Living Life With More Meaning

Life becomes lived when you pay respect to the way it moves you. By Madeline Johnson

The first time I heard the phrase “to hold space” for someone was with Barnaby Ruhe.  Ruhe received his doctorate in shamanism and art practice, an interdisciplinary effort combining psychology, anthropology, art history, phenomenology and art studio action.  It was a Sunday afternoon at his loft at 55 Bethune street where he held power animal and soul retrieval circles.

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The mere act of creating and holding space for yourself and another can actually open your hearts to immense healing and possibilities.  Think about it, when was the last time you felt like you really thought someone was holding space for you, that they were deeply and without an ounce of judgment there for you? Or how about yourself? Do you have a practice of  holding space for yourself? When was the last time you felt like you were really taking time to listen to your heart? Paying attention to your life as if it was permeating your soul.

I don’t know about you but I can’t recall the last time I felt like I let myself linger in the moment.  I do the contrary. I jump from one second to the next, always busy, always after a goal. Now life seems to be flying by fast, the weeks rushing into months and blending into years.  Frankly, I want to reverse that. I want life to slooooooowwwww down, so I can really dig in.

They say that time is relative to the degree of attention you pay to your life.

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It was one of my favorite spiritual teachers, Rob Bell, who brought up two very fresh ways of approaching life, new ways of experiencing life (for me anyway), that helped me think about how to slow life down, to savor each moment and to give my life more meaning.

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Paying Witness to Your Life & Processing The Moment

The first approach is about taking time to observe our lives and the lives of others. To non-anxiously, without any judgement, pay witness to the things that are happening to us.

So often, when asked for advice from others, I am the one to quickly recommend what everyone needs to do next.  It starts like this – I will receive a call, a text or an email from a friend or family member to let me know what is happening with their lives. Typically it is about a problem that occurred. Someone offended them, something happened that got them really angry. They are overwhelmed with this and that. They are really stressed. They have reached out to me as a life line.

So, what do I do? Or what did the old me do?   I would quickly jump into solution-mode. “First you have to do this, then you do that and then all will be good.” I would charge in with answers instead of taking a moment to observe what they or I am actually feeling in the moment.  I did not take the time to sit and process the moment with them.  Sometimes that is all we need to do. We need to hold space for someone we love to process their lives.

Rob Bell explains it so well in this podcast “Is this Your First Accident?” Sometimes, we just need to process our lives, so we understand the meaning.  After listening to this podcast, I recognized that when I charge in with solutions, I am just trying to take control, to apply something I have learned to “repair” a problem. What is wrong with this approach? Nothing really, except that it is a limiting and sloppy and dare I say, disrespectful to yourself and others. Life becomes lived when you pay respect to the way it moves you. You need room and others to help you feel your way through the pain.

Taking a Thoughtful Pause

 

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The second podcast from Rob Bell that I recommend you list to is That Pause.  Life is about what we learn when we become still and aware of the depths of each moment. When we slow down just a bit, we are placing our energies in a wider horizon of possibilities. We pause so we can create space for larger more divine energies to fill us up.

Featured Artist

Aykut Aydogdu

Marvel At Your Life

Experiment and play with your life. Get your hands dirty – no better yet, get your soul filthy with experience. By Madeline Johnson

Trust yourself. Trust your inner guidance – it comes in the form of intuition. I promise, God won’t keep you guessing.

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Listen to your life, see it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom and pain of it, no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it, because in the last analysis of all moments, are key moments, and life itself is grace. 

-Frederick Buechner, author of Telling The Truth The Gospel as Comedy, Tragedy and Fairytale.

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Examine yourself, and learn who you are, how you exist, and what will become of you. Discover the depths of your own true nature.

Pay attention to your life. Listen while it whispers to you. Your life is speaking to you all the time. It is trying to tell you something with every experience you have.

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Your intellect may describe it, but only your instinct can find it.

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Strengthen your intuition with experience. Immerse yourself into your world. Dive into your life. Make it a journey of intentional immersion.

Feel your physical senses. What resonates and what repels? What gives you energy and what sucks you dry?

Take life for a test drive. Get curious – take a little action. Experiment and play with your life. Get your hands dirty – no better yet, get your soul filthy with experience.

 

Featured Artwork

Salvador Dali

In art as in life, Dalí broke with conventions and forged new artistic languages and methods capable of examining human psychology.

Reinventing Your Life

The two things you need to know about reaching your goals. Where you are going and that you are going to get there. By Madeline Johnson

Some days you may feel like a ship lost at sea without a rudder. Directionless and powerless. Like a fish out of water, floundering.

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And some days it is perfectly fine to be lost, to wander, to float . . . . until you stumble upon that thing. . . . you have a breakthrough, and an idea,  and you discover that dream you really want to do.

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Then you just know.

You know where you are going and that you are going to get there.

 

Read that again: You know the WHERE you want to be and without a doubt that you WILL GET THERE. Just like when you drive to the store at night to get ice cream. You know the flavor you want and you know how delicious it will taste. You even have a plan for your second favorite . . .just in case.

You don’t need to worry about the how. There is no need to know how you are going to get there. That is nonsense. That doesn’t matter as much, because you know there are many roads you can take to where you are going. Some more bumpy and uncomfortable than others. There may even be mountains you need to climb along the way. Some days there will be detours, other days short cuts.

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The secret to success . . .

You know where you are going and that you are going to get there.

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Featured Artist

David Zinn is a street artist specializing in small-scale, improvised and (mostly) light-hearted chalk art.

Too Busy To Feel

Why don’t we honor what it means to be a feeling, thinking being? By Madeline Johnson

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The consequences of emotional avoidance are usually worse than the experience of what we try to avoid.

What avoiding your emotions does –

  • Reinforces the idea that discomfort/distress/anxiety is “bad” or “dangerous.” It reduces your ability to face and tolerate necessary pain.
  • Limits your ability to fully experience the present moment.
  • Keeps you from moving toward the important, valued aspects of life.
  • Often leads to suffering: addiction, helplessness, hopelessness, depression, damaged relationships, and lost opportunities.

Read More How Avoiding Emotions Keeps Them High Intensity

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The ways in which we hold ourselves back by running from our feelings.

  • Situational: avoiding people, places, or things
  • Cognitive: avoiding thoughts, images, or memories
  • Somatic: avoiding unpleasant physical sensations
  • Protective: avoiding uncertainty through frequent checking, procrastinating, or assurance seeking
  • Substitution: avoiding by numbing, suppressing, addictive behaviors, or replacement emotions (i.e., replacing shame with anger)

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Those moments when you are just too busy to feel, but your emotions leak through anyway.

  • Will you love me if I’m boring?
  • I just feel helpless not being able to help you.
  • Why do I feel guilty letting you know what I need to be happy?

Why don’t we honor what it means to be a feeling, thinking being?

What if we were to embrace all of these feelings instead?

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These feelings are signals for growth. Eventually, you will have to walk through that door. These emotions you are running from are your keys to freedom. Let them guide you to do everything you don’t want to do.

Read Richard J. Davidson’s The Emotional Life of Your Brain

Featured Artwork

Liquid PinkContemporary and surreal digital collage art and photo manipulation by Gaia Barnatan. Based in Byron Bay, Australia.

New Ways to Experience The World

Expanding your cognitive horizons through new experiences. Reimagining what exists in completely new ways. By Madeline Johnson

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The Objective:

Expanding your cognitive horizons through new experiences. Reimagining what exists in completely new ways.

Why we need to do it:

The complexity of today’s global society and the accelerating rate of change requires that we continuously learn, think, create, and seek to build and experience new innovations. Truth be told, we simply don’t have a choice.

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Understanding how we learn.

Fluid vs Crystalized Intelligence

Fluid intelligence is your capacity to learn new information, retain it, then use that new knowledge as a foundation to solve the next problem, or learn the next new skill, and so on. When you encounter an entirely new problem that cannot be solved with your existing knowledge, you must rely on fluid intelligence to solve it.

One way to think of fluid intelligence is that you’ll use it slightly differently each time you’re in a new situation, so it’s flexible and adaptive – like water in its fluid form.

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By comparison, crystallized intelligence is the ability to use all the learned knowledge and experience stored in our heads. When you’re taking a class at school, you use crystallized intelligence all the time. When you’re learning a new language, you memorize the new vocabulary words and increase your vocabulary over time. You can improve your crystallized intelligence by reading new books and taking classes.

Read  Five Ways to Improve Your Fluid Intelligence

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You can build your fluid intelligence by constantly exposing yourself to new things, as you are prime your brain for learning. What is new and unseen triggers dopamine, which stimulates the creation of new neurons, and this also smooths the journey to learning. “Always look to new activities to engage your mind—expand your cognitive horizons,” says Kuszewski.

High Attitude

Gains in intelligence don’t come from sticking to the same old routines. Keep exploring new things in life and keep learning new things. Tackle learning a new language. Take piano or drum lessons. Visit a new country and learn about the people and culture.

A Case for Immersive Experiences

A wide range of new studies are finding that motor skills, hand-eye coordination, aerobic conditioning and daily physicality are important for maintaining working memory and fluid intelligence.

Craving New Experiences & Exposing Yourself To New Ideas

I am the type of person that craves new experiences, specifically those that involve as many of my senses as possible.  I am more than willing to spend money and time on mesmerizing, immersive experiences like Jump into the Light, a new virtual reality experience in Manhattan; Fuerza Bruta, a dynamic, theatrical performance that started in New York and an Inipi Sweat Lodge Ceremony in Miami.

We also gain fluid knowledge by socializing, networking, mixing and mingling. Being with other people, we expose yourself to new ideas, environments, and opportunities.

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Featured Artist

Eugenia Loli

Starting off in the working world as a nurse, Eugenia then took a U-turn and became a computer programmer, which lead her down the path of becoming a technology journalist and a filmmaker.

It’s a Good Day, All Day

Understanding what triggers you emotionally and setting yourself up for a good day. By Madeline Johnson

Mondays can bring so much promise. Like a new year, Mondays can offer a clean slate. A fresh start. A chance to begin again as you plot and plan for a better, more productive week.

Setting out to have a good day, a good week or a good year begins with a conscious knowledge of one’s own feelings, motives, and desires. It starts with knowing who you are and how you will navigate your day to get where you want to go. You understand there will be inevitable distractions.

You need to know what sets you off. What disrupts your day. What makes you feel angry, needy, shutdown and frustrated. What triggers a bad mood for you.  Anything that makes you experience a negative emotional response that could pull you off course.

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Understanding how you react to people and situations throughout the day will help you identify patterns in your life and develop a better understanding of the events in your life that usually lead to a problem, similar to what Mei does at work. Mei is an artificial intelligence messaging assistant that warms of personality changes based on communication with co-workers.

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Knowing What Set’s You Off

What triggers you? It’s important to identify when you feel the need to be accepted by others, understood, in control of the situation, paid attention to, at peace. Understand if it is important for you to have things in order, to feel safe and secure, to have a bit of fun during the day. Are you getting the respect you think you deserve? Do you feel like your talents are needed?

Do you always need to feel right? Are you comfortable? Calm? Do you feel as if your life is balanced? Are you spending too much time on work and not enough with your friends? Is your life way too predictable? Are you a bit bored with what you are doing?

Could you use a bit of challenge in your career? Your relationship? Are you feeling like you are liked, valued and being treated fairly by others?

Does everything feel a bit too chaotic around you? Like something could break, crack or fall apart at any minute?

Do you believe that others are ignoring you? Avoiding you? Do you feel included?

Make it your mission to understand how you operate.

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If at any point during the day you feel out of sorts, off, emotionally frustrated, take a pause.  Breathe deeply. Calm your mind. Don’t get so worked up.

Try sitting up straight and breathing deeply to the count of six. Breathe through your nose for six counts and out your mouth for six. Go slowly. Deep, deliberate inhalations and exhalations. This will calm you down.

Take a moment to understand what you need right now? Do you need to be patient? More tolerant? Less tolerant? Perhaps you need to explain yourself again? Let others know how you feel? Show some compassion? Walk away?

Before you take action, question your own thinking. Know if what you are thinking and feeling is actually true, or if it is a projection of what you negatively think is true.

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What might trigger you?

  • Someone rejecting you.
  • Someone leaving you (or the threat that they will).
  • Helplessness over painful situations.
  • Someone discounting or ignoring you.
  • Someone being unavailable to you.
  • Someone giving you a disapproving look.
  • Someone blaming or shaming you.
  • Someone being judgmental or critical of you.
  • Someone being too busy to make time for you.
  • Someone not appearing to be happy to see you.
  • Someone coming on to you sexually in a needy way.
  • Someone trying to control you.
  • Someone being needy, or trying to smother you.

Read more here

You’ll probably want to avoid them, but find out why they are behaving the way they are – and why you are reacting they way you do.

Realize everyone is trying to trigger you.

Advertisers and marketers bake emotional triggers into their brand messaging. They know how strong emotional triggers will motivate you to act from feelings like fear and desire.  These emotions have effect on you, whether it’s feeling like your life is lacking excitement, adventure and love from an Instagram story to feeling like you are a lonely, loser and not enough from a YouTube ad. The messages are incessant. Turn them off.

Getting a leg up on emotional triggers. Face them . . .

  • Do the most important things first this morning. Understand what you need to do vs what you want to do.
  • Watch what you tolerate.
  • Expect yourself to be triggered by something or someone and have a plan. Avoid or face it.
  • Spend some time alone during the day.
  • Practice being more compassionately assertive.
  • Decide how you will respond to how others mistreat you. Not react. Respond.
  • Try to understand others. God only knows what they are going through.
  • Protect your time at all costs. Tech apps below to do just that.
  • Let others know when you won’t be available. Make something up – like you have an important meeting to go to. They won’t know. Or tell the truth. You are working on something big and need to focus.
  • Decide what you will pay attention to today. If you can, put your phone on airplane mode for a while.

Be strong.

8 Things Mentally Strong People Do Everyday

Technology to help you say no to distractions and to help you have a better day, all day.

Freedom app helps you protect your time, so you can focus on getting things done during the day.

One Big Thing ensures that you focus on your main priority, that one big thing, all day long.

Headspace is like a gym membership for your mind. 10 minutes of meditation a day to help burn off the busy in your brain.

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Featured Art

Indonesia based artist Roby Dwi Antono works meticulously in painting, illustration, and drawing.  His paintings are especially detailed, depicting dreamy scenes.

When Your Struggles Become Your Strength

Reflecting and learning from painful experiences is how you turn your struggles into strengths. by Madeline Johnson

Like many of you, some of the most challenging moments in my life have been the best for me because I have learned so much from them and I have grown so much confidence through fighting and finding my way through each problem.

Confidence comes from over coming problems you thought you couldn’t handle.

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For example, I learned that I am a very strong, determined and persevering human being after helping my middle daughter Ariel through a traumatic brain injury. She was in a terrible car accident and on life support and those seven years of helping her and watching the doctors bring her back to life, taught me never to give up, to fight for life, to ask for help and to continue to ask questions and seek solutions even when everything seems impossible.
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Having to close my marketing and PR agency during the process and begin consulting during her recovery had me learning new skills, like how to build WordPress and Shopify websites, video production, editing and reaching out to clients through platforms like LinkedIn, Upwork, Clarity and Angel List, basically – starting all over again.
You can learn more about my work here.
Evolving and growing, while remaining humble, that’s what we must do as humans.

We either evolve or we die.

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Being my mom’s advocate during her fight with stage four lung cancer taught me that relationships are everything and it is an honor to see someone pass through this existence, to be able to have the time to tell them how much they mean to you and that their life was very, very important to you.
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Getting back together once again after divorcing my husband, the love of my life, taught me that we should always be open to forgiving. Forgiving ourselves and those we love because it frees the heart and actually strengthens you. Whether work or personal or both, relationships in life are everything and relationships won’t grow unless you do. It’s about becoming self-aware and open to change.
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I have learned that painful experiences when reflected upon properly offer so much in the way of lessons and self-improvement.

What have you learned from your most painful moments?

 

Featured Art

Polish artist, Zdzisław Beksiński, who made a name for himself with his dystopian surrealism paintings, filled with post-apocalyptic imagery and creatures that come straight out of nightmares.

 

 

The Freedom To Continually Reinvent Yourself

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We overwhelm ourselves with huge, stupid, anxious questions. For example. . .

What should I do with my life? 

Now that is a terrible, awful question.

What should I do with the next 5 minutes of my life? is a much better one.

There is so much opportunity in the small moments of each day.

Connecting With The Keeper of Things Wild

A passage from Clarissa Estes’ book

Do not cringe or make yourself small if you are called the black sheep, the maverick or the lone wolf. Only those with “slow seeing” say a non-conformist is a blight on society.

It has been proven over centuries that being “different” means standing on the edge. It means that one is practically guaranteed to make an original contribution, a useful and stunning contribution to our society and culture.

When seeking guidance, don’t ever listen to the tiny-hearted. Be kind to them, heap them with blessing, cajole them but do not follow their advice.

If you have ever been called defiant, incorrigible, forward, cunning, insurgent, unruly, rebellious, you are on the right track.

In a world where nobody really knows anything, you have the incredible freedom to continually reinvent yourself. Go forth, forge new paths, no matter how strange.

From Tribe of Mentors

From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be

A case and meditation for raising your vibration. Remember, attitude is everything.

We all have a state of consciousness that when we get to, things just happen effortlessly.  We perceive of the reality that is equal to the emotion we feel. You must believe it to see it.

A 21 day high-vibe meditation with Aaron Dougherty

 

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Estonia vs Ethiopia

While planning my next leg of travel, or what I refer to as my Cosmic AF World Tour, I realized that using Instagram as my only source of inspiration about where to visit next was a very bad idea. Coming to grips with my lack of geographical knowledge, I set out to discover more than the photos of turquoise shorelines and high peak mountains depicted in my feed.

Determined to learn about a new place and culture each day, I purchased a book that I am reading each morning to learn more about our world. Like, who knew Kiiking was an actual sport created in Estonia?

I quickly realized that I also needed to see more than the beautiful photos displayed on each page of coffee table books.  Using Local Guides Connect  with photos that are uploaded to Google maps (real photos by real people) in conjunction with The World, A Traveler’s Guide to the Planet has helped me make better decisions about where my next adventure might be.

 

Enough is a Feast & How We Rise Up

An essay and prayer of gratitude from Madeline Johnson

I do not wish to make sense of life. I wish to dwell in it’s sacred mystery.  For life is one infinite, remarkable, unfolding miracle.

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Every single breath I take, you take, we take is a true gift.  A moment to be held in reverence. I remain humbled for this life given to all of us today, for it is is nothing short of magnificent.

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I look up at the cosmos and pay my respect.

For life is a daily, daring, epic adventure, a thrilling mystery ride to explore. I live for the questions, the seeking, the learning and the strikingly beautiful moments of awe.

I am comfortable and content with this.

I do not need answers.

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Gratitude is my living, breathing moving prayer, and my heart breaks open wide with an enormously huge appreciation for everything that happens today.

My soul cries out a passionate thank you to God and the universe.

This is how I pray.

My heart softening and melting into the moment.

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I am genuinely grateful for this breath, and now this one, and the next. . . For as my friend Julia says. . .

we are all just one exhale away . . .

There is nothing to prove or improve. Not to ourselves or to others. Honoring that we are all made perfect already. No mistakes, all of divine intelligence. We connect to our compassionate soul source, our innate goodness to our loving nature right now.

Love is the only real emotion, every other, the absence of it.

This is our best self, our connected self. Leaning on the cheek of of God, we sway, through our divine dance with life each day.

All of us quite unique on the outside, yet our hearts and souls beating as one.

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All throughout the day, I am grateful for this opportunity, this moment right now, to be awake, aware alive and here and I will not waste a moment of it.

Not a single second.

 

This is how I rise.

 

Featured art Nikolina Petolas is a Croatian based photographer and digital artist.

Perennial philosophy (Latinphilosophia perennis),[note 1] also referred to as Perennialism and perennial wisdom, is a perspective in modern spirituality that views each of the world’s religious traditions as sharing a single, metaphysical truth or origin from which all esoteric and exoteric knowledge and doctrine has grown.
The Perennial Philosophy has its historical roots in the syncretism of Renaissance humanists like Marsilio Ficino and Pico della Mirandola, who suggested that Plato, Jesus, Hermes Trismegistus and the Kabbalah were all pointing to the same God (they were almost excommunicated as a result). Leibniz also championed the philosophia perennis. You can see it flourishing in the transcendentalism of Emerson, Coleridge and Thoreau.

Joko Beck 

Saying No, Rookie Errors & Finding Your Center

A wise person remains centered enough to let go every time their energy shifts into defense mode.

A rookie keeps protecting their ego. Round and round we go.
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It doesn’t matter what others do unless you decide it matters to you.

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There will always be something to disturb you.

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Relax, release and let go

I’m staying centered through a daily practice of meditation, strength training, hot yoga and exploring  Zhan Zhuang . . . A step-by-step method of exercising by standing still, in poses which burn fat and tone muscles without strenuous exercise.
To stand like a tree and bend like a reed in the wind
This notion of staying centered,  pairs well with learning how to say no. As in hell no.
I’m starting with saying no to defending and protecting my ego.
While also saying no to . . .
  • Wasting energy on worry
  • Ruminating over past problems
  • Concerning myself with anything that doesn’t upgrade my life
  • Buying into short gain temptations
  • An obsession with planning over doing what needs to be done (no to procrastination)
  • Repetitive behavior that doesn’t serve me well
  • Lowering my standards
  • Fretting about the future
Today’s meditation brought up this little creature. A porcupine guiding my way today.
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His message:
Are you interfering where you shouldn’t? Take stock and retreat. Allow others to walk their walk with aplomb and dignity. Making their own mistakes is integral to their own personal growth.
-Porcupine
And remember . . .
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Don’t be hanging with no jank ass jokers that don’t help you shine.  – Will Smith

Artwork by Tomoki Hayasaka
Tomoki Hayasaka is a self-taught artist from Sendai, Japan. He is a new digital artist. His art expresses the feelings that are common to human being.