our emotional baggage and past hurt. Heal our pain and fix our faulty parts by becoming more self-aware while understanding the genesis of our emotions

7. Treat ourselves well. Guard our minds, keep thoughts bright, clear and as strong as can be.

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8. To prepare for the transition of  life/death/life. Learning to love the open ended mystery of not knowing why.

Balance out the days with enough sleep time, intimacy time, work & focus time, time in (self-reflection), down time and play time. Live each day as if it was your last.

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Remember this, when it all falls apart or there’s a heavy cross to bear and the storm is on the horizon. Learn to adapt and adjust daily.

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“Amid a world of noisy, shallow actors it is noble to stand aside and say, ‘I will simply be.”
Henry David Thoreau

“Follow your inner moonlight; don’t hide the madness.”
Allen Ginsberg

“The snow goose need not bathe to make itself white. Neither need you do anything but be yourself.”
Lao Tzu

    • Featured art “Sounding Silence” by

Michael Cheval

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Expanding Our Minds & Paving a Path to Freedom

I had so much, but felt so little.   I think it was a deeper desire for more meaning and joy, for I had become numb, deadened and desensitized to my life. I wasn’t depressed, I was discontent.  It wasn’t that my life was bad. I would have some nerve complaining about anything, considering those with real misfortunes.  My life was just too predictable in an annoying way and I had way too many people leaning on me for support. To top it all,  I was reliving the same problems over and over and over again, applying solutions that didn’t work.

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I felt tired, disillusioned  and quite unfulfilled.  Everything was on replay. The things I collected, now collected dust and took up too much space – books, clothing, furniture – the clutter of “cherished” memories – did nothing but confuse me.

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At the very same time, my parents, in their 70’s, living in a pretty remote part of Florida, were in need of some help. Their health was degrading. Actually, their lives were falling apart. The house in need of growing repair.  It was May when I got the call. Mom developed stage four lung cancer and dad,  tormented by anxiety and fear, slipped deeper and deeper into dementia. He was frustrated, angry and confused as well. They didn’t want anyone’s help, they didn’t want to see that they could no longer take care of themselves.

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Every single day brought on a mini disaster as they continued to try to do the things they use to be able to do.  Fires in the oven, crucial medication missed, terrible falls in the middle of the night and countless visits to the emergency room. I dreaded every flight I took to see them.

I witnessed first hand what people do when they hold on too tight, when they cling to the past, when they shut down, when they isolate themselves. They were terrified to the point of paranoia.   They became delusional and just couldn’t and wouldn’t accept the inevitable – that everything eventually breaks down, fades away.  Everything in life is impermanent. We die a little each moment, with each breath we exhale. This is a part of the process of life. It is also why we must hold life preciously in our hearts, while we have the time we do.

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Time does not stand still for anyone and while I was extremely sad,  I am grateful that I was able to comprehend the lesson and the wisdom in my parent’s painful decline. Clinging to what once was and wishing things were different does us no good and only has us suffocating and suffering more.

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It was with this that I made the non-negotiable decision with myself, that I wanted more joyful moments in my life while my vision is not blurred with cataracts, my hands can still lift a pot to cook and my legs can carry me for long walks along the shore

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We must be grateful for every second we have now and every gift of a moment we have from this second forward. We must learn, adapt and find new ways to stay relevant and useful. Purposeful while doing the best with what we have.

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At the same time that I was keeping my head above the water with my parents in crisis and my freelance work, my husband, my darling, told me that he never took the lithium he very so needed to keep his bipolar illness at bay.

In and out of hospitals for much of our marriage, it was one roller coaster ride after the next.

The meds seemed to help keep him balanced, or so I thought.  It was the last draw and he lied to me and that hurt very much. He began self-medicating with drugs and then alcohol and then God knows what. Anything to soothe his mania I guess. He was trying to  help alleviate the heightened anxiety.  All of this crazy behavior around me was pushing me further and further into disassociating from all of my emotions.

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I did not want to accept the reality of all of this pain. He too, may have been on a path – while I was choosing to discard of  anything that no longer served me well. He may have been seeking the same, using different tools, a different approach. Somewhere along the way there was a huge disconnect. That’s the trouble with chemical imbalances and mental illness, you never know what’s real or what’s just a troubled mind gone off on a really wild tangent.

So, the only question to answer: What do I do now?

Forgiveness first, self-care second. I’ve been exploring the wisdom of Buddhism, the secrets of the Kabbalah and enjoying the calm and mind-clearing benefits of meditation and yoga. I am doing more of what I enjoy doing. Swimming in the ocean, bicycling, Soul Cycle, exploring new places, reading, long walks, dancing and time with my daughters and friends.

So far, I have come to understand and respect, that by becoming more curious about myself and how I think and in turn expanding my awareness by building my propensity to be mindful, to forgive and to give with loving kindness.  I feel healthier and more energized. By asking What am I to do now? What is the right thing to do next? I am guided by my heart and values that I hold dear.

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With the current state of world affairs, I have been questioning just how sane we really are. Frankly, I am frightened of what’s to come and the media loves it that way.

My biggest concern is to have a strong enough mind that I don’t become brainwashed by all the bad news. I have always wondered how people followed someone like Hitler, let alone Trump. This truly concerns me. Reading books about the holocaust like Man’s Search for Meaning Viktor Frankl and watching movies like Schindler’s List and Life is Beautiful, I still ask myself, how do these atrocities happen?  I have become so concerned that if the world completely fell apart, I want to make sure that I have a strong enough mind and spiritual base that I do not follow the herd.

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This herd mentality is something I know I desperately need to avoid. I need to seek a more meaningful understanding of life, so that I can strengthen my mind and continue to think clearly. So that I can better understand the truth and the purpose of living and giving with intense gratitude each day. I know that clinging to fear of falling prey to stronger (albeit: unhealthy) minds. My mind should never be controlled by outside forces, including fear.

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Seeking The Companionship of The Conversations We Have with Ourselves & Overdosing on Overthinking

Isn’t it peculiar when you find yourself waking up from living in a moment that doesn’t even exist yet? 

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An important note about why we overthink things.  Why we try to forecast the future, figure out what is going to happen next and play out the scenarios before they even happen.

We find comfort there.  It gives us power. It can be a good thing.

We find companionship within the constant conversation we have with ourselves. 

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The addicting mind chatter becomes even more distracting when we have a challenge we can’t solve or when we feel all alone. We wander behind enemy lines (inside our perturbed minds) and begin to overthink it all.

The path to more peace, is to sit with how things really are and examine all the ways you chase for comfort when feeling vulnerable, lonely, frightened and anxious.  We become addicts to unnecessary activity and addicted to the discursive thoughts in our mind. 

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These addictions we have come in all types of forms, some more healthy than others. We become addicted to work, exercise, food, adventure, meditation, yoga, anything to remove us (read: escape) from the painful truth of reality.

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Watch: How to Use Drugs by Alain de Bottom.

A drug can be anything that increases an expanded state of consciousness (that is the state or quality of awareness) in which the pain of immediate troubles is lessoned by euphoric recognition of nature and the cosmos.

 

 

That Which is Rendered More Real

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Could it be that our modern life is not good for our mental health?

There is an alarming global epidemic of anxiety and depression on the rise. According to the World Health Organization, close to 800,000 people are committing suicide every year (incredibly, this is one person every 40 seconds) and many more are attempting suicide. Sure, life can be pretty damn difficult, but suicide?  Wow. I hope you agree that this is some kind of world-wide cry for help, something must be done and this is an incredibly frightening sign that there is a real need for an awakening, a shift in our cosmic consciousness.

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Venezuelan/American, filmmaker Jason Silva, described by The Atlantic  as a Timothy Leary of the viral video age begs the question, in an age of tremendous technological innovation and scientific advancements and with so many people moving away from traditional religious affiliations, how do we connect ourselves to a bigger meaning? How do we commune with something more real than the doldrums of every day reality? Something grand and awe-inspiring that fills our soul.

You see, as a child, I thought it was “church”, a place to at least attempt a holy communion with something bigger than myself. Now, as I am older, it is nature, meditation, dance  and cherished moments with people I love.  For some it is grandmother’s medicine, magic mushrooms and perhaps a heroic dose of LSD.

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Perhaps all of those poor souls fed up with their human condition, need more numinous moments in their lives. Maybe they need more shots of awe.

To Render a Holy Moment with Me

I, personally, haven’t had that many moments of psilocybin-induced cosmic communion –  glimpses of ecstatic illumination – but I do find myself feeling more & more connected after meditation and doing things like yoga.  Jason Silva on the other hand takes the question one step further as ask just how might we turn our passing illuminations into abiding light, rendering ourselves holy.  Whoa.

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In his video “Beyond Anxiety & Depression”  Jason believes that perhaps we, as a society, need a replacement to what religion once provided us. We need a cognitive reframing or possibly a psychic transformation. Oh to commune with the cosmos in order to impregnate our lives with meaning & signification.

To serve and savor the world.

I am fascinated with the idea of finding ways in which we can achieve those moments of awe-inspiring, mind-blowing moments of altered conscious states without drugs. A healthier way to reach new heights of clarity. Call them Eureka moments, a-ha moments, epiphanies, whatever — where everything seems to come together. When inspiration strikes and changes everything. The belief-

“If you can look at reality differently — shed your preconceptions and filters — you can change your life, you can invent something, you can make new observations, you can do things you were afraid or unable to do before. You have better access to the full spectrum of what exists.” Read more about Holotropic Breathwork here.

A More Painful Catalyst of Awakening

There are plenty of ways to wake up from the dreadful daze of an unfulfilled reality. Heartbreak can really shake you into a new more painful state of consciousness.  On my quest to mend my broken heart, I’ve been reading a lot about love. All the different types of love and more specifically unconditional love.

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Unconditional Love: How to Give It and How to Know When It’s Real

I may read back on this years from now and find I have a different point of view, but for the time being, I think this whole idea of unconditional love is nearly impossible for mortal beings. Even the grandest of caring mothers.

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The truth is you can only love people as much as they are willing to be loved.

I really dig the way Teal Swan explains why unconditional love is so damn difficult. Her challenge, to try to give love for a day to something, anyone, a child, a pet, a plant for just one day is incredibly hard. A worthwhile listen right here . . .

 

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I am re-reading When Things Fall Apart from Pema Chodron’s because I want to make sure it all sinks in deep. I need this wisdom.

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The wonderful illustrations in this post from the talented Chiara B.

In Omnia Paratus – Ready for All Things – Self-Awareness & Other Life Advice My Mother Never Told Me

I strongly believe it is everyone’s responsibility to create a firm daily devotion to committing oneself to life long learning and the continual development of waking up with honest self-awareness.

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This morning I was thinking about some of the teachings of spiritual catalyst, Teal Swan, specifically her guidance about the importance of having an emotional wake up call.

“Our emotional selves are children. And they never grow up. We just learn how to parent our emotional selves better.”

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Yes my parents gave me good guidance, but they couldn’t possibly have told me everything. Here are a few lessons I am learning along the way . . .

  • This moment, right here, right now is the only one you have. Feel it, see it, taste it, hear it and take it all in. Be here now.  The book by Ram Dass

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  • Hold sacred an unconditional, nonjudgmental relationship with reality as it is right now.
  • omnia mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis All things change, and we change with them.  Adapt every day.
  • Trust your basic wisdom.
  • Everything takes time. It’s okay to live life on your time. You don’t have to run with the herd.
  • Watch how you talk to yourself. Realize when you are too self-critical. Stop the pattern. Break the loop.

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  • Do not worry about how others look at you, what they are thinking or whether you fit in.  Being “normal” will get you nowhere.
  • When all else fails, be kind.
  • Again, try to be gentle and soft with yourself and with others.
  • Stop pressuring yourself. Rushing anything simply ruins it. Slooooooowwwww down.

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  • There is rarely ever anything to be nervous about.  Face what you think makes you weary.  Get curious about that.
  • Remember you are a miracle. Nothing short of a miracle.
  • Time is precious. There is none to waste.

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  • You have what it takes to try anything you want. There are many options, choices and directions you can go.  Experiment with your life.
  • You are dying with every single breath. Appreciate every single moment. Even the most annoying ones.
  • At any given moment, everything is always as it should be. Acceptance brings serenity.

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  • You can not control everything.
  • You must control the way you respond to others.
  • Get to know what triggers your strongest emotions. There’s the work that needs to be done.

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  • At any given moment, you will know the right thing to do.
  • Be thoughtful about everything, even if others are not.
  • You don’t have to be larger than life, famous or popular. You simply have to play your part in this wonderful life to the best of your ability, every day.
  • Do something ridiculously fun every single day.
  • Whatever action you take, whatever word you say, make sure it decreases pain in the world.
  • People may disappoint you if they aren’t working on themselves. Forgive yourself for being impatient with them. For they no not what they do.
  • Anger and resentment are poison and will manifest into physical ailments. Let go everyday. If you feel yourself getting overly heated and enraged, step away for awhile. Retreat, think, respond.

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  • Your emotions are important for they tell you what to do. Yes, some of them are signals, but they are here to guide you, not take over your day and life.
  • Some emotions are false, yes they are you, trying to protect you, but don’t fall prey to every single one, over reacting to situations is usually related to an over sensitivity to past trauma. The problem arises when you start to react in a bigger way than justified. Read: How to Stop Overreacting.
  • Stop making up doom and gloom stories about what might happen in the future. Not everything is going to be a disaster.
  • When in doubt about what to do, do something good. Good for you, good for others.
  • Open up your heart, be real, be vulnerable. Life is not meant to be lived in the safe zone.
  • The painful moments are the lessons. Move through your problems by facing them for they will tell you a lot about yourself.  What haunts you must be addressed. Release your tendency to run away, to seek pleasure before pain.

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  • Have an unconditional, loving relationship with the world. There is no escape, no exit. There are lessons to be learned every day. Everyone you encounter is your teacher. Pay attention.  Pema Chodron.

I would love to know what lessons you learned on your own. Share below in the comments.