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.

Mysterium tremendum et fascinans

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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.

 

 

 

Be The Light You Need

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And in the word’s of William Shakespeare. . .

“It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.”

Your fate is in your beliefs and behavior, and how you respond to life events.

 

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Those who have been reading know that I am working on improving my behavior. Here I share a few things that have changed. These are new perspectives that have helped me grow.

1. I have let go of trying to change or control others. You just can’t. Change yourself instead. Besides, it’s more interesting and rewarding. Life changes, when you transform. You heal, life heals. It is that simple.

2.     Realize that feelings should be processed not suppressed.

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3.   Give up suffering needlessly, no longer worrying about worst case outcomes. The truth is, life is full of surprises. You must be wise enough to know that life doesn’t always produce what you wish would happen. It’s typically creates what is most likely to happen. Prepare for that.

4.   Learn to listen and observe more, to understand what is really happening around you.

5.   Take stock of this moment while mindfully paying attention to the here and now.

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6.    Choose to be more responsible of all that is happening in your life. I am beginning to own mine. It makes me feel stronger. More accountable. Even a little more in control.

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7.    Understanding that you should embrace your eccentricity. It’s what makes you, you. Don’t be worried about being different. Appearing normal will get you no where. Stop behaving as if you are seeking the approval of others. Seek approval from yourself.

8.    Please continue to release all that no longer serves you. Let the useless go. People, places, things.

9.    No more delusional thinking. Experience reality for what it is, not what you wish it was. That is kind of like #3.

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10.   Seek clearly without judging. Then you will see it most realistically. Reality is your friend.

11.   Honor yourself and your desires.

12.   It’s not necessary to share every little emotion, thought or feeling with anyone who will listen.

13.   Forgiving and letting go. Put that on repeat. It is so freeing.

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14.    Cease to react to every little thing that happens.

 

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Making Sense of it All & Finding the Answers We Seek

If I dig deep enough – all the way to the very core of my inquiry, a big part of my quest is about making sense of it all.

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Searching for the answers I seek, I have a difficult time understanding that not everything in life is logical.  Most of it is a mystery and yes, it is with a great sense of gratitude that I respect that there are miracles happening every single moment of my life.  However, I am also hardwired to remain cynical about the magic and skeptical about letting go and giving into the mystery of life unfolding as it should be. Letting go of not being able to control more of my life.

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Most of life actually is quite chaotic and a huge mystery.  Our desire to apply logic only fools us and typically it is for self-preservation. Read: Five Logical Fallacies That Make You Wrong More Than You Think

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and most of what I try to control, including people I love, only holds me back from opening my heart to something bigger, stronger and more fearless that I can ever be.

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The Expensive Cost of Feeling Safe & Secure

Living is a form of not being sure, not knowing what’s next or how. The moment you know how, you begin to die a little.

The artist never entirely knows. We guess. We may be wrong, but we take leap after leap in the dark.   – Agnes de Mille.

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I have always felt very uncomfortable the moment I began to feel even slightly comfortable.  Some of my dearest friends have called me out on this. They say I have “commitment issues”. Maybe. Who knows. I just like the momentum of daring, trying, risking – smartly. Exposing myself and my mind to something new.

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Today’s post is a passage taken from week seven “Recovering a Sense of Connection” from The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

The passage below resonated with me. Why? Because I fool myself daily because while I think I am taking risks, I am not taking big enough risks. The type that will catapult me to the next level of living adventurously.  Here we go. Let me know if this rings true with you as well.

We’ve all heard that the unexamined life is not worth living but consider too that the unlived life is not worth examining. The success of a creative recovery hinges on our ability to move out of the head and into action. This brings us squarely to risk. Most of us are practiced at talking ourselves out of risk. We are skilled speculators on the probable pain of self-exposure.

I’ll look like an idiot,” we say, conjuring images of our first acting class, our first hobbled short story, our terrible drawings. Part of the game here is lining up the masters and measuring our baby steps against their perfected craft. We don’t compare our student films to George Luca’s student films. Instead, we compare them to Star Wars.

We deny that in order to do something well we must first be willing to do it badly. Instead, we opt for setting our limits at the point where we feel stifled, smothered, despairing, bored. But yes, we do feel safe. And safety is a very expensive illusion.

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In order to risk, we must jettison our accepted limits. We must break through “I can’t because. . .” Because I am too old; too broke; too shy; too proud? Self-defended? Timorous?

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Usually when we say we can’t do something, what we mean is that we won’t do something unless we can guarantee that we’ll do it perfectly.

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Deep Self Awareness & The Numbness We Call Normal

It’s pretty damn simple really. It all boils down to how we experience our lives. How alive we are in the moment. How we show up.

How we experience life depends on how conscious we truly are.  

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The question is, how deeply awake we are as we experience our life. If we were radically honest with ourselves and woke up enough to notice, we’d admit that the majority of us are just sleepwalking children.

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Everything we do is so habitual. Well, at least for me.

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The God You Would Like to Believe In

Into the sixth week of The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron and I am actually realizing that what we really want to do is what we are really meant to do and that the notion of striving, sweating, clinging, falling and staying small is just a terrible idea.

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The notion that there really isn’t enough time in our days to do the things we want to do is ridiculous. In the “Recovering A Sense of Abundance” practice, Julia has us writing and thinking about the God consciousness that has remained unexamined since our early childhood. A God that will hold back anything from us is absurd. This includes the freedom for us to let go and live the creative lives we were meant to live.

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She inspires us to awaken to our creative and generous genius God who wants us to have fulfilling, enjoyable and creative work. We are the ones who deny ourselves the luxury of designing a new life for ourselves. We do that. Not God. Now let’s get out of our way, shall we?

Embracing Great Souls & Wacky Assholes

I give my husband the credit for turning me on to this video from philosopher Tim Freke this morning. I am so glad I remained open (yet stubbornly so) to get back in bed to watch Tim explain how to become more deeply awake to our breautifully complex humanness and to our lives.

It’s remarkable how with a simple new thought, we can create a tremendously different new world for ourselves. It’s about waking up from this numbness we call normal. Waking up to our oneness and celebrating our individuality. 

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How to Have A REALLY Good Day

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Keep it simple. If you want to have a good day, do some good.  Take a good nap. Read a good book. Make a good meal. Have a good call. Watch a good movie. Workout Good. Have good sex. Have a good cry.  You see all that good adds up.

More stoic wisdom from Ryan Holiday’s The Daily Stoic 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance and the Art of Living.

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Wise Advice for Waking Up to Your Life

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Here’s a Damn Good Recipe for Failure & Unhappiness, for a life of misery.

Be self-righteous, wallow in self-pity, drown the day in fear and complacency. Look at your life and others with anxiety, jealousy, and hatred.

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Now here’s a More Delicious Recipe for Harmony, Peace & Happiness, for an extraordinary life.

Take it on the chin. Be flexible, resilient, forgive more. Work smart and hard and always look at life with confidence and gratitude.

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The Waking by Theodore Roethke

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go.
We think by feeling. What is there to know?
I hear my being dance from ear to ear.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
Of those so close beside me, which are you?
God bless the Ground!   I shall walk softly there,
And learn by going where I have to go.
Light takes the Tree; but who can tell us how?
The lowly worm climbs up a winding stair;
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
Great Nature has another thing to do
To you and me; so take the lively air,
And, lovely, learn by going where to go.
This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.
What falls away is always. And is near.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go.

Collected Poems of Theodore Roethke

When life feels like . . . .

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Repeat this little prayer. . .

a prayerRight now I am frustrated because I am not taking better care of myself. Which got me wondering about the payoffs I experience for staying stuck in my progress. For not waking up more and doing what needs to be done to change what I don’t like about my life.

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Dig deep for the payoffs for not moving towards your goals today. Ask yourself some BIG questions.

  • What am I avoiding? Hard work maybe? Self-discipline? A little pain now for bigger gains later?
  • Who am I punishing by staying this way?
  • Am I avoiding the true expression of my emotions? Are they too frightening to feel?
  • What if I am waiting for a guaranteed miracle? Who will bring it to me?
  • Perhaps being stuck is really manipulating myself and others?
  • Maybe I am looking for special attention? Wallowing in self-pity?
  • What will I miss most if I do succeed?

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Understand the difference between I will try and I will find a way  “Results are a function of your commitment. Most people are unaware that where they are is exactly where they want to be.”

 

 

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Ancora Imparo – I am still learning

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“If anyone can prove and show to me that I think and act in error, I will gladly change it – for I seek the truth, by which no one has ever been harmed. The one who is harmed is the one who abides in deceit and ignorance.” – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 6.21

Read: The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday

It is okay to change my mind today. I don’t need (or want) to always be right.  Go ahead, prove my thinking wrong. Correct me. When I stand corrected, I change for the better,  for resisting may only harm me. 

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If I am not changing, then I am not growing and isn’t growth the whole point? To slip into a better, bigger version of myself each day. Sometimes this requires a real change of mindset.

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Sometimes, the script in our head runs on automatic for years, unquestioned, unchallenged. What if you flipped the script? What would it be like to challenge our thinking? Read: You’re One Moment Away From Being Who You Want to Be

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We might neglect our future selves because of some failure of belief or imagination. – Dereck Parfit.

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